Much thought and scholarship on the cross and Christian atonement has been skewed by ignorance to how the Levitical cult dominates New Testament reflection upon the gospel. In her otherwise fantastic work, The Crucifixion, Fleming Rutledge displays this dire omission in a footnote, stating, “Much of Leviticus is concerned with purification. This is not a negligible theme, but will not be central to the purposes of this book because it plays little role in the New Testament.”The fact that such a thorough and esteemed scholar as Rutledge spent two decades of research and over 600 pages to a treatment of atonement theology yet entirely dismissed the theme of the tabernacle and cultic purification shows the widespread assumption that the gospel of Christ has little to do with purification.
My argument here is that this assumption is patently mistaken and that references to the priestly concerns of the temple cult and ritual purification predominate throughout the New Testament, especially in reflections upon the efficacy of Christ’s death. Indeed, my belief is that one of the most foundational biblical ways of explaining what happened on the cross is that Christ accomplished a universal purification in order to enable contact between mankind and God most generally, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit more specifically. Not only is it a grave and consequential error to preclude this theme from reflections on atonement, but it may indeed be impossible to truly grasp the New Testament witness concerning the cross without at least a basic understanding of how and why Christ’s sacrifice acts as a means of cultic and cosmic decontamination. And to grasp these key foundations, one must sufficiently comprehend the basics of biblical theology concerning the temple, the existential chasm between God and humanity, the need for purification, and the role of blood in accomplishing such purification.
The predominant interpretations of Christ’s accomplishment on the cross fall into the category of either some form of substitutionary atonement or Christ’s victory over the powers. Most theologians see the New Testament as painting a diverse picture about the cross using multiple metaphors and biblical ideas to describe its significance. Therefore, many posit something akin to Scot McKnight’s analogy that atonement theories are like golf clubs and you can’t gold well without the full set of clubs.
Debates have raged over the past couple decades as to the legitimacy of various of the golf clubs, or articulations of particular atonement theories. Specifically, many scholars and church leaders have grown increasingly uncomfortable with modern evangelical articulations of penal substitutionary atonement. This has coincided with a kind of resurgence in Eastern and patristic theology, which has historically emphasized Christus Victor, mystical union with Christ, and atonement as a kind of medical cure that heals and transforms mankind. Many such as N.T. Wright have also pointed out that the way some modern Protestants construe penal substitution as an appeasement of God’s wrath functions practically as a kind of “paganized soteriology”.
My aim here is neither to weigh in on the debate over penal substitution nor to position one theory of atonement over another. Rather, my argument is that the Hebrew Bible presented the Levitical cult as the epicenter of what God was trying to do in the world, and that the themes of sacred space, purification and defilement are woven into the Old Testament’s depiction of atonement. Therefore, it is this depiction and these themes that serve as the primary backdrop to New Testament reflection on Christ’s death as enacting atonement. More specifically, because this backdrop has largely been ignored and even omitted in much of the current discussion of atonement – on bothsides – none of these atonement theologies are sufficiently accurate or helpful until reconsidered in light of God’s promise to cleanse mankind in order to enact a new and eternal covenant.
We must begin with a painfully truncated review of the necessary foundations, which means we must start both with Genesis and Leviticus. Scholars like Seth Postell have successfully shown that Genesis 1-3 serves as an introduction to both the Pentateuch and the entire Hebrew Bible (and thus the Christian Bible as well), and that the tabernacle, priesthood and even sanctification are all introduced in these introductory chapters.Equally significant text-critical scholarship has pointed out that the chiastic shape of the Pentateuch places Leviticus in the structural and theological center, and further highlights the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 as the ultimate peak or epicenter.This shows that not only is the tabernacle and the Levitical system a significant Biblical theme, it is the fundamental focus of the Torah itself. As Michael Morales states in his excellent biblical theology of Leviticus, these features of the Pentateuch serve to “establish that the goal of creation – and therefore the plot of the Bible – is for humanity to dwell with God.”
