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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

§ 9. Specific Survivals in Judaism.

Apart from definite revivals, the memory of human sacrifice is clearly stamped not only on the Passover but on the two other typical sacrificial feasts of the Jews—the indeterminate sacrifice of the Red Heifer, loosely said to have been performed only eight times since Moses, and the annual sacrifice of a scape-goat on the Day of Atonement. In the case of the former, which was prescribed to take place on the Mount of Olives, the high-priest, his eldest son, and the Messiah Milchama—the deputy High-Priest anointed for war—were all three anointed with holy oil, the mark of a cross being made with it on their foreheads. But further, in one of the two Talmudic accounts, "in anticipation of the performance of the rite, a pregnant woman was brought into one of the chambers of the temple, which was set apart for the purpose, and kept there till her child was born. The child so born was brought up within the sacred precincts, and protected from any chance of incurring ceremonial pollution. When the time for the rite arrived, this child was seated on a wooden litter borne by bullocks, and conducted to the fountain of Siloah. There the child descended, and drew water from the spring in an earthen vessel, bearing which, he was reconducted, as he came, to the Temple." 3 But by another account "pregnant women" were brought to Jerusalem, and placed in courts built on the rock, with an excavation underneath, and they and their children were there kept "for the use of the red heifer" 4 till the children were seven or eight years old, when they ceased to be held ceremonially pure. Here it becomes fairly clear that a regular supply of children-victims had anciently been provided for sacrifice, and that the heifer was the child's representative. Some trace of the knowledge is preserved in the Talmud, in the dubiously significant

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saying that "as the red heifer atones for sin so also does the death of the righteous atone for sin." 1 Being sacrificed with her face to, the south and her head to the west, 2 the heifer was presumably dedicated either to the setting or winter sun or to the Moon-Goddess. 3

By an equally clear clue in the ritual, we can reach the original character of the sacrifice of the scapegoat, which in its official form is clearly post-exilic. 4 In the preparation for that, the high-priest was removed from his own house to the council-chamber seven days in advance, and at the same time a sagan or deputy was appointed who should take his place in case of his being incapacitated. On the night before the day of sacrifice he was not allowed to eat meat, or to sleep, being watched by the younger priests. At that stage, "the elders of the great Sanhedrin handed him over to the seniors of the priestly order, who escorted him to the upper chamber of the house of Abtinas, 5 and there they swore him in, and, after bidding him farewell, departed. In administering the oath, they said: "My lord high-priest, we are ambassadors of the Sanhedrin; thou art ambassador of the Sanhedrin, and our ambassador also. We adjure thee, by Him who causes his name to dwell in this house, that thou deviate not from anything we have rehearsed to thee. Then they parted company, both he and they weeping." 6 An absurd Talmudic explanation is given for the weeping: "He wept because they suspected he was a Sadducee; and they wept because the penalty or false suspicion is scourging." 7 Whatever may have been the historical fact concealed by the last phrase, it is sufficiently clear that the rite was originally one of human sacrifice in which either the priest or his deputy, the Sagan or Segan, was put to death as

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[paragraph continues] "ambassador" of the people to the God or Gods, 1 that is, as scapegoat for their sins. And in this Sagan we probably have the true interpretation of the Græcised term Zoganes 2 applied to the mock victim of the Sacæa. He was simply the deputy 3 of the originally due victim, the priest, who must thus have solved his personal problem at a very early date. 4

In all likelihood the Hebrews had practised some form of this rite long before the Captivity. And as regards the later practice we have a significant Talmudic clue, in the saying of Rabbi Eleazar that it is lawful to slay an Amhaaretz (one "ignorant of the law," rustic "pagan") on the Day of Atonement, even (?) when it falls on a Sabbath. There were discussions on the point, and it is explained that the victim must not be slain with a knife, as "that would necessitate a formal benediction; but to kill him by tearing his nostrils open no benediction is required." Another Rabbi chimes in that "Rabbi Yochanan has said that it is lawful to split up the Amhaaretz like a fish"; "and that from the neck too," adds yet another. 5 The date explains the proposition. Whether as a regular and sanctioned or as a sporadic practice, the sacrifice of a human victim on the Day of Atonement had in all likelihood been practised at or near Jerusalem both before and after the Return from the Captivity. 6

