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What is purity?

Discussion in 'General Theology' started by Apex, Jul 28, 2017.

  1. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    I hear the words pure and purity used by Christians quite often, especially when talking about sexual interactions. However, I'm convinced many do not have a firm grasp on what these words actually mean.

    Mary Douglas, in her book Purity and Danger, states, "The process of ordering a sociocultural system was called 'purity', in contrast to 'pollution,' which stands for the violation of the classification system, its lines, and boundaries. The term 'purity' became a jargon word for the general principle that all peoples tend to structure their worlds according to some system of order and classification."

    In the Gospels, Jesus appears out of place - dealing with people he should avoid, doing unconventional things, and not observing customs. He openly challenges the Jewish purity system and appears to reform, and even reverse it, in favor of His own system (the Law of Christ).

    So, what is purity?

    Purity is best understood in terms of its binary opposite - pollution or dirt. When something is out of place or when it violates the classification system in which it is set, it becomes 'dirt'. A farmer working in his field is covered with dust and chaff, his shoes caked with mud and dung. This is appropriate to the outdoors work of farming during the day; it is what is expected of fields and barns. But should that farmer come inside after the day's work, wearing those same dirt-covered overalls and those same dung-covered shoes, and sit in his wife's living room, his farm dirtiness, so appropriate outside, is impurity inside. The wrong thing appears in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    We all draw lines in our world relative to things, persons, places, activities, and times. These lines tell us what and who belong when and where. The old saying stands true: "A place for everything and everything in its place." Because these lines help us to classify and arrange our world according to some dominant principle, they convey through their structural arrangement the abstract values of the social world of which we are a part. The Jews had their own purity maps concerning all aspects of life. I'll argue later that Jesus reversed these external-based maps and made them all internally-based (heart) instead.

    If purity means clear lines and firm borders, then pollution refers to what crosses those boundaries or what resides in the margins and has no clear place in the system. A person begins in a given state of purity, but that can be lost either because they crossed a boundary and entered space more holy than they are permitted to enter or because something else less holy crossed over and entered their space. Crossing of boundaries, then, means 'dirt'.

    The appropriate strategy in this type of world is defensive. What is called for is: avoidance of contact with what is either too holy or marginal or unclean (see Luke 10:31-32; Acts 10:14,28) or reinforcement of boundaries and purity concerns (see Mark 7:1-4 and the rabbis' "fences" around the Mosaic Law).

    However, this is NOT what Jesus did. In the Gospels, people with ostensibly excellent purity ratings are Jesus' most dogged critics. They see Jesus crossing lines he ought not to cross and allowing people to cross into his space who ought to be kept at a distance.

    Why didn't Jesus observe any of the purity rules so important to the Jews of his day?


    A few examples of Jesus disregarding the Jewish purity rules in Mark's gospel:

    1. Jesus came in contact with unclean people: he voluntarily touched a leper (Mark 1:41); he took a corpse by the hand (Mark 5:41).
    2. He was touched by a menstruating woman (Mark 5:24-28).
    3. Jesus called a public sinner to be an intimate follower (Mark 2:13-14).
    4. Jesus traveled extensively in Gentile territory, crossing boundaries he ought not to cross and exposing himself to pollution on every side (Mark 7:31).
    5. Jesus regularly was in contact with the possessed, the blind, the lame, and the deaf - all figures who are unclean in some way according to Leviticus 21:16-24.
    7. Jesus seems not to have guarded his bodily orifices or their emissions in ways that befit purity-minded people. He applied spit to the eyes on a blind man (Mark 8:23) and to the tongue of a mute (Mark 7:33)!
    8. He broke one of the strictest purity laws in Israel as he disregarded all dietary restrictions (Mark 7:19).
    9. Jesus didn't observe the purity rules of time which structured Jewish life. His disciples plucked grain on the Sabbath, "doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath" (Mark 2:24) and Jesus himself healed on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6).

    It is no wonder the Pharisees regraded Jesus the way they did. They saw him with a very low purity rating.

