Prohibition on Contact with the Minim

Tosefta HullinT. Hullin 2 contains a series of traditions regarding minim, which in the opinion of the redactor referred to the Jewish Christians. Even if these traditions were actually applied to all kinds of minim, they portray something of the tannaitic attitude to the Jewish Christians evident in halakhic enactments.

T. Hullin 2 :2021 states:

If meat is found in the hand of a non-Jew, it is permitted to derive benefit from it. (If it is found) in the hand of a min, it is forbidden to derive benefit from it. That which comes forth from the house of a min, indeed it is the meat of sacrifices to the dead (idolatrous worship), for they said: The slaughtering of a min is idolatry; their bread is the bread of a Samaritan; their wine is the wine of (idolatrous) libation; their fruits are untithed; their books are the books of diviners, and their children are mamzerim. We do not sell to them, nor do we buy from them. We do not take from them, nor do we give to them, and we do not teach their sons a craft. We are not healed by them, neither healing of property nor healing of life.

First, it must be determined whether this text refers to Jewish Christians or to other minim. From some amoraic texts we gain the impression that the Rabbis accused the early Christians of sexual immorality.  It is difficult to determine if this claim was engendered by the communal life practiced in the early church or if it stemmed from the attitude of the Rabbis toward the status of Jesus in light of the Christian traditions regarding his birth. Our passage, in stating that the children of minim are mamzerim, the offspring of illegal unions, is, in fact, accusing the minim of sexual immorality. Such a claim may be easily understood in light of the Rabbinic accusation if the minim in question are early Jewish Christians.

The accusation that the books of the minim are magical books is most appropriate if the minim in question are Jewish Christians, since we know that the early Rabbinic tradition saw Jesus as a magical practitioner above all.  Further, only in reference to the Jewish Christians do we find a parallel to the accusation that their books were not sacred. We have seen in two texts discussed above that even their copies of the Bible were considered devoid of sanctity. Internal evidence in this text, then, seems to show that it refers to Jewish Christians. The two stories which follow our passage in T. Hullin 2:22-24 deal explicitly with cases of minim who were Jewish Christians. Clearly, then, the redactor, who grouped these traditions in the midst of a chapter dealing with the requirements of ritual slaughter, was of the opinion that the minim in our halakhic text were Jewish Christians. We must emphasize that even if minim here is a general term, the prescriptions of those halakhot would still have been applied by the tannaim to the early Jewish Christians.

As the tradition stands, it is redacted of two parts. First comes a statement of halakhah regarding meat in the hands of a non-Jew and that of a min. The formulator of this halakhah, in order to prove his point, appeals to an even earlier tannaitic statement regarding the minim which in itself contains the same ruling regarding the meat of a min. Then comes a second halakhah forbidding various kinds of commercial and social contact with minim.  In other words, there are at least two stages in the history of the tradition before us. As to the dating, little can be said with certainty from this passage alone except that it was probably formulated before the Bar Kokhba Revolt. The narratives that follow our text suggest a terminus ante quem of the end of the first century C.E.

We shall have to analyze the statements separately as regards their content. The opening clause concerns only meat and is appropriate to this tractate which deals with the laws of ritual slaughter of meat outside the Temple precincts. The law presumes that meat found in the possession of a non-Jew may have been slaughtered by him. Although forbidden to be eaten, such meat may be sold or benefit may be otherwise derived from it. It is, however, forbidden even to derive benefit from meat in the hands of a min. The reason for this stringent ruling is given. The meat, presumed to have been slaughtered by a min, is considered to be of the status of that slaughtered by an idolater. Meat presumed slaughtered by an idolater is not only forbidden to be eaten, but it is also forbidden to sell it or to otherwise derive benefit from it.

In the second part of our tradition, beginning “for they said” (mipene she’ameru), an entire list of restrictions regarding the status of the min in Rabbinic law is mentioned. This list is formulated in polemical tone and certainly comes from a period in which greater animus was directed to the issue at hand. We find that not only is it in regard to meat that he is treated like an idolater. His bread is considered “Samaritan bread,” and hence it is forbidden to be eaten or to derive benefit from it. Likewise, his wine is not only forbidden as would be that of any non-Jew, but it is also prohibited to derive any benefit from it, as is the case with wine used for idolatrous libations. Fruits which are in the hands of a min are considered to be untithed, so that a pious Jew may not eat them, for their priestly and Levitical portions have not been separated.

After these dietary restrictions come the two matters referred to already. Their books are considered not to be holy, as we have already seen from our extensive discussion of the status of the Scriptures of the Jewish Christians above. Their children are considered the offspring of prohibited marriages. Finally, there is a separate halakhah including further prohibitions. All business dealings with them are prohibited. It is forbidden to teach their children a craft, or to make use of their medical skills.

It will be instructive to examine the social context of these laws. We are clearly dealing with restrictions which are aimed at members of the Jewish community. In order to attempt to isolate these people, a series of restrictions places them on a par with idolaters. Yet even so, the Jewish status of the min remains unquestionable. His children are to be considered mamzerim. The status of mamzer has no relevance in halakhah in reference to non-Jews. It is a status which can apply only to Jews and which, therefore, shows once again that the Jewish Christians who are referred to in our text are considered Jews. Our study of this complex of halakhot has again shown that the Jewish status of a person is not surrendered, regardless o{ his transgressions, and certainly not as a result of heretical beliefs.

Apparently, then, the tannaim still regarded the Jewish Christians they knew as Jews, even as late as the end of the first century C.E.  Although by this time Gentile Christians constituted a majority of the believers in the new religion, the impact of this situation had not yet been felt in Palestine where Jewish Christianity still predominated until the Bar Kokhba Revolt.

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