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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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Pollution and Power

Pollution and Power

Blood in the Hebrew Bible

(p.9) Chapter 1 Pollution and Power
Blood and Belief

David Biale

University of California Press

The ancient Israelites were the only Near Easterners to make blood a central element in their religious rituals. But no biblical text states explicitly that the Israelite God drinks or eats blood with two exceptions. This chapter explores the Hebrew text in the context of blood and its usage. By the proper use of blood, Israel becomes a blood community, that is, a community constituted through its sacrificial relationship to its God. Here, the meaning of blood community is very far from what it was to become in the age of modern nationalism, namely, a nation based on common racial origins. To be sure, ancient Israel also had its myth of a common tribal identity, going back to the patriarchs and their sons. But the covenant of blood suggests that the nation was based on ritual actions at least as much as on ancestry. Properly disposing of blood in all its guises and avoiding the blood transgressions that polluted the land bound the members of the nation to each other, as well as to their land and to their God.

Keywords:   biblical text, Hebrew, ancient Israel, nationalism, blood community

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