The modified sacrifice of the scapegoat, then, was but another variant of the primordial principle of human sacrifice or "sin-offering" for the good of the people, and is in many respects the complement of the Passover. The Passover victim was set apart on the tenth day of the civil New Year, which dated from spring; the Day of Atonement was the tenth day from the ecclesiastical

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[paragraph continues] New Year, which, as we have seen, began in autumn. It is probable that the latter is the older of the two; but both hold their ground in reference to the sun's progress, the spring festival standing for his youth and waxing period, the autumn for his maturity and waning. That they had a common principle in the sacrifice of a pure victim appears from the detail that in both cases the victim before sacrifice is put in an "upper chamber," the idea being to provide that no contamination should arise from a grave beneath. 1 And both festivals, it is to be noted, could be celebrated apart from the Temple, the Passover being a domestic as well as a temple-feast, and the Day of Atonement being celebrated in Babylon as well as at Jerusalem. 2

It is important to note this circumstance in view of the theoretic universalism of the traditional rite of sacrifice, which even the Khonds declared to be for "mankind," and on which the Gentilising Christians founded their gospel. Jewish sacrifices were strictly national; but in their later contacts with other races they were constantly being attracted towards more cosmopolitan ideals. 3 It sufficed that they had as basis the communal idea, and that it was capable of development on popular lines. In the legend of the slaying of Saul's seven sons they preserved the belief (seen in force among the Moabites, and at the same time in Israel 4) that a king's son, offered up by and for his father, was an irresistibly potent sacrifice; and among some sections of the Semitic race, as we have seen, there was current the myth preserved by Eusebius from Philo of Byblos, that Kronos, "whom the Phœnicians call Israel," adorned his son called Ieoud, "the only," with emblems of royalty, and sacrificed him. The actuality of such a belief among the Phœnicians is proved by the story of Maleus crucifying his only son, crowned and robed in purple, before the walls of Carthage, in order to conquer the city. 5 He was fulfilling an august rite. Always it is a typically divine or racial "father"—Kronos, Israel, Abraham

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[paragraph continues] —who figures in the myths of son-sacrifice; 1 and when it is remembered that the God-name Tammuz signified in its original Akkadian form "the son of life," and was by the Semites interpreted to mean "the offspring" or "only son," 2 we are led to conclude that this conception, bound up with that of the God's death and resurrection, had a general and strong hold on both non-Semitic and Semitic races; for a Hebrew cult of the dying and re-arising Tammuz was in the period before the exile carried on in the very temple of Yahweh. 3


158:3 Conder, Bible Handbook, 1880, pp. 105-107.

158:4 Hershon, Genesis with a Talmudical Commentary, 1883, p. 40, citing Tal. Bab. Tract Succah, fol. 21, col. 1, and Parah, ch. iii, 2, 3. As to the authority of Tract Parah, cp. Condor, p. 106.

159:1 Tal. Bab. Moed Katon, fol. 28, col. 1, cited by Hershon, Treasures, p. 103; Genesis, p. 198.

159:2 Conder, Handbook to the Bible, 1880, p. 107.

159:3 In Christianity and Mythology, 1st ed. p. 349, I connected the sacrifice of the red heifer with the Egyptian sacrifice of a red ox to Typhon (Plutarch, I. and O. 31—ref. wrong in C. and M.). But though that also was clearly a substitution for a human sacrifice, the sacrifice of a red heifer was on the whole more likely to belong originally to a Goddess-cult, and in Egypt all she-calves were sacred to Isis (Herod. ii, 41). On the whole problem cp. Spencer, De Legibus Hebræorum, 1. ii, c. 15.

159:4 The dogmatic assertion of Bleek (Einleit. in das alte Test., ed. Wellhausen, 1878, § 55) as to the clearly Mosaic authorship of Lev. i-vii, xi-xvi, is a sample of the fashion in which criticism of the Pentateuch was so long darkened. All critics now place Leviticus in the Priestly Code; and ch. xvi is no exception. Cp. Driver, Introd. c. i, § 3; Kuenen, The Hexateuch, Eng. tr. pp. 86, 312; and the Kautzsch Bible. If Lev. xvi be pre-exilic, why is there no trace of it in Deuteronomy?

159:5 A family who prepared the sacred incense. See Yoma, ch. iii, 9. Schwab's Fr. trans. vol. v, pp. 199-200.

