Friday, 24 May 2019
Mary Jett: The Interpretation of Leviticus through the Fourth Century and Origen's Homilies on Leviticus.
Within the Early Church and Patristic writings, Leviticus plays at best, a minor role. However, in Rufinus’ conclusion to Origen’s Commentary on Romans, he notes a demand to see Leviticus translated for a Roman audience. In turn, he translates Origen’s interpretation of Leviticus at the same time that Rabbinic interpretations were flourishing. Throughout Latin Church Fathers, authors from Tertullian onward drew on and struggled with the priestly commands and legal demands of Leviticus, but Rufinus’ translations on Origen bring forth the first significant interpretations of the text ascribed to a Greek author. In the Latin First Principles (4.1.24), Moses receives Leviticus, and the people receive Deuteronomy. This second law brings the first to an end. The Homilies on Leviticus, however, draw together how that first law to Moses endures, applies, and reveals a message to those who demanded to know how Origen applied the text to the past and present as well as the priest and peasant. This paper will consider the Homilies on Leviticus in comparison to Origen's other Levitical references, the growing Jewish body of textual interpretation, and the broader role of the Levitical law in the midst of early Christian thought.