Archive for the ‘Ritual Impurity’ Tag

The Cleansing of Ten Victims of Skin Disease   Leave a comment

Above:  The Healing of the Ten Lepers, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XLIII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 17:11-19

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Leprosy” is a misleading and ubiquitous translation of the Greek word for a virulent skin disease.  The condition in the Bible is not Hansen’s Disease.  Nevertheless, I can never forget the hilarious SCTV parody of Ben-Hur (1959), in which the blood of Christ, flowing from the cross, healed the leopards–Catherine O’Hara and Andrea Martin, wearing leopard outfits.

“Lepers”–those who suffered from one virulent skin disease or another–were ritually impure.  The peeling off of skin made the “lepers” like corpses in the minds of their contemporaries.  Socially, “lepers” were corpses.

Jesus accepted the validity of the Law of Moses and the category of ritual impurity.  In Luke 17:11-19, he cleansed (or purified) the ten “lepers” then instructed them to present themselves to priests, in accordance with the Law of Moses.  Yet the holiness of Jesus overpowered the cause of the ritual impurity in these “lepers.”  (For more about Jesus and ritual impurity, read Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death:  The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism, 2020.)

Only one “leper”–a Samaritan–returned to thank Jesus.

Luke-Acts repeatedly points out faithful foreigners, therefore indicating that Jesus is the Messiah for Jews and Gentiles alike.

Clarence Jordan, in his Cotton Patch Version of the Gospel of Luke (Jesus’ Doings), updated the story for the twentieth-century U.S. South.  Jesus cured ten winos and instructed them to show themselves to the doctor.  The only cured wino who thanked Jesus was an African American.

If you, O reader, were to update Luke 17:11-19 to fit your cultural context, how would the story read?

Gracious Lord, teach me to see with your eyes of compassion, and teach me to love people with your healing and welcoming love.

–N. T. Wright, Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C–A Daily Devotional (2009), 76

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Denunciation of Pharisees and Lawyers   Leave a comment

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXIX

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 11:37-54

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jesus had made enemies, who observed him and attempted to entrap him in his words.

Leaving Gentile anti-Semitism and stereotypes of Judaism behind, let us–you, O reader, and I–consider that the meal and the concern for ritual purity existed in a cultural context.  Jesus, as a devout Jew, accepted the validity or ritual purity and impurity.  Christ’s holiness destroyed the causes of ritual impurity, though.

Without sounding like a Pietist (I am not one.), the focus on externals at the expense of spiritual depth is a legitimate criticism of many people, past, present, and future.

One Interpretation of the Lucan version of the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth (4:14-30) is that Jesus likened the villagers of Nazareth to persecutors of old.  That is precisely Jesus’s critique of his hosts in 11:37-54.  It is a critique that applies to many people today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Calming of the Storm, the Exorcism of the Gerasene Demoniac, a Healing, and a Raising from the Dead   Leave a comment

Above:  The Exorcism of the Gerasene Demoniac

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 8:22-56

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The events of Luke 8:22-56 occur back-to-back in that Gospel’s chronology.  The three stories demonstrate Jesus’s power over nature, demons, illness, and death.

In ancient Near Eastern mythology, the deep represented chaos.  In Jewish theology, God created order from chaos in Genesis 1.  In Revelation 21:1, the heaven and the new earth had no sea.

However one interprets Luke 8:22-25, know, O reader, that St. Luke wanted people to know that Jesus was the master over storms and that the Twelve did not yet understand who Jesus really was.  The final detail, read in the context of Luke 8:19-21, does not flatter them.

Yet the Gerasene “demoniac” understood who Jesus really was.

I do not pretend to know what, in modern diagnostic categories, afflicted that Gerasene “demoniac.”  As I keep writing ad nauseum in this series, I, being educated in modern science, understand that certain conditions have organic, not demonic, causes.  In this respect, I know more than people did at the time of Jesus.  And I, having been in an ill-fated relationship with a mentally-ill woman for a about a decade, understand why those not educated in science mistook mental illness as evidence of possession.  These factors complicate my interpretation of Luke 8:26-39.  So be it.

I choose to focus on verses 38 and 39.

The man, healed of whatever had afflicted him, was grateful.  He begged to follow Jesus, who told him to return home and witness to what God had done.  Jesus’s instructions to would-be followers varied according to circumstances.  He told some to follow, others to go home, and one to divest himself of all wealth then to follow.  Yet Jesus had some wealthy followers whom he did not instruct to divest themselves of wealth.  And, oddly, in Luke 8:56, Jesus ordered the parents to keep an impossible secret.

What does Jesus tell you, O reader, to do?

Luke 8:40-56 weaves stories of two females–one a dead, young woman and the other a desperate woman with a hemorrhage.  The stories tell us of these figures, rendered ritually impure–one via corpse impurity and the other via genital discharge.  The corpse impurity also applied to everyone under Jairus’s roof.  We read of the holiness of Jesus destroying the causes of ritual impurity in the germane people.  We also read of Jesus restoring two females to their families and communities.

