Friday, March 13, 2015

Fact-Checking the Torah -- a Touch of Mishnah

I have been exploding urban legends about women being treated worse than men when it comes to tamut and socio-economic facets.  What I’m going to talk about next comes from Mishnah Kiddushin 4:1.
Mishnah Kiddushin 4:1 lists the ten classes of Jews that returned from the Babylonian captivity: Priests, Levites, Israelites, chalal (more on this in a moment), descendants of freed K’naani avadim, converts, mamzers, descendants of the Gibeonites (see Joshua 9:3-27), orphans, and children picked up in the marketplace of a Jewish quarter.
This chapter of Mishnah is about who is allowed to marry whom.  Leviticus 21:6 and 14 prohibit marriages between Levites or priests, and widows or divorcees.   If such a marriage does take place, the son is a chalal and the daughter is a chalalah.  The sons are prohibited from Temple service.
BUT the chalalah who is a virgin and not a widow or divorcee can marry a priest or Levite.
Not only that, but a convert or descendant of a freed K’naani slave can marry a chalal or chalalah, and the child of that marriage can marry a Levite, and the granddaughter of the Levite can marry a priest.
A mamzer is the child of two people who by Jewish law are prohibited from marrying.  This includes incest, but it also includes the child of a woman whose husband was reported dead in a foreign country; if she marries without permission of the court, her child from the new marriage is a mamzer.  The mamzer, according to Deuteronomy 23:3, is excluded from the congregation for ten generations, but according to Mishnah Kiddushin 13:12, can make judicious marriages for children whose descendants can work their way into positions from which their daughters can marry priests.
Here’s the urban legend part.  There are claims that the program of extermination given in Torah actually came to pass.  The Bible and Mishnah say something quite different.  Joshua 12 lists 31 cities that were destroyed but also says there were refugees who escaped; Joshua 18-23 lists over 200 cities that continued to exist and in which the Israelites lived during the time of Joshua, Judges, and so on.  Those who claim that the Ingress was followed by genocide are contradicted by the Bible.
Second, Mishnah shows that the Israelites and Jews had bondsmen who were K’naani.  The men in this class became nominal Jews while they were bonded, were freed from the bond, and remained among the Jews at the time of the Babylonian Captivity in the 500s BCE (I will show later that this represents a millennium of Israel and K’naan living side by side).  Two generations later during the Return, the descendants of these people still identified more with their K’naani ancestors than with the Jewish ones.
Third, archaeology shows that sites identified as part of the Israelite inheritance disposed of by Joshua, existed long before the Ingress and continued to exist after the Ingress instead of being destroyed. 
Genocide at the point of the Ingress is an urban legend that doesn’t stand up under scrutiny of the Bible, the Mishnah, or archaeology in the Holy Land.

I have a little surprise in the next lesson.  Don't let it keep you awake at night.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights  Reserved

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