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Impure Mouths and Defiled Hearts: The Development of Deceit Impurity in Second Temple Judaism

Department of General History, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel
Haifa Center for Mediterranean Studies, University of Haifa, Haifa 3498838, Israel
Religions 2022, 13(8), 678;
Original submission received: 29 May 2022 / Revised: 20 July 2022 / Accepted: 21 July 2022 / Published: 26 July 2022
(This article belongs to the Section Religions and Theologies)


Many early Christian and late Second Temple texts describe deceit as impurity. In this article, I delineate the development of this discourse and argue that it derived its power from several characteristics: mixing deceit impurity with other types of moral impurity; an implicit link between the structures of defilement/purity and falsehood/truth; localization of impurity in specific body loci; demonization; and a connection with Greek discourses on sophists and magicians. Some of these features are present already in the earliest texts such as the Hebrew Bible, but others developed only in the Hellenistic period.

1. Introduction

Many passages in the texts included in the New Testament, or parts thereof, such as the epistles of 2 Peter, Jude, 1 Timothy, Titus, and the Apocalypse, use terms of impurity to describe opponents (Pietersen 1997; Lockett 2008a, 2008b; Pilch 1992; Batten 2014; Neyrey 2007; Jacobs 2010; Czachesz 1998; Thiessen 2017). As scholars have shown, these texts were composed on the background of conflict between various Christian communities and reflect attempts of delegitimization of some communities by others (Aune 1983, pp. 218–29; Stroumsa 2013). Impurity language was used to label people who deviated from the group, or to label a group’s religious opponents.1 Accordingly, a major focus is the false teachings of the opponents. A key argument of this discourse is that their views are not only false and evil but also deceptive: they display themselves as godly, righteous, and as similar in many respects to the mainstream religious group (Löhr 2000). While deviance and labelling theories go a long way towards explaining the extremity of this discourse, they do not explain why opponents were described specifically with these terms of impurity, or how the connection between deceit and impurity came to be so central. For this, an analysis of the discourse of deceit-as-impurity from the Hebrew Bible to the Roman period is required.
Although discourses of deceit and impurity in this period have each been investigated by many scholars, the development of their overlap, or shared discourses, have received less focused attention.2 In this article, I will describe how several dimensions of this discourse developed in early Roman and Jewish Second Temple texts. I intend to show how the juxtaposition of deceit and impurity through several rhetorical topoi served to create a distinctive powerful discourse.
Discourses of impurity were used historically to describe, assess, and mark a wide range of human behaviors. The Hebrew Bible deploys language and images of impurity to speak of bodily states temporarily preventing access to the sacred and/or normal family life, but have no direct normative dimension, and also to speak of criminal and offensive actions and their consequences (Klawans 2000; Hayes 2007). The same is true of other texts from neighboring cultures, such as the Greek temple regulations (Chaniotis 2012). The relationship between these discourse domains was historically contingent, changing according to current social and ideological needs. Moreover, the shaping of discourses of impurity and the articulation of the relationship between offensive actions and impurity was a potent weapon in the religious and cultural revolutions of antiquity.
The main offensive actions considered impure in the Hebrew Bible are murder, sexual sins, and idolatry (Lev. 18: 20.1–3; Num. 35.33–34; Ez. 16.36–63, 36.16–25; Jer. 3.1; Ps. 106.34–41; Feinstein 2014; Feder 2021). Similarly, many Greek texts speak mostly of murder and sexual sins, but also of sins against the gods—such as desecration of shrines, blasphemy, and perjury (Parker 1996, pp. 74–190; Petrovic and Petrovic 2016). Thus, sins labelled as causing impurity are typically either major crimes performed by the body (murder and sexual sins), or major crimes directly against the gods. However, Greek, Jewish, and Christian texts, from the sixth century BCE onwards, describe also a third type of moral impurity. This impurity arises from evil thoughts or words connected to falsehood and to deceit, that is, an attempt by a person to dissimulate, to appear as being righteous while in fact acting criminally and against the laws of society. Although these thoughts and words do not necessarily lead to the major immoral actions detailed above or involve the body, they are nevertheless designated as impure, disgusting, or abominable.
Various terms of deceit and lying describe a wide range of negative behaviors in Jewish and Christian texts of antiquity. In biblical and mishnaic Hebrew, the usual terms for deceit are derived from the root רמה, while lying is שקר or כזב; another root is עול, which may also mean evil more generally. In Septuagint and New Testament Greek, the usual terms are ψευδο-, δόλος, δολερός, ἀπάτη, and πλάνη (BDAG, s.v.). Furthermore, deceit can be described by speaking of the relevant organs of the body—the heart, mind, or soul, on the one hand, and the tongue, on the other. Though deceit can be said to exist already in thinking untruths, it is more developed when the lie or falsehood is spoken. The discrepancy created in deceit between the external self-representation of the person and his or her interior is frequently expressed as having impure lips, tongue, or mouth. These terms or images can be used to describe different types of deceit and lying, appearing in varying social and cultural contexts. The first is social falsehood: financial and/or legal deception, including giving false witness, as well as slander and lying in non-legal social relations. The second is deceit involved in, or leading to, serious criminal activities such as adultery or murder. The third is theological or philosophical falsehood: false teachings about core values, the cosmos, God, or other religious issues, including false prophecy or heresy. All three of these types are described using impurity language, but I will argue that during the period studied, there was a shift from a focus on the first and second types (social and criminal deceit) to the third type (doctrinal deceit). In this shift, images of impurity were transferred from texts describing social and criminal deceit to those describing doctrinal deceit, thus enhancing the negative value of such accusations.
In parallel to this shift, I will argue that several other components developed in the discourse of deceit-as-impurity from the Hebrew Bible to late Second Temple literature, all of which worked towards the reification of deceit impurity in early Christian literature: blending of different types of impurity metaphors relating to deceit, and juxtaposing deceit with other sins; fixing the impurity of deceit to specific body loci relating to inner vs. outer parts of the body; claiming that deceit came from impure spirits and demons; and connecting deceit to discourses of impure sophists and magicians. Furthermore, deceit impurity was ritualized, moving from the realm of metaphor to that of bodily practice in the ritual of baptism. As opposed to the other components of the discourse, which all existed in prior non-Christian discourses, ritualization appears to have been an innovation of the early Christian movement.