In other words, the central plot from the beginning to end of the Biblical story is the movement toward a future reality wherein God and mankind can truly dwell together. The central conflict, depicted firstly in Adam and Eve’s fall from Eden, is the chasm currently separating God and humanity. The hope is for this separation to be overcome and cosmic reconciliation to be accomplished. The first major climax in this story occurs at the archetypal cosmic mountain abode of Mt. Sinai, which is also the literary chiastic mountaintop of the book of Leviticus. It is here, on the Day of Atonement, that the high priest leads mankind into its closest contact with YHWH since humanity’s primeval exile. In other words, priestly meeting with God in the tabernacle on the Day of Atonement is the first divinely provided means for accomplishing the reunion between God and mankind.
This then is no minor theme, and it is a fool’s errand to suppose that Jesus or Paul or any well-read Jew in the first century could have possibly spoken of atonement without recalling all these key motifs established in Leviticus. The cultic mechanism of initiating safe and possible contact between YHWH and mankind by means of the life provided by blood is what atonement means in both the Old Testament and the New.
Though the topic is complex and worthy of all the many scholarly studies, I will here simply summarize that the basic concept was one of divine holiness and human contamination. The main contaminant was death itself, which is why contact with death and vestiges of death such as blood and disease were the primary sources of defilement. The center of the Levitical center (Lev. 16 and also 17) is surrounded by repeated mentions of blood as the key, “because the life of the flesh is in the blood,” (Lev. 17:10, 14). Blood then takes on a paradoxical mirrored significance: To eat the blood of an animal is to defile oneself by consuming the source of life and thereby to align in a way with death, but YHWH also “provided [the blood] to you to make atonement on the alter” (Lev. 17:10-14). Blood is the ultimate vessel and symbol of life, so it both provides life and reveals the shedding of life. The basic idea of all of the sacrificial system and the prescriptions of splattering blood upon the tabernacle vestments as well as any priestly participants is that the blood decontaminates the otherwise profane people and objects by covering them with a protective layer of life. Only by covering over death by means of the life latent within the blood can God, the source of eternal life itself, make contact with humanity. Significantly, this act of blood atonement by means of animal sacrifice is set side by side with washing and bathing in Leviticus. This mixing of metaphors is evident in Revelation as well: “They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (7:14). The foundational idea is that of defilement and cleansing, contamination and decontamination.
This decontamination process is what the Bible calls atonement. It is purification in order to accomplish contact and, therefore, reconciliation. This is also loaded onto the ideas of holiness and sanctification. For YHWH to sanctify someone or something is to set it apart from everything else, but it is also to do so in such a way that sufficiently prepares it for divine contact. It is noteworthy for our current study that the idea of being filled with the Spirit is first introduced in the context of the tabernacle system as well: Just as the Spirit helped build the cosmic temple in Genesis 1, God filled Bezalel with the Spirit to build the Tent of Meeting where YHWH would dwell with the people. This is the beginning of the double-edged motif of the Spirit as an agent producing sanctification as well as requiring sanctification for a full-fledged indwelling.
Ultimately, the Hebrew Bible tells the story of the failure of the actual Levitical cult and priesthood. While it promised the best possible means of accessing God, the final form of the Tanakh speaks to Israel’s failure to properly take advantage. Whereas Israel was meant to be a nation of sanctified priests mediating God to the world, they became a nation requiring their own priests and then saw the demise of the temple and nation itself.The priestly nation not only failed to maintain sacred space in order to grant divine access to the world, but they defiled their own land, caused YHWH to remove Godself from their presence, and were thus exiled from the space that was to be the divine and human abode. In addition to trying to explain this tragedy to the people (Ezek. 10, Mic. 3, etc), the biblical prophets also pointed forward to God’s future ability to overcome even this. Jeremiah pointed to a new and thoroughly internalized covenant (Jer. 31) while Ezekiel spoke of God separating and cleansing the people so that YHWH might put the Spirit within each individual to move them to follow the covenant (Ezek. 36-37). In this way, YHWH vowed, “I will save you from your uncleanness” (Ezek. 36:29).
