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10915Re: [ANE-2] End of human sacrifice

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  • George F Somsel
    Jun 30, 2009
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      In other words, he goes well beyond the evidence into pure speculation -- much like the speculation that the HB is dependent upon Berossus and Manetho.  No evidence, assertion only.  Why should we understand Cain and Abel as anything other than what it is presented as being?  We have the agriculturalist and the pastoralist who are brothers ("alle Menschen werden Brüder").  The agriculturalist kills the pastoralist out of envy.  God imposes punishment but protects the miscreant from human retribution.  From this line comes the development of the arts.

      … search for truth, hear truth,
      learn truth, love truth, speak the truth, hold the truth,
      defend the truth till death.

      - Jan Hus

      From: Clark Whelton <cwhelton@...>
      To: ANE-2@yahoogroups.com
      Sent: Tuesday, June 30, 2009 11:35:06 AM
      Subject: [ANE-2] End of human sacrifice

      gfsomsel wrote:
      >>>>>>>I suppose (Hyam) Maccoby can say whatever he chooses; however, I challenge you to find an instance of human sacrifice which is approved in the religion of Israel anywhere else in the Hebrew Bible. To say that it is "the act of one man, not as a rite required or approved by the people of the land" is to ignore the significance of the text itself.
      29 וַתְּהִי עַל־יִפְתָּח רוּחַ יהוה וַיַּעֲבֹר אֶת־הַגִּלְעָד וְאֶת־מְנַשֶּׁה וַיַּעֲבֹר אֶת־מִצְפֵּה גִלְעָד וּמִמִּצְפֵּה גִלְעָד עָבַר בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן׃
      30 וַיִּדַּר יִפְתָּח נֶדֶר לַיהוה וַיֹּאמַר אִם־נָתוֹן תִּתֵּן אֶת־בְּנֵי עַמּוֹן בְּיָדִי׃
      31 וְהָיָה הַיּוֹצֵא אֲשֶׁר יֵצֵא מִדַּלְתֵי בֵיתִי לִקְרָאתִי בְּשׁוּבִי בְשָׁלוֹם מִבְּנֵי עַמּוֹן וְהָיָה לַיהוה וְהַעֲלִיתִהוּ עוֹלָה׃
      This was a vow made "to YHWH."

      A main thesis of Maccoby's book is that stories of human sacrifice in the
      ANE, including ancient Israel, often come down to us disguised as accidents,
      misfortune or murder. Maccoby says these "modulations are intended to
      absolve society of responsibility for the violent deaths that occur in the
      stories. For human sacrifice seems almost never to have been unaccompanied
      by guilt on the part of the society in which it occurred and by a consequent
      desire to shift the blame, despite the desperate need that was felt to
      accomplish the deed."

      Maccoby analyzes the Cain-Abel legend at length and concludes that Cain
      sacrificed his brother -- a foundation sacrifice that was done for the
      benefit of all. Ditto Romulus-Remus, and similar stories from other
      cultures. Beneath the veil of guilt evasion, however, human sacrifice can
      be recognized by "the good consequence (that) will be seen to flow from the
      slaying: a city will be founded, or a nation will be inaugurated, or a
      famine will be stayed, or a people will be saved from the wrath of the gods,
      or a threatening enemy will be defeated. Such good consequences are exactly
      the results that were hoped for by the performance of human sacrifice."

      In Judges 11, Jephtha vows to YHWH to sacrifice the first creature that
      emerges from his home, in return for victory over the Ammonites. The
      battle is won and Jephtha's daughter is the first to emerge. Jephtha blames
      her for the fate that awaits her, and eventually carries out his vow.

      Was this just a tragic case of bad luck or, in reality, did Jephtha pledge
      his daughter's life in return for victory?

      Maccoby writes, "...the hidden character of (a sacrifice story) is betrayed
      by the equivocal nature of the punishment meted out to the slayer. He will
      be cursed, but not put to death; he will acquire special magic powers; he
      will be driven out of society, but special pains taken to ensure that he
      survives. By taking the blame for the slaying, he is performing a great
      service to society, for not only does he perform the deed, but he takes upon
      himself the blame for it, and thus absolves society as a whole completely
      from the guilt of a slaying for which they, in fact, are responsible and by
      which, in theory at least, they benefit."

      gfsomsel wrote:
      >>>>>>When the condition of the vow was fulfilled, so also was the consequence. This was not a simple slaying as Samuel is said to have slain Agag but rather a holocost (וְהָיָה לַיהוה וְהַעֲלִיתִהוּ עוֹלָה).

      Was the sacrifice of Jephtha's daughter was carried out in violation of the laws and mores of ancient Israel, and the ancient world? Clearly, the peoples of the ANE were repelled by the idea of human sacrifice, thus their feelings of guilt. Nevertheless, in times of danger and emergency, they resorted to it. Maccoby holds that Judges 11 conceals the true nature of Jephtha's deal with the Almighty. It was a straightforward quid pro quo, carried out for the benefit of the nation, an interpretation supported by subsequent events. Jephtha is not punished, denounced or ostracized, and wins more victories. When he dies, no blame or disgrace is attached to his name. At the annual ceremony of commemoration for his sacrificed daughter, Jephtha -- unlike many others in Judges -- does not seem to have been cursed as someone who "did what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord." A veil descends. Collective guilt is eased. The sacrifice of Jephtha's daughter is remembered
      as a tragic accident.

      Clark Whelton
      New York


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