The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

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Ben C. Smith
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The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

Post by Ben C. Smith »

Porphyry, On Abstinence From Animal Food 2.26:

26 But of the Syrians, the Jews indeed, through the sacrifice which they first made, even now, says Theophrastus, sacrifice animals, and if we were persuaded by them to sacrifice in the same way that they do, we should abstain from the deed. For they do not feast on the flesh of the sacrificed animals, but having thrown the whole of the victims into the fire, and poured much honey and wine on them during the night, they swiftly consume the sacrifice, in order that the all-seeing sun may not become a spectator of it. And they do this, fasting during all the intermediate days, and through the whole of this time, as belonging to the class of philosophers, and also discourse with each other about the divinity 12. But in the night, they apply themselves to the theory of the stars, surveying them, and through prayers invoking God. For these make offerings both of other animals and themselves, doing this from necessity, and not from their own will. The truth of this, however, may be learnt by any one who directs his attention to the Egyptians, the most learned of all men; who are so far from slaying other animals, that they make the images of these to be imitations of the Gods; so adapted and allied do they conceive these to be both to Gods and men.

26 καίτοι Σύρων μὲν {Ἰουδαῖοι} διὰ τὴν ἐξ ἀρχῆς συνήθειαν ἔτι καὶ νῦν, φησὶν ὁ Θεόφραστος, ζῳοθυτούντων εἰ τὸν αὐτὸν ἡμᾶς τρόπον τις κελεύοι θύειν, ἀποσταίημεν ἂν τῆς πράξεως. οὐ γὰρ ἑστιώμενοι τῶν τυθέντων, ὁλοκαυτοῦντες δὲ ταῦτα νυκτὸς καὶ κατ´ αὐτῶν πολὺ μέλι καὶ οἶνον λείβοντες ἀνήλισκον τὴν θυσίαν θᾶττον, ἵνα τοῦ δεινοῦ μὴ Ἥλιος ὁ πανόπτης γένοιτο θεατής. καὶ τοῦτο δρῶσιν νηστεύοντες τὰς ἀνὰ μέσον τούτων ἡμέρας· κατὰ δὲ πάντα τοῦτον τὸν χρόνον, ἅτε φιλόσοφοι τὸ γένος ὄντες, περὶ τοῦ θείου μὲν ἀλλήλοις λαλοῦσι, τῆς δὲ νυκτὸς τῶν ἄστρων ποιοῦνται τὴν θεωρίαν, βλέποντες εἰς αὐτὰ καὶ διὰ τῶν εὐχῶν θεοκλυτοῦντες. κατήρξαντο γὰρ οὗτοι πρῶτοι τῶν τε λοιπῶν ζῴων καὶ σφῶν αὐτῶν, ἀνάγκῃ καὶ οὐκ ἐπιθυμίᾳ τοῦτο πράξαντες. μάθοι δ´ ἄν τις ἐπιβλέψας τοὺς λογιωτάτους πάντων Αἰγυπτίους, οἳ τοσοῦτον ἀπεῖχον τοῦ φονεύειν τι τῶν λοιπῶν ζῴων, ὥστε τὰς τούτων εἰκόνας μιμήματα τῶν θεῶν ἐποιοῦντο. οὕτως οἰκεῖα καὶ συγγενῆ ταῦτα τοῖς θεοῖς ἐνόμιζον εἶναι καὶ τοῖς ἀνθρώποις.

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/porph ... _book2.htm.
http://mercure.fltr.ucl.ac.be/Hodoi/con ... ure/13.htm.

Theophrastus.
[wiki]Porphyry (philosopher)[/wiki].

Practices listed here include nocturnal offerings ("[they] poured much honey and wine on them during the night"), human sacrifice ("these make offerings both of other animals and themselves"), and astrology ("they apply themselves to the theory of the stars, surveying them, and through prayers invoking God"). These practices are roundly condemned in the Major Prophets:

Isaiah 65.3-4: 3 "A people who continually provoke Me to My face, offering sacrifices in gardens and burning incense on bricks; 4 who sit among graves and spend the night in secret places; who eat swine’s flesh, and the broth of unclean meat is in their pots."

