Water: Purification

Water: Purification. Excerpt from: Estelle Shohet Brettman, Vaults of Memory: The Roman Jewish Catacombs and their Context in the Ancient Mediterranean World, rev. ed. Amy K. Hirschfeld, Florence Wolsky, & Jessica Dello Russo. Boston: International Catacomb Society, 1991-2017 (rev. 2024).

In the ancient world, pure water was associated with deity, and was believed to be endowed with vital sustaining and restorative qualities, physical and spiritual. Expiation, salvation, and rebirth were attained through the miraculous, regenerative properties of water. Often accompanied by the application of sacramental oil or unguent and fumigation with incense, water was essential in the lustration of divine images, eastern Mediterranean monarchs, notably pharaohs, and in the ablutions of votaries performing cult ceremonies.

Water likewise played an essential role in burial rites and baptism, and in other celebrations involving friends and relatives of the departed. With even deeper meaning, the quest for water, with its divine properties of cleansing, physical and moral, as well as sating of thirst, becomes a transcendent metaphor for the thirst of the soul for God and for Wisdom. It follows naturally then that water, whether depicted in stone, paint, clay or glass, would play a dominant theme in the rich imagery of the Roman catacombs, alluding, as it does, to life renewed and the pleasures of an idyllic afterlife.

Fig. 1. DAPICS n. 3394

Fig. 1. Deer gambol on either side of a large vessel from which water sprays. Lush vegetation, trees and flowers-probably roses, depicted impressionistically-grow in this framed paradisiacal landscape. Painted on the base wall of the façade of the right arcosolium of Cubiculum F, Catacomb of via Dino Compagni, Rome.

Not surprisingly, it was necessary to have a source of water in the catacombs, as attested to by the presence of a well in such cemeteries as the Christian Catacomb of Domitilla and the Jewish Catacomb of Vigna Randanini. When water was not readily available, it was brought in and stored in various kinds of receptacles. This was also the case in other parts of the Mediterranean world (such as Palestine), and evidences of this custom still remain. Water purification rites were of cosmic significance to the Jews and to the early Christians; this sprang from the rituals and practices of even more ancient peoples whose psyches, it seems, were concerned with similar cosmic universals. These conceptions, harbored over the millennia, are realized visually in the suggestive iconography of the catacombs.

"I will pour over you pure water to make you pure; from all your impurity and your sins will I purify you."[1] These ancient Jewish utterances may reveal the function of the clay pots, of varying sizes, discovered by the Pontificia Commissione di Archeologia Sacra in its 1973-74 excavations of the Jewish catacombs under the Villa Torlonia.[2] Such practices were thought to ensure the desired chaste appearance of the deceased for the accounting before God - a belief suggesting Egyptian traditions and similar concepts in other religions.

Similarly, the belief that "Isis poureth holy water over thee, Nephthys purifieth thee" to make the deceased righteous could have prompted the furnishing of Egyptian tombs with alabaster vessels containing the revitalizing waters of the Nile.[3] In addition to their roles as lustrators of the deceased (including the divine Osiris), Isis and her sister Nephthys were divine mourners and protectors of the dead. According to funerary texts, the deceased could not appear before the lords of the judgment in the Hall of Two Truths until every abomination was cleansed.

Fig. 2. PLATE Small antechamber in the Jewish catacomb of Vigna Randanini furnished with a wall-bench. The well in the center was perhaps the source of water to prepare bodies for burial. This room is located on the north side of the entrance chamber of the catacomb.

Fig. 3. DAPICS n. 2903

Fig. 3. These clay pots with covers were probably used as water receptacles for a ritual cleansing of the deceased as described by the Mishna. In this baptismal-like ceremony, the body was anointed and then clothed in a white robe. Prescribed measures of lukewarm water, in which rose petals as well as chamomile had been strewn, were poured over the body as the ritual phrases were pronounced.[4] From the Torlonia catacombs. The vessels resemble those described by Muller from the excavations of the Monteverde catacomb.[5] They are also similar to vessels found in Palestinian burials at the first-century site of "Dominus Flevit" and in other tombs in Jerusalem.[6]

Fig. 4. The Miracle of Cana. Jesus, in tunic and pallium, extends his miracle-working wand (virga thaumaturga) toward seven covered vessels. Detail of the bottom of a late fourth-century gold-glass bowl. Reputedly from the catacombs of S. Callisto in Rome.

