In the Old Testament, water has a theological meaning and symbolic structure which plays a critical role in the plan of salvation. Our first need is to develop an adequate hermeneutic which recaptures the value of symbol by examining the zeitgeist of modernity which eschews the role of symbol in human understanding. Second, applying this hermeneutic of symbolic reality, we will investigate the meaning and use of water in the Torah texts by analyzing, by way of contrast, early pagan myths and then examining the Primordial Triptych (i.e., the Creation, the Flood, and the Deliverance at the Red Sea). Here water is revealed to be the medium of life, judgement, death, and deliverance. Secondly, we will investigate the purity system of Israel and its relationship to the holiness of God, the categories of being (holy/common/clean/unclean), and how its water rituals determine Israel’s relationship to God. Without them, Israel could not exist. Finally, we will examine the theme of eschatology, and its link with water culminating in the revelation of Yahweh as the mikveh [i.e., the place of water purification] of Israel (Jer 14:8; 17:13).
Water and the Mystery of Salvation
Joseph Atkinson, Mystery of Water, Mystery of Holiness.
Joseph Atkinson, Biblical and Theological Foundation of the Family.
Aryeh, Kaplan, Waters of Eden, The Mystery of the Mikvah.
Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus 1-16.
Pontifical Biblical Commission, "The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church."
Joseph Ratzinger, Biblical Interpretation in Crisis.
Joseph C. Atkinson
Associate Professor of Sacred Scripture
S.T.L. and S.T.D. Program Advisor
Dr. Atkinson’s work has included foundational research in developing the biblical and theological foundation of the family. He is a primary authority on the concept of the Domestic Church, which explores the ecclesial structure and meaning of the family. He teaches on the biblical structure and meaning of marriage and the family, on the Jewish background of the family, and on the nature and role of covenant.Learn More