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Sacrifice




SACRIFICE. The Latin word sacrificium, from which we have the English " sacrifice," properly means an action within the sphere of things sacred to the gods, so that "sacrificial" and "hierurgic" are synonymous, and, strictly speaking, cover the whole field of sacred ritual. By the Romans, as by all ancient or primitive nations, the gods were habitually approached with gifts, and the presentation of the gift, being the central feature in every ordinary act of worship, is regarded as the sacrifice proper. In all parts of the world, moreover, for reasons which will appear by and by, the stated gifts by which the gods are honoured in private worship or public feasts are drawn from the stores on which human life is supported,—fruits, grain, wine, oil, the flesh of animals, and the like. All gifts of this kind, which are not merely presented to the god but consumed in his service, fall under the notion of sacrifice, while permanent votive offerings of treasure, lands, temples, images, or the like, not forming part of any stated ritual, are excluded. But again, where we find a practice of sacrificing honorific gifts to the gods, we usually find also certain other sacrifices which resemble those already char-acterized inasmuch as something is given up by the wor-shippers to be consumed in sacred ceremony, but differ from them inasmuch as the sacrifice—usually a living victim— is not regarded as a tribute of honour to the god, but has a special atoning or mystic significance. The most familiar case of this second species of sacrifice is that which the Romans distinguished from the hostia honoraria by the name of hostia piacularis. In the former case the deity accepts a gift; in the latter he demands a life. The former kind of sacrifice is offered by the worshipper on the basis of an established relation of friendly dependence on his divine lord; the latter is directed to appease the divine anger, or to conciliate the favour of a deity on whom the worshipper has no right to count. The precise scope of sacrifices not merely honorific will appear more clearly in the sequel; for the history of religion this second kind of sacrifice has a very peculiar importance, as may be judged from the fact that the ordinary metaphorical use of " sacrifice " in English answers not to the notion of a " gift" but to that of " reluctant surrender."

Honorific Sacrifices naturally hold the chief place in all natural (as opposed to positive) religions that have reached the stage in which orthodox ritual is differentiated from sorcery (comp. PRIEST, vol. xix. p. 724), and in which the relations between the gods and their worshippers are con-ceived as being of a fixed and habitually friendly character, so that the acts by which a continuance of divine favour can be secured are known by well-established tradition and regularly practised with full confidence in their efficacy. Religions of this type unite the god to a definite circle of worshippers forming a natural unity, so that every man's birth or political and social status determines at once what god he is called upon to worship and may confidently look to for help. Religions of this sort, therefore, are mainly tribal or national, and the deity is regarded as a king, or, if there are several gods worshipped by the same circle, they are lords and ladies and are naturally to be honoured in the same way as earthly grandees. Thus among the Hebrews, whose early institutions afford a typical example of a national religion, the fundamental rule is that no one is to appear before Jehovah empty-handed (Exod. xxiii. 15), just as it would be indecent (and in the East is still indecent) to approach a king or great man without some present, however trifling. In like manner Homer teaches that gods and kings alike are persuaded by gifts. A special request will naturally be accompanied by a special gift proportioned to the occasion or by a vow to be fulfilled when the prayer is heard; but apart from this the general goodwill whether of god or king falls to be acknowledged and secured by offerings renewed from time to time by way of tribute or homage. Thus in Hebrew the word minha means alike "gift," "tribute," and "sacrificial obla-tion," especially an oblation of agricultural produce. For in a simple agricultural society payments in kind, whether to a divine or to a human lord, would naturally consist for the most part of the fruits of the soil; and with this it agrees that not only in Canaan but among the Greeks there is evidence that cereal oblations had a great place in early ritual, though they afterwards became second in importance to animal sacrifices, which yielded a more luxurious sacrificial banquet, and also, as we shall see, derived a peculiar significance from the shedding of the victim's blood. In almost all nations we find that the chief sacrificial feasts are associated with the harvest and the vintage, or, where pastoral life predominates, are re-gulated by the time at which the flocks bear their young (comp. PASSOVER) ; at these seasons tribute of firstfruits and firstlings is paid to the gods of the good things which they themselves have given to the inhabitants of their land. This conception of sacrifice may go with very various views of the nature of the gods and of religion. It may go with the idea that the god has need of the worshipper and his gifts just as the worshipper has need of the god and his help, and thus with a matter-of-fact business-like people like the Romans religion may become very much a sort of bargain struck with the gods. But, on the other hand, it is quite possible that sacrifices may continue to be offered by men who have ceased to believe that the deity has any need of what man can give, simply because such gifts are in ordinary life the natural expression of respect and homage and no fitter and more expressive way of giving utterance to the same feelings towards the gods has been devised. Thus the Hebrews continued to offer sacrifices to Jehovah long after they knew that "if He were hungry He would not tell man, for the world was His and the fulness thereof." But when this standpoint is reached sacrifice becomes a merely conventional way of expressing religious feeling; the ritual becomes a simple affair of tradition, which may, as in the Levitical legislation, be based on an express divine command ; and those who are not content with the authority of tradition as a sufficient proof that the gods love to be honoured in this way take refuge in some allegorical explanation of the ceremonial. In general, however, we find an extraordinary persistence of the notion that sacrifices do in some way afford a phy-sical satisfaction to the deity. If they do not feed him, he is at least gratified by their odour. Neither the Greek philosophers nor the Jewish rabbins ever quite got rid of this idea.

