Sin, Purification and Sacrifice in Leviticus and in Madagascar

by Olivier Randrianjaka (Author)
©2024 Monographs XVIII, 316 Pages
Series: Bible and Theology in Africa, Volume 6666


This book is a meticulously researched and thought-provoking study that delves into the analysis and comparison of rituals in two distinct settings: the ancient Book of Leviticus and traditional Malagasy culture on the island of Madagascar. Author Olivier Randrianjaka invesigates why Malagasy Christians connect with Leviticus despite the apathy of the Western church. As this book demonstrates, the key unifying themes are sin, purification, and sacrifice. Profound parallels emerge between Levitical rituals (such as postpartum purification and the Day of Atonement) and Malagasy rituals (such as taboo violation, postpartum purification, and the New Year royal bath). The study highlights the universal relevance of sin, purification and sacrifice rituals, inviting reflection on their significance in diverse cultural and religious contexts.
"This is a remarkable book that represents a groundbreaking exploration of the intricate connections between Leviticus and Malagasy traditional rituals. The author’s meticulous analysis and profound insights into the themes of sin, sacrifice and atonement offer invaluable knowledge for Christian readers. I highly recommend this work to anyone seeking a comprehensive understanding of Madagascar’s religion, particularly its rich tapestry of traditional rituals."
—Dr. Razivelo Mariette, Lutheran Faculty of Theology (SALT), Madagascar
"Rituals for purification play a significant role in most cultures, and this book contributes to the understanding of these phenomena in general. It provides insight into these rituals in Malagasy society and their description in the Book of Leviticus in the Bible. The book focuses on religious praxis, as described in texts and demonstrated in life. Every person will encounter these phenomena, and here is a tool to grasp their meaning."
—Magnar Kartveit, Emeritus Professor of Old Testament at VID Specialized University, Stavanger, Norway

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • book About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1 Why Leviticus?
  • 2 Statement of the Problem
  • 3 Aim of the Book
  • 4 Research Question
  • 5 Methodology and Structure of the Book
  • Bibliography
  • Part One. Studies of Rituals in Leviticus
  • Preliminary Investigation of חַטָּאת and כִּפֶּר
  • 1 Brief Survey of Scholarly Views on the חַטָּאת
  • 2 Study of the Senses of כִּפֶּר
  • 3 Concluding Summary
  • Bibliography
  • Sin and Ritual Sacrifice in Leviticus 4:1–5:13
  • 1 Key Terms and Concepts
  • 2 Four Cases of Deliberate Sins in Leviticus 5:1–4
  • 3 The חַטָּאת Offering and the כִּפֶּר Ritual
  • 4 Preliminary Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Postpartum Ritual Purification in Leviticus 12
  • 1 Introductory Notes
  • 2 Exegesis of Lev 12:1–8
  • 3 Preliminary Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • The Day of Atonement in Lev 16
  • 1 Unit Delimitation
  • 2 Establishment of the Text
  • 3 History of Religions Background
  • 4 Redaction Criticism
  • 5 Literary Analysis of Lev 16
  • 6 Interpretation of Lev 16:1–34
  • 7 Preliminary Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Part Two. A Study of Malagasy Traditional Rituals
  • Background on Madagascar and Its Culture
  • 1 Background
  • 2 Belief in God and the Ancestors
  • Bibliography
  • Sin, Purification and Sacrifice among the Malagasy
  • 1 Malagasy Concepts of Sin and Sacrifice
  • 2 Malagasy Postpartum Sacrificial Rites
  • 3 The Fandroana (Annual Royal Ritual Bath)
  • Bibliography
  • Conclusion
  • 1 Sin, Guilt and Rituals for Purification and Atonement
  • 2 Postpartum Purification and Sacrificial Rituals
  • 3 The Day of Atonement and the Fandroana
  • 4 Identifiable Similarities between Rituals in the Book of Leviticus and Malagasy Traditional Rituals
  • 5 Tentative Malagasy Interpretations of the Book of Leviticus
  • 6 Final Conclusion
  • List of Tables
  • Appendices


I am thrilled to present this revised version of my Ph.D. thesis, which signifies a significant milestone in my academic journey at VID Specialized University, my main academic institution. I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Norwegian Mission Society (NMS) and Danmission for their unwavering support, both financially and academically, without which the realization of this revised version of my Ph.D. would not have been possible.

At VID Specialized University, I am profoundly indebted to Professor and Rector Bård Mæland for his exemplary leadership and the entire faculty and staff for fostering an intellectually stimulating environment that nurtured my academic growth. Their dedication and support have played an indispensable role in shaping my research and enabling the completion of this revised version of my Ph.D.

I would also like to express my deep and sincere appreciation to Professor Knut Holter for his invaluable guidance and unwavering support during the publication process of this book, which forms a significant part of this revised version of my Ph.D. His expertise and mentorship have been instrumental in bringing this work to fruition. Additionally, I extend my gratitude to Peter Lang Publication for their collaboration and assistance in publishing this research.

I am also grateful to several esteemed scholars at VID Specialized University for their support and friendship, including Professor Emeritus Magnar Kartveit, Professor Emeritus Jostein Ådna, Professor Hans Austnaberg, Associate Professor Gunnar Magnus Eidsvåg, Professor Anna Rebecca Solevåg, Professor Gerd Marie Ådna, and Dr. Kristin Fjelde Tjelle. Their scholarly insights and discussions have greatly enriched my research.

Finally, I would like to convey my deepest love and appreciation to my wife Fanomezana and our three children, Fifaliana, Mino, and Fihobiana, for their unwavering love, support, and understanding throughout this academic journey. Their presence has been a constant source of motivation and strength, and I am forever grateful.

Misaotra betsaka!

List of Abbreviations

Abbreviations are taken from The SBL Handbook of Style, 2nd edition (Atlanta, Georgia: SBL Press, 2014) if present there, and whenever needed supplemented.


XVIII, 316
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2024 (January)
Leviticus atonement purification ritual Malagasy rituals sin sacrifice sacrificial blood Day of Atonement kipper ritual taboo fandroana tsiny and tody fampiboahagna tsaiky fanalana faditra fady Malagasy ritual bath Taombaovao Malagasy SIN, PURIFICATION AND SACRIFICE IN LEVITICUS AND IN MADAGASCAR Olivier Randrianjaka
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Chennai, Lausanne, Oxford, 2024. XVIII, 316 pp., 19 tables.

Biographical notes

Olivier Randrianjaka (Author)

Dr. Olivier Randrianjaka is an Associate Professor in Old Testament Studies at the Malagasy Lutheran Faculty of Theology (SALT) in Fianarantsoa, Madagascar. Currently serving as the Vice Dean of SALT, he earned a Ph.D. in Theology from VID Specialized University in Norway in 2020.


Title: Sin, Purification and Sacrifice in Leviticus and in Madagascar