It was not unusual for vessels associated with water to serve as coffins in the ancient world. The equipment for burial ranged from resplendent elegance to simple utility, depending on economic circumstance. In Late Bronze Age Greece, larnakes, coffins shaped like bathtubs, came into use. Later, in Greece of the Classical period, hydriai were used for the burials of children or for cremation burials-possibly symbolic comfort to provide the departed with the appropriate receptacles for cleansing their bodies and satisfying their legendary perpetual thirst.[7] Bathtub-like ossuaries have been noted in Palestine of the Second Temple period, and curved stone coffins, shaped like tubs to store water or wine, appeared in the late Roman Imperial period and have been found in the Roman catacombs. Indeed, in Catacomb 13 of the Beth She'arim catacombs, the tomb or sarcophagus of Aristeas, the Sidonian, is designated as a uakpa [MAKPAJ or bathtub in Greek.[8]

Physical cleanliness was associated with morality and divine acceptance in both the Old and New Testaments. The psalmist promises: "He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart"...."shall ascend into the hill of the Lord" and "stand in his holy place [temple] 11 (Ps. 24:4, 3).

The Lord of Israel decreed that unclean individuals and objects were to be purified by water, especially prior to association with the sacred. Priests were to be washed with water to consecrate them (Ex. 29:4; 40:12; Lev. 8:6), particularly their hands and feet (Ex. 30:18-21; 40:31), and often before anointing.[9] The bearers of 11the vessels of the Lord" had to purify themselves upon their return to the restored Jerusalem arisen "from the dust" (ls. 52:2, 11). The vision of Levi in the Testament of Levi describes Levi's attainment of priestly honors after he was anointed, "washed with pure water and clad with a holy and glorious robe" among other ceremonies.[10]

In their temple ritual, the Sumerian spiritual directors of the cult (men or women) performed lustrations, and their participants bathed themselves for ritual feasts.[11] Egyptian kings, when assuming their priestly roles. were ritually purified with water from the sacred pool of the temple before celebrating major festivals and the daily liturgy (necessary for rebirth as the embodiment of the sun-god in Heliopolitan cult). They also washed their hands before banquets.[12] Similarly, Hittite priests and officiants of the temple had to be Q purified, if ritually unclean, before performing rites.[13] The Mesopotamian sage Adapa is described as: "blameless. the clean of hands, the ointment priest, the observer of rites...does the prescribed fishing for Eridu" (that is for the sanctuary of his father, the divine Ea).[14]

The hands of Akkadian and Babylonian kings were washed for the festival of the New Year,[15] and Hittite royalty washed their hands with water from a jar of gold as part of the ceremonies involving sacrifices and libations to deities, ceremonies often related to seasonal cycles and vegetation.[16] As a suppliant, the Ugaritic King Keret was commanded by the god El to wash his hands (and rouge them).[17] And the Jewish historian/philosopher Philo Judaeus of Alexandria, a contemporary of Jesus, wrote of the "men of old" who purified their bodies by laving, and cleansed their souls metaphorically by "streams of laws[18] and right instruction" followed by a festal meal.[19] Such traditions were apparently perpetuated in customs like the bathing performed before the daily meals----communal and sacramental-among the Essenes (a Jewish sect contemporary with Jesus), and before ceremonial repasts of special significance.[20] Reminiscent of this custom today is the washing of hands before the blessing of bread in Jewish festal meals. Similar practices were also carried out in Isiaic and Mithraic purification rites.

