Need help with Leviticus?
Baptist minister and tutor Helen Paynter introduces a new, short video series on one of the trickiest books in the Bible
A member of my family (I’m not going to say who, in case they don’t manage it) declared their intention to read through the Bible in 2022. This set me thinking about how many people start the year with that aim, but somehow can’t make it through some of the tough Old Testament books. One of the toughest, I think, is Leviticus.
Genesis is pretty exciting and fast-moving in the main, with all its stories of dirty dealings in the family of the patriarchs. Exodus has all those familiar stories at the beginning, and although they might get a bit bogged down in tabernacle-building towards the end, the reader generally has a head of steam that can see them through. But then, they will hit Leviticus.
By now it is probably February, the first flush of determination might have ebbed away. And Leviticus is – we can’t deny it – a bit abstruse. Why would your average modern Christian want to read about the details of ancient sacrifices and uncleanness laws? Isn’t it just too obscure and archaic to be relevant? Isn’t it – frankly – boring?
Well, I’d say no, but I guess as someone who spends much of my life studying the Old Testament, that makes me a bit weird, by definition.
But as someone who spends a fair bit of my life studying the Old Testament, it occurred to me that I might have something to offer people who are working their way through Leviticus. I might be able to help.
In the first lockdown in 2020, I took it into my head to produce a series of videos
– I called them a ‘Bible Tour’
– covering every book in the Bible. Well, I needed something to keep me out of mischief! I was delighted that a number of people seemed to find them helpful, and so I thought I might try to build on this.
This is a much more modest undertaking. What I’ve made is a short series of short videos on Leviticus
, broken into its main sections. That means, depending on your reading plan, you’d need one of the videos every two or three days. I’ve kept the videos short because reading through the Bible is a major undertaking in itself, and I’m not looking to add to anyone’s burden. Of course, they’re by no means offering a thorough study of any section of the book – I’m just aiming to point out one or two things that I think are exciting about the chapters in question.
I have two aims: to try to help people discover the wonderful ways in which Leviticus helps us to understand the gospels better; and to try to coach readers through this tricky book so they don’t give up on their Bible read-through.
All that, of course, reflects one of the greatest passions of my life – to see God’s word continue to speak in power today, as it always has.
Yes, even Leviticus.
The Revd Dr Helen Paynter is Tutor in Biblical Studies and Coordinator of Theological Education, and Director of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Violence, Bristol Baptist College.
Access her series on Leviticus here
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