Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 39, No 2 (2020)

Blood and Bodies: Purity and Covenant in Jewish and Christian History

Doris Kieser
Issued Date: 18 Dec 2020


Blood, in relation to Jewish and Christian belief, is a multivalent symbol. At once an aspect of purification following ritual impurities, an aspect of impurity in relation to the Temple, and an indicator of kinship and lineage, its complexity renders its particular situational meanings all the more significant. Blood also signifies covenant with God: the blood of circumcision, the blood of the lamb, and the blood of Christ. Menstrual blood carries a very specific weight with regard to Jewish ritual purity both prior to and following the destruction of the Second Temple; women’s bodies and blood became monitored sites of inclusion and exclusion. In this paper, I engage discussions of blood in relation to female bodies and purity in Jewish and Christian history. I aim to counter historical interpretations of menstrual blood as repugnant and unclean with a feminist reading of the general Levitical understanding of blood as life.

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DOI: 10.1558/rsth.42128


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