FREE Catholic Classes
(Latin sacrificium; Italian sacrificio; French sacrifice .)
This term is identical with the English offering (Latin offerre ) and the German Opfer; the latter is derived, not from offerre, but from operari (Old High German opfâron; Middle High German opperu, opparôn ), and thus means "to do zealously, to serve God, to offer sacrifice" (cf. Kluge "Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Sprache", Strassburg, 1899, p. 288). By sacrifice in the real sense is universally understood the offering of a sense-perceptible gift to the Deity as an outward manifestation of our veneration for Him and with the object of attaining communion with Him. Strictly speaking however, this offering does not become a sacrifice until a real change has been effected in the visible gift (e.g. by slaying it, shedding its blood. burning it, or pouring it out). As the meaning and importance of sacrifice cannot be established by a priori methods, every admissible theory of sacrifice must shape itself in accordance with the sacrificial systems of the pagan nations, and especially with those of the revealed religions, Judaism and Christianity. Pure Buddhism, Mohammedanism, and Protestantism here call for no attention, as they have no real sacrifice; apart from these there is and has been no developed religion which has not accepted sacrifice as an essential portion of its cult. We shall consider successively:
I. PAGAN SACRIFICE (1) Among the Indians
The Vedism of the ancient Indies was, to an extent never elsewhere attained, a sacrificial religion connected with the deities Agni and Soma. A Vedic proverb runs: "Sacrifice is the navel of the world". Originally regarded as a feast for the gods, before whom food-offerings (cakes, milk, butter, meat, and the soma drink) were set on the holy grass before the altar, sacrifice gradually became a magical agency for influencing the gods, such as might be expressed in the formula, "Do ut des", or in the Vedic proverb: "Here is the butter; where are thy gifts?" The Vedic sacrificial prayers express no spirit of humility or submission; even the word "thank" is unknown in the Vedic language. The gods thus sank to the level of mere servants of man, while the high-priests or Brahmins entrusted with the complicated rites gradually acquired an almost divine dignity. In their hands the sacrificial ceremonial, developed to the extremest detail, became an irresistible power over the gods. A proverb says: "The sacrificer hunts Indra like game, and holds him fast as the fowler does the bird ; the god is a wheel which the singer understands how to turn." The gods derive their whole might and power from the sacrifice as the condition of their existence, so that the Brahmins are indispensable for their continued existence.
However, that the gods were not entirely indifferent to man, but gave him their assistance, is proved among other things by the serious expiatory character which was not quite eliminated from the Vedic sacrifices. The actual offering of the sacrifices, which was never effected without fire, took place either in the houses or in the open air; temples were unknown. Among the various sacrifices two were conspicuous: the soma offering and the sacrifice of the horse. The offering of the soma ( Agnistoma ) -- a nectar obtained by the pressing of some plants -- took place in the spring; the sacrifice lasted an entire day, and was a universal holiday for the people. The triple pressing of the soma , performed at certain intervals during the day, alternated with the offering of sacrificial cakes, libations of milk, and the sacrifice of eleven he-goats to various gods. The gods (especially Indra) were eager for the intoxicating soma drink: "As the ox bellows after the rain, so does Indra desire the soma ." The sacrifice of the horse ( açvamedha ), executed at the command of the king and participated in by the whole people, required a whole year's preparation.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
It was the acme, "the king of the sacrifices", the solemnities lasting three days and being accompanied by all kinds of public amusements. The idea of this sacrifice was to provide the gods of light with another steed for their heavenly yoke. At first, instead of the sacrifice of the horse, human sacrifice seems to have been in vogue, so that here also the idea of substitution found expression. For the later Indians had a saying: "At first the gods indeed accepted men as sacrificial victims. Then the sacrificial efficacy passed from them to the horse. The horse thus became efficacious. They accepted the horse, but the sacrificial efficacy went to the steer, sheep, goat, and finally to rice and barley: Thus for the instructed a sacrificial cake made of rice and barley is of the same value as these [five] animals" (cf. Hardy, "Die vedisch-brahmanisehe Periode der Religion des alten Indiens", Münster, 1892, p. 150). Modern Hinduism with its numberless sects honours Vishnu and Shiva as chief deities. As a cult it is distinguished from ancient Vedism mainly by its temple service. The Hindu temples are usual artistic and magnificent edifices with numerous courts, chapels, and halls, in which representations of gods and idols are exposed. The smaller pagodas serve the same purpose. Although the Hindu religion centres in its idolatry sacrifice has not been completely evicted from its old place. The symbol of Shiva is the phallus ( linga ); linga stones are indeed met throughout India (especially in the holy places) in extraordinary numbers. The darker shades of this superstition, degenerated into fetichism, are somewhat relieved by the piety and elevation of many Hindu hymns or songs of praise ( stotras ), which surpass even the old Vedic hymns in religious feeling.(2) Among the Iranians
The kindred religion of the ancient Iranians centres, especially after its reform by Zoroaster, in the service of the true god Ormuzd (Ahura Mazda) , whose will is the right and whose kingdom is the good. This ethically very elevated religion promotes especially a life of purity, the conscientious fulfilment of all liturgical and moral precepts, and the positive renunciation of the Devil and all demoniacal powers. If the ancient Indian religion was essentially a religion of sacrifice, this religion of the ancient Persians may be described as a religion of observance. Inasmuch as, in the old Avesta, the sacred book of the Persians, the war between the good god Ormuzd and the Devil ends eschatologically with the complete victory of the good god, we may designate the earliest Parseeism as Monotheism. However, the theological Dualism taught in the later Avesta, where the wicked anti-god Ahriman is opposed to the good god Ormuzd as an absolute principle, is already foreshadowed and prepared for in many didactic poems ( gâthas ) of the old Avesta. Sacrifice and prayer are intended to paralyze the diabolical machinations of Ahriman and his demons. The central feature of the Avestic divine service was the worship of fire, a worship, however, unconnected with special fire-temples. Like the modern Mobeds in India, the priests carried portable altars with them, and could thus offer sacrifice everywhere. Special fire-temples were, however, early erected, in which five times daily the priests entered the sacred fire-chamber to tend the fire in a metal vessel, usually fed with odoriferous wood. In a roomy antechamber the intoxicating haoma (the counterpart of the Indian soma drink) was brewed, the holy water prepared, and the sacrifice of flesh ( myazda ) and cakes ( darun ) offered to the gods. The precious haoma , the drink of immortality, not only conduced in the case of mankind to eternal life, but was likewise a drink for the gods themselves. In the later Avesta this drink, originally only a medium of cult, was formally deified, and identified with the divinity; nay even the very vessels used in the fabrication of this drink from the haoma branches were celebrated and adored in hymns of praise. Worthy of mention also are the sacrificial twigs ( baresman , later barsom ), which were used as praying twigs or magical wands and solemnly stretched out in the hand. After the reduction of the kingdom of the Sassanids by the Arabians (A. D. 642) the Persian religion was doomed to decay, and the vast majority of its followers fell away into Islamism. Besides some small remnants in modern Persia, large communities still exist on the west coast of India, in Guzerat and Bombay, whither many Parsees then immigrated.
The universal religion of ancient Greece was a glad and joyous Polytheism most closely connected with civic life. Even the ancient Amphictyonic Council was a confederacy of states with the object of maintaining in common a certain shrine. The object of the religious functions, which consisted in prayer, sacrifice, and votive offerings, was the winning of the favour and assistance of the gods, which were always received with feelings of awe and gratitude. The sacrificial offerings, bloody and unbloody, were generally taken from articles of human food; to the gods above pastry, sacrificial cakes, pap, fruits, and wine were offered, but to the nether gods, cakes of honey and, as a drink, a mixture of milk, honey, and water. The sacrificial consecration often consisted merely in the exposition of the foods in pots on the roadsides or on the funeral mounds with the idea of entertaining the gods or the dead. Usually a portion was retained wherewith to solemnize a sacrificial feast in union with the gods; of the sacrifices to the nether gods in Hades, however, nothing was retained. Great banquets of the gods ( theoxenia ) were well known to the Greeks as were the Leotisternia to the Romans. As a rule, however, the sacrifices were burned on the altar, at times as holocausts. Incense was added as a subsidiary offering with most sacrifices, although there were also special offerings of incense. The offerer of sacrifice wore clean clothes and chaplets around his head, sprinkled his hands and the altar with holy water, and strewed with solemn prayers sacrificial meal over the heads of the victims (pigs, goats, and cocks). Flutes were played while the victim was being slain, and the blood was allowed to drop through holes into the sacrificial trenches. The meritoriousness of the sacrifice was regarded as to a great extent dependent on its costliness. The horns of the victims were gilded, and on great festivals whole hecatombs were slain; sacrifices of twelve, and especially of three victims ( trittues ) were the most usual. In times of great affliction human sacrifices were offered even down to the historical era. The sacrifice was the centre of the Greek cult, and no meal was partaken of until a libation of the wine about to be consumed was poured out to the gods. Among the characteristic peculiarities of the Greek religion may be mentioned the votive offerings ( anathemata ), which (besides firstlings, tithes, votive tablets, and objects of value) consisted chiefly of chaplets, cauldrons, and the popular tripods ( tripodes ). The number of the votive offerings, which were frequently hung up on the sacred oaks, grew in time so immeasurably that various states erected their special treasuries at Olympia and Delphi.
(4) Among the Romans
To a still greater extent than among the Greeks was religion and the whole sacrificial system a business of the state among the ancient Romans. Furthermore, no other people of antiquity developed Polytheism to such extremes. Peopling the world with gods, genii, and lares , they placed almost every action and condition under a specially-conceived deity (god or goddess). The calendar prepared by the pontifices gave the Romans detailed information as to how they should conduct themselves with respect to the gods throughout the year. The object of sacrifice was to win the favour of the gods and to ward off their sinister influence. Sacrifices of atonement ( piacula ) for perpetrated crimes and past errors were also scheduled. In the earliest times the ancient Indo-Germanic sacrifice of the horse, and also sacrifices of sheep, pigs, and oxen were known. That human sacrifices must have been once usual may be concluded from certain customs of a later period (e.g. from the projection of straw puppets into the Tiber and the hanging of woollen puppets at the crossways and on the doors of the houses). Under the empire various foreign cults were introduced, such as the veneration of the Egyptian deities Isis and Osiris, the Syrian Astarte, the Phrygian goddess Cybele, etc. The Roman Pantheon united in peace the most incongruous deities from every land. Finally, however, no cult was so popular as that of the Indo-Iranian Light-god Mithra, to whom especially the soldiers and officials of the empire, even in such distant places as the Danube and the Rhine offered their sacrifices. In honour of the steer-killing Mithra the so-called taurobolia were introduced from the East; by taurobolium is meant the loathsome ceremony wherein the worshippers of Mithra let the warm blood of a just-slaughtered steer flow over their naked backs as they lay in a trench with the idea of attaining thereby not only physical strength, but also mental renewal and regeneration.(5) Among the Chinese
The religion of the Chinese, a peculiar mixture of nature and ancestor-worship, is indissolubly connected with the constitution of the state. The oldest Sinism was a perfect Monotheism. However, we are best acquainted with the Chinese sacrificial system in the form which was given it by the great reformer, Confucius (sixth century before Christ), and which it has retained practically unaltered after more than two thousand years. As the "Son of Heaven " and the head of the State religion, the Emperor of China is also the high-priest who alone may offer sacrifice to heaven. The chief sacrifice takes place annually during the night of the winter solstice on the "altar of heaven " in the southern section of Peking. On the highest terrace of this altar stands a wooden table as the symbol of the soul of the god of heaven ; there are in addition many other " soul tables" (of the sun, moon, stars, clouds, wind, etc.), including those of the ten immediate predecessors of the emperor. Before every table are set sacrificial offerings of soup, flesh, vegetables, etc. To the ancestors of the emperor, as well as to the sun and moon, a slaughtered ox is offered; to the planets and the stars a calf, a sheep, and a pig. Meanwhile, on a pyre to the south-east of the altar, a sacrifice of an ox lies ready to be burned to the highest god of heaven. While the ox is being consumed, the emperor offers to the soul-table of heaven and the tables of his predecessors a staff of incense, silk, and some meat broth. After the performance of these ceremonies, all the articles of sacrifice are brought to special furnaces and there consumed. Similarly the emperor sacrifices to the earth at the northern wall of Peking, the sacrificial gifts being in this case not burned, but buried. The gods of the soil and of corn, as well as the ancestors of the emperor, have also their special places and days of sacrifice. Throughout the empire the emperor is represented in the sacrifices by his state officials. In the classical book of ritual, "Li-ki", it is expressly stated: "The son of heaven sacrifices to the heaven and the earth; the vassals to the gods of the soil and of corn." Besides the chief sacrifices, there are a number of others of the second or third rank, which are usually performed by state officials. The popular religion with its innumerable images, which have their special temples, is undisguised idolatry.
(6) Among the Egyptians
The ancient religion of the Egyptians, with its highly developed priesthood and its equally extensive sacrificial system, marks the transition to the religion of the Semites. The Egyptian temple contained a dark chapel with the image of the deity ; before it was a pillared hall, (hypostyle) faintly lit by a small window under the roof, and before this hall a spacious court-yard, enclosed by a circular series of pillars. The ground-plan proves that the temple was not used either for assemblies of the people or as the residence of the priests, but was intended solely for the preservation of the images of the gods, the treasures, and the sacred vessels. To the sanctuary proper only the priests and the king were admitted. The sacrifices were offered in the great court-yard, where also the highly popular processions, in which the images of the gods were borne in a ship, took place. The rites of the daily service of the temple, the movements, words, and prayers of the officiating priest, were all regulated down to the smallest detail. The image of the god was entertained daily with food and drink, which were placed on the sacrificial table. At the laying of the foundation-stone of a new temple human sacrifices were offered, being abolished only in the era of the Ramassides; a trace of this repulsive custom survived in the later ceremony of impressing on the sacrificial victim a seal bearing the image of a man in chains with a knife in his throat. To the favourite god of the Egyptians, Ammon-Râ, the rulers of the New Empire made such extraordinarily numerous and costly votive offerings that the state became almost bankrupt. The Egyptian religion, which finally developed into abominable bestiolatry, fell into decay with the destruction of the Serapeum in Alexandria by the Eastern Emperor, Theodosius I (391).(7) Among the Semites
Among the Semites the Babylonians and Assyrians deserve first mention. The Babylonian temple contained in the sanctuary the image of the god to whom it was consecrated, and in adjoining chambers or chapels the images of the other gods. The Babylonian priests were a private caste, the mediators between the gods and man, the guardians of the sacred literature, and the teachers of the sciences. In Assyria, on the other hand, the king was the high-priest, and offered up sacrifice. According to the Babylonian idea, sacrifice (libations, offerings of foods, bloody sacrifices) is the due tribute of mankind to the gods, and is as old as the world; sacrifices are the banquets of the gods, and the smoke of the offerings is for them a fragrant odour; a joyous sacrificial banquet unites the sacrificers with their divine guests. Both burnt and aromatic offerings were common to the Babylonians and the Assyrians. The sacrificial gifts included wild and tame animals, fowl, fish, fruit, curds, honey, and oil. Sacrificial animals were usually of the male sex; they had to be without defects, strong and fat, for only the unblemished is worthy of the gods. Only in the rite of purification were female animals allowed, and only in the lesser ceremonies defective animals. The offering of bread on tables (showbread) was also usual. To the sacrifices was attributed a purifying and atoning force, and the idea of substitution, the sacrificial victim being substituted for man, was clearly expressed. In the Babylonian penitential psalms especially, the deep consciousness of sin and guilt often finds touching expression. Men were slain only with lamentations for the dead.
FREE Catholic Classes Pick a class, you can learn anything
The demonstration that the Chanaanites originally came from Arabia (that ancient home of the races) to Palestine, and there disseminated the culture of the ancient Arabians, is an achievement of modern investigators. While the Babylonian religion was governed by the course of the stars ( astrology ), the spiritual horizon of the Chanaanites was fixed by the periodical changes of dying and reawakening nature, and thus depended secondarily on the vivifying influence of the stars, especially of the sun and the moon. Wherever the force of nature revealed evidence of life, there the deity had his seat. At fountains and rivers temples arose, because water brings life and drought, death. Feeling themselves nearest to the deity on mountains, hill-worship (mentioned also in the Old Testament ) was the most popular among the Chanaanites. On the height stood an altar with an oval opening, and around it was made a channel to carry off the blood of the sacrificial victim. To the cruel god Moloch sacrifices of children were offered -- a horrible custom against which the Bible so sternly inveighs. The kindred cult of the Phœnicians originated in a low idea of the deity, which inclined towards gloominess, cruelty, and voluptuousness. We need only mention the worship of Baal and Astarte, Phallism and the sacrifice of chastity, the sacrifice of men and children, which the civilized Romans vainly strove to abolish. In their sacrificial system the Phœnicians had some points in common with the Israelites. The "sacrificial table of Marseilles ", which, like the similar "sacrificial table of Carthage", was of Phœnician origin, mentions as sacrificial victims: steers, calves, stags, sheep, she-goats, lambs, he-goats, fawns, and fowl, tame and wild. Sick or emaciated animals were forbidden. The Phœnicians were also acquainted with holocausts ( kalil ), which were always supplicatory sacrifices and partial offerings, which might be sacrifices of either supplication or thanks. The chief efficacy of the sacrifice of men and animals was regarded as lying in the blood. When the victim was not entirely consumed, the sacrificers participated in a sacrificial banquet with music and dancing.
II. JEWISH SACRIFICE (1) In General
That many general ideas and rites, which are found in pagan religions, find their place also in the Jewish sacrificial system, should excite as little surprise as the fact that revealed religion in general does not reject at all natural religion and ethics, but rather adopts them in a higher form. The ethical purity and excellence of the Jewish sacrificial system is at once seen in the circumstance that the detestable human sacrifices are spurned in the official religion of Jahweh (cf. Deuteronomy 12:31 ; 18:10 ). Abraham's trial (Gen. xxii 1 sqq.) ended with the prohibition of the slaying of Isaac, God ordering instead the sacrifice of the ram caught in the briers. Among the Children of Israel human sacrifice meant the profanation of Jahweh's name ( Leviticus 20:1 sqq. , etc.). The later prophets also raised their mighty voices against the disgraceful service of Moloch with its sacrifice of children. It is true that the baneful influence of pagan environment won the upper hand from the time of King Achaz to that of Josias to such an extent that in the ill-omened Valley of Hinnom near Jerusalem thousands of innocent children were sacrificed to Moloch. To this infectious pagan example, not to the spirit of the religion of Jahweh, is also to be referred the sacrifice which Jephte, in consequence of his vow, reluctantly performed by slaying his own daughter ( Judges 11:1 sqq. ). The assertion of many investigators (Ghilany, Daumer, Vatke) that even in the legitimate service of Jahweh human sacrifices occurred, is historically untenable; for, though the Mosaic Law contained the provision that, not only the firstlings of beasts and Fruits, but also the firstborn of men were due to Jahweh, it was expressly provided that these latter should be redeemed, not sacrificed. The offering of the blood of an animal instead of a human life originated in the profound idea of substitution, and has its justification in the prophetical metaphorical references to the unique vicarious sacrifice offered by Christ on Golgotha. The Israelitic blood vengeance ( cherem ), in accordance with which impious enemies and things were utterly exterminated (cf. Joshua 6:21 sqq. ; 1 Kings 15:15 , etc.), had absolutely nothing to do with human sacrifice. The idea of the blood vengeance originated, not as in various pagan religions in the thirst of God for human blood, but in the principle that the powers hostile to God should be removed by a bloody chastisement from the path of the Lord of life and death. The accursed were not sacrificed but removed from the face of the earth. According to Jewish tradition, sacrifice in its bloody and its unbloody form extends back to the beginning of the human race. The first and oldest sacrifice mentioned in the Bible is that of Cain and Abel (Gen. iv, 3 sq.). With sacrifice an altar was associated ( Genesis 12:7 sq. ). Even in patriarchal times we meet also the sacrificial meal, especially in connexion with treaties and the conclusion of peace. The conclusion of the covenant at Mount Sinai was also effected under the auspices of a solemn sacrifice and banquet ( Exodus 24:5 sqq. ). Subsequently Moses, as the envoy of Jahweh, elaborated the whole sacrificial system, and in the Pentateuch fixed with most scrupulous exactness the various kinds of sacrifice and their ritual. Like the whole Mosaic cult, the sacrificial system is governed by the one central idea, peculiar to the religion of Jahweh: "Be holy because I am holy " ( Leviticus 11:44 ).
