UK Christian Bookshops Directory: Christian Book Reviews: Leviticus
Leviticus Leviticus
Apollos Old Testament Commentary

Nobuyoshi Kiuchi
ISBN 9781844741779 (184474177X)
IVP, 2007 (538pp)

Category: Commentaries

Nobuyoshi Kiuchi is already known for his studies in Leviticus and so this extensive commentary from him is to be welcomed. The format follows that of the Apollos series and each passage is translated afresh and then is considered under the headings of notes on the text, form and structure, explanation and New Testament implications. Preachers will especially value the last two of these sections, although sometimes the latter is somewhat brief. Conservative in stance, it even argues for its Mosaic authorship and demonstrates a robust theology throughout. The themes of sin, atonement, the demands of holiness and appeasing the Lord's wrath are uppermost in the book.

With great consistency, Kiuchi argues that the rituals of Leviticus are symbolic and can be interpreted as such in minute detail. Outward ritual and inner spiritual state is closely connected. Thus, burning of the fat in 3:3-4 stands for the eradication of the worshipper's 'egocentric nature' and 'uncleanness' symbolises our sinful condition. It would appear to this reviewer that the symbolic interpretations are not always transparent and indeed sometimes require some ingenuity. But whatever the quibbles, in offering a new perspective Kiuchi's commentary will command attention and calls for a number of recent approaches to justify themselves.

Kiuchi's interpretation of the 'Holiness Code' from chapter 17 onwards fits his earlier framework. The laws call for the destruction of the egocentric nature and have as much to do with the inner nature as outward action. So, the prohibition on cutting one's hair and body or tattooing (19:26-29), which has often been seen as requiring Israel not to adopt pagan practices, are seen rather as not being indifferent to one's self and not marring the divine image. Again, Kiuchi forces us to re-examine commonly accepted contemporary interpretations.

The author was a doctoral student under Gordon Wenham, whose own commentary has been the standard to this point and was refreshing in offering a Christian interpretation of this fundamental biblical book. Kiuchi is certainly a worthy complement to Wenham and will probably come to replace him in due course.

Derek Tidball, June 2007

Derek Tidball is Principal at London School of Theology and author of many books including The Message of Leviticus (Bible Speaks Today Series, IVP, 2005) and How Does God Guide? (Christian Focus, 2001).


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