Hyam Maccoby, The Sacred Executioner - Peter Myers, June 2, 2001; update December 17, 2015. My comments are shown {thus}.

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This is a substantial book which deserves to be better known; it deals with the role of Human Sacrifice in the creation of Judaism, the creation of Christianity, and the creation of modern Israel.

Here is how Maccoby contrasts Aryanism with Zionism (pp. 181-2 below):

"Each distinctive civilization has its basic myth ... the basic myth of Greek civilization is that of the victory of the Olympian gods over the crude, barbaric Titans, reflecting the historical victory of the Hellenes over the aboriginals of Greece. In the type of polytheism of Greece lies its ideal of aristocratic individualism, characteristic of militaristic invaders (such as the Normans). The basic myth of the Jewish civilization was of the liberation of a nation of slaves, pitted against all the oppressive regimes of the world by a unitary and unifying pact with a single God, who refused to co-exist with the gods who had betrayed mankind into slavery."

Note: Judaism takes on, not just Egypt but all "pagan" governments worldwide: thus Pharaoh = Hitler. Why characterise the Greeks as militaristic invaders, but ignore the Bible's genocidal accounts of the Hebrew invasion of Palestine? (see guthridge.html)

In making the following criticisms, I am not denying the validity of most of Maccoby's points, but subjecting him to the same standards of analysis as he subjects others to.

Despite his apparent atheism, Maccoby remains ever the Zionist propagandist, and seems to retain a belief that Jews are the Chosen, despite the absence of a Chooser.

While many of his complaints about the victimisation of the Jews are justified - in particular, the blaming of all Jews for the death of Jesus - the reader should note that, whereas the Nazis are duly accorded their role as Sacred Executioners of Jews in our time, Lenin, Trotsky, Dzerzhinsky, Kaganovich et. al. are not portrayed as Sacred Executioners of Christians; and there is no consideration that Israelis might be Sacred Executioners of Palestinians, on the basis of the equation Pharaoh = Hitler = Nasser = Arafat.

The continuing German humiliation and atonement for Nazi victims, even while the Palestinians suffer the same fate, unacknowledged and unrecompensed, shows that the Germans are indeed being treated in a religious way, as Christians branded the Jews, and this is all the more surprising since Jews are apparently the most intellectual people in the world. Are their intellectual talents put primarily to religious uses? Is this the difference between a rabbi and a Greek Philosopher? Even atheists like Maccoby cannot free themselves from this traditional role.

Maccoby depicts God as a collective Male Super-Ego. Yet if this God is recognised as a fiction, what is the basis of the Covenant? And of being a Jew, based as it is on separateness? Of circumcision and dietary restrictions, as marks of that separateness? Of the "promised Land", as a place for dwelling apart? How can an atheist reject "paganism"? How can atheistic Jews claim to be the revealers of Truth to non-Jews? One major point of agreement between Maccoby and myself is that Christianity is not a form of Judaism, or its fulfilment, but an entirely new religion, as maintained by Marcion. This perception would benefit both Christians and Jews: Christians would stop trying to be "the true Jews", Jews could be left in peace, and Jesus could be seen as a Buddha-figure and like a Cynic/Taoist philosopher: neither.html.

Arnold J. Toynbee write on Human Sacrifice in Phoenician/Canaanite/Hebrew civilization:

A Study of History VOLUME XII RECONSIDERATIONS (OUP, London 1961):

{p. 424} Human sacrifice was an atrocity of Syria's own. If it had ever been practised in Sumer and Akkad or in Egypt, it was extinct there in historical times. The Assyrians were innocent of it. The slaughter and torture of which they were guilty had no religious sanction or excuse. In the Syriac World, both at home and overseas, human sacrifice was practised as a last resort in a public crisis. In the ninth century B.C. King Mesha of Moab sacrificed his eldest son on the wall of his capital city when the combined forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom were at the gates. In similar circumstances King Ahaz of Judah 'caused his son to pass through the fire' when Jerusalem was being besieged by the combined forces of Damascus and Israel in the eighth century. King Manasseh of Judah - Hezekiah's son and Josiah's

{p. 425} grandfather - 'made his son to pass through the fire' without, as far as we know, having Mesha's and Ahaz's occasion for performing the rite.

{end} More at toynbee.html.


{p. 7} Chapter One The Sacred Executioner

A figure in mythology that has received little attention is that of the Sacred Executioner. By this I mean the figure of a person (either a god or a human being) who slays another person, and as a result is treated as both sacred and accursed. Commonly, such a person in myth is ejected from society and condemned to long wanderings; yet he is also regarded as having special privileges, such as being protected from attack and having his life prolonged beyond the average. There are many variations on this pattem; sometimes the person is treated as more sacred than accursed, sometimes as more accursed than sacred. The best-known example in our culture is that of Cain, whose story will begin our discussion, but the discussion will take us to many very different examples, which may not at first seem to fit into the category suggested: Romulus, the founder of Rome; Set, the Egyptian god; Loki, the Scandinavian god; the Wandering Jew (and indeed the Jews as a whole, whose sufferings as the target of anti-Semitism will receive fresh light from this investigation); and examples in literature, such as the Ancient Mariner.

The historical reality that lies behind all these stories, I shall argue, is the institution of human sacrifice, which was practised throughout the ancient world, though usually only in times of great emergency (it is still practised in certain backward areas of the world today). Very few of the myths we shall be considering actually portray human sacrifice openly; instead, we find stories about accidental deaths on the one hand, or about murders (carried out for merely personal reasons) on the other. Both 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. (An exception is the society of the Aztecs, which seems to have been almost entirely free of guilt for the institution of human sacrifice, though even here some details are relevant to our purpose.) Thus, the myth will rarely admit openly that the slaying in the story was performed as a ritual sacrifice. Instead, it will say that an accident

{p. 8} occurred, or alternatively that the slaying was a wicked deed performed by a murderer who was subsequently punished. How do we know then, that ritual sacrifice is the real subject of the myth? This is betrayed by the equivocal character of the story. Some good consequence 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. If the slaying is blamed entirely on accident, then nobody will be blamed; but more usually the slaying is attributed to malevolence on the part of the slayer. In this case, the hidden character of the 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.

A key example may be taken from the religious ritual of Athens. Once a year, at the great Bouphonia (Bull Slaying Feast), a bull representing Zeus, the father of the gods, was sacrificed on the altar of the temple. The custom was that the priests, after sacrificing the bull, fled from the altar in mock panic, crying out a formula absolving them from the guilt of having slain the god. Afterwards, in a special chamber of the temple, a trial was held, in which the blame for the slaying was attributed to the knife that slit the bull's throat. The knife, having been found guilty, was punished by being destroyed.1

This ritual is not one of human sacrifice, but it is very instructive even about myths in which the victim is a human being. It shows the desire to shift the blame, and to find some person or even object that can be held guilty and punished for an act which, nevertheless, was regarded as an essential observance, the omission of which would bring disaster upon the state. Actually, the fact that in this instance the victim is an animal, not a human being, does not necessarily mean that the ritual is less primitive than rituals of human sacrifice. In the very earliest times, animals were not regarded as inferior in status to men; on the contrary, they were often regarded as divine beings. Consequently, the killing of an animal would not arouse less guilt than the killing of a man.2 The era of human sacrifice arrived when human status had increased and the gods were portrayed in human, not animal, form. The myths of human sacrifice with which we are concerned arose in a still later era, when human sacrifice occurred very

{p. 9} seldom, only at times of the greatest emergency, and at other times was hardly even mentioned as a possibility. In this period, animal sacrifice mostly took the place of human sacrifice, not because animals were regarded as the most efficacious sacrifices, but because growing civilization and humanitarianism, combined with a higher valuation of human status and a lessened awe of animals, caused a horror of human sacrifice to develop, so that not only was it confined to times of extreme emergency, but references to it in myth were censored and transformed in various ways out of recognition. This is the era when human sacrifice had the character of a great secret, and the myths we shall be examining are therefore all in a coded form.

In general, rituals are earlier than myths. The flight of the Athenian priests at the Bull Feast is a ritual, not a myth, in most versions, though we can imagine how a myth might have arisen from it. Myths often arose in order to explain a ritual; often too, they became detached from the ritual, which had become obsolete, and functioned simply as stories for poets or playwrights, though such stories also had a ritual function, being recited at festivals, and being regarded as holy writ. Ritual is not the only source of myth, which may arise from a historical event; yet in the background of such a transformation the influence of the ancient ritual may often be felt, arising from a fundamental need for placation and expiation in the face of unmanageable fear. Thus a story based on fact, by being interpreted in a way consonant with ancient sacrificial ritual, may actually take the place of that ritual and function in such a way that it is as if the ritual were being perpetually performed. The best example of this is the case of Jesus, whose death was interpreted as the sacrifice of a man-god, the placation of an angry father-god and the expiation of otherwise unpardonable sins; the blame for the shocking but necessary sacrifice was borne by a whole nation, the Jews (though crystallized in the individual form of Judas), who were given the role of a collective Sacred Executioner.

Another possibility, exemplified mainly in the Old Testament, is that a story originally about human sacrifice may be altered to serve a purpose that is the opposite to that intended - to act as propaganda, indeed, against the institution of human sacrifice. Perhaps the best example of this is the story of Abraham and Isaac, which extols the willingness of the father to sacrifice his son and nevertheless ends up as validating the substitution of animal sacrifice for human sacrifice. Here the pull towards human sacrifice is still observable, even though it is declared that God, in His mercy, has decided to abolish it. In other stories, however, where the civilizing process has progressed further, a definite polemic against human sacrifice can be discerned, though based on a scenario derived from human-sacrificial ritual. The dis-

{p. 10} guised myth is still further disguised, until not merely guilt about human sacrifice is expressed but a conscious opposition to it as a deplorable pagan practice wholly at variance with the wishes of a merciful God. Here, in analysing the myth, it is necessary to uncover a pre-Hebraic stratum expressive of guilt but not of repudiation of the human-sacrificial institution. A myth of this character, showing the whole complex development from unashamed endorsement to guilty acceptance to indignant repudiation, is that of Cain and Abel, which will therefore repay careful study.

The Bible, indeed, is a fascinating repository of information about a crucial stage in man's development - his slow progress from modes of shifting blame and responsibility through institutions of sacrifice to the acceptance of full personal responsibility for his actions, both as an individual and as a member of a society. The Biblical institution of animal sacrifice should be viewed in this perspective, since its chief characteristic is its deletion of the magical properties of sacrifice, and the substitution of a system of etiquette for the idea of magically efficacious sacrificial rites; that is, the sacrifices are only an accompaniment to moral processes of repentance, restitution and punishment.3 Such a gigantic move towards maturity could not take place in an utterly discontinuous manner; it had to build on previous stages of development, including the institution of sacrifice itself. One of the most important ways in which this process of transformation and sublimation can be traced is in the Biblical myths and stories, which are often basically pagan myths of sacrifice elaborated and essentially transformed to accommodate the new Hebraic insights about moral responsibility and the undesirability of shifting blame by splitting-off devices and excuses of various kinds

{Maccoby, ever the Jewish proselytiser, implies that the Hebrews were the first to progress beyond human sacrifice. Yet the Bible's account of the Hebrews' invasion of the Promised Land is genocidal beyond any "pagan" sacred literature: guthridge.html}.

Nevertheless, in the basic myth of the New Testament, we shall note a regression to earlier modes of atonement, and, inevitably, a revival of the idea of shifting blame by vicarious atonement, both in the form of a sacrificial victim and in the less understood form of the Sacred Executioner - the main subject of this book - who vicariously undergoes the guilt felt by mankind because of its desperate recourse to sacrificial modes of atonement for its sins.

{p. 11} Chapter Two Cain

Cain is the archetypal figure of the murderer. The story of Genesis allows him no excuse for his crime, which is actuated by mere jealousy of his brother Abel because the latter's offering to God was accepted with more favour. Nevertheless, I intend to argue that in the original version of the Cain story, Cain was not a murderer at all. He was the performer of a human sacrifice, and in the very earliest form of the story, there was no guilt attached to his deed; on the contrary, it was a meritorious act, just as the sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham would have been, if God had allowed it.

A nearer parallel is the story of Romulus and Remus. This savage tale is the foundation myth of Rome, and contrasts very strongly with the advanced morality of the Hebrew foundation myth of Cain and Abel in its final forrn; yet I suggest that they have many features in common and can be traced to an identical type. Romulus and Remus were twin brothers who together founded the city of Rome. Their divine parentage and their upbringing by a she-wolf emphasize the utterly new start that they made; they were as if created by nature and were at the dawn of a new world. While they were working on the foundations of the city, they quarrelled over the plans. Remus jumped in derision over a trench that Romulus had dug, and, in anger, Romulus slew him. Nevertheless, he was not punished for the deed, but on the contrary was given a great sign of favour by the gods: a fl ght of vultures arose over him, showing that he would found a nation as strong and pitiless as the vulture.1

Again, this story is not explicitly about human sacrifice; but the disguise here is very thin. Only good consequences flow from the slaying, and it is well attested that a commonly practised form of human sacrifice was at the inauguration of a new city.2 The purpose of such a sacrifice was manifold: to placate the gods at a moment of hubris and avert their jealousy by inflicting a loss upon oneself; and also, possibly, to send an ambassador to the upper world who would act as tutelary spirit of the new city and intercede for it with the gods at closer quarters than any mortal being could command. A human sacrifice was usually over-determined in this way, and could serve multiple and even contradictory purposes.

{p. 74} Chapter Six Abraham and Isaac

We have seen in the last chapters how the Hebrew Bible transforms the stories of Cain, Lamech and Ham by divesting them of human-sacrificial content. In the case of Lamech, the result is merely a version so truncated and obscure that it serves no new purpose in the narrative, but survives only like an archaeological relic, giving clues about the stratum to which it originally belonged. In the case of Cain and Ham, however, a true transformation has been achieved, by which the stories have been made to serve new purposes. The Cain story becomes a parable of human brotherhood, pointing the moral with the Israelite redactor's great query, 'Am I my brother's keeper?' While condemning violence against one's fellow-man, the story also provides a justification of the institution of animal sacrifice, by which the craving for shedding human blood was to be diverted. In the case of Ham, the crude castration-wish of the son against the father has been transformed into a political message, justifying the Israelite conquest of Canaan. At the same time, on the moral level, a new kind of father-son relationship is inculcated, in which the father is regarded not as a tyrant but as a human being who requires protection by his sons. Ham's defect, in the Israelite story, was not just lack of respect but lack of love towards his father, whose dignity should be safeguarded even when he fails to uphold it himself.

Perhaps the most interesting story of all in this connection, however, is the story of Abraham and Isaac, for here we find not complete transformation, made from an anti human-sacrificial standpoint, but a phase of transition, in which the yearning for human sacrifice is still struggling with the desire to abolish it. The purpose of the story is to show that God Himself ordained that animal sacrifice should be substituted for human sacrifice. At the same time, the story contains no moral revulsion from the very idea of human sacrifice. On the contrary, it is imputed to Abraham as extraordinary merit that he was willing to sacrifice his favourite son, Isaac, at the behest of God. We see here the dynamics of the historic move from human to animal sacrifice: on the one hand, this is a revolutionary step, by which a higher morality is brought into effect; on the other hand, the benefits of human sacrifice cannot be lightly relinquished, and the transition

{p. 75} from human to animal sacrifice must appear plausible in the sense that animal sacrifice must acquire the same aura of reverence and holiness that previously belonged to human sacrifice. So Abraham's willingness to perform human sacrifice is in a way a validation of the animal sacrifice that takes its place; if he had not been willing, animal sacrifice would appear only an evasion or inadequate second-best that might not, perhaps, prove an effective substitute, especially in times of emergency. The danger of this method of transition, of course, is that since human sacrifice is not disowned in principle, there is always a possibility that it may return. Nevertheless, once the difficult transition has been made, there is the possibility (actually fulfilled in the Biblical record) that the practice of animal sacrifice may defuse the whole issue and lessen the tension and fear underlying human sacrifice, so that eventually sacrifice becomes divested to a large extent of its magical aspects and becomes a mere sacred meal or gift; at this stage, a genuine moral denunciation of the idea of human sacrifice becomes possible, since the psychological need for it has been transcended.

There can be little doubt that the original story of Abraham and Isaac was one of actual human sacrifice (as argued by various scholars, principally M. J. Bin Gorion 1). Like other nations, the Israelites traced the foundation of their tribe to a foundation sacrifice. The paradox that Isaac was the promised and miraculously born child through whom the perpetuation of the tribe was to be secured, and yet at the same time the inevitable victim of the sacrifice, was one that could be solved in various ways, but in any case it is typical of the dilemna of founding a nation, a city or a tribe. The device of having twin-founders, one of whom is sacrificed (as in the case of Romulus and Remus, variants of the same name) is one way of solving the dilemma. Another way could be that the next child born could be given the same name as the child sacrificed, thus being regarded as the resurrected or reincarnated lost one. But the success of the new tribe could only be assured by complete surrender to the will of the god, thus abjuring the hubristic position of setting out to fulfil the dictates of an individual will or decision. Thus the chief hope of the new nation must be destroyed, and it must be left to the god to renew the hope in some unlooked-for and miraculous way.

In the Abraham-Isaac story as we have it in the Bible, the double aim is secured by having a father willing to sacrifice, but a merciful God who forgoes the sacrifice, allowing the substitution of an animal. In the original story, in which the sacrifice actually took place, there was no doubt some resurrection motif, by which the foundation of the tribe was miraculously renewed. Some traces of this original story, as we shall see, have been preserved in the Midrashic legends.

{p. 76} The important point to notice, in relation to the main theme of this book, is that the sacrifice, or attempted sacrifice, of Isaac is accomplished without recourse to a Sacred Executioner figure. There is an extraordinary directness and lack of guilt about the sacrificial theme in the Biblical story. The slayer is Abraham himself, and he is represented as a wholly good figure. Such directness, we may say, was possible only because the decision had been made once and for all to abolish human sacrifice. If there had been some reservation in the minds of the redactors of the Bible, some idea that human sacrifice must be preserved as a secret resource for a time of great trouble, the actual death of Isaac on the altar would have been retained, but the story would have been disguised. By showing that, in the supreme moment of crisis (the actual founding of the nation, and no subsequent crisis could ever equal this moment in poignancy), the sacrifice was abrogated, no excuse was left for its reinstitution in any lesser emergency. The founding of the nation and the abrogation of human sacrifice are associated together in a manner that is decisive. It is as if, in the story of Balder discussed above, the dream devices by which the story is disguised were dissolved and the evil figure of Loki and the blind deluded figure of Hother were to disappear, revealing the scene in its full horror as the slaying of Balder by the assembled crowd of worshippers as a spring sacrifice for the fertility of the crops only for a voice from heaven to announce that the slaying, now revealed in its true colours, is to be cancelled. Or (to anticipate the argument of a later chapter), it is as if, in the story of the Crucifixion of Jesus, the disguising trappings of malevolent Jews were to disappear, leaving the allegedly Jewish crowd in its true identity as the assembled worshippers of the Christian Church itself, crucifying Jesus for their own salvation and as a foundation sacrifice for Christendom, and then, at this point, as if the Crucifixion were cancelled, since anything so plain and obvious would be impossible to proceed with.

The sheer explicitness, then, of the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac is an essential part of its function as a myth validating the permanent substitution of animal for human sacrifice. Not that this explicitness is unique to the Bible story: other legends can be found in the ancient world by which nations other than the Israelites marked the substitution of animal for human sacrifice. Among the Greeks, there is the well-known story of Phrixus, first-born son of Aeolus king of Athamas, as it is told by Apollodorus, Herodotus and Plutarch.2 In a time of great drought, the people decided to offer up Phrixus to the god Apollo. Phrixus was led out to be sacrificed, but the god sent a ram, which carried him off to safety. Phrixus then sacrificed the ram as a thanksgiving offering. What happened about the drought we are not

{p. 77} told. Such a story tells us that the gods can sometimes be merciful, but it does not validate a general and permanent substitution of animal for human sacrifice.

Even more celebrated is the Greek story of the sacrifice of Iphigellia. According to the best-known version of this legend (as recounted by Homer and Aeschylus), Iphigenia was actually sacrificed by her father Agamemnon, in obedience to the god-inspired demand of the prophet Calchas, in order to ensure a good wind to carry the Greek fleet to Troy. But according to another version of the legend (recounted by Euripides 3), Iphigenia was rescued by the goddess Artemis, who snatched her from the altar at the last moment, substituting a deer. Again, this variant legend could hardly become the basis of a general prohibition against human sacrifice, though it could certainly be used to strengthen the view that animal sacrifice could be an efficacious substitute. And such stories are evidence of a growing repugnance against the institution of human sacrifice, and a feeling that the gods, in their more merciful moods at any rate, were unwilling to accept such sacrifice.

Closer to the Abraham-Isaac story is a Hindu legend found in the Rigveda, and regarded by scholars as dating from the Vedism of about the fifteenth century BC. The legend is attached to a collection of seven hymns supposedly recited by Sunahshepa, when he was bound to a sacrificial post and was on the point of being sacrificed to the god Varuna. According to the story, a king called Harischandra made a vow to sacrifice his first-born son to the god. A son was born, called Rohita, but the king kept postponing the fulfilment of his vow until finally Rohita ran away. The king was therefore afflicted by the god with dropsy. The son Rohita, hearing of his father's affliction, determined to satisfy the god with a human sacrifice, without himself being the victim. Accordingly, he bought a youth called Sunahshepa for a hundred head of cattle from the youth's father, the Brahmin Ajigarta. He tied the youth to the sacrificial post and prepared to slaughter him. At this point a man called Vismvamitra, a member of the warrior caste (Kshatriya), came by and suggested to the victim that he should recite the seven hymns referred to. He did so, and such was the magical efficacy of the hymns that he was released, and a nearby goat was sacrificed as a substitute with which the god Varuna was satisfied. 4

While this story is superficially similar to the Abraham-lsaac story (in the binding of the victim, the demand of the god and substitution of a providentially nearby animal), it is also significantly different. The father is not a willing sacrificer; there is no foundation motif; and the chief moral is the efficacy of the hymns. The story is thus not an epoch-making story, and the same must be said of the other stories

{p. 78} cited from Greek legend. In none of them is the substitution of an animal associated with the most awesome possible occasion, the founding of the tribe; and in none of them is this substitution associated with a complete submission on the part of the sacrificing father (in the case of Agamemnon, the rescue of Iphigenia arises from conflict between the gods, and the rescuing goddess is not the deity to whom the sacrifice is being performed).

On the other hand, where we do find in Greek legend a complete devoted willingness on the part of the sacrificer, this is precisely where the sacrifice is actually performed and no substitute is allowed. For example, in Athens, the daughters of Leos were a byword for devotion to their country. Their story is as follows. There was a great famine in Athens in the days of Leos, son of Orpheus. The oracle of Delphi was consulted, and the answer was given that the famine would end only if a human sacrifice were offered. Upon this, Leos decided to offer up his three daughters, who agreed with great willingness to their death. After Leos had slain all three on the altar, the famine ended.5 Another such story concerns Aristodemus of Messenia, who sacrificed his daughter in order to bring about the cessation of a plague.6 This kind of daughter sacrifice has a parallel in the Bible in the story of Jephthah, who vowed to sacrifice the first creature to come out of his house to greet him after victory over the Ammonites.7 This was his daughter, whom he then sacrificed with great sorrow. It is surprising that such explicit stories of human sacrifice were told with approval even when human sacrifice had been officially banned, both in Greece and Israel. Probably, daughter sacrifice was felt to be not so shocking as son sacrifice (after all, in Greece, daughters were expendable and were often exposed at birth). On the other hand, the story of Jephthah, with its cultic accompaniment (a four-day annual mourning rite for the fate of lephthah's daughter), may be a survival from the early matriarchal age, when daughters were sacrificed by preference, as being superior to the male.8

The story of Abraham and Isaac, then, with its cancellation of a sacrifice of supreme importance to the tribe, must be regarded as unique in its implications. The other stories just considered are of much more local and restricted significance. Further, the doctrine of monotheism gave the Abraham-Isaac story a universality that could not be approached by a story in which one particular god or goddess showed mercy on a particular occasion, though admittedly the growth of such stories is an indication of a general trend towards disapproval of human sacrifice - a trend, however, which would have to be embodied in a story of truly focal importance before it could overcome the opposite tendency to slip back into human- sacrificial rites in times of panic. Such a story is the Abraham-Isaac story, which, placed

{p. 80} where it is in the monotheistic Israelite record, must be accounted the human-sacrificial story to end all human-sacrificial rites. If the universal God was willing to accept an animal sacrifice on such a cosmic occasion (for the founding of the Israelite tribe was an event of cosmic importance, set as it is against the background of the Creation of the universe and the choice of Abraham from all the nations and families of the earth), then there was no need to require human sacrifice on any subsequent occasion whatever, and the institution of animal sacrifice can be relied on to do anything for which human sacrifice was previously held to be efficacious.

