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Author Topic: The bible and human sacrifice  (Read 485 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ansgar
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« on: January 22, 2012, 03:16:35 PM »

I have a teacher in ancient history who loves to compare the bible with the ancient greek legends and show how the two cultures differed in their religious understanding. About a month ago we were analyzing the story in which Kroisos Kouros is almost sacrificed to the gods. My teacher argued that this is to be seen as a sign that at this time the greeks started to abandon human sacrifice. He then claimed that such examples of religious developement could also be seen in the old testament. In the story about Abraham and Isaac and even earlier with Cain and Abel. He used this verse as an evidence that the earliest worshippers of God scrificed humans.

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And He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground.

He also mentioned the story of Jephthah from the book of judges:

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31Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD'S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. 32So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. 33And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel.

34And Jephthah came to Mizpeh unto his house, and, behold, his daughter came out to meet him with timbrels and with dances: and she was his only child; beside her he had neither son nor daughter. 35And it came to pass, when he saw her, that he rent his clothes, and said, Alas, my daughter! thou hast brought me very low, and thou art one of them that trouble me: for I have opened my mouth unto the LORD, and I cannot go back. 36And she said unto him, My father, if thou hast opened thy mouth unto the LORD, do to me according to that which hath proceeded out of thy mouth; forasmuch as the LORD hath taken vengeance for thee of thine enemies, even of the children of Ammon. 37And she said unto her father, Let this thing be done for me: let me alone two months, that I may go up and down upon the mountains, and bewail my virginity, I and my fellows. 38And he said, Go. And he sent her away for two months: and she went with her companions, and bewailed her virginity upon the mountains. 39And it came to pass at the end of two months, that she returned unto her father, who did with her according to his vow which he had vowed: and she knew no man. And it was a custom in Israel, 40That the daughters of Israel went yearly to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in a year.


Here we actually have an example of what seems to be a human sacrifice in the bible. I know that some people interpret this as if the sacrifice was not carried out but that she instead was banned to a life of viginity, but does anybody know about an orthodox respond to this?
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« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2012, 05:15:33 PM »


Cain "murdered" Abel.  Abel was not a sacrifice.

Abraham was being tested.  If you recall, the angel stopped him at the last minute from killing his son.  God was only testing his loyalty.  They later sacrificed the ram that was nearby.

Neither case was a human sacrifice.
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« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2012, 05:25:18 PM »

Regarding your last example, this was less about promoting human sacrifice, which God time and again said He detested, and more a warning against making foolish vows to the Lord.
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2012, 05:47:14 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Actual Biblical references to Human Sacrifice:


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28 “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the LORD their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth. 29 Cut off your hair and cast it away, and take up a lamentation on the desolate heights; for the LORD has rejected and forsaken the generation of His wrath.’ 30 For the children of Judah have done evil in My sight,” says the LORD. “They have set their abominations in the house which is called by My name, to pollute it. 31 And they have built the high places of Tophet, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into My heart.
Jeremiah 7:28-31

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26 And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too fierce for him, he took with him seven hundred men who drew swords, to break through to the king of Edom, but they could not. 27 Then he took his eldest son who would have reigned in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering upon the wall; and there was great indignation against Israel. So they departed from him and returned to their own land.
2 Kings 2:27-28

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2 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the LORD his God, as his father David had done. 3 But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel; indeed he made his son pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out from before the children of Israel. 4 And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.
2 Kings 16:2-4

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Moreover you took your sons and your daughters, whom you bore to Me, and these you sacrificed to them to be devoured. Were your acts of harlotry a small matter, 21 that you have slain My children and offered them up to them by causing them to pass through the fire? 22 And in all your abominations and acts of harlotry you did not remember the days of your youth, when you were naked and bare, struggling in your blood.
Ezekiel 16:20-24

Clearly this was a practice in Biblical Israel, though it is hardly Biblical Sad

Joseph Campbell explains that the entire premise of the Abraham and Isaac narrative is to explain in mythology the transition in the religions of the Levant, way from human sacrifice towards animal sacrifice, which is an archaeological fact.  Much like all aspects of human history and culture, the Bible of course includes this controversial history of ours.


stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2012, 06:42:52 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

In the story about Abraham and Isaac and even earlier with Cain and Abel. He used this verse as an evidence that the earliest worshippers of God scrificed humans.



It is quite the opposite, speaking in terms of myth, myth and meta-religious narratives such as the Flood or the Messiah are mythic explanations of practical realities.  There is a historical reality which is being explained underlying the myth, and our meta-religious narratives are intended to convey a historical truth transcendentally across a lot of time and generations.  Whether we believe in the literal historicity of every detail of the Scriptures or not, clearly narratives like the Flood must carry some common truth about some kind of ancient memory of a devastating flood.  The same is true with this transition into  animal sacrifice.  When you take the Biblical narratives in the context of other myths contemporary to the period and region, you find similar stories of a transition from human sacrifice towards symbolic animal sacrifice.  Historians sometimes interpret this as a mythic representation of the transition from nomadic gatherers to domesticating animals as herders.  As human beings begin to collect and add value to animals, animals can become symbolic of a human sacrifice and subsequently replace actual human sacrifice with animals.  The Bible would also include this transition.  We as Christians interpret that human sacrifice was always wrong, was never of God but of selfish inclinations of humans and devils. Human sacrifice, even when literal, is allegorical of the self-sacrifice of selfishness.  When human beings reject God and act entirely on their own efforts or intentions, then this selfish action is self-destructive, is a kind of gradual suicide, because the wages of sin are death.  So human sacrifice is symbolic of the reality that a self-centered life is spiritual suicide.  God never called us to this, humans brought this evil upon ourselves.  The Biblical narrative marks the opposite, the beginning of humanity turning to God.  Abel's sacrifice was vegetables  and was given in humility,  were Cain killed animals whose blood was shed in vain out of selfishness.  From the very beginning then, the reality that God asks us to give ourselves to Grace and not selfishness and self-destruction.  Human sacrifice is also a symbol of selfish economies, as in the Prophet Habbukuk and Hosea.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
« Last Edit: January 22, 2012, 06:47:48 PM by HabteSelassie » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 03:18:26 AM »

I wonder if your professor has read the entire Cain and Abel story, or if someone showed him this one sentence some time?  I honestly do not understand how he got human sacrifice out of that.  Clearly, the line about Abel's blood crying out from the ground is merely poetic, and Cain tried to hide his deed from God.  Does one normally hide their sacrifice from the one they sacrificed to?
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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 07:02:42 AM »

I wonder if your professor has read the entire Cain and Abel story, or if someone showed him this one sentence some time?  I honestly do not understand how he got human sacrifice out of that.  Clearly, the line about Abel's blood crying out from the ground is merely poetic, and Cain tried to hide his deed from God.  Does one normally hide their sacrifice from the one they sacrificed to?

He knows the bible pretty well. i actually have a lot of respect for him since he is one of very few teachers who aren'tafraid to talk about some of the more positive aspects of religion during history.
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« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2012, 10:02:23 AM »

Abel's sacrifice was vegetables and was given in humility,  were Cain killed animals whose blood was shed in vain out of selfishness.  From the very beginning then, the reality that God asks us to give ourselves to Grace and not selfishness and self-destruction.
Actually that is backwards; it was Abel who offered from his flock:

"Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell." -Gen 4:3-5

Also it was the animal offering that was deemed acceptable, rather than having been described as "shed in vain out of selfishness." The offering of the fruit of the ground, rather than having been "given in humility," was rejected according to the text.
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« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2012, 12:23:59 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Abel's sacrifice was vegetables and was given in humility,  were Cain killed animals whose blood was shed in vain out of selfishness.  From the very beginning then, the reality that God asks us to give ourselves to Grace and not selfishness and self-destruction.
Actually that is backwards; it was Abel who offered from his flock:

"Cain brought an offering to the LORD of the fruit of the ground. Abel, on his part also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell." -Gen 4:3-5

Also it was the animal offering that was deemed acceptable, rather than having been described as "shed in vain out of selfishness." The offering of the fruit of the ground, rather than having been "given in humility," was rejected according to the text.


Yes, my mistake, it was a loooong day yesterday.  I did analyze that completely backwards, the animals sacrificed by Abel according to Campbell are symbolic of the transition away from human to animal sacrifice.  That God accepted Abel's offering signifies the value of animal sacrifice.  Even though I mixed up the details (which is really weird, I wonder where is my mind?) the analysis is the same, Cain's offering was rejected because of the selfishness of his offering, and Abel's was humility.

stay blessed,
habte selassie
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« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2012, 12:42:41 PM »

Me all make mistakes. You should see some of mine Smiley

But seriously thank you. i think I am getting your point.
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