Department or Program


Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Edward Silver


The Book of Leviticus contains a considerable amount of material pertaining to sin, covering a great variety of types of behaviour that incur sin, methods for atonement, punishments, and ritual context for sin offerings. This thesis considers the nature of sin and its function in society, as depicted in Leviticus 16, by means of comparing several different theological and anthropological models regarding sin and impurity, in combination with a close reading of the Hebrew. The image of sin and impurity that emerges includes a dual system of ritual and moral impurity, which in part could well be used to establish a social structure and hierarchy, and is in Leviticus 16 put in service of promoting the role of the High Priest as the mediator between God and the Israelites, and the only one capable of maintaining and fixing that relationship in the face of sin and impurity.