In earlier Near Eastern cultures holy sites were also consecrated by cleansing. It was a Mesopotamian ritual to purify the temple, and sprinkle both it and the sanctuary with water from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in celebration of the New Year.[21] Upon completion of the building of the temple of the tutelary god of Sumerian Lagash, King Gudea (2275 B.C.E. to 2260 B.C.E.) cleansed the temple before performing such sacred celebrations as offering food, libations, and incense to welcome the gods. Gudea also "cleansed the city [of Lagash] morally and ethically" before and after the ceremonies for the New Year.[22] Echoing these traditions and recalling the Philonic cleansing of the soul by laws is Jesus' cleansing of the Church "by the washing of water with the word." This sanctification of the Church signifies Christian baptism (Eph.5:26).[23]

As for moral cleansing of the individual, Saul, at the time of his conversion and assumption of the name Paul, was bade [by Ananias]: "arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins" (Acts 22:16). The sinner in Ps. 51:2 prays to God to "wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin," and Isaiah admonishes Judah and Jerusalem "Saith the Lord... Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings." Upon Jerusalem's restoration, "the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion" (ls. 1:16; 4:4). When a murder is committed and the offender is unknown, the washing of hands by the elders makes atonement, and absolves the community from guilt and the contamination of bloodshed (Deut. 21: 5-6). The psalmist seeks redemption by the ceremony of washing his "hands in innocence'' (Ps. 26:6). Pontius Pilate assumed innocence of the blood of Jesus by washing his hands "before the multitude" (Matt. 27:24). And so the washing of hands to erase evil deeds was not a phenomenon new to Shakespeare's time.

According to the Pyramid Texts, physical, ritual, and moral purification of the deceased king was necessary for transit to the hereafter. In the Heliopolitan cul1t daily washing of the deceased or his portrait statue with the divine Atum-Re's sacred water, which was identified with that of Nun (the primeval ocean), enabled the king not only to be reborn like deities were born from the primogenital Atum, but also to be assimilated to the sun god arising each day in the east.[24]

This practice simulated celebrations at the sun-temple associated with the living priest-king in which he, like the sun-god's cultic image lustrated by him and supposedly the sun-god himself, was purified every dawn in rites which included fumigation by incense. The bestowal of divine water in death ensured life eternal and deification for the pharaoh. In various Egyptian cult centers, waters used to purify other gods, and waters emanating from the gods, especially from the god of the underworld, Osiris, were also effective. Reflecting this tradition, Hittite literature records that King Hattusilis I called for the washing of his body at the time of burial.[25]

In Osirian ritual, laving of the deceased, mandatory for the pharaoh upon his accession to his new realm in the heavens, simulated the regeneration of Osiris. The Egyptian god of resurrection was associated with water in its capacity as a source of life and fecundity, like Tammuz/Dumuzi, the Mesopotamian dying and rising god of fertility. illustrating this Egyptian concept in a syncretic fusion of several cultures is a worn limestone architectural tondo from second-century Roman Mallawi representing the neck and head of Osiris emerging from a hydria decorated with an altar, the divine child in a leafy ambiance, and birds (perhaps symbolic doves).[26] The relief reinforces visually the relationship to Osiris and renewal of immortalizing water, symbolized by the quintessential Greek water-container. The annual performance of the funerary rituals for Osiris included embalming and the offering of "cool water... which begets all living things" every nocturnal hour to the deity. Purifying water was poured out for ritual cleansing and for resuscitating the heart of Osiris, necessary to his revitalization.[27] By lustration with this water, first royalty (often identified in death as well as in life with Horus, the son of Osiris), and then, in later periods, a member of any social class could be revivified as Osiris. Taking on divine attributes, an oriental king was often described as the son of the god-a concept perpetuated in the lineage of many saviors in mystery religions as well as that of Jesus, thus immortalizing these figures.[28]

The purifying water of the revitalized Osiris-who, in his role of symbolizing the regeneration of the Nile, provided the water of libation and laving, and brought life to the soil-enabled the king's hands to be washed, his ears to be opened, his body as well as his ka ("the hyper-physical vital or life-force)[29] to be washed, and his "power to be spiritualized by means of its soul.”[30]

More specific ideas of moral cleansing attained by ceremonial washing were formulated in Egypt of the Middle Kingdom (circa 2040 B.C.E.- 1786 B.C.E.) as more general ethical thought evolved. The disillusionment prevailing during this period of dire economic conditions, caused by inadequate inundation of the Nile, probably sparked the development of these concepts. Purification through water (a renewal ceremony akin to baptism) was not only a royal prerogative in the New Kingdom but was also extended to others as a rite of passage to a blissful hereafter.