But in fact the notion that the more ethereal elements of the sacrifice rise to heaven, the seat of the gods, in the savoury smoke that ascends from the sacrificial flame can in certain instances be shown to be connected with a later development of sacrifice. Among the Semites, for ex-ample, sacrifices were not originally burned. The god was not seated aloft, but was present at the place of sacri-fice, inhabiting a sacred stone (a baetylium, beth-el, or " house of god "), which answered at once to the later idol and the later altar. That the god was thought by the heathen Semites to inhabit the sacred stone, or in other cases a sacred tree, is expressly recorded of several Arabian sanctuaries, and it cannot be doubted that this was the general view wherever there was a masseba (sacred cippus) or an ashera (sacred pole or tree). And in these cases the gift of the worshipper was not, in the more primitive cults, consumed by fire, but the sacred stone was daubed with oil or blood, libations of milk, of blood, or of wine were poured forth beside it, cereal gifts were presented by being simply laid on the sacred ground, and slaughtered victims were left there to be devoured by wild beasts (Sprenger, Leb. Moh., iii. 457), or even a human sacrifice was offered by burying the victim under the cippus. Sacrifices of this type are found not only throughout the Semitic field but in all parts of the world ; they belong to the same category with the Hebrew showbread and the Roman lectisternia. In later times the food spread on the tables of the god is eaten by his ministers, the priests, to whom he is supposed to make over the enjoyment of the banquet; but this is a refinement on the original usage. In older times the gods themselves were held to partake of these gifts of food, just as the venerable dead were fed by the meat and drink placed or poured out upon their tombs. In the religions of savages both gods and the dead have very material needs, among which the need of nourishment has the first place; and just as we learn from the story of Periander and Melissa (Herod., v. 92) that among the Greeks of the 7th century B.C. it was a new idea that the dead could make no use of the gifts buried with them unless they were etherealized by fire, so also the fact that among the Greeks, especially in old times, sacrifices to water-gods were simply flung into the river or the sea, and sacrifices to underground gods were buried, indicates that it is a secondary idea that the gods were too ethereal to enjoy a sacrifice through any other sense than that of smell. Even the highest antique religions show by unmistakable signs that in their origin sacrifices were literally " the food of the gods." In Israel the conception against which the author of Psalm 1. protests so strongly was never eliminated from the ancient technical language of the priestly ritual, in which the sacri-fices are called dTfPK Dl"6, "food of the deity" (Lev. xxi. 8, 17, 21); and among the Greeks we find not only such general expressions as that the gods " feast on hecatombs " (II., ix. 531) but even that particular gods bear special surnames, such as "the goat-eater," the "ram-eater," " Dionysus the eater of raw (human) flesh" (______, ______, _____).

A sacrifice, therefore, is primarily a meal offered to the deity. In some of the cases already noticed, and in the case of holocausts or whole burnt-offerings, the sacrificial gift is entirely made over to the god; but ordinarily the sacrifice is a feast of which gods and worshippers partake together. If all sacrifices are not convivial entertainments, at least the tendency is to give to all feasts, nay to all meals, a sacrificial character by inviting the gods to partake of them (Athenasus, v. 19). Thus the Roman family never rose from supper till a portion of the food had been laid on the burning hearth as an offering to the Lares (Serv., _____., i. 730; Ovid, Fast., ii. 633); and a similar practice was probably followed in early Greece. At all events the slaughter of an animal (which gave the meal a more luxurious and festal character, animal food being not in daily use with the mass of the agricultural populations of the Mediterranean lands) seems to have been always sacrificial in early Greece, and even in later times St Paul assumes that the flesh sold in the shambles would often consist of ______. Among the Semites sacrifice and slaughter for food are still more clearly identified; the Hebrews use the same word for both, and the Arabian invocation of the name of Allah over every beast killed for food is but the relic of a sacrificial formula. The part of the gods in such sacrificial meals was often very small, the blood alone (Arabia), or the fat and the thighs (II., i. 460), or small parts of each joint (Od., xiv. 427), or the blood, the fat, and the kidneys (Lev. iii.). When the sacrifice was offered by a priest, he also naturally received a portion, which, properly speaking, belonged to the deity and was surrendered by him to his minister, as is brought out in the Hebrew ritual by the ceremonial act of waving it towards the altar (Lev. vii. 29 sq.). The thigh, which in Homeric sacrifice is burned on the altar, belongs in the Levitical ritual to the priest, who was naturally the first to profit by the growth of a conviction that the deity himself did not require to be fed by man's food.

The conception of the sacrifice as a banquet in which gods and men share together may be traced also in the accessories of sacred ritual. Music, song, garlands, the sweet odour of incense, accompany sacrifice because they are suitable to an occasion of mirth and luxurious enjoy-ment. Wine, too, "which cheereth gods and men" (Judges ix. 13), was seldom lacking in the vine-growing countries ; but the most notable case where the sacrificial feast has the use of an intoxicant (or narcotic) as its chief feature is the ancient soma sacrifice of the old Aryans, where the gods are honoured by bowls of the precious draught which heals the sick, inspires the poet, and makes the poor believe that he is rich.
The sacrificial meal, with the general features that have been described, may be regarded as common to all the so-called nature-religions of the civilized races of antiquity, —religions which had a predominantly joyous character, and in which the relations of man to the gods were not troubled by any habitual and oppressive sense of human guilt, because the divine standard of man's duty corre-sponded broadly with the accepted standard of civil con-duct, and therefore, though the god might be angry with his people for a time, or even irreconcilably wroth with individuals, the idea was hardly conceivable that he could be permanently alienated from the whole circle of his worshippers,—that is, from all who participated in a certain local (tribal or national) cult. But when this type of religion began to break down the sacrificial ritual underwent corresponding modifications. Thus we find a decline of faith in the old gods accompanied, not only by a grow-ing neglect of the temples and their service, but also by a disposition to attenuate the gifts that were still offered, or to take every opportunity to cheat the gods out of part of their due,—a disposition of which Arabia before Mohammed affords a classical example. But, again, the decline of faith itself was not a mere product of indiffer-ence, but was partly due to a feeling that the traditional ritual involved too material a conception of the gods, and this cause, too, tended to produce modifications in sacri-ficial service. The Persians, for example (Herod., i. 132; Strabo, xv. p. 732), consecrated their sacrifices with liturgical prayers, but gave no part of the victim to the deity, who "desired nothing but the life (or soul) of the victim." This, indeed, is the Roman formula of piacular as distinct from honorific offerings (Macrob., iii. 5, 1), and might be taken as implying that the Persians had ceased to look on sacrifices as gifts of homage; but such an explanation can hardly be extended to the parallel case of the Arab sacrifices, in which the share of the deity was the blood of the victim, which according to antique belief contained the life. For among the Arabs blood was a recognized article of food, and the polemic of Ps. 1. 13 is expressly directed against the idea that the deity " drinks the blood of goats." And the details given in Strabo make it tolerably clear that Persian sacrifice is simply an example of the way in which the material gift offered to the deity is first attenuated and then allegorized away as. the conception of the godhead becomes less crassly mate-rial. But on the other hand it is undoubtedly true that under certain conditions the notion of piacular sacrifice shows much greater vitality than that of sacrificial gifts of homage. When a national religion is not left to slow decay, but shares the catastrophe of the nation itself, as was the case with the religions of the small western Asiatic states in the period of Assyrian conquest, the old joyous confidence in the gods gives way to a sombre sense of divine wrath, and the acts by which this wrath can be conjured become much more important than the ordinary traditional gifts of homage. To this point we must return by and by.

It appears, then, that in the old national nature-religions the ordinary exercises of worship take the form of meals offered to the gods, and usually of banquets at which gods and worshippers sit down together, so that the natural bond of unity between the deity and his subjects or children is cemented by the bond of "bread and salt"— salt is a standing feature in the sacrifices of many races (comp. Lev. ii. 13)—to which ancient and unsophisticated peoples attach so much importance. That the god is habitually willing to partake of the banquet offered to him is taken for granted ; but, if anything has occurred to alienate his favour, he will show it by his conduct at the feast, by certain signs known to experts, that indicate his refusal of the offered gift. Hence the custom of inspect-ing the exta of the victim, watching the behaviour of the sacrificial flame, or otherwise seeking an omen which proves that the sacrifice is accepted, and so that the deity may be expected to favour the requests with which the gift is associated.

In the religions which we have been characterizing all the ordinary functions of worship are summed up in these sacrificial meals; the stated and normal intercourse between gods and men has no other form. God and worshippers make up together a society of commensals, and every other point in their reciprocal relations is included in what this involves. Now, with this we must take the no less certain fact that throughout the sphere of the purely sacrificial religions the circle of common worship is also the circle of social duty and reciprocal moral obligations. And thus the origin of sacrificial worship must be sought in a stage of society when the circle of commensals and the circle of persons united to each other by sacred social bonds were identical. But all social bonds are certainly de-veloped out of the bond of kindred, and it will be generally admitted that all national religions are developments or combinations of the worship of particular kins. It would seem, therefore, that the world-wide prevalence of sacrificial worship points to a time when the kindred group and the group of commensals were identical, and when, conversely, people of different kins did not eat and drink together.

At first sight it might appear that this amounts to the proposition that all religious and civil societies of antiquity have the family as their type, and that the type of sacrifice is such a family meal as is found among the Romans. And this view would seem to be favoured by the frequent occurrence among ancient peoples of the conception that the deity is the father (progenitor and lord) of his worshippers, who in turn owe filial obedience to him and brotherly duty to one another. But in the present stage of research into the history of early society it is by no means legitimate to assume that the family, with a father at its head, is the original type of the circle of commensals. It is impossible to separate the idea of commensality from the fact so constantly observed in primitive nations, that each kindred has certain rules about forbidden food which mark it off from all other kindreds. And in a very large proportion of cases kindred obligations, religion, and laws of forbidden food combine to divide a child from his father's and unite him to his mother's kin, so that father and sons are not commensals. It is noteworthy that family meals are by no means so universal an institution as might be imagined a priori. At Sparta, for example, men took their regular meals not with their wives and. children but in syssitia or pheiditia; and a similar organization of nations in groups of commensals which are not family groups is found in other places (Crete, Carthage, &c). The marked and fundamental similarity between sacrificial worships in all parts of the globe makes it very difficult to doubt that they are all to be traced back to one type of society, common to primitive man as a whole. But the nearest approximation to a primitive type of society yet known is that based not on the family but on the system of totem stocks; and as this system not only fulfils all the conditions for the formation of a sacrificial worship, but presents the conception of the god and his worshippers as a circle of commensals in its simplest and most intelligible form, it seems reasonable to look to it for additional light on the whole subject. In totemism and in no other system laws of forbidden food have a direct religious interpretation and form the principal criterion by which the members of one stock and religion are marked off from all their neighbours. For the totem is usually an animal (less often a plant); the kindred is of the stock of its totem; and to kill or eat the sacred animal is an impiety of the same kind with that of killing and eating a tribesman. To eat the totem of a strange stock, on the other hand, is legitimate, and for one totem group to feast on the carcase of a hostile totem is to express their social and religious particularism in the most effective and laudable way, to honour their own totem and to cast scorn on that of the enemy. The importance attached to the religious feast of those who have the same laws about food, and are therefore habitual commensals, is more intelligible on this system than on any other.





Though the subject has not been completely worked out, there is a good deal of evidence, both from social and from religious phenomena, that the civilized nations of antiquity once passed through the totem stage (see FAMILY and MYTHOLOGY) ; it is at least not doubtful that even in the historical period sacred animals and laws of forbidden food based on the sacredness of animals, in a way quite analo-gous to what is found in totemism, were known among all these nations. Among the Egyptians the whole organiza-tion of the local populations ran on totem lines, the different villages or districts being kept permanently apart by the fact that each had its own sacred animal or herb, and that one group worshipped what another ate. And the sacri-ficial feast on the carcase of a hostile totem persisted down to a late date, as we know from Plutarch (Is. et Osir., p. 380 ; comp. Alex. Polyh., ap. Eus., ____. Ev., lx. p. 432; Diod. Sic, i. 89). Among the Semites there are many relics of totem religion; and, as regards the Greeks, so acute an observer as Herodotus could hardly have imagined that a great part of Hellenic religion was borrowed from Egypt if the visible features of the popular worship in the two countries had really belonged to entirely different types. To suppose that the numerous associations between particular deities and corresponding sacred animals which are found in Greece and other advanced countries are merely symbolical is a most unscientific assumption; especially as the symbolic interpretation could not fail to be introduced as a harmonizing expedient where, through the fusion of older deities under a common name (in connexion with the political union of kindreds), one god came to have several sacred animals. But originally even in Greece each kin had its own god or in later language its hero; so in Attica the Crioeis have their hero Crius (Ram), the Butadse have Butas (Bullman), the Aegidae have Aegeus (Goat), and the Cynidae Cynus (Dog). Such heroes are real totem ancestors; Lycus, for example, had his statue in wolf form at the Lyceum. The feuds of clans are represented as contests between rival totems: Lycus the wolf flees the country before iEgeus the goat, and at Argos, where the wolf-god (Apollo Lycius) was introduced by Danaus, the struggle by which the sovereignty of the Danaids was established was set forth in legend and picture as following on the victory of a wolf (representing Danaus) over a bull (representing the older sovereignty of Gelanor); see Paus., ii. 19, 3 sq. That Apollo's sacrifices were bulls and rams is therefore natural enough; at the sanctuary of the wolf-Apollo at Sicyon indeed legend pre-served the memory of a time when flesh was actually set forth for the wolves, as totem-worshippers habitually set forth food for their sacred animals,—though by a touch of the later rationalism which changed the wolf-god into Apollo the wolf-slayer (Lycoctonus) the flesh was said to have been poisoned by Apollo's direction in a way that even theological experts did not understand (Paus., ii. 9, 7). Such clear traces of the oldest form of sacrifice are neces-sarily rare, but the general facts that certain animals might not be sacrificed to certain gods, while on the other hand each deity demanded particular victims, which the ancients themselves explained in certain cases to be hostile animals, find their natural explanation in such a stage of religion as has just been characterized. The details are difficult to follow out, partly because most worships of which we know much were syncretistic, partly because the animals which the gods loved and protected were in later times often confused with the victims they desired, and partly because piacular and mystical sacrifices were on principle (as we shall see by and by) chosen from the class of victims that might not be used for the feasts of the gods. A single example, therefore, must here suffice to close this part of the subject. At Athens the goat might not be offered to the Athena on the Acropolis. Now according to legend Athena's worship was made Panathenaic by the Aegidae or goat clan, and Athena herself was represented clad in the eegis or goat-skin, an attribute which denotes that she too was of the goat kin or rather had been taken into that kin when her worship was introduced among them.

Generally speaking, then, the original principle on which a sacrificial meal is chosen is that men may not eat what cannot be offered to their god (generalized in later syncretism to the rule that men may not eat things that can be offered to no god; Julian, Orat., v. p. 176 C); and that, conversely, acceptable offerings are the things which are eaten by predilection by that divine animal which in later times became the sacred symbol of the anthropomorphic god, or else victims are to be chosen which are sacred among a hostile tribe. The two principles may often coincide. Fierce mountain tribes who live mainly by harrying their neighbours in the plain will be wolves, lions, bears, while their enemies will naturally worship bulls, sheep, goats, like the Troglodytes on the Red Sea, who "gave the name of parent to no human being but to the bull and the cow, the ram and the ewe, because from them they had their daily nourishment" (Strabo, xvi. 4); and thus in cases like that of Argos the ultimate shape of the ritual may throw important light on the character of the early population. When by conquest or otherwise two such originally hostile nations are fused the opposing animal symbols will ultimately be found in friendly association : e.g., Artemis (in her various forms) is associated both with carnivora and with stags or domestic animals. The former is the original conception, as her sacrifices show. She is therefore, like the wolf-Apollo, originally the deity of a wild hunting tribe, or rather various carnivorous deities of such tribes have coalesced in her.

Human Sacrifices.—From these observations the tran-sition is easy to those human sacrifices which are not piacular. It is perfectly clear in many cases that such sacrifices are associated with cannibalism, a practice which always means eating the flesh of men of alien and hostile kin. The human wolves would no more eat a brother than they would eat a wolf; but to eat an enemy is another matter. Naturally enough traces of cannibalism persist in religion after they have disappeared from ordinary life, and especially in the religion of carnivorous gods. Thus it may be conjectured that the human sacrifices offered to the wolf-Zeus (Lycseus) in Arcadia were originally can-nibal feasts of a wolf tribe. The first participants in the rite were according to later legend changed into wolves (Lycaon and his sons); and in later times, as appears by comparing Plato (Rep., viii. 15) with Pausanias (viii. 2), at least one fragment of the human flesh was placed among the sacrificial portions derived from other victims, and the man who ate it was believed to become a were-wolf. All human sacrifices where the victim is a captive or other foreigner may be presumed to be derived from cannibal feasts ; but a quite different explanation is required for the cases, which are by far more numerous among people no longer mere savages, in which a father sacrifices his child or a tribe its fellow-tribesman. This case belongs to the head of piacular sacrifices.