    However, Jesus is vindicated as a supremely pure and holy figure in God's eyes:

    1. In touching the leper, Jesus is not made unclean; rather he proclaims cleanness: "'Be clean.' And immediately the leprosy left him and he was made clean" (Mark 1:41).
    2. In dealing with the paralytic, Jesus cleansed the man of his sins ("Your sins are forgiven," Mark 2:5), as well as his paralysis (Mark 2:11). Jesus made him both whole and pure.
    3. In calling Levi as a disciple and in eating with sinners, Jesus acts precisely as one who restores wholeness and cleanness to God's people - he is their "physician": "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17).
    4. In transgressing Sabbath laws, he provided food for the hungry (Mark 2:23-28) and wholeness for a man with a withered limb (Mark 3:1-6).
    5. The menstruating woman who touched Jesus is healed of her hemorrhage.
    6. The corpses which Jesus touched are made alive again.
    7. The blind man and the mute man upon whom Jesus put his spit are restored to sight and speech respectively.

    Whereas the Jews concern is with externals and surfaces (washing of hands, pot, cups, and vessels, Mark 7:2-4), Jesus' concern is with the internal and the heart:

    Mark 7:15
    There is nothing which by going into a man can defile him; but the things which come out of a man are what defile him.

    Conclusion:

    According to Jesus, purity does not reside on the lips or hands, but in the heart; purity is measured by the keeping of the Law of Christ (Mark 12:29-31), not the traditional "fences" of men. Alternately, pollution (or dirt) comes not by violation of washing or dietary rules, which deal only with surfaces, but with sin and vice which come from within - from the heart. "All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man" (Mark 7:23).

    Jesus is not abrogating the idea of purity when he violates the rules of Jewish purity. On the contrary, Jesus is reforming the rules of purity current in his day, offering his interpretation of what God wants and what makes one truly whole, clean, and holy. The final irony is that death, the ultimate pollution to Jews, serves as the very source of purity for Jesus' followers!

    Without this purity reversal, the Great Commission would never be possible. This new inclusiveness is evident in the parable of the sower in Mark 4:3-9, where the sower throws seed in the most improbable places: on the path, on the rocks, and among thorns. No pre-judgment is made on potential membership in God’s covenant community on the basis of ethnic status or purity rating.

    As Christians, we must stop making purity "fences" like the Pharisees and labeling external actions and behaviors as dirty or impure. We must instead embrace the purity reform of Jesus and start seeing purity as a matter of the heart. The Law of Christ (loving others as our self) is our new purity boundary!
     
    Last edited: Jul 28, 2017
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  2. yeshuaslavejeff

    yeshuaslavejeff simple truth, martyr, disciple of Yahshua

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    Because they were opposed to YHWH,
    YHWH did not tell Jesus to observe them,
    YHWH told Jesus what to speak against them,
    and Jesus always did and spoke what YHWH did and spoke, always.
     
  3. yeshuaslavejeff

    yeshuaslavejeff simple truth, martyr, disciple of Yahshua

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    Maybe, but I don't think so as put here.

    Only those with a PURE HEART will ever see any part of heaven. (Jesus said clearly)

    A PURE HEART could not be accomplished by humans, not even by JESUS disciples,
    humanly.

    JESUS told His disciples that He Knew they could not accomplish this (nor any part of salvation), and that IF THEY THOUGHT they could accomplish this (any part of salvation in this life or in the life to come) that they had already failed;
    but IF
    IF they trusted their heavenly FATHER YHWH to accomplish EVERYTHING concerning salvation in this life and in the life to come,
    THEN it is ALREADY DONE.
     
  4. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    Numbers 19:11-13
    Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days. He shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean. Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.

    Luke 8:53-55
    And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat.
     
  5. yeshuaslavejeff

    yeshuaslavejeff simple truth, martyr, disciple of Yahshua

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    Do you doubt YHWH's WORD ?

    Or, what's your question ?
     
  6. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    Do you believe Jesus cleansed himself with water after touching Jairus' dead daughter's hand?
     
  7. yeshuaslavejeff

    yeshuaslavejeff simple truth, martyr, disciple of Yahshua

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    According to YHWH, He did not have to.
     
