The Greek Geek

Ακαθαρσια: Impurity

The Greek word for impurity (akatharsia) is heavily related to the Old Testament concept of uncleanness. In Judaism, uncleanness primarily referred to physical uncleanness. In Christianity, impurity means moral uncleanness, the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living; impure motives. It's also used of unclean spirits and common things. Akatharsia is used in both ways depending on the context of the passage:
Matthew 23:27: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.

Romans 1:24: Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves...

Romans 6:19: I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

2 Corinthians 12:21: I fear that when I come again my God may humble me before you, and I may have to mourn over many of those who sinned earlier and have not repented of the impurity, sexual immorality, and sensuality that they have practiced.

Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 4:19: They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.

Ephesians 5:3: But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

Colossians 3:5: Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

1 Thessalonians 2:3: For our appeal does not spring from error or impurity or any attempt to deceive...

1 Thessalonians 4:7: For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
When Adam and Eve first sinned, the crime first affected their souls and hearts. Slowly, because of the perfection of their bodies and the beneficence of the earth's environment, their bodies began to decay as a physical representation of the effects of sin. After the Flood, when disease was more common and lifespans shorter, human bodies decayed more quickly. "Uncleanness" is the concept used to describe the decay that particularly expresses the effects of sin, but also to other, seemingly innocuous things that humans by instinct avoid.

In the Old Testament, uncleanness was a title given to specific foods and diseases and contact with dead bodies. Impurity in the New Testament uses a Matthew 5-like application to practical, outward matters, taking uncleanness back to its original sin roots and showing that it is a matter of the heart. While the Jewish Peter still used the ceremonial term in Acts 10 and 11 (even while God was redefining it for him), impurity becomes less a state due to the fall and more a personality trait that leads to sin as well as the sin itself. It is often included in lists of other sins, particularly sexual immorality, but specifically refers to the state of mind that would lead to sin. To be impure is to have a personality that exists in a state of sinfulness — that wishes to seek its own needs through sin. Even one that looks for opportunities to sin.

The Bible shows that impurity is a matter of the heart. It doesn't mean to sin on occasion. It doesn't refer to sin committed against you. It means to be greedy, power-hungry, covetousness, and lustful, and be ready to use sin to fulfill one's desires. In the Old Testament, touching a dead person or having a bad sore was a metaphorical representation. In the New Testament, "impurity" describes the rotting, oozing hearts we had before we were saved by Christ.

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Sin-Evil

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Published 3-17-16