Chapter

Introduction

David Biale

in Blood and Belief

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780520253049
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520934238 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520253049.003.0001
Introduction

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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

Chapter.  3503 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies

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