  8. Haipule

    Haipule Well-Known Member

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    "hagiasmos

    Now class(teaching a 1st grade class), to be a purified person is called in Greek “hagiasmos” which means the resultant state of purification, or being pure, which is because you have been cleaned and purified through breathing God’s very own pure pneuma-breath(Scripture) and therefore, a class separated from a class! Therefore, your life becomes a result of that purification or “hagiasmos”. hagiasmos is a noun usually translated into the English as “sanctification” or “holiness(whatever that means)” which, according to most, is to say “being separated unto God” but, hagiasmos means far more then “separation”. In fact, we cannot proceed forward in our understanding of Scripture unless we bring the whole concept of being purified with us in any direction of our study of God’s word. If we say that hagiasmos means merely separation then we have killed that vast word by limiting it to the limit of our own intellect. hagiasmos is built from the root word “hagios” which is usually translated in your English bibles as “holy”. Man has invented many words and concepts to try to help us understand that very weird word “holy”. But hagios means pure, undefiled, unpolluted which makes it special, unique, separating a class from a class. So start there so you don’t get sidetracked by those other “college words” such as “holy”, “holiness” or “consecration”. Often hagios is translated as “saint” but actually means “pure-one” and therefore, a unique class. Again, the resultant state of being pure is from the resultant state of being cleansed.

    Yes Karen, “Teacher, why do they translate hagiasmos as “sanctification”? Brilliant question Karen! It is because they really don’t understand the first grade understanding of being cleansed and purified because they do not understand the first grade understanding of pure breath and breathing(to study Scripture)! While, it is true that to be cleaned and subsequently purified would result in a resultant state of so-called “sanctification”, or uniquely separated unto God. And also then, the resultant breath-being-belonging to life would be the result of being cleaned and purified and therefore, you would be uniquely separated unto God away from the world system and pollution of bad pneuma(information gleaned from a exterior source) . But, first we must understand the first grade understanding of hagiasmos before we build such an idea. Otherwise, if we do not start from the base, our edification building project, which should be of God and not of us, will be crooked like the leaning(actually sinking) tower of Pisa! hagiasmos is a vast subject which can take you in any direction as far as you can pursue its understanding and therefore should not be limited. Man is “sanctified” because he is purified. Man is purified because he has been cleansed.

    Man is cleansed with [ ]bath of renovation when he breathes the pure pneuma-breath of God, the God-breathed written Scripture of the water of God’s Word: and also that which we can understand of it through the experiences of our promised abundant breathing zOE-life! Which life is built upon the resultant cleansed state of hagiasmos.

    because it is written, " YOU(-all) SHALL BE HOLY(pure, special, unique), FOR I(God) AM HOLY(pure, special, unique)." 1 Pet 1:16 NASB (quoting Lev 19:2)

    For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification(hagiasmos-resultant state of being purified, or purification used as the opposite of the previous word “impurity”). 1 Thess 4:7 NASB See how silly?

    Hyper-Literal: Yet we(Paul, Silvanus, Timothy) ought to-be-thanking to-thee God always concerning you-all(call-out-ones of Thessalonica) Brethren!, you-all-having-been-agapE-loved under [ ]of-authority, He(God)-preferred you-all, thee God, that from [ ]of-beginning unto deliverance(noun of action), [ ]to-purification(hagiasmos) of-pneuma-breath and-also [ ]to-trust of-truth(noun of action). 2 Thess 2:13

    So you see boys and girls, we are processed, rescued or delivered, into the resultant state of being purified through the study of God’s pure pneuma-breath, the God-breathed Scripture, which cleanses us and makes us unique so that we can live zOE-life through faith-noun from the source of truth in freedom from the tyrants of earth and instead live in God’s kingdom."

    Reprinted from the Kindle eBook Wake Up Call: William McCoy used by permission.
     
  9. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    ...and according to Jesus, a Christian does not have to either. Jesus reformed the Mosaic purity laws.
     
  10. Serving Zion

    Serving Zion Seek First His Kingdom & Righteousness

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    This is the precise error that has led you to blaspheme in #9 (You said: "Jesus reformed the Mosaic purity laws."). I wonder whether you have overlooked that Jesus did not view the girl as being dead (He said this in verse 52) .. or whether you, in disbelief, have taken sides with the mockers in verse 53?
     
  11. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    This wasn't the only dead person he touched. What about Jesus touching lepers?

