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1 Confession 2

Confession 17a; bYom 87b), one of the most famous being Attah
yodea razei olam (“You Know the Secrets of the
III. Judaism World”) (bYom 87b). Many confessions from geonic
times are alphabetic acrostics. A special confession
I. Rabbinic Judaism prayer was the reenaction of the high priestly con-
In rabbinic texts, verbs derived from the root ydy fessions as part of the Seder Avodah on Yom Kip-
can mean “to confess” in piel, hifil, and hitpael for pur. Some interpret a talmudic passage in bYom 86b
Mishnaic Hebrew (MH), in afel for Jewish Babylo- to mean sins against humans had to be confessed
nian Aramaic, and in itpael for Palestinian Aramaic. openly, while sins against God had to be confessed
Most verb forms can also have other meanings such in secret. Besides reciting the fixed prayers of the
as “to thank” or “to admit.” In addition, two nouns liturgy, someone condemned to death may confess
are formed from the same root: widdui (MH and in order to atone for his sins and enter the world to
Jewish Babylonian Aramaic) means the confession come (mSan 6 : 2); dangerously ill persons are urged
of sins, declaration of tithe (Deut 26 : 12–15; mMSh to do the same (bShab 32a). The following passage
5 : 10–15), or declaration of first fruits (tBik 1 : 7) as expresses the necessity of confession coupled with
a ritual act or in the case of confession of sins as a true repentance: “One who has sinned and con-
liturgical genre (tYom 3 : 6; bShevu 14a; bYom 87b); fesses his sin but does not repent may be compared
hodaah/hodayah (MH) can mean confession, cf. also to a man who immerses himself while holding a
odiyyah (JBA), or acknowledgment of debt. More- dead reptile in his hand. Even if he immerses in all
over, references to the shema‘ (Deut 6 : 4–9; 11 : 13– the waters of the world, they will not purify him;
21; Num 15 : 37–41) are frequently translated as once he throws away the reptile, 40 seah are suffi-
confession of faith (for Second Temple Greek, see cient” (bTaan 16a).
“Confession II. New Testament”). The current entry Bibliography: ■ Boda, M. et al. (eds.), Seeking the Favor of
focuses on confession of sins and does not treat con- God, 3 vols. (SBL Early Judaism and its Literature 21–23,
fessions of faith or confessions in court and other Leiden/Boston, Mass. 2006–2009). ■ Heinemann, J., Prayer
juridical categories. in the Talmud (SJ 9; Berlin 1977). [Esp. 197–217] ■ Len-
hardt, P./M. Broyde, “Confession,” The Oxford Dictionary of
An individual can confess his or her sins (Judah
the Jewish Religion (Oxford 1997) 170–71. ■ Sokoloff, M., A
in Gen 38 : 26; cf. bSot 7b); a community can confess Dictionary of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (Ramat Gan ²1992).
its sins in a collective act as on Yom Kippur; or an ■ Sokoloff, M., A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic (Ra-

individual can confess the sins of his community mat Gan 2002). ■ Stökl Ben Ezra, D., The Impact of Yom Kip-
(Moses in Exod 32 : 31; the high priest on Yom Kip- pur on Early Christianity (WUNT 163; Tübingen 2003). [Esp.
pur in the temple). The high priest must first con- 51–54]
fess his own sins before he can pars pro toto confess Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra
those of the priesthood or all Israel.
As an audible sign of repentance, confessions
were part of the sacrificial service in the temple and
had to precede offerings (Lev 5 : 5). Rabbinic opin-
ions differ as to whether a sacrifice without confes-
sion was efficacious (yShevu 1 : 10 [33c]).
A number of Second Temple texts attest to the
role of prayers with confessions also in the non-sac-
rificial cultic forms as an action indispensible for
the rite to have effect (1QS I, 24–26; CD XX, 28–
30; 4Q393; Words of the Luminaries [1Q504]; Sir 4 : 26;
Philo, Spec. 2.196; Post. 70–72; Josephus, B.J. 5.415).
According to rabbinic sources, confessions were
part of the daily prayer (bBer 17a). The sixth bless-
ing of the weekday Amidah is an extremely brief
confession of sins. Amoraic texts also mention con-
fessions for fast days. The central liturgical Sitz im
Leben of confessions was Yom Kippur and vice
versa, confession one of the principal acts on Yom
Kippur. Confessions were part of all five services
(tYom 4 : 14), and early on they could be very long
and structured (tBer 3 : 6). Apparently, both fixed
and improvised confessions existed (tYom 4 : 14–15;
yYom 8 : 9 [45c]). Some rabbis denigrated confessing
sins which one had not committed. Many confes-
sion prayers were attributed to famous rabbis (bBer

Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception 5 (© Walter de Gruyter, Berlin/Boston 2012)