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The first question is one that cannot be answered by history or science alone. The origin of sacrifice, like that of religion itself, is beyond the province of historical research. As far back as we may go in the history of the human race we find evidences of religion-understanding that much-abused word in the sense given to it in common usage by the 'plain man' and not in that of arbitrary and preconceived theory. Similarly, as far back as we may go in the history of religion we find the rite of sacrifice. No doubt there are in these days certain savage races, among whom no clear trace of this rite can be found, but the religion of modern savages is no safe criterion to go by in the question of origins, as many students of religion are beginning to realize and admit.1


It is not, however, the object of the present writer to enter upon such difficult and complicated questions as these. Not only would sufficient space be lacking within the limits of an article, but such questions demand a very special competence-a competence which the writer cannot pretend to possess. His object is rather to treat the matter from the Catholic point of view-in an 'apologetic' not a controversial spirit-and to show that this point of view is not necessarily at variance with the best results of an unbiassed study of the religious systems of the world.

From this Catholic point of view, as a matter of fact, the origin of sacrifice has always been an open question, neither Holy Scripture nor the Church having anything decisive to say on the matter. The account in Genesis of the sacrifices offered by Cain and Abel cannot be regarded as implying the institution of sacrifice, for it is there spoken of as something already well known and needing no explanation. At the most, this passage might be considered as the first instance of direct Divine approval of the rite. To relegate the origin of sacrifice to primitive revelation is again mere supposition, for we know very little about this primitive revelation and cannot decide how far its teaching extended. Most theologians would be inclined to hold that sacrifice is due to an instinct of Natural Religion that has been ratified by the Divine. approval as worthy of a place in Supernatural Religion.3 Turning to the second question-the significance of

1 Histoire des religions et Méthode Comparative, G. Foucart; Paris, 1912. * Gen. iv. 3, 5.

3 Catholic Encycl., vol. xiii., art. 'Sacrifice,' p. 320, § c.

sacrifice we are on firmer ground, for this is intimately connected with doctrine. But even here we do not find absolute clearness or complete unanimity. Two points, however, seem certain :

(1) That the Church believes in sacrifice in the strict, literal sense of the word, not only as a necessary element of external religion, but as its chief and most important element and as comprising within itself all that is meant by religion. According to her teaching sacrifice is both internal and external-the external aspect being essential to it as an element of human worship.

(2) That this Sacrifice is one, and that it is perpetual, being nothing else than the oblation of His own Body and Blood, made by Jesus Christ to His Eternal Father in behalf of all mankind. It is one-because there can be no other sacrifice than that of Jesus Christ, the antitype and fulfilment of all sacrificial types, whether in the religion of the Chosen People or in those of the other races of the world. It is perpetual-because the need of sacrifice is perpetual, the need of an external rite that will fittingly express and manifest the worship of mankind, united in one great family, before its Maker.


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This Sacrifice is a sacrifice in the literal sense: "We are sanctified in the will of God,' says the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ.' As Dr. A. B. Davidson points out in his learned work on the theology of the Old Testament, What are contrasted '-in the argument of this Epistle are not two disparate things, namely, the material sacrifices offered according to the law and the moral sacrifice of obedience; but two things of the same kind or class, namely, Old Testament sacrifices, the blood of bulls and goats, and the offering of the body of Christ-once for all-the blood o Christ."

The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, offered once upon the Cross and perpetuated in the Holy Eucharist, is the antitype and fulfilment of all those ancient sacrifices offered by the Jews and by every race from the earliest times. These sacrifices have therefore real value as regards religion,

1 Heb. x. 10.

The Theology of the Old Testament, p. 356, A. B. Davidson; Edinburgh, 1904. The difference between these two classes of sacrifice lies in the difference between the Body and Blood of the Divine Victim and the flesh and blood of irrational animals.

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and are capable of an explanation that will render them worthy of a place therein.

In order to understand, as we should, the significance of that great Act, which is the centre of all true Christian worship, we must first try to understand the significance of those rites of which it is the perfect fulfilment and of which it has taken the place. Catholic theologians have always maintained that the essential idea underlying sacrifice is that of offering. In sacrifice, a man offers something of his own to God, or to what he imagines to be divine. In this they are practically at one with most modern students of religion. As we have seen, the 'Communion-theory' of sacrifice, which eliminates all idea of offering from primitive sacrifice, regarding it simply as a kind of sacramental meal shared by man with his gods, is no longer in general favour, though still upheld by a few.

