Cover image for Jesus and Purity Halakhah: Was Jesus Indifferent to Impurity? By Thomas Kazen

Jesus and Purity Halakhah

Was Jesus Indifferent to Impurity?

Thomas Kazen

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$44.95 | Paperback Edition
ISBN: 978-1-57506-809-1

416 pages
6" × 9"
2010

Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series

Jesus and Purity Halakhah

Was Jesus Indifferent to Impurity?

Thomas Kazen

What did Jesus think about Jewish practice regarding impurity? How did he relate to the inner-Jewish debates of his day concerning ritual purity and impurity? Did he discard the impurity concept altogether, or was it an obvious and natural part of his Jewish faith and life? Did he advocate another or different type of purity?

 

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  • Table of Contents
What did Jesus think about Jewish practice regarding impurity? How did he relate to the inner-Jewish debates of his day concerning ritual purity and impurity? Did he discard the impurity concept altogether, or was it an obvious and natural part of his Jewish faith and life? Did he advocate another or different type of purity?

Ritual or cultic purity was paramount in Jewish society and life during the Second Temple period, and differences in purity halakhah were one of the factors that distinguished various movements. Therefore, considering purity is crucial in any attempt to interpret the historical Jesus within his contemporary context. In the latest or “third” phase of historical Jesus study, researchers have given prominence to Jesus’ social and cultural context. In keeping with this goal, Thomas Kazen discusses the historical Jesus alongside what we know of Jewish purity halakhah of his time and explains Jesus’ attitude toward impurity. Kazen balances the work of New Testament scholars on Judaism and legal matters by incorporating the historical Jesus studies of Jewish scholars, seeking to engage students of the historical Jesus with the primary materials relating to legal matters.

PART ONE: INITIAL POSITIONS

I. Jesus and purity: an introduction

I.1 The idea of impurity

The Jewish impurity system

Purity laws during the Second Temple period

I.2 Jesus’ attitude

The problem

Sources

Contents and structure

II. Jesus and history: problems and possibilities

II.1 The historical Jesus and purity

Trends and tendencies in the “quests”

A Jewish Jesus

Jesus and purity issues

II.2 Continuity and authentic traditions

More than a problem of criteria

Words are not enough

Tradition is redaction too

Constraints and plausibility

II.3 The limits of historical reconstruction

History is more than facts

Causation, intention, and “thick description”

Getting down to what?—authenticity, reality, and rétrodiction

Summary: A case for the historical Jesus as conscious reconstruction

PART TWO: LAW, PURITY AND BODY

III. Jesus and the law: much debated conflict stories

III.1 Evaluating legal issues

Identifying Jesus’ adversaries

Identifying points of conflict

Identifying contemporary legal material

The Sabbath as a test case

III.2 Mark 7, hand-washing, and the impurity system

Structure and content

Tradition, redaction, and authenticity

Hand-washing and eating at the time of Jesus

An expansionist purity practice in Second Temple Judaism

Degrees of impurity and contamination chains

Liquids, stone vessels, and the impurity of hands

Summary: A case for purity as a wide-spread concern in Second Temple Judaism

IV. Jesus and defilement through contact: a neglected issue

IV.1 An alternative approach

Beginning with non-conflict traditions

Dealing with miracle stories

Tracing historical reminiscences

IV.2 Skin disease / “leprosy”

“Lepers” in gospel traditions

The Markan non-conflict tradition

Jesus’ gestures

Biblical legislation concerning “leprosy”

The exclusion of “lepers” in the Second Temple period

The contamination of “lepers”

“Leprosy” as punishment

The Lukan tradition

Papyrus Egerton 2

Jesus and “leprosy”

IV.3 Bodily discharges

The major dischargers

The bleeding woman and Markan sandwich construction

A purity issue in the Markan tradition

Dischargers in Lukan traditions?

Interpreting the purity issue: biblical legislation

Expulsion or isolation of dischargers during the biblical period

Equalization and strictness in the Second Temple period

Equalization and leniency in rabbinic interpretation

Exclusion and isolation at the time of Jesus

The bleeding woman and contamination by touch

Jesus and discharges

IV.4 The corpse

The nature of corpse-impurity

A purity issue in resurrection stories?

The Markan tradition about Jairus’ daughter

The widow’s son in Lukan tradition

The impurity of graves and Jesus’ attitude

Was corpse-contamination avoided?

Purification and the first-day ablution

The good Samaritan and a presumptive corpse

Priestly purity and priority

Jesus and corpse-impurity

Summary: A case for Jesus’ attitude as seemingly indifferent

PART THREE: EXPLANATORY MODELS

V. Purity and morality

V.1 Immorality and bodily defilement in ancient Judaism

Sin and impurity

Ritual and moral in biblical legislation

A moral trajectory

Alternative categories: inner and outer

V.2 Jesus: inner and outer impurity

Traditions and sources

Inner and outer impurity in Q and the Gospel of Thomas

Mark 7 revisited

V.3 John and Jesus: inner and outer purification

John the Baptizer

The Baptizer and Qumran

Jesus and baptisms in gospel traditions

Jesus and purification rites

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840 and inner purification

Summary: A case for Jesus as part of a moral trajectory in Judaism

VI. Purity and diversity

VI.1 Common Judaisms

Generalizing tendencies and the necessity to differentiate

Jesus and the major parties

The influence of the major groups

Expansionists and common people

Jesus and the common people

VI.2 Social and regional differences

Great and little tradition

Popular traditions

Northern literary traditions

The Galilean population

What type of Judaism?

VI.3 Centre and periphery

Urbanization and hellenization

Town and country

Sepphoris or Jerusalem? Orthogenetic and heterogenetic cities

Beyond great and little tradition

Jesus and Pharisees in Galilee

Summary: A case for Jesus’ attitude as a reaction to a Galilean dilemma on

purity

VII. Impurity and demonic threat

VII.1 Demonology and impurity

Demons in ancient Israel

Healing and exorcism

Impurity and exorcism in the Israelite cult

Impurity and demons in Second Temple Judaism

VII.2 Jesus as exorcist

Traditions about Jesus’ exorcisms

A Jewish Cynic?

A Galilean hasid?

A Solomonic magician?

A messenger of the eschatological kingdom

Impurity and power struggle in the Jesus tradition

Summary: A case for Jesus as overruling impurity with the kingdom

PART FOUR: CONCLUDING REFLECTIONS

VIII. Reconstruction and interpretation

VIII.1 Reconstructing Jesus’ attitude to impurity

Legal situation

Historical evidence

Priorities

VIII.2 Interpreting Jesus’ attitude to impurity

The inside: a moral understanding

Galilee: a rural, non-official context

Kingdom: a power perspective

VIII.3 Jesus then and now

Jesus and purity in his society

Jesus and purity in the early church

Jesus and purity today

Bibliography

Indices

Author index

Subject index

Source index

Figures

Fig Impurity bearers and contamination in the biblical system

Fig The rabbinic system of impurity

Fig The rabbinic system of impurity. Adapted and simplified from Hannah K. Harrington

Fig The interposition of liquid in the rabbinic system of impurity

Pictures:

Miqveh with otsar near the synagogue at Jericho

Miqveh near the synagogue at Gamla

Stone vessels from the Second Temple period

Papyrus Egerton 2, 1recto

Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 840, verso

Miqveh from Jerusalem with remains of partition between stairs

Double entrance to miqveh at ‘Isawiya, near Jerusalem

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