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The Origin and Meaning of the Crimson Thread in the Mishnaic Scapegoat Ritual in Light of an Ancient Syro-Anatolian Custom

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AbstractThe custom of tying a crimson thread to the head of an animal as part of the High Priest’s official rites on the Day of Atonement and the purification rite for the leper is not specified in the Pentateuch but is known solely from mishnaic sources. The Second Temple practice is also attested by two independent early Christian sources that evidently drew on a common source that was not the Mishna. The present article searches for the origin of this tradition and its original purpose and setting through the ancient Syro-Anatolian apotropaic rites.

Affiliations: 1: Dep. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University of


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