Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Purifying Pollution

1 John 1:7 says that "the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."

I've been thinking a lot this week about the cleansing of Jesus' blood and the roots on this notion in the Mosaic law.

Roy Gane, in his work Cult and Character, draws out some of the importance of purification in the Levitical system. “By bringing together the views of sin as legal wrong and sin as pollution, the Israelite ritual system addressed not only the legal standing of YHWH’s people but also their moral state. It showed the way not only to freedom from condemnation, but also to development of healthy character. We will find the climax of this combination in observances of the Day of Atonement, which affirmed freedom from condemnation for those of loyal character (Lev 16:29-31). In the process, the great Day affirmed the just character of Israel’s divine King” (162). This fits with Herman Bavinck's description of sin, “Guilt and pollution always go together as the two inseparable sides of sin” (Reformed Dogmatics: Sin, Salvation, and Christ, Vol 3: 174).

Gane goes on, “It is clear why the covenant and priestly ordination sacrifices include application of  blood to persons. In these cases the blood is also applied to an altar of YHWH. Thus the rituals establish a blood connection, with life or death consequences, between the human parties and YHWH” (164).

“Only tajx sacrifices have privative nm + evil in their rpk goal formulas. So…only a purification offering accomplishes purgation of evil. The ritual complex for the formerly scale-diseased person is particularly instructive: of the three animal sacrifices that effect rpk for (l[) him (i.e. reparation, purification, and burnt offerings), only the purification offering accomplishes purgation Atam.jumi, “from his impurity.” ‘Here then is incontrovertible proof that the hatta’t decontaminates, purifies, and must be rendered ‘purification offering,’…and the verb kipper in this context has the specific meaning of ‘purge.’” (165, citing Milgrom).

Later, he writes, “A purification offering can remedy a state of severe physical ritual impurity (Lev 12:6-8; 14:19, 22, 31, 15, 30, etc.), contradiction of which is permitted by purification from which is required before contact with sacred objects or areas, in order to safeguard the boundaries of holiness connected with the Presence of YHWH at the sanctuary (e.g., 7:20-21; cf. 15:31). Such impurity is a category belonging to a conceptual system and should not be confused with ordinary dirtiness or literal pathological conditions encountered in the practice of medicine, which are subject to mundane constraints of cause and effect that operate in the material world.

“A [hatta’t] sacrifice providing [kipper] for physical ritual impurity results in physical ritual purity ([thr]). Forgiveness ([slch]) is not needed, because contracting a bodily impurity does not, by itself, constitute a moral fault. However, inexpiable wanton failure or expiable inadvertent failure to follow YHWH’s commands regarding bodily impurities, whether by contracting an impurity that he prohibits…,contacting something holy while in a state of impurity…, or failing to undergo timely ritual purification…, is moral fault.

“Physical ritual impurities are not moral evils….

“D. P. Wright demonstrates that, although terms for moral faults are not used with reference to bodily impurities, these categories appear to have closer connections than we would expect.

“In what appears to be diverse categories of evil, whether causing them is tolerated or prohibited, Wright finds a spectrum of impurity that ‘comprehends all adverse conditions or actions, unintended or intended, that are deleterious to what is holy….If all these conditions or actions are not sins, they all are at least a threat to what is holy and hence must either be, when serious, avoided, or when less grave, controlled. For the Priestly writer [namely Moses-JDP], all the defilement-creating conditions were of the same conceptual family.’ Thus Wright’s taxonomy of evils sensitively recognizes commonality between categories while acknowledging differences between them. N. Kiuchi’s approach is also well-balanced: while he finds a clear distinction between [hatta’t], ‘sin,’ and physical ritual impurity, he concludes that these categories are not incompatible with each other. A [hatta’t] ‘is a kind of uncleanness, produced on a dimension different from that of natural uncleanness.’ Therefore, ‘there is no essential distinction between purification and expiation’” (198-200).

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