Saturday, July 07, 2007
Interpretation of the Passion of Christ
I am trying to understand Christianity and it does make sense if it is read within the context of Middle East religious tradition. First of all, the Good News is that eternal life is available to everybody, not only to the people of Israel. While Judaism was based on "the flesh", Christianity is based on "the spirit". Tribe, race, nation is no longer relevant. All can be saved. Secondly, it seems that Middle Eastern peoples including Israel conserved in Roman times the memory of barbaric practices such as child sacrifice. Christianity brings the Good News that although human sacrifice is from God, the sacrifice of Christ (God's first born) made obsolete that form of gaining God's favour, of making penitence and achieving internal peace and harmony with the universe. The concept of Christ on the Cross liberates mankind from human sacrifice, Christ's blood has cleaned humanity. In that context, in a time when child sacrifice was still remembered or possibly practiced, Christiany is a revolutionary advance.
The pic is from the tophet of Carthage. In times of Jesus it was about 100 years old, I presume, that is, contemporary. The Cartaghinese were Canaanites and practiced the native religion of Eretz Israel. They spoke Hebrew and were lead by Shophtim (Judges) exactly as the Israelites. Child sacrifice seems to have been a general Middle Eastern practice, shared equally by Israelites and Canaanites. The Jewish G-d demands child sacrifice in Exodus 12:51: "the selfsame day, that the Lord did bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt ... the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine", echoed again in Numbers 8:17 "For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself. It is plain from various passages of the prophets that the sacrifices of children among the Jews before the captivity, which are commonly known as sacrifices to Moloch, were regarded as oblations to Jehovah, under the title of king, yet they were not presented at the temple, but consumed outside the town at Tophet. The prophet Micah appears to consider child sacrifice as a meaningful, if ultimate sacrifice to Yahweh 6:7: "Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
The fact that child sacrifice was practiced casts light on the emphasis of many of the condemnations of child sacrifice. Its effectiveness in dire circumstances, particularly of the high-born offspring of kings is illustrated in 2 Kings 3:26 "And when the king of Moab saw that the battle was too sore for him, he took with him seven hundred men that drew swords, to break through even unto the king of Edom: but they could not. Then he took his eldest son that should have reigned in his stead, and offered him for a burnt offering upon the wall." Ahaz, the king of Judah (8th century B.C.): "even burned his son as an offering, according to the abominable practices of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel" (2 Kings 16:3). The same is told of King Manasseh (7th century B.C.) in 2 Kings 21:6. Such child sacrifices took place primarily in the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem.
Now, all the above ocurred 2,000 years ago. The context is long gone, Carthage has been destroyed, no one ever heard of Moloch. Humanity surely has evolved these hundred generations, from adapting to subsistance gardening we are in our way to adapt to urban dwelling, our genotype is different from the people of the Bible. Ashkenazi mutations (diseases) are only 800 years old. Contemporary rabbinic Judaism has little to do with the Tora. The very intelligent people who dedicate their lives to study the Tora are constantly forced to make mental שמיניות באוויר to read and yet not to read what is written in it. The essence of orthodox Judaism is this mental gymnastic that allows to be an ethical person while pretending to follow the religion of Moses.