    Leviticus 5:3
    ...or if he touches human uncleanness, of whatever sort the uncleanness may be with which one becomes unclean...

    Matthew 8:2-3
    And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.

    Are you going to say this man really didn't have leprosy?
     
  12. Serving Zion

    Serving Zion Seek First His Kingdom & Righteousness

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    Not at all .. that would hardly be truthful, and I am committed to the truth.

    We can see it written that the man was immediately cleansed. We know that faith healed the man (Mark 11:23). We can see that this man had humbled himself to request it - necessarily overcoming a fear of refusal based upon social patterns (Leviticus 13:45, Matthew 9:11).

    Considering that Jesus' work was all to do with changing hearts and inspiring proper faith (John 4:23), it appears to me that Jesus saw the man as already having been spiritually cleansed. By reaching out to touch him, this is a compassionate act that was new to the leper, that the leper suddenly recognised the true love of God and no longer begging to be cleansed, he immediately realised he had been cleansed.

    Where your OP says purity is a matter of the heart and I agree, it isn't contrary to the law because the law serves it's purpose to convict so that contrition can be enacted. This is why I object to the suggestion that Jesus reforms Jewish laws .. rather, Christianity is Judaism led by HaMashiach Yeshua: The Enduring High Priest who rightfully applies the law without end, to those who come through Him (Hebrews 7:23-25).
     
  13. hedrick

    hedrick Senior Veteran Supporter

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    The OP makes a cogent observation. Jesus didn't use the concept of purity, and opposed it when used by the Pharisees. He also never called humans holy, though it used it of the Holy Spirit and the holy city.

    But in my opinion there are two usages of the term. The OP speaks primarily of the OT ritual purity. When the term is used today by Christians, it refers primarily to moral purity. That's not the same thing, since things that were ritually unclean were not necessarily immoral. E.g. in certain situations Jews had a duty to bury someone, even though it made them ritually unclean.

    Since Christians don't hold the OT ritual purity laws, it's probably more significant to note that Jesus didn't use the concept of moral purity either. For him the ideal wasn't to be pure, but to be obedient. They're different. Moral purity is a perfection. But for Jesus, obedience doesn't earn us anything; we're just doing our duty.
     
  14. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    This is exactly why I created this thread. There exists no special subcategories of purity. Purity is purity. Defilement is defilement.

    For the Jew at the turn of the era, there was no distinction between moral and ritual law. Idolatry, murder, Sabbath breaking, and failure to keep the dietary laws were all 'pollution' for which the land would vomit forth its inhabitants. The separation of so-called moral law from civil and/or ritual law was a Christian innovation developed to negotiate the fact that some Christians claimed the Old Testament to be authoritative, yet regarded a large portion of its legislation to be irrelevant. For non-Christian Jews, however, it was all equally the "Law of God" and purity and pollution concerns thus ran throughout the whole law, enforcing both ritual and ethical cleanness, the requirement for living in the presence of a holy God.
     
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2017
  15. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    I'm not sure if I understand what you are saying. It appears you believe Jesus touched a leper, but since he was supposedly "spiritually" clean, it was okay. However, the law against touching lepers was not concerned with only "spiritual" cleanliness, but with the actual and physical skin blemish.
     
  16. Serving Zion

    Serving Zion Seek First His Kingdom & Righteousness

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    Our conversation transpired from your comment in post #9 where you have taught a belief that Jesus reformed the Mosaic laws. Whereas Christianity teaches from Hebrews 7:26 that Jesus is our everlasting High Priest, being undefiled, holy and blameless. This shows that authentic Christianity believes Jesus never transgressed Mosaic law, therefore He is the High Priest we take as being The Master of the law.

    For this reason, we should approach scripture for the purpose of assessing and understanding how Jesus found caveat for innocence under the law where His accusers are finding opportunity to condemn Him.

    According to the scriptures so far presented, Leviticus 5:3 describes a spiritual uncleanness from touching a leper (as Leviticus 5:7 shows he can be cleansed through atonement). Leviticus 5:3 doesn't imply that any physical uncleanness comes upon the one who touches a leper, but a spiritual uncleanness where the guilt is upon their conscience until atonement is made.