The Israelite authors of Genesis (shaping a mass of primitive material on which they worked during the seventh century BC) thus adapted a story which was originally about an actual human sacrifice, but instead of disguising the human-sacrificial content while retaining the actual slaying, as was done by the myth-adaptors of other tribes, they retained the plain human-sacrificial intention of the protagonist but changed the denouement to one of animal substitution, thus ensuring that no secret validation of human sacrifice could be read, consciously or unconsciously, from the adapted story. There was thus no need to import into the story the distancing devices by which the core of meaning is surrounded by 'secondary elaboration' (in Freud's phrase). Isaac is not killed by accident, for example by an arrow shot by a blind man. Nor is Isaac killed through the plotting of some malevolent agent, on whom the slaying can be blamed, so that we (the tribe) derive benefit from the providential death without making ourselves in any way responsible for it. To put the matter another way, the failure of the Bible to provide any accident or malevolence as ingredients in the story ensures that Isaac will be reprieved from death, because it is only such disguises that steel the resolve of the tribe to go through with the ritual execution; once all the excuses have been removed, there is no alternative to abolishing the sacrifice.

A malevolent element did actually creep into the Abraham-Isaac story in some of its post-Biblical developments in the Apocrypha and Midrash. Thus, in the Book of Jubilees, we find the figure of a dark angel, Mastema, who suggests to God that He should test Abraham by ordering him to sacrifice his son. When Abraham withstood the test, 'the prince Mastema was put to shame'.9 The role of Mastema here is clearly derived from that of Satan in the Book of Job. He is not, however, blamed for the performance of the sacrifice and he has no independent power of action. Indeed, so far is he from being the dark power (Loki in the Norse myth) bringing about the death of the hero that his hope is that Abraham will fail in the test and not perform the sacrifice. In later Midrashic elaborations of the role of Satan (or Mastema), he is portrayed as putting obstacles in the way of

{p. 81} Abraham's attempts to sacrifice Isaac: 'Satan came and jogged Abraham's arm and the knife fell out of his hand. As he stretched out his hand to pick it up a Heavenly Voice cried out, "Lay not your hand upon the lad." But for that Isaac would already have been slain' (Tanhuma, Vayera, 23). Satan is here portrayed as saving Isaac's life in his efforts to prevent Abraham from obeying God's command. Ihe angels, however, in another Midrash, are portrayed as doing the same thing, but out of pity for Isaac: their tears of pity, it is said, fell upon the knife wielded by Abraham and dissolved it.10 In all these elaborations one thing is clear: that the responsibility for the sacrifice lies with God who commanded it and with Abraham who decided to obey the command. We see here a striking contrast with the role of Satan in the sacrifice of Jesus, where Satan, by entering into Judas, directs all his efforts to bring about the sacrifice, not knowing that the end result will be the breaking of his own power. The executioners, too, in the Jesus myth, are Satanised, with the result that God Himself is absolved of all responsibility for the deed, since the executioners are represented as working against Him, not in obedience to Him (though in the end, His wishes are fulfilled).

The responsibility of God Himself for the sacrifice is indeed a vitally important point. We have to note that one important element in the setting-up of a Sacred Executioner to take the blame for the execution is that the god to whom the sacrifice is made is thereby absolved of cruelty. Whatever distancing device is used (whether that of the Sacred Executioner, or the arrangement of an accident, or the plotting of a villain, or a combination of such devices) the effect is not only to clear the tribe from responsibility, but also to clear the god. The tribe, in effect, is saying, 'We are not cruel enough to perform a human sacrifice, and our god, who is merciful, does not demand one; yet if it should somehow come about, through accident or malevolence, it will be just as efficacious as if our god demanded it and we willingly obeyed.' To accuse the god of wanting a human sacrifice would be an insult, so this aspect must be carefully hidden from sight. How zealously, for example, in the Christian myth, the cruelty of the demand of God the Father is concealed from consciousness! His kindness and mercifulness, on the contrary, are stressed: it was because 'God so loved the world' that He sent His son to redeem it. That He required the son to be tortured to death (as a substitute for torturing all mankind for all eternity) is an aspect wholly swallowed up by the accounts of how wicked and cruel were the human and superhuman instruments (the Jews and Satan) through whom this requirement was fulfilled.

We now gain further insight into why the Sacred Executioner is so sacred, despite his accursed aspect which demands his expulsion into

{p. 82} the desert. For the Sacred Executioner is really a disguised form of the god himself. The hatred directed against the Sacred Executioner is really the hatred that the worshippers dare not direct against the god, whom they secretly hate because of his cruel demands {Is Maccoby being too candid here? Is any god more demanding than Yahweh, except perhaps the Aztec gods?}. But along with the displacement of hatred goes a displacement of worship; so that the institution of the Sacred Executioner, whether he is conceived as human or superhuman, carries with it a powerful charge of devil-worship, and there is always the possibility that allegiance will be transferred from the sanitized figure of the god to his evil surrogate.

In the Biblical story of the sacrifice of Isaac these dualistic possibilities are completely banished. Even in the later elaborations, in which a demonic figure does appear, he is in no way a substitute for either the god or the executioner, but, on the contrary, represents the temptations and stumbling-blocks preventing man's fulfilment of the god's demand for sacrifice. In the Bible story we are brought face to face with this demand in its utmost nakedness. And just at this point, the demand is relaxed, never to be renewed.

It will be seen that the demand for sacrifice is basic to all religion, but that the history of a given religion turns on what mode of substitution it adopts. There are two principal modes of substitution: the first is to retain the sacrifice, but to provide substitutes or disguises for the victim (such as animals or criminals), and even for the sacrificer (such as malicious or unwitting persons), and to pretend that the god to whom the sacrifice is dedicated does not want the sacrifice - this is the method of disguise and secondary elaboration; the second method is to provide substitutes for the sacrifice ritual itself - this is the method of sublimation, which is capable of progressive refinement, starting with bodily substitutes (such as circumcision) and progressing to mental and spiritual substitutions (such as asceticism or prayer).

Mythology shows in abundance how attractive the first solution is: how easy it is to retain the sacrifice in its full goriness if only one is permitted to disguise the scene by all the tricks of inversion and permutation of which the mind is capable (it is these tricks that have been made the subject-matter of the 'structuralist' school of mythology, though without any effort to explain why such tricks comprise a defence-mechanism). The second method is hard: it goes against the grain of the psyche, which constantly tries to slip back to the real thing, despising all substitutes as inadequate.

It is in this light perhaps that we should regard the stories found in the Midrash which flagrantly contradict the plain meaning of the Bible account by saying that Isaac was sacrificed, either partially (by wounding or blood-letting) or wholly. These extraordinary stories have been studied particularly by Shalom Spiegel, who refutes the

{p. 83} view that they are post-Christian inventions, intended to provide a rival doctrine to that of the Crucifixion. On the contrary, these stories can be traced to a period before the advent of Christianity. They may even be a survival of the pre-Biblical story of an actual sacrifice of Isaac, since some Midrashic material, as we have seen, may well represent ancient folklore of a kind that was excluded deliberately from the Bible.11 {see notes on p. 191 below for cases of this}

These stories take various forms. In one variant, it is said that Abraham did make a mark or wound on Isaac's throat before the angel stopped the sacrifice.12 Isaac was then taken by angels to the Garden of Eden for a period of two years in order to be healed of his wound (this accounts for the fact that only Abraham, not Isaac, is said by the Bible to have departed from Mount Moriah after the sacrifice (Genesis 22: 19). Yet another Midrash,13 from a contrary tradition, stresses that Abraham made no mark on Isaac at all, deriving this from the verse that says, 'Do not raise your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him.' 'Anything' in Hebrew is me'umah which this Midrash, by a pun, associates with the word mum, meaning 'wound', thus explicating 'do not produce a wound in him'. This Midrash may even have a polemical intent, combating the trend represented by the other Midrashic passages. It is even possible that the Bible itself, by stressing in such a particular fashion that Abraham was told not to do 'anything' to his son, was combating a folk tradition that Abraham at least wounded his son at the Akedah (Akedah, meaning 'binding', is the name given in tradition to the incident).

Other Midrashic passages go further, saying that Abraham drew 'the fourth part of a log' of blood from Isaac, this being a loss of blood regarded as dangerous to life.14 Others go still further, saying that Isaac was actually killed by Abraham and reduced to ashes on the funeral pyre, but, by a miracle, he was brought back to life.15 This kind of tradition was popular in the Middle Ages and was much cited by the poets who wrote dirges on the Jews massacred in the Christian persecutions. Isaac became the prototype of the martyr, and Abraham became the prototype of those Jewish fathers who killed their own children rather than let them fall into the hands of the Christian mobs.

There are other Midrashic passages (also found in the Talmud), which say that the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, and the willingness of Isaac to be sacrificed (an aspect that receives no emphasis in the Bible but became increasingly stressed in the post-Biblical literature), counted in God's eyes as an actual sacrifice.16 Thus, references in rabbinical literature to the 'blood of Isaac' or the 'ashes of Isaac' do not necessarily arise from the view that Isaac was actually sacrificed. They may equally well arise from the view that, as one Midrash expresses it, 'it was as if Isaac's ashes lay on the altar'. Some

{p. 84} scholars, however, make the mistake of regarding such references as always deriving from the view that an actual sacrifice was performed.17

There can be no doubt that the Akedah story reflects a period when human sacrifice was believed to be the divine prerogative. Even in its fully developed form, as we have it in the Bible, the story expresses no abhorrence of human sacrifice as such, but instead stresses the mercy of God in waiving His right to such sacrifice. The law of the redemption of the first-born reflects the same attitude: by right, every first-born son should be sacrificed to God, but He, in His mercy, has allowed a ceremony of redemption instead. Very far from this are the later passages of the Hebrew Bible that express horror at the very idea of human sacrifice as being indistinguishable from murder.

There is an especially striking contrast between the story of the Akedah and the story of Abraham's argument with God, on the question of the proposed destruction of the Cities of the Plain. This argument is represented as having taken place before the Akedah, yet it expresses a posture towards God that seems to belong to a much later age. Here (Genesis 18), Abraham, far from acquiescing in God's stern decree to obliterate the guilty cities, pleads with Him in urgent style to spare them if only a handful of righteous people can be found among them. In one of the greatest verses of the Hebrew Bible, Abraham even adopts a peremptory tone with God: 'Far be it from thee to do this - to kill good and bad together; for then the good would suffer with the bad. Far be it from thee. Shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?' (18: 25). God is called to account to adhere to His own rules and principles. Yet shortly afterwards, when Abraham receives the call from God to sacrifice his innocent son, he makes no protest whatever. Is this a glaring inconsistency on the part of the redactors of the Bible, who yoked together such apparently incompatible scenes? Should we not expect Abraham, on the basis of his courageous stand for justice even to the guilty, to repudiate God's demand for the blood of the innocent, and to say, 'If that is the kind of god you are, I want none of you'?

Using the insights of Kierkegaard 18 and Freud, we may arrive at a different view about this Biblical sequence. The Biblical ideal is one in which man has a covenantal relationship with God, but, though within this relationship he has rights on the basis of which he can make demands, the covenantal relationship itself is not a right but a gift of God's grace. Abraham has been admitted to a relationship ('walking with God') within which he is called 'God's friend' and may even call God to account. But when this Covenant itself is questioned and annulled, there is nothing he can do but revert to the pre-moral and pre-covenantal state of utter submission. The results of this sub-

{p. 85} mission is the renewal of the Covenant on a stronger basis than before; but while enjoying the Covenant, he and his descendants are never to forget its underpinning of grace, with those concomitants of grace, awe and horror, the tremendum which God voluntarily lays aside when He enters into covenantal terms with man.

In patriarchal society, the image of the father-god is built up through the sacrifice, by individual men, of their own fatherhood, which is then given back to them in a conditional form. In this way, a tremendous father-image is created, by which men, collectively, are able to overcome their awe of the mother and subordinate her to the father. By sacrificing their own rebellious feelings towards the father, the men strengthen the father-image to the point where it is invincible. If there are any reservations about this sacrifice or surrender, the father-image is correspondingly weakened, and the power of the mother is restored. It is as if the men elect an all-powerful leader in their battle against the power of the women; the more they subordinate themselves to this leader, the more powerful they are in the battle. Loyalty to the leader expresses itself in a declaration of willingness to sacrifice their own lives, or, more important, their manhood (embodied in their generative powers and most sharply focused in the first-born son, especially an only son). Psychologically, every such sacrifice increases the vital force of the father; he is fed and sustained by such sacrifice, which acts as reparation and restitution for the aggressive desires of the sons against the fathers. But, by making the sacrifice (which may be made once and for all on their behalf by some mythical figure), the men now have the powerful father as their ally and friend; he expresses this friendship by restoring their manhood to them, requiring some token of submission, perhaps, such as circumcision, to remind them of what he could have exacted and of what power still remains behind his affability and reasonableness. Indeed, as the history of Judaism shows, the more secure and unquestioned the power of the father-god is, the more he is able to relax, show affability, and treat man as his partner in a covenantal relationship.

Accordingly, the tendency of distancing devices, blurring the responsibility for the sacrifice, is to leave room for aggressive inclinations of the sons towards the father, to weaken the bonds of patriarchal society, and to restore strength to the mother. Where, for example, the son is sacrificed through the machinations of an evil enemy, no true submission has been made to the father, and the death of the son may even serve as an aggressive move against the father, designed to dislodge him from his authority. The aggressive feelings, by being redirected against the evil power plotting against the son, have been given a new lease of life and are coveltly directed against

{p. 86} the father himself (disguised in the surrogate figure of the Devil). The sacrifice can thus regain the character it had in matriarchal society of being an expression of rivalry between male aspirants to the favour of the mother (we saw an example of this matriarchal type of sacrifice in the myth underlying the conflict between Noah and Ham). This rebirth of matriarchal attitudes within a context of imperfect (because distanced) patriarchal sacrifice can be designated as romanticism, and will be discussed at more length in connection with Christianity, and especially in relation to the rise of the cult of the Virgin Mary in the Middle Ages.19 We turn now, however, to discussion of a topic closely related to the theme of sacrifice in the Israelite culture, namely the rite of circumcision.

{p. 87} Chapter Seven Moses and Circumcision

According to the Hebrew Bible, the rite of circumcision was instituted by a command of God to Abraham (Genesis 17). This rite marked a Covenant between God and Abraham, by which God would recompense the loyalty of Abraham and his descendants by making them a fruitful nation and by giving them the land of Canaan. Abraham was ninety-nine years old at the time of his circumcision, his son Ishmael was thirteen, and Isaac had not yet been born, but was circumcised eventually at the age of eight days, the correct time for the rite for future generations. No connection is made in this Genesis account between the rite of circumcision and the idea of human sacrifice. It is not suggested, for example, that there is any connection between the rite and the sparing of Isaac at the Akedah, so that circumcision might be regarded as the price paid for God's forgoing of his due of human sacrifice. As far as this account goes, the rite of circumcision seems to have no aura of fear or horror, but to be simply a way of marking on every male Israelite that the Covenant was in existence.

A difficulty is that an entirely different account is given of the actual inauguration of the Covenant between God and Abraham. This is the awe-inspiring episode known as the 'Covenant between the Pieces' (Genesis 15). In this account, the horror inherent in the motif of sacrifice is certainly present. Abraham (at this time still called Abram) is commanded by God to offer as a sacrifice three animals and two birds. He is to halve the carcasses of the animals, making a kind of corridor between the halves. He now keeps a day-long vigil, keeping off the birds of prey as they swoop down on the carcasses. As the night falls, he goes into a trance and is afflicted by a great fear. He hears the voice of God telling him that his descendants will suffer as slaves in Egypt, but that God will deliver them. In the dusk, he sees a fiery presence passing between the divided pieces; and the Covenant is thus sealed: 'To your descendants I give this land from the River of Egypt to the Great River, the River Euphrates, the territory of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites.' This scene, symbolic in multiple ways, is worthy of the greatness of the occasion;1 after this, the institution of circumcision in Genesis 17 is presented as a mere confirmation or mark of the Covenant.

{p. 96} The story as a whole thus contains a complex process of bargaining by which a modus vivendi is achieved between men and women in the changed circumstances of patriarchal society. Men have won, but they have had to concede something to women. The special relationship of the mother to the son has been preserved, for the mother is pictured as the saviour of the son in the face of the aggression of the father. It should be noted that the previous rite, marriage circumcision, also represented such a compromise, since the men won it as a more merciful substitute for the death of the consort after mating, at least in the case of a king or priest. The war between the sexes is full of these compromises or arrangements. While a continuation of first-born sacrifice would never have won the women to support of patriarchy, the institution of infant circumcision was very successful in the Israelite culture: the preservation of the infant circumcision rite became a special concern of the mothers, who no doubt saw in it, unconsciously, the best safeguard of their infant's life. Thus Israelite and Jewish religious history is full of instances of Jewish mothers who, even at great personal danger to themselves, kept up the rite of infant circumcision at times when their husbands were helpless or even unwilling to preserve it.14

Yet the story of Zipporah did not retain the status which, I am suggesting, it originally had as the myth validating the institution of infant circumcision. The redactors of the Bible relegated it to a mere incident in the life of Moses, related in such a cryptic and abbreviated way that its significance almost disappeared, though its esoteric, primitive style (similar to that of the story of Lamech) has made it intriguing to all those who can sense a mystery. It has never been the official doctrine of Judaism that circumcision is a substitute for human sacrifice, or anything more than a 'sign of the Covenant'. The only institution regarded as a substitute for human sacrifice is that of animal sacrifice, validated by the myth of the Akedah, in which no female character has any part to play, except off the scenes in the Midrashic remarks about Sarah. The story of Zipporah, indeed, gives the female too great a part to be acknowledged in patriarchal Judaism as it eventually developed, a part as great as that of Athene in the acknowledgment of Zeus.

{p. 97} Chapter Eight The sacrifice of Jesus

Much of the argument so far has turned on the idea that human sacrifice is particularly connected, historically, with a certain kind of great event, namely, the foundation of a new human grouping, whether a tribe, a city or a religion (categories that sometimes overlap). The stories in which the foundation is described we call 'foundation myths'. The recourse to human sacrifice at moments of great danger to the politico-religious entity is really only a variety of foundation sacrifice. When the very being and continued existence of the society is in doubt, to save it is to call it back from death, to resurrect it, and thus to found it anew.1

In the story of Abraham and Isaac, we find a foundation myth of quite unusual explicitness; as suggested above, the lack of any attempt to hide the nature of the sacrifice can be attributed to the fact that the sacrifice (in the myth as it developed) was called off - there was no need to disguise something that in fact did not happen. On the other hand, this very abrogation of the sacrifice is itself a disguise, or what I have called a distancing device. No society is willing to admit fully what happened at its birth; but the nature of a society is to some extent determined by the type of distancing devices it adopts; this is especially the case when distancing devices are employed as a way of shifting responsibility for the sacrifice, for this means that the shifting of moral responsibility is built into the moral ethos and fabric of the society in question.

The Abraham-Isaac foundation sacrifice is at the base not only of Judaism but also of two other great religious communities, Christianity and Islam. In the case of Christianity, the sacrifice of Jesus marks a new foundation, but this is to some extent supplementary to and modelled on the sacrifice of Isaac, though with some extremely significant variations and new distancing devices that alter very much the character of the sacrifice and its consequent effects on community ethos. In the case of Islam, it is the sacrifice undertaken by Abraham itself that serves as a foundation myth, but the victim is changed from Isaac to Ishmael, on the theory (derived by the Arab founder of Islam from Jewish sources) that Ishmael, the son of Abraham, was the founder of the Arab nation.2 Thus a foundation

{p. 98} myth originally told to validate the foundation of the holy nation of the Israelites was adapted to validate the foundation of another holy nation, the Arabs, whose religious mission, modelled on that of the Israelites, was retrojected to a time about 2,500 years earlier than that of Muhammad, the actual founder of Islam.3 Thus no sacrificial myth was required in relation to Muhammad himself, though the presence of a gap or psychological need here is no doubt signalized by the rise of Shiite Islam with its foundation sacrifice centred on the figure of Ali, whose death in a dynastic squabble was elevated into a mystical event.

We now turn to a fuller consideration of the extraordinary revival of human-sacrificial ideas in the concept of the sacrifice of Jesus, the foundation myth of Christianity. This concept is largely the work of Paul, who never knew Jesus personally, but became devoted to his person through a vision some years after Jesus's death. Jesus himself never regarded himself as a sacrificial figure. By declaring himself as the Messiah (at a rather late point in his career, which began with Jesus in the role of a prophet heralding the coming of the Messiah as John the Baptist had done), he announced his intention to overthrow the Roman invaders of Israel and to reign over the Jews in the manner of his ancestors David and Solomon, who also had the title 'Messiah' {this a standard Jewish interpretation, but inconsistent with the Gospels' rejection of an earthly kingdom}. Being an anti-militarist (though not a pacifist), he expected to defeat the Romans with the aid of a divine miracle, as prophesied by Zechariah, rather than by force of arms. The Gospels, written for the Paulinist Christian Church, are based on authentic traditions (which can be discerned by appropriate methods), but are slanted in such a way as to hide Jesus's anti-Roman intentions {a Jewish view, based on Jewish hostility to Rome; the Gospels, unlike the more Jewish Book of Revelation, are reconciled to Roman rule}. Jesus's death on a Roman cross is interpreted as being due to Jewish, not Roman, hostility, and Jesus is portrayed as a rebel against Judaism, instead of as an opponent of the cruel occupation of the Holy Land by the Roman idolaters and militarists. By the rewriting of the Gospels, Jesus was detached from his Jewish background and cleared of the suspicion of having been anti-Roman, and was thus made a suitable object of worship for a Church now consisting mainly of non-Jews seeking official Roman recognition for their new cult.4

It is not, however, with the historical Jesus that we are concerned in this book, but with the mythical figure of Jesus and the way in which his death functioned as the foundation myth of the Christian Church. Yet the fact that this myth was grafted on to a historical incident that was in reality unsacrificial in character was important for the development of the myth and for its historical consequences.

The Christian version of the death of Jesus certainly comprises a foundation myth of a most grandiose type. It marked the beginning of a new tribe, Christendom, to whom the death of Jesus opened the way

{p. 99} to the favour of God who was regarded as angry with all mankind because of the sin of Adam. To belong to the new tribe was the only way to escape God's wrath, which would manifest itself by condemning all non-Christians to eternal torture.5 It is of course true that every tribe ever founded has regarded itself as superior to the rest of mankind in some important respect. In polytheism, however, this intolerance was tempered by the view that each nation had its own god or gods, whose existence one's own god recognized and respected. Christianity, being a form of Jewish monotheism, did not have this option

{why does Maccoby, apparently an atheist, retain a loyalty to Judaism, given this admission of its intolerant monotheism? Does not Tolerance today, which Maccoby presumably supports and demands, require a return to Multicultural Polytheism?}.

It therefore condemned all forms of community except its own, and required all mankind to join Christendom. Judaism itself, though monotheistic, had not taken this path, having a pluralistic vision of many separate communities worshipping the one God in their own ways, with Israel, God's chosen people or 'firstborn', playing a priestlike role among the nations of the world. The foundation myth of Judaism was regarded as a preparation for this role, and did not therefore apply to all mankind, nor did it exclude non-Jews from God's grace (though those who wished to join the priest-nation as proselytes, such as Ruth, were accepted).

{But (1) 1 Samuel Chapter 15 says that God, through his prophet Samuel, condemned King Saul for not killing all of the non-Jews he fought, when ordered to do so. Saul, regretting his disobedience, slew the captive king he had spared. - samuel-saul.html.
(2) The Book of Numbers records God commanding a "biblical holocaust" of non-Jews. The Jews "waged the campaign against Midian, as Yahweh had ordered Moses, and they put every male to death... the sons of Israel took the Midianite women captive with their young children, and plundered all their cattle, all their flocks and all their goods. They set fire to the towns where they lived and all their encampments... Then, when they took the captives, spoil and booty to Moses..., Moses was enraged.... 'why have you spared the life of all the women...? So kill all the male children. Kill also all the women who have slept with a man. Spare the lives only of the young girls who have not slept with a man, and take them for yourselves" {Num 31: 7-19}. More at guthridge.html.
(3) Is Maccoby not aware of Jews who want to enforce the Jewish "Noahide Laws" on Non-Jews, e.g. at http://www.noahide.com/?
(4) Is he unaware that Jewish leaders envisage non-Jews having to accept Jerusalem as the spiritual centre of the world - see bengur62.jpg (scroll down) and http://www.templemountfaithful,org/ ? Does this not refute his argument about Judaism's superior Tolerance?}

Though the human-sacrificial myth of Christendom marked a new start, it was linked in many ways to the old dispensation of Judaism, and therefore to the foundation myth of Judaism, the Akedah, or attempted sacrifice of Isaac. As several scholars have pointed out, the language used by the New Testament in describing the sacrifice of Jesus frequently echoes the Old Testament description of the Akedah. For example, we find the following: 'For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son' (John 3:16). Elsewhere we find Jesus described as God's 'beloved' son, the same Greek word (agapetos) that is found in the Septuagint in reference to Isaac (Genesis 22:2). It is clear that a parallel is intended: just as Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved son, so God the Father was willing to sacrifice His son Jesus. The parallel, however, is strangely incomplete. For in the Akedah there were three dramatis personae, Abraham, Isaac and God who demanded the sacrifice. In the Christian myth, God the Father plays two roles at once: He is the sad, sacrificing father, and He is also the father-god who demands the sacrifice in appeasement of His anger at the Original Sin of mankind. God denies His fatherly feelings in order to bring about a sacrifice to Himself. As self-denying parent, God bows to some dark necessity beyond His control; but as fathergod, He is Himself that necessity. This double-faced role of the Christian father-god arises (as briefly pointed out on p. 81) from the chief difference between the Old Testament foundation sacrifice and that of the New Testament: the determination, in the latter, to shift responsibility for the sacrifice. In

{p. 100} the story of Abraham and Isaac there is no attempt to burke the full horror of the occasion: it is quite explicitly God who demands the sacrifice and it is quite explicitly Abraham who sets himself to perform it. In the story of the sacrifice of Jesus, however, so many distancing or responsibility-shifting devices are used that it can be regarded as a compendium of such devices. Other myths we have examined (for example, that of the death of Balder) were good examples of the art of shifting responsibility for a human sacrifice; but the Christian myth is the supreme example. And the compelling motive behind all these devices is the utter necessity that the sacrifice should actually take place; by hook or by crook, Jesus has to die. He cannot be reprieved as Isaac was, for there can be no substitute for his actual death, if even a fraction of mankind is to be saved from the eternal wrath.

In the myth of Balder, as we saw, one of the devices involved was the deification of the victim. That the victim of a human sacrifice should become divine at the point of death was demanded by many possible aspects of such a sacrifice. In the founding of a city, for example, the victim became the tutelary deity of the new city, his death having added him to the number of gods, among whom the city would now have its personal representative. In the sacrifices of the Aztecs, the victims became divine in the sense that their life-energy went to replenish that of the sun-god who would otherwise become weak; thus the victim attained an unindividuated immortality {this is far-fetched: does an animal eaten by a carnivor thereby partake of the soul of that carnivor?}. Sometimes, however, the victims became divine even before their death; in such cases, the sacrifice was regarded as the enactment on earth of a cosmic process of death and rebirth that was continually taking place in the heavens. The myth of Balder took place in 'mythical time', which meant that it was always taking place; the death of a human victim on earth in the role of Balder ensured that the human community was not left out of the sweep of the cosmos.7

In the latter cases, however, there was another factor at work, namely that to kill a god, or to assist a cosmic process of death and rebirth, is something different from killing a fellow human being. It is therefore possible to disguise from oneself, in an ecstasy of cosmic participation, what one is actually doing. This particular kind of disguise has been very powerful in Christian worship. It is very rare indeed for Christian believers to regard the death of Jesus as belonging to the history of pagan human sacrifice (a notable exception was T. S. Eliot, one of the few adherents of Christianity who have understood fully its affinities with rites of pagan sacrifice 8). While a Christian is accustomed to thinking of Jesus as both man and God, when he thinks of the atonement aspect of the Crucifixion, he attends to the divine aspect of Jesus; the thought that Jesus was a human

{p. 101} sacrifice thus never enters his mind, or, if it does, is fended off with the thought, 'But Jesus was not a man, he was God.' While thinking of the actual death of Jesus, however, he attends to the human aspects - his pitiable sufferings, and the wickedness of his human enemies; he becomes a man done to death by evil-doers, not a god suffering cosmically. Thus the thought that Jesus was a human sacrifice (or rather that his death functions as one in the mind of the worshipper) is overlooked, or, if momentarily evoked, dismissed as too barbaric to be relevant. We have therefore the phenomenon of a religion in which human sacrifice is more central than in any religion known to us (so much so that the Aztecs, who rivalled Christianity closely in this respect, found the doctrines of Christianity very familiar and unremarkable 9), but which neverthele'ss repudiates human sacrifice as an alien an outdated notion.

It is necessary, therefore, to dwell somewhat on the place of sacrifice in Christianity and to bring out its full meaning. It must be stressed that the definition of a human death as a sacrifice depends on the use to which it is put religiously. It does not depend on historical proof that the worshippers or their ancestors actually participated in an openly acknowledged rite in which a human being was put to death for the purpose of founding a tribe or a religion, or to save the tribe from extinction or external torture after death, or to ensure the continuance of the agricultural cycle (all these possible reasons are really variations of each other, though which of the variations is selected as basic is a matter of taste). As we have seen, it is very rarely that the community that benefits, or thinks it benefits, from human sacrifice acknowledges reponsibility for performing it. It much prefers to ascribe the death to accident or malevolence beyond the control of the community. The means by which the death took place, whether human or even non-living, is in some way ostracised or repudiated. But, if the death is regarded as having saved the tribe, then we are in the presence of human sacrifice.

It may be objected that the above definition has left no room for a distinction between a human sacrifice and a martyr. The Christian religious history is full of martyrs, starting with Stephen, and it might be (and sometimes is) argued that Jesus was simply the first of this line of martyrs. But a martyr means a 'witness', and the reason for the death of martyrs is that they witness to some truth that they hold dearer than their lives. The truth for which the Christian martyrs died was the saving power of the Crucifixion of Jesus. It would be meaningless to say that this was the truth for which Jesus himself died. An act cannot witness to itself. Socrates can be called a martyr, for he died rather than renounce his philosophical beliefs. But, if he deliberately chose to die so that his death might shield the people of Athens from

{p. 102} the consequences of their sins, this would be an act of sacrifice, not of martyrdom. Of course, there can be some overlapping between the ¥ functions of sacrifice and of martyrdom. Martyrdom is quite commonly venerated as also having some of the quality of a sacrifice. It is believed that the martyr's suffering has a protective effect on believers, and (in Christianity) that he partakes in and renews the mystery of the Crucifixion.l° The one case, however, in which this overlap does not and cannot occur is that of the original sacrifice itself, for without it, there would be no Crucifixion for the subsequent martyrs to participate in.

With the growth of modern liberalism, there have been Christians, even in the Roman Catholic Church, who have denied that the death of Jesus was a sacrifice, and who have insisted instead that it was a martyrdom. As one Roman Catholic theologian said to me, 'Jesus simply showed how a good man could die'. 1I To substantiate this view from the Gospels, one would have to demonstrate that there were some beliefs which Jesus advocated in the face of dangerous opposition and which he was prepared to die for rather than renounce.

What were these beliefs for which Jesus was prepared to die? If we say that it was his belief in his own divinity, then we are back in a vicious circle of reasoning. For the belief in Jesus's divinity, as expressed in the Gospels, is inextricably bound up with his sacrificial role. It was not simply as the Son of God that Jesus came into the world (imagine a Christianity in which Jesus declared himself to be the Son of God and lived on to a ripe old age!), but to enact the soteriological role of the Son of God who dies and is resurrected and acts as a 'ransom for many'. We cannot say, then, that Jesus was a martyr who died for his belief in the necessity of his own martyrdom. Such a death would be entirely empty of content. To 'give an example of how to die' when there was no reason why he should die would not be a good example at all, but a pointless suicide. Good men may certainly choose to die, very often by violent deaths; but only when there is something to die for.

What then shall we say (pursuing the idea of Jesus as a martyr) were the beliefs or principles for which Jesus gave his life? A commonly given answer is that he was a reformer, who lost his life in the struggle against reactionary authority. If this were so, Jesus could certainly be regarded as a martyr, like, say, Socrates, or Martin Luther King, in the cause of justice, freedom or progress. It is true that Jesus is portrayed in the Gospels as conflicting with the Pharisees on questions of Sabbath observance and as denouncing the Pharisees as oppressive authorities. When it comes to describing the circumstances of Jesus's death, however, these matters are forgotten. In the accounts of his

{p. 103} trial, it is nowhere said that the matter of Sabbath observance was brought up, or that the Pharisees denounced him for opposing their authority. Jesus's chief prosecutor was the High Priest, who was a Sadducee; and the charges against Jesus were all connected with his role as Messiah, or Son of God. The issue is represented to be entirely one of whether Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be a divine figure. It is clear that if Jesus had been regarded as merely a reformer of the Jewish Law, he could not have become the centre of a new religion, but, at the most, the founder of a new sect of Judaism, such as Karaism. The essence of the charge against Jesus, as it was conceived by the Paulinist writers of the Gospels, was that he wished not to reform the Law, but to abolish it altogether {perhaps as Buddha wanted to abolish Brahmanism}, and to substitute for it a new form of religion, based on his own personality as divine saviour {Maccoby does not consider whether Jesus might be seen as a Buddha-like figure, executed, unlike Buddha, because of the intolerance of Jewish Monotheism}.12 In order to fulfil this soteriological role, his death was a necessity. So we return to the point that Jesus, whatever his reforming activities, was not a martyr to reform or to anything else. His death was not that of a martyr but that of a saviour, as far as Christian doctrine is concerned. If he had succeedeed in getting the Pharisees to relax the Sabbath laws, he would not have fulfilled his mission at all.

It is possible of course that, as a matter of historical fact, Jesus was a reformer {or a Buddha-like figure, as the Sermon On the Mount suggests}. This is irrelevant, however, to the question of what kind of Jesus-figure acted as the basis of Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism. When we come to examine the historical facts about Jesus, as opposed to the history of the Christian Church, the most probable solution (as I argued in full in Revolution in Judaea) is that Jesus was a committed adherent of Judaism, who intended no reform of Judaism other than that for which the Pharisee movement was responsible; for Jesus's alleged Sabbath reforms all turn out, on examination, to be identical with those already instituted by the Pharisees.13 Historically, Jesus's mission was neither to be a reformer nor to be the divine saviour, but to be a Messiah in the Jewish sense of the word, that is, a Davidic king, who would fulfil the prophecies of the Old Testament by driving out the foreign invaders, restoring Jewish independence, and inaugurating a worldwide era of peace {if this is so, why is he not celebrated in the Talmud? Why is he vilified there?}. His alleged conflicts with the Pharisees can all be traced to two redactorial motives: to shift the blame for Jesus's death from the Romans to the Jews and thereby to depoliticize Jesus's aims; and to retroject into Jesus's lifetime the conflict of the early Church with the Pharisees in the period of the redaction of the Gospels (AD 70-120).

All such facts or theories are irrelevant to our present task, which is to examine the Christian myth, a myth that is not about the death of a reformer or religious patriot, but about a cosmic sacrifice. Some of the details of the myth would not be as they are were it not for historical circumstances, and it may be necessary to note such connections at

{p. 104} times, but the main theme is the myth itself. If there are Christians nowadays who prefer to jettison the myth and to regard Jesus as a reformer, they are of course entitled to do so, but their decision has nothing to do with Christianity as a historical movement, which came into exlstence only through belief in the myth.

The Christian myth being about a sacrifice, the relevant questions are: who was the sacrificer? who was the victim? for whose benefit was the sacrifice performed? to what divine being was the sacrifice offered? Having answered these questions, we shall have to consider what type of sacrifice this is: in particular, how is it related to pagan human sacrifice, to the mystery religions of the Hellenistic world and to Gnosticism? But, first of all, it is necessary to consider how it is related to Judaism itself, and to the sacrificial system of the Jerusalem Temple.

There is evidently a considerable desire, on the part of the New Testament writers, to relate the sacrifice of Jesus to the Jewish sacrificial system. Thus, Jesus is likened to the Paschal lamb by Paul: 'For indeed our Passover has begun; the sacrifice is offered - Christ himself' (I Corinthians 5:7). According toJohn, the fact that the Roman soldiers did not break Jesus's legs after his death, as was usual with crucified corpses, was in fulfilment of the law in Exodus about the Passover sacrifice: 'For these things were done that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken' (John 19:36). The Epistle to the Hebrews particularly sees the death of Jesus as the culmination of the Jewish sacrificial system: 'Such a high priest does indeed fit our condition - devout, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, raised high above the heavens. He has no need to offer sacrifices daily, as the high priests do, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; for this he did once and for all when he offered up himself' (Hebrews 7:26-7). Jesus thus combines in himself the role of sacrificer (high priest) and sacrifice; and the function of atonement that was performed by the Jewish sacrifices imperfectly (since they had to be renewed daily) was performed perfectly and for ever by the sacrifice of Jesus.

The Passover sacrifice, as it happens, was not an atoning sacrifice in the practice of Judaism. It was rather an affirmation of thanks to God for the deliverance from Egypt and for the Covenant. It is true that the 'Passover sacrifice of Egypt' (as the original sacrifice described in Exodus was called) was a protective sacrifice by which the disaster decreed against the Egyptians was warded off from the Israelites. But the 'Passover sacrifice of the generations' had none of this aura of fear; it was carefully distinguished from the Egypt sacrifice and had different laws for its observance.14 This is not a trivial point, for it applies to the Temple system of sacrifices as a whole. This system was

{p. 105} not directed towards salvation. That had taken place long ago, at the time of the institution of the Covenant. All Jews lived within the Covenant, and did not have to worry about anything so basic as salvation. What they had to worry about was to fulfil the conditions of the Covenant, and even this was not really a great worry, as the existence of the Covenant did not depend on every single act performed. For individual sins could be wiped out by repentance, and atonement could then be ratified by the bringing of the appropriate sin-offering.15

As has been well argued by Professor J. Milgrom,16 the sacrificial system of the Bible, in its finally redacted form, has eschewed the more primitive features of animal sacrifice as practised in other cultures of the Near East. The majority of the sacrifices have taken on the character of 'offerings' (as their Hebrew names attest), and are gifts to God rather than redeeming rites. Even the sin-offerings have lost all magical character, and are regarded as inefficacious without repentance on the part of the sinner. Most remarkable is the fact that the cleansing rites required before entry into the Temple precincts have been divested of all reference to evil spirits, and are therefore regarded as rules of etiquette rather than as substantive forms of exorcism, as in other cults. Even the rites of the Day of Atonement, which retain more of the awesome primitive quality than any others, are not a foundation ceremony in which the world is renewed, but merely a wiping-up of sins accumulated during the past year, a kind of annual spiritual reckoning which does not pretend to change the nature of the human lot, since another Day of Atonement will be required each year.

This piecemeal, rational approach was due to the conviction that the great sacrifice (the Akedah) had taken place long ago, that the Covenant had resulted from it, and that the worshipper thus lived in spiritual security within it. The Christian attitude to sacrifice, on the other hand, arose out of the shattering of this sense of security (or, more accurately, it arose from the standpoint of those who had never acquired it). To the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, the fact that the Jewish sacrifices had to be continually repeated showed that they were 'imperfect' - that they left the problem of sin essentially unsolved. What was needed was a solution that would end the problem of sin once and for all. Christianity, in fact, was a return to the condition of primitive dread, in which the primary problem is not 'How shall I improve my deeds?' but 'How shall I be saved?'17

It is therefore quite mistaken to see the Christian concept of sacrifice as arising naturally out of the Jewish sacrificial system, or as providing the climax to which it tended. On the contrary, the natural tendency of Judaism was in Christianity catastrophically reversed. The whole tendency of the Jewish system was to reduce the importance of

{p. 106} sacrifice; the very term 'sacrifice' is a misnomer in relation to the majority of the offerings of the Jerusalem Temple, where in general the tone set was that of a communal meal with God, with the aim of thanksgiving rather than of redemption. In Christianity the age-long Jewish process of sublimation disappears as if in a sudden bout of psychosis. We are back at the primitive level at which the abyss opens and panic requires a victim. It is not surprising in these circumstances that the human victim reappears, after so many centuries of animal substitution {the meaning must be, that Christianity is an entirely new religion, not the fulfilment of Judaism}. It is not surprising either that the theme of mass redemption reappears, so long after its replacement in Judaism by the theme of individual self-improvement.

But this air of sudden psychosis is really misleading, because Christianity is not an incident in the history of Judaism, but in the history of Hellenistic religion. Though Christian theorists set great store by the alleged continuity between Judaism and Christianity, and though this continuity has been claimed from the earliest days of the Christian Church (except by heretics such as Marcion, who vehemently denied it), it was never much more than an illusion {correct; this perception would benefit both Christians and Jews: Christians would stop trying to be "the true Jews", Jews could be left in peace, and Jesus could be seen as a Buddha-figure and like a Cynic/Taoist philosopher}, as far as the central foundation doctrines of Christianity are concerned (though this is not to deny the enormous influence of the Old Testament on Christian movements and individuals of a later age). In order to illuminate the Christian sacrificial myth, therefore, it is necessary to turn away from Judaism to the salvation cults of the Hellenistic world.

{p. 107} Chapter Nine Christianity and Hellenistic religion

Christianity, with its concern with salvation, and its achievement of salvation through the death of a divine figure, shows a striking discontinuity with Judaism, which is concerned with neither of these motifs. In Judaism the word 'salvation' is used often enough, but it refers usually to physical or political deliverance. Moses, for example, was a 'saviour' (Hebrew - moshiy'a) because he delivered the Israelites from Egypt, and even the rather disreputable Samson was a 'saviour' because of his exploits against the Philistines. In Christianity 'salvation' means deliverance from eternal death, or hell; or, positively, it means the acquisition of eternal life for the soul. A doctrine of the 'resurrection of the dead' existed in Judaism at the time of Jesus, referring not the immortality of the soul but to the resurrection of the body in the time of the 'World to Come'; doctrines of the immortality of the soul have also existed in Judaism, but not with the full force of dogma.1 In so far as the term 'salvation' was associated occasionally with these doctrines, it was God Himself who was the saviour, not any emissary or sacrificial figure; and nothing could be further removed from Judaism that the concept of God Himself suffering death.2

Yet the idea of a divine figure who dies and thereby 'saves' was very common in the ancient world. lt therefore seems obvious that Christianity should be considered in relation to the other cults which had this concept. Such comparison, however, has been strongly opposed by most Christian scholars of the ancient and modern world.3

From the special standpoint of this book, we may begin by considering whether there were any devices in the mystery religions for shifting the blame for the death of the god. One of the best-known rites in the religions of Attis (Phrygia), Adonis (Syria) and Osiris (Egypt) was the rite of mourning the death of the god. This mourning rite was the special concern of the women, and has been described in many ancient sources.4 How should we understand this rite? The god died in each of these religions only to rise again in glory, so why was it necessary to mourn his death with paroxysms of simulated grief as if entirely unaware of the happy outcome? There is of course a certain dramatic effect in this; the women are taking part in a kind of sacred

{p. 108} play, in which the whole myth of the god and goddess is being enacted. It is in such simulations, regarded as having magical effects on a cosmic scale, that drama as an art form has its origin. Yet, at the same time, the mourning also has a motive of purgation of guilt. By mourning, the women, acting as representatives of the female principle or goddess, are disclaiming responsibility for the death. Yet we know that, in fact, the chief responsibility for the death lies with the goddess. For the death of Attis, or Adonis, or Osiris, is actually decreed by the goddess; the myths arise from a social reality in which the young king had to die at the end of his short reign in order to make way for a new consort for the queen.5

This social reality, of course, had long ceased to exist at the time of the Hellenistic mystery cults that were concerned with the worship of Attis, Adonis and Osiris. Though each was derived from a specific, non-Hellenistic region, each had adopted a universalistic colouring which would be helpful in spreading the cult throughout the Greco-Roman Empire. Moreover, the specifically agricultural connotation of these religions had been transcended in the mystery cults derived from them. It was no longer in the interests of a good harvest that the god died and came back to life, thus enacting the miracle of the revival of the fields in springtime. Nor was any earthly representative of the god actually done to death, as had been the case in the earlier history of these religions. Further, the 'mystery' aspect of the Greco-Roman cults was foreign to the religions into which it was grafted and which had originally been quite open and public systems of observance involving the total community, though containing some rites performed secretly, yet on behalf of the whole community, by a priestly caste. This priestly secrecy had now taken over the whole cult, which was for the benefit of an initiated minority, not of a whole national or tribal community.

The indigenous mystery cult of Greece was that of Eleusis, where secret initiation rites were performed in connection with the worship of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. These ancient rites, however, should not be confused with the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman empire. The Eleusinian mysteries were carried on as a sort of adjunct to the public cult of the Olympian gods, not as a substitute for them. They were frankly for the privileged few, and carried with them a stamp of ultra-respectability, rather like the Masonic lodges of our own day. The majority, who were not initiates, were not thereby damned souls. The mysteries were held to give special insight into the hidden world and to equip the initiates with special qualifications for the next world, but they were not regarded as essential for salvation.6 The less official Orphic mysteries, on the other hand, beginning in the sixth century BC, did have an evangelical tone, and can be regarded as

{p. 109} the precursors of the Greco-Roman mystery cults. In them also can be found the origins of the anti-world and anti-flesh orientation that became characteristic of the mystery cults.7

The Eleusinian mysteries, centring on the worship of a goddess of agriculture, may be regarded as an outlet for the matriarchal religion which had been supplanted by Greek patriarchalism, but practice of the cult was strictly limited and not allowed to interfere with the duties of citizenship in patriarchal society, which were regarded with great respect as the chief business of that society. It was when this respect began to break down, because of the decline of the city-states and the rise of great military empires in their place, that the mystery religions developed an aura of escape and ecstatic other-worldliness. The matriarchal elements in mystery cultism now acquired a new importance, because patriarchal society had become oppressive in a way it had not previously been; a man could no longer identify himself with his society, but felt tiny and powerless before the great patriarchal machine. The process of dying with the dying - and subsequently resurrected - god was a way of breaking down the patriarchal 'armour' (in Reich's term8) and achieving a new birth and a new identity, free of the crushing weight of a militarized and bureaucratic society.

