Purity : blessing or burden?

Depoix, D. J. (2002-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2002

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: During the history of Israel the concept of "purity" had developed as a way in which God's people could honour his holiness and draw nearer to him, as a sanctified nation. By the time of Jesus, in Second Temple Judaism, the purity system had become restrictive. This had been influenced by political and social developments, including an increased desire to withdraw from Hellenistic and other factors which were seen as contaminating the integrity of Judaism. There were diverse perceptions regarding the achievement of the purity of Israel, including militaristic confrontation and expulsion of alien occupation forces, stricter adherence to the Law and, in some cases, total withdrawal from general society (such as at Qumran). It was, however, particularly the Pharisaic imposition of the supplementary oral tradition, supposed to clarify the written Law, which imposed hardship on those who, through illiteracy or inferior social status, were unable to meet all the minute provisions which would ensure ritual purity. The expansion of the Law of Moses by the commentary of the rabbis, which over time became the entrenched oral "tradition of the fathers", was originally intended to promote access to God by clarifying obscure points of the Law, in the pursuit of purity. However, this oral tradition had, in fact, become an instrument of alienation and separation of the ordinary people not only from the Pharisees, who considered themselves as the religious elite, but also from God. The common people, that is, a large section of the population, felt rejected and on the outside of both religious and social acceptance. On the material level they also suffered under a heavy tax burden, from both Temple and State, which aggravated their poverty. It was this situation which Jesus confronted in his mission to change the ideological climate and to reveal the Kingdom of God as being accessible to all who accepted the true Fatherhood of God, in penitence and humility. He denounced the hypocrisy which professed piety but which ignored the plight of those who were suffering. Hark 7 : 1-23 symbolizes the difference between the teaching and practice of Jesus and that of the Pharisees, and provides metaphorically a pattern of Christian engagement which is relevant in the South African situation today. The Christian challenge is to remove those barriers, both ideological and economic, which impede spiritual and material well-being within society. By active engagement, rather than by retreating to the purely ritualistic and individualistic practice of religion, the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven, as inaugurated by Jesus, will be advanced.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Gedurende die geskiedenis van Israel het die konsep van reinheid ontwikkel as 'n wyse waarin die die volk van God Sy heiligheid kan eer en tot Hom kan nader, as 'n geheiligde volk. Teen die tyd van Jesus, tydens Tweede Tempel Judaïsme, het die reinheid sisteem beperkend geword. Dit is beïnvloed deur politieke en sosiale ontwikkelinge, insluitende 'n toenemende drang om te onttrek van Hellenistiese en ander faktore, wat beskou is as 'n besoedeling van die integriteit van Judaïsme. Daar was diverse persepsies aangaande die uitvoering van die reinheid van Israel, insluitende militaristiese konfrontasie en die uitwerping van vreemde besettingsmagte, strenger onderhouding van die Wet en in sekere gevalle, totale onttreking van die algemene samelewing (soos by Qumran). Tog was dit in besonder die Fariseërs se oplegging van bykomende mondelinge tradisie, veronderstelom die geskrewe Wet te verhelder, wat ontbering veroorsaak het vir die wat as gevolg van ongeletterdheid of minderwaardige sosiale status nie in staat was om aan elke haarfyn bepaling, wat rituele reinheid sou verseker, te voldoen nie. Die uitbreiding van die wet van Moses deur die kommentaar van die rabbies, wat met verloop van tyd die ingegrawe mondelinge "tradisie van die vaders" geword het, was oorsproklik bedoel om toegang tot God te verseker, deur die verheldering van onduidelike aspekte van die wet, in die nastreef van reinheid. Hierdie mondelinge tradisie het egter 'n instrument van vervreemding geword en skeiding gebring tussen gewone mense en die Fariseers, sowel as die wat hulleself beskou het as die religieuse elite. Dit het egter ook skeiding gebring tussen mense en God. Die gewone mense, dit is die meerderheid van die bevolking, het verwerp gevoel en aan die buitekring van beide religieuse en sosiale aanvaarding. Op materiële vlak het hulle ook gelyonder die juk van swaar belasting, van beide die Tempel en die Staat, wat hulle toestand van armoede vererger het. Dit was hierdie situasie wat Jesus gekonfronteer het in sy strewe om die ideologiese klimaat te verander en om die Koninkryk van God te openbaar as toeganklik vir almal wat die ware Vaderskap van God aanvaar, in berou en in nederigheid. Hy het die skynheiligheid verwerp wat aanspraak maak op vroomheid, maar die toestand van die lydendes ignoreer. Markus 7:1-23 simboliseer die verskil tussen die onderrig en die praktyk van Jesus en dié van die Fariseërs en voorsien metafories 'n patroon van Christelike verbintenis, wat relevant is binne die eietydse Suid-Afrikaanse konteks. Die uitdaging aan die Christendom is om die skeidslyne te verwyder, beide ideologies en ekonomies, wat geestelike en materieële welsyn binne die gemeenskap belemmer. Deur aktiewe betrokkenheid, eerder as om bloot te onttrek tot die suiwer ritualistiese en individualistiese beoefening van religie, sal die realisering van die Koninkryk van die Hemel soos ingehuldig deur Jesus, bevorder word.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/53024
This item appears in the following collections: