FRDB Archives

Freethought & Rationalism Archive

The archives are read only.


Go Back   FRDB Archives > Archives > Biblical Criticism - 2001
Welcome, Peter Kirby.
You last visited: Today at 05:55 AM

Notices

 
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 02-20-2001, 02:15 PM   #1
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post Ritual Cannibalism and the Church

This is in part, a question of laziness on my part (ie, I cannot be bothered doing the research myself).

Is anyone aware of a non biblical or pre 1CE source for the ritual cannibalism that is such a vital part of organised christianity today? It seems from what I have read that there is no Jewish tradition for this at all and I am not aware of any Roman or greek precedents so the earliest reference for this would seem to be Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (11 24-27). Did Paul make this story up out of whole cloth, and was it somehow later picked up by Mark and included in the other Gospels by default?

And why, in some sects (notably Roman Catholic) is there a belief in the stomach churning idea of transubstantiation? Does your "garden variety" church goer understand this and believe it, or are they simply going through a ritual?

Norm
 
Old 02-20-2001, 02:48 PM   #2
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Question

Hi Norm

Are you talking about Tacitus' comments about Christians, claiming that the Eucharist was a form of ritualistic cannabilism?

And as for the Real Presense, as transubstantiation is called by Catholics and the Orthodox Churches (consubstantiation in Lutheranism), what is your question?

Nomad
 
Old 02-20-2001, 02:52 PM   #3
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Actually, transubstantiation is a bizarre semantic game; Catholics don't find it stomach churning because they see it differently.

They say they are literally eating the body of Jesus, that the hosts miraculously become the body of Jesus, but this is where it becomes a little hazy. Catholicism espouses the concept of dualism, but, unfortunately, fails to actually teach it anymore, leaving even believers (like I myself once once) in a confusing position. The idea is that there are two layers to anything, a physical form and a spiritual essence. Transubstantiation does nothing to the physical form; it is a miraculous transformation of the essence of the hosts and wine. In addition, they don't believe the essence to be merely the prime cut of Jesus, but rather the whole essence of Jesus. The act of ingesting the host is supposed to trigger some spiritual event independent of the physical reactions occurring.

Now, as for myself, I did not understand this doctrine until I was becoming uncomfortable with the obvious paradox and did some research, and I have the feeling that many Catholics do not understand the doctrine to this level. Now, as I think dualism is a philosophical headgame and not some sort of expression of true reality, I think the reasons are somewhat bizarre, but I can at least understand the strange little framework Catholicism built to make the concept "work". I'm pretty sure it's mostly a literalist reading of the "this is my body, this is my blood" passages in the Gospels from which the tradition derives.

Of course, Jack Chick and many fundamentalists have their own take on it; check out "The Death Cookie" for bizarre, paranoid religious rantings about the evil history of the Catholic Eucharist.
 
Old 02-20-2001, 08:43 PM   #4
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Nomad

Thanks for responding. daemon23 pretty much nailed what I meant regarding the communion taking of the wafer and wine, and that transubstantiation according to the Roman Catholic Church (and possibly other faiths - I am not very well read on this subject) is a literal changing of these symbolic foods into the body of Jesus. As an ex-Church of England communicant, I am not aware that this was ever part of my former doctrine.

I suppose the basic question from this part of my post is do people actually realise/think that they are actually supposed to be drinking the blood and eating the body of Christ?

As far as the other, and to me more important part of my post goes, I am simply looking for information as to the source of what is now known as communion, which I suppose is any background to Paul’s obviously sincere belief in the last supper, and if there is any precedent for what I have called "ritual cannibalism" (ie take, eat this is my body which is given for you… drink ye all of this for this is my blood of the new covenant etc…) .

Is there anything prior to the letters of Paul which would suggest that this was a ritual in any extant society?

Sorry if this is still unclear

Regards

Norm


 
Old 02-21-2001, 12:13 PM   #5
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

I'm sorry for the vagueness of my answer, but it derives from an a/v presentation my science teacher gave in 9th grade. The reason I remember it is because it was one of the many bricks in the wall, so to speak, of my growing atheism.

There is evidence of ritual cannibalism among prehistoric tribes. Apparently this would involve eating the brain of someone who had died (as opposed to killing someone specifically to eat them.)

My teacher (who I now suspect was a member of the EAC), mentioned that modern Christianity also practices ritual cannibalism. Of course, that freaked a lot of people out.

Now the more precise portion of my answer:

At least one primitive tribe of the modern era has practiced this as well. A disease called kuru, somewhat akin to Creutzfeld-Jakob syndrome, appeared among the members of the Fore tribe of Papua New Guinea. The cause of the disease eluded scientists until they realized that it was transmissible through contamination by infected brain material. Women and children of the tribe would eat parts of the brain of deceased members as part of mourning rituals, passing along the disease.

