Death, disease and discharge of bodily fluids. What do these have in common? Not only can they be described as “gross” or “creepy,” they can render a person ritually impure according to Biblical law. They are also the subject of a paper by Yitzhaq Feder of Haifa University that won the 2012 David Noel Freedman Award for Excellence and Creativity in Hebrew Bible Scholarship. Feder’s paper, “Between Contagion and Cognition: Bodily Experience and the Conceptualization of Pollution in the Hebrew Bible,” examines the psychological and historical foundations of conceptions of impurity in ancient Israel and its relation to ancient notions of disease.
Feder is a 2011–2012 fellow at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem and recipient of the Biblical Archaeology Society’s 2011 Joseph Aviram Fellowship, which brings Israeli scholars to the U.S. to attend professional conferences. His book, Blood Expiation in Hittite and Biblical Ritual: Origins, Context and Meaning, was recently published by the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL).