James W. Watts: 0000-0002-4872-4986

Document Type

Book Chapter




Leviticus, sin, guilt, offering, sacrifice, Pentateuch, Torah




Biblical Studies | Religion


Many interpreters have noted that the common nouns, hattat and asham, carry legal connotations in Akkadian and non-priestly parts of the Hebrew Bible. In P, they also serve as the names of the “sin” and “guilt” offerings. The fact that the offering names evoke legal documents and treaties suggests that they were introduced because priests were playing a larger role in legal matters, or at least wished to. The demise of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah provide plausible reasons for why the Temple would have been looking for additional sources of revenue in the form of the sin and guilt offerings. But the interpretation of the kingdoms’ history in Deuteronomistic and other texts may have raised doubts about priestly claims to be able to offer atonement for sins through the cult. This paper analyzes how the rhetoric of Leviticus has been shaped to advance those claims in the context of hostile historical and literary circumstances.

Additional Information

From Text, Time, and Temple: Literary, Historical and Ritual Studies in Leviticus, ed. Francis Landy, Leigh M. Trevaskis, Bryan Bibb, Sheffield: Phoenix, 2015, 85-93. Reprinted from Watts, Leviticus 1-10 (Leuven: Peeters, 2013), 309-316.


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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.