The polemic regarding skin disease in 4QMMT

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This article deals with a polemic in 4QMMT pertaining to the skin disease described by the biblical term , typically (though not accurately) translated as "leprosy." In particular, the authors of 4QMMT accuse their opponents of permitting "lepers" into the house, thereby defiling the pure food. This article identifies this lenient view, attacked by 4QMMT, with a rabbinic midrash of Lev 14:8 found in the Sifra. Instead of banning the "leper" from his tent during his purificatory period, as the simple reading of the biblical source would demand, this midrash forbids him from sexual relations. After evaluating the exegetical difficulties and historical implications of this understanding of the midrash, the article attempts to explain changing rabbinic attitudes towards this skin disease in the late tannaitic and early amoraitic periods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55-70
Number of pages16
JournalDead Sea Discoveries
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012


  • 4QMMT
  • leprosy
  • medical background
  • rabbinic leniency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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