Yet the matriarchal emphasis differed in the different mystery cults. In Mithraism, which, despite its origins in Persian religion, was the most artificial of the mystery cults, the matriarchal element was entirely suppressed, and the death and resurrection of the god, with the attendant initiation rites, were elaborated in purely masculine terms. This was a religion for the recovery of male pride rather than for escape into the maternal bosom.9 In Osiris-worship, on the other hand, there was great emphasis on the figure of Isis, a mother-figure who anticipated the figure of the Virgin Mary in later Christianity, being portrayed as the mourner of the god and also as a mother with divine infant in the setting of a manger or cow-byre (with overtones of the ancient worship of the cow as a sacred animal symbolizing motherhood). The ecstatic sentimentality of Isis-worship was one reaction to the surrender of male supremacy, by which the death and emasculation of the male was diverted from the sphere of responsibility of the female.10 In this type of religiosity, there was a proliferation of distancing devices that were important for the development of Christianity, especially the emergence of a dark male figure of evil as antagonist and slayer of the god; but there was no grim father-god demanding the sacrifice of the young god on patriarchal grounds, as there was in Christianity - which thus provides a unique amalgam of patriarchal and matriarchal motifs, with distancing devices derived from both.

{p. 110} On the other hand, in the Attis-worship of Phrygia, there was no attempt to disguise the cruelty of the goddess in demanding the death of the young god. The mother-goddess, Cybele, was worshipped in her full power. There was an ecstatic male masochism, evinced ritually by the orgiastic self-castration of devotees described so graphically by Catullus,11 in which the devotees, often seized by an unforeseen impulse, enacted the role of the god Attis himself.12 In Adonis-worship, however, the cruel aspects of the goddess Astarte (Venus) were muted; there were extended scenes of female mourning for the dead god; and the death was attributed to a malign male power in the form of a boar, sent by or incarnating a rival god. Yet Adonis-worship did not develop the sentimental divine mother-and-child motif found an Isis-worship, and its emphasis seems to have been on a more adult love-relationship between goddess and young lover, renewed continually through the death and resurrection of the young god.13

Each mystery religion thus had its own tone and character. They all had in common a turning-away from public to private religion, by which the cult no longer served to validate the tribal or national existence, but served the needs of the individual, alienated from the world around him and belonging to no earthly city. There was thus a paradoxical character about the mystery cults, in that they combined an atmosphere of secrecy and separatism with a tendency to universalism, whereas the national cults, such as Judaism or the Greek Olympian worship, were openly practised, but confined to a given culture and historical background (these cults had universalistic aspects too, though of a multi-cultural and pluralistic, rather than individualistic, nature).

Perhaps even more important than the mystery cults for the development of Christianity is the movement known as Gnosticism. This built largely on the mystery cults, but divested them entirely of their local affiliations. Gnosticism was a religion not about a god of Phrygia, or Syria, or Egypt, but about planet earth and its place in the universe as an outlying region occupied by the evil force struggling against the power of good (in describing Gnosticism, it is almost impossible to avoid the language of science-fiction, which indeed is partly given over to a modern form of Gnosticism) {Gnosticism might be seen as a Western form of Buddhism, influenced by Zoroastrian dualism}.

To some extent Gnosticism arose also out of Judaism, from which it derived part of its cosmic scope, but here too it shed the local colouring and nationalist rootedness of Judaism, thus becoming the perfect expression of alienation in the Hellenistic world. From the mystery religions it took the idea of salvation through the death and resurrection of a god, but the sexual significances of salvation, still strongly retained in the mystery cults in male-female themes, were again made abstract. The entity to be saved (the soul) was regarded as sexless, and

{p. 111} the aim of religion was to achieve this sexless state {this being an important similarity with Buddhism, but Buddhism never associated the body with an evil cosmic force}. As a consequence of this desexualization, the paranoia inherent in mystery religion became much sharper; the dualism of good and evil became central, and the discerning of evil forces, both on earth and in the heavens, became an urgent preoccupation. Where the mystery religions had vaguely adumbrated evil gods responsible for the death of the young god, Gnosticism focused its anguished attention on the cosmic evil which it became the main aim to escape or overcome. Zoroastrianism had previously regarded life as a struggle between cosmic good and evil, but not in terms that put the earth and its activities on the side of evil.14

There have been great fluctuations in the opinions of scholars on the history of Gnosticism. The traditional Christian view was that this movement was an offshoot of Christianity, and was in fact a Christian heresy, founded originally by Simon Magus. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries scholars such as Reizenstein and, later, Bultmann took the view that Gnosticism actually began before Christianity, and that it had a strong influence on Christianity itself, especially in the formation of the view of Jesus found in the Epistles of Paul and in the Gospel of John. Then came a phase in which the view of Bultmann was discounted as without sufficient historical basis, and it became scholarly orthodoxy once more to regard Gnosticism as merely an eccentric variant of Christianity. Quite recently, however, new light has been thrown on Gnosticism by the discovery of a great library of Gnostic texts at Nag Hammadi, in Upper Egypt. These are Coptic translations of Greek originals, and are still being studied by an army of scholars. But one striking fact that has emerged is that some of these texts are Gnostic without being Christian. Consequently, it has become once more probable that Gnosticism preceded Christianity and was an important influence on it.15

Of the non-Christian Gnostic texts recently found at Nag Hammadi there are two main kinds: the pagan ones, without reference to either Judaism or Christianity, and the 'Jewish' ones, which contain much reference to Judaism, but none to Christianity. It would be more accurate, however, to call these latter texts 'anti-Jewish' rather than Jewish. Their wealth of references to Judaism has caused scholars to regard them as having been written by Jewish sectarians; but their uniformly hostile attitude towards Judaism as a limited or even evil religion makes it more likely that these texts were written by non-Jews who had come into contact with Judaism and were both fascinated and repelled by it; or perhaps an even more accurate description of their standpoint is that they wished to build their religious views on Judaism and at the same time repudiate it. Thus they selected from the Bible the figure of Seth for special reverence, because he was not a Jew

{p. 112} but a figure of the antediluvian period before Judaism began (in exactly the same way, and for the same reason, we find in the New Testament special reverence paid to the figure of Melchizedek). The sources of Judaism are used, with great ingenuity, to attack Judaism and develop a religious system transcending, yet in a way incorporating, the tenets of the Jewish Bible.

The peculiar combination of dependence on Jewish sources and hostility towards them is shown especially in the Gnostic attitude towards Jehovah, the God of Judaism. It was acknowledged by the Gnostics that there was such a God and that He was the author of the Old Testament, which He had transmitted to Moses. It was even admitted by some that He had created the earth. But it was denied that He was the supreme God, or that His handiwork was admirable, in either its literary form, the Torah, or its material form, the world. Far above Him was the true 'Highest God', to whom He failed to give due reverence, pretending to be the Highest God himself. But there had always been some, starting with Seth, who had seen through His pretensions, and had true knowledge (gnosis) of the Highest God. These people knew that one day the Highest God would intervene in the affairs of the lower world, so bungled by the jealousy and arrogance of the Jewish God, by sending down a son, who, by his death and resurrection, would overthrow the Jewish God, rescind the latter's imperfect Law, and rescue chosen souls for eternal life.

It is doubtful, however, whether Gnosticism itself contained the concept of sacrifice in the sense that is important for the present study. There was certainly in Gnosticism, even in its pre-Christian varieties, the figure of a saviour called the 'Son of God', who descended from the 'World of Light' and later ascended again.16 But the accent was laid on the knowledge or esoteric information that he brought to the world, rather than on his suffering while on earth. If he was temporarily overwhelmed by evil powers, this was the inevitable result of his selfless descent rather than the main aim of his mission; it was not his death that brought salvation, but the knowledge, or gnosis, that he imparted to his disciples {another mark of Buddhism} while on earth, and which they transmitted to further disciples. The Gnostics were thus the originators of the theory of the saviour as martyr, rather than as sacrifice, a theory that became popular in Christianity only at a very late stage, under the influence of modern liberalism, in which concepts of sacrifice had come to seem antiquated and irrational. In Gnosticism, the figure of the dying-and-resurrected god, derived from agricultural rites of sacrifice, became for the first time divorced from the idea of the beneficial, death-producing renewal. It is true that evil figures were concerned with the death of the saviour and these evil figures had their earthly incarnation, especially in the Jewish people, so that

{p. 113} Gnosticism was a seed-bed for anti-Semitism; but the particular equivocal aura of the Sacred Executioner, the guilty performer of the necessary sacrifice without which the rest of mankind could not be saved, was absent. The Jews were the villains of the story (even before the saviour was identified by some Gnostic sects as Jesus), but only in the sense that they were the special minions of the Demiurge who had created this evil world, and were therefore the enemies of gnosis.17 It could even be said that Gnostics did not take death seriously enough to have a real concept of sacrifice, for death, to them, was merely a release {this is another mark of Buddhism} from the material world and a highly desirable thing; on the other hand, the cosmic impact of death as the source of renewal of life is essential to sacrificial doctrine. Alternatively, one could say that Gnostics did not take the world and the flesh seriously enough to have a concept of sacrifice; for sacrifice implies that the world is worth redeeming and that the suffering of the flesh is of real significance. So it is not surprising that the heresy known as Docetism was characteristic of the Christian Gnostics: that is, that Jesus did not really suffer in the flesh, but only appeared to do so.

Christianity, therefore, was not identical either to the mystery religions or to Gnosticism, but built from them a new synthesis which at the same time reverted to the ancient prehistoric doctrines of sacrifice of which they were sophisticated developments. The fact that the sacrificial figure, Jesus, was a historical personage, who had actually lived and died on earth, gave an actuality to the sacrifice that was lacking in the mystery religions. There it had been a god who died and rose again, and no human representative of the god was killed as had once been the case in the remotely early times of the cults. But what Christianity did take from the mystery cults was the idea of the saving power of the death of the god and the conviction that it was not any gnosis imparted by the god that brought about salvation, but a mystic participation in his death. And from Gnosticism, Christianity took the cosmic framework, transcending all the local geographical reference of the mystery cults, and the concept of a battle between cosmic powers of good and evil (derived ultimately from Persian religion) {Christianity also got this from the Jewish Essenes, who got it from Zoroastrianism}, as well as the concept of a saviour, or Son of God, descending from the World of Light. From Gnosticism too came the idea of a fallen world ruled by an evil power, Satan, though this power was not identified, as it was in Gnosticism, with the God of Judaism. From Gnosticism, it must also be said, came the anti-Semitic tone of Christianity, with the Jews cast in the role of antagonists of the Light, though in Christianity this role is sharper and more specific than in Gnosticism. From Judaism itself came the apocalyptic scheme of history, by which the saviour was identified with the Jewish figure of the Messiah, and the whole sacred history of the Old Testament was

{p. 114} pressed into service as prefiguring and leading up to the advent of Jesus, while the Christian Church took over the role assigned in Judaism to Israel, becoming the 'chosen people' of God and the bearer of His message to mankind.

The person in whose mind all these elements fused into unity was Paul, who was thus the true founder of Christianity. Jesus himself cannot be regarded as the founder of Christianity, since he was not, in fact, a Christian, but lived and died as a believing and practising Jew, to whom the Hebrew Bible alone was the Word of God {a Jewish view}. To him, the term 'Messiah' had no connotations connecting it with the Gnostic saviour or with the dying-and-rising gods of the mystery cults. It was simply the title (meaning, literally, the 'anointed one') of every Jewish king of the Davidic dynasty, and by claiming this title (at a rather late stage in his career, which he began in the role of a prophet) Jesus was claiming the Jewish throne and setting up a banner of revolt against the invading occupying power of Rome, which he identified with the invaders mentioned in the prophetic books of the Old Testament. Jesus thus had no intention of playing a sacrificial role, and his hope was to eject the Romans by means of a token resistance backed up by a mighty miracle from God, which was prophesied by Zechariah to take place on the Mount of Olives. When his revolt was crushed after some initial success and wide support from the Jewish people, Jesus was crucified by the Romans like many thousands of other Jews who took part in attempts to regain their liberty during this period. Jesus, like the other failed Messiahs, was quickly forgotten by the Jews,18 except for a handful of his devoted followers who comforted themselves for his heroic failure by believing that he was still alive (like King Arthur in a later legend) and would come back soon to continue his mission of liberation. These loyal Jewish followers of Jesus (the Nazarenes), who continued to believe in him after his execution, did not regard him as a divine figure, but as a human Messiah whom God had brought back to life, like Lazarus, in advance of the general resurrection of the dead prophesied for all deserving human beings. The Nazarenes did not regard Jesus as an opponent of the Jewish Law or religion, and they themselves regarded themselves as Jews, observed Jewish laws, and attended the Jewish synagogues and Temple {hence the question, when the Third Temple is built, will Christians want to worship in it? will Jews allow them? Will there be a new split between "Rome" and "Jerusalem"?}.

It was when Paul began to see the resurrection of Jesus in an entirely different light that Christianity was born. Paul was brought up not in Judaea or Galilee but in Tarsus, a great Hellenistic centre in Asia Minor. Here all the mystery cults were represented, and the conventicles of Gnostics were beginning to impart their secret knowledge. Later, Paul called himself a 'Pharisee of the Pharisees', and was careful not to mention in his Epistles that he was born not in Judaea

{p. 115} but in Tarsus, which was certainly no centre of Pharisaism. It is probable that Paul was at some time briefly attached to the Pharisees, though he was certainly not a disciple of the great Gamaliel, as was claimed for him by Luke, though not by Paul himself. It seems, however, that he soon left the Pharisees and became attached to the Sadducees, for we find him carrying out a mission against the Nazarenes under the instructions of the High Priest, who was a Sadducee. The Pharisees had no quarrel with the Nazarenes, who were loyal adherents of Pharisaic Judaism and were protected by the Pharisees under Gamaliel from the persecution of the High Priest, who was a Roman appointee and regarded the Nazarenes as followers of a rebel against Rome.19

There is extant a report by the Nazarenes about the early life of Paul.20 This is a valuable corrective to the picture of Paul as Pharisee that is given in Acts and in Paul's Epistles. In this account, Paul, so far from being a 'Pharisee of the Pharisees', and 'descended from the tribe of Benjamin', was the son of Gentile parents of Tarsus converted to Judaism.

{which makes the point, that Judaism had been a major proseltysing religion prior to Christianity; Maccoby emphatically says that it accepted converts as Islam did, in note 4 to Chapter 8, on p. 193 below. Perhaps the relation between Marxism and Judaism in our time, is like that between Christianity and Judaism then, such that there is confusion over whether Jewish Marxists are really "Jews", or a breakaway group. The question of whether Judaism has accepted converts is tied to the question of whether Jews should be seen as a race - as Nazis saw them, and emulated - or an ethnic group, a people, a caste, a religion, or some combination of these. Given Maccoby's statement that Judaism and Islam had similar policies on conversion, I take the view that being a Jew is primarily a matter of religion. When there are few converts and out-marriage is rare, the group becomes, as a secondary result, a racial one, but this is a temporary aberration}

If this is true, Paul's background of Judaism was recent and superficial. He was brought up in near contact with Hellenistic religion, and would have been familiar with notions of dying-and-resurrected gods - concepts that were alien and unfamiliar to Jesus's Judaean and Galilean followers, the Nazarenes. Paul left Tarsus and came to Judaea, where he sought a Jewish identity, first with the Pharisees, then with the Sadducees, and perhaps with other Jewish groups too, such as the Essenes. He was a man seeking some way of reconciling and amalgamating the welter of influences to which he had been subjected, including the strange new sect which he had undertaken to harass on behalf of the quisling High Priest, but which evidently had a striking effect on him. The solution to his spiritual turmoil came to him on the road to Damascus, when all the religious influences that had impinged on him from his childhood onward suddenly coalesced into a new synthesis, ratified by a vision of Jesus as the culmination of the succession of dying-and-resurrected gods.

In Paul's Epistles we find expressed the synthesis that he created, which has remained characteristic of Christianity, despite efforts from time to time to suppress the Gnostic and mystery-religion elements in favour of Jewish concepts (as was done, for example, by Pelagius in his controversy with the Paulinist Augustine 2l), or to suppress the Jewish elements in favour of pure Gnosticism or mystery religion (as was attempted by Marcion 22). Paul's debt to Gnosticism is shown in his vocabulary and basic framework of concepts: for example, in his distinction between 'spiritual' man (pneumatikos) and 'natural' man (psychikos); and in his terms for cosmic powers of evil, such as 'principality' (arche), 'power' (exousin) and 'might' (dunamis). It is seen

{p. 116} also in his insistence that the Torah was given to Moses not by God, but by 'angels',23 a strange idea for which there is no warrant in the Hebrew Bible or in later Jewish literature, but which is Paul's somewhat watered-down version of the Gnostic doctrine that the Torah was given by the Demiurge, or inferior power, who created the world and was identical with the Jewish God. For Paul, the God of the Old Testament was identical with the Highest God, and the role given by the Gnostics to the Demiurge was given by Paul, in a modified form, to Satan, a figure derived not from the Hebrew Bible (where he hardly appears, except as a being entirely subservient to God) but from the Apocryphal literature, which is regarded as authoritative only by a tiny minority of Jews. Satan was regarded by Paul not as the creator of this world, but as its 'prince' (in John's phrase), who had corrupted the world and thus gained power over it. The purpose of Jesus's descent to the world was to break the power of Satan, and return the world to its true owner, the Highest God, to whom Jesus had the relationship of son, and through whom he was lord and saviour. The terms 'lord' (kurios) and 'saviour' (soter) are used in a sense indistinguishable from their use in Gnosticism and quite different from the use of the corresponding terms in Hebrew. Paul even at times uses the expression gnosis, but for him the ' knowledge' which saves is that of faith and participation in Jesus's death, not the system of mystical exercises and passwords by which the Gnostics claimed to circumvent the powers of evil and pass through the 'Seven Heavens' to the domain of the Highest God.

Thus, though the outward limbs of Paul's system are those of Gnosticism, the heart of it is derived from the mystery religions, which preserved the ancient concept of the sacrificial death of a god. Whenever Paul writes about the sacrificial efficacy of the Crucifixion, he uses the language of the mystery religions. The interpretation of the Communion meal, for example, as a participation in the blood and body of Christ (for instance, in I Corinthians 10:16) is entirely alien to Judaism, and has no part in Gnosticism, but is a common theme in the mystery religions. Such communal meals, in which the food eaten was held to represent mystically the body and blood of the sacrificed god, are known to have featured in Mithraism and in the worship of Attis.24 These communal meals are in fact sophisticated versions of a much older type of communal meal, found for example in the worship of Dionysus, in which an animal, often a bull, was torn apart and eaten raw as representative of the god. This ceremony itself is derived from an even earlier rite in which the animal was not regarded as representing a god (since the concept of personal deity had not yet arisen) but simply as the carrier of life-force which could be incorporated in the members of the tribe through a ceremonial meal. The Com-

{p. 117} munion, or Eucharist, indeed, goes back to the basic reason for the god sacrifice, which is simply to eat the god. It may be said that the Christian Communion meal has Jewish origins too, being based on the Kiddush ceremony, in which a festival or Sabbath meal is inaugurated by blessings on wine and bread. But the Kiddush ceremony has no sacrificial connotation whatever, being merely thanksgiving blessings to God for providing food, combined with a blessing for the festival day. It is true, however, that there is a historical connection between the Kiddush ceremony and the Eucharist, for it was the Kiddush ceremony performed by Jesus on the occasion of the Last Supper that was reinterpreted in mystery-religion style and thus transformed into a sacrificial rite. In the Gospels, Jesus is represented as giving this interpretation to the Last Supper himself, and the latest Gospel, John's, even represents Jesus as referring to the spiritual nutrition of his blood and flesh independently of the Last Supper: 'Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat of the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day ... He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him' (John 6: 53-4). These expressions are good examples of the reworking of the historical traditions about Jesus in order to make them accord with Paul's mystery-religion interpretation of Jesus's life and death.

{Why is the Catholic Eucharist centred on body and blood? What is the rationale for the rules of kosher slaughter and helal slaughter? Max Weber (a Jew) wrote in his book Ancient Judaism (George Allen & Unwin, London 1952): "The later Deuteronomic and priestly ... prohibition of the enjoyment of blood on the grounds that one must eat the soul neither of man nor animal" (p. 141).
The Christian West has inherited two incompatible psychological theories, and fused them, papering over the differences. One was the Platonic (originally from India, as Schopenhauer argues: schopenhauer.html), with its view that the person is made up of body and spirit; the other was the Jewish, with its view that the person is made up of body and blood (that is why the Catholic Mass celebrates Holy Communion as body and blood). One sees the "life-giving" component as spirit, the other as blood. The former envisages that the spirit can exist separately from the body, whereas the latter denies this, being strictly "material" (as blood is material). The former envisages an immaterial "heaven" as our true home, the latter insists on an earthly paradise. The former is amenable to reincarnation, the latter to resurrection. Historically, the former was first found in Europe about 500BC, articulated by the Pythagoreans and Plato, while the latter was a feature of Jewish thought, a concept the Jews may have inherited from the Zoroastrians (who called it Renovation), and possibly from the religion of Osiris.}

{p. 118} It is clear that the manner of Jesus's death, by hanging on a cross, was itself of great significance to Paul, since it was so evocative of the mystery religions, especially that of the Phrygian god, Attis. Here Paul has recourse to an interesting interpretation, or misinterpretation, of a verse in the Hebrew Bible (which Paul, incidentally, read in Greek, not in Hebrew, since it can be shown that his quotations are from the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament25). Deuteronomy 21:22-3 reads (in the Authorized Version):

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; for he that is hanged is accursed of God; that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

In Jewish exegesis, this was not held to mean that a hanged man was under a curse, for, on the contrary, it was held that an executed man was purged of all guilt by his execution. If his dead body, contrary to the law, was allowed to hang overnight, this could bring no curse upon the dead man, who had paid the penalty of his crime, but only upon those who contravened the law by exposing his body. Thus the relevant sentence is translated in the New English Bible, 'A hanged man is offensive in the sight of God', a translation very much in accord with Jewish traditional exegesis.26

Paul, however, understood the sentence very differently. His comment is, 'Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree' (Galatians 3:13). Many commentators have assumed that Paul was merely repeating here a current interpretation of the verse in Deuteronomy; some commentators have even given this as an example of Paul's 'rabbinical' mood. But the idea that a crucified man was under some kind of curse (presumably in the next world) would have been regarded by all Jewish authorities of the time as bizarre. After all, Jesus was only one of many thousands who were crucified by the Romans during this period. So far from being regarded as under a curse, these crucified people were regarded as martyrs and saints who had secured their place in the World to Come by their suffering.

How then did Paul arrive at his interpretation? The answer is that the theme of the hanged god was one that carried for him a charge of meaning from mystery religions. The god Attis, the lover of the goddess Cybele, was represented every spring by an effigy that was hung on a pine-tree. The actual myth of Attis does not tell that the god was hanged on a pine-tree, but that he met his death under a pine-tree by self-castration. But the annual rite points to an older version of the myth, in which he (or his human surrogate) was not only mutilated

{p. 119} but hung alive on a tree so that his oozing blood might fertilize the fields. That such a story once existed is shown by the legend of Marsyas, also a devotee of Cybele, who was tied to a pine-tree and flayed and otherwise mutilated (allegedly as the result of his rivalry with the god Apollo). Norse religion too offers relevant evidence: human sacrifices to Odin were strung up on a tree or a gallows, wounded with a spear and left to die.27

To Paul, who came from the very area where the religion of Attis and Cybele was indigenous, the fact that Jesus died on the cross would have seemed especially significant - once he began to think of Jesus as a mystery god. Here was the very mystery of the hanged god, for which, as he would feel, mystery religion of the Phrygian variety had already prepared mankind. And he would very naturally look into the Septuagint to see whether Holy Writ contained any veiled prophecy of these things. He found such an allusion in the verse of Deuteronomy about the curse involved in leaving a corpse of a condemned man hanging overnight. This seemed to him to be much more than a strongly worded prohibition about the respectful treatment of corpses; it conjured up a dramatic picture of a hanged figure suffering from some cosmic curse. The sacrifice of Jesus, in Paul's eyes, was directed not towards the fertility of the fields but towards the removal of the curse of sin. Thus Jesus took the curse upon himself, and assumed the character of a condemned criminal bearing the weight of sin that mankind found intolerable. This is stated explicitly by Paul in another Epistle: 'For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him' ((II Corinthians 5:21). (The New English Bible translation is 'Christ was innocent of sin, and yet for our sake God made him one with the sinfulness of men, so that in him we might be made one with the goodness of God himself'.)

That the innocent should take upon himself the sins of the guilty had always been essential to the purificatory kind of sacrifice, especially belonging to times of crisis such as famine or foreign invasion, but it was now being applied by Paul to the crisis of mankind as a whole faced with the wrath of God. Only the most innocent person could qualify as the sacrifice, not only because of the need in any sacrifice for perfection or lack of blemish, but because in a guilt-offering for the people any guilt in the sacrificial person himself would detract from his efficacy as a vicarious offering. There was thus an extraordinary paradox in the sacrificed person: a combination of total innocence with total depravity. It is this paradox that Paul read into the verse of Deuteronomy about the curse on the hanged man, and applied to the sacrifice (as he saw it) of Jesus.

It may even be that Paul saw further into the historical background of the Deuteronomic vcrse about the hanged criminal than did the

{p. 120} rabbis. For it is very possible that the Deuteronomic curse on leaving the body of a criminal hanging ovemight was based originally on a desire to stamp out any vestiges of the fertility-worship in which the prolonged hanging of a human victim was a central rite. There is evidence that in some periods capital punishment itself became a kind of religious sacrifice; a condemned criminal might be treated with the same kind of ceremony as an innocent sacrificial victim, in the hope that the execution might have the same effects as a sacrifice without the need for the crueller performance of sacrifice of the innocent. The same kind of shifting can be seen in the use of enemy prisoners as sacrificial victims. Crucifixion itself began as a sacrificial rite and only gradually became a form of civil execution, and probably never quite lost its religious overtones. Thus Paul, like a modern anthropologist, was disinterring traces of paganism in a post-pagan document. He was bringing back to life the pagan ways of thought against which the Hebrew Bible had carried out its long struggle and of which there remained only fossilized remnants in certain passages whose meaning had been forgotten in rabbinical Judaism.

Christianity, therefore, as it developed under the influence of Paul, was much indebted to the mystery religions for its central concept of a divine sacrifice. But whereas in the mystery religions the divine sacrifice took place in the mythological realm, Pauline Chnstianity located it on earth and identified the sacrificed god with a historical figure, Jesus, who died at a particular time and place, and was involved with historical communities, the Jews and the Romans. Thus the human-sacrificial aspects, which had become muted in the mystery religions when these became detached from their agricultural origins, were strongly revived in Christianity. Not only was the victim an actual person, but the other actors in the sacrificial drama, particularly the Jews, became mythologized while remaining a visible, actual body of people in the world. Given the strong Gnostic colouring of dualism and anti-Semitism which Christianity added to its mystery-religion central drama, this mythologization meant that it was the Jews who were given the role of Sacred Executioner, which in previous religion had never been attached to a whole people, but only to individuals or mythological personages {and the Germans now, likewise, are being branded - by Jewish writers - as a people}. It now becomes necessary to consider how the mechanisms which I have called 'distancing devices' operated in this revitalized atmosphere of a human-sacrificial cult: how, in this sharpened awareness of the actual death of a victim for the sake of the community, it became possible for that community to detach itself from the responsibility for the death whose value they prized to such a point that they regarded it as essential to their salvation.

{p. 121} Chapter Ten Judas Iscariot

An important figure in the economy of the Gospel story is Judas Iscariot, who has become the archetypal betrayer in Western culture. He is the man who, while in a position of trust, betrayed the Son of God to his death. His motives are never explained in the Gospels, though certain explanations have become so current in exegetical works that many people are quite convinced that they have read these explanations in the New Testament. In fact, as we shall see, his lack of motive is an important element in his role.1

Judas is not exactly a Sacred Executioner, as no sanctity adheres to his act of betrayal, and indeed betrayal is not execution. To kill the divine sacrifice is an act that can never be quite divested of heroic quality, so the executioner himself is not usually made into a figure of pure malice. Alternatively, the slayer may be himself a victim, either of accident or of malicious plotting by which he is tricked into performing the execution. In the Norse myth of the death of Balder, it is Hother, the blind marksman, who performs the slaying; but the person really responsible for Balder's death is the evil plotter Loki who performs no deed of violence himself but arranges that it should occur. Yet Loki and Hother cannot be quite separated from each other. They represent two aspects of a single entity, the misfortune by which the victim fell. Misfortune can always be interpreted in two ways: as sheer bad luck, or as brought about by evil plotting. To the primitive mind, the two aspects are not entirely distinguishable, since evil powers are suspected behind every occurrence of bad luck. So, to obtain the right mixture of elements, a complexity in the dramatis personae has to be introduced: one person to stand for the bad luck, another for the malicious plotting. Indeed, in the Gospel story a third person is introduced, the evil spirit or demon, Satan, who 'entered into' Judas. This is the plotter on the mythological plane, who brings about the death of Jesus as a divine figure, just as Judas brings it about on the earthly plane. As both man and god, Jesus requires both a human and a superhuman antagonist.

Who then, in the Gospel story, corresponds to Hother, the innocent person who performs the actual slaying? The answer seems to be Pontius Pilate, who actually pronounces sentence of death on Jesus,

{p. 156} fattening of the child was an unusual detail, and has been related to a libel told by the ancient anti-Semitic writer Apion that the Jews sacrificed a Greek in the Temple once a year after fattening him.14 It is unlikely that the people of Lincoln had such a parallel in mind; the detail rather attests the unconscious cannibalism of their fantasy, and is related to the fantasies surrounding the Eucharistic meal. A Jew called Copin was tortured until he 'confessed' that the boy Hugh had been crucified by the Jews, and nineteen Jews, including Copin himself, were then hanged.

The story of Hugh of Lincoln was the model for Chaucer's 'Prioress's Tale' in The Canterbury Tales, written about 1385. In Chaucer's time there were no Jews in England, since they had been expelled in 1290 with indescribable sufferings. The absence of Jews, however, did not prevent Chaucer from loathing Jews like a good Christian; indeed Jew-hatred often reaches greater intensity in countries where there are no actual Jews to moderate the excesses of the Christian imagination. Chaucer's 'Prioress's Tale' has often been extolled by literary critics as 'charming' and 'exquisite'. Such critics are as oblivious to the sinister aspects of the story as was Chaucer himself, and, indeed, as was the Prioress, who was so gentle that (the Prologue tells us) she could not bear to witness the death of a mouse and wept piteously for the imagined death of her little martyr, while contemplating with cheerful satisfaction the torture and execution of the Jews - the only part of the story that is based firmly on fact.

Chaucer's version of the blood-libel, however, is interesting in that it is not a ritual murder story. It is not alleged that the Jews in the story kill the child in order to crucify him, or even to make ritual use of his blood. It is a killing out of pure malice, because the Jews cannot bear the purity of the child. The story is thus more basic than the ritual murder stories which allege that the Jews perform an imitation of the murder of Christ; here the murder is itself a kind of Christ murder, rather than an imitation; the motives are the same as those for which the original Christ murder was allegedly performed, a Loki-like hatred of the Light. But there is also another element in Chaucer's story, which is of great importance, and may give us a clue to our question about why Christ has become a child, rather than a young adult, during this era. This is the introduction of the theme of the Virgin Mary. (It should be noted, by the way, that Chaucer did not invent his story, but adapted it from a German tale that can be traced back for about two centuries before him. His version, therefore, is not a late transmutation, but based on possibly the earliest and most revealing version of all.)

It has not been sufficiently noticed that medieval stories and ballads about alleged Jewish murders of children often also involve the Virgin

{p. 157} Mary. Usually the story comes into not only the category of the 'Jewish child murder' stories but also that of the 'Miracles of Our Lady' stories. In Chaucer's story it is not just the innocence and purity of the child that arouses the hatred and aggression of the Jews, but the fact that he is a devotee of the Virgin Mary. It is his song in honour of the Virgin that moves the Jews to fury. In general, too, the Jews are portrayed in stories, even those not involving child murder, as the special enemies of the Virgin Mary, who is portrayed as also detesting them.15

Here we have a new development of the anti-Jewish theme, for the honour, not to say worship, paid to the Virgin Mary was not an early element in Christianity, but a product of the eleventh century at the earliest. Before then the Virgin Mary had no very prominent place in the Christian- imagination; but it is not too much to say that from this time onward she became a goddess. In particular, she became the chief focus of Christian concepts of forgive~1ess. The reasons for this are complex. One important reason is that Jesus himself was no longer thought of as a forgiving figure. One of the images of Jesus found in the New Testament is that of Judge at the Last Day, separating the sheep from the goats,16 and this image had come to supersede that of Jesus as all-forgiving advocate of the sinner against the severity of God the Father. Indeed, Jesus had himself become a father-figure of terrifying severity, superseding and taking the place of the father-god of the Old Testament as seen by Christians (though not by Jews, to whom the father-god of the Old Testament was an altogether more kindly figure). In these circumstances, the role of all-forgiver, so essential to Christianity precisely because of the terror of God the Father, was taken over by a female figure, the Virgin Mary, whose role was to intercede for the sinner and circumvent the implacable processes of judgment. Henry Adams has described how the Virgin Mary became the 'greatest goddess in history', the indispensable standby of sinners and the unfailing support of all who gave her honour - even burglars prayed to her before embarking on their night's work - but a dangerous enemy to those who failed to give her due honour.17

The reappearance of the female-figure in religion, after so many centuries of repression, was part of a general movement of thought and feeling in Europe, a movement that included such groups as the troubadours, the Albigensian heretics and even the Jewish Kabbalists. It has been argued, indeed, by Denis de Rougemont and others,18 that the cult of the Virgin Mary arose as a counter-attraction to the cult of the female-figure in heretical groups that were making dangerous inroads into orthodox Christian allegiance. Mariolatry, at any rate, was taken up with such enthusiasm and swiftness that it evidently met a profound need. It has been hailed as a great advance, since it

{p. 158} marked a revulsion against the oppression and belittling of women, and it certainly had this aspect. On the other hand, however, it took the form in Christianity of a psychological regression to the condition of infant at its mother's breast, and such regression cannot be regarded as an advance except in cases where it is a preliminary to a new form of adult awareness and sexual orientation. The cult of the Virgin Mary failed to be such a preliminary, but became fixated in an infantile attitude of dependence on the mother-figure. In particular, the cult gave rise to more infantile and primitive forms of oral aggression than had previously occurred in the history of Christendom.

The relationship of the worshipper to the Virgin Mary was of an ecstatic and sentimental kind. It was indeed a highly sexual relationship, but any explicit thought of sex was utterly banned. More accurately, it was adult sex that was banned, and only the generalized, free-floating sexual feeling of the child at the breast was allowed. Thus, though the Virgin Mary was a supreme sexual object of fantasizing, enormous stress was laid on her virginity. Adult sex was interdicted as utterly wicked, and thus the adoration of the Virgin Mary had no real effect on the status of actual women engaged in real sexual activities, who were regarded as more degraded than ever.

{p. 159} It is not at all surprising that the infant Jesus should now have acquired such importance. The cult of the infant Jesus arose simultaneously with the cult of the Virgin Mary, having previously been of no importance. The picture of the Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus on her lap became the greatest image of Christianity, since the male worshipper now identified himself with Jesus in infant form, rather than, as previously, with Jesus in adult form. Jesus became two figures instead of one: the adult Jesus, a stern, judging figure, and the infant Jesus, a symbol, together with his mother, of the availability of forgiveness for every sin.

Since the Mass was regarded as a sacrifice through which the forgiveness of sins was effected, the requirement of the worshipper to envisage Jesus as substantially present in the bread and wine of the Mass, which became magically transmuted into his body and blood, became a ceremony in which the forgiving infant Jesus was cut up, eaten and drunk; by eating the infant the worshipper became himself an infant. The adult Jesus, being a figure of judgment, was no longer concerned in the Mass. The displacement of responsibility for the sacrifice of Jesus on to the Jews thus now involved elements previously absent: the dismembemlent and eating of a child and the drinking of its blood. Previously, it was only the sacrifice of the Crucifixion for which the Jews were made responsible: now the cannibalistic fantasy whicll accompanied the eating of the Mass aroused such feelings of unconscious guilt, especially now that the victim was pictured as a child, that this sacrifice too had to be attributed to the Jews, who were pictured as doing in reality what the Christian worshipper was doing in fantasy, i.e., killing a child and drinking its blood.

There is thus a strong historical and psychological connection between the rise of the Virgin Mary cult and the rise of the ritual murder and blood-libel accusations against the Jews. It was only from this period that the Jews began to be regarded as sub-human, bestial and demonic. Previously, with all their imputed guilt, the Jews retained something of the residual dignity of the Sacred Executioner. From now on, however, the word 'Jew' became synonymous with 'vampire'. Many Christians came to believe that Jews had cloven feet and a tail, and that they suffered from an innate bad smell and from diseases of the blood, for which they sought remedies in vampirism.19 For the Jews were now seen by Christian believers as the enemies of the ecstatic cult of the holy mother and child (the Jews themselves hardly knew that a change had come over the Christian cult, except that they were aware of an increased hostility). Even the stories that now arose about the Jews stealing the Host and desecrating it by cutting it to pieces should be understood in relation to the cult of the

{p. 160} infant Jesus, who was regarded as incarnate in the bread of the Host. To be the murderers of the adult Jesus had been bad enough, but at least this had been done with the dignity of a trial and execution. When the Jews were reduced to the level of child-murderers, however, they were no longer thought of as cruel but impressive father-figures, decreeing death on the son-figure, but as furtive creatures of the dark, awaiting their opportunity to snatch a Christian infant and do him to death with bestial, demonic rites. Yet the Jews still retained enough of their adult, father-like status to be regarded as the special enemies of the sexless sexuality that was characteristic of the Christian mother and child cult. It is significant that in earlier versions of the story on which Chaucer built his 'Prioress's Tale' the song sung by the little child was 'Gaude Maria', a song in which the Jews were reproached for not believing in the virginity of Mary, and for saying that Jesus was bom by the normal reproductive process.20 It was quite true that the Christian emphasis on celibacy and virginity was quite foreign to the Jews, who regarded sexuality as the gift of God, and regarded a virgin as someone to be pitied rather than admired. This difference in sexual attitude between Christianity and Judaism is closely bound up, psychologically, with

{p. 161} the different importance placed in the two religions on the concept of sacrifice. Christianity is a religion in which sacrifice is primary; only through the sacrifice of Jesus is the believer saved. This argues a deep sexual guilt, which the sacrifice removes. If the sacrificer is fantasized as performing his deed, not out of desire to help the believer, but from evil motives of his own, as in the Christian myth, then it is natural that the sacrificer should be identified with the evil sexuality that the sacrifice is designed to expiate. Thus the Jews were regarded as representatives of the carnal sexuality which the Virgin Mary miraculously transcended, and as sneering at the Christian ideal of virginity by spreading the slander that the Virgin Mary was not a virgin at all.

The desexualizing of woman in the Virgin Mary cult actually shows a great fear of women, who are admired and worshipped, in the person of Mary their representative, only on condition that their adult sexuality is removed. It is no accident that the worship of the Virgin Mary was accompanied by terrible denunciations of women in general as a snare and temptation, and by fantasies of women as witches and succubi. The fear of woman underlying the cult is not entirely absent even from the portrayal of Mary herself, who, in many stories and ballads, is a fearsome figure when her will is crossed. It is also significant that, in the only ballad version of the Jewish child murder story in which the Virgin Mary does not appear, the murder is performed not by a Jew, but by a Jewess, who is portrayed as a sexual seducer of the child's father, and, in general, as the 'Eternal Feminine' at its most dangerous.2l Just as the male Jew is a surrogate for the terrifying father-god who demands. the death of the son-god, so, when the goddess reappeared in the form of the Virgin Mary, an awareness approached consciousness that it was the goddess herself who originally demanded the sacrifice of the son-god; and a female surrogate for this blood-ravening goddess had to be supplied in the form of a Jewish murderess and seductress.

The role of the Jew as Sacred Executioner thus underwent some startling changes in the Middle Ages as Christianity itself suffered regression and changed its picture of the sacrificial figure, Jesus himself. As this picture became more infantile, and as the Mass, rather than the Crucifixion, became the centre of oral-aggressive fantasies of killing and eating the sacrificed god, the figure of the Jew, on to whom these fantasies were displaced, degenerated into a loathsome bogyman. As the figure of the mother, divested of all sexuality, assumed the centre of the stage, the Jew became the enemy of all tenderness and infantile bliss, and the threat of a reconstitution of the banned or exorcised cruel father. As such, he became the focus of ferocious rage, commensurate with the supposed blissfullness of the holy mother-

{p. 162} infant relationship which he was conceived as threatening, and was treated with increasing cruelty and contempt. The Prioress's 'tender pity' is thus only the other side of the coin in relation to her pleasure at the torture and execution of the Jews.

At the same time, the more traditional picture of the Jew as cruel, judging father-figure continued alongside that of the Jew as bestial bogy-man. It is in the more traditional picture, based on the Gospels with their severe, judging Pharisees and condemning Sanhedrin, that the Jew retains some of the dignity required for the Sacred Executioner; for, together with the task of taking the blame for the sacrifice, there is always some residual need for the Executioner to endow the sacrifice with a degree of awesomeness and holiness. In the next chapter, we shall see how this need re-asserted itself. Here, just one more detail may be added to our account; that in many Christian countries, Jews were forced to act as public executioners.22 No fact could be more expressive of the character of Christianity, and of its concept of the role of the Jew. In contrast to Jewish law, in which the chief witnesses for the prosecution must take the chief part in the actual execution (Deuteronon1y 13: 10), Christianity sees a necessary killing as something for which the responsibility must be shifted; and to whom could it be better shifted than to the Jew, who was (allegedly) responsible for the most necessary killing of all?

{p. 163} Chapter Thirteen The Sacred Executioner in the modern world

The medieval world provided the reservoir of loathing and contempt of the Jew that enabled the Nazis to carry through their policy of extermination.

{but Maccoby says nothing of the Jewish role in the creation of Bolshevism (see ginsberg.html), and its Red Terror; (see russell.html); how can a man as intelligent and knowledgable as Maccoby, be ignorant or denying of such relevant facts (see wilton.html)?}

It was in those countries where the medieval picture of the Jew was strongest that the policy could be implemented with the tacit and, in some cases, active support of the populace. Yet the Nazi theory of Jew-hatred was in some important respects different from the theologically derived medieval theory. This is shown by the very fact that the Nazis embarked on a plan of complete extermination, for, as we have seen, Christendom did not want the Jews to disappear from the world, since they played an essential role in the Christian mythical economy. The Nazis abandoned the idea of the Jews as necessary carriers of guilt for the community and thought of them as an entirely expendable nuisance, which could be obliterated without ill effects like a plague of rats. While the Nazis used every anti-Jewish weapon in the medieval armoury, their stance had shifted. Instead of being satisfied with continual persecutions, expulsions, pogroms, limited periodical massacres, all of which took for granted the continued presence of Jews in Christendom, the Nazis were able to envisage a world without Jews - a world, in other words, in which the sacrificial role of the Jews was unnecessary. It is of some importance to trace how this shift took place, without ever losing sight of the continuity between Nazi anti-Semitism and its Christian background, without which the former would never have come into existence.

The medieval world provided a number of different images of the Jew, some of which might seem at first sight to have little to do with the function of the Jew as Sacred Executioner, though all of which contributed to the Nazi anti-Jewish stereotype. There was the Jew as 'sorcerer', the Jew as 'usurer' {this was not a mere "image"; dissident Jews like Karl Marx and Israel Shahak have verified it} and the Wandering Jew legend. The apparent independence of these images from the sacrificial role of the Jews, was, however, illusory, and cannot be regarded as supplying separate archetypes to the Nazis.

The Jew as sorcerer was intimately bound up with the concept of the Jew as earthly representative of the Devil. Since the Crucifixion of lesus was brought about chiefly by the Devil, it is natural that his

{p. 170} which, in the last resort, was a praiseworthy act of rebellion against tyrannous authority. Thus Shelley sees the Wandering Jew as a kind of Prometheus and even denounces the Crucifixion as a fraud by which two divine tyrants, father and son, impose their authority on mankind.10 Alternatively, the Romantics might see the Wandering Jew as guilty of a real crime, but one that had heroic quality, since it introduced him to a new dimension of knowledge beyond the range of ordinary mankind. This is to assimilate the Wandering Jew to Adam, or Teiresias, or Faust, heroes who buy knowledge at the expense of some degree of damnation. Thus the Romantic writers take the Wandering Jew outside his true context of the Christian myth and the conflict between Christianity and Judaism. By universalizing him they falsify him, and make him just one more peg for the concept of the anti-bourgeois hero, like the Flying Dutchman or Byron's Corsair. They turn him into an individualist who has sharpened his sense of individuality through sin, while it is the essence of the Wandering Jew in the authentic legend that he is not an individualist, however lonely his suffering, but a figure that has an expiatory role in relation to the Christian community. (Actually, the Romantic character that is nearest to the authentic Wandering Jew is Coleridge's Ancient Mariner).

There is an interesting exception to be found in T. S. Eliot's poem 'Gerontion', in which the figure of the 'jew' is almost certainly modelled on the negative version of the Wandering Jew legend. The 'jew' is a wanderer, a 'rootless cosmopolitan', 'spawned in some estaminet of Antwerp,/Blistered in Brussels, patched and peeled in London.' The old age of the 'jew' is compared to the dilapidated state of the decaying house and is regarded not as something miraculous, but negatively, as Jewish remoteness from the values of youth symbolized in the youthful death of Christ and in other images of youthful violent death ('the hot gates', that is, Thermopylae, where the army of young Spartans died a sacrificial death). Thus, in Eliot's poem the Wandering Jew with his inability to die is not a Romantic hero, as in Shelley, but the exact opposite, a symbol of anti-Romanticism, the withering of the soul that comes from the refusal to accept the revivifying force of sacrificial death. Eliot was well aware of the connections between Christianity and pagan cults of human sacrifice, and also of the connections of both with the youth-worship of Romanticism.11 His version of the Wandering Jew has much in common with that of a movement that must be regarded as belonging to the darker side of the history of Romanticism, namely, Nazism. It was certainly the negative version of the Wandering Jew legend that was adopted in nineteenth-century anti-Semitism and in its successor, Nazism. The possibility of regeneration for the Jews

{p. 171} through repentance, found in the positive version, was ruled out completely by the racialist doctrine. The Wandering Jew was a wanderer in the sense that he had no attachment to any human group, but was the common enemy and scourge of mankind in all his settled habitations. The detailed picture of the Jew was built up from medieval sources: the blood-sucking usurer, the murderer of children, the enemy of chastity, the poisoner of wells, the fiend in barely human shape. In addition there was the fantasy of the Elders of Zion, according to which the Jews had a highly organized international network, governed by a central body, the Elders of Zion, dedicated to the overthrow of all Gentile civilization and to the domination of the whole world by the Jews, to which end different policies were employed in different contexts, so that the Jews could be accused of being the moving force of both capitalism and communism.12 Even this fantasy of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy had its medieval source in the blood-libel stories which portrayed the Jews as meeting in international conclave to decide where and when the next child sacrifice would take place.

