#186. Is Yom Kipper (the Day of Atonement/Purification) an eternal law OR not? (Lev 16, 23:26-32 vs Deut 16:16; Rom 3; Gal 3; Heb 5-9)


The Priestly literature is the only corpus of texts in the Bible that prescribes as an eternal law, directly from Yahweh’s mouth, the festival of Yom Kipper—but see Ezekiel too, a text not incoincidentally also written by an Aaronid priest in exile. In fact, the priestly literature is the only corpus of texts in the Bible that commands certain sacrifices (#155), festivals (#109-110, #118), holy days (#171), covenants (#31), and other cultic practices associated with the Aaronid priestly guild as “eternal laws.”

Thus, for example, the priestly writer places these as eternal laws on the lips of his god, Yahweh: Passover (Ex 12:14, 17), the observance of Unleavened Bread, Booths, and the Day of Atonement (Lev 23:14, 41; 16:29, 31); the Aaronid priesthood itself (Ex 29:9; 40:15; Lev 6:15); the daily lamp that must be kept lit by the Aaronid priests (Ex 27:21; Lev 24:4); the Aaronid priesthood’s portion of the sacrifices (Ex 29:28; Lev 6:11; 7:34; 10:15; 24:9); the washing of the Aaronid priests as they enter the tabernacle (Ex 30:21); and the prohibition of beer and wine for Aaronids before entering Yahweh’s presence (Lev 10:9). In addition to these “eternal laws,” there is the eternal prohibition against the consumption of fat—all fat is Yahweh’s (see #172). All of these “eternal laws” are furthermore decreed from the mouth of Yahweh himself. However, it should not come as a surprise to learn that in this text written by Aaronid priests Yahweh is seen legitimating and authorizing the very beliefs, practices, and care of the Aaronid priesthood and its sacrificial cult that was dear to the Aaronid priesthood itself. Again, this was exactly the purpose of these archaized texts. This is properly what we would call propaganda—texts written to legitimate, endorse, and promulgate at any and all expenses the views and beliefs of an elite guild—views and beliefs here authorized through the mouth piece of that particular culture’s deity, in this case Yahweh.

We also recognize that such “eternal laws” were forged in and through temporal perspectives and a specific temporal referent—i.e., the temple and its sacrificial cult. These “eternal laws,” therefore, are written from a temporal perspective that does not, and cannot, foresee what was to come centuries later—Titus and his troops, the besieging of Jerusalem, and the utter destruction of the temple with its sacrificial cult and also the above mentioned “eternal laws”! Such “eternal laws” decreed from the deity’s mouth itself are rather literary and rhetorical techniques used by ancient scribes to authenticate the scribe’s and his guild’s very temporal and culturally forged laws, beliefs, and customs. The same techniques are used by New Testament writers as well. Modern readers ignorant about ancient literature are likewise often ignorant of these, and similar, literary ploys and techniques. But alas, as they say, ignorance is bliss, and I think what this cliche means is that bliss is only attainable through ignorance!?  Maybe heaven is too?

Back to the texts: Not surprisingly, therefore, that the eternal divinely-ordained decree to observe and practice the Day of Atonement is only found in this priestly corpus of literature written by the Aaronid priestly guild. The Levite authors of the book of Deuteronomy, for example, in listing the three essential celebrations that all males must annually attend (Deut 16), make no mention of Yom Kipper, which the Yahweh of the book of Leviticus deems as an “eternal law.” Indeed, in Leviticus 23, since Yom Kipper falls on the Sabbath—an eternal covenant for the priestly writer (#171), which everyone in the 21st century blatantly neglects, more severe for those who claim Yahweh as their god!—Yahweh is presented as saying this to any individual who works on Yom Kipper: “I shall destroy that person from among his people! You shall not do any work—an eternal law through your generations in all your homes” (23:30-31). The author of Deuteronomy, however, either knows of no such festival, or neglects it altogether. His Yahweh only commands the observance of 3 festivals: Passover/Unleavened Bread, Booths, and Weeks. Did his Yahweh forget about his own eternal decrees? Our Yahweh certainly has!

