Ritual and Rhetoric in Leviticus uses rhetorical analysis to expose the motives behind the writing of the central book of the Torah/Pentateuch and its persuasive function in ancient Judaism. The answer to the question, 'who was trying to persuade whom of what by writing these texts?' proves to be quite consistent throughout Leviticus 1-16: Aaronide high priests and their supporters used this book to legitimize their monopoly over the ritual offerings of Jews and Samaritans. With this priestly rhetoric at its center, the Torah supported the rise to power of two priestly dynasties in Second Temple Judaism. Their ascendancy in turn elevated the prestige and rhetorical power to the book, making it the first real scripture in Near Eastern and Western religious traditions.
James W. Watts is Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. He is the author of Psalm and Story: Inset Hymns in Hebrew Narratives (1992), Reading Law: the Rhetorical Shaping of the Pentateuch (1999) and editor of Persia and Torah: The Theory of the Imperial Authorization of the Pentateuch (2001).
1. Introduction: ritual text and ritual interpretation; 2. The rhetoric of ritual instruction; 3. The rhetoric of burnt offerings; 4. The rhetoric of sin, guilt and ritual offerings; 5. The rhetoric of ritual narrative; 6. The rhetoric of atonement; 7. The rhetoric of priesthood; 8. The rhetoric of sacrifice; 9. The rhetoric of scripture; Bibliography; Index of biblical citations; Index of other ancient literature; Index of authors; Index of subjects.