    I look therefore to see the reason why Jesus did not perceive a conviction in His conscience for touching the leper in Matthew 8:3, and I see that He did not view the man as being unclean. His faith had made him well, his faith was sufficient to overcome the adversary and to give Holy Spirit dominance in him (Matthew 8:2). The act of touching the man seems to have been an expression of love.

    Looking closely at the text, it is not stated "If you touch me, I will be made clean" but "If you are willing, you can make me clean". At which moment did Jesus become willing? .. Indeed it is before He touched the man.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2017
  17. Apex

    Apex Radical Centrist & Ethicist

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    It actually sounds like you agree with me. However, I disagree that the law was originally meant to be followed spiritually. God wanted all obedient Jews to get physically circumcised - which surely you believe too. Part of the purpose of the law was manifested through external differences with the surrounding cultures. However, the spiritual element you are describing closely resembles the reform I argued for in the OP. Jesus was a "limit-breaker" and was commissioned from God to reform purity. This is why it wasn't sin or uncleanliness for him to touch a leper or a corpse - or do all the other things the Pharisees thought he was dirty for doing.
     
  18. Serving Zion

    Serving Zion Seek First His Kingdom & Righteousness

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    :clap: Yes we have largely been in agreement! .. Though there is a heavily weighted movement in Christianity to make it become a religion that it was not originally taught to be. Some diversions manifest as overly dogmatic applications of the letter of the law (and more, eg: Mark 7) to the detriment of the intent of the law, and others as a dismissal of the law altogether.

    When you said that "Jesus reformed Mosaic law", it lends to those who would teach a misleading idea that "the law is replaced by grace" - that is a common teaching of so-called Christians who have chosen to be slaves to their sin instead of repenting of it, while also wishing to believe that the gospel promises that they can escape the consequences of their sin.

    On the other hand, as you say that the law was not meant to be followed spiritually, I think we could yet agree.

    The law prescribed various procedures for obtaining spiritual sanctification after having become defiled through exposure to various impurities. Some examples include the touching of dead people, an immoral bodily excretion, someone with a contagious disease, killing or taking a thing that is not allowed to him, etc. Because these transgressions of holy law are witnessed by heaven and the one who did them cannot be blameless in the face of the heavenly accuser when their conscience bears witness against them (consider Ephesians 6:12), a system of atonement was prescribed whereby the one would recognise the gravity of their offence (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22) and it should serve as an incentive for remorse so that contrition can be enacted and thereby the one is sanctified in God's sight for having a heart resolved to do righteousness (Matthew 12:7, Isaiah 1:11-17, Psalms 51:19).

    However, as we see that when Jesus came, He was moved by grief by the heartless and evil institution it had become (Mark 11:15-17), that human sinfulness had become an opportunity for business (Matthew 23:13-15, Matthew 21:33-45). This is why Hebrews 10:4 was written as an observation that animal sacrifices could never take away sin completely because animal blood is a common thing and ultimately human's love for animals is not a sufficient deterrent. This is juxtaposed to Hebrews 10:29, showing that the blood of Christ is no common thing and that Christians are forced by it to choose sin and subsequent destruction (Hebrews 10:30), or repentance and subsequent perfection (Hebrews 10:14).

    I would not say that Jesus was commissioned by God to "reform purity", because that seems to suggest that the Mosaic law was insufficient to that purpose. Rather, I would emphasise that following the Babylonian exile, they had returned with many foreign spiritual perspectives toward the scriptures and they had lost the real authentic knowledge of God that can only be found when one has humbled himself and sought God with his full heart. For this reason, the religious leaders of Jesus' day had become corrupted by the way of the world (eg: Mark 10:42) and they had become so enslaved by this spirit to the extreme extent of blindness (Matthew 9:36) that caused them to crucify the one who was holy and blameless while believing that they were right to do so (John 5:41-44), when in fact He did represent God perfectly and this wickedness earned their destruction (Luke 19:41-44, Luke 11:49-51).

    So this is why I keep reinforcing that Christianity was originally established to be Judaism in it's proper form, with Hamashiach Yeshua the enduring High Priest. However, the modern representation of Christianity is overrun with Gentiles who neither know what holiness is nor care for it, and many are led astray because of it (2 Peter 2:2).
     
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