It is further agreed on all sides, that the word sacrifice should be reserved for that class of offerings in which either a living victim is slain or the object offered-usually an article of food or drink-is in some way destroyed.1 Here, however, agreement ends, both among Catholics and non-Catholics, and theories vary to an almost infinite degree. That most in vogue at the present day in scientific circles is known as the Food-theory.' According to this theory, sacrifice is regarded as the gift or offering of food and drink to the deity. Whether the latter was really believed to eat these food-offerings or whether food was presented simply as being, from the offerer's point of view, the most valuable and therefore most acceptable offering that could be made, is a point on which opinions differ. It is certainly true that 'unbloody sacrifice' consisted almost exclusively in offerings of food and drink, and even bloody sacrifice' might be regarded in this light, since the victims offered were practically always animals used for food-among civilized races, domestic animals. There is, however, in the ceremonial of this latter class of sacrifice an important and even essential rite that cannot be satisfactorily explained from this point of view alone. In all sacrifices in which a living victim was slain and offered-apart from certain exceptions that

1 Dictionnaire des antiquités grecques et romaines (Daremberg and Saglio), vol. iv. 2ième partie, art. 'Sacrificium,' p. 973.

2 Comparative Religion, F. B. Jevons, pp. 23-28; Cambridge, 1913.

cannot be regarded as normal-the principal act of the ritual was the shedding of the victim's blood and its manipulation, according to carefully prescribed rules, by the priest. It is true that the flesh, in whole or in part, was also offered upon the altar and burnt in the altar fire, and in Holy Scripture is even spoken of as a 'food offering made by fire-according to the literal translation of the Hebrew.1 It remains, however, none the less true that 'from first to last the utmost importance attaches to the disposition of the victim's blood. Indeed, it may be said that this is the one universal and indispensable constituent of sacrifice.' 2

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The author of the article on Blood' in Hastings' Encyclopedia Religion and Ethics, from whom the above quotation is taken, says with regard to this point: No theory of sacrifice can be regarded as satisfactory which places blood at the circumference rather than at the centre.' The specially sacred character of blood among all primitive races and in all ancient religions is a wellknown fact, and nowhere is this fact so prominent as in the pages of the Old Testament. If an animal should be slain for food, the blood is not to be eaten with the flesh,' it must be poured out-abandoned to God, to whom it belongs by supreme right. This custom is found not only amorg the Hebrews, but also among all primitive races, ad it is observed literally at the present day by the Arab tribes in Palestine. The sacrifices offered by these latter (in spite of their outward profession of the faith of Islam) consist principally in the shedding and outpouring of blood-the 'bursting forth' of the blood before Allah, or the Weli' (Mohammedan saint) at whose shrine the sacrifice is offered.1

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It will no doubt be suggested by upholders of the food-theory' of sacrifice that the words of Psalm xlix., 'Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks, or shall I drink the blood of goats?' (v. 13) seem to show that the special sacredness ascribed to blood is due simply to the fact that it was commonly regarded, even in Israel, as the drink of the deity, just as the flesh of victims was regarded as His 1 Levit. iii. 11, 16 et passim.

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2 Moore, art. Sacrifice,' in Encycl. Biblica (Cheyne), quoted in Hastings' Encycl. of Religion and Ethics, vol. 2, p. 719, § 8.

Hastings, Encycl. of Religion and Ethics, art. 'Blood,' vol. 2, p. 719, § 8. • Primitive Semitic Religion To-day, by S. T. Curtiss, pp. 221-225; London, 1902 Cf. Revue Biblique, pp. 91-114, Juillet, 1906, L'Immolation chez les Nomades, by A. Janssen, O.P.

food. This would account for the blood being so strictly forbidden to men.

It is very probable that there were, in the rank and file of the people of God, some-perhaps many-who held such views, and it is precisely against such as these that the Psalmist protests in the name of the God of Israel.

The conception of sacrifice as the food and drink of God certainly existed in ancient religions, but it is a fact worthy of note that this conception is found, not, as would be expected, among simple primitive races, but among people in a high state of material civilization; such, for example, as the Assyrians, Babylonians, or Egyptians. It is from these people, and from various other heathen races with whom they came in contact, that the Israelites—so prone to submit to foreign influence in matters of religion -derived such notions.

Material and spiritual progress do not seem always, or even generally, to go hand-in-hand. Among nomad or demi-nomad races, such as the Israelites originally were, and among the greater number of primitive' or savage tribes at the present day, such materialistic ideas are not found. The divine being is regarded as above the needs of human nature and is not, as in the religion of the civilized races of the ancient world, lowered to the level of his human worshippers and endowed with their weaknesses. The explanation of the Bible is truer to the history of religion than that of its modern students.

This explanation is given most fully in the well-known text of Leviticus: If any man whatsoever. . . eat blood, I will set My face against his soul . . . because the life (or soul) of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you, that you may make atonement with it upon the altar for your souls, for the blood atones in virtue of the life.'1 To eat blood is forbidden because it is the life; ‘at all times the blood was sacrosanct. Life belonged to God and must in all cases be given back to Him and not used by men as flesh might be." It might be used only in the most solemn of all religious rites-in sacrifice. The words, 'I have given it (the blood) to you that you may make

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1 Levit. xvii. 10-12 (A.V.). The Authorised Version of the Anglican Bible expresses the meaning of the Hebrew more clearly than the Vulgate in the phrase, the blood atones in virtue of the life.' This gives the actual reason of the sacred character and special potency attached to the blood-it is the life.

"Davidson, op. cit. p. 354.

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