Women and the concept of holiness in the "Holiness Code" (Leviticus 17-26): Literary, theological and historical context
Leviticus 17-26 (H) is a legal code distinguished by its holiness language. The Code incorporates a variety of words derived from the Semitic root gds ("holy"), as well as numerous other terms associated with holiness. Especially significant is the often-repeated "Be holy, for I, the LORD, your God, am holy." The present study investigates this use of holiness language and the resultant meaning of the concept of holiness in H. It does so by analyzing one group within the Israelite community and the relationship of that group to holiness. Because women have not yet been the subject of widespread Old Testament research in the areas of either holiness or legislation, they were selected as the focal group for this study. Chapter one provides an introduction to H and to the holiness language within it. Both the structural framework of H and its legal contents incorporate words from the root gds, as well as numerous other words reflecting a concern about holiness. Chapter two focuses on all the material pertaining to women in H. The pertinent data is located primarily in Leviticus 18 and 20, where women are treated extensively as sexual partners, and in Leviticus 21-22, where women are mentioned in relationship to the priests. There are also scattered references to mothers, daughters, female slaves, and bakers. Because women are never addressed directly in H, a significant question arises as to whether or not they were explicitly included in the call to holiness so prominent in H. Chapter three continues the analysis of linguistic features singled out in the preceding pages, leading to the conclusion that women were less directly included in the call to holiness in H, and more implicitly included in that call to and through their male relatives. That holiness is indeed a multidimensional concept. Used by the compiler of H to structure and provide motivation for keeping the legislation in H, holiness is recognized first and foremost as an attribute of God, and secondarily as something in which all Israel is called to share, whether directly or indirectly.
Joanne M Dupont,
"Women and the concept of holiness in the "Holiness Code" (Leviticus 17-26): Literary, theological and historical context"
(January 1, 1989).
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