The Idea Of Sin-Impurity:The Dead Sea Scrolls In The Light Of Leviticus -- By: Mila Ginsburskaya

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 60:2 (NA 2009)
Article: The Idea Of Sin-Impurity:The Dead Sea Scrolls In The Light Of Leviticus
Author: Mila Ginsburskaya

The Idea Of Sin-Impurity:The Dead Sea Scrolls In The Light Of Leviticus1

Mila Ginsburskaya

My doctoral dissertation explores the connection between sin and impurity in the Old Testament and early Judaism. Although in the last twenty years this topic has provoked an increasing amount of academic interest, there is no agreement among scholars about the definition of the concept of sin-impurity and the scope of its application. In my work I delineate criteria for identifying sin-impurity in Leviticus, re- evaluating and integrating the work of those scholars, who have written specifically about the defiling force of sin (e.g., Klawans and Frymer- Kensky), and those, whose discussion is centred on sacrificial atonement (e.g., Milgrom, Sklar, Gane). With insights gained from the analysis of the biblical texts (particularly Leviticus) I then examine the Dead Sea Scrolls and explore how the redefined perception of sin- impurity in biblical texts can reshape our understanding of that concept at Qumran.

I challenge the traditional view that the first half of Leviticus (attributed to a so-called ‘Priestly Source’, P) is concerned solely with the issues of cult and physical purity, while the second half (the ‘Holiness Code’, H), allegedly written/edited in different social circles and at a different stage, brings in the dimension of ethics. I argue that cult and ethics in biblical texts are closely intertwined and that the perceived division between P and H has arisen from the biblical editor’s strategic decision in organising the material. Such an understanding significantly expands the scope of sin-impurity in Leviticus, encompassing not only the grave unforgivable sins discussed in H, but also sins that can be remedied by means of atoning sacrifice, as discussed in P.

One of the main issues which my work has sought to tackle has been the question of the interrelationship between the concepts of purification and atonement. Re-evaluating and integrating the work of Milgrom, Wright, Kiuchi and other scholars I have suggested that the sacrificial offering חטאת (usually translated as ‘sin offering’ and sometimes as ‘purification offering’) had a double function: it served to remove impurity (either physical or resulting from sin) from both the individual and the sanctuary, which reflected the measure of defilement of the people of Israel, being defiled and purified concomitantly with them. I have therefore proposed that sacrificial atonement should be regarded as a means of purification, which should be understood as a process whereby an individual is restored to a state which enables him/her to resume the proper relationship with God, who, ultimatel...

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