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Purity and Holiness

The Heritage of Leviticus

Purity has long been recognized as one of the essential drives which determines humankind's relationship with the holy. Codes of purity and impurity, dealing with such far-ranging topics as 'external stains' and 'inner remorse', represent the physical and 'bodily' side of religious experience and provide the key to the understanding of human orientation to nature, and the structure of society, including even relationships between the sexes. Starting with the Hebrew Bible, a number of articles study some rather neglected passages from both exegetical and cultural-anthropological standpoints. Next, it is shown that the concept of purity is far more central to the New Testament than previously thought. Luke is portrayed as a Jewish-oriented writer. The discussion of purity in Mark is compared with Rabbinical and Qumranic material. Patristic discussions of purity reflect both allegorical and literal interpretations, while rabbinical rulings display a fine sense for detail and realia. Biblical references to illness are interpreted both in Christian and Jewish traditions as a metaphor for immoral behavior. The present collection of studies proceeds far beyond other collections on purity, studying both the medieval and modern periods. Purity rules, in both Christian and Jewish society, do not disappear in the Middle Ages, but become increasingly stronger. Sometimes there appear unexpected and surprising similarities between both societies. Modern society sees a decline in the importance of purity, reflecting a growing ambiguous attitude to the relationship between the body and the holy. A feminist perspective is also provided, examining the intertwined relationship between religion, gender and power. Exegesis, archaeology, liturgy, anthropology and even architecture are all used to study the complex phenomena of purity in their religious and social dimensions from both Christian and Jewish perspectives.
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A Holy People

Jewish and Christian Perspectives on Religious Communal Identity

A Holy People investigates the various ways in which Jews and Christians define their religious identity, people or community, as being holy. Keeping in mind that historical studies can offer food for thought regarding contemporary issues, the study offers a large collection of essays, relating to the biblical, patristic and medieval period and especially to the modern period. The obvious question of many in the modern world as to whether the attribute of the ‘holiness’ allows for acknowledgement of authentic religion outside the own religious community, deserves an honest answer and well-documented study: too easily the claim of holiness intertwines with claims of power, whether by rivalling groups within the religious community, by groups divided along gender lines, or on the level of territorial claims. It will be of special importance to scholars and general readers interested in an interdisciplinary approach to theology, rabbinics, history, political science, and much more.
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This volume deals with the role of saints and exemplary individuals in Judaism and Christianity. Although sharing the Hebrew Bible and recognizing the same Biblical figures there, both religions have developed widely divergent perspectives upon the significance of these figures, although there are occasional common motifs and themes. Moreover, even the contrasting themes betray an underlying interaction between both religions as is clear from the contributions on, for example, Melchizedek, Elijah, the Desert Fathers, Rabbis on clothing, the Apostle Peter in Jewish tradition, the Maccabees in Christian tradition and the Biblical examples in Saint Antony the Hermit. The book examines Jewish and Christian perspectives upon saints and role models from the Biblical period to the present time. It will be of special importance to scholars and general readers interested in an interdisciplinary approach to theology, rabbinics, history, art history and much more.
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Peter J. Tomson and Joshua Schwartz