Recommended Books On Ritual Purity Laws

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In the first of a series of blogs on recommended readings, I would like to call attention to four books (listed by date of release) on a topic that few readers of the New Testament understand: Jewish ritual purity laws. There are four books on the topic that I recommend to every student of the New Testament:

In the first of a series of blogs on recommended readings, I would like to call attention to four books (listed by date of release) on a topic that few readers of the New Testament understand: Jewish ritual purity laws. There are four books on the topic that I recommend to every student of the New Testament:

E. P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus to the Mishnah: Five Studies (London: SCM, 1990);

Hannah K. Harrington, The Impurity Systems of Qumran and the Rabbis (SBLDS 143; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1993);

Jonathan Klawans, Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000);

Thomas Kazen, Jesus and Purity Halakhah: Was Jesus Indifferent to Impurity? (CBNT 38; Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell, 2002).

These books supplement each other rather well: e.g., Sanders challenges the mistaken idea that the Pharisees kept the purity laws in order to imitate the priests, while Harrington and Klawans do a good job of showing that the purity laws were observed more widely than Sanders allows, and Kazen does a nice job with the New Testament dimensions of the topic.  Any of these books would serve as a good introduction to the topic of Jewish purity laws, although Sanders’s book is clearly the best for that.  (There are many other books on the topic, but I avoided some that I think are problematic.)

Jack Poirier


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