2. Classical and Imperial Literature on Deceit and Impure Religion

Petrovic and Petrovic (2018) demonstrated already in the sixth and fifth century BCE that Greek authors writing in various genres placed an emphasis on purity of mind and on purity from criminal actions, side-by-side with purity of body. Most of these do not relate specifically to deceit or falsehood. However, there are some exceptions. In the Theognidea, a text probably composed in the seventh century, the importance of honesty is emphasized:
  • Do not love me with words, keeping your mind and thoughts elsewhere,
  • if you love me and if you have a faithful mind.
  • Either love me, having made your mind pure (καθαρὸν θέμενος νόον), or renounce me
  • and hate me and quarrel with me openly.
  • He who has a twofold mind and says one thing, he is a terrible
  • friend, Cyrnus, and is better as an enemy than as a friend.
Thus, in this social context, a pure and faithful mind is opposed to a twofold mind and to love with words only, without corresponding inner feeling and belief.4 Theoretically, a mind full of hate expressed openly could also be described as “pure”, but the subject of the verses is deceitful love, not hate per se.
The shift from social to doctrinal deceit as impure is seen in Plato, who posited a strong connection between purity and truth. The only way to gain true wisdom, as well as knowledge of oneself and of the gods in order to transform oneself accordingly, was through purification of the mind from the influences of the body. Plato’s cathartic path to truth had a decisive influence on middle- and neo-Platonic conceptions, and the importance of purity can be seen in many of the writers of these schools (Trouillarde 1955; Song 2013). However, Platonists usually spoke of purification of the soul from the body and the passions, as well as from the beliefs and vices created through their influence, rather than purification from premeditated deceit.5 This extended to the necessity to maintain pure speech: “For speech is the food of thought, and wickedness in men makes it impure” (Plut. Educ. lib. 12E). Nevertheless, the influences of the body were sometimes de-scribed as deceitful in their attempts to distract the soul from the truth.6
A different type of purification of the soul beyond that of removal of vices of the body is described by Plato in the Sophist: discernment, dialectic, and philosophical refutation purified the soul from ignorance (ἀμαθία) and false knowledge (“thinking you know something when you do not”, 229c; see Bernabé 2013; Solana 2013). Thus, speech that did not aim at revealing the truth was impure, and those who took part in it had to be purified (Pl. Crat. 396e; Phil. 62c). This definition seems close to the idea that deceit is a defilement that can be purified. Later in the dialogue, the sophist is defined as one who engages in the mimetic arts, attempting to “beguile the young while they are still removed from the real matters of truth” (Soph. 234c).
Although true speech regarding the gods, as opposed to wrong opinions or the fabulations of myths, was already described as pure speech by philosophers earlier than Plato, such as Empedocles and Xenophanes (Petrovic and Petrovic 2016, pp. 78–114), the central Platonic model of the body and its influences as the main defiler of the mind and through this also of true speech was of great significance in antiquity. Nevertheless, the image of the impurity of false theological and philosophical speech continued to be propagated by writers of the Hellenistic and Imperial era, and linked to the figure of the sophist, on the one hand, and the magician, on the other. Thus, philosophers and orators were commonly exhorted to be true and undeceiving in their speech. Such exhortations could be expressed through purity language. Dio Chrysostom describes the ideal philosopher as “a man who in plain terms and without guile (καθαρῶς καὶ ἀδόλως) speaks his mind with frankness, and neither for the sake of reputation nor for gain makes false pretensions (προσποιούμενον)”, as opposed to “flatterers, imposters, and sophists (κολάκων καὶ γοήτων καὶ σοφιστῶν)”.7 Lucian also describes imposters (γόητες) as doing vile things (μιαρὰ πράττοντας) in the name of philosophy (Pisc. 15).
By the Hellenistic period, and to a greater extent in the early Roman Empire, this emphasis spreads to cultic regulations inscribed in temple entrances; the requirement of a “pure mind” or “heart”, “pure thoughts” and “good speech” (εὐφημία) for those entering is attested in several inscriptions (Chaniotis 2012; Gödde 2011; Petrovic and Petrovic 2018). Typically, a “pure mind” appears to be that of one who did not commit any injustice or crime. However, some of the regulations relate also to sins of speech. A text inscribed at the entrance to a temple in Rhodes in the first century CE (LSS 108) posits a link between purity and truth:
  • With pure hands and mind, and with a truthful tongue,
  • come in, not through washing, but pure in mind.
Another cult regulation speaks twice of the required simpleness of soul of the worshipper, which the god will reward (LSS 55); in practice, however, the regulation calls only for physical purity abstentions. A possible interpretation of this exhortation may be that since most purity abstentions (from prior sexual contact or certain foods) cannot be externally regulated and are only known to the worshippers themselves, honesty is essential. In other words, the regulation calls for sincerity in the fulfilment of ritual requirements. Although this interpretation seems likely, it is not certain, and a more general pious attitude may be intended. Petrovic and Petrovic (2016) argue that in many cases, the impure thoughts called for concern thought or speech regarding some planned or past criminal activity, not deceptive or false thoughts. Alternatively, pure or good speech frequently connote pious speech, such as prayers or vows, and a pure mind is one which focuses on religiously correct, holy and pious thoughts, whether by itself or by the power of prayer. Thus in the famous inscription at Epidauros: “One must be pure to come into the fragrant temple; purity (ἁγνεία) is to think of sacred things”.9 Or, for example, Dionysius of Halicarnassus says that Aemilia, a mythic vestal virgin, said when accused of wrongdoing, “I have performed the sacred offices to you in a holy and proper manner, keeping a pure mind and a chaste body” (Dion. Hal. Ant. Rom. 2.68.4).
An exception to this ambiguity in the regulations concerning deceit impurity is the regulation from the unusual private cult in Philadelphia, dated to the second century CE (LSAM 20 = SIG3 985), which details a number of criminal activities: evil charms, harmful drugs, sexual seduction, and adultery. Angelos Chaniotis (1997, pp. 159–60) has pointed out the centrality in this regulation of issues of honesty, knowledge, and lack of deception. The first action warned against is deception or trickery (δόλος), presumably in the context of negative magical actions. Both in the case of magic and in the case of seduction, the cult members are warned not to remain silent about sins and crimes. Furthermore, a ritual of touching the inscribed stone is explained as a test to ensure true belief/trust (πίστις) and to externalize it before all members at a public moment. It is expected that members who touch the stone thereby express their true inner conviction and obligation towards the group. Notably, these practices are all conditions for the performance of “purifications, cleansings and mysteries”, and indeed might in themselves be considered part of these purifications. The criminal activities with which deception is associated in this inscription are evil magic resulting in murder and adultery. Both of these activities, as will be seen below, are strongly associated with deception and covert activity in other texts of the first to third centuries CE.
In the early Empire, descriptions of wrong religious practices and theological opinions was frequently described using the terms δεισιδαιμονία/superstitio; in turn, these terms, too, were linked with impurity discourse. When Cicero uses the term superstitio to inveigh against a woman whom he claimed was a witch and practiced secret nocturnal sacrifices to Hecate to further her crimes, he speaks of contaminata superstitione.10 In On Superstition, Plutarch decries the “ridiculous actions and emotions of superstition… rushing about and beating of drums, impure purifications and dirty sanctifications (ἀκάθαρτοι μὲν καθαρμοὶ ῥυπαραὶ δ᾽ ἁγνεῖαι), barbarous and outlandish penances” (107b). However, the castigation of certain types of religious practices as impure (among other negative descriptions) is not solely a matter of their being deceitful or even false. Their supposed foreignness and claimed lack of decorum seem to be equally important concerns of writers relating to superstitio in this era. Polluted superstitions are opposed by Plutarch to pure and straight speech:
…superstition, such as smearing with mud, wallowing in filth, immersions, casting oneself down with face to the ground, disgraceful besieging of the gods, and uncouth prostrations. We hold it to be suitable to pray to the gods with the mouth straight and aright, and not to inspect the tongue laid upon the sacrificial offering to see that it be clean and straight, and, at the same time, by distorting and sullying one’s own tongue with strange names and barbarous phrases, to disgrace and transgress the god-given ancestral dignity of our religion
(Superst. 166A–B)
For Plutarch, the foreign utterings of the superstitious are the opposite of the pure speech of traditional religion. Plutarch insinuates that the superstitious take care more of the externals of sacrifice, including the physical tongue of the animal, than of their own speech, even though he does not clarify why traditional speech is in fact purer.11
To conclude this section, ideas of the contamination of deceit start to surface already in earliest Greek literature and receive an impetus in Plato. In Hellenistic and early Imperial times, they are integrated into the religious realm in the Greek cultic regulations and in writings against foreign or divergent religious practices. Generally, deceit is not highlighted as a central defiling crime but is rather juxtaposed with other undesirable behaviors.

