Review of Regev, Eyal. “Moral Impurity and the Temple in Early Christianity in Light of Ancient Greek Practice and Qumranic Ideology.”

Regev, Eyal.  “Moral Impurity and the Temple in Early Christianity in Light of Ancient Greek Practice and Qumranic Ideology.”  Harvard Theological Review 97 (October 2004): 383-411. [Israel/Greek/Qumran/Christian/Ritual/Liturgy/Worship]

This essay contains a somewhat confused and confusing discussion of ritual and moral purity in the Greco-Roman culture, the Bible and the Qumran community.  The intent here is “to recover some of the social and religious implications of the concept of moral purity as they may be reflected in early Christian traditions.” (p. 386).  The author attempts to apply these concepts to solving two issues in the conduct of Jesus, i.e., the cleansing of the temple and eating with sinners.  His intent is to “demonstrate that the stress on moral purity in early Christian traditions does not necessarily imply a rejection of either the traditional Jewish Temple cult or the ritual purity laws….”(p. 385) It appears from several instances that the author is insufficiently acquainted with the New Testament which leads to a number of oversights and/or oversimplifications.  For example, when discussing Jesus’ attitude toward the laws of purification as raised in the hand washing episode of Mark 7, virtually no reference is made concerning the point Mark repeatedly makes that Jesus was distinguishing between the traditions of the Jews which he asserted were the “commandments of men” and the laws given by God.  This led them to make the law of God “of none effect” in the case of the Corban.  Similar problems plague the discussion about baptism and purity, although here, the problem is heightened by lack of information in the text and an understanding of the purpose of baptism and the sacrament which effect all Bible students.(p. 394)   Neither is there mention of Jesus fulfilling the law of sacrifice in the discussion about early Christian involvement and reaction to the Temple.  The “new theory” proposed to explain the cleansing of the temple is flimsy, which the author admits is not supported by evidence but came almost entirely from his own logic.(See p. 401.)  The discussion did add a helpful insight that Jeremiah 7:11 is set in the context of the moral corruption of temple officials.(p. 401.)  The final treatment about why Jesus ate with sinners is surfeited with redundancies (as is the article generally), and seeks to make the point that Jesus was trying to bring about a moral reformation within people.

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