Piacular Sacrifices.—Among all primitive peoples there are certain offences against piety (especially bloodshed within the kin) which are regarded as properly inexpiable; the offender must die or become an outlaw. Where the god of the kin appears as vindicator of this law he demands the life of the culprit; if the kinsmen refuse this they share the guilt. Thus the execution of a criminal assumes the character of a religious action. If now it appears in any way that the god is offended and refuses to help his people, it is concluded that a crime has been committed and not expiated. This neglect must be repaired, and, if the true culprit cannot be found or cannot be spared, the worshippers as a whole bear the guilt until they or the guilty man himself find a substitute. The idea of substitution is widespread through all early religions, and is found in honorific as well as in piacular rites; the Romans, for example, substituted models in wax or dough for victims that could not be procured according to the ritual, or else feigned that a sheep was a stag (cervaria ovis) and the like. In all such cases the idea is that the substitute shall imitate as closely as is possible or convenient the victim whose place it supplies; and so in piacular ceremonies the god may indeed accept one life for another, or certain select lives to atone for the guilt of a whole community, but these lives ought to be of the guilty kin, just as in blood-revenge the death of any kinsman of the manslayer satisfies justice. Hence such rites as the Semitic sacrifices of children by their fathers (see MOLOCH), the sacrifice of Iphigeneia and similar cases among the Greeks, or the offering up of boys to the goddess Mania at Rome pro familiarium sospitate (Macrob., i. 7, 34). In the oldest Semitic cases it is only under extreme manifestations of divine wrath that such offerings are made (comp. Porph., He Abst., ii. 56), and so it was probably among other races also; but under the pressure of long-continued calamity, or other circumstances which made men doubtful of the steady favour of the gods, piacular offerings might easily become more frequent and ultimately assume a stated character, and be made at regular intervals by way of precaution without waiting for an actual outbreak of divine anger. Thus the Carthaginians, as Theophrastus relates, annually sprinkled their altars with " a tribesman's blood" (Porph., De Abst, ii. 28). But in advanced societies the tendency is to modify the horrors of the ritual either by accepting an effusion of blood without actually slaying the victim, e.g., in the flagellation of the Spartan lads at the altar of Artemis Orthia (Paus., iii. 16, 7 ; comp. Eurip., Iph. Taur., 1470 sq.; 1 Kings xviii. 28), or by a further extension of the doctrine of substitution; the Romans, for example, substituted puppets for the human sacrifices to Mania, and cast rush dolls into the Tiber at the yearly atoning sacrifice on the Sublician bridge. More usually, however, the life of an animal is accepted by the god in place of a human life. This explanation of the origin of piacular animal sacrifices has often been disputed, mainly on dogmatic grounds and in connexion with the Hebrew sin-offerings ; but it is quite clearly brought out wherever we have an ancient account of the origin of such a rite (e.g., for the Hebrews, Gen. xxii. 13 ; the Phoenicians, Porph., De Abst., iv. 15; the Greeks and many others, ibid., ii. 54 sq.; the Romans, Ovid, Fasti, vi. 162). Among the Egyptians the victim was marked with a seal bearing the image of a man bound, and kneeling with a sword at his throat (Plut., Is. et Os., chap, xxxi.) And often we find a ceremonial laying of the sin to be expiated on the head of the victim (Herod., ii. 39; Lev. iv. 4 compared with xiv. 21).

In such piacular rites the god demands only the life of the victim, which is sometimes indicated by a special ritual with the blood (as among the Hebrews the blood of the sin-offering was applied to the horns of the altar, or to the mercy-seat within the vail), and there is no sacrificial meal. Thus among the Greeks the carcase of the victim was buried or cast into the sea, and among the Hebrews the most important sin-offerings were burnt not on the altar but outside the camp (city), as was also the case with the children sacrificed to " Moloch." Sometimes, however, the sacrifice is a holocaust on the altar (2 Kings iii. 27), or the flesh is consumed by the priests. The latter was the case with certain Roman piacula, and with those Hebrew sin-offerings in which the blood was not brought within the vail (Lev. vi. 25 sq.). Here the sacrificial flesh is seemingly a gift accepted by the deity and assigned by him to the priests, so that the distinction between a honorific and a piacular sacrifice is partly obliterated. But this is not hard to understand; for just as a blood-rite takes the place of blood-revenge in human justice, so an offence against the gods may in certain cases be redeemed by a fine (e.g., Herod., ii. 65) or a sacrificial gift. This seems to be the original meaning of the Hebrew ashdm (trespass-offering), which was a kind of atonement made partly in money (Lev. v. 15 sq.), but accompanied (at least in later times) by a sacrifice which differed from the sin-offering, inasmuch as the ritual did not involve any exceptional use of the blood. The ordinary sin-offerings in which the priests ate the flesh may be a compound of the ashclm and the properly piacular substitution of life for life. The two kinds of atonement are mixed up also in Micah vi. 6 sq., and ultimately all bloody sacrifices, especially the whole burnt-offering (which in early times was very rare but is prominent in the ritual of the second temple), are held to have an atoning efficacy (Lev. i. 4, xvii. 11). There is, however, another and mystical sense sometimes associated with the eating of sin-offerings, as we shall see presently.





The most curious developments of piacular sacrifice take place in the worship of deities of totem type. Here the natural substitute for the death of a criminal of the tribe is an animal of the kind with which the worshippers and their god alike count kindred; an animal, that is, which must not be offered in a sacrificial feast, and which indeed it is impious to kill. Thus Hecate was invoked as a dog (Porph., De Abst., iii. 17), and dogs were her piacular sacrifices (Plut., Qu. Rom., iii.). And in like manner in Egypt the piacular sacrifice of the cow-goddess Isis-Hathor was a bull, and the sacrifice was accompanied by lamentations as at the funeral of a kinsman (Herod., ii. 39, 40). This lamentation at a piacular sacrifice is met with in other cases, e.g., at the Argean festival at Rome (Marquardt, Rom. Staatsverw., iii. 192), and is parallel to the marks of indignation which in various atoning rituals it is proper to display towards the priest who performs the sacrifice. At Tenedos, for example, the priest was attacked with stones who sacrificed to Bacchus a bull-calf, the affinity of which with man was indicated by the mother-cow being treated like a woman in childbed and the victim itself wearing the cothurnus. As the cothurnus was proper to Bacchus, who also was often addressed in worship and represented in images as a bull, the victim here is of the same race with the god (M\., H.N., xii. 34; Plut., Qu. Gr., xxxv.) as well as with the worshippers. In such rites a double meaning was suggested : the victim was an animal kindred to the sacrificers, so that his death was strictly speaking a murder, for which, in the Attic Diipolia, the sacrificial axe cast away by the priest was tried and condemned (Paus., i. 24, 4), but it was also a sacred animal sharing the nature of the god, who thus in a sense died for his people. The last point comes out clearly in the annual sacrifice at Thebes, where a ram was slain and the ram-god Amen clothed in his skin. The worshippers then bewailed the ram and buried him in a sacred coffin (Herod., ii. 42). Thus the piacular sacrifice in such cases is merged in the class of offerings which may be called sacramental or mystical.
Mystical or Sacramental Sacrifices.—That the mysteries of races like the Greeks and Egyptians are sprung from the same circle of ideas with the totem mysteries of savage tribes has been suggested in MYTHOLOGY, vol. xvii. p. 151, with which the reader may compare Mr Lang's book on Custom and Myth; and examples of sacramental sacrifices have been adduced in the same article (p. 150) and in MEXICO, vol. xvi. p. 212. In Mexico the worshippers ate sacramentally paste idols of the god, or slew and feasted on a human victim who was feigned to be a representative of the deity. The Mexican gods are unquestionably de-veloped out of totems, and these sacraments are on one line with the totem mysteries of the ruder Indian tribes in which once a year the sacred animal is eaten, body and blood. Now according to Julian (Oral., v. p. 175) the mystical sacrifices of the cities of the Eoman empire were in like manner offered once or twice a year and consisted of such victims as the dog of Hecate, which might not be ordinarily eaten or used to furnish forth the tables of the gods. The general agreement with the American mysteries is therefore complete, and in many cases the resemblance extends to details which leave no doubt of the totem origin of the ritual. The mystic sacrifices seem always to have had an atoning efficacy; their special feature is that the victim is not simply slain and burned or cast away but that the worshippers partake of the body and blood of the sacred animal, and that so his life passes as it were into their lives and knits them to the deity in living commu-nion. Thus in the orgiastic cult of the bull-Bacchus the worshippers tore the bull to pieces and devoured the raw flesh. These orgies are connected on the one hand with older practices, in which the victim was human (Orpheus legend, Dionysus _____), and on the other hand with the myth of the murder of the god by his kinsmen the Titans, who made a meal of his flesh (Clem. Al., Coh. ad Gentes, p. 12). Similar legends of fratricide occur in connexion with other orgies (the Corybantes; see Clement, ut supra); and all these various elements can only be reduced to unity by referring their origin to those totem habits of thought in which the god has not yet been differentiated from the plurality of sacred animals and the tribesmen are of one kin with their totem, so that the sacrifice of a fellow-tribesman and the sacrifice of the totem animal are equally fratricides, and the death of the animal is the death of the mysterious protector of the totem kin. In the Diipolia at Athens we have seen that the slaughter of the sacred bull was viewed as a murder, but " the dead was raised again in the same sacrifice," as the mystic text had it: the skin was sewed up and stuffed and all tasted the sacrificial flesh, so that the life of the victim was renewed in the lives of those who ate of it (Theophr., in Porph., De Abst., ii. 29 sq.).

