Gentiles and Moral Impurity: Rabbinic Attitudes to Intermarriage

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 Moral Impurity: Rabbinic Attitudes to Intermarriage

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The rabbinic approach to intermarriage differs considerably from that of the Second Temple sources examined in Ch. 4. The rabbis reject the holy‐seed thinking of Ezra and related sources and – in contrast to Jubilees and related texts – they deny that a universal ban on all interethnic sexual unions can be located in the biblical text. For the rabbis, conversion is possible, marriage with converted Gentiles is permitted, and the rationale for the rabbinic prohibition against marriage with unconverted Gentiles is moral–religious rather than genealogical. Nor does the fear of ritual impurity motivate rabbinic prohibitions of sexual unions with unconverted Gentiles. Indeed, the rather limited rabbinic decree of Gentile ritual impurity is best understood as a resistance to competing (and extreme) characterizations of Gentiles and intergroup unions as generating a dangerous carnal impurity or indelible genealogical impurity.

Keywords: carnal; conversion; genealogical; gentile; holy seed; impurity; intermarriage; moral; ritual

Chapter.  10871 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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