Adult Forum Class: What on Earth Should We Do with Leviticus?

Some days it’s hard to know what to make of the book of Leviticus, and what it might have to say to us.  It opens with a long series on how to offer the different types of sacrifice that were part of Israel’s worship, but to us seem irrelevant and tedious.  It speaks of how to observe “purity” in ways that feel strange today.  Some of its instructions seem more like magic than faith.  Leviticus has extensive social legislation, some of which has been used to cause great pain, at the same time that other parts that could make society more just are ignored completely.  It is the source of the expression “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and contains economic legislation that is so radical that it is hard to believe it was ever followed.  For eight weeks in January and February, starting January 6, we will look at portions of Leviticus asking how we can read this book faithfully in a 21st century world.


JANUARY 6 – Frameworks for reading the book of Leviticus faithfully and intelligently.

JANUARY 13 – Leviticus 1-3  —  instructions for two kinds of sacrifices

JANUARY 20 – Leviticus 4-6:7 – instructions for sin and guilt offerings

JANUARY 27 – Leviticus 11-13  —  some specifics of maintaining purity

FEBRUARY 3 – Leviticus 18  —  legislating relationships

FEBRUARY 10 – Leviticus 19  —  social legislation

FEBRUARY 17 – Leviticus 23  —  the annual cycle of great festivals

FEBRUARY 24 – Leviticus 25  —  sabbatical year and Jubilee (debt forgiveness)

Dr. Richard Weis is Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean and Professor of Hebrew Bible, Lexington Theological Seminary.

Ordained in the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. in 1974, and now a teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Dr. Weis served pastorates in New Jersey and California, and has been parish associate for congregations in New Jersey and Minnesota.  Throughout his subsequent career in theological education, Dr. Weis has been active in regional manifestations of the church, and has been in demand as a teacher and preacher.  While in graduate school he also served as the director of the Ancient Biblical Manuscript Center in Claremont, CA.

Prior to going to Lexington Theological Seminary, Dr. Weis served on the faculties and as Dean of New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, NJ (1987-1998) and the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities in New Brighton, MN (1998-2011).  At New Brunswick Seminary he taught the introductory course in Old Testament, Hebrew, Hebrew exegesis, and a variety of topical courses including courses on the Prophets, Jeremiah, Feminist/Womanist Interpretation, and the city and the Hebrew Bible.  At United he taught similar courses as well as the basic course introducing students to theological reflection.

Dr. Weis is a scholar of international reputation, specializing in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible and the study of the book of Jeremiah.  He is the only one of the nine general editors of Biblia Hebraica Quinta from an American institution.  Published by the German Bible Society, this ground-breaking new edition of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament represents a revolutionary advance over previous editions of its type, and will provide the Hebrew text of the Bible used by the next generation of scholars, translators, pastors and students.  In addition to his publications in textual criticism, Weis is immersed in a multi-pronged project on the book of Jeremiah, which ultimately will issue in three separate books: the volume on Jeremiah in Biblia Hebraica Quinta, a commentary on Jeremiah for the Forms of the Old Testament Literature Series, and a commentary on the ancient Greek translation of the book for the SBL Septuagint Commentary.