Levites and the Plenary Reception of Revelation
Christian, Mark Alan
This project offers comprehensive theory to explain the origin of certain Pentateuchal passages that though few in number contrast sharply with the dominant traditions regarding the divine revelation at Mt. Sinai/Horeb. In the exegetical analyses of the germane passages, literary-historical and redactional models have been brought to bear and situated within the current international Pentateuchal debate. The research has both confirmed problems with wide-ranging redactional models and affirmed their necessity in explaining complex interweaving of contrasting viewpoints. Traditional notions of Pentateuchal authorship have left unsolved literary and literary-historical problems, especially with respect to the developmental stages apparent in the book of Deuteronomy, a text of critical importance for this study. This dissertation has explored the connections between the prophetically linked tradition of the Plenary Reception of Revelation (PRR; Israelites received direct, unmediated revelation from God as a community) and non-elite levitical priest-prophets based outside of urban centers. The research has shown that they supported this tradition and negotiated with elite priestly supporters of the dominant tradition (the Israelite community did not receive direct but rather mediated divine revelation) in behalf of its survival among the received tradition. In addition to literary analyses, the application of social (including archaeological), political, and legal theories have revealed a close working relationship between these Levites and lay leaders. Through their involvement in the making of Israelite literature, Levites saw to the inclusion of marginalized, “popular” traditions in the Hebrew Bible, which otherwise comprises a repository of traditions that affirms “official” perspectives. I have found the following “popular” traditions advocated by the Levites to be closely interconnected: the PRR, positive and perhaps repeated experiences of direct encounter with the divine, an expansive notion of Israelite sanctification, and a pronounced openness to alien integration. My research has provided a window through which both the scholars and general readers of the Hebrew Bible can better view the contributions of local, non-elite priests and their lay constituents to the culture and religion of ancient Israel.