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I. INTRODUCTIONThe symbol of blood is clearly important in the book of Revelation as demonstrated by the number of occurrences (nineteen) and it use throughout the book in a variety of contexts. And it is not a static or one-dimensional literary motif here either, like God's throne. Rather it is a dynamic symbol of life and death which draws the reader's attention to issues of sacred and profane, purity and pollution, deliverance and judgment.
Because of this referential complexity, I would argue that blood qualifies as an
example of what anthroplogist Victor Turner calls a dominant ritual symbol. Turner
identifies three attributes of such symbols: condensation of meaning, unification of disparate significata, and polarization of meaning.1 Blood (in both ancient Israelite and Christian
usage) compresses multiple meanings in one referent, for example: murder, sacrifice, pollution. Context is everything in determining its significance and emotive power. It also unifies
and focalizes a variety of phenomena, such as menstruation, animal slaughter, ritual purification, and legal culpabilty. The polarization of meaning to which Turner refers is between the
principles of social organization and moral values (the ideological pole), and the natural and
physical properties (the sensory pole).
Blood symbolizes the moral order in terms of cult (purity and pollution; Lev
16:18-19; 1 John 1:7), law (culpability, Exod 22:2-3; Acts 5:28), covenant/contract-making
(participation, Exod 24:8; Matt 26:28), and power (God's possession; Gen 9:6; Ezek 44:7).
And its physical properties are manifested in terms of its liquid quality (Deut 12:16; Rev
16:3-4); its ability to stain (Isa 63:2-3); its color (2 Kgs 3:22; Rev 6:12); and its symbolism of
life-force (Lev 17:11; Matt 16:17), birth (Sir 14:18; Heb 2:14), menstruation (Lev 20:18;
Mark 5:25), wine (Deut 32:14; Mark 14:23-24), and cosmic food (Ezek 44:7).
Of itself, blood is neither a positive nor a negative substance in ancient Israelite
and Christian usage. It depends on what sort of blood it is, where it is, who touches it, and
how it is utilized. This is a clue that we are dealing with the abstract category of purity.
Anthropologist Mary Douglas (following Lord Chesterfield's dictum) speaks of dirt as matter
out of place. This implies only two conditions, a set of ordered relations and a contravention
of that order.2 Blood can therefore be described as either in place or out of place, pure
or defiled. It is also an active substanceit has an effect on the things it touches: it can
be either a pollutant or a detergent.
To speak of purity is to speak of order: where do things belong? Every
society has systems or categories of purity, whether they articulate them explicitly or not.
These purity codes provide the society with meaning, orientation, and maps of behavior and
belonging.3 An American adage which speaks to this is: A place for everything, and
everything in its place. Furthermore, purity does not refer only to objects, but also plants,
animals, people, spaces, and time. Humans seem to be fundamentally creatures of
But the basis for order and purity is different from society to society. In
Western societies one of the most obvious bases of purity is the medical model, what can be
termed epidemiological (i.e. the analysis of how disease is spread and prevented). Our
concern is that things be clean in terms of bacteria. Another basis of U.S. purity
sensibilities has to do with attachment to certain animals. Cows, chickens, and pigs are
dietary staples; but serious disgust is registered when the topic arises of the Europeans eating
horsemeat or Southeast Asians eating dogmeat. Less discussed is the way race is understood
as a purity category. It was only a generation ago that the American South had separate toilet
facilities and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. But while these last two phenomena
may be a part of the past, who should marry whom, or who are preferable immigrants,
are still social issues. And certainly HIV/AIDS is currently the premier purity
issueboth in terms of health organization concerns and public discussion.
Degrees of purity are also operant in all societies. Since epidemiology
is at the base of Western purity systems, the most attention to purity is given to hospitals in
general, and operating rooms in particular. Related, but secondary, to this would be purity in
the food industry. The U.S. has the Federal Department of Agriculture to oversee the purity
of the food chain from farms to distributors to markets, the Center for Disease Control to
track and address the spread of disease, and county health departments to inspect restaurants
and other public eating facilities.
