Space and Sacrifice in Leviticus: Implications for Sacrificial Theory

Despite careful and extensive research on Hebrew Bible sacrificial material, biblical sacrifice is still largely imagined in terms of the violent death of an innocent animal victim. However, biblical sacrifice (as in other rich sacrificial traditions) is a much more complex, nuanced phenomenon, involving multiple activities that collaborate to create rich ritual events that play out on multiple levels. Thus to reduce biblical sacrifice to an animal victim’s death is to transform a complex phenomenon into a flat, one-note theological moment. The proposed paper focuses on discussions of sacrifice in Leviticus as complex literary orientations toward sacred and social space. The description of the manipulation of the offering – which involves several activities, only one of which is killing – orients the text’s reader toward ritual, cosmic, social, and cultural worlds. The ritual play in which the reader participates is dynamic, elastic, and complex, involving sacrificial actors, elements, and the reader herself. Such an approach to the biblical sacrifice from this point of view has implications for sacrificial theory more broadly.