This is an excerpt from Mishnah, the main rabbinic text of 2nd or 3rd century CE. This passage discusses the notion of impurity and how in the view of ancient rabbis it is passed on from hands to other items, creating degrees of impurity. This type of thinking bears directly on the disputes about the transmission of impurity in Mark 7 and Matt 15.

A woman who was picking vegetables in a pot and touched [with impure hands] a dry part of a leaf outside the pot [but which was partially immersed, or connected to a stalk immersed in the pot], even if it [the entire leaf] has the equivalent of an egg [in volume], it is impure, and everything else is pure [because when her impure hands, which are a second degree impurity, touched the dry part of the leaf, it became a third-degree impurity, which does not generate further impurity]. If she touched a wet part, if it has [at least] the equivalent of an egg [in volume], everything is impure; if it does not have the equivalent of an egg, it is impure and everything [else] is pure. If it [the wet part of the leaf] returns to the pot, everything is impure. If it [her hand] had been rendered impure through contact with a dead body, and she touched either a moist or dry part [of a leaf sticking out of the pot], if it has the equivalent of an egg [in volume], everything is impure; if it does not have the equivalent of an egg, it is impure and everything [else] is pure. If a woman who had immersed that day [and therefore was still of a second degree impurity until sunset] was emptying the pot with dirty [i.e. impure] hands and she saw liquids on her hands, and it is doubtful as to whether they were splashed from the pot, or that the stalk touched her hands, the vegetable [connected to the stalk] is invalid [i.e. impure], and [the rest of] the pot is pure.

Rabbi Eliezer says: One who eats foods of a first degree [level of impurity] is [himself rendered] of a first degree; [if he eats] foods of a second degree, [he is rendered] of a second degree; foods of a third degree, [he is rendered] of a third degree. Rabbi Yehoshua says: One who eats foods of a first degree or of a second degree is [rendered] of a second degree; [one who eats foods] of a third degree, [he is rendered] of second degree for sanctified foods, but not for terumah, [and this applies] with non-sacred food prepared with the purity stringency of terumah [since regular non-sacred foods do not have third degree impurity]…

Non-sacred foods of a second degree render non-sacred liquids impure and invalidate [foods] for those who eat terumah. Terumah of a third-degree renders sanctified liquids impure, and invalidates [foods] for those who eat sanctified foods, [and this applies] when they were prepared with the purity stringency of sanctified things. But if they were prepared [only] with the purity stringency of terumah, it [terumah of a third degree] renders, with regard to sanctified foods, two impure [i.e. creates, upon contact, a first degree impurity and, in turn, a second degree impurity] and invalidates one [in turn, to be a third degree level of impurity, but not a fourth-degree; this is because foods prepared with the purity stringency of terumah are still impure at a first degree level with regard to sanctified foods, but they do not retain a fourth-degree impurity, since terumah cannot retain the fourth degree of impurity]. (Mishnah, Tohorot 2)

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Dr. Eli or whomever will answer me, I understood none of this article. But I have a question. Eating Islamic meat or not, how would it be considered by both Torah (OT) and Injil (NT)? By former or current rabbis? In Africa as a child when the chicken was excuse me swung around by the neck, would that not be strangled? How can you know you’re not eating strangled meat in this modern world? I’m gentile (except inwardly) and what matters to the Lord matters to me.

  2. Would these levels of impurity be similar to the “fence laws” that put hedges around the central laws to ensure that the central laws were not broken?

  3. This Proposal is NOT at all different or difficult for me to INTERPRET. – Ceremonial Law was rendered OBSOLETE, by the ACTIONS which every one is Familiar with. – When “Even the very hairs on your Head are Numbered,” as surely as night follows day, – The Science Follows –

    • ha-ha-ha, these are rabbinic ideas, most of this was never applicable unless you worshiped in the temple, in Jerusalem. Yet it makes us realize how holy is our God and how thoroughly impure is the world we live in, so when we come before him should we not care to mind our pollution? I righteous courtesy, worthy of the king of kings in the least…

  4. Already a student; love your courses. Ever think of doing one on Talmud? Maybe one on Mishna and one on Gemara, maybe with sections emphasizing how they help understanding today?

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