In ancient Israel and Judah, as in other ancient Near Eastern societies, purity was
always an important category. But evidently Judeans increased their concern for purity during
and after the Babylonian Exile (598-539 BCE) when purity regulations were codified, seen
especially in the book of Leviticus. While the section scholars refer to as the Holiness
Code (Leviticus 1726) is especially important here, chapters 1116 also address
This intense Judean interest in purity peaked again among the rabbis, so that a whole
order (sedar) of the Mishnah (the so-called Oral Law which took written form c.
200 CE), composed of twelve tractates (massektoth) is call Purities
(Tohoroth). Furthermore, the order Set Feasts (Mo'ed) deals with the purity
issues of festivals; but purity issues come up throughout the Mishnah.
The primary reason for these two periods of increased concern over purity is evidently
the loss of control over their political and religious life: the social body. During the Baby-
lonian Exile thousands of Judeans (especially the elites) were deported to Babylon, and in 587
BC the Jerusalem temple was destroyed. And for several centuries following the Exile the
Judeans were subject to one empire after another. The Mishnah took shape in the period of
Roman domination, culminating in the destruction of the second Jerusalem temple in 70 CE,
and the ban of Judeans from Jerusalem in 135 CE. The mixing with foreigners and the lack
of external control heightened concern to control the social and physical boundaries. The loss
of the Jerusalem sanctuary and the authority of priests also called for a systemic
Since the purity regulations of Leviticus can be taken as operant in the first century
A.D. among Judeans (at least as the official ideology), it will be useful to compare and
contrast its categorization of blood with that of Revelation. Leviticus is of course a book of
regulations covering a broad spectrum of issues relating to sacrifice, priesthood, and purity.
Revelation, on the other hand, is a horse of a different color: a book of warning letters to
churches followed by vision-reports. But, while Revelation is polemical rather than
regulatory, it still operates with purity assumptions, and it should prove useful to compare
these to the assumptions of Leviticus.
II. Purity in Leviticus
Douglas has cogently argued that the purity of Leviticus is broadly based.
Rather than being solely centered on the sanctuary, the whole of Israel's life is organized in
terms of purity rules. This means that the tabernacle's purity is matched by that of the
priesthood, but also by that of the field, household, and physical body. All of these fit
together into a system of purity identified with Yahweh's holiness/purity: And you shall be
holy to me, because I, Yahweh, am holy; and I have separated you from the peoples to
belong to me (Lev 20:26).
The purity issues addressed in Leviticus are many, but without attempting to be
exhaustive, we can identify the following major categories: touching impure objects (ch. 5);
eating fat and blood (7); foodacceptable/unacceptable species of animals to eat (ch.
11), skin diseases (1314), genital dischargesnormal/abnormal (12 and 15), the
sanctuary (16), sacrificial animals (17), sexual partners (18 and 20), everyday transactions
(19), the priesthood (8 and 2122), the calendar (23 and 25), profaning the divine name
(24), and vows (27).
Jacob Milgrom has been the one to most clearly articulate the logic which
underlies priestly regulations of purity/impurity. He has clarified that the priestly regulations
identifies two separate distinctions: clean/unclean and holy/common (10:10). Both the holy
and the common are understood to be clean unless otherwise designated; but while the holy
has a contagious quality (like impurity), the common is inert. Furthermore, the holy is
divided into holy and most-holy. The interactions of these various spheres (e.g., most-holy
and unclean) have differing results with regard to contamination. I have summarized his
references in the following chart:
Milgrom summarizes the calculus of this system of impurity (what he calls the
laws of sancta contamination) as follows:
The fact that the Levitical purity system is not a series of suggestions
but codified regulations is seen in the punishments attached to many of the offences. For
some of the purity violations the offender is identified as guilty and requires purgation
(e.g., 5:6). But for more serious offences one could be cut off (karat, viz.
excommunicated, socially banned; e.g., 18:29) or executed (mot yumat; e.g., 20:9).
Leviticus 26 lists a number of group punishments enacted by Yahweh for failing to maintain
this system: disease, defeat in war, drought, fruitless land, plagues, wild beasts, famine,
exile, and fear. Thus threats of social exclusion, death, and disaster provided the
negative motivation for adhering strictly to the purity code. The code functions as a
map of conformity/deviance, as well as identifying the danger points to the individual, the
society, and the sanctuary.
