Review: Leviticus (AOTC)

1633537Nobuyoshi Kiuchi is Professor of Old Testament at Tokyo Christian University in Tokyo, Japan. Kiuchi has a Ph.D. from the College of St. Paul and St. Mary (University of Gloucestershire) and Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies. Kiuchi is author of The Purification Offering in the Priestly Literature: Its Meaning and Function (Sheffield Academic Press, 1988) and A Study of Hata’ and Hatta’t in Leviticus 4-5 (Mohr Siebeck, 2003). Most recently, Kiuchi has produced a sizable commentary on Leviticus in the Apollos Old Testament Commentary series.

Leviticus: Apollos Old Testament Commentary is the product of nearly three decades of devotion to one of the most misunderstood books of the Hebrew Bible. Kiuchi starts his study of Leviticus with a generous introduction. Kiuchi handles standard introductory matters, such as the name of the book, the setting and structure of Leviticus, authorship, distinctive features and themes, and a brief discussion concerning Leviticus and the Christian. The reader will appreciate the care that Kiuchi has taken with regards to the task of introducing Leviticus, and conservative readers will greatly appreciate Kiuchi’s strong stand in defense of Mosaic authorship.

The commentary proper is executed with excellence, both in its content and overall organization. Kiuchi offers readers a fresh translation of the Hebrew text, notes on various aspects of the text and translation, provides form and structure observations, verse-by-verse commentary, explanation, and frequently offers implications from the New Testament. Kiuchi is largely seen as a conservative in his conclusions, but some will find his treatment of hata’ (“to hide oneself” not “to sin”) troubling and somewhat controversial. While Kiuchi offers some explanation regarding this decision, those seeking a more detailed discussion consult A Study of Hata’ and Hatta’t in Leviticus 4-5 (Mohr Siebeck, 2003). Kiuchi is occasionally unconventional in his interpretation (e.g. the symbolism behind the clean/unclean distinction; p. 207-210), but overall, he provides a fresh and sensible conservative treatment of Leviticus that is both up-to-date and helpful for the academically trained pastor and teacher.

I found Kiuchi to be refreshing and balanced. I appreciated his translation and the textual notes are a goldmine for those who value the work of a translator. I also found the “New Testament Implications” section to be extremely rewarding for the canonically conscious reader, and I am confident that other readers will likewise share my gratitude. That said, kind words aside, Kiuchi is not a replacement for Wenham (NICOT) or Hartley (WBC) on a pastor’s bookshelf. It should definitely remain nearby, but will likely not be consulted first if shelf space is shared by these two volumes.

Leviticus: Apollos Old Testament Commentary by Nobuyoshi Kiuchi is an up-to-date, academic exploration into one of the most misunderstood books of the Hebrew Bible. Kiuchi is engaging and interacts with current scholarship. Though somewhat unconventional at times, Kiuchi has provided a solid, conservative commentary that should be consulted and engaged for years to come. It is firmly located in my top-five commentaries on the book of Leviticus and will likely occupy similar space on your shelf. It comes strongly recommended!

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