I read Christine Hayes' 2002 book, Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud.
this book, Hayes addresses the question of whether or not the Hebrew
Bible and Second Temple and rabbinic literature regard Gentiles and
Gentile lands as ritually impure. Overall, her answer appears to be no.
Within Ezra and certain pieces of Second Temple literature, there is a
notion that Jews shouldn't intermarry with Gentiles because Jews are a
holy seed and need to protect their people's genealogical purity, but
that has nothing to do with the question of whether Gentiles are
ritually impure. When Amos 7:17 depicts Gentile lands as impure, Hayes
argues, that relates more to their moral impurity rather than their
ritual impurity from not following ritual purity laws, which (by and
large) are for Israel alone. Moreover, rabbinic literature often does
not seem to presume that Gentiles are ritually impure: rather, there are
cases in which Gentiles become ritually impure only after converting to
Judaism, which is when they become subject to God's purity laws for
Israel. Before that, they are not subject to them.
thing is, Hayes does paint a picture that is much more complex than my
summary in the above paragraph, which seems to indicate that she
acknowledges that the category of ritual purity is (on some level)
relevant to Gentiles and how Israel relates to them. But I
don't want to get into the weeds of that in this post. You can read the
book yourself if you're interested in learning more, or you can read
reviews of the book. What I want to do here is to highlight two
discussions in the book that I found particularly interesting:
On pages 79-80, Hayes argues that the Book of Jubilees portrays Abraham
as someone who was like Phinehas, the son of Aaron who killed the
Israelite man and the Midianite woman who were flaunting their
relationship before Israel, after Moses had called on the judges to kill
the Israelite men who participated in the cult of Baal-Peor with
Moabite women (Numbers 25). In Numbers 25:11-13, God gives Phinehas a
covenant of peace and an everlasting priesthood as a reward for his
act. And Psalm 106:31 says that God reckoned it to Phinehas for
righteousness, which is similar to what is said in Genesis 15:6 about
Abraham: Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him for
righteousness. Genesis 15:6 is a key proof-text for the
Pauline-Lutheran doctrine that people are reckoned as righteous by God
on account of their faith. Apparently, within the Hebrew Bible,
righteousness could be reckoned to people for other reasons as well, for
righteousness was reckoned to Phinehas for killing the Israelite man
and the Midianite woman.
According to Hayes, Abraham in
Jubilees is like Phinehas in that Abraham is zealous to preserve the
genealogical purity of God's people, by discouraging Jacob to marry a
Canaanite. But would Jubilees have to apply Phinehas-like attributes to
Abraham to arrive at this sort of conclusion, when Genesis 24:2-4
itself depicts Abraham as one who did not want his son Isaac to marry a
Canaanite? Hayes acknowledges Genesis 24:2-4, but she still thinks that
Jubilees is portraying Abraham as one who was like Phinehas. Genesis
15 is about the blessing of Abraham's seed, and Hayes believes that
this is relevant to Jubilees' portrayal of Abraham as one who zealously
sought to guard his seed from being polluted through intermarriage.
Furthermore, Hayes notes that Jubilees 30:20 says that Levi was
considered to be a friend of God and a righteous man, after Levi and
Simeon slaughtered the Schechemites and thereby protected Israel's
genealogical purity from intermarriage with foreigners. For Hayes,
Jubilees has a message that an Israelite can be reckoned as righteous by
standing against intermarriage.
2. Hayes has a chapter about how
Paul and the early church fathers regarded intermarriage. I'd like to
draw your attention to something that Hayes says on page 94:
Mk 10:1-12 and Luke 16:18, Jesus is said to have prohibited divorce for
any reason, though in Matt 5:32, which post-dates Paul, he is
represented as making a single exception in the case of porneia (fornication). For Paul, also, porneia
alone is grounds for separation, and possibly divorce (1 Cor 5:9-13).
Yet here [in 1 Corinthians 7:12-13] the apostle appears to contradict
himself by allowing divorce (or at least separation) on the grounds of
the unbelief of one partner to the marriage. The implication is that
marriage to an unbeliever is a kind of porneia."
preceding page, page 93, Hayes contends that Paul regards Christian
intermarriage with a non-believer to be defiling to the believer and to
Christ himself, as Paul regards non-believers as "defiled by idolatry
and sexual immorality" (Hayes' words in conceptualizing Paul's
thoughts). Hayes refers to I Corinthians 6:15-16, in which Paul says
that believers should not take the members of Christ and join them with a
prostitute to form one flesh.
Hayes acknowledges that the issue
gets thorny, for Paul in I Corinthians 7 goes on to allow believers to
remain married to non-believers, if that is what the non-believers
want. But I still found her discussion to be interesting, due
to the debates about divorce within Christianity. Mark and Luke present
Jesus forbidding divorce, but Matthew 5:32 has an exception to this
prohibition: porneia. But Paul appears to offer another ground
for divorce: if a believer is married to a non-believer, and the
non-believer wants to leave the marriage. Or is this another ground?
Suppose that Hayes is correct that, in Paul's thought, intermarriage
between a believer and a non-believer is itself porneia?
terms of whether I am convinced by Hayes' argumentation here, I'm not
sure. She does argue that, within Second Temple Judaism, there was a
prominent notion that Jews intermarrying with Gentiles constituted porneia,
and so I wouldn't be surprised if Paul carried that sort of notion into
his view as to whether believers should intermarry with non-believers.
At the same time, Paul does not explicitly label intermarriage porneia.
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