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The condition of being free from any physical, moral, or ritual contamination. In the Hebrew Bible people may contract impurity by contact with a corpse, certain dead animals, the involuntary flow of fluids from the sexual organs, certain diseases, or the eating of prohibited foods. Certain objects are regarded as pure, but may be rendered impure as a result of contact with a person who has not undergone purification rites. While impure, a person is enjoined from certain actions, primarily contact with the Temple or its religious practices. The process of purification consisted of several stages: a waiting period of from one day to several months, depending upon the nature of the impurity; a cleansing agent such as water (Lev 15:16), fire (Num 31:23), or blood (Lev 14:25); and the offering of a sacrifice. The NT developed the view that impurity is a spiritual quality that comes from within. The blood of Jesus is understood as the agent that has purified all people once and for all. Thus, in Christian theology the elaborate system of biblical purity is abrogated.

  • Powell, Mark Allan, ed. HarperCollins Bible Dictionary. Abridged Edition. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2009.