Ritual Purity Laws
Paraphrase and comments by Cynthia Bailey
The ritual purity laws are found in Leviticus 13-15 in the
Bible. It addresses diseases and discharges that cause
contamination such as: leprosy, seminal discharge, discharge of
blood, the Niddah, and contact with
corpses. All of these impurities are alike for one reason: people
with these impurities were ostracized from the towns and from the
The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem in 586 BC and 70
CE helped to remove the "justification of the laws of impurity"
(Biale 147). After the destruction of the temple, the laws
concerning a Niddah became less severe. Before the temples were
destroyed, a woman who had her menstrual cycle was not allowed to
touch anyone until her menstruation was over. After the
destruction the laws were not as strict, and it came to be that
the only thing a Niddah was not allowed to do was have sex with
There are some difficulties that one will run into when
researching these laws. Some translations will show three
fragments while others will show only two. Although the numbers
of fragments are different, the content is the same. For example,
Martinez uses fragment 1, fragment 2 col.1, fragment 2 col.2, and
fragment 3, Wise, Abegg, and Cook use fragment 1 col.1, fragment
1 col.2, fragment 2 col.1, and fragment 2 col.2, while Vermes
uses three fragments. There are also other complications
concerning these laws. There is no information on the laws
themselves, like what language they are in. The information about
the laws is very scarce and is mostly on what the laws contain.
Fragment 1 col.1:
1He will begin by not] casting his lot
[?for priestly service?]. He will lie down in the bed of trouble,
and reside in a house of grief. He will live away from the pure,
2with all the unclean at the distance
of twelve cubits . He will live to the northeast of any
habitation at the same distance.
3Anyone who has a discharge, will bathe
and wash his clothes and afterwards he may eat. For it says (Lev. 13:45) "unclean, unclean"
4they will shout all the days of their
discharge. And she who is discharging blood, for seven days she
may not touch the man who has a discharge or any of the objects
that he uses. 5Also for any of the
objects he has laid on or sat on. And if she touches anything she
will wash her clothes and bathe and afterwards she may eat. In no
way may she mingle during her seven
6days so she does not contaminate the
camps of the holy ones of Israel. She may not touch any woman
who has had a discharge of blood for several days.
7And the one who is counting their
seven days, whether they are male or female may not touch ...
during the start of her period, unless she is clean from her
menstruation. For the blood 8from
menstruation is considered a discharge for anyone who touches it.
And if a flow of semen is discharged, it is a misfortune. And he
will be unclean... and anyone who touches
9any of these unclean people, they will
not eat during their seven days of their impurity, just like the
person who is unclean through contact with a corpse. And they
will bathe and wash and then...
Fragment 1 col.2:
1...which they sprinkle on themselves
the first time, and they will bathe and wash before
2... they will immerse themselves
the seventh time on the Sabbath day.
3They may not touch the pure food until
they change their clothes 4... anything
that touches the discharge of semen, whether it is a person or an
object, they will immerse, and the one who carries it
5will immerse... and they will immerse
the garment which is on them and the object which they carry
6... And if there is a man in the
camp whose hands or feet has not
reached...7 the garment which has not
touched it. Only they may not touch their food. And the one who
touches it,8 will immerse... they will
live alone. If they have not touched it, was their clothes in
water and if 9... and they will wash.
And concerning all holy things, they will wash in water...
Fragment 2 col.1:
1...when God reveals the apple of his
eye and he calls out 2... and every
statute...3 who eats...
is their flesh and it is unclean 6...
their drink and they may not eat the pure food and all
7... after they are pressed and
their juices run out, no one may eat them
8... if the unclean person touches
them and also the greens...9 or boiled
cucumber, and the person who waters...
Fragment 2 col.2:
1...they are unclean.
The...3 Anything which has a seal...
4they will leave all the greens for the
person who is cleansed...5 from the
moisture of the dew, they may eat, but if
not...6 in the middle of the water
unless a person...7 the land, if they
come against it...8 the rain on it, and
if the... touches it... 9on the field
in all its measures in respect to the season of the
year...10 any clay object that will
fall in it... and any 11that are clean
in its middle... and every 12drink
that they will drink...
 Niddah- a mentraunt woman.
 The impure have to fast until they are
Biale, Rachel. Women and Jewish Law. 1984: pg.
Martinez, Florentino Garcia. The Dead Sea Scrolls
Vermes, Geza. The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in
English. 1997:pg 230-231.
Wise, Michael, Martin Abegg, Edward Cook. The Dead Sea Scrolls: A
New Translation. 1996: pg 281-283.
Intro. to the Hebrew Bible
by Cynthia Bailey