This essay interacts with E.P. Sanders’s work on purity, building on some of his insights, while disagreeing on other points. Sanders’s appeal to historical imagination and common sense is discussed and problematized. The essay deals at length with issues such as the expulsion, isolation, and integration of various impurity bearers, and the emergence of additional water rites to mitigate impurities and prevent unnecessary contamination. The evidence under discussion includes Hebrew Bible, Dead Sea texts, Philo, Josephus, New Testament, and rabbinic literature.
Purity practices during the first century ce were widespread in Judaea and Galilee as part of everyday life and not limited to concerns relating to the temple cult. Developments in key water rites were partly triggered by concepts of graded impurity, to which an understanding of defilement via food also belonged. Certain rabbinic characteristics represent later developments and cannot be assumed for the time of Jesus. Hand impurity did not originate as a rabbinic decree to protect tĕrûmâ, and accusations against Pharisees for setting aside Scripture in favour of their own traditions did not originate with the historical Jesus, but suggest later polemics. Jesus’ stance on purity is perhaps better characterized as prophetic than halakic.
The interpretation of the synoptic Son of Man is still a formidable swamp with no consensus emerging. Unfortunately, one of the most interesting suggestions, the collective interpretation of Manson, Moule and Gaston, has been somehow left by the wayside. It has certain advantages, however, in respecting both the basic `generic' sense of an underlying Semitic expression and the Danielic kingdom imagery, without denying this expression for the historical Jesus. The present article focuses on the coming Son of Man sayings and demonstrates the plausibility of applying a collective interpretation to them. The result is an eschatology, focusing not on an individual redeemer figure, but on the manifestation of the Kingdom in community practice. Some suggestions are offered for how such an eschatology, based on a collective interpretation of the coming Son of Man, could `mutate' so quickly into the idea of a second coming of Christ.
Common anthropological and structuralist approaches to Israelite purity law are often problematic. Disgust is a more promising explanation for the diverse impurities reflected in priestly texts. But not all impurities fit into a pattern of disgust equally well. Disgust language also characterizes impurities that ought not to evoke revulsion easily. I have previously suggested a transfer of emotional disgust from obvious triggers to objects that are clearly culture-specific by means of a secondary use of disgust language as value judgment. In the present article I explore this further with the help of cognitive linguistics. Conceptual metaphor theories as well as more elaborate blending models help clarify how disgust intrinsic to certain conceptions of impurity can be extended and transferred to others, which at times bear only slight resemblances. As a result, I suggest that disgust is the most comprehensive explanation for the wide variety of conceptions of impurity found in priestly legislation.