3. From the Hebrew Bible to Second Temple Literature

Having looked briefly at the rhetoric of deceit and impurity in Greek literature, I will now focus on the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple literature, and highlight several trends that emerged over the centuries.12 Deceit in this literature has been discussed particularly from ethical standpoints, including cases in which it appears to be accepted or even recommended, with deceit performed by otherwise positive biblical characters or even God himself, despite the clear biblical injunctions against it (Prouser 1991; Satran 1992; Shemesh 2002; Miller 2012; Ehrman 2013, pp. 529–48). These ethical questions continued in later discussions, with Christian and Jewish writers trying to define the legal and ethical boundaries of permissible deceit (Passamaneck 2010; Constas 2004; Pietersen and Fourie 2015; Zucker 2011; Griffiths 2010). The sources I read here, however, see deceit as self-evidently evil and impermissible, and are not interested in attenuating circumstances but rather in how to best criticize such evil. With these sources, the question I approach is similar: how the discourse of deceit impurity came to be.

3.1. Immoral Mixing

In this section, I will demonstrate the existence of two strands in the tradition: one which speaks of the impurity of financial and legal deceit, and the other which speaks of the impurity of doctrinal deceit. In both strands, the impurity of deceit is mingled with the impurity of other sins.
Financial and legal deceit is described as impure in many parts of the Hebrew Bible: “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, large and small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, large and small…. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly (עושה עול), are abhorrent to the Lord your God (כי תועבת אדני אלהיך)” (Deut. 25.13–16; Klawans 2000, p. 71). This link between dishonesty and impurity returns frequently in biblical wisdom literature.13 Proverbs, especially, speaks of deceit almost in every chapter, and frequently describes it as impurity. For example:
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed clean blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that hurry to run to evil, a lying witness who testifies falsely, and one who sows discord in a family
These verses, beyond calling lying an abomination, also link deceit to one of the three prime polluting sins, in this case, murder (cf. Is. 59.3). Note also that the deceit causes a murder of someone whose blood is clean, i.e., who is pure from any crime. Embedding deceit in the well-established discourse of the impurity of murder connotes deceit itself as impure, a connection that is reiterated in Second Temple literature.14 Psalms frequently characterize the protagonist or enemy of the speaker through their evil speech practices: slander, boasting, flattery, and deceit (Ps. 5.5–11; 9–10.1; 12.2–7; 50.19–20; 52.3–7; 55.10–12; 57.5; 64.3–11; 9–73.8; 109.2–3; 120.1–7; 140.2–6; Gelander 1989). These sins of speech are occasionally labeled using impurity language. God “abominates” a person who spills blood through deceit (Ps. 5.7) or practices falsehood (119.163); the throat of the evildoer is an “open tomb”, a symbol both of danger and of impurity (Ps. 5.10). He is honest and his hands and heart are clean (Ps. 17.1–3, 26.6, 26.1, 32.11; 36.11, 64.11, 73.13, 101.2). The “double hearted” speech of the evildoer is opposed to the “pure sayings” of God himself (Ps. 12.7). Psalms of temple entry (15, 24) foreground the impurity of deceit, defining only those who speak truth, do not forswear themselves, and have clean/pure hands and heart as permitted to enter and dwell in the temple (Cf. Ps. 5.7, 101.5; and see Weinfeld 1982; Owens 2013, pp. 82–85). The idiom “clean hands” connotes honesty, especially the hands of one who does not steal or accept bribes, but also relates the impurity of deceit to that of murder, another semantic area where cleanliness of hands is frequent (e.g., Is. 1.15, Deut. 21.6).15 Similarly, the “pure heart” is to be understood as a non-deceitful heart.
Why exactly financial and legal deceit are considered impure by the Bible calls for explanation. A simple answer is that the authors wish to emphasize their abhorrence of such behavior, and that its labeling as impure functions mostly to change the minds of the readers. Indeed, the description of deceit as impure might be seen as a signal that for most readers or hearers it is not naturally impure, but, at worst, simply bad or immoral behavior. The writer, in other words, is not reflecting common opinion but trying to change it.
Nevertheless, this answer is not enough; why was impurity language used specifically in the case of deceit? To explain this, I turn to the classic theory of Mary Douglas ([1966] 2002), according to which purity is a result of clear boundaries and definitions, while impurity occurs when boundaries are crossed and categories mix. Deceit and lack of integrity may be described as defiled and defiling because they blur the boundary between truth and falsehood, mixing them up and making it impossible to discern between them. Certainly, not any border-crossing is defiling: this is especially the case when there is a hierarchy between the sides of the border, and when the crossing is not clearly demarcated. Though any abstract notion may be said to be pure or non-pure (e.g., pure righteousness, pure sanctity), truth lends itself especially to this notion because to be true, total correspondence is required between words and reality, and/or between words and thought; a partial truth (arguably) is not truth at all, as something that was slightly contaminated is no longer pure.
Furthermore, like impurity, deceit is contagious: once people in the system can get away with “perfect crimes”, which are not found out, other people may start doing so as well, and a new norm is created. This idea is expressed, for example, in the modern term “corruption”, also a term of pollution. Corruption is concealed and deceitful: above surface, in the public eye, all is according to the rules. The danger of deceit is in the discrepancy between revealed and hidden, between public and private. Robin Osborne (2011) has remarked that an essential characteristic of pollution of the religious kind is that it cannot be seen, but only discerned and made visible by those who have the ability or the authority to do so. The act of purification is therefore one of revelation, of giving a name to a condition that was until then unknown to the public. This is also true of deceit and corruption: the act of bringing it to light is an act of purification. Hiddenness leads to contagion, both in the case of impurity and in the case of deceit: the spread of pollution or crime in society is facilitated by the fact that it is not known to the public. Clear sight, knowledge, and discernment dispel both deceit and impurity. These explanations suggest that the link between deceit and impurity is not that deceit creates impurity, as do murder or sexual sin, but rather that both of them are meta-ethical categories that work similarly. Both are contagious and require discernment to remove. Both are political, bolstering authority structures by appealing to an epistemology of nature.