Isaiah 67.5: 5 "Who inflame yourselves among the oaks, under every luxuriant tree, who slaughter the children in the ravines, under the clefts of the crags."

Jeremiah 7.17-18: 17 "Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me."

Jeremiah 19.13: 13 "The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be defiled like the place Topheth, because of all the houses on whose rooftops they burned sacrifices to all the heavenly host and poured out drink offerings to other gods."

Jeremiah 8.2: 2 They will spread them out to the sun, the moon and to all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served, and which they have gone after and which they have sought, and which they have worshiped. They will not be gathered or buried; they will be as dung on the face of the ground.

Jeremiah 44.15-19: 15 Then all the men who were aware that their wives were burning sacrifices to other gods, along with all the women who were standing by, as a large assembly, including all the people who were living in Pathros in the land of Egypt, responded to Jeremiah, saying, 16 "As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you! 17 But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune. 18 But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine." 19 "And," said the women, "when we were burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and were pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?"

Ezekiel 8.12: 12 Then He said to me, "Son of man, do you see what the elders of the house of Israel are committing in the dark, each man in the room of his carved images? For they say, 'The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.'"

Ezekiel 8.16: 16 Then He brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun.

Ezekiel 16.19-21: 19 "Also My bread which I gave you, fine flour, oil and honey with which I fed you, you would offer before them for a soothing aroma; so it happened,” declares the Lord God. 20 Moreover, you took your sons and daughters whom you had borne to Me and sacrificed them to idols to be devoured. Were your harlotries so small a matter? 21 You slaughtered My children and offered them up to idols by causing them to pass through the fire."

Ezekiel 23.37-39: 37 "For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands. Thus they have committed adultery with their idols and even caused their sons, whom they bore to Me, to pass through the fire to them as food. 38 Again, they have done this to Me: they have defiled My sanctuary on the same day and have profaned My sabbaths. 39 For when they had slaughtered their children for their idols, they entered My sanctuary on the same day to profane it; and lo, thus they did within My house.

It would seem that, to an outsider living in century III and IV before Christ, the Syrians and Jews were known more for what we now think of as heterodox religious customs than for their more orthodox religious customs. Does Theophrastus (via Porphyry) select these practices to mention because of their shock value? (Human sacrifice! Yet astrology is not very shocking....) Or were those operating in what are now considered to be more orthodox traditions in the minority at this time?

Ben.
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

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Margaret Barker, The Mother of the Lord, page 36:

There is little doubt that human sacrifice, especially child sacrifice, had a place in the older religion. The problem is ‘Molech’. Was this an offering to Molech, an alien deity, or was it a type of sacrifice since ‘to Molech’ can also be read as ‘for a molk sacrifice’. A recent study concluded: ‘Though the Hebrew Bible portrays child sacrifice as a foreign practice, several texts indicate that it was a native element of Judahite deity worship. As many as three possible cults of child sacrifice may be located within the Hebrew Bible: the sacrifice of the firstborn to YHWH; the fiery mlk sacrifice of children to YHWH in Jerusalem; and the sacrifice of children to the šdym.’ Theophrastus, the Greek who noted that the Jews were astronomers, also said: ‘They were the first to institute sacrifices both of other living beings and of themselves, yet they did it by compulsion and not from eagerness for it.’ Stern, commenting on this, said: ‘How did Theophrastus arrive at this startling statement?’ He suggested that Theophrastus had confused the Jews and the Phoenicians, or that he had heard something of the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac. This also suggests that what the Deuteronomists forbad survived to such an extent that an outsider, about 300 BCE, considered this one of the chief characteristics of the Jews.

