Defilement penetrating the body: A new understanding of contamination in Mark 7.15

Yair Furstenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Mark 7.15, which contrasts two modes of defilement, appears in the gospel as a response to the Pharisaic custom of washing hands before eating. In this article, it is argued that this custom embodies an innovative approach to ritual impurity. Hand washing, which originated, so it is argued, in the Greco-Roman practice, was promoted by the Pharisees along with other purity laws, but stands in contrast to the biblical priestly purity system. In this logion, Jesus rejects the Pharisees' new conception of ritual purity, which was designed to guard the self from impurity. This interpretation offers both a coherent narrative and a plausible understanding of the custom within its historical-social context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)176-200
Number of pages25
JournalNew Testament Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Body
  • Food
  • Halakhah
  • Hand washing
  • Mark 7.15
  • Pharisees
  • Purity and impurity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Defilement penetrating the body: A new understanding of contamination in Mark 7.15'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this