The Forming of Purity Conceptions in the Torah and in the Book of Ezekiel as Precondition of a Cultural and Religious Basic-difference in early Judaism

The project intends to a) describe and to analyze the purity conceptions in the Torah and in the Book of Ezekiel, b) to develop the exegetical and literal-historical profile of the purity concept of the Book of Numbers and c) to examine the reception of the differentiated diverse purity conceptions in Judaism of the Second Temple Period and early Judaism. It would therefore appear necessary to systematically develop the idea of "purity". The first phase of the project intends to differentiate the concepts of purity in the Torah, to develop them with regard to material, philological and literal-historical aspects and to contextualize them in terms of religious-systematic and religious-historical issues. It will thus be possible to classify the basic category of purity and its correlation to the category of holiness with greater precision and clarify reception preconditions in early Judaism.

The project will deal with three central questions: 1.How can the relationship between purity and holiness be described? 2.What is the nature of the relationship between material-cultic and moral-ethical purity? 3.Does the idea of purity serve to demarcate boundaries between Judean society and the outside world or does it serve a differentiation within the community? After providing a definition, the purity concepts of the Torah will be compared and their functions within the composition of the Pentateuch will be analyzed. The purity concept of the Book of Ezekiel functions as a corrective and can be used to complement considerations based on literal-historical and socio-historical classifications (of the purity category). The relevance of this category will be underlined by looking at the religions of the neighbouring cultures (e.g. Egypt, Hittites). In this context the project will look for archaeological verifications of purity (e.g. offerings, rituals). Based on the analyses, the capacity and the reception of the ordering-category "purity" will be examined. Cultural-anthropological, material-physical, moral-ethical, semantic and text-pragmatic, individual, collective-social aspects will function as a heuristic grid of differentiation. We shall then consider the question of which aspects were absorbed later on in early Judaism and in which way. Therefore the following facets will be examined: the internal purity of the postexilic community (e.g. mixed marriages [link to the aforementioned DFG project]) and the reception of the dietary rules in the Second Temple Period in Hellenistic Judaism.

The fundamental anthropological ordering- categories "pure" and "impure", constructed by both culture and religion equally, constitute a sacrally connoted semantic system on a literal level in the Old Testament. These categories establish virtual, but sensitive barriers. Spatial and social dimensions are closely interlinked and include moral transformations. In this way purity becomes a constitutive, differentiating and identity-establishing category of the homogenous group of Israel, which is related to another construct, the construct of holiness. The project intends to define the preconditions, the development and the expansion of the symbolic construct of "purity" in early Judaism. The separating and differentiating function of the concept will be correlated with socio- and territorial-historical developments. The project will make a contribution to the development and the descriptive profiling and differentiation of this fundamental religious principal. With regard to the purity concepts in the Book of Numbers, the concepts of purity in the Torah will be differentiated and analysed in terms of material, philological and literal-historical aspects. This will allow the relation between purity and holiness in the Torah and the preconditions for reception in early Judaism to be clarified.

Affiliated Persons

Photograph of Prof. Dr. Christian Frevel

Prof. Dr. Christian Frevel

Project Leader

Universitätsstr. 150
44801  Bochum
Office GA 7/149
+49 234 32-22611

Assoc. Prof. Christophe Nihan

Cooperation Partner

Universitätsstr. 90a
44789  Bochum
Office 2.08