Review: Holiness to the Lord

A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus

Chances are most expositors have never preached a sermon from Leviticus and in all likelihood they never will. Some attempt such a feat and quickly learn that they have landed their homiletical craft on another planet. Foreign, intimidating and obscure is how some might describe their view of Leviticus. Enter theologian Allen P. Ross who has penned a road map through Leviticus in his fresh work Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus. Ross says, “I have written this book for pastors, teachers, and all serious Bible students who wish to learn more about the Book of Leviticus and about its use in Christian exposition” (9).

Ross is convincing and wants the reader to “recognize that Leviticus was and is one of the most important books of the Old Testament” since it “…lays the theological foundation for the New Testament teaching about the atoning work of Jesus Christ” (15). There are fifty chapters in all which are divided into five parts taking the reader through all twenty-seven chapters of Leviticus. The chapters are relatively short and technical matters are largely left to footnotes. One does not need an understanding of Hebrew to follow along in Ross’ text. All Hebrew is kept to a minimum and transliterated when used.

This volume has much to commend. The opening chapter which is the longest of the entire work (54 pages) is a one-stop seminary class on issues of authorship, theology, and background in Leviticus. Mastery of this chapter would give the reader a firm grasp of the message and setting of Leviticus. The author shows a keen awareness of the issues and walks a delicate balance between two extreme positions: one which ignores the OT meaning and only uses the text to teach Christian doctrine, and the opposite which ignores the fulfillment in the NT and explains only the meaning for ancient Israel (17).

Ross carefully navigates through cultural backgrounds and critical issues related to authorship opting for the traditional view of Mosaic authorship after examining, albeit briefly, the critical views of Julius Wellhausen and others. If one is looking for a more in depth study of critical issues and authorship related to Leviticus from a conservative/traditional position see Mark Rooker’s excellent Leviticus commentary in the New American Commentary series volume 3A (especially pp. 23-38).

One of the true highlights of Ross’ commentary is his examination of “Interpretation and Application of the Law in the Church” (58-66). Ross gives a concise yet clear picture of the nature and purpose of the law. His four-fold hypothesis is: 1) The law was the constitution of the nation of Israel, 2) The law revealed what was required to be in communion with God, 3) The law regulated the worship and purity of the people of God, and 4) The law was a pedagogue leading to Christ (60-61). He notes that all of these can be tied together in one of two categories: regulatory or revelatory. Ross writes, “When Christ came and inaugurated the new covenant, the regulatory aspects of the law came to an end: there was no longer a temple, sacrifices, or a functioning priesthood based on the Sinai covenant. But what all these laws revealed about the nature and will of God did not come to an end, for they are binding revelation” (62).

The remaining chapters of Holiness to the Lord move through the text of Leviticus in an expositional manner as Ross maneuvers through each pericope of the text. He concludes almost every chapter with suggestions for conducting an exposition of the text in question which should prove to be a great help for expositors and Bible teachers (e.g., 204, 238-39). In each chapter, Ross follows his own categories by noting theological ideas, synthesis, and development of the exposition. Also each chapter concludes with a specialized bibliography for each pericope. Here, students who want to go into deeper study will have no shortage of reference material to explore. One notable item is missing from this otherwise practical volume. There is no subject, author, or scripture index given at the volume’s conclusion. At the very least a scripture index would be helpful since Ross repeatedly shows connections between the text of Leviticus and the NT.

Saying this is a basic exposition of Leviticus is not a derogatory remark but a high compliment. Ross has arranged this study of Leviticus as if he’s cutting up a large section of meat for a young eater so that the experience is not left to those with only certain high levels of training. Most laymen will profit from this study and they should appreciate Ross’ attention to detail and application. Every expositor should have at least two or three commentaries on every book that he can reference for reliable guidance and trustworthiness and Holiness to the Lord is in my top three.

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