The pollution of financial deceit is clearly articulated in the Qumran Temple Scroll (51.12–15). Immediately after a general injunction on the importance of distinguishing the pure from the impure, the scroll continues with a section on the honesty of judges: they should “not accept a bribe, and not pervert justice, because the bribe perverts justice, and distorts the words of the just person, and blinds the eyes of the wise, and causes great guilt, and defiles the House with the wickedness of sin”. Lines 12–14 are a citation of Deuteronomy 16.19, but line 15, describing bribery as a defilement is an innovation of the Temple Scroll, derived from this same connection made in other verses as seen above.16 As in Deuteronomy, however, the Temple Scroll is speaking specifically of financial not doctrinal deceit.
Doctrinal deceit is typically associated in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple literature with false prophecy and idolatry. Idolatry is not only a matter of wrong religious practice but of the worship of the wrong divinities, that is, of misplaced loyalties, a result of falsehood or deception.17 Indeed, it is the deceit of Judea that is seen as especially heinous by Jeremiah (3.6–11) compared to the sinful but forthright Israel. The impurity of idolatry is frequently described in sexual terms, such as comparing idolatry with harlotry or adultery, themselves sins commonly described with terms of impurity. False prophets are occasionally accused of idolatry (Jer. 2:8, 23:13), as well as of lack of authority and speaking of falsehood (Arena 2020, pp. 1–16). These accusations, however, are rarely paired in the Hebrew Bible with accusations of impurity. An important exception is Zechariah 13:1–3, which I shall discuss shortly. Thus, the Hebrew Bible contains many texts which a reader could easily combine to form a new discourse, that of doctrinal deceit as impurity.
While the mixing of financial and social deceit with sins such as murder is already found in Proverbs, the blending of different types of deceit appears to be a product of Second Temple literature. James Barr (1990, p. 311) has observed that “the vocabulary of deceit seems to have been increasingly prominent in the religious language of the later [i.e., late Second Temple] period”. One of the examples for this is the transformation of the meaning of Hebrew root חנף. While in the Bible the main meaning of the verb form is “to pollute”, in Mishnaic Hebrew it means “to flatter”. The transformation can be seen during the Second Temple Period. Barr has shown that while in the LXX the translation of חנף is usually with terms of impiety or pollution (except for one instance of translation as deceit, dolos, in LXX Job 13.16), in later Greek translators Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion it is translated by hypokrisis (meaning by this period “hypocritical”; see TLNT 3.406–13; TDNT 8.566–8). Furthermore, in some Dead Sea Scrolls, חנף is used in a similar meaning to the Hebrew Bible, while in others (notably 1QS 4.10), it is arrayed with terms of deceit. This semantic transformation has been noted by many scholars, but they have not noted its ramifications: speakers of Hebrew in this period must have seen some connection between pollution and deceit and/or flattery.
A clear connection between doctrinal and financial deceit appears to be made for the first time in Jubilees. A section known as the “Jubilees Apocalypse” (Kugel 1994; Kister 1987), describing the sins of an evil future generation, concludes with sins of deceit:
All of them will elevate themselves (for the purpose of) cheating and through wealth so that one takes everything that belongs to another. They will mention the great name but neither truly nor rightly. They will defile the holy of holies with the impure corruption of their contamination
(Jub. 23.21, trans. Vanderkam 1989, p. 146).
The deceit mentioned is clearly linked to the creation of illegal wealth, while pronouncing the name of God “not in truth” (citing Is. 48.1) appears to be an issue of doctrinal falsehood. Both of these together create pollution and corruption. In Qumran, an intimate link is made between doctrinal falsehood and sexual impurity, using biblical tropes for describing idolatry, but against opponents who are clearly not idolaters. Thus, Pesher Nahum glosses a verse on a prostitute (Nah. 3.4) as follows:
On account of the many fornications of the prostitute, full of elegance and mistress of enchantment, who misled nations with her fornications and clans with her [enchant]ment. Blank [Its] interpretation [con]cerns those who misdirect Ephraim, who with their fraudulent teaching and lying tongue and perfidious lip misdirect many; kings, princes, priests and people together with the proselyte attached to them. Cities and clans will perish through their advice, n[o]bles and lea[ders] will fall [due to the fero]city of their tongues
The pesher thus links the defilement of sexual sins with the deceit and falsehood of the sect’s opponents.
Psalms of Solomon 4, usually dated to the second half of the first century BCE and extant in Greek and Syriac, includes strong invective against an unidentified individual, labeled “wicked” or “profane” (bebelos; רשיעא) at the beginning of the poem (Pouchelle 2016). This person “sits in the synagogue of the righteous” but “his heart is far from God” (v. 1). He is a “hypocrite” who is guilty of many sins: seducing women in secret (vv. 4–5), lying on oath (v. 4), speaking the law deceitfully (v. 8), “his words are deceptive for the practice of lawless desire” (v. 12). The poem concludes with a series of curses on this person, which call for his physical and social destruction (v. 19). The character of deception in this case is manifold, including both financial or legal issues (suggested by lying on oath and the destruction of houses) and sexual sins (reiterated several times). The horror from lawless, slanderous, and deceitful tongues returns in Psalm 12, again with a call to distance such people from the pious and to bring dishonor upon them. The author thus calls to mark such people as morally impure and accordingly to distance them from the righteous. Beyond the label of bebelos in v. 1, traditional impurity terms are not used in Psalm 4 or 12. Nevertheless, these texts demonstrate the mixing of accusations of sexual and financial deceit.

