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Jesus’ Table Fellowship with “Toll Collectors and Sinners”

Questioning the Alleged Purity Implications

In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author: Cecilia Wassen1
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Jesus’ attitude towards purity practices is a hotly debated issue. The majority of scholars argue that Jesus challenged purity halakhah in some way. One of the proofs cited to support the position that Jesus allegedly disregarded purity laws is that he ate with “tax collectors and sinners.” Whereas purity concerns are not explicit on the story level in the texts, many scholars still find Jesus’ actions contradictory to the norms. This paper discusses if purity plays a part, and if so how, in Jesus’ sharing meals with people considered sinners. As I will show, purity concerns only play a minor role in Jesus’ meal practice and there is nothing in his behaviour that indicates that he somehow challenged purity norms, only social norms.

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