The myth of the 'ôsār in Second Temple-period ritual baths: An anachronistic interpretation of a modern-era innovation

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Abstract

The first installation to be identified as an ancient Jewish ritual bath (miqweh) was discovered by Yigael Yadin at Masada in 1964, and consisted of a stepped pool connected to an adjacent pool via a hole in the wall shared by the two installations. Yadin identified one installation as the immersion pool of the miqweh, and the second as an 'ôsār (lit. 'reservoir'), used to ritually purify the water in the immersion pool. Yadin's explanation regarding the functioning of this double-pool ritual bath has gone unchallenged since it was first suggested half a century ago, and set the stage for future identifications of 'ôsār installations found adjacent to other Second Temple-period ritual baths. This article argues that the 'ôsār is an innovation of the modern period, and that the commonly accepted view that an 'ôsār was employed in ritual baths dating to as early as the Second Temple period is no more than an unqualified anachronism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-283
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Jewish Studies
Volume65
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014

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