Blood and Bodies
Purity and Covenant in Jewish and Christian History
Keywords:blood, covenant, sacrifice, menstruation, feminist theology
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.
Attridge, Harold W. 2003. “Hebrews, Epistle to the.” In New Catholic Encyclopedia. Second edition, Volume 6. Detroit, MI: Gale.
Berger, Teresa. 2011. Gender Differences and the Making of Liturgical History: Lifting a Veil on Liturgy’s Past. Surrey, UK: Ashgate.
Biale, David. 2007. Blood and Belief: The Circulation of a Symbol between Jews and Christians. Berkeley: University of California Press. https://doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520253049.001.0001
Biale, Rachel. 1984. Women & Jewish Law: An Exploration of Women’s Issues in Halakhic Sources. New York: Schocken.
Boustan, Ra’anan S. and Annette Yoshiko Reed. 2008. “Introduction to Theme-Issue: Blood and the Boundaries of Jewish and Christian Identities in Late Antiquity.” Henoch 2: 229–242.
Branham, Joan R. 1997. “Blood in Flux: Sanctity at Issue.” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 31(Spring): 53–70. https://doi.org/10.1086/RESv31n1ms20166965
Brown, Peter. 1988. The Body and Society: Men, Women, and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity. New York: Columbia.
Douglas, Mary. 1966, 1992. Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. Abingdon: Routledge.
Dresen, Grietje. 2003. “The Better Blood: On Sacrifice and the Churching of New Mothers in the Roman Catholic Tradition.” In Wholly Woman, Holy Blood: A Feminist Critique of Purity and Impurity. Edited by Kristin De Troyer, Judith A. Herbert, Judith Ann Johnson, and Anne-Marie Korte. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity.
Fonrobert, Charlotte Elisheva. 2000. Menstrual Purity: Rabbinic and Christian Reconstructions of Biblical Gender. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Gilders, William K. 2004. Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible: Meaning and Power. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
Hamilton, Catherine Sider. 2008. “‘His Blood Be Upon Us’: Innocent Blood and the Death of Jesus in Matthew.” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 70(1): 82–100.
Jay, Nancy. 1985. “Sacrifice as Remedy for Having Been Born of Woman.” In Immaculate and Powerful: The Female Image and Social Reality. Edited by Clarissa W. Atkinson, Constance H. Buchanan, and Margaret R. Miles, 283–209. Boston: Beacon.
———. 1992. Throughout Your Generations Forever: Sacrifice, Religion, and Paternity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Johnson, Judith Ann. 2003. “Shedding Blood: The Sanctifying Rite of Heroes.” In Wholly Woman, Holy Blood: A Feminist Critique of Purity and Impurity. Edited by Kristin De Troyer, Judith A. Herbert, Judith Ann Johnson, and Anne-Marie Korte, 189–222. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity.
Kellenback, Katharina von. 1994. Anti-Judaism in Feminist Religious Writings. Atlanta: Scholars.
Kieser, Doris M. 2017. “The Female Body in Catholic Theology: Menstruation, Reproduction, and Autonomy.” Horizons 44: 1–27. https://doi.org/10.1017/hor.2017.51
Klawans, Jonathan. 2006. Purity, Sacrifice and the Temple: Symbolism and Supersessionism in the Study of Ancient Judaism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Milgrom, Jacob. 1991. Leviticus 1–16: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (The Anchor Bible). New York: Doubleday.
O’Grady, Kathleen. 2003. “The Semantics of Taboo: Menstrual Prohibitions in the Hebrew Bible.” In Wholly Woman, Holy Blood: A Feminist Critique of Purity and Impurity. Edited by Kristin De Troyer, Judith A. Herbert, Judith Ann Johnson, and Anne-Marie Korte, 1–28. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity.
Peeler, Amy. 2013. “Desiring God: The Blood of the Covenant in Exodus 24.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 23(2): 187–205.
Schmid, Konrad. 2018. “How to Date the Book of Jeremiah: Combining Modifying Linguistic- and Profile-Based Approaches.” Vetus Testamentum 68, 444–462. https://doi.org/10.1163/15685330-12341306
Stackert, Jeffrey. 2017. “‘This Is the Blood of the Covenant’: The Markan Last Supper and the Elohistic Horeb Narrative.” Biblical Research 62: 48–60.
How to Cite
© Equinox Publishing Ltd.
For information regarding our Open Access policy, click here.