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Purity and Impurity in the New Testament with Special Consideration of the "Cleansing of the Temple" and 1 Corinthians

This research project will deal with purity concepts and their relevance for identity construction in the New Testament. Methodologically it will take literary, historical, cultural-anthropological and social aspects into account. Based on the narrative of Jesus' cleansing of the temple, this project will reconstruct the significance of the pure-impure distinction for the Jesus movement and the Gospels and thus shed light on the identity construction voiced therein. Additionally it focuses on 1 Corinthians, in which Paul addresses the congregation metaphorically as "temple", thereby alluding to purity concepts. The specific character of Paul's purity concept that serves to define but also breach certain boundaries of the Christian congregation will be analysed. The diversity and the development of purity concepts in the New Testament will be examined against this double background (Gospel/Paul). In addition, the project will also address the question of the extent to which Jewish purity concepts were adopted and respectively transformed.

This deliberate double perspective - that is, the purity concepts of the narrative of Jesus' cleansing of the temple on the one hand, and the metaphor of the church as a temple of God on the other - will not only deal with a poorly researched field, but will further elucidate New Testament purity conceptions. Since the Corinthian congregation partly consisted of members with a Hellenistic-syncretistic background, Hellenistic approaches to purity of cultic rooms must be taken into account. The double approach of this project intends to contribute to the research on the dynamics in the history of religions between Asia and Europe in the first century a.D. Jerusalem and Corinth are two places in the Eastern Mediterranean - one belonging to Asia, the other to Europe - that are both closely linked through Hellenism, Diaspora-Judaism and the same (Jewish-Christian) movement. These interrelations are characterized by complex dynamics. It is to the background of these dynamics that the two individual studies (Gospel/Paul) must be conducted: The reciprocal East-West (Asia-Europe) transfer, the differences and similarities between Jewish and Hellenistic purity concepts and the reception (inclusion/rejection) of the various concepts in the New Testament bear great importance in the purity-theme. The project will look at the question of whether or not the transformation of the conception of purity was of central importance for the formation of a new religious movement.

 

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