Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, , at sacred-texts.com
There arises thus the further presumption that such a cult as we are tracing may have flourished in a Jewish community elsewhere than in Jerusalem. Dr. Frazer, in surmising a celebration of Purim with a real victim at Jerusalem, does not take account of the fact that the bulk of the Jews deported to Babylon had remained and flourished there, many remaining Yahwists; that there then began the institution of the synagogue, permissible to any group of Jews in any place; and that wherever in the East there was a Jewish synagogue outside of Judea there was an opening for usages not recognised at Jerusalem. But the existence of many such synagogues is clearly an important condition of the problem; and precisely because there were no regular sacrificial rites, apart from the Passover, for expatriated Jews, there is a likelihood that among them in particular would revive rites of sacrifice and sacrament which had a great tradition behind them, but were not latterly practised at the temple. This craving for a sacrifice in which they could participate is the special note of the Epistle to the Hebrews; and indeed the habit and doctrine of sacrifice were far too deeply rooted to permit of a contented submission of all the myriads of scattered Jews to a complete deprivation of the practice. 1
Significantly enough, the most notable sacrificial survival among the race in modern times is one that demonstrably preserves the principle of human sacrificethat, namely, of the Kapparoth ("atonements"), the slaying of a white cock on the eve of Yom Kippùr, the Day of Atonement. 2 One Jewish convert to Christianity, Hyam Isaacs, puts it that "the more self-righteous Jews" provide a cock, which is slain by an inferior Rabbi, whereafter the sacrificers swing it nine times over their heads, praying to God that the sins of the year may enter into the fowl. It is not strictly a scapegoat, for it is given to the poor to eat. As to the "self-righteousness" involved, Isaacs admitted that while he remained in the old faith he set great store by the procedure, and "thought he was justified." 3 Theologically he was. It is not disputed that the Hebrew word Gever stands for both "a cock" and "a man." 4 Another Jewish convert, Hershon, describing the custom, and noting the eagerness with which white cocks are bought by Jews on the eve of Yom
[paragraph continues] Kippùr, declares that it is "still in vogue amongst those who pride themselves upon their orthodoxy," and decides that it is "one of many relics of Oriental paganism which the Jews brought from the banks of the Euphrates, from the land of their exile, the fatherland of Rabbinic faith and worship." 1 It has been strictly preserved in the interim. In an English account of the rite as practised among the Jews of Barbary in the seventeenth century it is noted that the sacrifice came after the reading of the ancient Confession held to be made by the high-priest in sacrificing the scapegoat. The narrator continues:
This differs from the recent accounts only in respect of the eating of the sacrifice by the sacrificers in persona closer adherence to the fundamental principle. In no case, however, is there any obscurity as to that. I have seen in recent years an illustrated postcard, made for the use of German Jews, whereon is represented a Jew in hat and long coat, holding a white cock, and
standing before a table with a book on it; while below is the Hebrew text (Job xxxiii, 24), "Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom"; with the addition, "May you be inscribed for a prosperous year," and afterwards, in German, the greeting, "Hearty Good Wishes for the New Year." Two other details complete the identification. (1) The sacrificer, holding with his right hand the tied legs of the bird, "with his left hand on its head coaxes it to keep it quiet" 1the old effort to secure the willing victim. (2) The procedure includes a "ransom for the Kapparoth"that is, a ransom for the ransom, 2 a principle familiar to the student of ancient sacrifice. 3 Here the substitution of a lesser for a human sacrifice is almost undisguised, after two thousand years.
A remarkable parallel to the Jewish practice is found at the present day among many of the peoples of the Congo and other regions of Western Africa.
The question here arises why black races should make white fowls or animals surrogates for men, and an Asiatic origin for the practice suggests itself. That it is, however, also an ancient if not a primary savage practice appears to follow from the frequency of sacrifices of white fowls among the Nigerians 5 and other tribes.
What is here inferential becomes quite explicit in the religious folk-lore of the Malays, whose wizards invoke the ancestor-spirits to inform them in a dream what sacrifices are required at a given juncture,
whereafter "Whatever sacrifice is asked for must of course be given, with the exception of a human sacrifice, which, as it is expressly stated, may be compounded by the sacrifice of a fowl." 1 And there are several reasons for supposing that the rite is eastern and not African in origin. A special reason is its connection, as noted by Sir H. Johnston, with "a reverence for the moon." As he and other writers also note, worship of the heavenly bodies is very uncommon among the African tribes. "As a rule the West African apparently pays no attention" to the sun, moon, and stars, "though not uncommonly his principal deity is the general controller of the firmament, a Jupiter or Sky-God in fact." 2 "I have never encountered," says Sir Harry, "a race of purely Negro blood that took much interest in the stars"; 3 and again: "I have never yet encountered a purely Negro race that attributed divinity to the sun." 4 Now, the Hebrew and other Semitic records go to show that sun-worship and moon-worship evolved together among the Semites; and the inference from the data before us is that it was from Semitic contacts that some of the negro races in antiquity acquired those cults, and the correlative sacrifice of the white fowl.
