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Blood and BeliefThe Circulation of a Symbol between Jews and Christians$
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David Biale

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780520253049

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520253049.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 23 October 2019

Introduction

Introduction

Writing with Blood

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction
Source:
Blood and Belief
Author(s):

David Biale

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520253049.003.0001

This chapter sheds light on mentalities in the cultural history of a bodily substance and discusses various ways in which these discourses reflected and shaped beliefs. All the periods discussed—the biblical, late antique, medieval, and modern—share a common denominator: the control of blood as an index of power. The biblical rules that the priests fashioned for the proper disposition of animal blood enacted their ritual monopoly. After the destruction of the Second Temple, rabbis and church fathers reinterpreted the covenant of blood in the Bible as rituals without sacrifices—and thus eliminated competition for power from priests. In the Middle Ages, the polemic between Christians and Jews over whose blood rituals were most efficacious was, at bottom, a struggle for power through discursive arguments. And in the modern period, when blood became synonymous with the nation, who would have access to this blood was a central political question.

Keywords:   Middle Ages, covenant of blood, blood rituals, power, ritual monopoly

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