The Scriptural Foundations and Deviations in the Laws of Purity of the Temple Scroll, Jacob Milgrom.


Archaeology and History in the Dead Sea Scrolls- the New York University conference in memory of Yigael Yadin (ed. Lawrence H. Schiffman), JSOT Press, Sheffield 1990, p.83-96.

Scriptural Foundations

Yigael Yadin begins his discussion of the laws of purity in the Temple Scroll1 with two citations from the seminal study of Gedalyahu Alon.2 Because they form the foundation of Yadin’s analysis and conclusions, it is important to submit them to examination-

It is generally accepted that pentateuchal laws of purity are applied, in the halakhic tradition, only to priests, entering into the Temple and eating of holy things. The halakhah reinterprets the literal meaning of these biblical passages that seem to refer to uncleanness outside the Temple or to the ban on uncleanness from any source, even for ordinary Israelites, and applies them to the Temple and its priests.3

This statement needs correction; it is true not just for halakhah but also for Scripture. Scripture also holds, and is indeed the source for the rabbinic view, that impurity is dangerous only when it impinges on sancta. But it also maintains—in contrast to the Rabbis—that severe impurity can pollute sancta from afar.4 Whereas the Bible accords aerial power to impurity, the Rabbis progressively reduce its power until it can only be transmitted by contact.5 Alon cites three biblical examples to buttress his thesis,6 and all three are found wanting-

First, the Rabbis apply the prohibition ‘You shall not touch their carcasses’ (Lev. 11.8) to the pilgrimage festivals (Sifra’ Shemini 4.9; B. Rosh Ha-Shanah 16b [baraita’], ‘when they (Israel) must be ready to enter the Temple and eat sacred things’ (Maimonides, The Book of Cleanness, ‘The Uncleanness of Foodstuffs’, 16.10). However, in principle there is no difference between the Bible and the Rabbis. The biblical text gives no sanctions, which it surely would have done if sancta were involved. Thus, for both the Bible and the Rabbis, this text applies only in cases where the impurity impinges on the sacred.

Second, Rabbi Judah (M. Nega‘im 12.5) avers that the priest clears out all objects from the suspected leprous house, even those which are unsusceptible to impurity (Lev. 14.30), proving, according to Alon, that Rabbi Judah was not concerned with impurity outside the realm of the sacred. Rabbi Judah’s (*originally worded as Judah’s Rabbi) view has been misconstrued. As recognized by Rabbi Samuel Strashun (Rashash, on the cited Mishnah), the reason for clearing out all objects from the house is lest their owner try to retrieve them after the priest has imposed the quarantine. Clearly, then, impurity outside the Temple is of vital concern to Rabbi Judah.

Third, Alon writes that ‘Even the Tannaitic interpretation of those sections of the Pentateuch that concern the expulsion of unclean persons from the camp (Num. 5.2–4) as referring to Divine and Levitical camps bears little semblance to the simple sense of the verse’. This statement is true but the Rabbis’ view that bearers of impurity need not be banished from the community is not their innovation. It stems from Scripture itself, which elsewhere allows the corpse-contaminated person and the gonorrheic to remain at home (cf. Lev. 15; Num. 19).7 Indeed, the Rabbis may only be reflecting the historical reality of their times (cf. Josephus, Ant. 3.11.3 [261-62]).

The second citation from Alon is more crucial in determining the significance of impurity for Qumran and the Rabbis. Alon states that there were two approaches ‘during the Second Temple period- one, minimalist, limiting the laws of impurity to the area of the Tempie and the priests; the other, maximalist, extending the laws of purity to all Israel bearing no connection with the sacred’.8 This dictum is true neither for the Bible (i.e., its priestly laws) nor for the Rabbis.

For the minimalist view in Scripture—impurity limited to the realm of the sacred—Alon cites the following verses- Lev. 7.20-21; 12.4; 22.3–8; Num. 19.20.9 To be sure, all these citations deal exclusively with the pollution of sancta. However, it should be noted that Lev. 12.4—‘she [the parturient] shall not touch any sancta nor shall she enter the sacred precinct’—is preceded by the statement that during the first week or two weeks of her impurity (verses 2, 5) she has the status of a menstruant, i.e., she is impure to the common as well as the sacred (cf. Lev. 15.19–24). Num. 19.20, indeed, states that the corpse-contaminated person defiled the sanctuary, but it should be borne in mind that he need not enter the sanctuary to defile it- Unless he purifies himself in accordance with the prescribed rites, he defiles the sanctuary from any point in the community.

