Abstract of Cranz, Isabel. “Impurity and Ritual in the Priestly Source and Assyro-Babylonian Incantations.”

Cranz, Isabel.  “Impurity and Ritual in the Priestly Source and Assyro-Babylonian Incantations.”  Phd diss., The Johns Hopkins University, 2012. [Mesopotamia/Priesthood/Ritual/Liturgy/Worship]

Abstract:  The circumstantial similarities of Surpu Lipsur and Leviticus 5 present a unique opportunity for comparing and contrasting the effects of moral impurity in Assyro-Babylonian and Priestly sources respectively. Although the catalogue of sins featured in Leviticus 5:1-4, 15-17 has previously been compared to the transgressions listed in Surpu and Lipsur, the ensuing ritual activities have never been the subject of a thorough examination. In the past this omission was explained by the complexity of the subsequent rites. Nonetheless, recent progress in biblical studies and assyriology allows for a renewed evaluation of the activities carried out for both Priestly and Assyro-Babylonian rituals as well as their implications concerning the nature of impurity.

The first chapter deals with notions of impurity in general and establishes that the Priestly Source differentiates between moral and physical impurity which is not found in the Assyro-Babylonian texts where moral impurity results in physical ailments. Subsequently, through analysis of the available evidence, it is noted that moral impurity in the Priestly Source affects the sanctuary while its Assyro-Babylonian counterpart take its toll on the human body.

The next three chapters are dedicated to pinpointing the reasons for these differences. Leviticus 5-7, Surpu and Lipsur stand at the center of this inquiry since the rituals therein are triggered by similar offenses. The comparison is facilitated by the evaluation of the ritual elements. Basic similarities can be identified when it comes to ritual activities, although these are carried out with different objects. Both Priestly and the Assyro-Babylonian rituals contain elements of purification, sacrifice and disposal. However major differences appear when comparing ritual participants and the space in which they operate. The comparison of these elements reveals that moral impurity in Priestly and Assyro-Babylonian texts is addressed by professionals who operate in different spheres of society and consequently have different responsibilities. This finding suggests that basic discrepancies in Priestly and Assyro-Babylonian concepts of impurity stem from fundamental differences in the organization of temple and cult.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *