Lecture Fourteen Ritual Imprinting and Politics of Perfection

Scope: Baptism is early Christianity's ritual of initiation, the most widely attested cultic act of the primitive community. Although its antecedents and precise mode of performance are uncertain, the symbolism connected to the ritual enables some appreciation of its significance. As a ritual of initiation, baptism can usefully be compared to other such rituals both in ancient Greco-Roman and other cultural systems. Such comparison provides perspective on the religious issues raised by the conflict reported in two of Paul's letters (Galatians and Colossians) between the apostle and members of communities who sought circumcision in addition to baptism. Understanding the function of multiple initiations cross-culturally, we can better appreciate the religious zeal of the circumcizers and the difficult task faced by Paul's insistence on the adequacy of baptism alone.

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