Friday, September 23, 2005

Leviticus 10:10 is one of the most fascinating texts...

. . . in the Bible because the closer one looks, the more perplexing it seems to become:

Leviticus 10:10

"And distinguish

between the holy and the profane


between the impure and the pure."

For you scholars out there, here are the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin texts:

Masoretic Text: Hebrew:


בין הקדש ובין החל
ובין הטמא ובין הטהור׃

Septuagint Text: Greek:


ανα μεσον των αγιων και των βεβηλων
ανα μεσον των ακαθαρτων και των καθαρων

Vulgate Text: Latin:

et ut habeatis scientiam discernendi

inter sanctum et profanum
inter pollutum et mundum

And here's the English again so that you don't have to scroll up:

"And distinguish

between the holy and the profane


between the impure and the pure."

Why do I say that this is perplexing? Because this looks like Hebrew parallelism, the restating in a second line what has already been said in the first line but in different words.

In this verse, that would be odd.

Why? Because holy would pair with impure, and profane would pair with pure, and such pairings would seem at odds.

Perhaps the verse uses not parallelism but chiasm, a reversal in the order of terms.

That would seem to work better.

Why? Because holy would pair with pure, and profane would pair with impure, and such pairings seem to fit.

Yet if we think more about the meanings of "holy," "pure," "profane," and "impure," we begin to have doubts.

Both the holy and the impure are very often portrayed as dynamic forces in scriptural texts. And the profane, in its basic state, is pure. So, maybe the verse uses parallelism after all.

Yet, there is something disconcerting about likening the holy to the impure while contrasting it to the pure -- given that the pure is likened to the profane.

Thus, back and forth, one goes . . .

I have gradually, therefore, come to think that we're intended to read Leviticus 10:10 as both parallelism and chiasm and to thereby see the affinities and differences among all four terms within the biblical system for classifying reality.

I could explain this further, but perhaps some other time . . .


At 10:00 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Sometime last year, I stumbled upon this site. Perhaps you've seen it. If not:



At 5:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Big Guy.

I'll place this find on my blogroll . . . if my blogroll can find a place.


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