But the recurring positive motivation to holiness and purity derives
from Yahweh's nature, and the conceptualization of the Israelites and Judeans as Yahweh's
people: And consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am Yahweh, your God. And
keep my statutes and perform them; I am Yahweh, who sanctifies you (20:7-8). Thus
purity consists of concrete actions performed by the people, but also entails Yahweh's
reciprocal action. It consequently has personal, social, and cosmic dimensions.6
Douglas is correct that wide-ranging issues of everday life are addressed in the
Israelite purity system in Leviticus, and many of these issues are dealt with in the context of
the local village; the system is not solely about the sacrifice and the sanctuary. But one
may still identify the pivotal roles of the priesthood and the sanctuary. Such things as skin
diseases have to be judged by priests (13:1-59). The system assumes a society which has a
permanent sacred space (the sanctuary, 19:30; 20:3) and a professional priesthood (Aaron
and his sons, 21:1-24). The lines of purity are clearly demarcated (e.g., animals acceptable
for eating, 11:1-47), rationales for the system are provided (20:22-26; 22:31-33), and the
means for rectifying infractions are provided in the one, centralized cult (ch.
III. Blood in LeviticusThe Hebrew word for blood (dam) appears eighty-seven times in the book of Leviticus. Most of these occurences, however, are in the same context: the use of animal blood in the sacrifices. It is utilized in many ritual actions; representative examples will make the point. Blood is: presented (hiqrib, 1:5), put (natan, 4:7), taken (laqah, 4:5), brought (hebi', 4:16), dipped in (tabal, 4:17), offered (qarab, 7:33), sprinkled (hizzah, 5:9), poured (sapak, 4:7), cleansed with (hitte', 14:52), thrown (zaraq, 1:5), delivered (himsi', 9:12), and drained out (nimsah, 1:15). Thus the handling of the blood must be performed with precision because of its importance in the rituals and its potency.
Animal blood used in sacrifices is seen as a purifying agent, a detergent. The
pollution of the priests, leadership, community as a whole, or sanctuary is symbolically
cleansed by the right performance of the blood ritual. The correct blood (e.g., bull or goat)
ritually manipulated in the prescribed manner and sequence (e.g., offered, sprinkled, dipped
in) in the prescribed location (central sanctuary) by the correct person (Aaronide priest)
effects purgation of pollution. Most of these issues are made explicit in 16:18-19:
Then he [Aaron] shall proceed to the altar which is before Yahweh and effect purgation upon it. And he shall take some blood from the bull and some blood from the goat and put it all around the horns of the altar. And he shall sprinkle on it some of the blood with his finger seven times. Thus he will purify it and consecrate it of the pollution of the children of Israel. (see also 14:52; 17:11)
But this raises the question: why blood and not hooves or meat or
some other part of an animal? The answer Leviticus gives is: For the life of the flesh is in
the blood; and I have assigned it for you upon the altar to effect purgation for your lives;
for it is the blood that effects purgation, because of the life (17:11; see v14; Deut 12:23).
The blood thus symbolizes life: the life of the animal for the life of the community. Blood,
as the symbol of life, is the only part of the animal powerful enough to effect purgation, and
Yahweh has assigned it. In Ezekiel we see the additional notion of the blood and fat as
Yahweh's food (44:7).
But even the correct animal blood may not effect purification. Leviticus 17:1-9
identifies a potential problem area: animals sacrificed, but not brought to the tabernacle,
bring about bloodguilt. This danger, many have suggested, relates to the limitation of all
animal slaughter to sacrifice.7 But it is also possible that (at least at one stage in the
tradition) this regulation functioned to disallow kinship-based Yahweh religion with local
shrines, northern Israelite Yahweh-shrines, as well as shrines to other deities. Following the
reforms of king Josiah of Judah (c. 621 BC), Yahweh worship in Judah was officially
centralized in (and limited to) the Jerusalem cult (see Deuteronomy 12; 2 Kings 23); and
this regulation disallows sacrifices outside of that central sanctuary. In other words, the
ritual has to be performed by an authorized professional in an authorized location to be
potent; otherwise it becomes a pollutant rather than a detergent. The ritual control of
sacrificial blood, therefore, is tied to the symbolic control of the social body: the central
state sanctuary (the politically-based Yahweh cult) was the only legitimate locus of sacrifice,
and therefore purification. Anyone desiring an authorized form of purification had to
come to the state-controlled sanctuary, run by the centrally-controlled Aaronide priests.
