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Title: Mysterium Wasser
Publisher: V & R Unipress Gmbh Jun 2004
Publication Date: 2004
Book Condition: Neu
About this title
The starting point of this study is the question of the meaning of Christian baptism. There are opposing views: On the one hand Christians interpret baptism as a sign of a spiritual event that is neither caused by the rite, nor necessarily happening during it, but simply pointing to that spiritual event. On the other hand Christians understand baptism - especially with regard to infant baptism - as a sacrament, the effect of which does not ultimately depend on what humans do; on the contrary, God incomprehensibly acts within the person being baptized. The religious historian will be interested in how the culture surrounding the early Christendom, i.e. the ancient Orient and the Greco-Roman world around the Mediterranean, understood and practised religious water rites - such as sprinkling, washing, bathing, drinking, pouring out - for cultic cleansing, expiation, consecration, protection against dangerous powers, healing, sorcery, ordeal and oracle, libation for gods and the dead and whether these customs influenced Christian practices. We do in fact find the same use of water for religious purposes among Christians and non-Christians. However, with regard to the central question of the book, it is even more important to note that the non-Christian water rites were seen as being magical, i.e. they worked if the water possessed the required quality, or was given the right quality through consecration, and the rite was performed according to the prescribed customs. There is much evidence to indicate that Christians increasingly adopted these practices, although theologians did not accept them as magic but rather interpreted them as sacraments or sacramentals.
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