159:6 Tract Yoma, Schwab's Fr. tr. vol. v, pp. 161-2, 163-4, 165, 169, 170, 172; Tal. Bab. fol. 18 A and B, fol. 19 B. Eng. trans. by Hershon, Treasures of the Talmud, 1882, p. 90. The last detail is not given by Conder, who probably did not see its significance.

159:7 Schwab seeks to make the passage more plausible by the rendering (p. 170) that he wept at being supposed capable of unfaithfulness to his instructions, they because of the painful necessity of adjuring him to be faithful. Hershon's translation is the more exact.

160:1 This was clearly the idea in the sacrifice of a man to Zamolxis by the Massagetæ. Herod. iv, 94, 95. See above, p. 110, note, as to the Khonds, and below, ch. ii, § 15.

160:2 Athenæus, xiv, 44.

160:3 Cp. Selden, De Diis Syris, Syntag, ii, c. 13, and refs. in Schürer, Jewish People in the Time of Christ, Div. II, Eng. tr. i, 257. Schürer, recognising no problem as to the special function of the segan in the sacrifice, decides that he must have been the στρατηγὸς τοῦ ἱεροῦ or "captain of the temple" (p. 258). But this identification would not exclude the origin above argued for.

160:4 As to the Babylonian God Azazel, see Christianity and Mythology, 2nd ed. pp. 320, 323. Standing for the Goat-God = Capricorn, he probably represented the winter-sun. For the Jews of the Maccabean period he was simply a Satan. Book of Enoch, Schodde's trans. cc. viii, 1; ix, 6; x, 4, 6; liv, 5.

160:5 Tr. Pesachim, fol. 49 B, cited by Hershon, Treasures of the Talmud, p. 95; Genesis with a Talmud. Comm. pp. 56, 73.

160:6 Prof. H. L. Strack, in his learned and valuable work on The Jew and Human Sacrifice (Eng. trans. 1909, p. 160), replying to the anti-Semitic ravings of Prof. Rohling, argues that the passage first above cited "is not to be taken literally, but is merely a proof of the fanatical hatred dividing those learned in the law from those ignorant of it," and offers as proof of his contention a saying of Rabbi Aqibâ on the same page of Tr. Pesachim "When I was an Amha-ārez, I said, 'Give me a learned man that I may bite him like an ass.'" The great mass of Dr. Strack's argument in his book is sound, and his refutation of the malignant rubbish of the anti-Semites is complete; but I can see no force in his reasoning here. He has ignored the comments (above cited) on the saying of Rabbi Eleazar, which exclude his solution.

161:1 Cp. Hershon, Genesis with a Talmudical Commentary, pp. 40, 41.

161:2 Yoma, fol. 66, A and B. Ext. in Hershon, Treasures of the Talmud, p. 93.

161:3 See below, § 15.

161:4 2 Kings iii, 27. The meaning of the sentence is that the Israelites felt the king's sacrifice of his son must be efficacious, and so gave up the contest in despair. Compare the story (above, p. 126) of Hamilcar's sacrifice of his son. So in the story of the sacrifice of the sons of King Hiel as foundation-Gods for Jericho (Josh. vi, 26; 1 Kings xvi, 34) it is implied that a tremendous efficacy had accrued to the practice; and so again when Maleus has sacrificed his son on a high cross in regal attire he speedily takes Carthage (Justin, xviii, 7). Exactly the same principle is found among the Maoris of New Zealand. A war-chief on the verge of defeat "cut out the heart of his own son as an offering for victory," whereafter, making a desperate onset, he and his tribe triumphed: "the war-demon had much praise, and many men were eaten" (Old New Zealand, by a Pakeha Maori, ed. 1900, p. 150). Cp. Bastian, Der Mensch, iii, 104, as to the cases of the Norse Hakon Jarl and the Egyptian Mahdi Mohammed Ben Amar. And see J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, 1910, p. 273, as to Pausanias’ story (vi, 20) of the child placed in the battle-front by the Eleans.

161:5 Last cit.

162:1 See cit. from Varro in Lactantius, Div. Inst. i, 21, and Macrobius, Saturnalia, i, 7, for the legend of a Greek oracle commanding to "send a man to the Father"—i.e. Kronos.

162:2 Sayce, Hibbert Lectures, p. 232, citing W. A. I. ii, 36, 54.

162:3 Ezek. viii, 14.

Next: § 10. The Pre-Christian Jesus-God