A further issue with regard to animal blood is that it is defiling when it is
eaten (Lev 17:10-12; see also 3:17; 7:26-27; 19:26a; Deut 12:16, 23; 15:23; 1 Sam
14:32-34; Ezek 33:25). This does not refer to drinking blood (that would presumably be
defiling too, but is not the issue), but failing to drain the blood from an animal before
cooking and eating it.8 No explicit explanation is provided in any of these texts other than
the blood is assigned for purgation. But the assumption seems to be that the blood belongs
to God for purgation, and not to humans (see Gen 9:6).
Animal blood is also defiling when it splashes on the priests' garments, and it
must be washed off in the sanctuary (Lev 6:27), having become a used detergent which
was now itself contaminated.9 Elsewhere in the Old Testament, blood on garments is a symbol of
contamination because of its symbolization of war or murder (e.g., 1 Kgs 2:5; Isa 9:5; Lam
A point of blood-purity which comes up several times in Leviticus is vaginal
blood: post-partum bleeding, menstruation, and irregular vaginal bleeding (see 12:1-5;
15:19-24; 18:19; 20:18). Some societies evaluate menstruation neutrally, as simply a matter
of elimination (e.g., the Rungus of Borneo).10 Others employ elaborate sets of taboos and
regulations to control the negative effects of menstruation (e.g., Turkish village Muslims).11
And still others value menstruation positively as contributing to the fecundity of the earth
(e.g., the Beng of the Ivory Coast).12
Leviticus has several rules for the woman's menstrual period: 1) she is unclean
for seven days; 2) anything she lies upon or sits upon is unclean; 3) anyone who touches
her, her bedding, or what she has sat upon is unclean until evening; and 4) anyone who has
intercourse with her is unclean for seven days (15:19-24). Similar ordinances obtain for a
woman with irregular vaginal bleeding (15:25-31). But this is paralleled for men with
genital discharges (15:32-33). This is given sacral and cosmic scope (viz. a taboo) in that it
relates to both Yahweh and Yahweh's sanctuary (15:31).
These menstrual regulations and taboos are extremely close to those described
by Delaney for the village Turkish Muslims. She concludes: The fact that a woman is not
self-contained and self-controlled but is instead open is interpreted as a sign that she must
be socially controlled and closed, or covered.13 This alerts us that purity codes function as
expressions of the overall cultural perspective. In this case, the gender-division of
traditional Middle Eastern cultures is expressed in the fear and control of women's bodies
and sexuality. So the order for which purity codes strive sometimes results in the
restraint, marginalization, or oppression of some of the society's members; this, then, relates
directly to social hierarchy and power. This may prompt a further reflection on how our
own culture's purity codes manifest our fears of and desire to control the other, whether
the other is defined in terms of gender, sexual orientation, disease, religious affiliation, age,
or even homelessness.
One of the interesting omissions from Leviticus is the mention of human
life-blood as either polluting or purifying. It certainly addresses murder (Lev 24:17, 21), but
the phrase shedding blood is not employed (see Deut 21:7). Numbers, on the other hand,
describes a murder victim's blood as polluting the land, and the murderer's blood as the only
means of purification (Numb 35:31-34; see Gen 4:10-11; 9:6; Deut 19:10; Isa 59:3; Ezek
22:3-4; Ps 106:38).
