Tom Gilson

A Note on Teaching Leviticus 19:19

As much as we would love to explain everything clearly when we teach, for some purposes it’s not necessary. Leviticus 19:19 is a great example. As a teacher I want to express the full meaning of these instructions. There are multiple opinions on it in the commentaries, enough so that it’s almost a take-your-pick situation. No matter what we say, though, there’s something there that’s going to remain foreign to most of us no matter how hard we try to communicate it.

That’s in regard to understanding the passage, which is the first purpose of teaching. It’s not the only purpose, though. Another very likely purpose in this passage would be to help listeners (and skeptical objectors) recognize that it’s what we don’t know that counts. We don’t know for sure what might have been true in that culture that could have made this seem entirely sensible at the time. And we ought to feel comfortable in not knowing: we can’t know (based on current scholarship, at any rate), and we don’t need to know.

Understanding is always the goal. Not knowing, however, can sometimes be okay.

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