… Byu inculcating worship patterns that emphasize mind over body, word over deed, and rational thought over “merely” reflexive sacramental systems, all legacies of the Protestant Reformation, religious communities learn to be at home in the cognitive, typically abstract world of theological ideas. Ritual invites something different: the active participation in “embodied” theological reflection. Both the knowing and the learning of theology come from performing the ritual act itself. … (Samuel E. Balentine, Leviticus (Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching), page 5)
I have only read the introduction and the commentary on the first chapter thus far, but I am extremely impressed by this commentary. While I would agree that protestants tend to downplay ritual and emphasize belief as mental assent, I would note that the other commentary on Leviticus that’s on my plate right now, David W. Baker in Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary), also points out the value of learning through ritual.
I think, however, that our tendency is to look for concrete doctrine in the rituals, and thus to miss the way in which God chose to communicate those particular doctrines. We may also learn from Leviticus both that there is a spiritual value in ritual, and also something about how that works, and how we can gain from it in our worship today.
Liturgy is, I think, sadly neglected, and for most of my time teaching and writing, I’ve contributed to that neglect. I started to see things differently after reading Jacob Milgrom’s three volume commentary on Leviticus in the Anchor Bible series. As I study Leviticus and the rest of the Pentateuch further, I am convinced even further that this should change.