Who was Jesus?

That question continues as we keep reading the Gospel of Luke.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY IRVING LOUTTIT, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, CIRCA 351

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is post #2650 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2021 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 1, Luke 8, Revelation of John 21

Tagged with ,

A Cleansing and a Healing   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ Cleansing a Leper, by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XII

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 5:12-26

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ritual impurity was a ubiquitous concept in the ancient Mediterranean world.  Within Judaism, the concept functioned as a method of protecting people from the perceived consequences of approaching sacred precincts unworthily.  Jesus, as a Jew, accepted the legitimacy of the category of ritual impurity, Matthew Thiessen argued in Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Yet the holiness of Jesus destroyed the causes of ritual impurity in people, Thiessen wrote.

Ritual impurity is central in Luke 5:12-16.

“Leprosy” was not Hansen’s Disease.  No, “leprosy” was , as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) translates the word, “virulent skin disease.”  “Lepers,” who would need the services of a good dermatologist these days, resembled living corpses, culturally.  “Lepers” were ritually impure.  In fact, people, cloth, and houses could have forms of “leprosy” if they peeled or had fungi (Leviticus 13-14).

The main common thread connecting 5:12-16 and 5:17-26 is faith:

  1. The “leper” had faith Jesus could cleanse him.
  2. The paralyzed man may have had faith that Jesus could heal him.  His friends certainly did.

Restoration followed cleansing and healing.  The cleansed and healed men could lead better lives.  The cleansed “leper” could return to his family.

Sin was another connective tissue.  Supposedly (despite the Book of Job), ritual impurity carried moral overtones.  This was not the way matters were meant to be; one could contract ritual impurity by obeying the Law of Moses, such as by burying a corpse.  (Consider Tobit in Tobit 1 and 2, for example, O reader.)  Yet many people’s attitudes did not take this into account.  Also, many people thought the other man’s paralysis was punishment for sins.

When bad ideas take root, they frequently remain stubbornly rooted.

Theological orthodoxy matters.  Yet many people who think they are orthodox are heterodox, and vice versa.  Actual orthodoxy–regardless of the sectarian label it bears–welcomes compassion and approves of helping the unfortunate.  Beating up verbally on long-dead scribes and Pharisees is easy.  However, admitting that we may be guilty of bolstering imagined orthodoxy by scorning compassion and assistance may be difficult.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 27, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN, MARTYR (TRANSFERRED)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Third Oracle of Haggai   Leave a comment

Above:  Haggai, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING HAGGAI-FIRST ZECHARIAH, PART V

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Haggai 2:10-19

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jerusalem, December 18, 520 B.C.E.–a seemingly unremarkable date.

In the third oracle (2:10-19), Haggai offered an explanation for why the situation in Jerusalem had not improved, despite the resumption of construction of the Second Temple.  Holiness was not transferrable, but ritual impurity was (Numbers 5:2; 6:6; 9:10; 19:11, 13).  Tainted and unacceptable offerings to God made the work of the people unclean, impure (verse 14).  The problem was with the altar upon which people laid the offerings.  Priests were using the altar, despite not having properly purified it ritually (Ezra 3:107; 1 Esdras 5:47-73).

Nevertheless, December 18, 520, B.C.E., marked a turning point in the people’s relationship with God:

Consider, from this day onwards,…:  will the seed still be diminished in the barn?  Will the vine and the fig, the pomegranate and the olive still bear no fruit?  Not so; from this day I shall bless you.

–Haggai 2:18-19, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Yet read Zechariah 1:18-21/2:1-4, set two months later.

I am an Episcopalian and a ritualist.  Therefore, I grasp the importance of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.

However, I am also a Gentile to whom ritual purity and impurity are foreign concepts.  These are concepts about which I have read, especially in regard to whether Jesus accepted them and how to interpret them in healing stories involving Jesus.  These are also concepts I have rethought, especially in regard to Jesus, after reading Matthew Thiessen, Jesus and the Forces of Death (2020).  Studying Haggai 2:10-19, I must dig into the text and read regarding the Biblical background of the ritual purification of altars.  Jewish sources teach me much.

This is a rule binding on your descendants for all time, to make a distinction between sacred and profane, between clean and profane, and to teach the Israelites all the decrees which the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.

–Leviticus 10:9b-11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

When we move from one context to another, a timeless principle remains:

What is at stake is attitude.

–W. Eugene March, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 728

Approaching God reverently and respectfully is essential.  Rules dictate how to do so.  So be it.  This is a serious matter in the Hebrew Bible.  This explains why Leviticus 12-15 describe how to dispose of ritual impurity of various types.  This is why Leviticus 16 pertains to the annual purging of the sacred precincts of impurity.  This is why Leviticus 1-7 go into great detail about types of offerings to God.  This is why Exodus 35-38 detail the construction of the Tabernacle.  This is why Exodus 39 focuses on the making of the priests’ vestments.  I respect all this, even though I enjoy eating pork.

I also notice that God changed the relationships, for the people’s benefits.  People were still supposed to use a purified altar, of course.