Fig 5. Standing in a pillared hall under a ceiling painted like a grape arbor, the son of the deceased sprays purifying water on Sennufer and his wife Meryl. A high-ranking official, Sennufer was the mayor of Thebes, as well as superintendent of the garden of the temple of Amon. The son is dressed in traditional leopard-skin priestly garb. The hieroglyphs above the lustrator' s head indicate that the purest of water is poured four times over Sennufer, who is already assimilated into Osiris, dying and rising divinity of the dead.

The deceased carry vegetation, which frequently suggests rebirth. Sprays of foliage were often represented on ossuaries from Palestine, just as they were in the Roman catacombs several centuries later and in other funerary settings. In Talmudic times, branches of vegetation (myrtle) were placed in burials with the deceased."[31] Wall painting in the tomb of Sennufer (No. 96B or "the Tomb of the Vines"), Thebes. New Kingdom. Eighteenth Dynasty, latter part of the fifteenth century B.C.E.

The democratizing Egyptian Book of the Dead (originally written during the last third of the second millennium) prescribed purification for each individual, regardless of status. to prepare for the judgment before Osiris and other judges. Typical of the formulae repeated to ensure this is: “I purify myself at that great stream where my ills are made to cease, and that which is wrong in me is pardoned and the spots which were on my body upon earth are effaced.”[32] A vignette from the Book of the Dead represents a "triumphant" Nu. the "overseer of the overseer of the seal," holding a sail, the hieroglyph for the breath of life, in his left hand as water sprays over him from the stream in which he stands.[33] Pictorialized here is the cleansing and revivification of the deceased in a baptismal like rite. Evidences abound for the impact of Egyptian cult practices on the Romans.

Fig. 6. The ceremony of the water as depicted in the Temple of Isis in Herculaneum. In this impressive ceremony, the sacred water of the Nile, from which au life was created and preserved, was celebrated and blessed. Bathed in the golden sun-glow, the high priest bears the vessel of sacred Nile water at the entrance of the temple, which is guarded by statues of sphinxes with female heads (generally, a Greek convention). He is accompanied by assistants holding sistra. The stairway is flanked by impressionistically depicted arrays of men and women, addressed by another priest holding a spray of vegetation in his left hand. A celebrant fans the flames of a sacrifice, apparently the burning of incense on a garlanded horned altar. Musical accompaniment is provided by an imposing seated figure on the right playing the double flute and several standing participants shaking sistra. Other figures grasp branches of vegetation (one perhaps a palm frond), traditional emblems of fecundity and renewal. The intention is possibly to sprinkle water from fertile boughs for purification, as did Corynaeus upon the comrades of Misenus at his funeral.[34] Lending an appropriate note to the ambiance are the Nubian officiants and musicians as well as such Nilotic water birds as the ibis.

Libations of Nile water were performed as part of the early morning rites in the symbolic rebirth of mystae (initiates). In this particularly Hellenized lsiac observance, the rising of the sun at dawn, its rebirth, commemorated the resurrection of Osiris. Painting from Herculaneum.

Literature of other Near Eastern cultures also describes the waters of rivers, often deified and exalted, as both purifying agents and creators. An invocation to the Euphrates reads: "Thy river waters (bring) release, receive me (graciously)...! What is in my body, take away to thy bank;... cause it to go down into thy depth!”[35]

Fig. 7. DAPICS n. 2827.

Fig. 7. Vestiges of the relief on a fragment of a sarcophagus from the Jewish Catacomb of Vigna Randanini. This apparently depicted the popular ancient theme of the river-god (only his feet remain), who is accompanied by the partly nude reposing figure of a curvaceous member of his retinue, conceivably a nymph. The river alluded to in this image could be the Jordan. Fertilizing water spills from an overturned vase-the bounty of the omnipotent river-god. The three fragmented leonine legs probably supported a tripodal water basin in relief, which is no longer visible.[36] On the extreme left appear the remains of a paw, most likely belonging to another lion. By an old tradition, the image of this regal beast acted as the custodian of precious water resources, in much the same way as a concerned monarch preserved the order of nature against chaos.

