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Sunday, October 18. 2009
From scholar Richard Rubenstein's The Religion of Sacrifice and Abraham, Isaac and Jesus:
Read the whole thing. We Christians often refer to Christ as "the lamb of God;" "Lamb" because a "spotless lamb" was one of the ritual Jewish sacrifices of the time, used as a symbolic substitute for human sacrifice like Abraham's ram in the thicket.
Christians view the sacrifice of Christ - God's "son" - as the final and essential sacrifice needed to redeem a fallen mankind. Thus the ancient themes of blood and human sacrifice endure and give deadly serious substance to our worship today.
My August photo of the stone urns in Carthage which contained the ashes of firstborns sacrificed to Baal:
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Maybe I missed it BD, but I can't get my feeble mind around the question of Why? Why did God demand a sacrifice in the first place? I thought sacrifices were for pagans? In an age when there were none too many people to start with, why would God want to intentionally cull his flock like this, and thus reduce their long term chances for survival? I don't understand it. In the passages cited in the post, God says the first born son will 'be mine', but it doesn't say He wants them killed. Why can't 'be mine' mean that the first born will commit his life to God? And to substitute a ram for the child and then 5 shackels for the ram, it sounds to me like it quickly became a scheme to raise money for the Jewish theocrats. I guess it is all to complex for my feeble mind to comprehend.
I think it's important to make a distinction between animal sacrifices and human sacrifices.
Animal sacrifices clearly point to the inability of anyone to meet God's standard of holiness by his own effort. But God provides a way, through bloody sacrifices, both to see the seriousness of sin (Lev 1:2-7) and to escape its punishment. Hebrews points out the provisional, temporary nature of those sacrifices.
I think it's odd that Rubenstein ignores how it was that Isaac wasn't actually sacrificed - God's intervention. I think FM has it right - "Consecrate to me all the firstborn" doesn't mean to kill them but to consider them holy (cf. Aaron and his sons).
Oh, I don't know Feeble, I think you got it straight. Occam's Razor and all that. "God" gets a pass on this because He's God. And don't question those who know Him better than you do. You pays your money and goes back to your plow. Priest (Government) get's his money, father fulfills his "duty" and everyone is "happy". What the young lad would like to do with the life that GOD gave him, seems beside the point. One wonders where people get their gods anyway.
Don't liberals still believe in sacrificing their children to the god abortion?
Having just now read greater part of the linked article, I'd suggest giving it a read yourself. If this is your "God", ranting about abortion is...oh, I don't know, precious?
It appears clear that early Christians must have also sacrificed their firstborn, until the episode of Isaac and Abraham, when they were told it was unnecessary. Why else would Abraham have prepared for the event w/out questioning it?
Thereafter they were told to "redeem" the firstborn, pay the priests money (as an equivalent sacrifice), and kill animals instead.
The whole concept of "redeeming" an innocent child who has committed no sin sickens me.
Two thoughts on this. First, the interpretation that I have come to accept is that it was not the sacrifice that God desired, but the faith showed through the obedience in bringing the sacrifice.
Secondly, isn't it one of the recurring motifs of the Bible that it is the second son to be born who brings favor before God? That is Abel, not Cain; Isaac, not Ishmael; Solomon, nor Absalom; and finally Jesus, not Adam.
John the Baptist also identifies Jesus as the Lamb of God "who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
Does the traditional redemption of the first born son with silver relate to Judas silver bribe? A sort of inversion, choose the silver and give up the Son?
Has any scholar commented on this?
What? No Dylan doing "Highway 61"
Highway 61 Revisited
Oh God said to Abraham, "Kill me a son"
Abe says, "Man, you must be puttin' me on"
God say, "No." Abe say, "What?"
God say, "You can do what you want Abe, but
The next time you see me comin' you better run"
Well Abe says, "Where do you want this killin' done?"
God says, "Out on Highway 61."
The "fallen" humanity and the need of the "sacrifice" to redeem us has been a problem for me since I came to understand what it seems to mean.
God creates a flawed version of Himself in His own image and leaves the means of our fall in our reach. I don't leave the hamburger thawing near the dog's reach, do I?
When the woman and the man disobey, not knowing that disobedience is wrong because they know nothing of right and wrong, they have "fallen". Who let them fall?
They are cast out. But this is not enough punishment; all of their children, unto this very day, must bear the sin that God put upon the man and the woman.
Except God is merciful. But He needs a pound of someone's flesh, He demands some payment for His mercy. So He incarnates Himself to die so He can forgive His children.
I can't square that circle in those terms.
I can believe that humans, being slow to forgive, would fear God's wrath. I can believe that humans, knowing they expect recompense if they have been injured, would expect God to demand it as well.
I can believe God would make that sacrifice, not to appease Himself (for He surely doesn't wish appeasement) but to help humans believe we are forgiven.
This feels a lot like rationalization to me, but it's as close as I can come to the core Christian creed.
YES, Judaism HAS "entirely rejected the idea that God demands the sacrifice of the first-born son."
Oh, brother - another intellectual straining to portray ancient Hebrews as "primitives".
When in fact the Abrahamic revolution was explicitly, diametrically opposed to the Canaanite worldview - especially human sacrifice of any kind.
1) Isaac DOES NOT get killed.
Many traditional commentators treat this whole episode as a stark lesson for Abraham of the difference between his Canaanite neighbors and the way G-d has laid out for him and his children.
In fact, several commenters interpret it as a PUNISHMENT to Abraham for signing a treaty with the Canaanites - thereby partially legitimizing their culture. "Now that you have a son you are thinking in mundane terms rather than depending on Me - well, here is your treaty for you! Do you want to be like them? Then kill your son like they do!"
This whole episode is a rhetorical rejection of such practices.
2) Pidyon ha-ben - redeeming the first born - is NOT a substitute for filicide.
It springs directly from the Exodus story - the killing of the firstborn of Egypt sanctified the firstborn of Israel, who were spared.
Originally the priestly class was to be made of firstborn, not Levites.
A priest in every family - a far cry from child sacrifice!
When the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, the firstborn were disqualified from this service, and the Levites took their place. There is a special census in which the Levites replace the firstborn 1-to-1, and the "extra" firstborn must pay to redeem themselves.
This sanctity of the firstborn - first fruits, first calf/foal from a mother animal, and firstborn of humans - is the source of the pidyon ha-ben ritual.
3) The Hebrew word for "sacrifice" is Korban - which literally means "approach" or "coming close". The same root is used for the words for an "intimate" or "close relative".
Please take a moment to really reflect on the different meanings of the word in English and Hebrew.
The Temple service had nothing to do with "giving up" anything - since Judaism is anti-monastic - and nothing to do with pagan notions of appeasing/bribing a godhead or other power.
Their primary purpose was to help the worshipper truly link heaven and earth in their perception, and sanctify the life of this world (again, the anti-monastic vision of Tikkun Olam).
It is telling that prayer replaced the Temple service after the Exile.
It is also telling that the long catalog of Jewish martyrdom NEVER celebrates martyrdom at one's own hands - and in fact Jews never did kill themselves in large numbers, even when death was imminent. The only exceptions to this are a few instances of group suicide during the Crusades, which are commemorated by liturgical poems.
Sorry Mr. Intellectual - no primitive cult of death in Abraham's tent.
Just an undying message of life that has changed the world.