Impurity, Intermarriage, and Conversion in Second Temple Sources

Christine E. Hayes

in Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780195151206
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834273 | DOI:
                      Impurity, Intermarriage, and Conversion in Second Temple Sources

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While most Second Temple sources follow the Pentateuch in permitting marriage with Gentiles who renounce idolatry and immorality, others – such as Jubilees and 4QMMT– do not. In these two works, Ezra's universal ban on intermarriage based on a holy‐seed ideology develops into a full‐blown principle of Israelite genealogical purity, which must be preserved not merely from profanation but also from defilement that arises from sexual unions with Gentiles. According to Jubilees and 4QMMT, profane seed cannot become holy seed and thus Gentiles can never overcome their profane status and acquire Jewish identity. Since conversion is impossible, marriage is impossible and any sexual connection between a Jew and a Gentile – regardless of the moral state of the latter – is by definition a sinful (and defiling) act of fornication, explicitly prohibited by Mosaic law. These texts valorize various biblical heroes – such as Abraham and Pinhas – as champions of zealous separatism.

Keywords: Abraham; 4QMMT; conversion; Ezra; fornication; genealogical impurity; holy seed; intermarriage; jubilees; Pinhas

Chapter.  14184 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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