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Jesus and Purity Halakhah: Was Jesus Indifferent to Impurity?
Uppsala University, Humanistisk-samhällsvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology.
2002 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

At the end of the Second Temple period, ritual purity came to play an increasing role in Jewish society. Purity laws were interpreted and expanded, and sources of impurity were generally avoided by many. Signs of that development are discussed in this study and put forward as arguments for an expansionist trend, gaining in influence and support from the common people.

Jesus’ attitude to impurity is traced against this historical background. The (in)famous history of historical Jesus-research necessitates a conscious choice of method. The traditional focus on sayings material and criteria of authenticity is modified; narrative traditions with implicit purity issues are appealed to, and extra-canonical traditions are included. The main areas examined are the most important "fathers" of impurity: "leprosy" (skin diseases), genital discharges and corpse-contamination.

Jesus is found to have acted in ways easily understood as indifference to these types of impurity. His behaviour is shown on several points to clash with current purity halakhah and dominant expansionist ideals. In an attempt to interpret his actions within the Jewish context and culture of the Second Temple period, three explanatory models are provided. Jesus’ attitude is seen as part of a moral trajectory in Judaism. It is understood as a response to a regional, Galilean dilemma. It is viewed in a power perspective as an expression of Jesus’ eschatological struggle against demonic evil.

The result is that Jesus may be understood as operating within the purity paradigm of his time, yet pushing it to the breaking point, at least in the eyes of some. Such a reconstruction makes subsequent developments intelligible, in which various Christian currents drew conflicting conclusions. The function and effect of purity laws change with time, however. While they are irrelevant to most modern people, those looking to Jesus’ behaviour for some sort of guidance may find contemporary analogies.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International , 2002. , 402 p.
, Coniectanea biblica: New Testament series, ISSN 0069-8946 ; 38
Keyword [en]
Religion, Bible, New Testament, Jesus, Judaism, Second Temple, purity, impurity, purification, ritual, halakhah, historical reconstruction, quest, authenticity, criteria, gospels, narrative traditions, redaction, law, Torah, conflict stories, Pharisees, expansionist current, miqveh, immersion, stone vessels, food, leper, leprosy, discharge, corpse, rabbinic texts, Tannaim, Dead Sea Scrolls, moral trajectory, John the Baptizer, diversity, am ha-arets, great tradition, little tradition, Galilee, demonology, exorcism, eschatology, kingdom.
Keyword [sv]
National Category
Religious Studies
Research subject
New Testament Exegesis
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-1968ISBN: 91-22-01964-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-1968DiVA: diva2:161559
Public defence
2002-05-11, Universitetshuset, sal IX, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Available from: 2002-04-18 Created: 2002-04-18 Last updated: 2009-03-19Bibliographically approved

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