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Ritual Purity

Ritual purity is a central element to the burial of the deceased in Judaism and as such influences the burial methods that are used according to Jewish law.

In Judaism, the burial or "kevura" of a deceased person is considered to be a sacred event that must be carried out according to the laws outlined in the Torah. Burial is, in fact, one of the last events in the Torah; God himself buries Moses in the desert of Moab:

    The Lord then said to [Moses], 'This is the land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you feast your eyes upon it, but you shall not cross over.' So there, in the land of Moab, Moses, the servant of the Lord, died as the Lord had said; and he was buried in the ravine opposite Beth-peor in the land of Moab, but to this day no one knows the place of his burial (Deuteronomy 4-6).

Ritual purity is an important component of ancient Jewish burial customs. According to Jewish law, a deceased person's body must be buried within 24 hours of the individual's death (Deuteronomy 21:23). This law included burying an individual in a tomb, which is viewed in Judaic law as equivalent to burying an individual directly into the ground.

In addition, laws exist regarding the handling of the dead. These laws encompass the mikveh, the waters and bath of ritual immersion. Specifically, the Tamasha baptism must be performed after handling the body of a deceased person. The Tamasha baptism is a current Mandean tradition. This type of baptism is a form of ablution - the use of ritual washing in order to remove sin, disease or earthly defilement. The Tamasha baptism is practiced by observant men and women and is performed without the assistance of the priest. Characterized by a triple immersion in water, the origins of this type of ritual immersion have been traced to ancient Nazarene traditions.

The Burial of Jesus

Because Jesus was an observant Jewish man, his body would also have been buried according to ancient Jewish laws of ritual purity following the crucifixion. As recorded in the Bible, Jesus' body had to be buried quickly, because the Sabbath was soon approaching:

"It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus' body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid" (Mark 15: 42-47).


Jesus of Nazareth Mary Magdalene: Mariamne Early Christianity
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