Not Defiling the Hands

From: Clayton Bartholomew (
Date: Sat Jun 28 1997 - 07:50:11 EDT

Acts 5:38 has a variant (D) which includes the expression MH MIANANTES TAS
CEIRAS “not defiling the hands” . I could not find any expression like this in the
rest of the NT. There is a parallel in Mat. 15:2 talking about the disciples
washing their hands before they eat. The expression has an obvious connection
to OT purification laws.

Now in the context of Acts 5:38 it is fairly obvious that Gamaliel is talking
about shedding of blood and thus defiling the hands. There really is no difficulty
in this context. But what are some of the more subtle associations connected
with this expression? I remember reading about the dispute over the canonicity
of Ecclesiastes, that a certain Rabbi concluded that Ecclesiastes “defiled the
hands.” To me this is enigmatic. Why would a canonical book “defiled the

Does anyone have any insight on what MH MIANANTES TAS CEIRAS might have
meant to a first century Jew?

Clay Bartholomew
Three Tree Point

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