Finally, Lev. 7.20–21 and 22.3–8 describe the penalties incurred by impure lay persons and priests who deliberately handle sancta. However, it should be noted that the prohibition for both is the same; the penalty for both (karet) is the same as is the purification. Originally, the priestly rules were more severe. This can be deduced from the purification of Ezekiel’s corpse-contaminated priest (Ezek. 44.26–27) and P’s corpse-contaminated Nazirite (Num. 6.6–12), both of which terminate with a purification offering.

For the alleged maximalist view in Scripture—‘extending the laws of purity to all Israel bearing no connection with the sacred’—Alon cites Lev. 11 and 15.10 However, his view is totally contradicted by the conclusion to Leviticus 15- ‘You shall put the Israelites on guard against their impurity, lest they die through their impurity by defiling My Tabernacle which is among them’ (verse 31). Thus, impurity incurred by genital discharges anywhere in the camp is liable to defile Israel’s sanctuary—precisely the same fear, noted above, recorded for corpse-contamination (Num. 19.20) in the so-called minimalist view. Leviticus 11, on the other hand, indeed omits any mention of the sanctuary or its sancta. This chapter deals with carcasses which can transmit no more than a one-day impurity. But one-day impurities are no threat to the sacred unless their purification is neglected and their impurity prolonged. If purification is willfully neglected, divine retribution will follow (Lev. 17.15–16); if accidental, a hatta’t is required (Lev. 5.2–3, 5).11 However, a slighter impurity, such as that lasting one day, is too weak to pollute the sacred from afar. No wonder, then, that Leviticus 11 omits any mention of the sacred; carcasses may be touched with impunity as long as the prescribed purification procedures follow.

Thus it can be seen that the priestly source of the Bible predicates a uniform system of impurity. It registers neither a maximalist nor a minimalist stance. P posits a homogeneous community with a sanctuary at its center. Any impurity, incurred anywhere in the community, if severe enough or prolonged, if caused by priests or lay person, will pollute the sanctuary.

The truth be told, there is a maximalist and minimalist mode of impurity embedded in the priestly writings—but not that identified by Alon and Yadin. For the question needs to be asked- What if impurity occurs in the wilderness, outside the Tabernacle-camp or in Canaan, outside the Temple-city? On this matter P is silent. But another priestly source takes up this question—H, the holiness source. H posits the holiness of the land. The Lord resides not just in His sanctuary, but in His land. Hence, all who inhabit the land must be scrupulous in avoiding impurity and in purifying themselves if they become impure, lest the land become polluted and vomit them out (cf. Lev. 18.25–28; 20.22). Therefore, all of Israel is commanded qedoshim tiheyu, ‘Be you holy’ (Lev. 19.2). A life of holiness is mandated for all inhabitants of the land, priests and laity alike. Even the ger, the resident alien, is held liable for the land’s pollution and must bring a hattat, a purification offering, for violating the prohibitive commandments.12 Thus there are maximalist and minimalist views in Scripture regarding impurity. These are not represented by priests and lay persons, nor by the sanctuary and the rest of the community, but by two different priestly sources. One (P) holds that the sacred sphere is limited to the Tabernacle and that its influence extends to the surrounding encampment, whereas the other (H) holds that the sacred sphere is coextensive with the land and that all who inhabit it—aliens as well as Israelites—are responsible for maintaining its sanctity.
These two differing biblical traditions have left their imprint on later generations and are attested in rabbinic literature. To be sure, rabbinic laws clearly reflect the minimalist position, which is neatly capsuled in Maimonides’ Code and cited by Alon- 13

Whatever is written in the Torah and traditional teaching about the laws relating to things impure and pure is relevant only to the Temple and its hallowed things and to terumah and second tithe, for it warns those impure against entering the Temple or eating anything hallowed, or terumah, or tithe. However, no such prohibition applies to common food, and it is permitted to eat common food that is impure and to drink impure liquids. . . similarly, it is permissible to touch things that are impure and to incur impurity from them, for Scripture warns none but the sons of Aaron and the Nazirite against incurring impurity from a corpse, thereby implying that for all others it is permissible, and that even for priests and Nazirites it is permissible to incur impurity from other impure things, but not from a corpse.14