This is a summary of the Old Testament’s eschatological message regarding the priesthood, temple and blood atonement. This of course was all encompassed in the messianic figure developed so richly in Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah and others. The foundational hope was that the failure of the Levitical cult didn’t mean the end of God’s endeavor to be reunited with humanity, but rather pointed forward to an ultimate and mysterious solution in “one like a son of man” (Dan. 7:13). Somehow, the tabernacle and the animal sacrifices and the first Passover and Exodus and the Sabbath day and the high priest would all find their ultimate fulfillment in a messiah figure. When this happened, not only would a high priest get to approach the divine presence on behalf of the people once a year, but all Israel would be filled bodily with God’s Spirit and eventually the whole world would be restored to a cosmic garden where God and mankind could abide together (Is. 11, Zech. 13-14, etc).
My argument is that this was the predominant set of ideas in the minds of the New Testament authors when they spoke of the Levitical cult and its laws as “a shadow of things that were to come,” which found fulfillment in Jesus the Christ (Col. 2:17, Heb. 8:5, 10:1). Just as YHWH showed Moses a pattern (tupos: type) for designing the tabernacle (God’s abode) like a symbol of the cosmic garden mountain (Exod. 25:8, 40), Paul saw Adam and even Israel as symbolic patterns pointing forward to Christ (Rom. 5:14). This figural hermeneutic contained within the Bible itself shows that it is these symbolic types that signify the ultimate meaning of the gospel.
Luke’s gospel, therefore, announces that the moment before Christ died, the temple curtain was torn in two (Lk. 23:45). This was the curtain that served to separate off the Most Holy Place YHWH dwelt in order to prevent contact with the divine presence (Exod. 26:31-33). The author of Hebrews also connected Christ’s death to the temple curtain:
“The Holy Spirit was showing by this (the organization of the tabernacle and priestly practices) that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still functioning. This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order.
But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!”
According to this passage, the entire Old Testament story about the tabernacle and the Levitical priesthood was ultimately a tale about the chasm between mankind and God. The temple curtain was the ultimate symbol of this tragic tale. The story, however, found its ultimate climactic fulfillment in the life and death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, which collectively served to break down this sacred-secular divide. As Luke said, it tore the curtain in two. The major conflict to be overcome was a matter of defilement and impurity that created a theological and existential obstacle to the possibility of Emmanuel, “God with us”. Much of the meaning of this story could be found, of all places, in the book of Leviticus and its seemingly strange temple cult. How? Leviticus and the Old Testament’s presentation of the temple system point to Jesus as one who could ultimately cleanse the very consciences of mankind and thereby enable contact with the divine presence.
In this way, Jesus has become the temple curtain itself, only one through which we may confidently and regularly enter (Heb. 10:19-21). Whereas originally only the high priest entered the Most Holy Place and only once a year in trembling, we may “draw near to God” by this “new and living way,” “having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22-23). As if the analogy between Christ’s death and the Levitical system weren’t clear enough, the term “sprinkled” here is a clear allusion to the way the priests were to “sprinkle” the blood of the sacrifice upon the various vessels and people to be “atoned for”. What the animal blood did for those vessels and people the blood of Christ now does in full for Christians: It cleanses and washes them. In other words, atonement is and always was about defilement and decontamination in the context of mankind’s strained ability to access God.
In the book of Hebrews, this newfound access to God though Christ is precisely what it means to be sanctified (9:13-14, 10:29). My argument is that this connotation of ritual decontamination rooted in Leviticus and the Pentateuch is also what sanctification means elsewhere in the New Testament. Additionally, while Hebrews is the most explicit in defining Christ’s atonement as a matter of cleansing and purification, I believe this was the primary meaning of atonement in the Old Testament and is also therefore the primary meaning of Christ’s atonement in the New Testament.
Just as John the Baptist had to prepare the way for Christ by washing people via baptism into readiness to receive the Christ, Jesus would later have to prepare the people to receive the Holy Spirit. John announced that this would be a baptism “with the Holy Spirit and fire” (Lk. 3:26), which is precisely what we later see happen at Pentecost following Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:3-4). In a complex overlap of symbolism and theological motif, Christ’s death constituted the ultimate cleansing ritual by which his perfect and even divine blood provided a covering of eternal lifeblood. Christ’s “indestructible life” covers us as the blood covered the temple instruments and thereby provides the power to cover over and overcome death (Heb. 7:16).