The general name for Jewish sacrifice was originally minchah ( anaphora , donum ), afterwards the special technical term for the unbloody food-offering. To the latter was opposed the bloody sacrifice ( thysia , victima ). According to the method of offering, sacrifices were known as korban ("bringing near") or 'õlah ("ascending"), the latter term being used especially of the holocaust. The material of the bloody sacrifice must be taken from the personal possessions of the offerer, and must belong to the category of clean animals. Thus, on the one hand, only domestic animals (oxen, sheep, goats) from the stock of the sacrificer were allowed ( Leviticus 22:19 sqq. ), and hence neither fish nor wild animals; on the other hand, all unclean animals (e.g. dogs, pigs, asses, camels) were excluded, even though they were domestic animals. Doves were about the only sort of birds that could be used. The substitution of turtle doves or young pigeons for the larger animals was allowed to the poor ( Leviticus 5:7 ; 12:8 ). Concerning the sex, age, and physical condition of the animals there were also exact precepts ; as a rule, they had to be free from defect, since only the best were fit for Jahweh ( Leviticus 22:20 sqq. ; Malachi 1:13 sq. ). The material of the unbloody sacrifices (usually additions to the bloody sacrifice or subsidiary sacrifices) was chosen from either the solid or the liquid articles of human food. The fragrant incense, the symbol of prayer ascending to God, was an exception. The sacrifice of solids ( minchah ) consisted partly of toasted ears of corn (or shelled grain) together with oil and incense ( Leviticus 2:14 sqq. ), partly of the finest wheaten flour with the same additional gifts ( Leviticus 2:1 sqq. ), and partly of unleavened bread ( Leviticus 2:4 sqq. ). Since not only leaven, but also honey produced fermentation in bread, which suggests rottenness, the use of honey was also forbidden ( Leviticus 2:11 ; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6 sqq. ). Only the bread of the first fruits , which was offered on the feast of Pentecost, and the bread added to many sacrifices of praise were leavened, and these might not be brought to the altar, but belonged to the priests ( Leviticus 2:4 sqq. ; 7:13 sq., etc.). On the other hand salt was regarded as a means of purification and preservation, and was prescribed as a seasoning for all food-offerings prepared from corn ( Leviticus 2:13 ). Consequently, among the natural productions supplied to the (later) Temple, was a vast quantity of salt, which, as "salt of Sodom " was usually obtained from the Dead Sea , and stored up in a special salt chamber ( Ezra 6:9 ; 7:22 ; Josephus, "Antiquities", XII, 3:3). As an integral portion of the food-offering we always find the libation ( spondeion , libamen ), which is never offered independently. Oil and wine were the only liquids used (cf. Genesis 28:18 ; 35:14 ; Numbers 28:7,14 ): the oil was used partly in the preparation of the bread, and partly burned with the other gifts on the altar ; the wine was poured out before the altar. Libations of milk, such as those of the Arabs and the Phœnicians, do not occur in the Mosaic Law.
The fact that, in addition to the subsidiary sacrifices, unbloody sacrifices were also customary, has been unjustifiably contested by some Protestants in their polemics against the Sacrifice of the Mass , of which the sacrifices of food and drink were the prototypes. Passing over the oldest sacrifices of this kind in the case of Cain and Abel (see MASS, SACRIFICE OF THE), the Mosaic cult recognized the following independent sacrifices in the sanctuary :(a) the offering of bread and wine on the showbread table;
(b) the incense offering on the altar of incense ;
(c) the light offering in the burning lamps of the golden candle-stick.
And in the outer court:
(d) the daily minchah of the high-priest, which, like every other priestly minchah , had to be entirely consumed as a holocaust ( Leviticus 6:20 sqq. cf. Josephus, "Antiquit.", III, 10:7);
(e) the bread of the first fruits on the second day of the Pasch ;
(f) the bread of the first fruits on the feast of Pentecost.
Of the independent unbloody sacrifices at least a portion was always burnt as a memorial ( askara, memoriale ) for Jahweh; the rest belonged to the priests, who consumed it as sacred food in the outer court ( Leviticus 2:9 sq. ; 5:12 sq. ; 6:16 ).(3) The Rites of the Bloody Sacriflce
The ritual of the bloody sacrifice is of special importance for the deeper knowledge of Jewish sacrifice. Despite other differences, five actions were common to all the categories: the bringing forward of the victim, the imposition of hands, the slaying, the sprinkling of the blood, and the burning. The first was the leading of the victim to the altar of burnt sacrifices in the outer court of the tabernacle (or of the Temple ) "before the Lord" ( Exodus 29:42 ; Leviticus 1:5 ; 3:1 ; 4:6 ). Then followed on the north side of the altar the imposition of hands (or, more accurately, the resting of hands on the head of the victim), by which significant gesture the sacrificer transferred to the victim his personal intention of adoration, thanksgiving, petition, and especially of atonement, If sacrifice was about to be offered for the whole community, the ancients, as the representatives of the people, performed the ceremony of the imposition of hands ( Leviticus 4:15 ). This ceremony was omitted in the case of certain sacrifices (first