(Heb. niqqayon [/y'QIn]; Gk. hagneia [aJgneiva]). The Old Testament. In the Old Testament, the basic sense of the Hebrew word for purity is probably an emptying out or being clean. The verb appears about forty times, most occurrences with an ethical, moral, or forensic sense. Purity is opposed to being guilty. It stands over against such conduct or attitudes as unfaithfulness to God's covenant ( Hosea 8:1 ), rebellion against God's law (v. 1), and idolatry (vv. 4-6, 11). Purity consists of "clean hands" ( Gen 20:5 ), innocence ( Psalm 26:6 ; 73:13 ), and an "empty stomach" ( Amos 4:6 ).
Purity is related to guiltless, blameless, or innocent behavior. In Exodus 23:7, an innocent person is portrayed as someone who is righteous as measured by the demands of the law. Purity is not a cultic term; in fact, it does not appear in the rules for holiness detailed in Leviticus. Yet the idea of purity does surface in a number of instances. Before they can engage in any cultic or ceremonial activity, God's people must be consecrated or had to sanctify themselves ( Exodus 19:10 Exodus 19:14 ; Joshua 7:13 ; 1 Sam 16:5 ; Job 1:5 ).
The New Testament. In the New Testament, there is little emphasis on ritual purity. Rather, the focus is on moral purity or purification: chastity ( 2 Cor 11:2 ; Titus 2:5 ); innocence in one's attitude toward members of the church ( 2 Cor 7:11 ); and moral purity or uprightness ( Php 4:8 ; 1 Tim 5:22 ; 1 Peter 3:2 ; 1 John 1:3 ). Purity is associated with understanding, patience and kindness ( 2 Cor 6:6 ); speech, life, love, and faith ( 1 Tim 4:12 ); and reverence ( 1 Peter 3:2 ).
Paul as God's servant commended himself through his sufferings and his moral and spiritual qualities. His ministry was enhanced and accredited because of the kind of person he had shown himself to be. Paul encouraged Timothy to set an example in his lifestyle and his purity ( 1 Tim 4:12 ), as well as in his relationships with other believers ( 5:2 ).
Walter M. Dunnett
Bibliography. H. Baltensweiler, NIDNTT, 3:100-102; H. Balz, EDNT, 1:22-23; F. Hauck, TDNT, 1:122; F. Danker, II Corinthians.
Copyright © 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of
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[N] indicates this entry was also found in Nave's Topical Bible
Bibliography InformationElwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Purity'". "Evangelical Dictionary of Theology".