Grace is free, not cheap.

For the sake of completeness and intellectual honesty, however, I note that the first vision of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-17) contradicts the pressing of the giant reset button in Haggai 2:10-19.  I will get to Zechariah 1:8-17 in due time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JASON OF TARSUS AND SOSIPATER OF ICONIUM, COWORKERS OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE AND EVANGELISTS OF CORFU

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Divine Judgment and Impending Disaster   Leave a comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING EZEKIEL, PART V

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 6:1-7:27

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 6 foretells the divine destruction of Judah and sites of idolatry in Judah.  Corpse impurity will render these sites ritually unclean, we read in 6:5.  Despite the divine destruction of Judah, God will preserve a remnant, we read in 6:8-10, possibly added subsequent to the time of Ezekiel.  God takes no delight in the destruction of Judah, we read in 6:11.  In Ezekiel 25:6, in contrast, clapping hands and stamping feet indicate rejoicing with malice.

God remains furious with Judah in Ezekiel 7.  We read that the people have been arrogant, trusting in military strength, not in God (7:24).  For more along these lines, read Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 10:12; Isaiah 13:11; Jeremiah 48:29; Ezekiel 24:21; Ezekiel 30:18; Ezekiel 33:28).  We also read:

Lawlessness is blooming, insolence budding; the violent have risen to wield a scepter of wickedness.  But none of them shall remain; none of their crowd, none of their wealth, for none of them are innocent.

–Ezekiel 7:10b-11, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

The Hebrew prophetic books are horribly repetitive.  Consider the temporal context of the Book of Ezekiel, O reader.  Consider that the Law of Moses and a series of prophets preceded Ezekiel.  Consider that, had more people heeded previous prophets, there would have been no need for Ezekiel to prophesy.

Being oblivious to the messages God has sent and continues to send creates a situation that leads to horrible consequences.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BREVARD S. CHILDS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH GOTTLOB GUTTER, GERMAN-AMERICAN INSTRUMENT MAKER, REPAIRMAN, AND MERCHANT

THE FEAST OF JOHN JOHNS, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILHELM HEINRICH WAUER, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Prophetic Symbols   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah and Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING JEREMIAH, PART IX

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 13:1-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jeremiah 13:1-14 uses the images of a ruined loincloth and of smashed jars of wine to make a point of the Kingdom of Judah during its waning decades.  The people should have kept the covenant, but did not do so.  They had become useless, and would suffer a terrible fate.

None of this pleased God.

For if you will not give heed,

My inmost self must weep,

Because of your arrogance;

My eye must stream and flow

With copious tears,

Because the flock of the LORD

Is taken captive.

–Jeremiah 13:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The people’s identity had come to include the betrayal of the covenant.  Jerusalem, personified as an adulterous woman, had become incapable of being purified.

The conclusion of Jeremiah 13 may allude to laws regarding menstruation (Leviticus 12:4, 6-8; 15:28).  The conclusion of Jeremiah 13 also echoes Jeremiah 2:20-25 thematically.

Many of the themes in Jeremiah 13 are old news to people who read the Old Testament and prophetic writings, in particular.  They are old news to me, for I have been immersing myself in Hebrew prophetic literature for a few book already.  I choose, therefore, to ponder ritual impurity.

Ritual impurity, foreign to many people (including yours truly) was ubiquitous in the ancient Mediterranean world.  Within the Jewish context, prohibitions against ritually impure people performing certain acts and entering sacred precincts was to prevent people from approaching God wrongly.  Therefore, the intent of the system was to preserve God’s presence among the covenant people.  Ritual impurity did not indicate abnormality or a diseased state.  In fact, ritual impurity was commonplace.  Rituals to remove it existed.  And only the ritually pure were supposed to enter sacred precincts.  Entering sacred space while ritually impure would cause the offending people to die, according to Leviticus 15:31.

Ritual impurity excluded the impure from the realm of the sacred.  Jeremiah used ritual impurity as a metaphor for moral impurity, evident in idolatry, economic injustice, the exploitation of vulnerable people, and judicial corruption.  No ritual of purification took away moral impurity; repentance did that.

Some of the language in Jeremiah 13, as elsewhere in Hebrew prophetic literature, is disturbing.  It speaks superficially of sexual shaming.  The Bible does not carry a “G” rating.  Life is not G-rated either.  Anyhow, metaphors are metaphors.  I advise growing a thick skin and continuing careful study of the Bible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, CELTIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIOVANNI MARIA BOCCARDO, FOUNDER OF THE POOR SISTERS OF SAINT CAJETAN/GAETANO; AND HIS BROTHER, SAINT LUIGI BOCCARDO, APOSTLE OF MERCIFUL LOVE

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSÉ DE ANCHIETA, APOSTLE OF BRAZIL AND FATHER OF BRAZILIAN NATIONAL LITERATURE

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOSEPH POTTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILL HERZFELD, U.S. LUTHERAN ECUMENIST, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE ASSOCIATION OF EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCHES, AND CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++