Moral Purity and Persecution in History

By Barrington Moore Jr. | Go to book overview

Notes

CHAPTER 1
MORAL PURITY AND IMPURITY IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1
On this score see Edward Westermarck, The Origin and Development of the Moral Ideas, 2d ed., vol. 2 (London, 1917), index, s.v. “Pollution”; and William Graham Sumner and Albert Galloway Keller, The Science of Society, vol. 4 (New Haven, 1927), index, s.v. “Uncleanness.” Both works are treasures of worldwide ethnographic and historical data to be used with critical caution.
2
According to Lev. 20:10 the penalty for adultery was death for both partners.
3
The prohibition against homosexuality also occurs at Lev. 20:13 and that against bestiality at Lev. 20:15–16. The latter passages, however, do not give any evaluation of this behavior.
4
See the works of Sumner and Keller, and Westermarck, cited above.
5
Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London, 1994).
6
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York, 1991), 42–43; hereafter referred to in the text as Leviticus 1–16.
7
A problem of translation arises here. The King James Version uses the expression trespass offering here and at 5:15. The Revised Standard Version speaks of a guilt offering at 5:6 and breach of faith at 5:15, both instead of trespass. Milgrom uses the expression sacrilege in several passages instead of trespass (see Milgrom, Leviticus 1–16, 319–330, 345–356). Sacrilege has the advantage of emphasizing that certain acts were regarded as assaults on holy areas or objects and therefore utterly immoral. Presumably trespass conveyed this notion adequately in the seventeenth century, as indicated by the entry in the Oxford Universal Dictionary. It is appropriate to add here that our interest in the correctness of any translation is distinctly minor. We are interested in the King James Version of the Bible as a source of specific moral notions. Mistranslations in it have been part of our Western heritage for four centuries.

-135-

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