Contagious Holiness in the Priestly Tabernacle
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Publisher:The Ohio State University
Series/Report no.:The Ohio State University. Department of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures Undergraduate Research Theses; 2021
The idea that holiness can be contagious, meaning that holiness is transmitted by physical contact between objects, is found in four passages in the Pentateuch; Exodus 29:37, 30:29; Leviticus 6:11, 6:20 (English 6:18, 6:27). Objects described as possessing contagious holiness include the anointed Tabernacle furniture and three most holy offerings, with the formula "all that touches X will become holy." However, none of these texts proceed to explain why the contagious holiness of these objects is mentioned, and so we are left to speculate as to why this fact was important to the writer(s) of these texts. I argue that contagious holiness is mentioned in the Priestly laws because, in the same way that it is important that impurity not accumulate where it does not belong (i.e. in close proximity to the sancta), it is likewise important that holiness not spread to places where it does not belong (i.e. outside the confines of the designated sancta). I further argue that contagious holiness can spread to both objects and people, and that contagious holiness is not the reason people sometimes die when they touch sacred objects.
Academic Major: Hebrew and Jewish Studies
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