Like the Nile and Euphrates, the living waters of the Jordan had long been noted for their purifying properties as well as for those of physical, moral, and religious renewal. In a miraculous heaping up of the waters reminiscent of the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites passed through the waters of the Jordan "as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that" bore "the ark of the Lord" rested "in the waters" (Josh. 3:13, 15-17). Their passage through the overflowing waters of the river to the land of "milk and honey" also led to a birth- the birth of a nation.

Perhaps analogous to the streams of living water flowing from water-deities are the representations of divine solar rays emerging from the Aten sun-disk in Akhenaten's monotheistic religion. The rays terminate in hands bearing life-giving ankh signs to the nostrils of Akhenaten-a "laying on of hands," so to speak. The pharaoh, in turn, could transmit these generative forces to his domain just as ancient kings poured forth restorative waters imparted from the deity.

Laying on of hands had sacred significance in both Christian and Jewish ritual. "Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" is referred to in Hebrews 6:2. In Jewish biblical ritual, the "laying on of hands" implements removal of impurities from sacrificial beasts in rites of dedication and expiation (Ex. 29:15, 19). This ritual leads to bestowal or imparting of the "spirit of wisdom" by Moses (Deut. 34:9) who "laid his hands" upon Joshua (whose name means God is salvation, and from which the name Jesus is derived), the leader of the Israelites into Canaan, the land of milk, honey, grapes, figs, and pomegranates which he distributed among the tribes.

Fig. 8. DAPICS n. 2884.

Fig. 8. A shower of light from the beak of the dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, bathes a youth (perhaps Jesus).[37] A hand, presumably belonging to John the Baptist (his body is no longer visible), rests solidly on the head of the nude figure with feet planted in the bed of the Jordan river. ''And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus... was baptized of John in [the] Jordan. And straightaway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him." (Mark 1.9-10).[38] An example of early fourth-century painting, indicated by the large, soulful eyes, strong outlines, simplified forms, and masses of color. Wall painting in the Catacombs of SS. Pietro and Marcellino in Rome.

Just as baptismal-type ceremonies were performed in much earlier oriental rites (funerary and other), the Jewish practice of baptizing new converts was a precursor to Christian baptism, a sacrament well-illustrated in the Christian catacombs of Rome. After bathing in the Jordan seven times as prescribed by the prophet Elisha, Naaman was cured of leprosy, and recognized the Lord of Israel as the only God (II Kings 5:14, 15). In the New Testament, the paralytic who had been waiting to be put into the healing pool of Bethesda when the 11angel went down... and troubled the water" was cured by Jesus who later cautioned him to "sin no more lest a worse thing come unto you" (John 5:3-9, 14).

Fig. 9. DAPICS n. 0508.

Fig. 9. On the right, the healed paralytic carries his bed on his back as proof of his miraculous cure. This is in juxtaposition to the baptism scene on the left, wherein an enigmatic fisherman adds further symbolic significance to the "laying on of hands," the purifying and transforming ceremony in which the Holy Spirit is received (Acts 8:17-19; Acts 19:6). The dove flying in from the clouds on the upper right and embodying the "Spirit of God" (Matt. 3:18) is no longer clearly visible. This fresco could also illustrate the baptizing of Jesus. Wall painting in Cubiculum A3 of the "Cripte dei Sacramenti," in the catacombs of S. Callisto in Rome.

"John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins" (Mark 1:4); but "you [the Gentiles] shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit....then also to the Gentiles God has granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:16-18). And in an Old Testament mass baptismal-type cleansing: "In that day [when the Lord shall be sovereign over all of the earth] saith the Lord of hosts"... "there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1-2). Jesus declared that entry into the divine realms could only be achieved by those renewed by baptism: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter in the kingdom of God" (John 3:5). For the Vergilian shades,[39] the washing away of evil deeds into an abyss was required before entry to Elysium.[40] Marduk, in his role of the Babylonian purifying god Tutu, was also "the god of the good breath (of life), the lord who hears and answers (prayer). The lord of the holy incantation who restores to life the dead,” much as Osiris, associated with the cleansing Nile, was the Egyptian god of resurrection.[41]

Fig. 10. DAPICS n. 2877.

Fig. 10. In still another baptismal scene, the ministrant performing the "laying on of hands" and the initiate both stand in the linear, stylized waters of the Jordan. Lower vault painting in a chamber of the catacombs of SS. Pietro and Marcellino in Rome.

