As we have repeatedly seen already (#175, #178, #183, #184, #185, etc.) that concern for ritual and ethical purity was top priority for the Aaronid priesthood that penned the book of Leviticus and 75% of what is now the book of Numbers.
Throughout Leviticus, and especially in those chapters devoted to its laws and commandments (Lev 11-22), the role of the Aaronid priests is repeatedly defined through the phrase “to distinguish between the holy and the profane, between the pure and the impure.”In fact, this priestly law code is presented as the very instruction (torah) for doing this. Its torahs are: “to distinguish between the holy and the profane, the pure and the impure” in matters of: diet (Lev 11); women, i.e., menstruation and childbirth (Lev 12); skin diseases and afflictions (Lev 13-14); bodily emissions (Lev 15); sex and nudity (Lev 18, 20); miscellaneous matters (Lev 19); and issues concerning the Aaronid priesthood (Lev 21-22).
Thus, according to the Priestly writer’s god, Yahweh, certain foods are unclean or impure; a woman’s menstruation is impure; any bodily discharge or emission is impure; leprosy and other skin infections are impure; in fact diseases by their very nature are impure; any clothes or a house that comes into contact with the infectious is also unclean and impure. Anything that touches, for example, pork, a corpse, the blood of a menstruating woman—whether a bottle, a piece of clothing, a bed, the walls of your house, etc.—also becomes contaminated and impure and must be purified through washing or simply discarded. Likewise, any individual coming into physical contact with a corpse or the blood of a menstruating woman also becomes impure. Exposing the nudity of one’s relative is impure; homosexuality is unclean and impure; coming into contact with a dead person or animal is impure, etc.
In other words, in the strict sacred space that defined the world of ancient priestly clans, such as our Aaronids here, any one of these acts risked bringing the profane, the unclean, the impure, and the unholy into the realm of the holy, the pure, and the sacred, as conceived of by these priests. Moreover, any individual who has contracted an impurity (i.e., committed a sin) and did not expiate his impurity/sin through a ritualized washing and sacrifice officiated over by the Aaronid priest was irrevocably cut off and banished from the community.
Given this anxiety about issues of purity it is not surprising that we find in Numbers 9 an overt commandment stipulating that: 1) all males must partake in the Passover; it is an eternal law (Ex 12:14-17); 2) all males must be circumcised in order to partake of the Passover (Ex 12:43-49; see #118); and 3) every individual must be pure in order to partake in the Passover (Num 9:1-14).
This commandment is exemplified through a narrative about an individual who contracts impurity by coming into contact with a corpse (cf. #175). That individual, we are informed, is not to partake of the Passover, but alas since every male must partake of the Passover, he is to observe Yahweh’s Passover in the following month. The Priestly source is the only text of the Bible that stipulates purity as a requirement for partaking in the Passover. Both the book of Deuteronomy and the texts of the New Testament express contradictory ideas.
Although the Deuteronomist’s treatment of the Passover in Deuteronomy 16:1-8 makes no mention of the requirement to be in a state of purity during the Passover, it can be inferred that this author in general could care less about these priestly concerns. We have already seen that in other places where the Aaronid text of Leviticus stresses requirements of purity, the Deuteronomist is lax or even silent about such requirements (#178, #187, #188, #190). Additionally Deuteronomy 12 explicitly states that it is unnecessary to be pure for more general sacrifices (#187). Conversely, for the Deuteronomist the central concern was not issues of cultic purity, but of the centralization of the cult and Yahweh’s festivals: the Passover was to be celebrated at and only at Jerusalem (#117)!
Turning our attention to the writings of the New Testament, it can also be confidently inferred that the issues of purity which concerned our Aaronid priests and their Yahweh are, if not absent in the writings of the New Testament, utterly negated and reversed. Luke’s parable of the good Samaritan for example is a story that not only challenges priestly issues of what was pure and what was not, but overthrows those values. See #183 & #184.
I have most likely overlooked many contradictions between the New Testament and these older Pentateucahl traditions, which I will have to treat when we get to the New Testament. But Numbers 10:10 reminded me of something Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians.
And at the time of your rejoicing, on your appointed times and your new moons, you must sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and your well-being offerings (Num 10:10).
The quote comes in a passage dealing with the sounding of the trumpets by the Aaronid priests to assemble the congregation. In the verse above, it is also relegated that the trumpets be sounded at every festival, appointed time, and new moon. The reference is to the Festival Calendar as outlined in Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29. Furthermore, in Leviticus 23, the priestly writer gives us the specific dates for these “appointed times,” all of which are governed by the lunar cycle. Moreover, we must not forget that this is the same writer who penned the first creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:3, and through whose conviction these appointed times, including the Sabbath, were established at creation by God himself (see Gen 1:14)! They are sacred festivals woven into the very fabric of time at creation!—indeed all of which our so-called modern-day Creationists neglect, disdain, and unknowingly despise and in so doing profane the sacred fabric of creation as well as its creator God, according to our priestly writers. But that will have to be a topic for a later date.
At any event, all these appointed times, festivals, and new moons which were identified as “eternal laws” by the Yahweh of this priestly corpus of literature (Ex 12:14, 17; Lev 16:29, 31,34; 23:14, 21, 31, 41) become, in the hands of Paul, antiquated and unnecessary. For in Galatians 4:10 he seems to be specifically chiding his Galatian converts for practicing such appointed times and new moons: “You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years.” This criticism comes in the midst of Paul’s argument that “we” are no longer bound to the law. Yet the issues of the Torah aside, what Paul’s criticism against observing the appointed times that fall on the lunar calendar, to which Gal 4:10 seems to refer, does however is to negate and neglect the very sacredness of the fabric of creation as envisioned by the Aaronid priestly guild and its god who built these sacred appointed times and festivals into the cosmos at its creation, and who furthermore stipulated that they be followed “eternally.” In the end, these are two radically different worldviews and belief systems, and each one legitimated by making appeals to divine authority!