Yet in general it can be said that nineteenth-century racialist antiSemitism has departed from its Christian origins in providing no safeguard or loophole for Jewish survival. It was the hope of the millennial conversion of the Jews that preserved them in Christendom at times when they came close to annihilation. Thus modern antiSemitism has all the negative aspects of Christian anti-Semitism without any of its restraints. From Christianity it derived the picture of the Jews as the people of the Devil; but it jettisoned the Christian idea that the Devil too has his place in the scheme of things. Thus, dangerous as Christianity was to the Jews, the move from Christian to post-Christian society was even more dangerous. For post-Christian society, while believing itself to be secular, retains all the deepest and most irrational prejudices of Christianity while freeing itself of the moral and mythopoeic checks by which Christianity exerts some moderating influence on these prejudices.

Yet is it quite true to say that Christianity itself provided no model for the plan of completely exterminating the Jews? While it is true that the scenario of the millennial conversion of the Jews rules out such a plan, medieval and Renaissance Christianity contained an altemative scenario that did indeed contemplate the extermination of the Jews. This is the myth of the Antichrist. Here we have a picture of what would happen at the time of the millennium that contradicts the eirenic concept of the conversion of the Jews and its attendant legend of the Wandering Jew, and substitutes a paranoiac, dualistic scheme which implements the hysterical medieval Jew-phobia and foreshadows the mass extennination programmes of the Nazis.

{p. 172} The apocalyptic fantasy of the Antichrist, in its most influential form, runs as follows.13 In the last days, a man would appear who would lead the armies of the Devil against the armies of Christ. This man, the Antichrist, would be a Jew, and his chief supporters would be the Jews. He would be a kind of demonic parody of Christ himself, for he would be born through the impregnation of a Jewish harlot by the Devil himself. He would be born in Babylon, but would proceed to Palestine where he would be instructed in the black arts. He would achieve great success, and would rebuild the Jewish Temple and reign over a Jewish empire which would comprise the whole world. But at the point of his greatest success the Second Coming of the true Christ would occur. Christ would lead the Christian armies against the Antichrist, who would be defeated, and all his supporters including the entire Jewish people would be annihilated. Part of the demonic forces thus defeated would be the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, who would appear from their remote retreat to take part in the triumph of the Jewish empire and be defeated in its ultimate overthrow.

This extraordinary vision of future events had its main adherents among the populace rather than among the leading thinkers of Christendom. Indeed, the belief in the coming of the Antichrist was sometimes turned against the official leadership of Christendom, for popular movements of discontent sometimes identified the pope himself as the Antichrist and the officials of the Church, rather than the Jews, as his army. But the prevailing theory was that it was indeed the Jews who would form the army of the Antichrist, and this belief became particularly strong at times of millennial excitement. The widespread massacres of Jews by a frenzied populace at the time of the Crusades, for example, were partly actuated by the identification of the Jews with the Antichrist. The Muslims too, against whom the Crusaders fought, were regarded as armies of the Antichrist, but to the Christian populace the Muslims were hardly differentiated from the Jews, and were even widely regarded as the Oriental hordes of the Lost Ten Tribes (the 'Red Jews') who formed one of the nightmare images in the medieval mind. Even Christian leaders were not above such fantasies, as was shown by the almost incredible episode of the impostor David Reubeni, who in 1524 was given audience by the pope and treated with great fear and honour, on the pretence of being the ambassador of an Oriental Jewish empire - the realm of the Lost Ten Tribes.14

The myth of the Antichrist was thus a millennial notion based on a belief in the Jews as a powerful, dangerous political entity. The Wandering Jew legend, on the other hand, was based on the much more factual premise that the Jews were helpless and downtrodden,

{p. 173} beaten into submission by their sufferings. Both myths were visions of the millennium, but of very different kinds: one envisaged a time of reconciliation, while the other a time of violence, worldwide battles and the final annihilation of a fearsome enemy. Both, it may be added, envisaged a time when the continued existence of the Jews would not be necessary: in the Wandering Jew legend because the Jews would be allowed to expiate their sin at last and find oblivion in the bosom of the Church, and in the Antichrist myth because the reign of the Devil would at last be over, and his allies the Jews would share his downfall and disappearance. In the Antichrist myth, the necessary role of the Devil as Sacred Executioner is lost sight of; he is regarded as merely the old power of evil, engaged in perpetual combat with the Light, but destined eventually to be defeated by it. This is essentially a Gnostic conception. The Wandering Jew legend, however, retains the idea that the existence of the Jews is necessary: the Wandering Jew is an essential witness and a harbinger of the millennium. Though his sin itself is not consciously acknowledged to be necessary, the sympathy and awe with which he is regarded give him the aura of the Sacred Executioner. Christianity, as we have seen, was formed by a combination between Gnosticism and the salvation doctrine of the mystery religions. This double strand persists throughout the history of Christianity. When the salvation doctrine of the necessary sacrifice predominates, the Jew retains some sanctity. When the sheer dualism of Gnosticism predominates, the Jew becomes a demon, and his annihilation becomes a desideratum. He is no longer in any sense a representative of the Christian community.

Even the Gnostic Christian, however, may regard the Jew as a necessary evil, like the Devil himself, in the sense that evil in this world is inevitable. But once it is believed that the millennium has already started, the last vestige of this necessity vanishes. That is why millennial movements associated with the doctrine of the Antichrist soon lead to massacres of Jews of a radical kind. The massacres at the time of the Crusaders were on a scale hitherto unknown in Christendom.15 They should be regarded as the precursors of the mass extermination programme of that modern millennial movement, Nazism {yet Communism killed many millions more, and Maccoby never even mentions it}.

Yet there was nothing new, at the time of the Crusades, about the doctrine of the Antichrist; it was just that it had never been associated before with a populist movement. The requirements for an extermination programme seem therefore to be mass hysteria in a populist movement fomented by a charismatic leader, combined with the doctrine of the Antichrist.

The Antichrist doctrine itself was as old as Christianity. Its originator was the originator of everything else that is distinctive in

{p. 174} Christianity - Paul. The whole idea (except the actual name Antichrist, which is found first in the Epistles of John) is in the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians (Chapter 2). Here is found the idea which has been hailed as further proof of the 'genius of Paul', namely that the chief eschatological opponent of Christ would not be a great Gentile empire, such as the Greek Empire in the Book of Daniel or the Roman Empire in the Book of Revelation, but the Jews, who would be punished for their lack of faith in Jesus by misplaced faith in the Antichrist. This idea shows the 'genius of Paul' because it enabled Christianity to 'break its ties with Judaism and establish itself in the world of the Roman empire.'16 So Paul is the source of both eschatological doctrines about the Jews, that of their millennial conversion and that of their millennial annihilation. The Antichrist doctrine thus has very respectable antecedents, and can be supported from the works of many leading Christian theologians,17 though it tended to be out of favour with the rulers of Christendom because of its tendency to encourage mob enthusiasm and millennial hopes that were dangerous to established power.

It should be noted that in an important sense both millennial doctrines postulated the annihilation of the Jews in the last days, for even the view that they would be converted implied their disappearance as a distinct entity. The millennium, then, is by definition the time when the continued existence of the Jews is unthinkable, because the problem of evil will have been solved. From the Gnostic point of view, the Jews will be swept away together with the Devil and all his works, while, from the sacrificial mystery-religion point of view, the sin of Adam will have been quite washed away, the soteriological sacrifice of Jesus will no longer be required, and therefore the role of Sacred Executioner will be abolished and the Jews will be able to sink thankfully into nonentity.

An important difference, however, between the conversion doctrine and the Antichrist doctrine is that the latter acknowledges Judaism as a religious rival, and a formidable one, to Christianity, while the conversion doctrine sees Judaism as a mere obdurate clinging to an empty shell of a religion: at the time of the millennium this almost miraculous (because baseless) obstinacy melts away. In the Antichrist doctrine, on the other hand, it is realized that the Jews have a rival Messianic hope of their own {articulated at tmf.html}. This hope is allowed considerable weight: a Jewish Messiah would actually come, and would for a time seem to be the complete fulfilment of Jewish hopes. The Jews are here seen not in the pathetic guise of the Wandering Jew, but as a rival faith that would be displaced only after a world war.

It will be seen, then, how many and how great are the similarities between Nazism and the Antichrist doctrine that was always such a

{p. 175} persistent thread in the history of Christian thought. Nazism was essentially a millenarian doctrine, though formulated in secular terms. Its very slogan, the 'thousand-year Reich', is taken directly from the vocabulary of the millenarian movements (itself taken from Revelation 20:4-6). The term the 'Final Solution', which the Nazis applied to the policy of liquidation of the Jews, has strong apocalyptic overtones. It was conceived as the purging away from humanity of racial contamination and the inauguration of an era of racial purity, in which the Master Race would rule over inferior races, while the poison in the blood of humanity, the Jews, would cease to exist altogether. Only the Jews were scheduled for extermination. 'Inferior' races, such as the Slavs, were to be deprived of their cultural pretensions by the liquidation of their leaders and cultural elite, but were then to be allowed to live as slaves to the Master Race. The Gypsies, for example, were not scheduled for extermination, as is often wrongly said; only those who insisted on preserving their 'anti-social' nomadic way of life were sent to the extermination camps, and many Gypsies, having adopted a sedentary way of life, actually served in the German armed forces.18 The status of Hitler himself, as a semi-divine figure, was that of saviour, corresponding to the figure of Christ in his Second Coming. It was thus part of his role, as in the myth of the battle of Christ against Antichrist, to rid the world completely of the forces of evil, namely the Jews.

The Nazis thus expressed in racialist terms the concept of the final overcoming of evil that formed the essence of Christian millenarianism. The choice of the Jews as the target arose directly out of centuries of Christian teaching, which had singled out the Jews as a demonic people dedicated to evil. Anti-Semitism was thus a potent political weapon, since it made a deep appeal to a populace that had been conditioned by one of the most effective educational processes in history to regard the Jews as the source of all evil. But even the Final Solution of the extermination of the Jews had strong Christian antecedents in the Antichrist myth, which also provided the concept of the Jews as a worldwide organized force with a powerful leadership of its own. Thus the Nazis, in sending helpless, unarmed people out of their own citizenry to be murdered by gas, starvation or a bullet in the back of the neck, imagined that they were fighting against a powerful organized threat (I leave out of account here those Nazi leaders who did not really believe the Nazi myth, but used it cynically, knowing that it enabled them to draw on an unfailing supply of mass hysteria).

Nazism, as a millenarian movement, contained only the figure of the triumphant Christ (i.e. Hitler) and not the figure of the sacrificed Christ. If the millennium has arrived the divine sacrifice and therefore the Sacred Executioner are no longer reguired.

{p. 180} afterthoughts, as G. S. Kirk has shown, may often be casual or trivial aetiologies, having little relation to the true meaning of the ritual. Many important rituals had no accompanying myth. The foundation myth, on the other hand, perpetuates the memory of an event that can never be repeated (though it can be renewed at special moments of danger or catastrophe), and the telling of the myth is itself a way of preserving the cohesion and sense of identity of the community. Indeed, it is not strictly necessary that the foundation sacrifice should actually occur as a historical event, as long as a story exists to say that it did. It may be doubted whether Rome was really founded by twin brothers called Romulus and Remus, one of whom slew the other. But this is the kind of story that was felt to be suitable for the foundation of a city, and such a story demonstrates the link between ritual and myth just as well as if we could prove that the ritual was actually performed, for the myth could not have come into existence without at least the idea of a sacrificial ritual. A more subtle instance is the foundation myth of Christianity, where the death did actually occur, but not in the way that the myth required: a political execution was transformed in the myth into a sacrificial execution, though none of the people concerned (Pilate, the High Priest, the Jewish people, Judas) knew that they were taking part in a sacrificial rite. On the cosmic plane, however, the act functioned as a sacrifice, and the acceptance of its sacrificial character by initiates is what clinches its ritual efficacy. It is interesting, however, that the regularly performed sacrificial ritual of Christianity, the Mass, is not a repetition of the Crucifixion, but a quite different kind of sacrifice in which God is eaten by the community who thus achieve oneness with Him. This regular ritual is validated by a little myth of its own: the story of Jesus's sharing of bread and wine at the Last Supper and his instructions to perform the Mass in memory of this occasion. This myth is of the perfunctory aetiological kind, and does not convey the essence of the ritual, which was derived from the mystery religions and through them from the prehistoric totem feast.

The relationship between ritual and myth thus cannot be characterized in any simple way. In foundation myths, the myth acts as what Malinowski would have called a 'charter' for the tribe, showing that it was founded in a way acceptable to the god or gods. Even the pretence that the ritual killing embodied in the myth happened by accident is a kind of tribute to the god, since it would not do to admit that such a cruel sacrifice was demanded by or pleased him. So the tribe has paid to the god his due tribute of human life without offending him by putting the blame for the killing upon him. But this does not mean that all myths are charters. Even those that are charters usually perform other functions as well. For example, the myth of

{p. 181} Noah and Canaan's curse acts as a charter for the Israelite conquest of the land of Canaan, but it also validates norms of Israelite society by its portrayal of father-son relationships, by its rejection of wine orgies and in other ways. Other myths that have no link with ritual do this more directly. For example, the Babylonian myth traces the origin of mankind to the sin of a rebellious god whose body was sliced up to form the human race; man's main object in life was thenceforth to expiate the sin of their ancestor by service to the gods; this myth tells us a great deal about Babylonian society and its attitudes to morality and freedom. In contrast, the Hebrew myth of the origin of man describes how God made the first pair by an act of free creation, endowed them with power over nature and exhorted them to populate the earth and cultivate it; a myth that breathes humanism and universal brotherhood {contradicted by the story of the conquest of Palestine; how can Maccoby be oblivious to this?}. This is a charter for humanity, but, by being so, is also an ethical programme. To say that a myth is a charter tells us something: but we still have to ask what kind of charter.

Myths in general are the stories that characterize a given society and demand a sociological explanation which is not confined to considerations of individual psychology (which may be the same everywhere in a given phase of development) nor to abstract sociological explanations (which may be true of every society). Structuralist analyses of myths stay on the abstract sociological level and discuss problems and anxieties that are felt in all societies without venturing into the content and colour of individual societies. Levi-Strauss admits that he is not concerned with the content of myths, only with their structure, and he regards his method as applicable only to primitive societies in which the content is unknown to us, not to 'hot' societies in which we become involved in the content and cannot confine ourselves to the structure.5

But such involvement is precisely what we need for full understanding. We cannot understand a myth if we strip ourselves of the tools of moral evaluation. For the myths themselves are concerned with moral evaluation in that they provide answers to the question, 'What is the good society?' Even if they confine themselves to the apparently non-moral question, 'How can a society be set up in such a way that it is likely to survive?', the answers always present themselves for moral evaluation, since they depend on the degree of courage or hope with which a society begins and which act as its spiritual capital; a society whose solutions are provided by fear and despair is headed for tyranny and cruelty.

Each distinctive civilization has its basic myth which is rooted in the circumstances in which that civilization was born. Thus the basic myth of Greek civilization is that of the victory of the Olympian gods over the crude, barbaric Titans, reflecting the historical victory of the

{p. 182} Hellenes over the aboriginals of Greece. In the type of polytheism of Greece lies its ideal of aristocratic individualism, characteristic of militaristic invaders (such as the Normans). The basic myth of the Jewish civilization was of the liberation of a nation of slaves, pitted against all the oppressive regimes of the world {not just Egypt, but all "pagan" governments worldwide: thus pharaoh = hitler} by a unitary and unifying pact with a single God, who refused to co-exist with the gods who had betrayed mankind into slavery.{why characterise the Greeks as militaristic invaders, but ignore the genocidal accounts of the Hebrew invasion of Palestine?} The basic myth of Rome was identical with its foundation myth: a triumphant Cain-figure, Romulus, leader of a band of desperate outlaws, given the omen of a flight of vultures to show that his descendants would prey on mankind like vultures, or like the wolves by whom Romulus was nurtured. Virgil, however, tried to change this myth into that of the story of Aeneas, so that the Romans could regard themselves as Hellenes, with a civilizing mission; since Rome became a cultural vassal of Greece, this new myth was to some extent successful, but only after the Roman vulture, somewhat disguised as an eagle, had assembled all the loot of Europe and the Near East into Rome. The basic myth of the Christian civilization, again, identical with its foundation myth, was of the liberation of mankind from sin and from the misery of this world, which was given over to tyranny; this myth arose in the wretched conditions of the Greco-Roman Empire among masses who had lost all civic identity and attachment to the earth because of the demoralizing conquests of Macedonian Greeks and their imitators the Romans; because of the retention of the Old Testament, however, the humanism and attachment to the earth of Judaism remained as a strand within Christianity, contradicting its major trend. The basic myth of Islamic civilization is of the choice of the Arab people as the people of God; this is a transplantation of the Jewish myth, with the difference that it regards the values of the desert as superior to the values of the sown, while Judaism regards the desert as only a preparation for the Promised Land; and Islam, somewhat like Greece, envisaged an aristocratic rule by successful invaders, who, at heart, remained men of the desert, which is their real Promised Land and centre.

A myth, therefore, forms a culture, and once the myth has set and become established in the minds of the people, the outlines of the culture are determined {Was this not Hitler's view, too? Do not cultures change over time, with variations of the mythology, influences from other cultures, migration and conversion?}. The entire set of myths of a particular culture form a single system, and no single myth can be understood fully except in relation to the other myths in the system. Levi-Strauss has understood this, and his work on the interrelatedness of myths, and of the importance of taking into account various versions of the same myth in order to grasp its total meaning within the system of the tribe, is valuable. For each version explores a particular aspect to the detriment of other equally important aspects; an example is the set of myths about Judas explored above. This means that the listing of

{p. 183} parallels between one culture and another can often be misleading. What appears to be an identical mythological theme can have very different meanings in different cultures, even if based on the same text, as, for example, the theme of Adam's sin, which has a different significance in the Jewish and the Christian cultures. Yet to decry the exploration of parallels altogether as 'parellelomania' is to forgo an important tool of research; for the parallels provide the basic psychological, sociological and technological problems which different cultures treat in their own way. To point out the parallels is thus the beginning of the study; the sequel should be not to relapse into a comfortable conviction that human predicaments and their solutions are the same everywhere, but to explore the variety of human approaches to a solution, some of which are far more valuable than others. Awareness of the dangerousness of superficial parallel-pointing, however, too often goes along with a relativism that, by insisting on the unbridgable differences between one culture and another, ultimately reduces them all to sameness again, since a generalized tolerance of differences minimizes their significance and importance.

The relationship between mythology and literature may be clarified in the light of the above remarks. Some investigators would wish to confine the term 'myth' to orally transmitted material. Levi-Strauss, for example, regards his theory of myth as applying only to such material. The criterion, however, should be how far the story in question has sunk into the mentality of the mass of the community. This means in practice that oral transmission is of primary importance, for it is the way a story is told by parents and teachers that has a lasting effect on the psyche of the individuals that make up the community, rather than the literary form a story may have assumed through the individuality of a writer. It is important in the study of Greek myths, for example, to detect and discount literary variants that were of little communal significance. Nevertheless, literary versions of a myth can be of great importance too in centralizing and fixing a myth so that its continued effect is greater than ever on the mass of the people. The Bible and Homer are great examples of this. Both these works became canonical, i.e. were the subjects of myths of their own, but even a purely literary work, such as Aeschylus' Oresteia or Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice, can give new impetus to a myth by giving it fresh relevance to the time of the artist.

A myth, then, essentially belongs to a particular community or culture and cannot be understood outside the context of that culture. The history of the culture is thus highly important in the assessing of its myths, especially the conditions in which it first originated. These conditions give their stamp to the culture for all its subsequent

{p. 184} history {this is why the story of the conquest of Palestine, as genocide sanctioned by God, is so important; it's unparalled in extant sacred literature}, so that the history of the culture may be regarded as the working-out of the solution offered to the problem of the originating conditions, and subsequent failures or stagnation or cultural collapse can be traced to flaws in that original solution. There are, however, various transcultural aspects in every mythological system, that is, levels at which it copes with problems common to all cultures. These may be listed as follows: (i) the technological aspect, for example, the transition from Stone Age to Iron Age, or from nomadic hunting to agriculture; (ii) the psychological aspect, that is, the relations between child and parents and the problems associated with maturation and sexual adjustment; (iii) the political aspect, that is, the problem of power within the community, and how the rulers are related to the governed; (iv) the class aspect, a more generalized version of the political aspect, in that the relations between power groups are considered from an economic standpoint and the groupings caused by the division of labour; (v) the sex-power aspect, comprising the problems arising from the division of mankind into biological groups, male and female, and the resulting power struggle; (vi) the aspect of cultural plurality or nationality, that is, the problems involved in relations with groups of mankind outside the community concerned and the preservation of a separate communal identity. These transcultural aspects comprise the material with which a mythological system has to deal and which it moulds into a ruling orientation for a particular community born at a particular conjunction of circumstances in history. Some of the above transcultural aspects have themselves been used as the basis of monolithic theories of myth. The results have often been valuable, but in fact all the aspects have to be taken into account and moulded into a specific characterization for each separate culture; and it is also important to note that the aspects are not independent of each other.

One of the above aspects to which great attention has been given in this book may seem questionable. This is (v), which has appeared largely in relation to the conflict between matriarchy and patriarchy, a conflict regarded by many recent investigators as non-existent. The swings in anthropological fashion are hard to predict, but the importance of this conflict cannot long be ignored. By 'matriarchy' I do not mean the political rule of women, which seems hardly ever to have occurred. Even Bachofen, the originator of the matriarchal theory,6 did not claim that women had held political power in pre-patriarchal communities. To substitute the term 'matrilineal' for matriarchal, however, as some propose, is also misleading, for this change of terminology does not convey the real spiritual ascendancy enjoyed by women at this period of the history of human society, when physical power did not co-exist with magical and religious authority. That such

{p. 185} an era of female authority did take place, when the chief deities and their ministers were female and personal identity and honour were reckoned through the female line, can be shown by evidence that is far too copious and various to be ignored.7 The change from the rule of goddesses to the rule of gods is thus one of the most momentous revolutions in the history of mankind and must play an important part in the interpretation of myths. Certainly Aeschylus thought so when he made it the subject of his stupendous trilogy of plays, the Oresteia.

This is not to say that certain Women's Liberation theorists are right in regarding matriarchy as a Golden Age in the past from which the growth of patriarchal institutions has been a sad decline. Matriarchy was in many ways savage and cruel, and rational systems of justice and civilized codes of behaviour have developed largely thanks to patriarchy - though patriarchy too has had its characteristic forms of cruelty and injustice, including notably the oppression of women. The relationship between matriarchy and patriarchy is very like that between infancy and adolescence in the life of an individual. This does not mean that we must adopt a mystical organicist theory of the stages of development of a society, for there are good reasons for making the analogy. In its early stages, human society depends on the earth for its sustenance, and food is gathered or killed without the need for cultivation or forethought. In this stage, the thought processes of mankind are like those of an infant at the breast, and the forms of religion centre on the mother. In the stage of early agriculture, the role of the man in fertilizing the female and working the earth attains more recognition and the gods appear as consorts of the goddesses. In late agriculture when technological advances minimize the importance of magic and enhance male confidence, the era of subduing the female begins, and the sky-god, fertilizing the earth with his semen or rain, takes over the leadership of the pantheon {But Judaism, with its partnerless male sky god Yahweh, was far less developed than Egypt, which retained significant goddesses; the relationship between economy and ideology seems more arbitrary than Maccoby's determinism}. The more confidence man attains in manipulating the world around him, the more the male predominates, since his physical superiority ceases to be overawed by female magic. But this is not necessarily progress in the absolute sense, though it is undoubtedly a process of maturation. To return to childhood is not a solution either, and in general the problems become more complex as the organism maturates. The interpretation of a myth must always bear in mind the stage of human development at which the myth occurs; for example, the myth of Attis in the context of the middle-agriculture period is quite different from the same myth in the context of Greco-Roman mystery religion.8 {this is another way of repeating Marx' view that economy determines ideology; it implies that economically more advanced people live in a different spiritual world from their less developed ancestors, thus contradicting Maccoby's earlier Hegelian claim on pp. 183-4 that the myth of a civilization - such as the Jewish - is invariant over time, and the character of the people likewise, being formed by it. Even Hyam Maccoby fails to note a contradiction separated by only two pages of this book.}

The myths studied in this book have been traced to the institution of ritual human sacrifice, which existed in both matriarchal and patriarchal societies, but had different meanings in each. In matriarchal society the death and resurrection of young men promoted by sym-

{p. 186} pathetic magic the fertility of the fields. In patriarchal society human sacrifices were an expression of submission to an angly male god. They were thus an expression of guilt which was itself the creation of patriarchal society. But violent solutions to the problem of guilt are self-defeating, for they create new guilt for the violence required by the solutions themselves. The present book has studied the ways in which this secondary guilt is handled by what I have called distancing devices. By the use of these devices, the community shifts its guilt for its violent guilt-removing rites to a scapegoat or whipping-boy who is blamed for the violence without which the community cannot remove its primary guilt. The prime example of this technique is anti-Semitism, by which the modern world perpetuates modes of feeling that originated in the sacrificial rituals of the ancient world.

