Josephus’s Seven Purities and the Mishnah’s Ten Holinesses

In: Journal for the Study of Judaism
Matan Orian School of Jewish Studies, Tel Aviv University

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This paper compares two descriptions of the Jewish hierarchy of holiness in relation to the Jerusalem temple: one from Josephus’s Jewish War, books 1 and 5, where the relevant hierarchy is referred to as the seven purities, and the other, in Mishnah Kelim 1:6-9, titled (the) ten holinesses. After analyzing the guiding principles behind the seven purities, this paper will examine the two hierarchies against the background of the biblical instructions for the exclusion of impure persons from the desert camp, and the interpretation of these instructions according to Josephus, the Temple Scroll from Qumran, and rabbinic literature. It will show that, while the seven purities is a cultic perception coherent to the exclusion of different categories of people from the temple, the ten holinesses follows different guiding principles.

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