The ambivalence of purification and the challenge of transformation in The Rites of Passage and in early Christian texts


In this article I analyze Van Gennep’s understanding of purity, impurity, and purification and its relationship with ancient Christian texts discussing these subjects. Through this comparison, I show how modern and ancient theories of ritual can illuminate each other, and more specifically, how purification was a problematic and ambivalent concept for both ancient Christian writers and for Van Gennep, making it a fruitful one for investigating the thought of both.