Other traces of the connection we find among the ancient Greeks. At Methana in Troezen Pausanias saw two men tear a white cock in halves 5 and run round the vines in opposite directions, each carrying a half. When they met they buried the parts together. The purpose was to avert the evil wind called Lips, which dried up the young shoots of the vines. 6 The Methanian cock, says Miss Harrison, "is a typical σφάγιον [thing slaughtered]: it is carried round for purification......It is really of the order of pharmakos ceremonies rather than a sacrifice proper. For a σφάγιον we should expect the cock to be black, but on the principle of sympathetic magic it is in this case white. The normal sacrifice to a wind was a black animal.....Winds were underworld Gods." 7 But they were certainly sacrificed
to; and it has been argued that the sacrifice of Iphigeneia "was, in the words of Æschylus, 'a sacrifice to stay the winds.'" 1 In any case, "the word σφάγιον is always used of human victims and of such animals as were in use as surrogates. The term is applied to all the famous maiden sacrifices of mythology As a σφάγιον Polyxena is slain on the tomb of Achilles." 2 So that we come back once more to the white cock as a substitute for a human victim; and as the winds were either Gods or Genii, it was strictly a sacrifice.
Again, among the Dravidian Ghasiyas of Mirzapur, "the most degraded of the Dravidian tribes," after a man's death his son sacrifices a white fowl as the recipient of his father's spirit, or otherwise as placating him, 3 and a white cock is a common sacrifice to the Sun-God among other tribes of the same race. 4 On that view, the surrogate cock sacrifice is probably ancient among the Semites; 5 and the late continuance of human sacrifice was with the Hebrews as with other races a result of the pressures of perturbing calamity on the one hand, and a ritual survival on the other. On any view, it is not to be supposed that in the age of sacrificial worship the dispersed Jews, craving for its usages, would abstain from other private rituals of a sacrificial and eucharistic kind. It is a Rabbinical doctrine that "so long as the Temple existed the altar made atonement for Israel; but now it is a man's table that makes atonement for him." 6 "Table" is interpreted to mean "hospitality," an unplausible gloss. It would certainly be understood by most Jews of the sacrificial age to mean individual rites of a quasi-sacrificial kind; and the principle would hold for exiled Jews before the fall of the Temple.
By reviving such mysteries, those of the Dispersion could in a measure compensate themselves for their exclusion from the orthodox sacrifices, which were a monopoly of the holy city. And when we find the later Christists practising rites closely analogous to those of pagan deities such as Mithra and Dionysos, we cannot well doubt that Jews in the large eastern cities would be at
times inclined to resort to mysteries of sacrament sacrifice for which they had a precedent in their own traditions. The story of the "Karabbas" episode at Alexandria, in fact, is an item of positive evidence not yet matched by any in regard to Jerusalem; unless it be the story to the effect that Antiochus Epiphanes found in the temple at Jerusalem a Greek captive who was to be sacrificed and sacramentally eaten. 1 In view of all the clues, notably that of the Rabbinical saying as to the lawfulness of slaying a pagan rustic on the Day of Atonement, 2 we cannot pronounce that story incredible; and the retort of Josephus, that one victim could not supply a meal to the multitude of worshippers, is at once disposed of by the principle that "sin-offerings were too holy to be eaten except by the priests." 3 Nor can we quite confidently reject the theorem of Ghillany, that there was an element of actual ritual cannibalism in the paschal meal of the Jews in the pre-exilic period, though the proof is incomplete. 4 It suffices, however, to note that when revived rites of sacrament were seen to flourish among the Dispersion, there would be a tendency at Jerusalem to recognise them for economic reasons. The more we study the history of Judaism, the more clearly we realise that it was never immune from change, never long a triumphant fixed cult realising the ideal of its sacred books. Even in the immediate sphere of the temple itself, then, revived or innovating rites could make their way.