A straightforwardly dualistic religion like Zoroastrianism projects evil outside from the start {it contains no foundation sacrifice; since Maccoby expunges the Jews of any guilt in this book, the question arises of whether they too externalize all evil, the anti-Semites being the evil force}; Christianity, however, internalizes evil {i.e. we are all inveterate sinners} but in such a way that the individual cannot cope with it, and needs a divine sacrifice to atone for it. The Sacred Executioner takes the responsibility for the sacrifice, but must be regarded as evil, so that the saved person can be absolved from the guilt of the sacrifice. By continual identification with the sacrifice (such as by a ritual of incorporation, eating and being eaten by the god), the saved person is able eventually to feel so completely saved that he has purged all evil from his system; at this point the millennium can begin. Evil has been exteriorized again, and the Sacred Executioner can disappear (be converted), or, alternatively, he can be regarded solely in his aspect as destroyer of the good and can thus become the chief focus of the exteriorization of evil. At this point the massacre of the Jews begins, whether by the crazed Crusading populace, by the millenarians fighting the Antichrist, or by the Nazis in their death-camps.

Perhaps a deeper understanding of the atavistic nature of anti-Semitism and of its unbroken historical connection with rites of human sacrifice will help to eradicate this evil from the world, and will further the efforts of modern man to shoulder the burden of his own guilt, avoiding all devices by which guilt may be shifted to his fellowman {It's clear that Maccoby has no sense of Jewish guilt - what anti-Semites do to Jews is, it seems, beyond comparison with what Jews do to Palestinians or Christians}. In this way, we may even turn to the task of reversing and improving the behaviour and qualities which make us feel so guilty, while eschewing the chimera of achieving absolute moral purity and perfection .

{p. 187} Notes

1 The Sacred Executioner

See p. 178 and Yerkes, 1953, pp. 68-74, where the rite is reconstructed from somewhat conflicting accounts by Androtion, Theophrastus, Pausanias and Porphyry. 2 See, for example, Campbell, 1959, pp. 334 47, on the palaeolithic bear sacrifices. 3 See Milgrom, 1981.

2 Cain

1 The fullest version of the legend of Romulus and Remus is in Plutarch's In Romulum (other versions may be found in Dionysius Halicarnassus, 1-2; Livy, 1, 4; Valerius Maximus, 111, 2-3; Pliny, XV, 18; Virgil Aeneid 11, 342, 605; Ovid, Metamorplloses XIV, 616, 845; Fasti IV; and other authors). In one variation, Remus is killed not by Romulus but by one of his companions, Celer, who then fled to Etruria, thus enacting the role of the Sacred Executioner, and relieving Romulus of his Cain-like role. 2 Human sacrifices are attested all over the world not only for the foundation of cities, but for the building of bridges, houses, palaces, temples and fortresses ('foundation sacrifices'). See, for example, for Polynesia, Ellis, 1831, i, p.346; for Melanesia, Codrington, 1891, p.301; for N. America, Boas, 1895; for S. America, Liebrecht, 1879, p.287; for Siam, Frazer, 1911, p.90; for Japan, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics iv p.856b. Many legends and folk-ballads point to the former existence of the rite (e.g. the Balkan ballad of the Bridge of Arta), recounting the immolation of the builder's wife or a child to keep the bridge from falling down (such legends are found in Germany, Eastern Europe, India, Western Asia, North Africa, Celtic parts of British Isles; see Encycloyaedia of Relion and Ethics ii p.850). Old houses pulled down in England and on the Continent are frequently found to have the body of a cat walled up in them. Christian legends tell of monks buried alive under monasteries (e.g. Oran, a companion of Columba, in Iona). Sometimes statues were substituted for live sacrifices. Sometimes the foundation stone was laid on a person's shadow, and it was believed that the person would die within a year. In Oldenburg, it is reported that children were buried alive as late as the seventeenth century to make the dikes secure (L. Strackenjan, 1908, i, pp.l27ff.). In the Near East, archaeologists have frequently found the bodies of children buried under floors in such a way as to make the hypothesis of foundation sacrifice highly probable, though recently attempts have been made to explain these as burials of stillborn infants. The account in I Kings 16:34 of the death of the sons of Hiel on the occasion of the rebuilding of Jericho has been widely held to refer to a foundation sacrifice, though the deaths are attributed to a curse. That the story of Romulus and Remus is a disguised account of a foundation sacrifice was suggested by several scholars. For archaeological evidence of a human sacrifice at the building of a city see De Vaux and Steve, Revue Biblique, LVIII, 1951, pp. 401-3, in connection with Tell al-Fara, near Nablus. 3 The first gladiatorial combats were introduced by the Bruti upon the death of their father (264 BC) to take the place of the human sacrifices of slaves previously made to appease the ghosts of the dead (see Valerius Maximus, ii, 4, 7). 4 In Genesis 15:19, the Kenites are included among the tribes whom God promises to dispossess in favour of descendants of Abraham. This is the only such reference, and is in contradiction to other passages where the Kenites are described as allies of the Israelites. There was evidently some ambivLllence in the

{p. 188} Israelite attitude to the Kenites before it became one of settled friendship. The ambivalence is shown also in the Bible's reticence about the special relationship between Israelite and Kenite culture. 5 See Stade, 1887, i, pp.130ff.; Budde, 1899,1; Rowley, 1950, pp.149-60; Vischer, 1929; Eerdmans, 1947, pp.14ff.; Morgenstern, 1927. 6 This relationship was first noticed by Buttman, 1828, i, pp.170ff. 7 This pattern has been worked out in various ways, but is thought to comprehend various epochs culminating in the foundation of Solomon's Temple. See especially Bousset Zeitscllrift fur die Alt-testamentliche Wissenschaft, xx, pp.136-47, and Skinner, 1930, p.135. The numbers given in the Septuagint and the Samaritan Bible, are, however, different from those in the Masoretic text. 8 Scholars, however, have generally preferred to derive the Sethian line from the list of ten Babylonian antediluvian patriarchs given by Berossus, though the names have almost nothing in common. 9 There are many Greek legends of purification following exile after a homicide, and some of these legends show strong traces of having been originally stories of human sacrifice. Two interesting examples are the following: (i) In Theophrastus' version of the Bouphonia ceremony at Athens, the origin of the rite is explained by a story. The original bull was killed by a man called Sopatros, who fled to Crete as one under a curse. Yet later, by the instructions of the Delphic oracle, it was he who set up the regular Bouphonia sacrifice, thus averting a famine, and the curse on Sopatros was lifted. Since the bull, when killed, was eaten raw by the people, this story goes beyond human sacrifice back to a period when the totem animal ¥vas held to be more sacred than any human. The whole story, which is very complicated, deserves detailed study. For our present purposes, it displays the flight and curse (or impurity) of the sacrificer, together with his sanctity and privileged status. (ii) The Stepteria rite recorded by Blutarch shows similar elements. Every ninth year a hut representing a king's dwelling was suddenly attacked and set on fire. Those involved fled from the scene without looking back, and afterwards one of them went to Tempe for purification, but then returned in triumph to Delphi, wearing a crown. This rite evidently represents the ninth-year sacrifice of the king, and the flight, purification and triumph of his sacrificer and successor. (See Plutarch Why Oracles Are Silent, 15.) 10 There were, in fact, other sacrifices which were performed, partly at any rate, 'outside the camp', and it is noteworthy that in all these, the officiant became unclean (whereas no such uncleanness attached to the performance of sacrifices within the Temple). These are: the bull and two goats of the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16), and the sin-offering bulls sacrificed to atone an unwitting sin by the High Priest or by the community as a whole (Leviticus 4). The Bible does not explicitly mention uncleanness in relation to the last two, but Jewish tradition repairs the omission; see Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 68a. 11 This is contrary to the usual view, which builds on the parallel between the seventh position of Enoch in the Sethite chronicle and the seventh position of Evedoranchus (corruption of Enmeduranki) in the list of Babylonian antediluvian patriarchs given by Berossus, since Enmeduranki is described on a tablet in the library of Asshurbanipal as one who was 'initiated into the mysteries of heaven and earth', though there is no mention of an early death or translation to heaven. On this view, it is the Cainite line, as given in the Bible, that has displaced Enoch from seventh to third, and the order of the Sethian line is primary. The motivation of the alleged displacement from seventh to third is obscure. More likely is a displacement the other way, in an attempt to adapt the Cainite line to the structure of the Babylonian patriarch list. 12 An interesting parallel to Enoch may be found in Greek legend. The founder of Athens, Kekrops, had a son by Aglauros (another name for the goddess Athene) called Erysichthon. This name means 'protector of the land'. It is not told how he protected the land, but only that he died early and had no issue. In Olympia, there was the figure of Sosipolis ('saviour of the city'), who was a divine boy in the form of a serpent. In Thebes, the foundation story concerns the slaying of a great serpent by the founder, Cadmus Serpents, as well as being

{p. 189} figures of evil, were holy figures, representing city-founders themselves or their surrogates (Kekrops was represented as half-serpent). It may be, then, that a foundation myth about the slaying of a serpent is a disguised form of a foundation myth about the sacrifice of a divine serpent boy. To disguise the serpent as a figure of evil is one more distancing device by which the nature of the slaying is obscured. (See Kerenyi, 1959, p.213.)

3 The Israelite account of Cain

1 Examples of possible human sacrifice in early strata of the Bible are the cases of Achan (Joshua 7), Jephtha's daughter (Judges 11), and Hiel's sons (I Kings 16), and the dedication of cities to destruction (e.g. Jericho, Joshuah; Ai, Joshua 8). An indubitable human sacrifice is by Mesha, king of Moab in 11 Kings 3:2/, to which the verse seems to accord a certain validity. The final redaction of Genesis was probably in the sixth century BC, when human sacrifices had long been regarded with detestation. 2 See Milgrom, 1981. 3 See, for example, Hooke, 1956, p.67. 4 The earliest occurrence of this theory is in Midrash Genesis Rabbah 22. 5 See Exodus 29:13, and Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah, 64. 6 See Hooke, 1947, p.42. 7 See Hooke, 1956, p.68. 8 I owe this interpretation to my father, the late E. M. Maccoby. 9 See Babylonian Talmud 59b, commenting on Genesis 1:29. 10 See Numbers 35:31. Money compensation for murder was allowed among the Greeks (poine), and among the Germans (wergild). The Koran also allows it (2:178f.). See Milgrom, 1971: 'The notion that homicide cannot be commuted is the foundation of criminal law in the Bible: human life is invaluable, hence incommutable. This concept is not found in any other law corpus in the ancient Near East.' 11 See Genesis Rabbah 22. 12 In Greek mythology, the wanderings and sufferings of Orestes, accursed by female deities but supported by the male god Apollo, are a good example of the fate of one who commits a heroic crime, though this is not an instance of sacrifice, but of rebellion against matriarchal law, by which Clytemnestra should have been exempt from punishment. Close to our theme is the case of Athamas, who sacrificed his sons Learchus and Melicertes (allegedly under the influence of madness) and then was condemned to wander for a period in the wilderness, after which child sacrifice of a member of the royal family of Alus, in Thessaly, became a regular institution (see Frazer, The Golden Bough, 'Sacrifice of the King's Son'). In Africa, the Matiamvo, or Emperor, of Angola, was sacrificed at the end of his sacred reign by the hand of an executioner sent from the neighbouring hostile tribes. The executioner buried the dismembered corpse of the Matiamvo secretly, and then the head of the executioner himself was struck off. Negotiations then commenced for the return of the corpse from the hostile tribes, and a splendid State funeral ensued. Here, the tribe disclaims responsibility for the sacrifice by the device of accomplishing it through putative enemies, so the executioner does not acquire sufficient sanctity to justify a period of exile and an eventual return. 13 Genesis Rabbah 22. 14 E.g. Smith, 1903, p.251. 15 The Septuagint translates azazel as tragos apopompaios, taking the word to mean 'the goat that departs', and the Vulgate follows suit. The rabbinical translation (Yoma 67b) is 'hard rock'. 16 In Enoch, Azazel is the name of a rebel angel. T. H. Gaster objects that scapegoats are never offered to demons. Azazel may be a name originally given to the Sacred Executioner himself. 17 See Mishnah, Yoma 6:6. 18 See Hooke, 1956, p.70. 19 See Mishnah, Yoma 6:3, 'All were eligible to lead it away, but the priests had established the custom not to suffer an Israelite to lead it away.' 20 See Harrison, 1980, pp 149-50. 21 See Mishnah, Yoma 6:8. 22 See ibid. 6:6 and 8.

4 Lamech

1 See, for example, J Skinner, 1930, p l21, follwing F. Lenormant and J Wellhausen. 2 This line of thought was initiated by Herder, who invented the name 'Sword Song' for Lamech's utterance. 3 It has beell pointed out that the life-

{p. 190} span of Lamech in the Sethian line is given as 777 years (5:31), a figure which suggests some relationship with the expression 'seventy-seven-fold' used by the Lamech of the Cainite line (4:24). This is certainly a curious coincidence, which increases the probability that the Sethite chronicle depends on the Cainite chronicle and not vice-versa. A vivid and poignant detail of the Cainite chronicle has been transformed into a mundane chronological note in the Sethite chronicle. The opposite process is unlikely. 4 See chapter 6, n.11. 5 Confirmation of the archetypal quality of the story is the long history it has had in European art. See Mellinkoff, 1981. 6 See Frazer, ~he Golden Bough, 'The Myth of Balder'. 7 See Freud, 1955 . 8 In a somewhat similar fashion, the name Christ (Hebrew, 'Messiah'), which had been a title of every Davidic monarch, became a divine title in Christianity when attached to a sacrificial figu~e, though the Christian type of salvationism meant that this could happen only once. 9 The order is unequivocal at least in Genesis 5:32, h lo and 9:18. There is some doubt, however, as we shall see, in 10:21. 10 The Septuagint on 10:2l translates 'the brother of Japheth the elder'. 11 Yuvalandyavalappearonceeach,not as names, but as variants of a noun meaning 'stream' (Isaiah 30:25 and leremiah 17:8). 12 See p.55.

5 The Kenites and the Rechabites

See Speiser, 1962, p.236: 'The Table of Nations . . . is an ambitious undertaking, the first of its kind known from anywhere.' 2 For the Kenites in Amalek, see I Samuel 15:6; in Galilee, Judges. 4:11, 5:24; in the Negev (S. Judaea), I Samuel 27:10. A place called Cain is listed in Joshua 15:57, in the territory of Judah. 3 See Doughty, 1888, i, pp.280ff. 4 A fresco painting in the 12th-dynasty tomb of Khnumhotep III at Beni Hasan (Bani Hasan) in Egypt represents Semitic nomads entering Egypt, and includes a group held to be metal-workers, since their donkeys carry bellows (see Encyclopedia Judaica, vi, p.494, ill.). The period is about 1890 BC. 5 Frazer, 1957, p.112. See also Frazer, 1918, ii, p.21 for the Wachaga tribe. 6 See Pauly, 1912, p.337. 7 These are the so-called Torque Bearers of the early Bronze Age, who were organized in a special cult with a deity of their own. 8 For the Chalybes, see Herodotus, i, 28, and Xenophon, Anabasis, 4. More mythical are the groups which combined magic with metal-working, the Corybantes, the Dactyloi, and the Couretes; but the legends about them give evidence of the relationship between metalworking and mystical secret societies with special rites (see Thomson, 1946, p . 110). 9 See Budde, 1896 and 1899; Meyer, 1906, pp.88-9,129-41;Friedlaender, 1910, pp.253-7; Flight, 1923, pp.158 226; Schmokel, 1933, pp.212-29; Nystrom, 1946; Gautier, 1927, pp.104-29. 10 The clan names of the Rechabites (Tithrathites, Shimeathites, Sucathites) have not been satisfactorily explained. They may derive from place-names. 11 The Targum of Jeremiah 35: 19 interprets the expression 'stand before the Lord' to refer to Temple service. The Septuagint superscription of Psalm 70 (Hebrew 71) is '[A Psalm sung by] the sons of Jonadab', suggesting that the Rechabites sang among the Levites. 12 Another possible survival of the Kenites is the Jewish tribe of Medina, the Banu Qaynuqa, who, unlike the other two main Jewish Arabian tribes with whom Muhammad clashed, the Nadir and the Quragga, owned no land and were metalworkers. 13 For example, the Nabataean ascetics mentioned by Diodorus Siculus (xix, 94) who, like the Rechabites, eschewed wine and lived in tents. 14 Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra, 58b: 'Wine is the greatest of all medicines: drugs are necessary only where wine is lacking.' 15 Babylonian Talmud, Ta'anit 11a. 16 Jewish tradition held that the sons of Adam procreated by marrying their twin-sisters, so Lot's incest would not have been disgraceful in such circumstances. The Talmud excuses Lot's daughters on the ground that they thought the disaster was worldwide; this is a possible echo of the original form of the story. 17 See Genesis Rabbah 36:7; Babylonian

{p. 191} Talmud, Sanhedrin, 70a; Yalqut Shimoni, Noah, 61. 18 For human sacrifices, accompanied by orgies, to the earth goddess, among the Khonds of Bengal, see Frazer, 1957, ii, pp.571-5, and Campbell, 1962, pp.160 3. Each family obtained a shred of the victim for its field. These sacrifices continued until the nmeteenth century. 19 See Kirk, 1970, pp.214-20. 20 See Pope, 1977, pp.507-8, commenting on various Ugaritic texts. 21 The Biblical narrative shows uncertainty about the identity of the slayer/ castrator/voyeur, since it ascribes this role to Ham, while laying the resultant curse upon Canaan. This is because the Bible wishes to detach the story from its character as a Canaanite foundation myth, though this aspect survives in the drastically changed form of a curse against the Canaanite nation. Canaan has been transformed from the hero of the story into the villain, though his dislodgment from the central role makes this transformation problematic; and as founder of the Canaanite nation, he transmits a curse to it that justifies its conquest by the Israelites. 22 The story of the voyage of Dionysus, when he was captured by pirates, but made vines grow all over the ship and filled the ship' with animals, finally turning the pirates into dolphins, is told in the Homeric Hymn to Dionysus, pp.6ff.; Apollodorus, iii, 5.3, and Ovid, Metamorphoses, iii. 577-699. On Dionysus and Deucalion, see Graves, 1960, ii, p. 141.

6 Abraham and Isaac

1 Micha Joseph Bin Gorion (Berdyczewski) put forward this view in his Sinai und Garizim, 1926. In a Phoenician myth recounted by Eusebius (IPraeparatio Evangelica, i, 10, 29), Kronos sacrificed his only son Ieoud to his father Uranus. 2 Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, i, 9, 1; Herodotus, vii, 197; Plutarch, De superstitione, 5. 3 Euripides, Iphigenia at Aulis, 1540; Iphigenia in Tauris, 20.30-783; Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 1534; Ovid, Metamorphoses, 12.245 sq. 4 See Green, 1975, pp.99-102. 5 Pausanias, Graeciae Descriytio, i, 5, 2; Jerome, Adversus Jovinianum, 1, 41 (Migne, PL, xxiii, col. 270). 6 Pausanias, Graeciae Descriytio, iv, 9:4. 7 Judges 11:30-40. 8 See Noth, 1958, pp. 157-9; Moore, 1895, pp. 299-305; Boling, 1975, pp.206 10; Reinke, i, pp.419ff. 9 Jubilees 18:12. 10 Genesis Rabbah 56:7. 11 Spiegel, 1967, p.57: 'We would have here, as occasionally also elsewhere in the Midrashim of early generations, some leftovers of belief before the beliefs of Israel.' Also, pp.116-17: 'What survived from the heritage of idolatry which in Judaism remained peripheral grew to become dominant in the Christian world.' 12 See Midrash ha-Gadol on Genesis 22:19 for Isaac's visit to Paradise, and Paaneah Raza, 29a, and Yalkut Reubeni, Va-yera, for the healing of his wound. See also Hadar Zekenim, 10b, and Minhat Yehudah, Toledot, Genesis 25:27. 13 Leviticus Rabbah 20:2. 14 See Spiegel, 1969, p.47, on Mekhilta de-R. Simeon ben Yohai (ed. D. Hoffmann) p.4. Spiegel refers to a quarter of a log of blood as 'the amount required to keep a man alive'. This is somewhat misleading, however. A quarter of a log (reviit) is equivalent to a volume of only 1 1/2 eggs, so the loss of this amount of blood is hardly dangerous to life. Spiegel, in a note, points out that certain Talmudic texts seem to say that a human being contains only one quarter-log of blood, an anatomical absurdity. An explanation given by Tosafot (Sotah 5a) is that this refers only to the heart's blood. Another explanation is that it is an infant that contains only one quarter-log of blood. These explanations are cited by Spiegel. But Isaac was not an infant, and it is unlikely that the Mekhilta means that Abraham drew Isaac's heart's blood. So the Mekhilta refers to a less serious wound than Spiegel suggests. The matter is not improved by Spiegel's translator's policy of sometimes referring to a quarter-log of blood as 'a quarter of his blood'. 15 Shibbolei ha-Leket, 9a-b. See also Spiegel, 1969, p.37, on Cambridge University Library MS Or. 1080, Box I:48, for the most explicit version. 16 Midrash ha-Gadol on Genesis 22:19: 'Though he did not die, Scripture regards Isaac as having died and his ashes having lain on the altar'. See also Sifra, ed. Weiss, p. 102c: 'God regards the ashes of Isaac as though they were piled upon the altar.'

{p. 192} 17 For example, Vermes, 1973, p.205-8, where passages referring to the actual shedding of blood are quoted alongside 'as if' passages. 18 See Kierkegaard, 1941. See also Simon, 1958. 19 See pp. 160ff.