First, Maimonides is in need of a slight clarification. It is the high priest who is forbidden to incur impurity from a corpse (Lev. 21.11), but the ordinary priest is permitted to do so for his immediate blood relations (Lev. 21.1–3). Furthermore, this minimalist position among the Rabbis is identical with its counterpart in the Bible, as ensconced in the laws of P (but not H). Ostensibly, there is a difference between these two minimalist positions- Scripture, but not the Rabbis, mandates purification lest the sanctuary be polluted. However, it should be borne in mind that in rabbinic times the Temple was destroyed. Hence the rabbinic view, as summarized by Maimonides, is correct- there was no need to be apprehensive about the impingement of impurity on a sacred sphere that had ceased to exist. Yet the question remains- What of those who lived in the land of Israel, which according to H is holy, even if it is bereft of the Temple? It should therefore come as no surprise that Talmudic and Geonic sources report that, in contrast to Babylonia, there were those in the land of Israel who continued to follow the biblical law to bathe following nocturnal emissions and sexual intercourse (Lev. 15.16–18).15 Clearly, then, for this group, the maximalist position persisted- the holiness of the land was independent of the Temple, and those resident in it were bound by the laws of purification.

The maximalist view found among the Rabbis also rooted itself in Scripture. The haverim who engaged in ritual immersion before prayer and Torah study were clearly interpreting their activities as extensions of Temple worship. Note the similar terminology- Temple worship—‘avodah; prayer—‘avodah she-ba-lev (‘worship of the heart’). Those who immersed themselves before Sabbaths and festivals also could have based their practice on biblical precedent. The holiness source held that not only had God sanctified a certain space, i.e., the land of Israel, but He also sanctified certain time, i.e., the Sabbaths and festivals (Lev. 23). Therefore, before entry into these sacred periods, one had to be just as ritually pure as for entry into the Temple precincts. Indeed, such purification rites before the Sabbath are actually attested as early as the time of the Maccabees (2 Macc. 12.38). Finally, the haverim who treated common food as sacrifice and, hence, purified themselves before mealtime could also claim biblical support. One such attempt merits quotation in full-

With regard to Israelites, where does Scripture command washing the hands? In the verse ‘Sanctify yourselves and be holy’ (Lev. 11.44). On the basis of this verse, Rabban Gamliel [the elder] observed Levitical precautions of self purification when he ate common food. He was wont to say obedience to the precept of washing the hands for the sake of holiness was required not only of priests, but of priests, Levites and Israelites—required of every one of them, as Scripture tells us- ‘Speak to the entire [italics mine] congregation of the Israelites and say to them- ‘You shall be holy’ (Lev. 19.1–2).16

The biblical exegesis of this passage is noteworthy. The verbal forms of the root qdš in the cited verse, Lev. 11.44, are in the pi‘el and hitpa‘el, but they are interpreted as connoting ‘sanctify by ablutions’. This usage is never found in the priestly writings but only in nonpriestly sources (e.g. Exod. 19.10; 2 Sam. 11.4). Furthermore, since this very verse follows the series of prohibitions against eating forbidden food, it can be made to imply that one washes before eating. Finally, since the command to be holy (Lev. 19.2), i.e., to wash before meals, is enjoined upon all Israel, the ritual of washing hands is no longer limited to the priesthood but is incumbent on every Israelite. This rabbinic exegesis is worthy of Qumran. If it showed up in a new fragment of the Temple Scroll, it would occasion no surprise. Thus, it can be concluded that the maximalist position of some rabbinic circles is also the direct heir of Scripture—but of H, which posits that the holiness of the land mandates the holiness of its inhabitants.17

