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On kuppuru, kippēr and Etymological Sins that Cannot be Wiped Away

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The discovery of Mesopotamian ritual texts employing the term kuppuru (“rub, wipe”) has been a major turning point in the semantic analysis of Hebrew kippēr. It is now commonplace to find the Hebrew term interpreted in light of the concrete sense of the Akkadian, yielding the notion of “wiping away” sin. The present article demonstrates why this prevailing view is untenable by means of 1) analysis of the lexical data, 2) identification of common misconstruals of this evidence, and 3) comparison of the kuppuru / kippēr relationship to the largely analogous case of Akkadian salāu (“sprinkle”) and Hebrew sāla (“forgive”).

Affiliations: 1: Bar-Ilan University


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