IV. Purity in RevelationA clear distinction is made between clean and unclean persons at both the cosmic and social levels; and many of them are clearly set as parallel formulations (e.g. apostles, false apostles; prophets, false prophets). Without providing all the variations on names for the same characters, the following division is manifested:
A person belongs to either one group or the other. Attempting to straddle the fence does not result in compromise or mediation, but confusion and ultimately banishment. In other words, anomalies are not tolerated:
I know you whose performance is neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! Therefore, because you are tepid, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you from my mouth. (3:15-16)
One of the recurring symbols of purity in Revelation is clothing. One like a
son of man is described with a long robe, golden belt, head and hair as white as wool and
snow, eyes like flames, feet like burnished bronze refined in a furnace (1:13-15). There
were people of Sardis who had not defiled their clothing and who will walk in white
(3:4). The image of having robes washed or dipped in blood is employed to describe both
the elect and Christ (7:14; 19:13; see also 22:14). The bride of Christ is described as
clothed with fine linen, bright and pure; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the
saints (19:8); and the armies of God are similarly arrayed in fine linen (19:14). Thus these
visible garments symbolize group-membership, as well as status and honor: therefore, purity
as in-group and social hierarchy.
Purity is also symboled spatially. While the saints must live among the rest of
society for the time being, they will eventually be separated from Babylon in order to
prevent contamination (18:4-5). In the earthly temple, God's people are in the inner
courtyards (11:1), while the nations are in the outer courtyards (11:2). Furthermore, in the
new Jerusalem, only those who have washed their robes are allowed inside the holy city
(22:14). Those left outside the city are the morally corrupt: the dogs (22:15), and nothing
accursed is allowed inside (22:3).
A further major category of purity regards morality in the broadest sense:
sorcery, sexual impurity, murder, idolatry, falsehood (e.g., 9:21; 21:8, 27; 22:15). Those
who practice such things are part of the out-group, and they are described as unrepentant.
Thus, the community of the faithful is seen as distinct from all others who participate in
these activities. The community is also seen as under attack by these polluting and demonic
forces, addressed especially in Revelation 1219:
And it [the dragon] was given a mouth speaking grandiose and blasphemous things; and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months . . . And it was permitted to make war on the saints and conquer them. (13:5,7)So the social body is under attack from external forces, from which it cannot fully withstand. Ultimately, the Lamb has to deliver the community from these persecutions.
On the other hand, the community is also struggling with deviance within.
This is addressed especially in the letters to the churches in Revelation 23. While
praising most of the churches for their faithfulness in general, the prophet raises serious
defects in the congregations. The Ephesians abandoned their first love (2:4). The churches
at Pergamum and Thyatira have some who falsely teach the eating of meat offered to idols,
practice immorality, and listen to a false prophetess (2:14, 20). The church at Sardis has the
reputation of being lively, but they are really at the point of death (3:1). The church at
Laodicea thinks it is rich, prosperous, and lacking in nothing; but the prophet describes them
as miserable, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked (3:17). Only the churches at
Symrna and Philadelphia escape the prophet's accusations. Thus the internal boundaries in
most of these churches are confused, and the prophet has to expose their deviance.
The remedy for these churches is to repent and change their behavior (2:5, 16,
21; 3:3, 19). No special purificatory rite is directed, and presumably none is needed. For
those already within the community, repentance and alteration is sufficient.
Like Leviticus, Revelation roots holiness or purity in God's nature:
V. Blood in Revelation
Blood is a potent symbol in Revelation. It will be useful to begin by looking
at the references to blood in the same three categories found in Leviticus and expand from
those: animal blood, human life-blood, and vaginal blood.
Animal blood is never used literally, but only metaphorically in Revelation as
the blood of the Lamb, referring to Christ's death (7:14; 12:11; see also 19:13). This
demonstrates a real departure from the Jerusalem cult's use of blood from bulls, goats,
lambs, and birds. No more sacrificial cult is envisioned in this nascent Christian
community. Instead, Christ's blood is what is efficacious for redemption and freedom from
You [the Lamb] are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals; for you were violently slain, and you redeemed for God by your blood those from every tribe and language and people and nation. And you made them for God a kingdom and priests, and they shall reign on the earth. (5:9-10; see 1:5)This provides an alternative ideology: instead of an Aaronide priesthood who must ritually manipulate animal blood in a sanctuary, the Lamb's blood accomplished redemption for all and created a new community in which all members are symbolically priests.
