After the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, a recording of the Islamic Terrorist, Mohammad Sidique Khan, was played on the world’s media in which Mr Khan explains why he felt compelled to murder fifty-six innocent people.
He very eloquently and thoroughly quoted the passages in Islamic scripture in which Muslims are compelled to perform the exact acts of violence that Mr Khan and his team were, at the time, planning to do.
No matter how many ‘Re-education’ or ‘De-radicalisation’ courses that Mr Khan attended, he would still have believed that the only way to god was to murder the British. He knew it, because his religious scriptures demand it, his culture rewarded it and the ‘priests’ of his religion told him so.
In first century Judea, the Jesus of History was living in a country full of such people. In fact, some Jewish people still approach the concept of animal sacrifice in exactly the same way as they did two thousand years ago. This is a problem today and was an even bigger problem for the Jesus of History.
Cleansing the Temple
In order to understand why the Jesus of History might disrupt and ‘Cleanse’ the temple we must ask ourselves did he accept the principal of animal sacrifice? We know from contemporary records that he did not!
“And so, though they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat; in their eyes it was unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claimed that these books are forgeries and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. This was the difference between the Nasaraeans and the others; and their refutation is to be seen not in one place but in many.”
Epiphanius of Salamis, The Panarion – on Nasaraeans.
So why would a normal rational person believe that ‘god’ would want them to sacrifice the life of an animal? We have already touched upon the foundational concepts of such a belief:
- To regard life as a material commodity
- God is seen as separate from the appellant
- God is seen as separate from nature
- God is seen as separate from the animal
- Sacrifice is offered in order to change the mind of God — to get ‘right’ with God by way of a bribe or as a payment
Looking at the concept of sacrifice, divorced from scriptural justification, it is obvious that only a deeply damaged and troubled mind would be able to even conceive of such an idea. Unfortunately, animal sacrifice is still common today.
Rabbinical Jews argue that animal sacrifice creates a kind of spiritual telephone to god. They sacrifice chickens every year on the eve of Yom Kippur. It is clear from the Kapparot prayer that the very basis of animal sacrifice for Rabbinical Jews is the magical idea of transferring ‘sin’ or ill fate to an innocent.
“This is my substitute, this is my exchange, this is my atonement. This fowl will go to death, and I will enter upon a good and long life.”
Rabbinical Jewish Animal Sacrifice – Kapparot prayer
The Process of Animal Sacrifice
When we choose an animal to sacrifice we have to close our heart to the life of the innocent we are going to kill. Most normal people are repulsed by the idea of animal sacrifice and, in order to embrace it, we have to close off a part of our soul. We have to become deaf to our own empathy. Rather than connecting to the divine, we can’t help but view the world through the prism of our sense of self (2). Offering an animal for sacrifice is primarily a cultural exhibition of status – both a status symbol and a sign of cultural belonging. Inevitably then, animal sacrifice locks us within our ‘idea’ of our self.
Conversely, Nazarene Judaism, like Buddhism, is a spiritual practice that connects us to the ‘Eternal’ through our sense of connection to the world. The entire object of the ‘Narrow Gate’ system is to change oneself through returning to the core of who we are (Teshuvah). It was for this reason that ‘prayer’ is carried out in private and external shows, which inflate the ego, are avoided. Later on in the book, we discuss the Hebrew concepts of ‘Good’ and ‘Evil’ so I won’t go into it too deeply here but it is important to note that the concept of ‘Evil’ is really a discussion of the direction of one’s intention. Within the matrix of Nazarene belief, the act of ‘other’ sacrifice is an act of substitution and is therefore an act of choosing the ‘Self’ over the ‘Other’. Animal sacrifice, therefore, cannot avoid creating ‘Evil’.
I suggest that it would have been for this reason that the Jesus of History would have risked his life to protest against the Judean cult of animal sacrifice.
The Judean Cult of Animal Sacrifice
Even today people all over the world claim ‘scripture’ as their justification for actions that normal people regard as evil – for them, scripture is their moral datum.
The books of Kings and Chronicles are full of stories about the kings of Israel and of Judah. Each of these men were judged by the Judean scribes based on the datum of who did, or did not, sacrifice. Kings were also judged ‘bad’ if they refused to kill innocent women and children without hesitation. If they refused, they were considered to have done ‘what was wicked in the eyes of God’.
“But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded.”
“And we captured all his cities at that time and devoted to destruction every city, men, women, and children. We left no survivors.”
A people – a culture – a community is the sum of the stories its people believe! The Jesus of History would therefore argue that it is our duty to question the evil we are asked to do!
“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take vengeance on the Midianites for the Israelites…. They brought the captives, spoils and plunder to Moses and Eleazar the priest… Moses was angry with the officers of the army, ‘Have you allowed all the women to live?’ Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.”
Numbers 31:13 (Abridged)
As you can see the deuteronomist scribes, through Moses, demand that the Hebrew people slaughter prisoners of war and take children as sex slaves as the will of god and an act of piety. But it’s not all bad news! It is obvious from the later texts that the scribes were constantly being disappointed. The fact was that the Hebrew people were not genocidal maniacs. They kept reverting to their own understanding of who god was and what he wanted of them.
“The children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against Yahweh, their God, and they built high places in their cities. And they set up images and groves in every high hill and under every green tree and they burnt incense in all the high places.”
Kings 2: 17:9
As a reaction against this disobedience, various pogroms against the Galileans are described in the Old Testament. Hezekiah, a Judean King, didn’t hesitate to use violence, even on his own people.
“We trust in Yahweh, our God: [is] not that He (El), whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah hath taken away, and hath said to Judah and Jerusalem, Ye shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem?”
2 Kings 18:22
Despite the redactions and the insertions of the Judean priests, you can still clearly see that animal sacrifice was not popular with the people. We can also see that offering incense and olive oil was the normal form of worship.
In the context of these facts, the reaction of the Jesus of History to centuries of his people being forced to participate in such a barbaric ritual as animal sacrifice is totally understandable.
“It is written that this should be a house of prayer but you have turned it into a (Spelaion Leston) cave of robbers.”
Mathew 21:13 and Luke 19:46
‘Cave of Robbers’ doesn’t really work as a translation. In the Hebrew it would have had the implication of a ‘violent predator’. A more accurate modern day translation might be: “…You have turned it (the temple) into a ‘Crime Scene’.
Of course, it is entirely possible to find hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that demand animal sacrifice – a hundred and thirty commandments actually. And, to be honest, only a very few quotations remain in the Hebrew Bible that prohibit it. It would be possible to play scriptural poker all day and never really get anywhere.
I believe it was for this reason that the Jesus of History and the Nazarene Yeshiva (School) decided to take direct action at the temple in Jerusalem to call attention to the fact that animal sacrifice is inherently evil.
The Judean Cult of Human Sacrifice
There really is no difference, in principal, between animal sacrifice and human sacrifice, only one of price! In order to illustrate the point, let me tell you a modern Jewish joke:
In the course of his business, a billionaire meets a poor young couple. The young wife is exceptionally beautiful. The billionaire invites them to dinner, and over drinks, the billionaire asks the husband if he will allow him to sleep with his wife for a million dollars.
They looked shocked so he tells them to sleep on the offer and promises to phone the next day. When he gets home, he gets a telephone call from the young man who agrees to donate his wife for a million dollars. The billionaire says
“That’s great news! Now that we’ve agreed the principal, let’s discuss the price.”
The Carthaginians and their child sacrifice, the Aztec and their human sacrifice – all of them – used the same arguments to justify human sacrifice as do Rabbinical Jews to justify the resumption of animal sacrifices today.
Those religions and cultures, which use animal sacrifice, assume that God desires appeasement – that in itself is an anthropomorphic concept. To assume that God wants his ‘Cut’ is to see God as a king. It is evident then that in order to participate in animal sacrifice one needs to be entirely morally and spiritually ignorant.
There are strong indications in the Old Testament that the Judeans themselves had a long history of human sacrifice:
“You must give me the firstborn of your sons. Do the same with your cattle and your sheep. Let them stay with their mothers for seven days, but give them to me on the eighth day.”
The ‘binding of Isaac’ is not the only instance where Yahweh asks for a human sacrifice. Jephthah sacrificed his daughter:
And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: “If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD’s, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.” Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands.
He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon. When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter.
When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, “Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.”
“My father,” she replied, “you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request,” she said. “Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.”
“You may go,” he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed.
Many Jews who are against enforcing circumcision on religious grounds believe that male circumcision is the remains of the ‘deal’ that Moses made with God:
“And it came to pass on the way, at the encampment, that the YAHWEH met Moses (at the inn) and sought to kill him. Then Zipporah (Midianite wife of Moses) took a sharp stone and cut off the foreskin of her baby son and cast it at Yahweh’s feet, and said, ‘Surely you are a husband of blood to me!’ So YAHWEH let them go.”
It should be noted that every time in history a culture embraces ‘other’ sacrifice (animal or human) that culture is nearly always wiped from the face of the Earth.
- Judeans (First and Second temple)
It is also strange that the Jewish people found themselves, during the holocaust, being treated by the Germans just as they had treated sacrificial animals for hundreds of years. It is also strange that the similar treatment of wild animals in China has historically created a series of viruses that claim the lives of millions of innocent people. It’s as if the universe seeks balance.
I am not saying that the Hebrew people deserved such a fate but I am speculating that perhaps the Jesus of History was right when he said that the Judeans were committing a crime. Maybe when we indulge in animal sacrifice, we create a wave of evil that cannot help but rebound and destroy everything we hold dear?
On September 26th 2019, Rabbinical Jews sacrificed a goat on the Mount of Olives in preparation for the rebuilding of the temple. I predict that if the Jewish people rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and again dedicate it to the cult of animal sacrifice, Israel itself will fall and the Jewish people will be wiped from the face of the Earth forever.
Was the Jesus of History the first Prophet to speak against animal sacrifice? No, but he was the last!
“For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ But they did not obey or incline their ear, but walked in their own counsels and the stubbornness of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward.”