RBL Review of Bibb’s Ritual Words and Narrative Worlds in the Book of Leviticus

Bryan Bibb’s book, Ritual Words and Narrative Worlds in the Book of Leviticus (T & T Clark, 2008), is reviewed on the Review of Biblical Literature website. Find the link to the PDF review on the book’s RBL page.

Bryan’s work is as “intriguing” and “appealing” as the reviewer claims, working further into the ways Leviticus “ritualizes narrative” and “narrativizes ritual.” The reviewer rightly recommends the work.

In the obligatory paragraph of constructive criticism, I would argue that the reviewer is not as clear as Bibb is himself concerning his claims about the role of “gaps” in Leviticus’s narrativized ritual. For Bibb, there is a kind of positive feedback loop (my words, not his) between “gaps” in ritual instructions and “gaps” in narrative. No instructions are so clearly articulated as to cover all aspects of relevant practice, and these “gaps” give rise to narrative explications (whether written or practiced) that seek to establish clarity but which themselves inevitably have their own “gaps.” These gap-ridden narratives in turn call for added instruction, and so on. The story of Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-3), with its relevant instructional material (e.g., Lev 6:12-13; 16:1-2, 12-13) offers a poignant example of the risks involved in a life lived practicing ritual in the “gaps.”

Read the review, and if you have (or could have) any interest in Leviticus or the ways that narrative and ritual instruction may intersect, read Bibb’s book.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the note, Brooke! I had not realized that a review is out. It is a strange feeling, I must admit.

    I agree with you that the reviewer has not quite described my point about gaps correctly. There is a similar problem in the review with the orality issue, though part of the problem is my use of an ambiguous (!) term, “oral ritual.” Her point is that the texts do not reflect actual ritual practice, which is something I also argue, but is not central to my point.

    That said, I am pleased as I can be to see the book get some attention.

  2. Yeah, and it is definitely a good review. All things considered, I’d rather be slightly misunderstood in a positive review than in a negative one!

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