3.2. Bodily Locations

A further dimension through which impurity discourse is attached to deceit is its reification by linking to specific body sites (Luther 2015, pp. 281–342). The Bible expresses the idea of the impurity of deceit by focusing on the body organs of the deceitful person. As in the expression “clean of hands and pure of heart”, the problem with deceit is that the heart, the hands, and the mouth do not agree. The clean hands and pure heart do not simply connote a person who is morally pure both outside and in; rather, the honest person is honest specifically because of the correlation between the inner and outer. Purity of heart is essential for cleanliness of hands. Furthermore, as in murder, where defilement is frequently imagined as reified in the blood of the murdered, here too the stolen money or evil thoughts of deceit may be imagined as sticking to the hands and heart, respectively. Thus, each of these three members—hands, mouth, and heart—can play a part in the illustration of the person as impure. While the hands are those touching the illicit wealth and the heart is the site of cognition and motivation, the mouth is the site of false and deceitful speech itself, explaining why both Proverbs and Psalms so frequently focus on the mouth as a dangerous site, potentially sinful and impure. The susceptibility of the mouth to impurity is enhanced by its function for eating, with food being a strong carrier of holiness and impurity. Focusing on the mouth brings to mind the metaphor of speech as food or drink, with the obvious implication that bad speech, including false speech, is as impure as impure food.18
Deceit is implemented through the mouth, but is created in the heart, seen as a seat of intention and thought. A pure heart is opposed to deceit in several Dead Sea texts, such as 4QBeatitudes (4Q525, frg. 2, col. II):
[Blessed is he who …] with a pure heart (לב טהור), and does not slander with his tongue (רגל על לשונו).
Blessed are those who adhere to her laws, and do not adhere to perverted (עולה) paths.
Bles[sed] are those who rejoice in her, and do not burst out in paths of folly.
Blessed are those who search for her with pure hands (בבור כפים), and do not pursue her with a treacherous [heart] (בלב מרמה).
An action of some type (sadly lost in the lacuna) with a pure heart is opposed to slander in the first extant verse.19 This is clearly an adaptation of Psalms 15.2–3: “who speak truth in their heart; who do not slander with their tongue”. Speaking truth in the heart was glossed as having a pure heart, showing the immediate connection between purity and truth for this author, and its opposite—slander. This opposition is continued when speaking of the searching for wisdom with pure hands as opposed to a treacherous heart, adapting both Job 9.30 and Psalms 24. The purity of both interior and exterior organs is the opposite of deceit and treachery. Here, deceit clearly concerns the search for wisdom or torah rather than business dealings.
Purity of heart is also linked to truth in the Aramaic Testament of Qahat. The patriarch instructs his descendants to
be holy and pure from every manner of mingling, grasping the truth and walking in uprightness, not with a double heart but with a pure heart and with a truthful and good spirit (והוא קדישין ודכין מן כל [ער]ברוב ואחדין בקושטא ואזלין בישירותא {כל}ולא בלבב ולבב לבן בלבב דכא וברוח קשיטא וטבה).
The impure heart’s sins are not detailed, but it is described as a “double heart”, i.e., that of a person who has a double intention in his actions or is deceitful and speaks with deceit as well (see Ps. 12.3). Similarly, a strong characterization of deceit and falsehood as impurity appears at the very end of the extant portion of the Community Scroll, which mentions the heart, mouth, tongue, and lips as sites of deception and the place of “foolishness or wicked deceptions” (נבלות וכחש עוון); “abominations” (שקוצים); “sophistries or lies” (ומרמות כזבים); “worthless words, unclean things and plotting” (נדות ונפתלות).
Looking ahead to later development in Jewish writings, some Rabbis interpreted ”leprosy” (צרעת), described as both an illness and a ritual defilement in Leviticus 13–14, as a punishment for both gossip and slander (t. Negai’m 6.7; Sifra Metzora 5.7–8; Klawans 2000, pp. 99–103; Jacobowitz 2010; Zuckier 2022). While in the second century this interpretation is limited to a small number of texts, in later (third-fifth) century texts (Lev. Rab. 16.1–6, b. Arak. 15b), it is much expanded, and, moreover, linked to verses such as Proverbs 6.16–19, cited above. This interpretation focuses deceit defilement on social and even mundane speech, rather than on doctrinal deceit. Its innovation is in explicitly linking deceit not only to the loci of mouth, tongue, and heart, as in the earlier sources discussed here, but also to the skin, the most exhibited and scrutinized part of the body.

