Gentile Impurities and Jewish Identities: Intermarriage and Conversion from the Bible to the Talmud

By Christine E. Hayes | Go to book overview

5
Intermarriage in the Writings of Paul
and the Early Church Fathers
Paul's treatment of intergroup marriage (marriage between believers and unbelievers) continues the trajectory of Ezra, Jubilees, and sectarian sources in two important respects. First, in the writings of Paul, there is an implicit identification of mixed marriage as porneia (= Hebrew zenut, a sexual sin that generates impurity), as in Second Temple sources. Second, the holy seed motif, championed by Ezra, and elaborated in Jubilees and the sectarian 4QMMT, informs and underwrites the Pauline (and later Christian) prohibition of mixed marriages. 1 That motif is adapted, however, to the ideology and exigencies of the new faith. Most notable, we see a shift in rhetoric from the defilement of holy seed to the defilement of holy flesh or bodies. For Paul, mixed marriage is porneia, not because it violates a prohibition against commingling distinct genealogical seeds (as in Jubilees and 4QMMT), but because it violates the general biblical prohibition against commingling the holy and the impure. The holy and impure entities in question are not seeds but bodies—the holy body of the believer and the impure (morally defiled) body of the unbeliever. Paul's writings lay the groundwork for the formulation of an entirely new type of impurity to police the boundary between self and other—an impurity that I describe as carnal impurity. This notion is elaborated in subsequent Christian pronouncements against marriage between Christians and non-Christians.
Paul on Mixed Marriages
We being with an examination of Paul's conception of marriage generally and the defiling effect of sexual immorality (porneia) as set out in 1 Cor 6:15–20:
15. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot [πόρνης]? May it never be!
16. Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a harlot [πόρνῃ] is one body with her? For He says, “The two will become one flesh. ”
17. But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.
18. Flee fornication [πορνείαν]. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man [πορνεύων] sins against his own body.

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