Several conclusions follow from this. Purity derives from what the Lamb has
done, not what the community has done (see Lev 20:7-8). It also does not derive from
membership in a politically defined cultic-group of Israelites, but is composed of people
from all groups. The in-group is thus diverse and scattered; and one of the implications of
this is that there is no central control mechanism. And since all are priests, no clear social
hierarchy is in place within the group; no select group of official cultic personnel is required
to perform the rituals.
This image of the blood of the Lamb also reverses the categorization of
blood on garments as seen in Lev 6:27. Instead of polluting, the Lamb's blood becomes a
metaphor of purification when the saints and the Word of God wash their robes in it (Lev
7:14; 19:13). Rather than the used detergent that may splash the priest's vestments, in
Revelation's description washing one's garments in blood becomes a symbol of either
purification and belonging (7:14) or empowerment (19:13; see also 12:11).
Human life-blood comes into play especially in the case of martyred saints
and prophets. First of all, the community cries out to God for vengeance for the innocent
deaths in the Christians (6:10). As in Numb 35:33-34, the shedding of innocent blood calls
for the blood of the murderer (Rev 16:6; 17:6; 18:24). But unlike the regulation in
Numbers, the vengeance is not executed by the legal community, but by God:
Halleluyah! Deliverance and honor and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgments: for he has condemned the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her impurity; and he has avenged the blood of his servants upon her. (19:1-2)One may conclude from this is that the community is in no position to exact its own vengeance; it must come from God, and that only when God is ready (6:11; see Lev 26:25). The purity of balanced bloodletting, like that of purifying the people, will happen only by God's action and in God's time.
As a further image of this purification balance, God gives the murderers blood
to drink as a punishment: it is appropriate (16:6). As this last reference demonstrates, it
plays on an Israelite sensibility of consumed blood as a contaminant, as well as the added
element punishment (Lev 3:17; 19:26; Deut 12:23-25).
And finally, menstrual blood is not explicitly mentioned in Revelation. One
text, however, refers to it obliquely. In the letter to Thyatira, Jezebel, the false prophetess,
is thrown on her sickbed (2:22) and those who commit adultery with her are judged.
The term sick is a euphemism for a woman in menstruation in Lev 15:33, and the image
in Revelation seems to be of men who lie with Jezebel while she is impure because of
menstruation. If this interpretation is correct, then the prophet/author of Revelation is
clearly perpetuating the purity traditions of the Middle East in which women's blood is seen
as dangerous and contaminating. This continuity of tradition with regard to menstrual blood
would have been easy to maintain for early Christians since it is not directly related to the
Judean cult or the relationship between Israelite Yahwists and gentiles. Women were
certainly leaders in some of the early Christian communities (e.g., Prisca and Junia). But
one can only regret that fundamental issues of gender-division in relation to social
organization and hierarchy did not seem to receive the same challenge and cultural critique
in the first century as the gentile issue.14
The texts from both Leviticus and Revelation demonstrate that blood is a
focalizing, or dominant ritual symbol (as defined by Turner) in both Israelite Yahwism and
nascent Christianity. The recurring issues of blood in both these texts cut to the core of
values in ancient Mediterranean societies and highlight the potency of blood-symbolism:
cult, life and death, and the control of women's bodies. Blood-symbolism exemplifies the
core of purity ideology, which depends upon clear lines of demarcation, not only of objects
like blood, but of how people act. In order to be pure, the community has to respect and
maintain the purity boundaries. Objects have to be handled in the proper way, and pollution
follows the inappropriate use of them.
These texts do not represent the same purity standards of modern Western
societies in certain respects. Sacrifice and blood-vengeance do not fit in modern Jewish or
Christian sensibilities. But the on-going debate in the courtsand society as a
wholeover the efficacy of captial punishment in the U.S. does highlight the diversity
in our society. And the willingness to speak in public about anything genital has been
breeched only in recent years by advertisements for feminine hygiene products. Murder in
our society is certainly a crime, but in U.S. law it does not include the cosmic
dimension of impurity and the pollution of the land.
