Gentiles and Ritual Impurity in Rabbinic 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:
                      Gentiles and Ritual Impurity in Rabbinic Sources

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Rabbinic sources, tannaitic and amoraic, maintain that Gentiles are not subject to the laws of ritual impurity and do not convey ritual impurity to Jews according to Torah law. Passages adduced by scholars as evidence of a rabbinic principle of Gentile ritual impurity (especially m. Pesahim 8:8) have been badly misinterpreted. The rabbis do assert, however, on their own authority that Gentiles should be deemed to convey ritual impurity like a gonnorheic (zav). This declaration of a limited ritual impurity for Gentiles is a legal novum of the tannaitic period, explicitly going beyond the prescriptions of the biblical text. The motivation for this decree is considered and the notion that the ritual impurity of Gentiles is grounded in the impurity of idols (as argued by Gedaliah Alon) is discounted.

Keywords: Gedaliah Alon; gentile impurity; gentiles; idols; ritual impurity; zav

Chapter.  22918 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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