Don’t Cry Over Spilled Blood

Kathryn McClymond

in Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738960
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918676 | DOI:
Don’t Cry Over Spilled Blood

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Writing long after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the compilers of the Mishnah (ca. 220 CE) nevertheless included several instructions regarding the remedies appropriate to various sacrificial mistakes in their writings, as Kathryn McClymond shows. Analyzing the rabbinic discussions of ritual in the Mishnah tractate Zevachim, McClymond argues that rabbinic sacrificial remedies emphasized the rabbis’ own mastery at a time when sacrifice was no longer possible. Whereas the biblical material only rarely discusses mistakes, the Mishnah considers the problem at great length, seeking to ensure that priestly intention is correct and also that blood is manipulated at the right time and in the right place. In the process, a new intellectual system was developed, in which priestly authority and ritual practice was replaced by rabbinic authority and ritual argument. Though solely discursive, attention to the alleviation of mistakes nevertheless challenges the widespread view that ritual is distinctly “other” to mundane practice, however imaginary Temple rituals may have been.

Keywords: rabbinic literature; Mishnah; ritual errors; Judaism; sacrifice post-70 CE

Chapter.  8261 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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