Such an acceptance would require only one conditionthat the innovating rites were professedly Yahwistic. In the exilic period there had been many resorts to "unclean" sacraments, such as the mystical eating of dogs, mice, and swine, 5 men desperately seeking help from alien rites when their own God had wholly failed to help them; and our ablest Hebraist, while noting that "the causes which produced a resuscitation of obsolete mysteries among the Jews were at work at the same period among all the northern Semites," decides that the rites in question "mark the first appearance in Semitic history of the tendency to found religious societies on voluntary association and mystic initiation, instead of natural kinship and nationality." 6 Whatever may have been the origins, it suffices that the alleged "first appearance" was not the last. However the tendency may have been held in check at Jerusalem, it cannot have been equally repressed among the dispersed Jews, who saw all around them attractive mystical cults emanating from their own
[paragraph continues] Semitic kindred; and who had in their own sacred books pretexts enough for "clean" sacraments in honour of Yahweh. For in all the orthodox sacrifices, it is to be remembered, an eating and drinking with the Deity, a sitting at his table as his guest, even as one would sit at a great banquet, was the essential notion, the ideal for the laity as well as the priesthood. 1 It would be strange indeed if the dispersed myriads wholly renounced such an experience.
The law permitted at the temple of Jerusalem private as well as public sacrifices of all kinds; and in the case of the peace- or thank-offerings "only the fat was burned on the altar, while the flesh was used by the owner of the sacrifice himself as material for a jocund sacrificial feast." 2 And "as was only natural, it was the numerous private offerings of so many different kinds that constituted the bulk of the sacrifices." Their number was in fact "so vast as to be well-nigh inconceivable." 3 That is to say, the private proclivity to sacrifice was the predominant religious factor. At a time, then, when movements of dissent and innovation and even of "anticlericalism" 4 were being set up by a variety of forces, new and old, it is not to be supposed that the multitudes of Jews distributed through the Hellenistic world submitted passively to a monopoly which deprived them of most of the normal sensations of religion.
The obscurest side of the problem, perhaps, is that of the weekly eucharist, the "Holy Supper" of bread and wine, which in the later Jesuist cult we find in such close connection with the sacrifice of the God, but in the earlier form of the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles" does not appear to be so connected. Yet the very phenomenon of the Teaching points to what we have other reasons for surmisinga weekly rite of old standing among the Jews of the Dispersion. The Passover came but once a year; and any act of real or simulated human sacrifice would be no more frequent. Would the dispersed Jews then forego all such weekly rites as occurred among the Gentiles? If normally they abstained from "drink offerings of blood" presented to other Gods, 5 had they no permissible libation? That there was a weekly eucharist among the Mithraists is practically certain: the Fathers who mention the Mithraic bread-and-wine or bread-and-water sacrament never speak of it as less frequent than the Christian; 6 and the Pauline allusion
to the "table of daimons," with its "cup," implies that that was as habitual as the Christian rite, 1 which was certainly solemnised weekly in the early Church. And that this weekly rite, again, is not originally Mithraic, but one of the ancient Asiatic usages which could reach the Jews either by way of Babylon or before the Captivity, is to be inferred from the fact that the Brahmanic Upavasatha, the fast-day previous to the sacrament of the Soma, occurred four times in each lunar month; 2 and was thus closely analogous to the Sabbath, which was originally a lunar feast. 3 As the Soma feast was connected with the worship of the moon, it would be a "supper" on the night of the day before moon-daythat is, on the night of the Sunday, which was clearly "Lord's Day" long before the Christian era. That the Sumerians or Akkadians, who had the seven-day week, were the source of the weekly bread- and-wine supper for both the Hindus and the Persians, seems the natural hypothesis. 4
168:1 As to the avowed Jewish craving for sacrifices, cp. Hershon, Genesis with a Talmudical Commentary, pp. 167, 285.
168:2 See Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica, and other authorities cited by J. M. Wheeler. Footsteps of the Past, 1895, pp. 141-2.
168:3 Ceremonies, Rites, and Traditions of the Jews, (n.d. circa 1820?), p. 54.
168:4 Hershon, Treasures of the Talmud, p. 105.
169:1 Id. p. 113.
169:2 Hershon's account likewise says "three times," as against Isaacs "nine times"; and gives the same texts, but Job 33 instead of 13.
169:3 Note the support here given to the thesis of Gunkel (above, p. 167. n.).
169:4 The Present State of the Jews: More particularly relating to those in Barbary, by L. Addison, one of His Majesty's Chaplains in Ordinary. London, 1675, pp. 185-7.
170:1 Hershon, p. 106.
170:2 Id. p. 112.