7 Moses and Circumcision

The ceremony of passing between the severed halves of an animal was common in the ancient world, and among savage tribes in later times, as a means of ratifying an agreement or covenant (see Frazer, 1918, i, pp.391 428). The meaning of the rite is superficially, 'May I be severed like this animal if I break this agreement', but, more profoundly, the rite signifies the union between the two parties in the spiritual body of the sacrificed animal, as Frazer shows, building on the work of W. Robertson Smith. The only other Biblical example of the rite is in Jeremiah 34: 17-20. Abraham, while accepting God's promise to give him a son on trust, required a formal covenant to ratify God's promise of the Land, which involved a transfer of property from the Canaanites and therefore required unimpeachable title. Thus explained, there is perhaps something prosaic about the Covenant between the Pieces; but the ordeal suffered by Abraham in his watch and conflict with the swooping birds of prey has the atmosphere of an initiation ordeal (cf. Jacob's struggle with the angel). There is an interesting parallel to this in Virgil's account of the ordeal of Aeneas and his companions when their sacrifice of cattle to Jupiter was attacked by the female Harpies (Aeneid, iii, 219-57). This is a conflict between patriarchal god and supplanted female deities, whose curse, however, remains effective. Abraham's treaty with God, the father-god, for control of the Land also has to contend with the wrath of swooping female deities, representing the abrogated divine status of the Land itself, which has become a passive piece of property in the control of the father. Abraham fights off the last traces of goddess-worship in order to become the devotee of the fathergod, and enter into possession and control of the Promised Land. It is perhaps significant that the birds set aside for the sacrifice were 'not divided', and, in a sense, reappear as the attacking birds of prey. 2 See Morgenstern, 1963, pp.35 70, and Morgenstern, 1927, pp.51 4, where it is argued that Exodus 4:24 8 is derived from a Kenite source. Morgenstern holds, however, that circumcision was never a puberty rite. 3 See Mekhilta on Exodux 18:3, Exodus Rabbah, 5:8, Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim, 31b-32a. For Targumic, Apocryphal and other comments, see Vermes, 1973, pp.178 92. 4 Jubilees 48:1 4. 5 The verb pagash found here is usually translated as 'to meet', but Hosea 13:8 shows that it can have the meaning 'to attack'. The cognate verb paga can have the meaning 'to afflict with madness' in late Hebrew, but that this is the meaning here is only conjectural, and is not strictly necessary for the argument. 6 See Numbers 3:44-51. 7 See Wellhausen, 1957, pp.340-1. 8 See Bettelheim, 1955, pp.154-64, citing Australian myths about women originating circumcision with flint knives (see also Roheim, 1945, p.78). He also cites the case of Zipporah (p.159). See also Barton, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics iii, p.680. Gennep (1960), however, denies any sexual factor in circumcision, attributing the custom to the propensity of savages to chop off projecting portions of their body as identifying signs! 9 Bettelheim, 1955, pp. 159-64, cites various examples, including the Western Arunta. 10 See Frazer, 1907, pp. 220-1. 11 Most of the ancient Semites practised circumcision. Exceptions were the Babylonians and the Assyrians. The Philistines, a non-Semitic people, were uncircumcised. The rite is widespread in tribes of Africa, Australia and America. 12 The goddess Hera was not originally the wife of Zeus, but an independent goddess with a subordinate spouse, Heracles. Her marriage to Zeus represents a compromise between patriarchy and matriarchy, but their continual quarrels show that the arrangement was precarious. See Thomson, 1946, p.30. 13 See Yashar, Va-yera, 44a 47a; Yalkut, i, 98-9; Tanhuma, Va-yera, 23. 14 See I Maccabees 1:60 1, showing

{p. 193} circumcision by women in hard times. In the Falasha tribe of Ethiopia, circumcision is performed regularly by women.

8 The sacrifice of Jesus

1 For the 'Original Murder' by which agriculture came into being, see Campbell, 1962, p.4. 2 Koran, Sura 37:100-11 gives an account of the sacrifice of Abraham's son. Though the name Ishmael is not given here, the passage precedes the account given of the birth of Isaac (11213). Islamic tradition thus assumes that it was Ishmael who was the victim required by God. See Torrey, 1967, pp. 102 4. 3 See Crone & Cook, 1977, pp. 122-3, where it is argued that the doctrine of the Arabs as a holy nation coexisted with contrary notions. I cannot see, however, that Muslim ideas about converts differed from those of Judaism; both religions allow converts from any nation; converts become members of the holy nation. 4 See Maccoby, 1980, for arguments supporting this paragraph. 5 The doctrine of eternal torment for the wicked does not appear in the Old Testament. It first appears in Enoch (probably through Iranian influence). Ben Sira denies the doctrine (41:4), as did Jewish mainstream religion, except in the case of desperate sinners (Babylonian Talmud, Rosh ha-Shanah, 16b 17a). The doctrine of eternal torment features prominently in the New Testament (e.g. Luke 16:23, Matthew 13:42 and 50), and it became a dogma of the Church, elaborated by the scholastics. 6 See Braude, 1940. 7 See Frazer, 1957, ii, p.579, on the annual slaying of a priest as the embodiment of Attis, and ii, pp.768-75 for the divinity of the human sacrifices in Aztec religion. 8 See Maccoby, 1966. 9 See Frazer, 1957, ii, p. 643. 10 See Delehaye, 1912, pp.11ff. 11 The late Father Thomas Corbishley at a dialogue organized by the National Book League in London in 1973. 12 Galatians 2:21: 'If righteousness comes by law, then Christ died for nothing.' Galatians 3:13: 'Christ bought us freedom from the curse of the law.' 13 See Maccoby, 1980, pp.55-65, 97-8, 210-15. 14 See Mishnah, Pesahim 9:5. 15 See Sanders, 1977, pp.165-8; Moore, 1927, i, p.505. 16 Milgrom, 1981. 17 '. . . The backward half-look/Over the shoulder, towards the primitive terror.' T. 5. Eliot, 'The Dry Salvages'.

9 Christianity and Hellenistic religion

See Jacobs, 1964, pp.398-454. 2 That God suffers in sympathy with the sufferings of mankind, however, is a well-established Jewish doctrine (e.g. Bava Batra, 73b). This Jewish view, however, was denounced as blasphemous by Christian theologians (e.g. at the Disputation of Paris, 1240) as akin to the Patripassian heresy, the orthodox Christian view being that God the Father was 'impassible', and even the Son of God could suffer only in the flesh. See Maccoby, 1982. 3 Among those who have argued against the connection are, in ancient times, Justin Martyr and Tertullian, and, in modern times, Cardinal Newman, C. Colpe, W. D. Davies, W. Meeks, A. Schweitzer, G. H. C. MacGregor, H. G. Marsh, A. D. Nock W. Manson, C. A. A. Scott. Christians of the school of Bultmann, however, have affirmed the influence of mystery religion and Gnosticism on Christianity. 4 See Ezekiel 8:14: 'There sat women weeping for Tammuz.' See Frazer, 1907 p. 189. 5 See Frazer, The Golden Bough for the case of the priest of Diana at Nemi, which he relates to the deaths of Hippolytus, Adonis, Attis, all 'mortal youths who paid with their lives for the brief rapture of the love of an immortal goddess'. In practice, the consort of the earthly representative of the goddess was sacrificed yearly, e.g. at Iolcus, Thessaly; see Graves, 1952, p.127. 6 Plato, Gorgias 497c; Hippolytus, Philosophmena, 5, 8; Otto, 1940, pp.99-106; Campbell, 1969, pp.185-7. 8 See Reich, 1950. 9 See Cumont, 1903; Campbell, 1964, pp.255-61. 10 Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris Frazer 1907, pp.267-400; Campbell, 1969 pp.424-7. 11 Carmina, lxiii, 'Attis' (edition of W. Kroll, Leipzig, 1923). 12 Lucretius, ii, 598 sqq; Frazer, 1907, pp.217-65.

{p. 194} 13 Vellay, 1904; Frazer, 1907, pp. 3-216. 14 For example, Zoroastrianism regarded agriculture with the highest reverence. See Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics xii p.865. 15 M. Krause, 1964, pp.215-23. MacRae (1976, p.618) writes, 'The Nag Hammadi library cannot yet be said to prove conclusively the non-Christian origin of Gnosticism, but it adds a great deal of probability to this classic position.' 16 In Hellenistic thought, the expression 'Son of God' appears in the Logos philosophy. Plato (Timaeus) refers to the world-organism as 'the only-begotten son of God'. Philo uses the same expression about the Logos (De opificio mundi, 21). The expression was common in the soteriological cults, and was applied to charismatic cult-founders such as Apollonius of Tyana. It was also a title of the Roman emperors and of the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt. 17 For anti-Semitism in the Gnostic cults, see Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics ix p.500. 18 Judas of Galilee, Theudas and Athronges all go without mention in the Talmud. The sparse references to Jesus in the Talmud are responses to Christian missionary activity of the third and fourth centuries AD, and are not based on preserved traditions. 19 Acts 5:33-9. See Maccoby, 1980, pp.67-8, and (for Paul) pp.179-83. 20 See the Ebionite account of Paul quoted by Epiphanius, Heresies xxx 16. 21 Pelagius, a British monk (perhaps Welsh or Irish) came to Rome about AD 400 and attacked Augustine's views on Original Sin and the inefficacy of good works, on the ground that they precluded free will and the possibility of morality. Pelagius's views were condemned in 416, and Pelagius himself was excommunicated . 22 Marcion was excommunicated in AD 144. He regarded the God of the Old Testament as the Demiurge, an inferior and despotic god who had created the world and given the Torah, being a god of law, unlike the Highest God, who was a god of love. Jesus had been sent by the Highest God in order to overthrow the God of Judaism. 23 See Galatians 3: l9. 24 See Hatch, 1890, p.291f. Justin Martyr describes the Eucharist of the Mithras cult (Apology, i, 66). See also Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum, 40. See Robertson, 1911, p.307. 25 This view has been challenged in recent years (e.g. J. C. O'Neill, Paul's Letter to the Romans, 1975) but without justification. See the correspondence in Commentary, April 1477, pp.13-16. 26 The explanation is that of Rabbi Meir (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 46b). Another rabbinical interpretation is that the verse refers to the punishment of a blasphemer. The translation, on this view, would be: 'He is hanged on the tree because he cursed God.' Here, too, there is no question of the man himself suffering from a curse because he has been hanged; on the contrary, his punishment expiates his crime of cursing God. See Mishnah, Sanhedrin 6:4, and Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 45b. 27 Frazer, 1907, p.244.

10 Judas Iscariot

1 See Haugg, 1930; Lake, 1933; Wells, 1971, p. 13(); Maier, 1933. That Judas never betrayed Jesus was first proposed by Bruno Bauer, 1842, iii, pp.235ff. 2 Most scholars agree that John is the latest of the Gospels. See Smith, 1965. For the pseudepigraphic aspect of the Gospel, see discussions of John 21:2-1, e.g. Black, 1962. 3 See Maccoby, 1980, pp.201-3. 4 John 7:4. 5 See Galatians 1:29, where James is called the 'Lord's brother'. The theory of Joseph as an elderly widower with children first appears in the Protevangelium of James, and is current in the Eastem Churches. Another view is that James was Jesus's cousin; this is current in the Roman Catholic Church. 6 See Maccoby, 1980, pp.159-68. 7 Twins in mythology are Iphiclus, twin to Tirynthian Hercules; Pollux, twin to Castor; Lynceus, twin to Idas; Calais, twin to Zetes; Remus, twin to Romulus; Dempphoon, twin to Triptolemus; all these are associated with alternating or joint reigns over a kingdom. Cain and Abel are regarded as twins in Midrashic tradition. Other rival Biblical twins are Perez and Zarah, and Jacob and Esau. Sometimes the twins are portrayed as great friends, but deeper investigation reveals a grimmer reality. Thus Castor and Pollux

{p. 195} are companions in battle; but one is mortal, the other immortal, and as a compromise they spend six months alternately in Hades. This myth expresses an alternation of kings called altemately Castor and Pollux, each dying at the hand of the incoming king after a reign of six months. Of course, the identity of slayer and slain is an expression of primitive philosophy, not merely a way of escaping the guilt of homicide; for this aspect, see Campbell, 1964, p.235. 8 In the Acts of Thomas, Judas Thomas is regarded as the twin of Jesus. 9 For Nebuchadnezzar as God's instrument, see, for example, Jeremiah 19:21-3. 10 A much more likely etymology of 'Iscariot' is from the Latin sicarius, ('knifeman') a name given to a group of revolutionaries. This is supported by the fact that in some MSS, Judas is called Judas Zelotes, i.e. Judas the Zealot (Latin MSS of Matthew 10:3, and Sahidic version of John 14:22). 11 Propp, 1958. 12 Kermode, 1979, pp.84-95. 13 See Maccoby, April 1980. 14 By the ransom theory of atonement held by Hilary of Poitiers, Augustine, etc., Satan had acquired rights over man through the Fall of Adam. The death of Christ acted as a ransom. The trick consisted of deceiving Satan into thinking that Jesus was only human, so that when Satan accepted Jesus's death as ransom for humanity, he did not realize that Jesus would escape death by resurrection. This 'deception' theory was first advanced by Gregory of Nyssa, and was accepted by Augustine, Gregory the Great, Bernard ot Clairvaux and Peter Lombard. Peter Lombard describes the Cross as a mousetrap baited by the blood of Jesus. 15 See Maccoby, 1970, pp.65-7. 16 There is also a non-mythical, sectarian aspect of the treachery of Judas, an aspect that it shares with the milder treachery of Peter and with the crass incomprehension portrayed in the other disciples. The Gospels were written by Paulinists, who supported Paul in his quarrel with the Jerusalem elders - survivors of Jesus's original band of Apostles. A denigration of that band, therefore, served Paulinist purposes. It may even be that this historical motif was the germ out of which the mythic role of Judas developed. 17 For the identity of sacrificer and sacrificed, see the mythical case of Odin (Frazer, 1907, p.244), and the actual cases of divine kings who, at the end of their term, cut themselves to pieces: 'He takes some sharp knives, and begins to cut off his nose, and then his ears, and his lips, and all his members, and as much flesh off himself as he can; and he throws it away very hurriedly until so much of his blood is spilled that he begins to faint, and then he cuts his throat himself' (Frazer, 1957, p.362).

11 The role of the Jews in the New Testament

1 See Matthew 8:12: 'Those who were born to the kingdom will be driven out into the dark, the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth.' See Eusebius, Demonstratio Evangelica, 1:1; Hippolytus, Contra Judaeos, 6; Augustine, Adversus Judaeos 5(6), 7(10); ibid., De Civitate Dei, xvii, 19 and xviii, 46, etc.; Justin Martyr, Dialogue 16; Tertullian, Adversus Judaeos 3; Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, ii, 16:1. See Ruether, 1974, pp. 144-9. 2 The Romans are referred to in the Scrolls under the name Kittim (or Chittim), taken from the Biblical prophecies (e.g. Daniel 11:3()). This name had previously been applied to the Macedonian Greeks; see I Maccabees 1:1. 3 See Maccoby, 1980, pp.45, 70, 154-7. 4 See ibid., 1980, pp.l9-20, 160-4. 5 Romans 13: 1. 6 Black (1962), however, asserts the genuineness of the passage as follows: 'Paul's strong words are perfectly explicable as an outburst of exasperation . . . The Jews . . . were beginning to show their teeth.' 7 See Maccoby, 1980, pp. 117-18 and pp.217-18. 8 See Dodd, 1961, pp.4-5. 9 See Maccoby, 1976. 10 See Ruether, 1475, pp.90-5. See Mark 12:1-l2 (the 'Parable of the Vineyard'), and parallels e.g. Acts 7:51-2, and Matthew 23:29-35. The accusation that the Jews killed nearly all their prophets seems to be an exaggeration of IIChronicles 36:16, 'misused His prophets' and of Nehemiah 9:26 'and they killed Thy prophets'. Extra-Biblical tradition represented some of the rophets as having

{p. 196} suffered martyrdom, e.g. Isaiah, at the hands of Menasseh. This was a reflection of the preoccupation with martyrdom during the Hellenistic period (see Fischel, 1947). The New Testament picture, however, cannot be fully explained on these lines; as Ruether argues, it is motivated by Christian theology. 11 See Ruether, 1974, pp.124-31, 'Jewish History as a Trail of Crimes', citing Lactantius, Eusebius, Aphrahat, Chrysostom, Prudentius, Ephrem, Augustine. 12 See Ruether, 1974, pp. 133-4, citing Aphrahat ('the father of the Jews was not Abraham, but Cain'), Ephrem ('the Jews stand among the nations ashamed, as Cain was, at their unnatural deed'), Tertullian, Chrysostom, Augustine. 13 See Maccoby, 1980, pp.13-21, 159-68. 14 See Maccoby (1968) for the view that Barabbas, called Jesus Barabbas in some MSS, was the same person as Jesus of Nazareth, but split off in the Gospels in order to obviate the awkward fact that the Jerusalem crowd called for Jesus's release. See also Maccoby, 1980, p.164. 15 The draft prepared by Cardinal Bea in 1960 was 'unrecognizably watered down' (Hans Wirtz) in the versions of 1964 and 1965. The sentence clearing the Jews of 'deicide' was omitted in the final version of 1965, on the insistence of Arab clergy (who saw in it a legitimation of Israel) and of Eastern Orthodox and conservative Catholic clergy (who thought it contradicted the Gospel account). See Gilbert, 1968, p. 179. The expression 'wicked generation' is used in the 'Explanations' of the changes made in the final version. (Gilbert, 1968, Appendix E). In the 'Explanations', too, the view that the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem was a punishment for the death of Jesus was reaffirmed. 16 Ruether, 1974, p.113.

12 The Church and the Jews

1 See Hare, 1967, pp.20-43; Barkes, 1934, pp.121-51. 2 See Hare, 1967, pp.20-30; Simon, 1958; Gealy, F. D., Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible 'Stephen', iv, pp.441-2. 3 Ruether, 1974, p.88. 4 See Hare, 1967, pp.130-45. 5 For the abusive Adversus Judaeos tradition in the Church, see Williams, 1935; Ruether, 1974, ch. 3; Heer, 1967, ch 5; Flannery, 1965, pp.39-63; Hay, 1950, ch. 1. 6 Origen, On Psalm xxxvii, PG. xii. p. 1322. 7 Psalms 37:12: 'The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.' 8 Parkes, 1934, pp.l25-50. 9 Harnack, 1908, i, pp.58ff. See Parkes, 1934, p. 125. 10 See Strack, 1909; Baron, xi, pp.146-57; Trachtenberg, 1966, chs. 9-10. 11 See Strack, 1909, p.34, quoting Paschasius Radbertus and Germanus. 12 Strack, 1909, from Regensburg, 1880, ii, p.270. 13 Paris, 1872-83, v, p.518. See Trachtenberg, 1966, p.131. 14 Josephus, Contra Apionem 2:89-102. 15 'In spite of her own origin, she disliked Jews, and rarely neglected a chance to maltreat them.' Adams, 1905, p.263. 16 See Matthew 25:31~6: 'When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory; and before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats . . . And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.' See also Mark 8:38, Matthew 16:27, Luke 9:26. See Henry Adams, 1905, pp.249-81, on the fear of Jesus as Judge, and the recourse to Mary as intercessor; he quotes Peter Abelard, 'All of us who fear the wrath of the Judge, fly to the Judge's mother, who is compelled to sue for us, and stands in the place of a mother to the guilty.' 17 Adams, 1905, p.251. 18 De Rougemont, 1956. 19 See Trachtenberg, 1966, ch. 3, 'With Horns and Tail', especially p.50. 20 The hymn 'Gaude Maria' contains these words: 'Erubescat Judaeus infelix, qui dicit Christum Joseph semine esse natum.' 21 The ballad is 'Sir Hugh, or the Jew's Daughter', Child, 1882-98, iii, p.233 (no.155). See Child's valuable introduction to this ballad 22 See Trachtenberg, 1966, p.l29; Starr, 1939, pp.22ff., p.202. No.149; Roth, 1943, p. 102; Starr, 1942, pp.68, 74ff. Starr, in the last citation, describes the graciousness of the Doge of Venice, who, while refusing to relieve the Jewish executioner of his

{p. 197} duties, excused him from officiating on Sabbaths and festivals.

13 The Sacred Executioner in the modern world

See Maccoby, 1970 (2). 2 Exodus 22:24. 3 Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzi'a, 70b-71a. See Stein, 1955. 4 See Baron, 1967, xii, pp.69-197; Roth 1943, ch. 19. 5 See Maccoby, 1976 (2). 6 See Gaer, 1961; Rosenberg, 1961; Anderson, 1965. 7 For example, Werner Sombart, who argued that the alleged desert philosophy of the Jews was responsible for modern capitalism. See Sombart, 1913, pp.324 51, where all the ingredients of this type of anti-Semitic theory can be found. 8 See Rosenberg, 1961, pp.320-4. 9 As argued above (p.137), this attitude was initiated by Paul in Romans 11:28, 'they are treated as enemies for your sake' . This is called by Paul a 'secret', or 'mystery'. Modern exponents of the view are Leon Bloy, Nicholas Berdyaev and Malcolm Muggeridge. There has been a temptation to some Jews to accept the offer of this role as awesome, wandering bearers of the guilt of mankind (e.g. Disraeli, George Steiner, Leo Abse), since such a romantic posture seems preferable to the boring, if realistic, position of being the irritated victim of paranoid fantasies. 10 See Shelley's Queen Mab, Carlto vii, and Hellas; also his earlier treatment of the theme in St Iroyne and 'The Victim of the Eternal Avenger'. See Maccoby, 1969. 12 See Cohn, 1967. 13 See Bousset, 1893; ibid., 1908; ibid., 1947; Preuss, 1906. 14 See Roth, 1963; Adler, 1930; Encyclopaedia Judaica, xiv pp.114-16. 15 See Baron, 1957, iv, ch. 21; Poliakov, 1974, i, Part Two. 16 See Bousset, 1947, p.61. 17 Irenaeus, Adoersus Haereses, v Hippolytus, de Antichristo and Commentary on Daniel; Lactantius, Divinae Institutiones, vii 14ff. 18 See Bauer, 1978, p.36.

14 Theoretical problems and conclusions

1 In The Golden Bough, Frazer shows the affinities between the myths of Hippolytus, Adonis, Attis, Dionysus, Osiris, etc. and the rites of human sacrifice of sacred kings, incarnate gods, scapegoats (or their substitutes) and the folk-customs in which human sacrifice is symbolically performed. 2 Kirk, 1974, p.247. 3 There is a resemblance between the slaying of Neoptolemus for eating sacrificial meat and the slaying of the bull in the Bouphonia for eating sacrificial corn. 4 See chapter 2, n. 12. 5 See Charbonnier, 1969, p.33. 6 See Joseph Campbell's Introduction to Bachofen, 1967, pp .xxxi-xxxii. 7 See the massive evidence collected by Schmidt, 1912-55. For a useful summary of Schmidt's work, scc Campbell, 1969, pp.318-23. 8 See Frankl, not yet published (which I have had the privilege of seeing in MS).

{end of quotes}

Arnold J. Toynbee write on Human Sacrifice in Phoenician/Canaanite/Hebrew civilization:

A Study of History VOLUME XII RECONSIDERATIONS (OUP, London 1961):

{p. 424} Human sacrifice was an atrocity of Syria's own. If it had ever been practised in Sumer and Akkad or in Egypt, it was extinct there in historical times. The Assyrians were innocent of it. The slaughter and torture of which they were guilty had no religious sanction or excuse. In the Syriac World, both at home and overseas, human sacrifice was practised as a last resort in a public crisis. In the ninth century B.C. King Mesha of Moab sacrificed his eldest son on the wall of his capital city when the combined forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom were at the gates. In similar circumstances King Ahaz of Judah 'caused his son to pass through the fire' when Jerusalem was being besieged by the combined forces of Damascus and Israel in the eighth century. King Manasseh of Judah - Hezekiah's son and Josiah's

{p. 425} grandfather - 'made his son to pass through the fire' without, as far as we know, having Mesha's and Ahaz's occasion for performing the rite.

{end} More at toynbee.html.

Maccoby's depiction of Jesus as a Jew (not a Christian) is common among Jewish writers; Robert Eisenman takes the same line. S. G. F. Brandon likewise: jewish-revolt.html.

Whereas Brandon emphasises the Jewishness of the early Christians, F. Gerald Downing stresses their non-Jewish features, specifically the Cynic parallels to the Gospels.
"Maybe Matthew would better be seen as a deliberate combination of Cynic with Jewish strands, for a mixed Christian community":  downing.html.

Adolf von Harnack on the development of early Christian theology, plus a study of Philo's impact: philo.html.

The Sacred Executioner is out of print; second-hand copies are rare and expensive. Try Abebooks:
or Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0500012814/qid%3D991431969/t/102-8240555-7012117

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