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Re: The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

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Remember what is also said in Contra Apion about Jews capturing a youth and sacrificing him in their temple.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
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Re: The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

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There is an interesting discussion of Theophrastus on the Jews at http://content.ucpress.edu/chapters/11006.ch01.pdf
One issue is that it is unclear whether or not Theophrastus believed that the Jews of his own day practised human sacrifice.
He is primarily concerned with the ancient origins of sacrificial practices.

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Re: The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

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Not to oversimplify anything, but to me it boils down to people used to sacrifice children (like Incan mummies, for another example). And at some point this stopped. As a website I like puts it, "How was Judaism different from other religions of the time? Except for it's tribal monotheism, it wasn't. Like everyone else back then, Jews believed in God in heaven, hell, souls, sin, purity, purification, prophecy. Like everyone else Jews worshiped their God in his house—a temple, with priests, altars, sacrificed animals, etc., etc., etc. Judaism was the version of ancient Paganism that developed in ancient Judea." Just add child sacrifice to this list, is all.

http://pocm.info/triumph_before_Jesus_s ... daism.html
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Re: The abominable religious practices of the Jews.

Post by Ben C. Smith »

andrewcriddle wrote:There is an interesting discussion of Theophrastus on the Jews at http://content.ucpress.edu/chapters/11006.ch01.pdf
One issue is that it is unclear whether or not Theophrastus believed that the Jews of his own day practised human sacrifice.
He is primarily concerned with the ancient origins of sacrificial practices.

Andrew Criddle
Thanks, Andrew. I recognize that as a chapter from The Image of the Jews in Greek Literature: The Hellenistic Period, which is on my reading list but as yet unstarted. This observation may bump it up a notch or two.
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Re: Thinking of the Abominable.

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Something I've always wondered about: what happened to the slaughtered meat?

"Fasting" counts for daylight hours; "Feasting" therefore is the taboo daylight activity: eating in sight of the sun-god. It simply 'doesn't count' at night. So it's not "feasting" at night, a time when it is acceptable to eat sacrificed meat.

The Shame and Sin is not the human consumption of or 'eating sacrificed flesh' per se, only consuming it 'Under the Sun' (i.e. in God's Sight, during daylight hours) -- therein lies the key distinction. (No: the meat isn't wasted. Humans eat God's Portion at night.)

Re: Child Sacrifice
Isaiah 67.5: 5 "[You] ... who slaughter children in ravines, under the clefts of the crags."

Nobody sane wants to kill their kids. But in times of some extraordinary crisis (e.g. starvation, extenuating circumstance, etc.), human sacrifice of infants and weak children was tolerable -- proscribed by Horon's scapegoat ritual. Survival of the fittest, drawing lots, etc. There's a whiff of ritual cannibalism in Human Temple Meat, also. What dire circumstance!

How monstrous is that, really? The Law of Sea is only 4 or 5 generations behind us, and (during mass-starvation) there was incidental cannibalism in Russia as recently as 1992, more extensively back in 1942. In the West today, a woman will easily hoover her uterus of an inconvenient pregnancy: that's a secular child-sacrifice, of sorts. If we're going to be 'Tut-tutting', without getting honest here.

In other cultures, the Abominable has persisted until quite recently ... the 1990s is certainly within living memory, fwiw
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Re: Thinking of the Abominable.

Post by yakovzutolmai »

billd89 wrote: Tue Sep 06, 2022 2:34 am
"Fasting" counts for daylight hours; "Feasting" therefore is the taboo daylight activity: eating in sight of the sun-god. It simply 'doesn't count' at night. So it's not "feasting" at night, a time when it is acceptable to eat sacrificed meat.

The Shame and Sin is not the human consumption of or 'eating sacrificed flesh' per se, only consuming it 'Under the Sun' (i.e. in God's Sight, during daylight hours) -- therein lies the key distinction. (No: the meat isn't wasted. Humans eat God's Portion at night.)
Sounds like Ramadan.
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