3.3. Demons and Spirits

In the Greek texts seen in the first section, wrong opinions about the gods and deviant religious practices are described with impurity discourse. In the Hebrew Bible, these are associated especially with false prophecy and sometimes linked to idolatry. Divinization is labeled as an impure practice already in Leviticus: “Do not turn to ovot and id’onim (ghosts and divinizers); do not seek them out to be defiled by them” (Lev. 19.31; cf. 1 Sam. 15.23; Dan. 11.31–32.). This label is usually seen as a particular expression of the general impurity of idolatry, and divination is thus seen a type of idolatry. Although a link between idolatry and divination or prophecy doubtless exists, it requires a fuller explanation. The locus classicus for this link is Zechariah 13.1–3:
On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, [to cleanse them] from sin and impurity. On that day, says the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit. And if any prophets appear again, their fathers and mothers who bore them will say to them, “You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the Lord”.
The expression “unclean spirit” occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible, rendering its interpretation difficult (Lange 2003). It is likely, however, that the “unclean spirit” of verse 3 is linked to the idolatry appearing in vv. 2 and 4; the unclean spirit animates the prophets of other gods, or idols. This is easily understood in light of the general biblical trope of foreign deities as impure. Closing the circle is the link made between impurity of idolatry and deceit: the idolatrous prophets are deceitful, speaking “lies in the name of the Lord” (compare Ez. 14:1–11). The Septuagint, as well as the Aramaic targum, glosses these prophets as “deceitful” or “false” prophets. This description of the “impure spirit” had a significant influence on subsequent literature.
Ben Sira has a strong emphasis on sins of the tongue: lying, slandering, and gossiping, and continues the line from the book of Proverbs of describing these as impurity: “A lie is an ugly blot on a person…. A liar’s way leads to disgrace, and his shame is ever with him” (20.24–26; see Di Lella 2008; Okoye 1995). This extends to the impurity of divination as well. Ben Sira comments on deceitful dreams:
  • As one who catches at a shadow and pursues the wind, so is anyone who believes in dreams.
  • What is seen in dreams is but a reflection, the likeness of a face looking at itself.
  • Of an impure thing what can be pure? And of a false thing what will be true?
  • Divinations and omens and dreams are unreal, and like a woman in labor, the mind has fantasies.
  • (34.4; cf. 51.5)
The dream is false and deceitful, and therefore it is compared to the impure; a pure thing cannot come from the impure, presumably because impurity is contagious. It is not said here that divinatory dreams are impure, as if they are tainted by the impurity of idolatry; rather, falsehood and impurity work in similar ways. This supports the hypothesis argued above, that the reason that deceit is frequently described as impure is the similarity in their mechanism of these two phenomena.
Qumran literature frequently identifies its rivals and those opposing the sect by labelling them as deceitful (Pietersen 2005; Pouchelle 2016; Collins 2009). The treatise of two spirits in the Rule of the Community 4.21, for example, opposes the “spirit of truth” to the “spirit of עול”. Here, the opposition to truth indicates that עול means something like “falsehood” or “deceit”; however, elsewhere the meaning appears more generally evil. The opponents of the Qumran sect are described as infused and led astray by this spirit of deceit.
Another example is the Community Scroll’s description of the occurrences of the eschaton (1QS 4.19–24):
Then truth shall rise up forever (in) the world, for it has been defiled in paths of wickedness during the dominion of injustice until the time appointed for the judgment decided. Then God will refine, with his truth, all man’s deeds, and will purify for himself the structure of man, ripping out all spirit of injustice from the innermost part of his flesh, and cleansing him with the spirit of holiness from every wicked deeds. He will sprinkle over him the spirit of truth like lustral water (in order to cleanse him) from all the abhorrences of deceit and (from) the defilement of the unclean spirit, in order to instruct the upright ones with knowledge of the Most High… There will be no more injustice and all the deeds of trickery will be a dishonor
Injustice and deceit are here used together, and both are described as pollutions and linked to evil spirits.

3.4. Sophists and Magicians

The treatment of deceit in Philo of Alexandria encompasses several dimensions of this issue. The phrase “guilelessness and purity” is found in his works in various contexts, used in a way that implies that he saw these terms as equivalent (Virt. 62; Deus. 22; Ebr. 50; Somn. 218; Spec. 2.258; Decal. 4.161; Decal. 1.63; Post. 133). Terms of purity describe a person who speaks without flattery and hypocrisy, “in a genuine honest spirit of truth to speak with freedom what is dictated by a clear conscience, is a line of conduct suited to those who are nobly born” (Prob. 99).
As with other Platonists, Philo frequently speaks of the passions of the body that defile the soul; these passions try to allure the soul and deceive it into following them (Her. 108–110, 185–86; Ebr. 46–50). As with other Greek writers of the period, and as seen above, a more specific site for falsehood as defilement is the sophist. Philo frequently returns to the image of sophistry, deceitful rhetoric, and wrong theological views as defilement. Concerning the “genuine votaries of philosophy”, he says that
they have opened up a new pathway… for studying and discerning truths, and have brought to light the ideal forms which none of the unclean may touch. By unclean I mean all those who, without ever tasting education at all, or else having received it in a crooked and distorted form, have changed the stamp of wisdom’s beauty into the ugliness of sophistry (κάλλος τὸ σοφίας εἰς τὸ σοφιστείας αἶσχος μεταχαράξαντες).
The body is an important factor in the creation and propagation of this sophistry:
when the mind is ministering to God in purity (νοῦς … καθαρῶς λειτουργεῖ θεῷ), it is not human, but divine… Most rightly, then, is it said, [concerning Abraham] “He led him out outside”, outside of the prison-houses of the body, of the lairs where the senses lurk, of the sophistries of deceitful word and thought (ἀπατεῶνα λόγον σοφιστειῶν)
(Her. 84).
Philo compares sophists who “adulterate the truth” (Agr. 37) to pigs, which are impure according to Leviticus because they divide the hoof, but do not chew the cud. Though they are clever and have the power “to distinguish and discriminate in each case”, they are undermined “by the indulgence of their passions” (Agr. 32). Furthermore, they are directly compared to magicians and soothsayers. Joseph’s robe of many colors was the robe of statecraft,
a robe richly variegated, containing but a most meagre admixture of truth, but many large portions of false, probable, plausible, conjectural matter, out of which sprang up all the sophists of Egypt, augurs, ventriloquists, soothsayers, proficient in decoying, charming, and bewitching (οἱ Aἰγύπτου πάντες ἀνέβλαστον σοφισταί, οἰωνομάντεις, ἐγγαστρίμυθοι, τερατοσκόποι, δεινοὶ παλεῦσαι καὶ κατεπᾷσαι καὶ γοητεῦσαι), whose insidious artifices it is no easy task to escape.
Moses, the “purest mind” (νοῦς ὁ καθαρώτατος), is opposed to the sophists of Egypt, who “mimic and debase this authentic coin” (μιμηλάζοντες … καὶ παρακόπτοντες τὸ δόκιμον νόμισμα; Mut. 207–8). Similar to the sophists are diviners and false prophets, “who practice an art which is in reality a corruption of art, a counterfeit of the divine and prophetic possession” (Spec. 4.48). Sorcerers and poisoners are especially dangerous, “polluted in hand and mind” (χερσί καὶ γνώμαις εναγείς), and should be immediately executed because they plot secretly and in cunning (Spec. 3.92–94).
Philo’s contribution on this issue is significant not only due to its volume but especially because it demonstrates how the images of the sophist and of the sorcerer, so significant for marking out intellectual enemies in Greek philosophy and rhetoric, were integrated into Greek biblical interpretation in the late Second Temple Period.