Here's a link: http://www.britannica.com/bcom/eb/ar...+46492,00.html
 
Old 02-21-2001, 04:28 PM   #6
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Smile

"called kuru, somewhat akin to Creutzfeld-Jakob syndrome"

Some believe this is the origin of 'mad cow disease' which somehow is beginnig to turn up in squirrels & deer herds in Montana. Rendering plants include road kill & animal carcasses in pet food & animal feed.

Back to the subject at hand, It souds like all Jesus said was remember me when you eat & drink, I'll always be with you, that sort of thing. I'll bet he'd hurl if he ever showed up at a modern Xian church service, What!? me for dinner, and ham?!! By the way, do they eat the naughty bits?
 
Old 02-21-2001, 10:45 PM   #7
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by fromdownunder:

Thanks for responding. daemon23 pretty much nailed what I meant regarding the communion taking of the wafer and wine, and that transubstantiation according to the Roman Catholic Church (and possibly other faiths - I am not very well read on this subject) is a literal changing of these symbolic foods into the body of Jesus. As an ex-Church of England communicant, I am not aware that this was ever part of my former doctrine.</font>
Very quickly on this question of how the various denominations treat the "elements" of Communion.

In Catholicism (and Eastern Orthodoxy) transubstantiation does mean that the bread and wine literally are changed into the Body and Blood of Christ during the Mass. The appearance of the bread and wine remains, but that is all that it is.

For Lutherans, we practice "consubstantiation", where the True Body and Blood are found within the elements of the bread and the wine. The difference is subtle, and in my opinion, not critical or central. Luther himself admitted that if the definition of the elements in the differences between consubstantiation and transubstantiation was the only thing separating our two Churches, then we could live with the Catholic definition. Personally, I hate debates like this, since I see it as legalistic hairsplitting.

What is absolutely certain, however, is that when Jesus instituted the Last Supper, He did intend His disciples to understand that they were literally consuming His Body and Blood. The agreement between the three independent sources of this tradition (Paul in 1 Corinthians 11; the Synoptics in Mark 14:22-24, Matthew 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20; and John 6:53-57). It is also commonly accepted that all three of these written records drew on an even earlier tradition that almost certainly must have dated to the time of Pentecost.

As for what Anglicans believe, if you were High Anglican, this Church accepts transubstantiation. Low Anglicanism and Evangelical Anglicanism is less clear on this question, and my guess is that they deliberately left it vague.

And I cannot speak for the other Churches, but I do know that in the Lutheran Church we are clearly told that we are consuming the True Body and Blood. The Mass for the Catholics and the Orthodox uses the same words as well. Whether or not all participants understand what this means, theologically is another question, but the Church doctrine itself is extremely explicit.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I suppose the basic question from this part of my post is do people actually realise/think that they are actually supposed to be drinking the blood and eating the body of Christ?</font>
In our Church, if the Pastor has a question in his mind about whether or not an individual DOES understand this doctrine, he will ask that person to not partake of the Communion. If they choose to do so in any event, the pastor will not deny them, but we view it as a sin by the communicant to do this (1 Corinthians 11:27). For this reason, I respect the practice of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches and would not take communion with them, even if I were to attend a Mass (which I do occassionally with my in-laws).

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As far as the other, and to me more important part of my post goes, I am simply looking for information as to the source of what is now known as communion, which I suppose is any background to Paul’s obviously sincere belief in the last supper, and if there is any precedent for what I have called "ritual cannibalism" (ie take, eat this is my body which is given for you… drink ye all of this for this is my blood of the new covenant etc…) .

Is there anything prior to the letters of Paul which would suggest that this was a ritual in any extant society? </font>
If you are asking if there were pre-Christian traditions that involved the consumption (literal or figurative) of a god's body and/or blood, I am not aware of any such practices. It was common in some rituals (see Old Testament examples, I think Baal was one) where the priests consumed the blood of the sacrifice. And in Judaism, the priests ate the flesh of the sacrifices (but very specifically NOT the blood as per Leviticus 7:26, 17:13), but in neither case was this seen as eating the body or blood of the god (or God) in question.

The ritual is, I believe, completely unique to Christianity. If you wish to understand more about why we do see this as sound doctrine, please let me know, and I will go into it in more detail.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 02-21-2001, 11:42 PM   #8
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Nomad

Again thanks for the effort you put into discussing your faith and answering "ignorant" questions. I have actually posted this elsewhere, and unfortunately got mostly static from either people whose elevators do not exactly reach their penthouse, or bigots who find any reason to trash other people's thoughts the primary purpose of message boards.

I would like to think that most people here are above that sort of thing. I did however get one interesting response from a Jew (not knocking the religion - my father’s Grandmother was Jewish, so I cannot bite my own tail), which I would like to share, without requesting comments back (unless anyone thinks that comments on this would add anything to this thread - which despite my somewhat flip nature on other threads, is a genuine search for information).

I am reproducing the response in full, with thanks from the author:


"Well, he didn't make it up entirely out of whole cloth. Not all of the sacrificial offerings are burnt: many were eaten after the blood was poured out (e.g. Deuteronomy 12, round about verse 26). The christian idea (as I understand it, and any Christian, please correct me, as i do not wish to misrepresent) was that Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind, and thus the symbolic consumption of his body would be a fitting recognition of such a sacrifice.

In addition, wine and bread play a critical ritual role in any Jewish household. Before a meal, blessings are said over wine and food. If bread is served, then a blessing over bread can be said that will serve as a blessing over all the food, but if bread is not served, then each item of food must be blessed. Hence the idea that the sacrifice of Jesus is fittingly symbolised by Bread and wine, and that the consumption of these completes the sacrifice of his body and blood, is hardly bizarre.

That being said, there are aspects of this ritual that, while psychologically quite powerful, are inimical to the practice of Judaism.

1. Sacrifice by other people cannot atone for the sin of an individual. Individual sin requires prayer, sacrifice, atonement, and redress of any sin committed to another person.

2. Atonement is always made for specific sins, or categories of sin. Original sin is emphatically not a Jewish notion.

3. Human sacrifice is forbidden by the Laws of our G-d.

4. A sacrifice must be offered by a ritually pure Jew, following the laws regarding this. The Roman soldiers who killed Jesus would not have been ritually pure, and would not have been Jewish.

5. A sacrifice must be of an unblemished animal. Jesus was flogged before he died, and would be marked on that basis.

6. The consumption of human tissue is forbidden by the Laws of our G-d.

7. The consumption of blood is a total violation of the laws of kashruth (kosher) and would be forbidden even if it were not human.

In brief, the ritual of communion does in fact have deep roots in Judaism, but is also a radical departure from traditional Judaism, and without wishing to antagonise any Christians, would be viewed with revulsion by any practising Jew. Its one of those cultural gaps that is very hard to get around.

Poikilotherm"


Just reaffirming that I am neither trying to prove or disprove anything on this particular post - just feeding the elephant’s child.

Nomad, I will consider the "sound doctrine" idea further before I actually take it any further, so I do not want a response at this point.

You will probably realise from my initial post (and header) that I consider the idea of cannibalism, ritual or otherwise, to be fairly ordinary, but I need to develop my thoughts and reasoning on this a bit more so that you have a bit of meat (sorry about that) to respond to.

Take care

Norm

 
Old 02-22-2001, 06:29 AM   #9
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by fromdownunder:
Is anyone aware of a non biblical or pre 1CE source for the ritual cannibalism that is such a vital part of organised christianity today? It seems from what I have read that there is no Jewish tradition for this at all and I am not aware of any Roman or greek precedents so the earliest reference for this would seem to be Paul in his letter to the Corinthians (11 24-27). </font>
I don't know about specific pre 1st century references, but the worship of Mithras of the first century included a ritual meal of wine and bread that was "infused" with the essence of the Sun (thus Mithras). While not explicitly cannibalistic, the parallel to Christian communion is quite obvious.

I'm looking for specific scholarly sources for evidence, but this may be an avenue to explore.

Stryder


 
Old 02-22-2001, 08:38 PM   #10
Guest
 
Posts: n/a
Post

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by stryder2112:

I don't know about specific pre 1st century references, but the worship of Mithras of the first century included a ritual meal of wine and bread that was "infused" with the essence of the Sun (thus Mithras). While not explicitly cannibalistic, the parallel to Christian communion is quite obvious.

I'm looking for specific scholarly sources for evidence, but this may be an avenue to explore.</font>
Hi Stryder

The problem with trying to draw parallels between the cult of Mithras and Christianity is in identifying who copied who exactly. We have very little by way of hard textual evidence of practitioners of this religion (hence the reason it is classed as one of the "mystery" cults), and what we do have largely dates from the late 1st Century (in Josephus' writings) and 2nd Century. In both cases, the tradition within Christianity had long since been established by Paul and the Gospels (c. 50-70AD) if not sooner.

If you have any solid evidence of Christian copying of Mithras I would be interested in seeing it, of course. But I would caution you to take a look at primary sources, and not what you can only find on the internet on this subject. Most of what is out there regarding Mithras is of very low quality.

Peace,

Nomad
 
 

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 01:10 PM.

Top

This custom BB emulates vBulletin® Version 3.8.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.