Purity and Identity in Ancient Judaism
From the Temple to the Mishnah
Published by: Indiana University Press
The concern for purity was the cornerstone of the religious culture of ancient Judaism. Purity and Identity in Ancient Judaism explores how this concern shaped the worldview of Jews during the Second Temple period as well as their daily practices and social relations. It examines how different groups offered competing visions and methods for living a life of purity, which embodied a promise for personal and cosmic salvation and at the same time determined the degree of sectarian separation.
Purity and Identity in Ancient Judaism offers a comprehensive description of the world of purity among the Jews of the Second Temple period in general and within the tradition of the Pharisees in particular. Yair Furstenberg explores the language of purity that provided Jews in antiquity a powerful tool for organizing legal, social, and ideological boundaries, and its study is therefore pertinent for understanding the powers that shaped the varieties of Second Temple Judaism and their later offshoots: Early Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism.
Purity and Identity in Ancient Judaism offers new methods for carefully integrating the New Testament, Qumran literature, and early rabbinic sources into a comprehensive history of purity laws from the world of the Second Temple and the Pharisees to the later rabbinic movement, allowing the reader to trace the emergence of new religious sensibilities within changing social and cultic circumstances.
Note on Translations and Editions
List of Abbreviations
Introduction: From Pharisees to Rabbis
Part One: The Varieties of Purity
1. Biblical Foundations, New Conception
2. Exclusive Paths to Purity from Qumran to Jesus
Part Two: Communal Identities
3. The Purity of the Pharisees
4. Outsider Impurity and the Forms of Judean Sectarianism
5. Inclusion and Marginalization
Part Three: Tradition and Invention
6. Changing Social Contexts
7. The End of Purity
Epilogue: The Rabbinic Movement within Shifting Religious Cultures
"In a masterful, erudite, and lucidly written study, Yair Furstenberg explores the development of perceptions and practices of ritual purity from the Second Temple Period to the Rabbinic era as prisms through which fundamental issues of identity and community were negotiated during this tumultuous time. The book expertly and convincingly demonstrates the value of careful textual inquiry for the construction of a social history, as it uncovers the multiple and rich layers of ideas, concerns, and cultural and religious challenges that are hidden in one of the most fascinating sets of texts from Jewish antiquity."~Mira Balberg, author of Purity, Body, and Self in Early Rabbinic Literature