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Bibil Identifier bibil:210192
Publication Type Journal article
Title (English, Long) The Defilement of the Hands as a Principle Determining the Holiness of Scriptures
Author Lim, Timothy H.
Journal The Journal of Theological Studies (Volume: 61, Issue: 2)
Year (Publication) 2010
Year (Original (1st Edition)) 2010
Year (Copyright) 2010
Year (Reference) 2010
Language English
Pages 501-515 Pages
Genre Original
Abstract The principle articulated in Mishnah Yadayim 3:5 that ‘all holy scriptures defile the hands’ (כל כתבי הקודש מטמין את הידים) is one of the most perplexing in rabbinic literature, for how can something that is holy impart uncleanness to the hands? The enigma lies within the principle itself: it is precisely because scriptures are holy that they impart uncleanness; writings that are not holy, such as the books of Homer (m.Yad. 4:6), the Gospels, other heretical books, and the book of Ben Sira (t.Yad. 2:13), do not impart uncleanness. What I should like to propose in this article is an explanation that seeks to clarify the principle of tum’at yadayim by the concept of holiness as a sacred contagion. Holy scriptures, like other holy objects of cultic worship, were considered sources of contamination. But unlike them, holy scriptures do not render objects with which they come into contact holy; rather they make the hands unclean. Holy scriptures were considered a particular kind of sacred contagion. It is suggested that the key to understanding the defilement principle is found in the traditions about the Ark of the Covenant and its lethal power to kill those who are ineligible to touch it.
DOI 10.1093/jts/flq079
Keywords Thesaurus BiBIL : Milieu : Ancient Judaism : Literature : Mishna : Teharot : Yadyim
Thesaurus BiBIL : Unbound Keywords : Hand
Thesaurus BiBIL : Milieu : Ancient Judaism : Themes : Purity - Impurity
Last modification 2017-10-27