This basic Jewish assumption of human defilement and the need for cleansing in why Jesus, though without sin (Heb. 4:15) submitted to baptism in order to be cleansed of the impurity of the people and land. He then enacted the ultimate baptism that went beyond the ritual cleansing to an actual existential purification. Christians perform this same ritual of baptism in order to commemorate our entrance into Christ and into his death (Rom. 6:3). Not only does this make Christ the ultimate and eternal high priest (Heb. 5:6, 7:17), but also he is the atoning sacrifice (Heb. 7:27) and even the temple itself (Jn. 2:19-21).
The argument that atonement and sanctification are about decontamination rooted in Leviticus is further supported by the consistent New Testament analogy between sanctification and washing. Just as Leviticus put blood atonement in parallel to ritual washing, which led to the rite of baptism, the language of washing and cleansing is surprisingly common in the New Testament and is used in parallel to sanctification. Jesus said to Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part in me,” (Jn. 13:8) and told Paul to “wash your sins away” (Acts 22:16). Later Paul would say things like, “But you were washed, you were sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God,” (1 Cor. 6:11) and, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit” (Tit. 3:5). Indeed, when one reads through the New Testament with the concept of ritual purification in mind, the idea of cleansing and purification jumps out on nearly every page.
A proper recognition of this conceptual backdrop explains much of the logic of the New Testament, including the idea of sanctification as both a past fact and present ongoing reality. As Morales has pointed out, the book of Leviticus (and the entire Torah with it) takes the chiastic form of a pyramid or mountain top wherein the first half of Leviticus focuses on legislation pertaining to accomplishing atonement and the second half focuses on the “holiness codes” of how to live as the atoned, sanctified community.It is because Leviticus was deeply ingrained in Paul’s mind that he could call the church “those sanctified in Christ,” (1 Cor. 1:2) and also say, “it is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (1 Thess. 4:2).
Recognizing that Paul thinks of sanctification as a kind of ontological decontamination also explains otherwise bewildering passages such as 1 Cor. 7:14 in which a believer is said to sanctify her spouse and make holy her otherwise unclean children. If sanctification means moral progress, this passage makes no sense. Instead, however, it is easy to see how Paul once again positions the Christian in an analogous position to that of Christ himself as one who sanctifies and washes those inhis household.
Much more can and has been said, especially pertaining to the theme of the “sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit” (2 Thess. 2:13. 1 Pet. 1:2) and further New Testament echoes to Levitical themes. In summary, the great Old Testament eschatological hope was that God might not just dwell with his people within a temple in their midst but that he might make the whole world into a cosmic temple and even transform each individual person into a little temple icon. This is the imagery of the opening and closing pages of the Bible in which God abides readily in our midst, in the middle of our world, and we ourselves are fully able to experience and even enjoy it (Rev. 21-22). This hope combined with the basic Old Testament concept of impurity and the need for decontamination, provided by YHWH via the gift of blood, can easily be seen as the conceptual foundation for the Christian gospel. Christ sanctified us by means of his own blood (Heb. 9:12) in order to cleanse our bodies (1 Cor. 6:15-20) and our very consciences to become abodes of the Spirit of God. This already-accomplished aspect of eschatology is our “deposit, guaranteeing what is to come,” (2 Cor. 5:5, and also 2 Cor. 1:22, Eph. 1:14, Heb. 7:22), which is that YHWH will one day prepare the entire world to be the divine abode. That will be the final and ultimate reunion between God and the world where we abide in harmony together. This is the already-but-not-yet inheritance won for us by Christ’s death on the cross.
One possible objection would cede that there are traces of cultic purification in New Testament theology but that the forensic ideas of justification and forgiveness are more central to the heart of the gospel. My response to such an objection is when atonement is rightly understood as part of the mechanics necessary to accomplish the gospel of liberation, redemption and reconciliation, one can see how the forensic connotations of the atonement actually fit into the larger category of decontamination.
It appears clear that the gospels portray Christ’s death firstly as a ransom to liberate Israel and secondly as an atoning sacrifice. This is why Jesus died as the Passover Lamb on the holiday commemorating the Exodus rather than on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.This is biblically consistent as the temple cult and Levitical priesthood, while put forth as central, are never presented in the Old Testament as the primary point, but rather the primary means to the end of divine reconciliation.