By its "washing of regeneration" baptism was considered more effective than "works of righteousness" for renewal in the Holy Spirit and salvation (Titus 3:5). In Luke 12:50, Jesus alluded metaphorically to his death as baptism. By being baptized into Jesus, and therefore "baptized into his death," the faithful Christian is buried with Jesus; and as "Jesus was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father," the baptized Christian "also should walk in the newness of life" (Rom. 6:2-4).[42] Baptism in Christianity was established as a prerequisite to resurrection according to Paul (I Cor. 15:29). This is reminiscent of such sixth-dynasty libation formulae referring to resurrection of the pharaoh through the ritual use of water as: “O my father Neferkere' [also known as King Pepi II], stand up, take to thee this thy first cool water... Stand up ye (sic) who are in your graves, undo your (sic) bandages, throw off the sand upon thy face. "[43] And again, "Raise thee up, O Memere, take to thee thy water, gather to thee thy bones. Stand thou upon thy feet, being a blessed one among the Blessed Ones.”[44]

Upon awakening from the "sleep of death" in a rebirth, royal Egyptians were purified not only physically and ceremonially but also morally by libations or bathing in the "sacred lake in the blessed fields. "[45] Purification was also necessary for the deification and identification with Osiris or the sun-god, Re, or with other deities, such as mentioned elsewhere. In a typically complex Egyptian conceit conflating Solar and Osirian beliefs, the divine birth of King Pepi II as the god Osiris who arises between the two mountains, and the belief that "the god becomes" and "takes possession of his body" is narrated in a hymn to the deceased pharaoh.[46] "On the day when he awakes" the heart of King Pepi is refreshed to life, when Kebehet (daughter of Anubis, the mortuary god identified with the jackal) "purifies" and "cleanses him" from her four jars (representing four deities) with which she refreshed the heart of the "Great God" Re.[47]

Again, before entering the "righteous paths of the gods/' the departed declared after cleansing himself in the "two great pools" in Heracleopolis: "My sin is expelled," and "my iniquity is removed." Also the deceased avowed: "I go upon the way where I wash my head in the Lake of Righteousness. "[48] The Middle Kingdom Coffin Texts of this period bear witness to the extension of the kingly privileges of the afterlife to nobles at this time.

In a comparable but even more complicated prescription than the earlier ceremonies noted above, the washing of the deceased in the water in which the gods (namely eleven deities associated with major achievements) had bathed themselves was guaranteed to purify him and to identify him with divinity, thus immortalizing him.[49] An example of such sacramental water was "the water wherein Re washeth himself when he leaveth the eastern part of the sky"-that is, his rising.

On a coffin of the Middle Kingdom, two figures each pour a stream of water, which seemingly passes in front of a large disk-like object before flowing around the smaller figure of the deceased User below. Toe departed is depicted sitting on a large vessel above two life-giving ankh signs. Two streams also emanate from the disk.[50] If, indeed, this is a solar disk radiating beams of light, as Goodenough claims, perhaps depicted here is a graphic portrayal of the rebirth of the deceased, similar to the rebirth of the sun-god in a baptismal-like ceremony.[51] However, other scholars claim that the circular object is a vessel[52] or a “sieve” used to "distribute the flow of water evenly."[53] It is difficult to determine which theory is correct, since the image is not intact, and the water does not appear to fall in the proper trajectory to accommodate these theories, as it does in other representations of this type. In addition, the disk does not manifest any of the typical characteristics of a vessel or sieve. On the other hand, a text in the temple of Sethos I at Abydos describes the purification by Horus of his deceased father, Osiris (Osiris' renewal traditionally serving as the prototype for his followers), and his subsequent rising like the sun-god: "thou washest away his defilements of yesterday. Thou makest him to come into being in the early morning as Re beside every god." These beliefs again recall Paul's affirmation that baptism of the faithful into Jesus will assure the sharing of blessings such as being "raised from the dead by the glory of the Father," and being "united with him in a resurrection like his" (Rom. 6:3-11).

"Baptism" of the defiled was a practice in ancient Israel. "Thus saith the Lord God [to the 'house of Israel' in Ezekiel's prophesy for its restoration]. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness. and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you" (Ezek. 36: 22, 25, 26).