fruits, tithes, the paschal lamb, doves ) and in the case of bloody sacrifices performed at the instance of pagans. From the time of Alexander the Great the offering of burnt sacrifices even by Gentiles was permitted in recognition of the supremacy of foreign rulers; thus, the Roman Emperor Augustus required a daily burnt offering of two lambs and a steer in the Temple (cf. Philo, "Leg. ad Caj.," 10; Josephus, "Contra Ap.", II, vi). The withdrawal of this permission at the beginning of the Jewish War was regarded as a public rebellion against the Roman rule (cf. Josephus, "De bello jud.", II, xvii, 2). The ceremony of the imposition of hands was usually preceded by a confession of sins ( Leviticus 16:21 ; 5:5 sq.; Numbers 5:6 sq. ), which, according to Rabbinic tradition, was verbal (cf. Otho, "Lex rabbin.", 552). The third act or the slaying, which effects as speedy and complete a shedding of the blood as possible by a deep cut into the throat, had also, like the leading forward and the imposition of hands, to be performed by the sacrificer himself ( Leviticus 1:3 sqq. ); only in the case of the offering of doves did the priest perform the slaying ( Leviticus 1:15 ). In later times, however, the slaying, skinning, and dismemberment of the larger animals were undertaken by the priests and Levites, especially when the whole people were to offer sacrifice for themselves on great festivals ( 2 Chronicles 29:22 sqq. ). The real sacrificial function began with the fourth act, the sprinkling of blood by the priest, which, according to the Law, pertained to him alone ( Leviticus 1:5 ; 3:2 ; 4:5 ; 2 Chronicles 29:23 , etc.). If a layman undertook the blood-sprinkling, the sacrifice was invalid (cf. Mischna Sebachim, II, 1).
The oblation of the blood on the altar by the priest thus formed the real essence of the bloody sacrifice. This idea was indeed universal, for "everywhere from China to Ireland the blood is the chief thing, the centre of the sacrifice; in the blood lies its power" (Bähr, "Symbolik des mosaischen Kultus", II, Heidelberg, 1839, p. 62). That the act of slaying or the destruction of the victim was not the chief element, is evident from the precept that the sacrificers themselves, who were not priests, had to care for the slaying. Jewish tradition also expressly designated the priestly sprinkling of the blood on the altar as "the root and principle of the sacrifice". The explanation is given in Lev., xvii, 10 sq.: "If any man whosoever of the house of Israel, and of the strangers that sojourn among them, eat blood, I will set my face against his soul an will cut him off from among his people: Because the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, and the blood may be for an expiation of the soul." Here the blood of the victim is declared in the clearest terms to be the means of propitiation, and the propitiation itself is associated with the application of the blood on the altar. But the propitiation for the guilt-laden soul is accomplished by the blood only in virtue of the life contained in it, which belongs to the Lord of death and life. Hence the strict prohibition of the "eating" of blood under penalty of being cut off from among the people. But inasmuch as the blood, since it bears the life of the victim, represents or symbolizes the soul or life of man, the idea of substitution finds clear expression in the sprinkling of the blood, just as it has been already expressed in the imposition of hands . But the blood obtained by the slaying exerts its expiatory power first on the altar, where the soul of the victim symbolically laden with sin comes into contact with the purifying and sanctifying power of God. The technical term for the reconciliation and remission of sin is kipper "to expiate" ( Piel from the word meaning "to cover"), a verb which is connected rather with the Assyrian kuppuru (wipe off, destroy) than with the Arabic "to cover, cover up". The fifth and last act, the burning, was performed differently, according as the whole victim (holocaust) or only certain portions of it were to be consumed by fire. By the altar and the "consuming fire" ( Deuteronomy 4:24 ) Jahweh symbolically appropriated, as through His Divine mouth, the sacrifices offered; this was strikingly manifested in the sacrifices of Aaron, Gedeon, and Elias (cf. Leviticus 9:24 ; Judges 6:21 ; 1 Kings 18:38 ).(4) Different Categories of the Bloody Sacrifices
(a) Among the various classes of bloody sacrifice, the burnt offering takes the first place. It is called both the "ascent sacrifice" ('õlah) and the "holocaust" (kâlil); Septuagint holokautoma ; in Philo, holokauston ), because the whole victim -- with the exception of the hip muscle and the hide -- is made through fire to ascend to God in smoke and vapour (see HOLOCAUST). Although the idea of expiation was not excluded ( Leviticus 1:4 ), it retired somewhat into the background, since in the complete destruction of the victim by fire the absolute submission of man to God was to find expression. The holocaust is indeed the oldest, most frequent, and most widespread sacrifice (cf. Genesis 4:4 ; 8:20 ; 22:2 sqq. ; Job 1:5 ; 42:8 ). As the "ever enduring" sacrifice, it had to be offered twice daily, in the morning and in the evening (cf. Exodus 29:38 sqq. ; Leviticus 6:9 sqq. ; Numbers 28:3 sqq. , etc.). As the sacrifice of adoration par excellence , it included in itself all other species of sacrifice. [Concerning the altar, see ALTAR (IN SCRIPTURE).]