Post-70 CE, when the Temple no longer stood, and thus too there was no longer the sacrificial cult, the authors of the New Testament had to address this issue—indeed as did all of Judaism post-70 CE. One way of doing this, most noticeable in the writings of Paul and the letter to the Hebrews, was to present Jesus’ death on the cross as the sacrificial act par excellence that, in short, did exactly what the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement did annually—expiate, atone for, and purify the sins of the people. This too was presented, with divine backing, as an eternal law. I’d like to go into more detail with this, but reserve the right to address it when we get to the New Testament contradictions.

Now the Christian apologists, and those equally unversed in the textual traditions of the Bible, their authors, and the historical and literary worlds from which they wrote, will befuddle you with all sorts of arguments and grandiose claims, claiming that Yahweh did this and that, changed this and that, pre-ordained the latter before the former, begot a son who trumped his eternal laws, etc. etc. All of this is theological speculation, hodge-podge, self-aggrandizing rhetorical sophistry meant to do one thing and one thing only—neglect what the texts actually say, why they say what they say, who wrote them and why, the historical hows and whys of their compositions, etc. Such apologetics, as all apologetics are, are concerned with the reader’s belief system, the reader’s god, and long tried-and-true authoritative interpretive traditions on the Bible’s various texts. They are not concerned with the texts themselves before they were co-opted by scribes and readers living centuries after they were written to legitimate these later readers’ agendas and beliefs. Hell, such apologetics are not even concerned about the Yahweh of these texts! We don’t even follow his eternal laws, yet assume we’re going in boat loads to heaven, which by the way he also knows nothing of, excluding the Yahweh of Daniel (#6). Rather, the authority of these apologetic maneuvers and the belief systems they seek to legitimate rest not on the biblical texts nor Yahweh, but rather on later interpretive traditions on these texts and on later re-interpretive traditions about god Yahweh, God, and Jesus, who is more misrepresented than Yahweh himself! The nerve of some peoples. The mire is too thick to get to the bottom of it all, and I’ll have to leave it at that for the moment.

4 thoughts on “#186. Is Yom Kipper (the Day of Atonement/Purification) an eternal law OR not? (Lev 16, 23:26-32 vs Deut 16:16; Rom 3; Gal 3; Heb 5-9)

  1. Maybe you’ll discuss this when you get to Leviticus 23, but do you agree with R.E. Friedman that another of these festival calendars, Numbers 28-29, comes from the Redactor, or do you think it’s another P text? (I’m assuming that Exodus 34 [J] is the fourth calendar you have in mind.) And yes, Jubilees 6 contains a polemic against a lunar-based calendar.

  2. Not only is Yom Kippur not mentioned in Deuteronomy 16, but Rosh Hashanah is absent as well, and neither appears on the sacred calendar of Exodus 23. Compare:

    Exodus 23:14-17
    14 Three times in the year you shall hold a festival for me. 15You shall observe the festival of unleavened bread; as I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. No one shall appear before me empty-handed. 16 You shall observe the festival of harvest, of the first fruits of your labour, of what you sow in the field. You shall observe the festival of ingathering at the end of the year, when you gather in from the field the fruit of your labour.

    Deuteronomy 16:16-17
    16 Three times a year all your males shall appear before the Lord your God at the place that he will choose: at the festival of unleavened bread, at the festival of weeks, and at the festival of booths. They shall not appear before the Lord empty-handed; 17all shall give as they are able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God that he has given you.

    1. John Thanks,

      Yes indeed. And there are even other festivals in the priestly tradition that are absent in the Deuteronomic, which reflect the broader differences between these two texts and the guilds that wrote them, often expressed as the difference between a sacred ideology and social structure and a secular one.

      I’ve been waiting till we get to Leviticus 23 to discuss the contradictions among the different—there are 4 in the Pentateuch—festive calendars. I think in another comment you brought up the contradictory festival dates presented in Jubilees, whose author sought a solar calendar system rather than a lunar one if I remember correctly. Indeed, if we look at Leviticus 23 and Numbers 15, both of which are products of the Aaronid priestly guild, we readily see their unique insistence, and creation (?), of a number of sacrificial festivals or holy days, each one demanding a hefty number of sacrificial animals! It was all about the sacrificial cult for this priestly guild. I would have liked to have witnessed that!

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