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Qumran And The Rabbis On Corpse-Impurity: Common Exegesis—Tacit Polemic

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Chapter Summary

Comparative study of the Qumran literature and the tannaitic midrashim may yield surprising results such as the reconstruction of ancient layers of pre-tannaitic halakhic midrash, an enriched understanding of the growth of early halakha, and insight into sectarian interpretative polemics from the Second Temple period. Each of these is illustrated in this chapter, an investigation of laws of corpse-impurity in Qumran literature and in the two halakhic midrashim for Numbers, the Sifre Numbers and the Sifre Zuta on Numbers. The impurity of a limb from a living body is fundamental to the rabbinic laws of corpse impurity, and is found frequently in tannaitic halakha. An exegesis quoted in the chapter is based on the repeated mention of touching a bone. Qumran texts often lack clear signs of polemic or of scriptural reference. A comparison with rabbinic midrashim can nonetheless reveal obscured interpretative disputes generated by conflicting stances.

Keywords: Qumran literature; rabbinic laws; second temple period; tannaitic halakhic midrash



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