In preexilic times, moral purification (the enforcement of the death penalty and כּרת, "to be cut off") held tragic and fatal consequences for the offender, as well as the nation at large, dynamically illustrated when the nation was collectively "cut off" in exile. In response to the severe punishments occasioned by moral impurity, the prophets considered a survivable alternative for moral purification in place of the harsh Pentateuchal penalties. They envisioned, metaphorically, a lustral cleansing that could wash away moral impurity. The Hebrew Bible does not provide evidence of a literal adaptation of this metaphor into praxis. In looking to the Second Temple period literature, we find that 1QS provides the earliest witness of a literal adaptation of the prophetic imagery into a baptism of moral purification. As such, 1QS is a very important document for demonstrating an approach to moral purification that is both a development of the postexilic Hebrew Bible, as well as a precursor to the practices evident in the lives of John the Baptist, Jesus, and Paul.

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