4. Early Christian Texts

Many early Christian texts feature and weaponize discourses of deceit impurity, most prominently 2 Peter, Jude, Titus, and 1 Timothy (Pietersen 1997; Frey 2010; Lockett 2008a; Batten 2014). These texts feature many of the characteristics of deceit impurity seen in the late Second Temple texts: the mixing of different types of sins seen as impure and their juxtaposition with deceit (Eph. 5.3–5; 2 Pet. 2.14; Didache 2.1–5; Rev. 4.14–15); joining images from financial and social with doctrinal deceit (Tit. 1.11, 2 Pet. 2.3); highlighting the dangers of deceit impurity by pinpointing its location in the body (Rom. 3.13–16; Jas. 1.26–27, 3.1–8; 1 Clem. 15; Didache 2.4; Baker 1995; Luther 2015, 2016), its interactions with demons and spirits (Acts 5.3; 1 Tim. 4.1–3; Just. Dial. 7, 82; Wahlen 2004; Reed 2004), as well as the use of the traditional evil image of the sophist and the magician to talk about deceit (Burge 2021; Stratton 2007).22 The intimate connection between demons, magic, and heresy was to have an impressive career, for example in the person of Simon Magus (Knust 2007). Early Christian deceit impurity discourses emphasize additional dimensions: opposing the inside and outside of body and the community; using images of true vision and discernment; and ritualization of the discourses of deceit impurity, which hitherto had been generally limited to writing and speech rather than community rituals.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew reports Jesus as saying, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God” (Matt. 5.8): this is clearly an adaptation of Psalms 15 discussed above. It is emphasized that true, divine knowledge does not come from external purity—i.e., purity which is visible to others through rituals—but through invisible purity; or, in other words, that seeing God is possible only for those who possess purity of a type that is not seen by others. The same point is made in the polemic of Mark 7 and Matthew 15 against rituals of purification, in which they claim that true defilement comes from the “thoughts of the heart” and not from external foods coming through the mouth.23 Although deceit is not an explicit issue here, the point is that the source of defilement is from within the person, and therefore the reason for defilement is not so much the criminal action as the thought behind it. Thus, the issue is not only the interiorization of purity and pollution but its invisibility from the eyes of others.
Images of impurity highlight the specific dangers of wrong opinions and of deception: they are contagious like impurity, spreading in society; moreover, they are invisible until discerned by an expert, that is, the author. 2 Peter 2.22 compares his opponents to dogs and sows, proverbial impure animals. Even if they try to wash off their impurity, they cannot do so because it is essential to them: it comes from their interior essence, not from some external stuff such as mud. Similarly, the false teachers, even though they have been baptized and thus purified, were purified only externally. Even baptism, an authoritative ritual, cannot purify someone who is not pure from the inside. Thus, impurity discourse here serves to demonstrate the deceptive nature of the rival group. Matthew makes a similar point when it cites Jesus as saying that the Pharisees are whitewashed tombs, pure from the outside but defiled from the inside (Matt. 23:27–28; Oakley 1985; Neyrey 2007). Their pollution is the result both of their putative evil behavior and of their hiding this behavior. The writer tries to legitimate this expulsion by turning his opponents inside out—first, by creating and underlining the distinction between their insides and outsides, and then, by rendering their supposed evil, polluted insides visible and aligning them with the out-group, the polluted external world. Impurity discourse is useful for this because of its focus on distinctions between inside and outside and on the question of visibility. The opponents are, on the outside, indistinguishable from the group itself; wisdom and knowledge are needed to reveal their true wicked face—this is why they are so dangerous, perhaps more so than the external enemies. This is the same situation as impurity: it cannot be discerned by external means, but only by the person him- or herself or by an expert. Heresy is described as impurity is the functional and structural similarity between them.
The radical innovation of the early Christians was the realization of the discourse of deceit impurity in a ritual, baptism. Deceit-as-impurity discourse was at the foundation of the interpretation of baptism and its meaning in the eyes of Christian writers. Indeed, already, Greek rituals, especially from the world of the mysteries, were considered to teach true knowledge and thus to dispel falsehood (Alvar Ezquerra and Gordon 2008, pp. 143–204; Graf 2010). However, all the elements seen above linking deception and impurity made baptism a natural candidate for rejecting demonic deception, leading to knowledge and purifying all at once. The earliest lengthy description and explanation of baptism coming from a Christian author, that of Justin Martyr, duly highlights these points (1 Apol. 61):
Since at our birth we were born without our own knowledge or choice, by our parents coming together, and were brought up in bad habits and wicked training; in order that we may not remain the children of necessity and of ignorance, but may become the children of choice and knowledge [we are baptized]… And this washing is called illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings.
Baptism, for Justin, is not only an initiatory ritual allowing a person to enter the Christian community, but a transformative action in which ignorance, a result of evil education, is rejected and expelled from a person’s interior. These ideas were echoed by other thinkers, such as Clement of Alexandria, who also follows Valentinian notions of the exorcism of demons in baptism (Leeper 1990; Blidstein 2017, pp. 120–34). Ignorance is not simply a lack, but a result of the deceptive action of demons (Knust 2007). Baptism illuminates the initiates’ interior but also marks them externally, in the eyes of the community. The use of the term “illumination” to describe this process further elicits images of truth versus falsehood from Greek philosophy; however, as opposed to philosophy and biblical discussion, baptism goes beyond teaching and reading to communal, material action.

5. Conclusions

The discourse of deceit as impurity, which was deeply influential for the understanding of heresy and other deviant doctrines in the medieval period, has its roots in texts as early as the Hebrew Bible and early Greek poetry. Nevertheless, the crystallization of the discourse in the form seen in late Second Temple Judaism and early Christianity, with an emphasis on the demonic and the inner and outer dimensions of the body, was not present in the earlier sources and was certainly not inevitable. Its power was in reifying doctrinal difference as doctrinal deceit, making it not only a matter of thought and speech, but a visceral, corporeal entity. The impurity of deceit, I have argued, is not only a matter of seeing deceit as similar to other defiling sins such as incest or murder, but also highlighting the structural similarities between purity and truth, on the one hand, and defilement and falsehood, on the other.


This research was funded by the University of Haifa.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Not applicable.


