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Fear of defilement and uncleanness seems so foreign to us, so primitive. Ancient Jews, following the Mosaic law, treated women as unclean during their monthly periods (Lev. 15:9–24), and still today Muslims believe bodily fluids defile clothing. Tribal cultures are full of “taboos,” and Hindus of certain castes avoid contact with people of lower castes. We think we’ve outgrown these fears, and think the Pharisees are children who treated other Jews as if they had the cooties.
In one respect, “childish” is the right word. The law was given as a schoolmaster to lead to Christ (Gal. 3:24), a guardian and protector of Israel during Israel’s minority, until the time of maturity (Gal. 4:1–7). During that period, Paul says, Israel’s sonship took the form of a kind of slavery. There is something childish about the rules of defilement: they’re rules for children.
Purity - Laws - Protocols - Yahweh - Presence
Purity laws were the protocols for both entering Yahweh’s presence and also addressing him. Through Torah, Israel was being trained to receive the coming King.
Still, merely dismissing these rules as childish misses some important features of these rules. A pedagogue doesn’t take care of children to keep them in permanent childhood. He conducts children until they are able to conduct themselves. And that, Paul says, was the purpose of the law. The Torah’s intention was to prepare Israel for the Messiah’s arrival.
Purity - Laws - Old - Testament - Instincts
In particular, the purity laws of the Old Testament developed certain instincts in Israel toward life, God, and the world. In refraining from blood, the truth that life belongs to God and should be returned to him was worked into the bones of faithful Israelites. Purity laws were the protocols for both entering Yahweh’s presence and also addressing him. Through Torah, Israel was being trained to receive the coming King.
Dismissing purity regulations as childish also misses the many ways...
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