Mystic sacrifices of this sacramental type prevailed also among the heathen Semites, and are alluded to in Isa. lxv. 4 sq., lxvi. 3, 17; Zech. ix. 7; Lev. xix. 26, &c., from which passages we gather that the victim was eaten with the blood. This feature reappears elsewhere, as in the pia-cular swine-offerings of the Fratres Arvales at Rome, and possesses a special significance inasmuch as common blood means in antiquity a share in common life. In the Old Testament the heathen mysteries seem to appear as ceremonies of initiation by which a man was introduced into a new worship, i.e., primarily made of one blood with a new religious kinship, and they therefore come into prominence just at the time when in the 7th century B.C. political convulsions had shaken men's faith in their old gods and led them to seek on all sides for new and stronger pro-tectors. The Greek mysteries too create a close bond between the mystae, and the chief ethical significance of the Eleusinia was that they were open to all Hellenes and so represented a brotherhood wider than the political limits of individual states. But originally the initiation must have been introduction into a particular social community; Theophrastus's legend of the origin of the Diipolia is ex-pressly connected with the adoption of the house of Sopa-trus into the position of Athenian citizens. From this point of view the sacramental rites of mystical sacrifice are a form of blood-covenant, and serve the same purpose as the mixing of blood or tasting of each other's blood by which in ancient times two men or two clans created a sacred covenant bond. In all the forms of blood-covenant, whether a sacrifice is offered or the veins of the parties opened and their own blood used, the idea is the same : the bond created is a bond of kindred, because one blood is now in the veins of all who have shared the ceremony. The details in which this kind of symbolism may be carried out are of course very various, but where there is a covenant sacrifice we usually find that the parties eat and drink together (Gen. xxxi. 54), and that the sacrificial blood, if not actually tasted, is at least touched by both parties (Xen., Anab., ii. 2, 9), or sprinkled on both and on the altar or image of the deity who presides over the contract (Exod., xxiv. 6, 7). A peculiar form which meets us in various places is to cut the animal in twain and make those who swear pass between the parts (Gen. xiii. 9 sq.; Jer. xxxiv. 18 sq.; Plut., Qu. Rom., iii., &c). This is generally taken as a formula of imprecation, as if the parties prayed that he who proved unfaithful might be similarly cut in twain; but, as the case cited from Plutarch shows that the victim chosen was a mystic one, it is more likely that the original sense was that the worshippers were taken within the mystic life.

Even the highest forms of sacrificial worship present much that is repulsive to modern ideas, and in particular it requires an effort to reconcile our imagination to the bloody ritual which is prominent in almost every religion which has a strong sense of sin. But we must not forget that from the beginning this ritual expressed, however crudely, certain ideas which lie at the very root of true religion, the fellowship of the worshippers with one another in their fellowship with the deity, and the consecration of the bonds of kinship as the type of all right ethical relation between man and man. And the piacular forms, though these were particularly liable to distortions disgraceful to man and dishonouring to the godhead, yet contained from the first germs of eternal truths, not only expressing the idea of divine justice, but mingling it with a feeling of divine and human pity. The dreadful sacrifice is per- formed not with savage joy but with awful sorrow, and in the mystic sacrifices the deity himself suffers with and for the sins of his people and lives again in their new life. (W. R. S.)

The Idea of Sacrifice in the Christian Church.