That the maximalists and minimalists among the Rabbis could equally claim that their views were anchored in Scripture helps immeasurably in gaining perspective on the authors of the Dead Sea documents, especially the Temple Scroll, as compared with their Pharisaic contemporaries. It is well known that the Qumran sect traced all its teachings to Scripture. As maximalists, they had no difficulty in finding their warrant in Scripture’s maximalist tradition (H). However, they also could not ignore Scripture’s minimalist tradition (P). Thus, both tendencies are reflected in the Temple Scroll, ideological vectors pulling in opposite directions and in unresolved tension. As a maximalist work, the Temple Scroll leans on the Deuteronomic doctrine that Israel is a holy people (11QT 48.7, citing Deut. 14.3), but then qualifies it by adopting the minimalist stance- the attribute of holiness no longer applies to all of Israel but only to the ‘true’ Israel—the members of the sect (cf. 1QS 1.12–13; 2.9, 16; 5.13, 18; 8.17, 21, 24; CD 4.6; 8.28; 1QM 12.1). Furthermore, the Temple Scroll adopts the minimalists’ restriction of holiness to the sanctuary (P) and never mentions the conflicting doctrine of the holiness of the land (H). As a result, whereas bearers of even minor impurities are banished from the Temple-city (11QT 45.7–12), bearers of major impurities such as gonorrheics, parturients, and menstruants are quarantined within ordinary cities (11QT 48.15–17). Yet, within the Temple-city a maximalist stance is taken. Its residents must live priestly, indeed celibate lives and, going far beyond the plain meaning of the biblical text, the bodily imperfections that disqualify the priest from officiating in the Temple (Lev. 21.16–24) also disqualify any Israelite from residing in the Temple-city (11QT 45.12–15). In effect, the Temple Scroll has imposed maximalist demands upon a minimalist space and community.

Thus, the coexistence of minimalist (P) and maximalist (H) trends in Scripture has enabled the authors of the Temple Scroll and the rest of the Qumran literature to exploit both traditions in the service of their ideology- the imposition of maximalist conditions, i.e., holiness demands, upon a minimalist Israel, i.e., the sectaries of Qumran, within a minimalist space, the Temple-city of Jerusalem. In this respect, the divergence between Qumran and the Rabbis is at its widest. Both were heirs to the Bible’s maximalist and minimalist traditions. But, whereas the Rabbis permitted the adoption and championing of either tradition, Qumran exploited both of them to hew out a narrow, unswerving exegetical path. Qumran rejected the principle that the Rabbis had derived from Scripture- that even divergent interpretations can be the words of the living God (B. ‘Eruvin 13b).

Scriptural Deviations

For true insight into the postulates of Qumran’s purity laws, it will not suffice to examine their biblical correspondence. Rather, it is Qumran’s deviations from Scripture that hold the key to its distinctive ideology. And deviate it did, often enough to necessitate a sixth revealed book of the Torah, the Temple Scroll. I shall focus on one purificatory requirement in 11QT- the ritual ablution. It deviates from Scripture four times-

First, corpse-contaminated persons must launder and bathe on the first day of their (week-long) purificatory period (49.16–17; 50.10–14; cf. lQM 14.2–3). Those with seminal emissions must also launder and bathe on the first day of their (three-day) purificatory period before they may be admitted into the Temple-city (45.7–8). In neither case is this required by Scripture. Why?

Second, the fundamental purity postulate of 11QT as demonstrated by Yadin18 is that the Temple-city is equivalent in holiness to the Sinai encampment. At Sinai, Israel purified itself through laundering and ablutions for two days and God revealed Himself on the third day (Exod. 19.10–15). However, 11QT prescribes not two but three full days of purification (cf. 1QSa 1.25–26) with laundering and ablutions (in the case of seminal emission) on the first and third day (45.7–10) before entry into the Temple-city is permitted. Why?

Third, 11QT requires laundering whenever there are ablutions, even when it is not prescribed in Scripture. Here, to be sure, 11QT could base itself on the biblical habit of taking ablutions for granted. For example, in Leviticus 11, dealing with the impurity of carcasses, the clauses yitma’ ‘ad-ha-‘arev, ‘he will be impure till the evening’ (11.24, 27, 31, 39), and yekhabbes begadayw, ‘he shall launder his clothes’ (11.25, 28, 40), clearly imply ablutions (cf. Sifra’ Shemini par. 4.7). But 11QT goes one step further- it requires laundering in addition to ablutions wherever Scripture only prescribes (or assumes) ablutions. For example, those who touch carcasses have to launder as well as bathe (5.1–2), though there is no warrant for this in Scripture. Why? Moreover, 11QT mandates both laundering and ablutions on the third day of purification from corpse contamination (49.18–19; 50.14) but, again, there is no biblical warrant for either. Why?