It follows then that the New Testament acclamation of Christ’s atonement (i.e. decontaminating sacrifice) ought not to be construed as the main storyline of the gospel. Rather, they are an integral part of the mechanics by which the gospel was accomplished. Purification was a means to the end of Christ’s creation of a “new humanity” (Eph. 2:15) in and through those liberated from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Beloved Son (Col. 1:13).
This same logic is evident in the words of Christ to Paul on the Damascus road: “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me’” (Acts 26:17-18). Rescue and liberation is the main hope – even for murderous Paul and the far-off gentiles – and this rescue equates to “a place amongst those who are sanctified by faith in me”. Forgiveness of sins is a required step in this process, both at a moral and “ceremonial” level. It is moral, because for God to embrace those who have rebelled against Him not only requires basic forgiveness but is itself an act that displays this forgiveness. And it is ceremonial (or cultic or ritual) in that to be “in Christ” is to be theologically located within sacred space and therefore requires decontamination.
The New Testament writers dwell upon the blood for the same reasons that the authors of the Pentateuch dwelt upon blood: For the life is in the blood (Lev. 17:11-14). Blood is the carrier of life, and only a layer of life can cover over all that is defiled by death and decay. Therefore, ceremonially and metaphorically speaking, neither purification nor forgiveness is accomplished apart from the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22).
This is to say that there are clear carryovers of cultic decontamination ideology embedded in all of the prevalent New Testament language around atonement, the blood of Christ, sanctification, the body as a temple, the church as Christ’s body, and so forth. It is embedded everywhere and would have been obvious and assumed by anyone raised on the Torah. And this should be expected since these ideas were positioned as the literary focus of the Torah itself. Therefore, the supposition that legal forgiveness is the primary bit of good news based on the notion that legal indebtedness is the primary problem simply ignores this mass of Biblical theological data. Exile and its horrors – both theological and socio-economic – are the primary Biblical problem, the Exodus and its rewards are the primary Biblical hope, and the ability for God and mankind to dwell in harmony together as in the garden is the primary pre-requisite for accomplishing this hope. Ultimately then, atonement – meaning moral and ritual decontamination – is a major act in the drama and a highly significant and even astonishing event to have occurred, but it is yet a means to the end of human salvation.
A second objection, which is similar but distinct to the first, might be that the idea of atonement specifically has far more to do with moral rectitude (i.e. justification and forgiveness) than purification or decontamination. To this I respond that a careful reading of both Leviticus and the gospels, amongst the rest of the Biblical testimony, would prove otherwise.
Who and what needs to be atoned for in the Levitical system? Is it just guilty people? No: Cups and altars and sanctuaries and tents must be atoned for (Lev. 17 amongst others). So too must menstruating women, new moms, and newborn babies (Lev. 12) as well as anyone with skin diseases (Lev. 13). Can a cup be guilty? Is a woman in the wrong for delivering a baby? What sin has a newborn done during birth?
These rhetorical questions point clearly to the fact that atonement is about impurity and purification, not sin. I believe “decontamination” best gets at the idea. The conflict is separation from God (Eph. 4:18) and the question is what is required to bridge the gap. The answer is that God’s house (the tabernacle, temple, and especially the Holy Place; Lev. 16:2-3, 17-33) and anyone approaching God in God’s space must be decontaminated. The holiness of YHWH does not mix casually with the profanity of the corrupted world. This is why Moses must take off his shoes on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 3:5), why a curtain must block off the Most Holy Place (Exod. 26:33), why the high priests must wear special garments with a gold medallion reading “Holy to YHWH” (Exod. 28:36), and more. These precautions prevented death of the one approaching YHWH’s space and ensured that the contact itself would be deemed “acceptable to YHWH” (Exod. 28:38).
Once again, the basic idea was that the sprinkling of blood constituted a covering of life that protected against unadulterated contact between YHWH and anything defiled by death. The original good news, and ultimate foreshadowing of Jesus, was that God provided the means of reconciliation via the blood.
Similarly, guilt and uncleanness are set in parallel in the cultic texts. Leviticus 16:16, for example, prescribes part of the Day of Atonement rituals, saying: “In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been.” Rebellion and uncleanness are construed together, as are sins and defilement. One way to simplify this is to say that sin and the guilt it incurs are one form of defilement. Therefore, defilement is the broader category and sin is one type of defilement.
