Exegesis or Eisegesis: Does Chiastic Analysis Help Us to Understand Leviticus 20?

Volume 59:2 Supplemental (2020)
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Exegesis or Eisegesis: Does Chiastic Analysis Help Us to Understand Leviticus 20?

Author Jonathan Burnside

Contrary to the arguments of some scholars, Leviticus 20 is not simply a miscellaneous collection of legal material. Rather, the chapter is chiastic, structured according to who has responsibility to punish various offenses (humanity, God, humanity, God, humanity). Two parts of the overall chiasm are themselves chiastically structured, and the center point of the chiasm (the punishments meted out by humanity) consists of a series of binary oppositions. A common structure in biblical law, these particular binary oppositions are based on the identities of the parties involved in sexual offenses. They are presented in increasing order of their deviation from the biblical norm of sexual relations—heterosexual relations within marriage between a man and a woman. Burnside outlines the sophisticated literary structure of Leviticus 20, speculates on purposes of this structure, and offers a three-fold test for validating the presence of chiasmus. The analysis presented here satisfies that test.

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