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'Jesus and the Forces of Death,' with Dr. Matthew Thiessen

September 8th, 2020 | 2 min read

By Caleb Wait

When considering his numerous encounters with the ritually impure, many today depict Jesus as a prophet who, in his ministry, was against Jewish laws and purity rituals. However, does this telling of the gospel accounts do justice to Jesus's handling of the impure and the dying? Dr. Matthew Thiessen joins Matt, Derek, and Alastair to discuss his work, Jesus and the Forces of Death: The Gospels' Portrayal of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism, to discuss these questions and more.


Dr. Thiessen, how did you find yourself researching and writing about purity laws in the bible? [0:00 - 3:05]

How should we understand the category of “purity” being distinct from “holiness” and “sin”? [3:05 - 4:35]

How can we help illustrate “purity” as it is used in scripture so that it can more easily make sense for us today? [4:35 - 7:19]

What is it about being “impure” that would prevent one from holiness? [7:19 - 10:35]

How does Jesus deal with ritual impurity in the Gospels? [10:35 - 17:05]

The ministry of John as it relates to Jesus’s confrontation with impurity [17:05 - 19:06]

The relationship between ritual and moral impurity [19:06 - 23:19]

How does the law of the spirit, and Paul’s categories more generally, relate to purity rituals? [23:19 - 27:08]

The new “holy space” in light of the resurrection [27:08 - 29:20]

Demons as apart of the forces of death [29:20 - 33:21]

Why the elaborate rituals in purity laws? [33:21 - 35:58]

How should these ideas shape our lives and the lives of our church communities? [35:58 - 43:18]

Resources mentioned:

Jesus and the Forces of Death: The Gospels' Portayel of Ritual Impurity within First-Century Judaism by Matthew Thiessen

Impurity and Sin in Ancient Judaism by Jonathan Klawans

The works of Jacob Milgrom

If you’re interested in supporting the show financially, you can check out our Patreon here.

Finally, as always, follow DerekAndrew, and Alastair for more tweet-sized brilliance. Thanks to Timothy Motte for his sound editing work. And thanks to The Joy Eternal for lending us their music, which everybody should download out of gratitude for their kindness.

Caleb Wait

Caleb Wait (MATS, Westminster Seminary California) is a writer and the producer of Mere Fidelity. He and his wife Kristin have two children and live in Northern California. You can follow him on Twitter @calebwait and he invites you to email him at