A new heart and a new spirit related to the keeping of the Lord's "statutes" (Ezek. 11:19) and to the making of an "everlasting covenant" with the Lord (Jer. 32:39). This evokes the cleansing by faith of the hearts of the Gentiles (Acts 15:8-9) who were given the Holy Spirit (in baptism) by "God who knows the heart." "Circumcision of the heart" is often referred to in the Old and New Testaments (as for example, in Deut. 10:16; 30:6; Lev. 26:41; Jer. 4:4; Ezek. 44:9; Rom. 2:29). Thus baptism became the equivalent for circumcision (a traditional symbol of the covenant between the Jewish people and God) for the conversion of the Gentiles in Paul's teachings. According to ancient Eastern Mediterranean ideas, the heart was the seat of the intelligence and the mind, the character" of the individual as well as the directing force of the soul in Israelite thought.[54]

The Egyptians believed that this organ was weighed in the final judgment of the deceased. In the Book of the Dead, Ani appeals to his heart not to bear witness against him, invoking it as "my ka that is in my body."[55] The primeval Atum accomplished "all things through the 'heart and tongue"' perhaps using other deities as agents.[56] In Mesopotamia, also, the Babylonian god Marduk (as Shazu), like his Sumerian counterpart, Enki (the lord of wisdom and the deep), "knows the hearts of the gods."[57] "[Marduk] sees through the innermost parts," and "his heart prompts him to create ingenious things" (this motivation occurring just before the creation of man).[58] In the same tradition, Jesus perceived "the thought of their heart" (Luke 9:47). The Lord of the Israelites made a covenant with the faithful by writing his "law...in their hearts" and then remembering "their sin no more" (Jer. 31:33-34, paraphrased in Heb. 10:16-17). Thus, for Judaism and early Christianity, as in many earlier cultures, the heart continued to be the abode of the essence of an individual, and its cleansing and renewal remained an important aspect of spiritual regeneration.

[1] J. Rabbinowicz, Der Todtenkultus bei den Jude (Frankfurt am Main, 1889), p. 15.

[2] U. M. Fasola, “Le due catacombe ebraiche di Villa Torlonia”, in Rivista di Archeologia Cristiana 52 (1976), p. 60.

[3] E. A. Wallis Budge, Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (London, 1911), v. 11, p. 356, Pyramid Texts of King Pepi II (circa 2260-2250 B.C.E.), §§ 59 ff.

[4] F. I. Grundt, Die Trauergebrauche der Hebraeer (Leipzig, 1868), p. 15.

[5] N. Muller, Die jüdische Katakombe am Monteverde zu Rom (Berlin, 1912), p. 39.

[6] B. Bagatti and J. T. Milik, Gli scavi del "Dominus flevit" (Jerusalem, 1958), pp. 134-135, and L. Y. Rahmani, "Jewish Rock-cut Tombs in Jerusalem," in 'Atiquot 3 (1961), pp. 118-119, respectively.

[7] For the Greek ritual of washing of the dead see Kurtz and Boardman, Greek Burial Customs (London, 1971), pp. 149-155, and pp. 42 ff.

[8] The epitaph is inscribed on the left upper side of arcosolium 3, in hall M: N. Avigad, Beth She'arim, 3 vols. (Jerusalem , 1973-1976), p. 40.

[9] Also Num. 8:7; II, and Chr. 4:6, among other passages.

[10] Testament of Levi, VIII, 4-5.

[11] Samuel Noah Kramer, The Sumerians (Chicago, 1963), p. 143.

[12] Introductory Guide to the Egyptian Collections in the British Museum, (Great Britain, 1964), pp. 125-127. Aylward M. Blackman, "Sacramental Ideas and Usages in Ancient Egypt, in Receuil de travaux relatifs a la philologie et a l'archeologie egyptiennes et assyriennes XXXIX (Paris, 1921), pp. 45-46.

[13] Oliver Robert Gurney, The Hittites (London, 1952), p. 150.

[14] Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton, 1950), p. 101, 11.9, 15 (translated by E.A. Speiser).

[15] Pritchard, ANET, op. cit., p. 334, 11.412-413 (translated by A. Sachs).