In explanation of the first deviation, it should first be noted that one other severe impurity carrier, the leper, is required to launder and bathe on the first day of his week-long purificatory period (Lev. 14.8). The ablution entitles him to reenter the camp. On the basis of the leper’s example, I have previously proposed a tentative solution. Each ablution removes another layer (or degree) of impurity, and the purpose of the first-day ablution of the corpse-contaminated person is to allow him to remain in his city without incurring banishment or quarantine.19 The possibility exists that 11QT ordained the same procedure for the first day of other severe impurity bearers. The beginning of the gonorrheic’s purificatory process is described in Scripture as follows- we-khi yithar ha-zav mi-zovo, which rendered literally reads ‘when the gonorrheic becomes pure of his discharge’ (Lev. 15.13). It seems obvious that yithar actually means ‘[when the gonorrheic] is healed’. However, the author of 11QT may well have reasoned- since the verb tahar throughout all of P refers to purification, and never to healing, 20 yithar in this verse and taharah in verse 28 must mean ‘he/she purifies him/herself’, i.e., the gonorrheic bathes and launders before commencing the purificatory period—on the first day.21 Further support for this interpretation might be adduced from the case of the parturient. Her purificatory period, called yeme tahorah (Lev. 12.4, 6), expressly refers to the thirty-three or sixty-six days following an initial impurity of one or two weeks terminated by ablutions.22 Thus, 11QT could have deduced also, from the case of the parturient, that the purificatory period for all bearers of impurity must commence with ablutions.

The second deviation concerns the anomalous three-day purification for seminal emission which calls for ablutions on the first and third day prior to entry into the Temple-city. Since, as stated above, this requirement is based on Israel’s purification procedures at Mount Sinai, it is imperative to examine the biblical text to see if there is any basis for 11QT’s interpretation. First, one is struck by the unusual wording of the command given by Moses to the people- heyu nekhonim li-sheloshet yamim (Exod. 19.15), which literally translates, ‘Be ready for three days’ (it should have read la-yom ha-shelishi as in verse 11). This meaning is paradoxically buttressed by the view of Rabbi Jose that since God commanded Moses to ‘sanctify [i.e. purify] them today and tomorrow’, Moses could not possibly have begun doing so that same day. He needed two complete days and, hence, the first ablution took place on the following day (’Avot De-Rabbi Natan version A, 2; B. Shabbat 87a; B. Yevamot 62a; cf. Pirqe Rabbi Eli‘ezer 41). Thus, Rabbi Jose agrees with 11QT that Israel spent three days preparing for the revelations, and differs with it only in the timing of the two ablutions, holding that they occurred on the second and third day whereas 11QT opts for the first and third. The scroll’s position is easily defensible. After all, the Bible expressly prescribes ablutions for seminal emissions on the first day (Lev. 15.16–18). Hence 11QT engaged in an analogic comparison, or what I prefer to call the homogenization (see below) of two different biblical texts. It prescribes that entry into the Temple-city requires three days of purification consisting of two ablutions, just as Israel did at Mount Sinai, except that the first ablution occurs on the first day.

Moreover, it is my impression that 11QT was not just indulging in exegesis. More likely, it was following an ancient tradition. Philo informs us that after sexual relations, the husband and wife ‘are not allowed to leave the bed, to touch anything until they have had their ablution’ (Special Laws 3.63, 205). His view that before the ablution they contaminate objects and persons may fly in the face of rabbinic halakhah but makes perfect sense in view of the impurity-removing function of the ablution. Since the impure male wishes to enter the Temple-city he must make two transitions, from impure (tame’) to common (hol) to holy (qadosh). Or, to put it differently, he must eliminate two degrees of impurity, to the common and to the sacred. Thus, two ablutions are required, precisely at the two points of transition- on the first day, when he washes off his initial impurity and is free to associate with the common, and on the third day, when he washes off his residual impurity and is qualified to be in the presence of the holy.23

The graded power of the ablutions can be represented diagrammatically as follows-

Chart 1

Purification for Seminal Emission

The Stage The Effect upon the Common The Effect upon the Sacred

pre-ablution direct airborne

first-day ablution none direct

third-day ablution none none

and sunset

11QT, in agreement with Philo, would maintain that prior to his initial ablution the impure male contaminates persons and objects by direct contact, but that afterwards he may contact them freely. A further postulate of the priestly impurity system in Scripture is that the sacred is more vulnerable to contamination by one degree.24 Thus, before the first ablution, the impurity is powerful enough to contaminate the sanctuary from afar.25 (Hence, he must leave the Temple-city). Even after his first ablution, though he is pure in respect to the common, he is still impure to the sacred; he can still contaminate it by direct contact. Thus, he is not free to enter the sanctuary or partake of sacred food until he has bathed a second time. To be sure, the priestly source has reduced this three-stage purification by eliminating one ablution in conformance with its goal of demythologizing impurity.26 Nonetheless, 11QT and Philo (in part) preserve the older view.

