"Do Not Eat the Owl"
Hearing Leviticus 11 as Christian Scripture
Keywords:Leviticus 11, Food Laws, Hermeneutics, Preaching
Christian appropriation of OT legal material is a perennial crux interpretum. Evident, is a spectrum of approaches, from Marcion-like dismissal on the one hand through to theonomist appeals for re-enactment on the other. Within Western Christianity, the Reformation served to enshrine one approach in particular: a threefold division of the Law that distinguished between civil, ceremonial, and moral commands. However, while undoubtedly neat, such compartmentalization is highly problematic and has resulted in a myopic view of OT legal material. Leviticus 11 is a case in point. While regulations regarding the eating and touching of (un)clean animals remain determinedly central to Judaism, Christian tradition since the early church has sidelined the pericope with equal determination. Even though the Reformation sparked a renewed interest in the reading of Scripture, the designation (and, arguably, dismissal) of Leviticus 11 as “ceremonial” merely served to perpetuate a lacuna regarding the enduring relevance of this text as Christian Scripture. In this article I tease out how Leviticus 11 might be better appropriated by employing tools derived from the fields of speech act theory and intertextuality. These tools allow for greater precision in describing what Leviticus 11 as a text is doing. It becomes apparent that while some illocutions performed by Leviticus 11 are supervened when read in light of the NT, other illocutions persist. These illocutions may be legitimately appropriated by Christian readers of the text with benefits for both faith and practice.