It seems like every time I’m debating with an atheist about the Bible, Leviticus is always brought up. I understand the struggle. I remember going through Leviticus one day and reading this:
“If two men are fighting, and the wife of one steps in to rescue her husband from the one striking him, and she reaches out her hand and grabs his genitals, you are to cut off her hand. You must show her no pity.”
And I was like, what? A friend of mine mentioned that some of the verses sound like they were “written by a man.”
This is interesting.
Fast forward to now, when I’m reading Mark. It’s pretty clear that a lot of less-than-ideal laws exist in Leviticus, but in Mark, it’s interesting, because the Pharisees come up to Jesus with a verse from Leviticus, testing him on it.
“Some Pharisees came to test Him. “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” they inquired.
“What did Moses command you?” He replied.
They answered, “Moses permitted a man to write his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away.”
But Jesus told them, “Moses wrote this commandment for you because your hearts were hard. However, from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.””
First of all, did you hear that? “Moses”. Jesus contrasts the original design of God’s creation with the law that, it seems, “Moses” commanded. Moses wasn’t God. And yet Jesus, who is God, is saying that Moses wrote this command. This isn’t God’s ideal.
Secondly, “because your hearts were hard.” I wonder, how many rules had to be put in place because the Israelites’ hearts were hard? We have to remember that the commands were basically a governmental structure for a country. We know that there is no such thing as a Christian country, so it’s quite possible that some of the people in Israel weren’t believers and needed those kinds of laws.
As a minor point, Leviticus was written in a very different society than we live in now. It’s possible some of the terms and social standards used are different than what we think of today. And honestly speaking, the society standard in Israel wasn’t so bad compared to the other nations. At least they didn’t have temple prostitutes and child sacrifice.
To summarize, though, if you’re going to Leviticus and you find something off, go straight back to Jesus. I believe that Leviticus was God’s word and will teach us about God, but that doesn’t mean that even God himself wanted the laws that were in it.
Jesus came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill the law, and so we can be free.