Re: Not Defiling the Hands

From: Edgar Krentz (
Date: Mon Jun 30 1997 - 11:54:04 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
>in this context. But what are some of the more subtle associations connected
>with this expression? I remember reading about the dispute over the
>of Ecclesiastes, that a certain Rabbi concluded that Ecclesiastes "defiled
>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?

One way of describing the Torah was to say that it was a book "that defiled
the hands," i.e. such a holy thing demonstrated the impurity of what held
it. In context this might mean in Acts that one should not oppose
Christians hastily, since if it is a movement aapproved by God, it would
demonstrate the impurity of those who oppose them.

I hope this has some relevance to your question.

* Edgar Krentz, Prof. of New Testament *
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