Purity, Community, and Ritual in Early Christian Literature

ISBN : 9780198791959

Moshe Blidstein
304 Pages
153 x 234 mm
Pub date
May 2017
Oxford Studies in Abrahamic Religions
Send mail

Purity, Community, and Ritual in Early Christian Literature investigates the meaning of purity, purification, defilement, and disgust for Christian writers, readers, and listeners from the first to third centuries. Anthropological and sociological works over the past decades have demonstrated how purity and defilement rituals, practices, and discourses harness the power of a raw emotion in order to shape and manipulate cultural structures. Moshe Blidstein builds on such theories to explain how early Christian writers drew on ancient Jewish and Greco-Roman traditions on purity and defilement, using them to create new types of community, form Christian identity, and articulate the relationship between body, sin, and ritual. Blidstein discusses early Christian purity issues under several headings: dietary law, death defilement, purity of the heart, defilement of outsiders, and purity of the community. Analysis of the motivations shaping the development of each area of discourse reveals two major considerations: polemical and substantive. Thus, Christian writing on dietary law and death defilement is essentially polemical, constructing Christian identity by marking the purity practices and beliefs of others as false. Concerning the subjects of baptism, eucharist, and penance, however, the discourse turns inwards and becomes more substantive, seeking to create and maintain theories of ritual and human nature coherent with the theological principles of the new religion.


Part I: Purity in its contexts
1 Introducing purity discourses
2 Purity and defilement in the Greco-Roman East and in Judaism

Part II: Breaking with the past
3 Early Christian attitudes towards dietary impurity
4 Early Christian attitudes towards death defilement

Part III: Roots of a new paradigm: the first two centuries
5 Baptism as purification in Early Christian texts
6 The pure community, the holy sacrifice, and the defilement of sin
7 Sexual defilement in Early Christian texts

Part IV: New configurations: purity, body, and community in the third century
8 Dietary and sexual purity in Jewish-Christian communities
9 The Origenist synthesis
10 General Conclusions

About the author: 

Moshe Blidstein is Postdoctoral fellow at the Martin Buber Society of Fellows at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.