The third above-mentioned deviation is twofold in nature- laundering and bathing are mandated for the carcass-contaminated person, whereas only bathing is prescribed by Scripture, and both laundering and bathing are mandated for the corpse-contaminated person on the third day whereas neither is prescribed by Scripture. This deviation is resolved by 11QT’s innovative exegetical principle- the homogenization of Scripture. Yadin has already pointed to harmonization as one of the main organizing features of the scroll.27 However, most of the examples he cites should really be described as a unification process- the fusion of the various laws on a single subject into one law, such as in the case of vows, 53.9–54.5 (Num. 30.3–16; Deut. 23.22–24); judicial decisions, 51.11–18 (Exod. 23.6; Deut. 1.16–17;.18–19); mourning rites, 48.7–10 (Lev. 19.28; Deut. 14.1–2);28 and contamination of foodstuffs and vessels, 49.7–10 (Lev. 11.33–34; Num. 19.15).29

These unitary law blocks share this in common- the laws they have assembled are either the same or supplementary but they do not contradict each other. However, there are a few combinations, three in my count, where the individual laws do conflict, necessitating true harmonization. These are- covering the blood, 52.11–12 (Lev. 17.13; Deut. 12.23–24); war spoils, 58.13–14 (Num. 31.27–28; 1 Sam. 30.24–25); 30 and the ‘ravaged virgin’, 66.8–11 (Exod. 22.15–16; Deut. 22.28–29).31
There is yet another exegetical principle not dealt with by Yadin that goes beyond harmonization, which may be called homogenization. By this I mean that a law that applies to specific objects, animals, or persons is extended to other members of the same species. I shall cite one example of each- everything within the house where death has occurred is impure (49.13–16; versus M. Kelim 10.1; Sifre Be-Midbar 126); the prohibition of Lev. 22.28 falls on the father as well as the mother of the slaughtered animal (52.6; versus the majority view in B. Hullin 78b); blemishes that disqualify priests from officiating in the Temple (Lev. 21.17–23) disqualify all Israelites from entering the Temple-city (45.12–14).

The ruling of the Temple Scroll on ablutions also falls into this homogenizing category- carcass impurity always requires laundering, whether the carcass was touched or carried. Of course, for 11QT Scripture has to provide some warrant for this exegetical maneuver, and it does. The nonspecific phrase yitma’ ‘ad ha-‘arev, ‘he will be impure until evening’, lends itself to the maximal ruling that laundering as well as bathing is required. The homogenization is even more telling in the matter of corpse contamination. Since the seventh day of purification explicitly prescribes aspersion, laundering, and bathing (Num. 19.19), 11QT deduces that since aspersion is expressly required on the third day (verses 12, 19), it must also be supplemented with laundering and bathing. This interpretation is further necessitated by 11QT’s other innovation, mentioned above, that laundering and bathing are also required for the first day. After all, how could they be omitted for the third day on which aspersion is mandated but prescribed for the first day when there is no aspersion? Indeed, this major purificatory innovation is in itself a product of homogenizing exegesis. As noted above, the case of the leper served as the model. The leper’s first-day purification removes his outward, most virulent layer of impurity so that he can now enter his community. Thus the need to justify the same right of returning to, or remaining in, the community for the parturient, the gonorrheic, and corpse-contaminated person has generated exegetical homogenization, whereby first-day ablutions are required of the other severe impurity bearers. The power of this hermeneutic can be gauged by the fact that this innovation has no clear biblical foundation, and that it also violates the priestly system of impurities whereby each ablution successively removes a layer of impurity.32

This homogenizing tendency of 11QT can also help resolve an exegetical crux in a new Qumran document (4Q 394–99). According to E. Qimron and J. Strugnell, 33 among its many halakhic innovations is the requirement that the leper must wait until sundown at the end of the eighth day of his purificatory period before he may partake of sacred food. However, Scripture only prescribes sacrifices for this eighth day (Lev. 14.10–20; 23–31). How, then, and why did 11QT come up with its ruling? First, it should be noted that the Rabbis also mandate additional purificatory measures for the eighth day- ‘He whose atonement is yet incomplete [on the eighth day before bringing the sacrifices] needs to immerse himself [after the sacrifices] for sacred things’ (M. Hagigah 3.3). Thus the Rabbis have added a proviso to the Torah that this last vestige of impurity preventing contact with the sacred cannot be lifted by sacrifices alone but only by a subsequent ablution.