(b) The idea of expiation received especially forcible expression in the expiatory sacrifices, of which two classes were distinguished, the sin and the guilt-offering. The distinction between these lies in the fact that the former was concerned rather with the absolution of the person from sin ( expiatio ), the latter rather with the making of satisfaction for the injury done ( satisfactio ).Turning first to the sin-offering ( sacrificium pro peccato , chattath ), we find that, according to the Law, not all ethical delinquencies could be expiated by it. Excluded from expiation were all deliberate crimes or " sins with raised hand", which involved a breech of the covenant and drew upon the transgressor as punishment ejection from among the people because he had "been rebellious against the Lord" ( Numbers 15:30 sq. ). To such sins belonged the omission of circumcision ( Genesis 17:14 ), the desecration of the Sabbath ( Exodus 31:14 ), the blaspheming of Jahweh ( Leviticus 24:16 ), failure to celebrate the Pasch ( Numbers 9:2 sqq. ), the "eating of blood" ( Leviticus 7:26 sq. ), working or failure to fast on the Day of Atonement ( Leviticus 23:21 ). Expiation availed only for misdeeds committed through ignorance, forgetfulness, or hastiness. The rites were determined not so much by the kind and gravity of the transgressions as by the quality of the persons for whom the sacrifice of expiation was to be offered. Thus, for the faults of the high-priest or the whole people a calf was prescribed ( Leviticus 4:3 ; 16:3 ); for those of the prince of a tribe ( Leviticus 4:23 ), as well as on certain festivals, a he-goat; for those of the ordinary Israelites, a she-goat or ewe lamb ( Leviticus 4:28 ; 5:6 ); for purification after child-birth and certain other legal uncleannesses, turtle doves or young pigeons ( Leviticus 12:6 ; 15:14, 29 ). The last-mentioned might also be used by the poor as the substitute for one of the small cattle ( Leviticus 5:7 ; 14:22 ). The very poor, who were unable to offer even doves, might in the case of ordinary transgressions sacrifice the tenth of an ephi of flour, but without oil or incense ( Leviticus 5:11 sqq. ). The manner of the application of the blood was different according to the various degrees of sin, and consisted, not in the mere sprinkling of the blood, but in rubbing it on the horns of the altar for burnt-offerings or the incense altar, after which the remainder of the blood was poured out at the foot of the altar. Concerning the details of this ceremony the handbooks of Biblical archæology should be consulted. The usual and best sacrificial portions of the victims (pieces of fat, kidneys, lobes of the liver) were then burned on the altar of burnt-offerings, and the remainder of the victim eaten by the priests as sacred food in the outer court of the sanctuary ( Leviticus 6:18 sq. ). Should any of the blood have been brought into the sanctuary, the flesh had to be brought to the ash-heap and there likewise burned ( Leviticus 4:1 sqq. ; 6:24 sqq. ), The guilt-offering ( sacrificium pro delicto , asham ) was specially appointed for sins and transgressions demanding restitution, whether the material interests of the sanctuary or those of private persons were injured -- e.g. by misappropriating gifts to the sanctuary, defrauding one's neighbour, retaining the property of another, etc. (cf. Leviticus 5:15 sqq. ; 6:2 sq. ; Numbers 5:6 sqq. ), The material restitution was reckoned at one-fifth higher than the loss inflicted (six fifths had thus to be paid). In addition, a guilt-sacrifice had to be offered, consisting of a ram sacrificed at the north side of the altar. The blood was sprinkled in a circle around the altar, on which the fatty portions were burnt; the rest of the flesh as sacrosanct was eaten by the priests in the holy place ( Leviticus 7:1 sqq. ).
(c) The third class of bloody sacrifice embraced the "peace offerings" ( victima pacifica , shelamim ), which were sub-divided into three classes: the sacrifice of thanks or praise, the sacrifice in fulfilment of a vow, and entire
- Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary
- Unfailing Prayer to St. Anthony
- The Angelus
- The Apostles' Creed
- Hail, Holy Queen
- Hail Mary
Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2021 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.