By reddit user Antiperspirant
The book of Leviticus was primarily a set of rules governing the rituals and traditions of the Jewish priesthood and their people. They had strict codes regarding hygiene, diet, marriage and divorce, ritual procedures, property rights, etc.
These weren’t “God’s Laws,” they were regulations written by humans trying to interpret what they believed was God’s will. For comparison, consider the relationship of federal, state, and local laws to the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution dictates the ideals, and Congress writes laws to try to establish a society which lives up to the Constitution. But no one claims US Law is infallible — laws are created and changed and repealed constantly, and we have a Judicial system dedicated to interpreting whether these laws uphold the spirit of the Constitution.
Similarly, the laws of Leviticus were human attempts to create laws which they believed upheld the spirit of their covenant with God. No one ever claimed God said “thou shalt not eat shellfish.” They had strict dietary and hygienic rules because they believed certain foods and behaviors to be unclean, and they felt that maintaining certain standards of physical cleanliness was necessary for holiness. Other rules in Leviticus were motivated by a sense of cultural identity—the desire to set themselves apart as “chosen people” who eat, dress, behave, etc. in a way that is more strict and unique than the masses.
People often cite Jesus’ “not a jot of God’s law will disappear” line as evidence that he supported the laws of Leviticus. But his entire life and ministry demonstrates that he did not consider these laws to be the will of God. On several occasions he and his friends deliberately and specifically broke and opposed the laws of Leviticus (and others). Just a few examples:
- When he was criticized for having a meal without going through the required cleansing rituals, he called them hypocrites and accused them of clinging to human traditions as if they were God’s law. Mark 7
- When he and his disciples were criticized for picking grain on the sabbath (which was unlawful), he responded with “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath.” Mark 2:23-28
- Jesus actively opposed the legally-prescribed punishment of stoning prostitutes when he said “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” John 8:1-11
- He actively opposed the Mosaic/Levitical law of “an eye for an eye” when he commanded his followers to “turn the other cheek” instead Matthew 5:38-42
- When they asked him what was the most important commandment (trying to trick him into blasphemy), he responded “love god, love your neighbor — all of the law and the prophets boils down to this” Matthew 22:34-39
- He broke the law by healing a man’s hand on the sabbath, telling the Pharisees that it’s more important to good deeds than to heed traditional laws Luke 6:6-11
- He actively overturned all laws regarding dietary restrictions Mark 7:14-23
You don’t have to believe in Christianity to follow this line of reasoning. Even if you consider every word in the bible to be fiction and analyze it from a purely textual, literary perspective, it’s quite clear that the character Jesus did not abide by Levitical law — and in fact he dismissed or opposed it at nearly every turn.