I am convinced that Qumran also prescribes this eighth-day ablution since Scripture demands or assumes that sunsets be preceded by ablutions. However, Qumran goes beyond the Rabbis in prescribing that the purification is not completed by the ablution but only by the subsequent evening. Qumran achieves this ruling, I submit, by exegetical homogenization. In Scripture, all minor impurities terminate in the evening following the ablution (Lev.11.24, 25, 27, 28, 31, 32, 39, 40; 14.46; 15.5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 16, 17, 18, 19, 21, 23, 27; 17.15; 22.26; Num. 19.7, 8, 10, 21, 22). Major impurities, i.e., severe genital discharges (Lev. 12, 15), leprosy (Lev. 13–14), and the corpse-contaminated Nazirite (Num. 6.9–12) and priest (according to Ezek. 44.26–27) terminate with sacrifices. Qumran has reasoned as follows- if contact with sancta, the goal of the final stage of the purificatory process, requires ablutions and sunset for minor impurities, all the more should ablutions and sunset be required as the final stage for major impurities.34 Qumran might also have found Scriptural support for this homogenizing exegesis in the wording of the purificatory rite for priests- a major impurity bearer ‘shall not eat sacred food until he is pure (‘ad ‘asher yithar)’ (Lev. 22.4), and a minor impurity bearer ‘shall not eat the sacred gifts unless he has washed his body in water. As soon as the sun sets he shall be pure (we-taher); and afterward he may eat of the sacred gifts’ (verses 6–7). The indeterminate yithar for major impurities—so Qumran may have argued—is explicated by the we-taher specified for minor impurities, i.e., ablutions and sunset.35

Concerning the vexed question of whether 11QT is truly Qumranic, the impurity rules call for an answer in the affirmative. The graded impurity, as reflected in the ablution scheme, conforms with the explicit gradations of 1QS 6.16–21.36 That sexual relations were prohibited in the Temple-city is echoed in CD 12.1–2, and that women and physically impaired men were excluded from it is duplicated in the holy war camp (1QM 7.3–5). The severer impurity of liquids (11QT 49.11–14) is confirmed by CD 12.15–18 and 1QS 6.16–21 (cf. Josephus, War 2.137–38). Further, the three-day purification for entrance into the Temple-city is also required for admission to the sacred assembly (1QSa 1.25–26). Thus, not only is the Temple Scroll compatible with Qumran, but it undergirds it, and, to judge solely by its impurity rules, it is an organic part of Qumran literature.

There is one implication of this paper, I submit, that is potentially of greater significance- the Sitz im Leben of the homogenization hermeneutic. The need for harmonization is self-understood- a society that lives by Scripture cannot tolerate conflicting rules. However, homogenization, the extension of rules to others of the same species, is not a scriptural necessity. There are no inconsistencies or inconcinnities to iron out. What then, is the motivation for it? It would seem to me that its legal precipitates stem from earlier traditions. Qumran did not invent its laws on the three day purification, the ablutions on the first day, the exclusion of women and impaired men, the impurity of everything in the house of the dead, the sunset requirement for the eighth day, etc. It is more likely that it inherited them from others, and subsequently anchored them in Scripture through the technique of homogenization. If this is so, then homogenization changed exegesis into eisegesis and text into pretext. In any event, the homogenized laws being products of history—unlike the harmonized laws which are the products of speculation—may then be subjected to fruitful historical investigation.


This paper is a small tribute to the memory of a giant. Yigael Yadin managed to achieve greatness in four careers–as soldier, archaeologist, statesman, and scholar. I was privileged to see him work in the last capacity. Among his gifts was his uncanny ability to find the right key to open up disciplines that he had never studied. For Rabbinics, he perspicaciously utilized Maimonides’ Code; for the laws of purity, his unfailing intuition led him to the seminal study of Gedalyahu Alon.


1. Y. Yadin, The Temple Scroll, I (Jerusalem- Israel Exploration Society, 1983), 277–343.

2. G. Alon, ‘Tehuman shel Hilkhot Tahorah’, Mehqarim Be-Toledot Yisra’el, I (Tel Aviv- Hakibutz Hameuchad, 1957), 148–76.

3. Yadin, I, 277; Alon, 148.

4. Cf. J. Milgrom, ‘Israel’s Sanctuary- The Priestly “Picture of Dorian Gray”’, Revue Biblique 83 (1976), 390–99, reprinted in Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology (Leiden- E.J. Brill, 1983), 75–84.