While this might suffice, I don’t believe it rightly accounts for the predominance of concern for sin and forgiveness in both the Torah and the New Testament. One reason so many see forgiveness of guilt as the absolute center of the gospel is that there is indeed a steady attention given to it. I believe that the theological status and location of Israel during the time of the final formation of the Hebrew Bible as well as during Jesus’ era thoroughly explain this. As scholars such as Postell have argued, Genesis 1-3 introduces Israel’s exile as the primary conflict in the Biblical storyline. As the story unfolds, the reader comes to learn that it was because of Israel’s sin and rebellion that God sent her into exile (Deut. 31:27-29, 2 Ki. 17:21-23, Eze. 39:23-24, Neh. 9:26-36). When Christ arrives nearly six millennia following the Babylonian exile, Israel is still located in a position of theological exile because of her historic sin.
As mentioned earlier, the great hope is then of another exodus and a new messianic Mosaic deliverer. This Exodus would have itself been deemed the great act of forgiveness (Is. 43:25, 64:9). To any Jew living in the six centuries of prolonged exile leading to Christ’s advent then, the preeminent concern was the historic rebellion of corporate Israel. It was the forgiveness of this great sin that everyone was waiting for. This then was the good news Christ delivered. In inaugurating a new exodus he simultaneously announced the end of Israel’s punishment and hence the forgiveness of her sins. Therefore, we can go beyond the statement above and say that sin (and guilt) was one of many forms of defilement preventing contact between God and people, but the delayed forgiveness of Israel’s corporate sin was far and away the dominant concern of Second Temple Jews, including the first Christians. This explains the abundance of attention and appreciation given to sin and forgiveness in the New Testament while allowing yet for the placement of these concerns within the broader category of impurity preventing co-habitation between God and God’s people.
Evidence of this background motif in the gospels is found in passages such as Christ’s baptism and subsequent anointing with the Spirit, Jesus’ comparison to the Pharisees as whitewashed tombs full of dead and unclean things (Mt. 23:27), Jesus’ startling willingness to dine with Simon the Leper that is remarkably set beside his pre-death anointing (Mk. 14:3), Jesus’ acts of “cleansing” lepers and demoniacs of their defiling diseases and unclean spirits (Mk. 1:23-27, Mt. 8:2-3). Indeed Jesus’ opened his ministry by quoting the Isaianic passages about One anointed to announce the Jubilee Year and then immediately compared his mission to that of a doctor cleansing gentile lepers (Lk. 4:16-28). Jesus obviously viewed his own mission as enacting a kind of cosmic purification that would prepare the way for even greater things (Jn. 14:12) to occur via the mass outpouring of the Spirit into his newly prepared and living abodes (Jn. 16:7-11).
Rutledge, Fleming, The Crucifixion: Understanding the Death of Jesus Christ,(Eerdmans, Grand Rapids; 2015) p190.
McKnight, Scot, A Community Called Atonement, (Abingdon Press, 2007)
Wright, N.T., The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion, (HarperOne, 2018)
Postell, Seth, Adam as Israel: Genesis 1-3 as the Introduction to the Torah and Tanakh, (Wipf & Stock, 2011)
Morales, Michael L. Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord? A biblical theology of the book of Leviticus,(InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove; 2015). See also M. Smith, M. Kline, C. Nihan, J. Milgrom, and more.
Sailhamer, John h, The Pentateuch as Narrative, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids; 1992) p 282-283
John’s gospel via 19:13 specifically serves to bend the synoptic chronology in order to exaggerate the analogy between Christ’s crucifixion and the slaughter of the Paschal lamb.
Interestingly, the book of Nehemiah portrays the false return from exile by depicting a recapitulation of the quick post-covenant fall motif (Adam and Eve; Noah’s family as soon as they’re off the ark; the golden calf incident immediately following the Sinai covenant, etc) in ch. 13. The fall is specifically depicted as acts of defilement – breaking the Sabbath and marrying foreign women. The book, and Israel’s history with it, ends with the desperate but clearly insufficient priestly purification of the defiled community.