The blood of Christ has been part of a long debate in Church history with regard to
differing understandings of the Eucharist; and it remains a dividing point between official
theologies in Eastern and Western communions, as well as Roman Catholics and Protestants.
The power of this symbol in Christian ideology can hardly be underestimated. Perhaps
systems of purity in different Christian traditions need to be examined alongside symbol,
myth, and theologies of atonement. An old hymn proclaims there is power in the blood;
but we must recognize that the understanding of that power depends heavily upon the purity
system to which one is oriented.
The following chart summarizes the discussion, and provides examples of the various
ways blood is categorized as purifying or polluting in Leviticus and Revelation.
If we are to understand the ancient texts which Jewish and Christian
communities hold as scripture, we must pay close attention to how symbols such as blood
bear deep emotive power, communicating anger, disgust, relief, and devotion. They are part
of larger systems of meaning and self-understanding, and cannot be pulled out of context
without loss. Understanding the purity systems of ancient Israelites and early Christians can
also help us reflect on our own systems of meaning and the culturally-defined systems of
purity in which we participate.
2. Mary Douglas, Pollution, in Implicit Meanings (New York: Routlege & Kegan Paul, 1975), 50.
3. See Bruce J. Malina and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, Social-Science Commentary on the Synoptic Gospels, 2d ed. (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 395-97.
4. Jerome H. Neyrey, The Symbolic Universe of Luke-Acts: 'They Turn the World Upside Down', in The Social World of Luke-Acts, edited by Jerome H. Neyrey (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 276 (271-304). Other key works on purity and the Bible include: Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of the Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1966); Jacob Neusner, The Idea of Purity in Ancient Judaism, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 1 (Leiden: Brill, 1973), which includes Critique and Commentary by Mary Douglas, 137-42; Bruce J. Malina, The New Testament World: Insights From Cultural Anthropology, 3d ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2001), pp. 161-97; Jerome H. Neyrey, Unclean, Common, Polluted, and Taboo: A Short Reading Guide, Forum 4,4 (1988) 72-82; Neyrey, Symbolic Universe, 271-304; Howard Eilberg-Schwartz, The Savage in Judaism: An Anthropology of Israelite Religion and Ancient Judaism (Bloomington: Indiana Univ. Press, 1990), 177-216; David P. Wright and Hans Hübner, Unclean and Clean, in Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:729-45.
5. For the preceding discussion, see Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 116, Anchor Bible 3 (New York: Doubleday, 1991), 976-85; for the laws of sancta contamination, see 984. See also Milgrom, Leviticus, Continental Commentaries (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004).
6. See John H. Elliott, The Epistle of James in Rhetorical And Social Scientific Perspective: HolinessWholeness and Patterns of Replication, Biblical Theology Bulletin 23 (1993):71-81.
7. See Baruch A. Levine, Leviticus (JPS Torah Commentary; Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989), 112-13.
8. See Baruch J. Schwartz, The Prohibition Concerning the 'Eating' of Blood in Leviticus 17, in Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel, edited by Gary A. Anderson and Saul M. Olyan, JSOT Supplements 125 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991) 34-66; John E. Hartley, Leviticus, Word Biblical Commentary 4 (Waco, TX: Word, 1992), 273-77.
9. S. David Sperling, Blood, in Anchor Bible Dictionary, edited by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1:760.
10. For a cross-cultural survey and analysis of attitudes to menstruation see Thomas Buckley and Alma Gottlieb, Critical Appraisal of Theories of Menstrual Symbolism, in Blood Magic: The Anthropology of Menstruation, edited by Thomas Buckley and Alma Gottlieb (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 3-50. For the Rungus, see Laura W. R. Appell, Menstruation Among the Rungus of Borneo: An Unmarked Category, in Blood Magic, 95-115.
11. Carol Delaney, Mortal Flow: Menstruation in Turkish Village Life, in Blood Magic, 75-93.
12. Alma Gottlieb, Menstrual Cosmology Among the Beng of Ivory Coast, in Blood Magic, 54-74.
13. Delaney, Mortal Flow, 81.
14. See, e.g., Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New York: Crossroad, 1983); and Karen Jo Torjesen, When Women Were Priests: Women's Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993).