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A Note on Baptism for Proselytes

Author(s): Solomon Zeitlin

Source: Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 52, No. 1 (Apr., 1933), pp. 78-79
Published by: The Society of Biblical Literature
Stable URL: .
Accessed: 15/03/2011 17:17

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TN an Essay entitled "The Halaka in the Gospels and its Relation

to the Jewish Law at the Time of Jesus" which was published
in the Hebrew Union CollegeAnnual, I, 1924, I endeavored to show
that up to a few years before the second Temple was destroyed,
baptism was not required of converts to Judaism. In a recent
number of JBL. Mr. Starr says:
"S. Zeitlin in HebrewUnion CollegeAnnual, I (1924), pp. 358-363,
has attempted to prove that tebilahcould not have been prescribed
for proselytes before 65--66 C.E. But his argument rests on the
assumption that this rite was a special form of the Taharah-bath,
which is questionable (see Moore, supra, n. 14). Moreover, his evid-
ence is not exhaustive. Prof. L. Finkelstein calls to my attention that
he has overlooked at least one passage which demands consideration,
viz., Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, T. L. 14 6."'
It is surprising that in such an important question as to whether
baptism was required for converts to Judaism, Mr. Starr did not
find it necessary to quote the text of T. L. 14 6, and merely relied
upon what he was told. The text reads as follows: "and the
daughters of the Gentiles shall ye take to wife, purifying them with
an unlawful purification." KaOaplovres ati-d. [eav-ra]
The word baptism which occurs quite often in KaGapt1'Y-
the New
7rapavo••,. in reference to the new converts to the ideas of Jesus
(comp. Mark 16 16 and Acts 8 12-38, 2 38) is not found in the text
of T. L. The words:
7Trapavoiprefers most likely to
1 Vol. LI, p. 231, n. 16.

the purification after the menses. Comp. Luke 2 22 Kal0'6e '7rXr /-

Or-ravateewiepatToF KaOaptaLO.OV ov vodJov
avTr-v Kar TVr
Mr. Starr continues: "From Yoma III, 3, moreover, itMWo-ewr•.2
that there was at least one known case in which the requirement
of tebilahheld, regardless of one's levitical status." Mr. Starr again
does not deem it necessary to give the text of the Mishnato support
his statement. The text of this Mishna reads as follows: WIN 14
5~1.10 V ) llIb * fl37y1 35
2571"I9 9 1. The meaning of
the Mishna is quite evident. No one must enter the Azarah for
worship, not even a man who believes he is clean, before taking a
bath. The purpose of this regulation is to prevent anyone, who
might be levitically unclean and not aware of this, from entering
the Azarah. The laws of the Pentateuch prohibits any person, who
is in the state of levitical uncleanliness to enter the Azarah for
worship under the penalty of death. The Tannaim, therefore,
instituted this precautionary measure, namely, that anyone enter-
ing the Azarah, regardless as to whether he considers himself
levitically clean, should first take the prescribed bath.
There is nothing in the Tannaitic literature, or in the Hellenistic
literature before the destruction of the Temple to indicate that
baptism was a requisite for conversion to Judaism. (See also
S. Zeitlin, An Historical Study of the Canonization of the Hebrew
Scriptures, p. 33, note 114.)
2 See, also, Josephus, B.J., 5, 227.