Sacrifice in Leviticus Connected to the Classical World: Essay

Sample Essay

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The concepts of sacrifice that are outlined in Leviticus did not simply arise within the community of this particular priesthood. Rather, they are allied to older (as well as contemporary) ideas and practices about sacrifice and we must understand the idea of sacrifice both as a widespread element of religious belief/practice and as an element of religious practice that was fundamental to the other early religions that were practiced more or less contemporaneously with the establishment of Judaism. Among these is the practice of the traditional polytheism of the Greeks.

Because of the stern monotheism of Judaism, there is a scholarly reluctance to compare it to polytheistic faiths, but this is a near-sighted mistake. There can be parallels and connections between religions that are, along one dimension, entirely different, but in the other are fundamentally parallel.

Because most people have now heard of Greek mythology, we should start off by discussing how it differs from Greek religion. Greek mythology was a collection of folk stories about heroism, passion, loss, and victory. Greek religion was much more serious, is focused on the ways that people should feel towards the gods. Greek religion was practiced for over a thousand years, from the time of the poet Homer (who lived in the ninth century before the Christian era)  through the reign of Emperor Julian in the fourth century a.d. The key precepts of Greek religion were being practiced during the compilation of Leviticus. This is not to imply that there was direct cross-fertilization (although there may have been).

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