Holiness to the LORD: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus

By Allen P. Ross
Grand Rapids : Baker (2002). 496 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. William Barrick
16.1 (Spring 2005) : 179-180

Allen P. Ross is Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama. As in the case of Creation and Blessing: A Guide to the Study and Exposition of Genesis (Baker, 1996; see the review in TMSJ 11/2 [Fall 2000]:269-70), this volume is not a commentary, but a guide to the study and exposition of Leviticus (9). A detailed exegetical analysis of the text of Leviticus is left for the reader to pursue in preparation for exposition.

For each section of the text of Leviticus, Ross provides a brief introduction, a discussion of theological ideas, an analysis of structure, a synthesis and outline, the development of the exposition, and concluding observations. Most of the fifty chapters close with a bibliography of books, essays, and journal articles focused on the topic or theme of the passage under discussion. The bibliographies vary in length in relationship to the availability of resources on the topic (e.g., 66-69, 97, 390). The most lamentable aspect of the book is the absence of indexes, which was also true of his earlier work on Genesis.

In the first chapter (“The Study of Leviticus” 15-69) Ross defends Mosaic authorship and defines critical views and mediating views of authorship. His treatment of the theology of Leviticus (42-58) emphasizes what the book reveals about God, the people of God, and the covenant. Under “Interpretation and Application of the Law in the Church” (58-65), Ross concludes that the NT believer is not under the Law, because Christ has fulfilled the Law and we are under the law of Christ. This means “that for those who are ‘in Christ’ the law has no power to condemn, because Christ has fulfilled it; but it also means that those who are ‘in Christ’ died to sin and now must live in the righteousness of Christ” (64).

Comparing Ross’s volume to various commentaries on Leviticus is not out of line with its focus on exposition. Although the author has centered his attention on how to expound Leviticus, he has not neglected what the book says. Commentaries such as Mark Rooker, Leviticus, NAC (Broadman & Holman, 2000), R. K. Harrison, Leviticus: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC (InterV arsity, 1980), Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus, NICOT (Eerdmans, 1979), and John E. Hartley, Leviticus, WBC (Word, 1992) will provide greater exegetical details on issues like the “strange fire” offered by Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-7). However, those commentaries (all of them excellent) will not develop the key expository points as lucidly as Ross, who spends nearly two pages (237-39) developing those points. The nearest to this approach would be that of Wenham, who concludes his exegesis of each chapter of Leviticus with a discussion of its relationship to the NT and Christianity. However, Wenham’s commentary occasionally suffers from exegetical malnutrition. This reviewer would recommend that the expositor use the commentaries by Hartley, Harrison, and Rooker (see the review in TMSJ 21/1 [Spring 2001]: 123-24) alongside Ross’s expository guide.

Holiness to the LORD belongs in the library of every serious expositor. Its level-headed approach to exegetical and expositional difficulties, clear theological comment, and practical guidance are a welcome breath of fresh air for a book that too many have allowed to grow stale. We can only hope that Allen Ross will produce similar volumes on the remainder of the Pentateuch, to provide a complete guide for expounding the Torah.