There can be no doubt that the idea of sacrifice occupied an important place in early Christianity. It had been a fundamental element of both Jewish and Gentile religions, and Christianity tended rather to absorb and modify such elements than to abolish them. To a great extent the idea had been modified already. Among the Jews the preaching of the prophets had been a constant protest against the grosser forms of sacrifice, and there are indica-tions that when Christianity arose bloody sacrifices were already beginning to fall into disuse; a saying which was attributed by the Ebionites to our Lord repeats this protest in a strong form, " I have come to abolish the sacrifices; and if ye do not cease from sacrificing the wrath of God will not cease from you" (Epiph., xxx. 16). Among the Greeks the philosophers had come to use both argument and ridicule against the idea that the offering of material things could be needed by or acceptable to the Maker of them all. Among both Jews and Greeks the earlier forms of the idea had been rationalized into the belief that the most appropriate offering to God is that of a pure and penitent heart, and among them both was the idea that the vocal expression of contrition in prayer or of gratitude in praise is also acceptable. The best instances of these ideas in the Old Testament are in Psalms 1. and li., and in Greek literature the striking words which Porphyry quotes from an earlier writer, " We ought, then, having been united and made like to God, to offer our own conduct as a holy sacrifice to Him, the same being also a hymn and our sal-vation in passionless excellence of soul" (Euseb., Dern. Ev., 3). The ideas are also found both in the New Testa-ment and in early Christian literature : " Let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to His name" (Heb. xiii. 15); "That prayers and thanksgivings, made by worthy persons, are the only perfect and acceptable sacrifices I also admit" (Just. Mart., Trypho, c. 117); "We honour God in prayer, and offer this as the best and holiest sacrifice with righteousness to the righteous Word " (Clem. Alex., Strom., vii. 6).
But among the Jews two other forms of the idea ex-pressed themselves in usages which have been perpetuated in Christianity, and one of which has had a singular im-portance for the Christian world. The one form, which probably arose from the conception of Jehovah as in an especial sense the protector of the poor, was that gifts to God may properly be bestowed on the needy, and that consequently alms have the virtue of a sacrifice. Biblical instances of this idea are—" He who doeth alms is offering a sacrifice of praise " (Ecclus. xxxii. 2); " To do good and to communicate forget not, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased " (Heb. xiii. 16) ; so the offerings sent by the Philippians to Paul when a prisoner at Rome are "an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Phil. iv. 18). The other form, which was prob-ably a relic of the conception of Jehovah as the author of natural fertility, was that part of the fruits of the earth should be offered to God in acknowledgment of His bounty, and that what was so offered was especially blessed and brought a blessing upon both those who offered it and those who afterwards partook of it. The persistence of this form of the idea of sacrifice constitutes so marked a feature of the history of Christianity as to require a detailed account of it.

In the first instance it is probable that among Christians, as among Jews, every meal, and especially every social meal, was regarded as being in some sense a thank-offering. Thanksgiving, blessing, and offering were co-ordinate terms. Hence the Talmudic rule, "A man shall not taste anything before blessing it" (Tosephta Berachoth, c. 4), and hence St Paul's words, " He that eateth, eateth unto the Lord, for he giveth God thanks " (Rom. xiv. 6 ; comp. 1 Tim. iv. 4). But the most important offering was the solemn obla-tion in the assembly on the Lord's day. A precedent for making such oblations elsewhere than in the temple had been afforded by the Essenes, who had endeavoured in that way to avoid the contact with unclean persons and things which a resort to the temple might have involved (Jos., Antiq., xviii. 1, 5), and a justification for it was found in the prophecy of Malachi, "In every place incense is offered unto My name and a pure offering; for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts" (Mai. i. 11, repeatedly quoted in early Christian writings, e.g., Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, c. 14; Just. Mart., Trypho, c. 28, 41, 116; Irenaais, iv. 17, 5).

The points in relation to this offering which are clearly demonstrable from the Christian writers of the first two centuries, but which subsequent theories have tended to confuse, are these. " (1) It was regarded as a true offering or sacrifice; for in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, in Justin Martyr, and in Irenaeus it is designated by each of the terms which are used to designate sacrifices in the Old Testament. (2) It was primarily an offering of the fruits of the earth to the Creator; this is clear from both Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, the latter of whom not only explicitly states that such oblations are continued among Christians but also meets the current objection to them by arguing that they are offered to God not as though He needed anything but to show the gratitude of the offerer (Iren., iv. 17, 18). (3) It was offered as a thanksgiving partly for creation and preservation and partly for re-demption : the latter is the special purpose mentioned (e.g.) in the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles; the former is that upon which Irenaeus chiefly dwells; both are men-tioned together in Justin Martyr (Trypho, c. 41). (4) Those who offered it were required to be not only baptized Christians but also "in love and charity one with another there is an indication of this latter requirement in the Ser-mon on the Mount (Matt. v. 23, 24, where the word trans-lated " gift" is the usual LXX. word for a sacrificial offer-ing, and is so used elsewhere in the same Gospel, viz., Matt. viii. 4, xxiii. 19), and still more explicitly in the Teaching, c. 14, "Let not any one who has a dispute with his fellow come together with you (i.e., on the Lord's day) until they have been reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled." This brotherly unity was symbolized by the kiss of peace. (5) It was offered in the assembly by the hands of the president; this is stated by Justin Martyr (Apol., i. 65, 67), and implied by Clement of Rome (Ep., i. 44, 4).

Combined with this sacrifice of the fruits of the earth to the Creator in memory of creation and redemption, and probably always immediately following it, was the sacred meal at which part of the offerings was eaten. Such a sacred meal had always, or almost always, formed part of the rites of sacrifice. There was the idea that what had been solemnly offered to God was especially hallowed by Him, and that the partaking of it united the partakers in a special bond both to Him and to one another. In the case of the bread and wine of the Christian sacrifice, it was believed that, after having been offered and blessed, they became to those who partook of them the body and blood of Christ. This " communion of the body and blood of Christ," which in early writings is clearly distinguished from the thank-offering which preceded it, and which fur-nished the materials for it, gradually came to supersede the thank-offering in importance, and to exercise a reflex influence upon it. In the time of Cyprian, though not before, we begin to find the idea that the body and blood of Christ were not merely partaken of by the worshippers but also offered in sacrifice, and that the Eucharist was not so much a thank-offering for creation and redemption as a repetition or a showing forth anew of the self-sacrifice of Christ. This idea is repeated in Ambrose and Augustine, and has since been a dominant idea of both Eastern and Western Christendom. But, though dominant, it has not been universal; nor did it become dominant until several centuries after its first promulgation. The history of it has yet to be written. For, in spite of the important controversies to which it has given birth, no one has been at the pains to distinguish between (i.) the theories which have been from time to time put forth by eminent writers, and which, though they have in some cases ultimately won a general acceptance, have for a long period remained as merely individual opinions, and (ii.) the current beliefs of the great body of Christians which are expressed in recognized formularies. A catena of opinions may be produced in favour of almost any theory; but formularies express the collective or average belief of any given period, and changes in them are a sure indication that there has been a general change in ideas.