170:3 Frazer, G. B. 2nd ed.
170:4 The River Congo, ed. 1895, p. 279.
170:5 Above, p. 151, note.
170:6 Allen and Thomson, Narrative of the British Expedition to the River Niger, 1848, ii, 398. Among the Andoni in Nigeria, again, we find the sacrifice of a white ram. Major Glyn Leonard, The Lower Niger and its Tribes, 1906, p. 381.
171:1 W. W. Skeat, Malay Magic, 1900, p. 211. Cp. pp. 143-4, where Mr. Skeat infers a progressive substitution of victimsbuffalo, goat, fowl, and finally egg, as symbol of the fowlfor the original human victim, sacrificed at the founding of a house. Mr. Skeat does not mention whether the fowl is white; but on p. 72 he says it must be a cock. He there notes also the offering of dough models of human beings, called "the substitute."
171:2 Major Mockler-Ferryman, British West Africa, 2nd ed. 1900, p. 384.
171:3 The Uganda Protectorate, 1902, ii, 697.
171:4 Liberia, 1906, ii, 1062, note. Cp. Sir A. B. Ellis, Tshi-Speaking Peoples, 1887, pp. 21, 117-8.
171:5 Note in this connection the Rabbinical saying about splitting the human victim in two. Above, p. 160.
171:6 Pausanias, ii, 34.
171:7 Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 2nd ed. p. 67, quoting Aristoph. Frogs, 847. As it happens, when a Haida Indian wishes to obtain a fair wind he fasts, shoots a raven, singes it in the fire, and then, going to the edge of the sea, sweeps it over the surface of the water four times in the direction in which he wishes the wind to blow" (Frazer, Golden Bough, 2nd ed. i, 119)a curious parallelism to the Jewish ritual above described, although the purpose is entirely different. It would appear that a sacrifice to the Wind-Gods became the type of another. (The dreaded winds, it should be noted, were not merely of the underworld, but demonic, though Boreas at times was pictured with a p. 172 nimbus, as being αἰθρηγενὴς or αἰθρηγενέτης. Preller, Gr. Mythol. ed. 1860, i, 370, note.) Of Chinese sailors, again, it is told that in times of imminent peril they sacrifice a cock to the spirit of the waters, wringing off its head, and sprinkling the blood over deck, masts, etc. (Hershon, Treasures, p. 114).
172:1 J. C. Lawson, Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion, 1910, p. 270, quoting the Agamemnon, 214, 1418.
172:2 Miss Harrison, as cited, pp. 64-65, quoting Euripides, Ion, 277-8, and Hecuba, 121.
172:3 W. Crooke, Popular Religion and Folklore in Northern India, ed. 1896, i, 176.
172:4 Id. i, 9-10.
172:5 According to the Rabbis, the Babylonian God Nergal, a Sun-God, was symbolised by a cock (Hershon, p. 113), as was Apollo. Sun-worship may then be either an early or a late basis for the sacrifice.
172:6 Hershon, p. 102, citing Berachoth, fol. 55 A.
173:1 Josephus, Against Apion, ii, 8.
173:2 Above, p. 160.
173:3 Smith, Semites, p. 369.
173:4 Menschenopfer, pp. 518, 525, 533-4.
173:5 Isa. lxv, 4-5; lxvi, 3, 17.
173:6 Smith, Semites, p. 339.
174:1 Cp. Spencer, De Legibus Hebræorum, ed. 1686, ii, 76; Smith, Semites, p. 206 sq.; Wellhausen, Prolegom. to Hist. of Israel, Eng. tr. p. 71 and refs.; Bahr, Symbolik des Mos. Cultus, 1835, i, 433-4.
174:2 Schürer, Hist. of Jewish People in time of J. C. 2nd Div. Eng. tr. i, 279.
174:3 Id. p. 299.
174:4 Cp. Schürer, as cited, pp. 222, 230.
174:5 Ps. xvi, 4. Cp. verse 5. In Clemens Alexandrinus (Pædagogus, ii, 2) the grape is "the Logos," and its juice is "His blood."
174:6 See below, Part III, § 7.
175:1 1 Cor. x, 16, 21; xi, 26.
175:2 Rhys Davids, Buddhism, pp. 140-1; Koeppen, Die Religion des Buddha, 1854, i, 563-4 ii, 307.
175:3 Wellhausen, Prolegomena, Eng. tr. pp. 111-112.
175:4 Cp. art. "The Sabbath Day," by Chilperic, in the Reformer, July, 1904, p. 442.