So, at least it’s no longer describing stuff. Now we get to learn about the processes of ordaining priests and making daily offerings. It’s at least a change. This chapter is a very detailed description of the seven-day ritual involved in ordaining Aaron and his sons as priests, complete with multiple sacrifices, burnt offerings, and lots of blood-splattering.

Unlike the past several chapters, though, these passages have a very practical purpose. The tabernacle was a relic of the past preserved as an archetype, not something the redactors of the Bible ever imagined would be implemented again. But the ordination of priests and daily offerings were something they kept because they would need to do it in the future, if they were able to return to their Holy Land.

I had to teach an online “Old Testament” course at a community college in Kansas (long story), and it was frustrating as hell because the textbook I was provided was clearly intended for a Bible college. It constantly poo-poohed source criticism, and the notes of the previous professor (on leave that semester) weren’t much better. I massively altered all of it and encouraged them to ignore the textbook, which is probably part of why I was never hired again, not that I would have wanted to teach that class again anyway.

One of the things I tried to do was to introduce the idea of source criticism in a palatable way to people who were raised with the narrative of the Bible as a single, uncontradictory whole. I did this by constructing an alternative narrative: the Hebrew Bible as we know it was mostly composed in exile, by people who had been taken from their land, whose religion was under threat by an unsympathetic conquering nation, and who wanted more than anything to go home and rebuild their temple. In the face of the danger of loosing their entire culture, they gathered together all their important religious account, both written and oral, and tried to come up with a single collection of everything their community would need. Thus sometimes you had contradictory elements because different versions of similar stories were passed down among their people; but there wasn’t time, so everyone had to be included.

My hope was that this image of the Bible vs. Evil Pagan Culture would appeal to any of my students from more fundamentalist leanings, and get them at least considering who multivocal the Bible can be. And I know it worked for at least some of my students. One even wrote a stunned comment on the discussion board that “Oh wow, so the Bible was okay with different interpretations from the very beginning?”

Yes, it was. Because the Hebrew Bible is a guidebook toward being a good Jew, not a history or science textbook. If it was anything else, why would they spend 37 verses describing something without any historical, scientific, or really even moral value? Morality is important in being a good Jew, but so is ritual. And while, as a Christian, I believe that Jesus’ breaking down barriers between the insiders and the outsides trumps a lot of ritual, as a Lutheran I like ritual. Things like baptism, Holy Communion, even the liturgy, are a way of getting your whole body involved in the process of receiving God. The main reason I go to church regularly is to take the sacraments.

Anyway, I barely talked about the actual content of this chapter, but it did provoke a lot of thought. And hopefully the length makes up for the two-day absence.

The Japanese: subeki “should do, ought to do” (v 1), wagata “ring-shaped, circular,” usuyaki “lightly fried or baked” (v 2), shikifuku “ceremonial dress” (v 5), saishishoku “priesthood,” ninshokushiki “ordination ceremony” (v 9), hofuru “to slaughter, to butcher” (v 11), yosumi “four corners,” motoi “basis, foundation” (v 12), shibou “fast, grease,” kanzou “liver,” bijouyou “caudal lobe,” jinzou “kidney,” fuchaku suru “to stick to, to adhere to” (v 13), shokuzai “atonement (of sin)” (v 14), kakubu “all parts, various parts,” bunkatsu suru “to divide, to segment” (v 17), nadameru “to soothe, to calm, to appease” (v 18), mimitabu “earlobe” (v 20), aburao “fat-tail” (v 22), hounou “dedication” (v 24), reimotsu “gift” (v 27; the characters mean “a thank-you thing”), kennou “dedication, offering” (v 28), yokuasa “the next morning” (v 34).

I now know a lot of words for organs and other body parts.

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