It is clear from the evidence of the early Western litur-gies that, for at least six centuries, the primitive conception of the nature of the Christian sacrifice remained. There is a clear distinction between the sacrifice and the com-munion which followed it, and that which is offered con-sists of the fruits of the earth and not of the body and blood of Christ. Other ideas no doubt attached themselves to the primitive conception, of which there is no certain evidence in primitive times, e.g., the idea of the propitiatory character of the offering, but these ideas rather confirm than disprove the persistence of those primitive conceptions themselves.

All Eastern liturgies, in their present form, are of later date than the surviving fragments of the earlier Western liturgies, and cannot form the basis of so sure an induction; but they entirely confirm the conclusions to which the Western liturgies lead. The main points in which the pre-medieeval formularies of both the Eastern and the Western Churches agree in relation to the Christian sacri-fice are the following. (1) It was an offering of the fruits of the earth to the Creator, in the belief that a special blessing would descend upon the offerers, and sometimes also in the belief that God would be propitiated by the offerings. The bread and wine are designated by all the names by which sacrifices are designated (sacrificia, hostix, libamina, and at least once sacriftcium placationis), and the act of offering them by the ordinary term for offering a sacrifice (immolatio). (2) The offering of bread and wine was originally brought to the altar by the person who offered it, and placed by him in the hands of the presiding officer. In course of time there were two im-portant changes in this respect: (a) the offerings of bread and wine were commuted for money, with which bread and wine were purchased by the church-officers; (5) the offerings were sometimes handed to the deacons and by them taken to the bishop at the altar, and sometimes, as at Rome, the bishop and deacons went round the church to collect them. (3) In offering the bread and wine the offerer offered, as in the ancient sacrifices, primarily for himself, but inasmuch as the offering was regarded as having a general propitiatory value he mentioned also the names of others in whom he was interested, and especially the departed, that they might rest in peace. Hence, after all the offerings had been collected, and before they were solemnly offered to God, it became a custom to recite the names both of the offerers and of those for whom they offered, the names being arranged in two lists, which were known as diptychs. Almost all the old rituals have prayers to be said "before the names," "after the names." It was a further and perhaps much later development of the same idea that the good works of those who had pre-viously enjoyed the favour of God were invoked to give additional weight to the prayer of the offerer. In the later series of Western rituals, beginning with that which is known as the Leonine Sacramentary, this practice is almost universal. (4) The placing of the bread and wine upon the altar was followed by the kiss of peace. (5) Then followed the actual offering of the gifts to God (immolatio missx). It was an act of adoration or thanks-giving, much longer in Eastern than in Western rituals, but in both classes of rituals beginning with the form " Lift up your hearts," and ending with the Ter Sanctus or Trisagion. The early MSS. of Western rituals indi-cate the importance which was attached to this part of the liturgy by the fact of its being written in a much more ornate way than the other parts, e.g., in gold uncial letters upon a purple ground, as distinguished from the vermilion cursive letters of the rest of the MS. With this the sacrifice proper was concluded. (6) But, since the divine injunction had been " Do this in remembrance of Me," the sacrifice was immediately followed by a commemoration of the passion of Christ, and that again by an invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesis) that He would make the bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ. Of this invocation, which is constant in all Eastern rituals, there are few, though sufficient, surviving traces in Western rituals. Then after a prayer for sanctification, or for worthy reception, followed the Lord's Prayer, and after the Lord's Prayer the communion.

In the course of the 8th and 9th centuries, by the operation of causes which have not yet been fully investigated, the theory which is first found in Cyprian became the dominant belief of Western Christendom. The central point of the sacrificial idea was shifted from the offering of the fruits of the earth to the offering of the body and blood of Christ. The change is marked in the rituals by the duplication of the liturgical forms. The prayers of in-tercession and oblation, which in earlier times are found only in connexion with the former offering, are repeated in the course of the same service in connexion with the latter. The designations and epithets which are in earlier times applied to the fruits of the earth are applied to the body and blood. From that time until the Reformation the Christian sacrifice was all but universally regarded as the offering of the body and blood of Christ. The in-numerable theories which were framed as to the precise nature of the offering and as to the precise change in the elements all implied that conception of it. It still remains as the accepted doctrine of the Church of Rome. For, although the council of Trent recognized fully the dis-tinction which has been mentioned above between the Eucharist and the sacrifice of the mass, and treated of them in separate sessions (the former in Session xiii., the latter in Session xxii.), it continued the mediaeval theory of the nature of the latter. The reaction against the mediaeval theory at the time of the Reformation took the form of a return to what had no doubt been an early belief, —the idea that the Christian sacrifice consists in the offer-ing of a pure heart and of vocal thanksgiving. Luther at one period (in his treatise De Captivitate Babylonica) main-tained, though not on historical grounds, that the offering of the oblations of the people was the real origin of the con-ception of the sacrifice of the mass; but he directed all the force of his vehement polemic against the idea that any other sacrifice could be efficacious besides the sacrifice of Christ. In the majority of Protestant communities the idea of a sacrifice has almost lapsed. That which among Catholics is most commonly regarded in its aspect as an offering and spoken of as the "mass" is usually regarded in its aspect as a participation in the symbols of Christ's death and spoken of as the " communion." But it may be inferred from the considerable progress of the Anglo-Catholic revival in most English-speaking countries that the idea of sacrifice has not yet ceased to be an important element in the general conception of religion. (E. HA.)



The above article was written by two authors:

(a) All of article except for section on The Idea of Sacrifice in the Christian Church
Prof. William Robertson Smith, LL.D.

(b) Section entitled The Idea of Sacrifice in the Christian Church
Rev. Edwin Hatch




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