5. Cf. J. Milgrom, ‘The Graduated Purification Offering (Leviticus 5-1–13)’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 103 (1983), 249–54.

6. Alon, 148 n. 3.

7. Cf. J. Milgrom, ‘The Paradox of the Red Cow (Num. XIX)’, Vetus Testamentum 31 (1981), 70–71, reprinted in Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology, 83–84.

8. Alon, 175; Yadin, I, 277.

9. Alon, 175 n. 108.

10. Alon, 175 n. 109.

11. Milgrom, op. cit. (n. 5).

12. Cf. J. Milgrom, ‘Religious Conversion and the Revolt Model for the Formation of Israel’, Journal of Biblical Literature 101 (1982), 169–76.

13. Alon, 148 n. 2.

14. The Book of Cleanness, ‘The Uncleanness of Foodstuffs’ 16.8–9, translation by H. Danby (Yale Judaica Series 8, 1954), 392–93.

15. Cf. Alon, 169 n. 89.

16. ’Eliyyahu Rabbah 16, p.72, translated by W.G. Braude and I.J. Kapstein, Tanna debe Eliyyahu (Philadelphia- Jewish Publication Society, 1981), 202–203.

17. Alon claims that ‘the minimalist (mode was) dominant among the Sadducees’ (176; Yadin, I, 277). This statement also needs to be disputed. Outside of saying ‘that the Sadducees restricted the laws of impurity to the priests and the Temple’ (176, n. 12), Alon offers no substantiation except to cite Jesus’ rejection of the Pharisaic requirement for hand and vessel ablutions (Mk 7.1–13; cf. Mt. 15.1–20; Lk. 11.37–41). Even were one to grant Alon’s assumption that Jesus sides with the Sadducees on this matter, it in no way proves that the Sadducees rejected this Pharisaic teaching because they denied that there was any need for adopting a regime of ritual purity outside the Temple precincts. Rabbinic sources provide a more plausible rationale for their opposition- ‘The priests, guarding their dignity, decided not to entrust matters of ritual purity to anyone’ (B. Bekhorot 30b).

Thus, the Sadducees, whose leaders were mustered from the priesthood, simply resented Rabbinic encroachment in matters which they felt were their exclusive domain. In no way, however, can their ruling be interpreted as their opposition to, or unconcern for, matters of purity outside the Temple. On the contrary, the Sadducees would have maintained that Scripture obligated them to be the master pedagogues to their people in all matters of purity- ‘To distinguish between the holy and the common and between the impure and the pure, and to teach the Israelites all the laws which the Lord has imparted to the Israelites through Moses’ (Lev. 10.10–11); ‘They shall teach My people what is holy and what is common, and inform them what is pure and what is impure’ (Ezek. 44.23). They would have concurred that on the basis of the Torah’s rulings, especially of H, Israel was commanded to lead a life of holiness. Thus, not only would they not have objected to non-priests eating their meals in a state of ritual purity, but they would have sided with the Pharisees that, in principle—the Torah’s principle—this was the ideal which all Jews should emulate. Their opposition would, then, have stemmed from their apprehension that their exclusive, divinely ordained right to be the sole arbiters on this matter was being usurped surreptitiously by the Pharisees.

18. Yadin, I, 287–89.

19. Cf. J. Milgrom, ‘Studies in the Temple Scroll’, Journal of Biblical Literature 97 (1978), 512–18.

20. Ostensibly, tahorato, ‘his healing’ (Lev. 13.35; 14.2) is an exception. However, this word is a noun, not a verb.

21. My interpretation has recently been confirmed by the publication of 4Q Ordc in M. Baillet, Qumrân grotte 4, Discoveries in the Judaean Desert, 7 (Oxford- Clarendon Press, 1982), 295–98 (noted by JM. Baumgarten, ‘The Pharisaic-Sadducean Controversies about Purity and the Qumran Texts’, Journal of Jewish Studies 31 [1980], 160) which prescribes that a man suffering from a discharge (i.e. the zav) should bathe and launder on the first day of his seven-day purificatory period so that he may be permitted to eat sacred food. The Karaites come to the same conclusion by analogy with the parturient; cf. Aaron Ben Elijah, Keter Torah on Lev. 15.13 and the next note. Yadin (I, 333) makes the same argument on the basis of Ezek. 44.26.

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