In Luke 2:22 Luke attributes parturient impurity to both Mary and Jesus (and/or Joseph). Interpreters have often concluded that this verse demonstrates that Luke misunderstands the levitical legislation pertaining to childbirth impurity (Leviticus 12), which discusses only the impurity of the new mother. This article argues that, despite the apparent contradiction between Leviticus 12 and Luke 2, Luke has not misunderstood Jewish conceptions of impurity after birth. Not only is it possible to conclude that Leviticus 12 implicitly ascribes impurity to the newborn child, but some Second Temple Jewish writers, such as the authors of
Jubileesand 4Q265, also believed that the newborn child suffered the same manner of impurity as the new mother. Luke’s gospel, therefore, demonstrates familiarity with contemporary Jewish purity beliefs and practices.