incentive in others. Albeit its Latin origin, several regions have taken the word and altered it to fit the culture and society. The biblical tradition maintains that when an object has been made holy, it should be given to the gods. Hence revealing the word's foundation: sacer meaning "holy" and facere meaning "to make". As a result, humans must then surrender one object for another (Shipley 308) when performing a sacrifice.
Forfeiting an item from one’s possessions symbolizes thanks for God and respect for the divinity. Several religions believe that the highest form of divine worship is found in a sacrifice. Sacrifices may simply express reverence, or demonstrate thanks for good fortune through intentional acts (Steinmueller 562-563). One objective behind sacrificial offerings is remembrance (Zaehner 363). The offering is consecrated through its destruction. The principle idea is that through these customs, loyalty, faith, love, and reverence reach their highest intensity. Paradoxically, the emotions reserved by the act are also in turn fully revealed.
Sacrifices are made in terms of a burnt offering, a sin/guilt offering, or a peace offering. The most common commodities given up in the Bible are animals, primarily cattle, sheep, goats, doves, and pigeons. All such animal sacrifices have a number of features in common, such as killing/dismembering the victim, and burning at least some part of it (the fat in particular) on the "altar" (2 Chronicles 35.10-24.16). Animal sacrifices do not necessarily mean the ritual is more sophisticated than rituals of human sacrifice. In the very earliest times, animals were not regarded as inferior to men; on the contrary, they were often considered as divine beings (Maccoby 8). Nonetheless, "the prevalence of sacrificial representation in different times and places is potentially indicative of the rite's own acute sensitivity to historical change" (Mizruchi 28).
In most circumstances the intent is to see good consequences arise from the slaying. Cities are founded, nations are inaugurated, famine is controlled, people are saved from the wrath of the gods, or a threatening enemy is defeated (Maccoby 8). At least that is what is hoped for by performing the sacrifice. "Sacrifice has predominately been understood as a necessary passage through suffering and/or death (of either oneself or someone else) on the way to a supreme moment of transcendent truth. Sacrifice effects the revelation of truth that overcomes the negative aspect of the sacrifice" (Keenan 1). The paradox is that the sacrifice itself has to be done without the expectation of the reward, so as not to be self-serving.
By accepting the timelessness of sacrifice, one must accept the symbolic continuum between ancient and modern religion (Mizruchi 27). In 1724, Lafitau writes that sacrifice "is as ancient as Religion itself, and as widespread as the Nations subject to Religion, since there is not one of them in which Sacrifice is not the custom, and among it is not all the same time a proof of Religion" (Keenan 12-13). Hinduism, for example, is an Eastern religion which maintains that the soul inhabits many bodies in its journey, until it reaches its final goal. This final purpose or place is described in varying terms by different sects (Zaehner 219). Many scholars suppose that the latest hymns of the Rig Veda were composed by about 900 B.C. "Hymn of the Primeval Man" is one of the most significant hymns, and marks the transition to a new period of Indian religion. As a result, sacrificial elements increased considerably, giving more power and prestige to the priestly class. It was believed that the gods themselves depended on the sacrifice, and if a sacrifice was not carried out correctly, it would do nothing but harm. In addition, it was believed that only a priest could perform it properly. The Brahmanas (extensive additions to the Vedas) explained the sacrificial rituals, and denoted symbolism in the...
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