Sunday, October 4, 2009

Leviticus - The Purity Laws

If you have access to a copy of the JPS Study Bible, make sure you read the essay by Jonathan Klawans entitled Concepts of Purity in the Bible. These ritual impurity laws are found primarily in Leviticus and Numbers and are baffling to most modern readers.

Klawans helps distinguish the concepts of holy, common, pure, and impure, often radically misinterpreted in Christian circles. According to Klawans, there are three distinct characteristics of ritual impurity:
  1. The sources of ritual impurity are natural and more or less unavoidable.
  2. It is not sinful to contract these impurities
  3. The impurities can convey an impermanent contagion to people and to many items within close proximity.
These laws were not a primitive desire to avoid dirt or disease. Those who contacted the impurity were not considered dirty and were not socially stigmatized.

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