Human Sacrifice and the Eucharist

The symbolism of blood

A religious ritual is a symbolic act, and as such it makes use of preexisting symbolic meanings. Sometimes these meanings are fixed by the culture, as when I offer God what my culture recognizes as a salute, or when I place a cultural symbol of value (i.e. money) in the collection basket. The most powerful rituals, however, make use of natural symbolic meanings. For example, sexual intercourse naturally denotes union, and some peoples (such as the Babylonians) have tried to effect symbolic union with God through temple prostitution. In fact, this is an abuse of the sex act, whose meaning is too fixed to procreation and family life to be legitimately “stretched” in this way. However, we should acknowledge that a real religious impulse, and not mere lust, is at the foundation of this practice. What we need is a natural symbol that, like sex, signifies love and union and, again like sex, is asymmetric between the participants, but which, unlike sex, signifies a one-way donation of one’s life. This is the symbolism of blood.

Across the world, widely disparate peoples have chosen as their offering to God the flesh and blood of animals, and occasionally even of humans. Why has this seemed a fitting sacrifice to so many cultures at so many times? It can only be because of the natural symbolism of blood. “Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement” (Lev 17:11). Blood is the life force; to offer blood is to offer life, and a union of blood is a merger of lives. The blood and flesh of the sacrificial victim become channels of divine Life. Blood purifies the Temple on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:15-19). Blood protects and purifies the house during Passover (Ex 12:7). Moses sprinkled the people with blood to establish the covenant (Ex. 24:6-8).

3 Responses

  1. […] and Isaac By bonald From my Human Sacrifice and the Eucharist (also called In Defense of Human Sacrifice): Abraham’s sacrifice of his son Isaac is a perfect […]

  2. […] relevance here is my discussion of the symbolism of blood in Human Sacrifice and the Eucharist: A religious ritual is a symbolic act, and as such it makes […]

  3. […] to the profound meaningfulness of the offering of body and blood, what I have called the “symbolism of blood“.  He pointed to the boyhood ritual (which he’s seen in several cultures) of two […]

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