I thank the participants of several forums where I presented ideas from this paper for their comments: the conference on Purity and Authority in Ancient Mediterranean Religions, University of Münster; the Historical Community Colloquium, University of Haifa; the Tenth Schwerte Qumran Conference, Schwerte, Germany; the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies study group on Purity and Pollution; and the International Medieval Congress, Leeds.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflict of interest.


For the uses of language of pollution in late ancient invective and polemic, see (Leyerle 2009; Lennon 2010, 2014; Muehlberger 2015); for the Middle Ages, see (Müller 2017; Cuffel 2007; MacEvitt 2015); for sexual pollution imagery specifically, see (Knust 2006).
For discussion of deceit and accusations of related practices and attitudes such as hypocrisy, flattery, slander, and false prophecy in antiquity, see (Turner et al. 2010; Simón et al. 2014). For some discussion of deceit and impurity, see (Klawans 2000; Horbury 1982); for the functions and rhetorics of prohibitions or accusations of deceit, see (Given 2001).
Theog. 87–92; translation and discussion in (Petrovic and Petrovic 2016, pp. 115–23).
Cf. Aesch. Ag. 222–7, with (Petrovic and Petrovic 2016, pp. 136–39), who argue that in this passage pollution is created by Agamemnon’s “intentional deceptiveness” in deciding to sacrifice Iphigenia and in his claim that this sacrifice is themis, religiously correct; in Aesch. Supp. 750–1, the Aegyptides who wish to abduct and marry the Danaids are said to have “treacherous intentions in their impure minds”.
E.g., Dio Chrys. Or. 77/78.40; Jos. Bell. 6.48; Epict. Diss. 4.40; Porph. Marc. 13–15.
E.g., Philo Ebr. 46, Leg. 3.64, Quis rerum 185; Authoritative Teaching 31; Plotinus Enn. 1.8.
Or. 32.11. for the comparison of this passage with Christian literature, see (Malherbe 1989; Given 2001, pp. 13–15).
Cf. I.Cret. I 23, with commentary in (Tzifopoulos 2010).
Porph. De abst. 2.19.5 = Clem. Al. Strom. 5.1.13 for other juxtapositions of hosios and moral purity language, see Empedocles, Fr. B 3.1–5 DK; for hosios and ritual purity, see (Peels 2015, pp. 168–206).
Clu. 194; see (Gordon 2008). For the dirtiness of witches cf. Luc. Bell. 6.624–626. For the strong link between pollution and Hekate, the goddess most associated with witchcraft, see (Johnston 1991). Already in fourth-century Athens there were trials against individuals who used drugs or charms against others, and these could be described as “dirty”: see [Dem.] Against Aristogeiton, 79: “τὴν μιαρὰν… φαρμακίδα (the filthy sorceress)”; for the character of these trials, see (Collins 2001; Eidinow 2010). For magic as deceptive, (Collins 2001), who argues that the very terms used to describe the actions of “witches” or “magicians” (βασκαίνειν, μαγγανεύειν) could have a double meaning of “charm” and “deceive”, as does γόης itself; see LSJ s.v., Morb. sacr. 1.10 (religious experts who pretend that they are pious and knowledgable, and use the divinity as a pretext for their ignorance), and Ael. NA 2.14, comparing a witch to a chameleon.
For this wordplay of speech versus animal tongues, see Life of Aesop 55.
This section does not discuss the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs due to their unclear dating and composition. However, these texts also include many of the discourses discussed here; see Test. Naph. 1.23, Test. Benj. 6.1–6, Test. Jud. 19.1–20.5.
See Prov. 3.32, 8.7, 11.1, 12.22–27, 16.11–13, 17.15, 20.10, 20.23, 21.27, 26.22–28. (Fox 2000, p. 167): “In Proverbs, toʿebah is used particularly in reference to offenses in speech: falsity in thought or words”. See also (Clements 1996). For a refraction of this trope in later wisdom literature, see Wisd. 1.3–11.
See also Job 16.17, 31.5–7 and Is. 33.15 for a connection between hands, bribery, and impurity; Gen. 20.5 for clean heart and hand as simply honest.
This same idea is made also in Rabbinic sources; see Klawans (2000, pp. 50–51, 122–24).
Am emphasis that becomes more pronounced in Second Temple literature from Jubilees to Philo; see (Miller 2004; Horbury 1982; Stuckenbruck 2007, pp. 398–99).
For this metaphor in the Bible, see Deut. 8.3; Job 12.11; Prov. 18.2; Ps. 34.9; Ez. 3; Matt. 4.4; 1 Cor. 3.1–3; (Warren 2017; Goering 2016). It is prevalent also in Roman culture; see, e.g., Epict. Diss. 3.21; (Short 2009, 2013). And compare the Epistle of Aristeas 165, on the impure weasel that “conceives through the ear and gives birth through the mouth”. As an anonymous reader of this article has pointed out, Aristeas interprets the weasel as a metaphor for informers, who are not deceitful but slanderous.
For the heart in the Dead Sea Scrolls, see (Stuckenbruck 2011); for body parts in purity discourses in the Scrolls, (Kister 2010).
Prob. 3. For sophists in Philo, see (Winter 1997; Van Kooten 2008).
Somn. 219–20. Cf. Somn.194–205; Det. 38–39.
The preoccupation with dishonesty or non-homogeneity as linked to impurity is expressed in another trope of Second Temple and early Christian literature, that of the dipsychos, or person who is double in spirit or heart. Although explicit description of dipsychia as defilement is unusual, it is frequently opposed to having a pure heart, and the dipsychoi are exhorted to purify their hearts from doubt and doubleness. See Jas. 4.7–9; Psalms of Thomas 16; Hermas, Vis. 2.2.4, 3.2.2; Sim. 8.11.3, Mand. 9.4; 1 Clem. 60.2; 2 Clem. 11; Clem. Al. Strom. 6.14; (Seitz 1947; Porter 1990).
Recent research had identified the mouth as the site of moral disgust: Chapman et al. (2009). Michael Penn (2005) has discussed the reflection of the mouth as a purity nexus in early Christian kissing rituals. This idea continued in early Christian writers, who frequently interpreted the biblical food laws allowing only the eating of ruminates as instructing Christians to stay away from heretics or false teachings (Iren. Haer. 5.8.3; Clem. Al. Paed. 3.11.76; Orig. Hom. Lev. 7.5.2, Comm. Matt. 11.12).


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Blidstein, M. Impure Mouths and Defiled Hearts: The Development of Deceit Impurity in Second Temple Judaism. Religions 2022, 13, 678.

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