Friday, December 27, 2013
Was the Lord God of Ancient Israel Pleased by Human Sacrifice ?
There are at least two incidences in the Old Testament Bible which gives an indication that the ancient Israelis used to do human sacrifice to please their god, the Lord God of Israel.
The first story is in the first book of the bible, the Genesis, where Abraham was required to show his allegiance and obedience to God who demands his only son to be sacrificed. Abraham went to fulfill the task of sacrificing his son, Isaac only to be prevented by God at the last moment. Abraham later sacrificed a goat instead for God. [Read the full bible passage about this aborted human sacrifice here!]
Years later, another incident had happened where a human sacrifice had actually happened, according to the Bible. This is in the book of Judges. Here a would be leader of the ancient Israelis, named Jephthah, make a promise to his God to sacrifice anyone who comes to meet and greet him first after he became successful in the local war for superiority. He won the battle and unfortunately it was his beautiful daughter who came to greet him first. The Bible says that he had to sacrifice his daughter to fulfill his vow.[ Read the full bible passage about Jephthah and his daughter here!]
No doubt, these are some glimpses of records of ancient history as depicted in some ancient literature that had become holy texts of some of the great human religions in the later years. It certainly gives some idea about the manner in which some sample populations of the world progressed in their concepts about God, worship, laws, governance, religion and the like.
Yet, it gives me some repulsion in my mind when I read through these. All the more it gives me additional repulsion when I consider that these are passages of some holy texts that attempt to introduce God to man.
Many ardent followers of Christian faiths believe that the Bible is the word of God and hence is infallible. God is now depicted as synonymous with Love and Mercy whereas in the olden times as the God of War, Destruction and Punishment. How could these two things go simultaneously in the same book? If God himself had revealed himself in these holy texts, these kinds of contradictions would not have happened. That is what my logic tells me. Undoubtedly, the Bible books are works of human beings. Yet there are great reflections of divine revelations of some fundamental realities and truths sprinkled here and there within the passages. Perhaps such words of wisdom, knowledge and truth might have been divine revelations as it got caught by the human brains!
But passages such as the one I cited above about the human sacrifice as conducted by Jephthah, create certain kind of difficulties for the bible scholars and theologians. People do discuss about these and come to their own conclusions. For example read this: What about Jephthah's vow?
For those like me, it is difficult to believe that the Bible as a whole is divine truth or holy text. Bible as such would have remained as a problem for my religious and spiritual understanding, had I not known the Urantia Book, my favorite book of life guidance, now.
It would be interesting to note what the non-human authors of the Urantia Book tells about the Biblical incident of Jephthah. Let me quote the authors:
There is no more tragic and pathetic experience on record, illustrative of the heart-tearing contentions between ancient and time-honored religious customs and the contrary demands of advancing civilization, than the Hebrew narrative of Jephthah and his only daughter. As was common custom, this well-meaning man had made a foolish vow, had bargained with the "god of battles," agreeing to pay a certain price for victory over his enemies. And this price was to make a sacrifice of that which first came out of his house to meet him when he returned to his home. Jephthah thought that one of his trusty slaves would thus be on hand to greet him, but it turned out that his daughter and only child came out to welcome him home. And so, even at that late date and among a supposedly civilized people, this beautiful maiden, after two months to mourn her fate, was actually offered as a human sacrifice by her father, and with the approval of his fellow tribesmen. And all this was done in the face of Moses' stringent rulings against the offering of human sacrifice. But men and women are addicted to making foolish and needless vows, and the men of old held all such pledges to be highly sacred. [The Urantia Book, Paper-89 para 6.3]
I would give below some more quotes from the same paper of the Urantia Book which tells about the human evolutionary progress in the concepts of sin, sacrifice and atonement reflecting the views of the divine authors who keep watching the slow progress of human race:
Human sacrifice has been virtually universal; it persisted in the religious customs of the Chinese,Hindus, Egyptians, Hebrews,Mesopotamians,Greeks,Romans, and many other peoples, even on to recent times among the backward African and Australian tribes. The later American Indians had a civilization emerging from cannibalism and, therefore, steeped in human sacrifice, especially in Central and South America. The Chaldeans were among the first to abandon the sacrificing of humans for ordinary occasions, substituting therefor animals. About two thousand years ago a tenderhearted Japanese emperor introduced clay images to take the place of human sacrifices, but it was less than a thousand years ago that these sacrifices died out in northern Europe. Among certain backward tribes, human sacrifice is still carried on by volunteers, a sort of religious or ritual suicide. A shaman once ordered the sacrifice of a much respected old man of a certain tribe. The people revolted; they refused to obey. Whereupon the old man had his own son dispatch him; the ancients really believed in this custom. [The Urantia Book Paper-89, 6.2]
Men eventually conceived the idea that the offering of some part of the body could take the place of the older and complete human sacrifice. Physical mutilation was also considered to be an acceptable substitute. Hair, nails, blood, and even fingers and toes were sacrificed. The later and well-nigh universal ancient rite of circumcision was an outgrowth of the cult of partial sacrifice; it was purely sacrificial, no thought of hygiene being attached thereto. Men were circumcised; women had their ears pierced. [The Urantia Book Paper-89, 8.2]
Subsequently it became the custom to bind fingers together instead of cutting them off. Shaving the head and cutting the hair were likewise forms of religious devotion. The making of eunuchs was at first a modification of the idea of human sacrifice. Nose and lip piercing is still practiced in Africa, and tattooing is an artistic evolution of the earlier crude scarring of the body. [The Urantia Book, Paper-89, 8.3]
But the idea of making a covenant with the gods did finally arrive. Evolutionary man eventually acquired such moral dignity that he dared to bargain with his gods. And so the business of offering sacrifices gradually developed into the game of man's philosophic bargaining with God. And all this represented a new device for insuring against bad luck or, rather, an enhanced technique for the more definite purchase of prosperity. Do not entertain the mistaken idea that these early sacrifices were a free gift to the gods, a spontaneous offering of gratitude or thanksgiving; they were not expressions of true worship. [The Urantia Book, Paper-89, 8.6]
Early prayer was hardly worship; it was a bargaining petition for health, wealth, and life. And in many respects prayers have not much changed with the passing of the ages. They are still read out of books, recited formally, and written out for emplacement on wheels and for hanging on trees, where the blowing of the winds will save man the trouble of expending his own breath. [The Urantia Book, Paper-89, 8.8]
The Hebrews long practiced this ritual as a part of their Passover ceremonies, and it was from this ceremonial that the later Christian version of the sacrament took its origin. Paul started out to build a new Christian cult on "the blood of the everlasting covenant." And while he may have unnecessarily encumbered Christianity with teachings about blood and sacrifice, he did once and for all make an end of the doctrines of redemption through human or animal sacrifices. His theologic compromises indicate that even revelation must submit to the graduated control of evolution. According to Paul, Christ became the last and all-sufficient human sacrifice; the divine Judge is now fully and forever satisfied. [The Urantia Book Paper-89, 9.3-9.4]
With the direct help of the divine non-human authors of the Urantia Book, I am now learning those many fundamental truths that are now revealed for people like to me to discard the errors that got accumulated over the years in our conceptual mental frame work. Now, I am happy to declare that I am no more a confused person, confused due to the mixture of facts, truths, untruths and imaginations that got mixed up in human history and understanding.
I can clearly understand why it was not at all necessary for Jesus Christ to be a sacrificial lamb of God for the salvation of all humanity. That was a great conceptual error of our human forefathers who tried to fathom an unfathomable God with their limited brains!
The reality is entirely different than what we were forced to believe.
Again, it is not so easy for ordinary folks to discard those concepts that had got stuck up in their minds. It needs some superior mental strength to do it.
In the due course of time, no doubt, most of the humans would be able to do it.