[16] Gurney, Hittites, p. 154.

[17] Pritchard, ANET. p. 143, 11.61-63 (translated by H.L. Ginsberg).

[18] For saving qualities of the Law, Jer. 31:33-34; Heb. 10:16.

[19] Philo, De Somniis II, pp. 245-249.

[20] Josephus Flavius, Jewish War II, viii, 5.

[21] Pritchard, ANET, p. 333, 11.340-342 (translated by Sachs).

[22] Kramer, Sumerians, p. 139.

[23] RSV, pp. 1421-1422, and see notes 63 and 131, and pp. 39 and 52 for further discussion of the "Word."

[24] Samuel A. B. Mercer, The Pyramid Texts in Translation and Commentary (New York, 1952), I, pp. 303-304. Blackman, Sacramental Ideas, pp. 4-8. and see pp. 15, 22 ff.

[25] Gurney, Hittites, p.166.

[26] According to Robert Bianchi, in Mummies & Magic (Boston, 1988) by Sue D' Auria, Peter Lacovara, Catherine H. Roehrig, fig. 206.

[27] Blackman, Sacramental Ideas, pp. 67-69.

[28] For example, as in John 5:17 ff.; 20:31; Heb. 1:2, 5.

[29] To simplify a complex concept, quoted from Siegfried Morenz, Egyptian Religion (London, 1973), pp. 170, 204.

[30] Mercer, The Pyramid Texts, I, p. 149, Utterance 436, §§ 788a-789b.

[31] Babylonian Talmud. Bezah, 6a, translated by I. Epstein (London, 1935), p. 22. Especially relevant among the other accoutrements which will accompany this splendidly arrayed couple on their journey is the sistrum, the Isaic cultic "rattle," decorated with the cow-eared head of Hathor grasped in Meryt's left hand. Hathor was also the goddess of music in addition to her roles as divinity of death and fertility.

[32] The Egyptian Book of the Dead ed. Peter Le Renouf and Edouard Naville (London, 1904), chap. LXXXXVI, p. 155.

[33] E. A. W. Budge, The Book of the Dead (London, 1969 ed.), chap. LVII, p. 200.

[34] Vergil, Aeneid vi, 11.228-230.

[35] Alexander Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis (Chicago, 1951), p. 75.

[36] Such as that pictured in Museo Nazionale Romano: Le Sculture, p. 255, Pl. 159.

[37] Fabrizio Mancinelli, Catacombs and Basilicas (Florence, 1981), pp. 42-43.

[38] Also Matt. 3:16; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:1, 29, 32, among other passages.

[39] Aeneid vi, 11.740-741.

[40] As well as by other elements and punishment, and see pp. Earlier, vi, 1.219 describes the laving and anointing of the deceased Misenus before cremation.

[41] Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, pp. 54-55.

[42] Also Col. 2:12.

[43] Blackman, Sacramental Ideas, p. 60. Pyr. §§ 877 ff., and compare with images in the Roman catacombs of the Raising of Lazarus.

[44] Ibid., p. 61, Pyr. §§ 857 ff.

[45] James Henry Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt (New York, 1912), pp. 103, 171.

[46] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 19.

[47] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 136, Pyr. §§ 1180-1182.

[48] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 254.

[49] Budge, The Book of the Dead, Chap. CXL V, 11.3-39, from a Saite recension).

[50] Norman De G. Davies, "Five Theban Tombs," in Archaeological Survey of Egypt XXI (1913), p. 24.

[51] Erwin R. Goodenough, Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period (New York, 1956), v. 5, p. 186.

[52] Davies, "Theban Tombs," p. 24.

[53] Blackman, Sacramental Ideas, p. 54, and n. 2.

[54] Johannes Pedersen, Israel (London, 1926), I-II, pp. 102-103.

[55] Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 305, for significance of the ka.

[56] The power of the mind and word (to be compared with the Logos) particularly emanating from Ptah (a capacity associated with his breathing life into the deceased), is "the controlling power in 'all gods"' and all living creatures. (Breasted, Ancient Egypt, p. 44.)

[57] Kramer, The Sumerians, p. 160.

[58] Heidel, Babylonian Genesis, pp. 46 and 55.