In our animism lecture, we talked about the idea of liminality. It’s the process of being ‘forgotten’ by your community, of being taken out of it and being brought back in. It’s often associated with rites of passage.
For example, in African Traditional Religion (ATR), the rite of passage of boyhood to manhood happens when the boys are taken outside the village and circumcised. When they return, they are no longer boys – that part of their life is over, ‘forgotten’. Instead, they are men and they are viewed as such.
As I understand it, this doesn’t just have to be about life events but about significant changes. Ceremonially clean and unclean might be a more regular example, say in the case of the Old Testament e.g. you go outside the camp to wash and when you return, you are clean.
Here’s one thought I had about that: what’s the significance that Jesus dies outside of the city? Hebrews 13 helps us out in drawing parallels with the OT and arguing that Jesus bears our disgrace. But is this connected to an idea of liminality, that such a significant change occurs outside the city, that Jesus (and by extension, we) might be known to be different when he re-enters?
When Jesus is resurrected, he appears mainly in the city, or at least in the community. Is there an aspect of liminality in that? He dies for sin and arises victorious: his status is different; so is his body. Jesus’ death outside the city is often used as an example of his forsakenness. What if it’s also helping us to see the monumental change in the crucifixion and resurrection event?
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.