Ablution in Christianity

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Ablution in religion is a prescribed washing of part or all of the body or of possessions, such as clothing or ceremonial objects, with the intent of purification or dedication.[1]

In Christianity, both baptism and footwashing are forms of ablution. In liturgical churches, ablution can refer to purifying fingers or vessels related to the Eucharist.[2] In the NT washing also occurs in reference to rites of Judaism[3] part of the action of a healing by Jesus,[4] the preparation of a body for burial,[Acts 9:37] the washing of nets by fishermen,[Lk. 5:2] a person's personal washing of the face to appear in public,[Matt. 6:17] the cleansing of an injured person's wounds,[Acts 16:33] Pilate's washing of his hands as a symbolic claim of innocence[Matt. 27:24] and foot washing,[Jn. 13:5-14] [1 Tim. 5:10] now partly a symbolic rite within the Church.[5]

According to the Gospel of Matthew, Pontius Pilate declared himself innocent of the blood of Jesus by washing his hands.[Matthew 27:24] This act of Pilate may not, however, have been borrowed from the custom of the Jews. The same practice was common among the Greeks and Romans.

According to Christian tradition, the Pharisees carried the practice of ablution to great excess.[Matt. 23:25] The Gospel of Mark refers to their ceremonial ablutions: "For the Pharisees…wash their hands 'oft'"[Mark 7:1-5] or, more accurately, "with the fist" (R.V., "diligently"); or, as Theophylact of Bulgaria explains it, "up to the elbow," referring to the actual word used in the Greek New Testament, πυγμή pygmē, which refers to the arm from the elbow to the tips of the fingers.[6][7]

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