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Sacrifice in history and modernity

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Sacrifice in history and modernity

The purpose of the sacrifice and the cultural environment in which the sacrifices arose have long ceased to exist. To understand them, it is necessary to reconstruct the way of thinking and actions of a Paleolithic person. The concept of sacrifice has undergone several revolutionary rethinking of its content, each time finding a place for itself in a new cultural environment. And, finally, in our days, it was buried under the "cultural layer" of related concepts.

In modern Russian, the victim is usually understood as one of the three: “the sacrifice of what”, “the victim to whom” or “the victim than.” The first implies a person who has been injured or died from an accident or someone’s malicious actions. The second is a voluntary free transfer of funds or other valuables to some significant business. And the third – the choice – the rejection of something less valuable for the sake of the more valuable. The fact that this word has a certain fourth meaning – mystical, is vaguely guessed only when it comes to the sacred. It is about this fourth one that will be discussed here, since the history of the question shows that it was he who was the original, and all the others somehow came from him.

Abraham sacrifices Isaac

And the first thing that comes to mind is the “bloodless Sacrifice” that we bring in the Eucharist. However, this Christian neologism was originally an antinomy. Outside the Christian context, “bloodless sacrifice” is a contradiction in terms; there can be no bloodless sacrifice. The fact is that in its ancient, archaic sense, the victim was not connected with the need to give something, but with the need to kill someone. When an ancient man wanted to appeal to a deity, he offered a sacrifice to him – slaughtered a sacrificial animal, and sometimes another person. This phenomenon is so incomprehensible to our contemporaries that, as a rule, it is attributed to completely non-peculiar motifs. Most often, as a kind of gift or bribe. However, this explanation leaves behind the natural question – why, in this case, it is not values ​​(money, precious metals and stones, etc.) that are sacrificed, but someone’s life without fail?

The origin of the sacrifice

This question was rather thoroughly investigated by R. Girard (1). The root of this phenomenon, he sees in the fact that the ancient man did not know how to curb violence. Now in civilized countries for this there are laws, courts and police. In the less civilized – repressive organs. And in the prehistoric era there was only a tribe, almost no structured. Therefore, if one of its members showed aggression against another, it created a great danger for the tribe as a whole. The natural response of a person to violence is to respond with more violence. After all, violence is an obvious evil. But evil must be stopped. And only the one who is stronger than the attacker can stop him. So, if you are insulted – hit, if you hit – cripple, if crippled – kill … and so on. How, continuing this logic, deal with the killer? Obviously, cut out his whole family. It is clear that any insult, if not to break the chain of mutual violence, can lead to the complete extermination of the people. And such cases are known. The author cites examples of peoples recorded by ethnologists who completely disappeared from the face of the earth just because they killed each other.

How did the ancients learn to curb mutual violence? It turns out that the thirst for revenge can be deceived – to direct it not to the subject who is really guilty of your offense. And if all members of a nation or tribe agree to switch their hatred to someone, they can achieve peace and harmony by killing that one. However, this one must have certain properties. First, it should be at least a little like the one who, in principle, can be to blame for everything. Otherwise, agreement is unlikely to be reached. For example, it is easy to convince many people that Jews or liberals are to blame for all the troubles of Russia. What is to blame, for example, Nile crocodiles, to convince them will be much harder. And so that the Nizhniy Tagil cock made of manure is to blame for everything, no one probably will believe you. Secondly, he should not be a member of the people or the tribe making this sacrifice (it is a sacrifice). Otherwise, there will also be an avenger for him and the problem will not be solved. Finally, it is important that everyone participate in the murder of the victim. Otherwise, someone's thirst for revenge may not be satisfied.

Of course, the ancient man did not conduct such arguments. He did not think analytically at all, but rather mythologically. Having found by chance or by trial and error the right decision, he described it with the help of a myth. And he used this same myth in his practical activity. Of course, the myth here is understood not as a fairy tale, but approximately what Losev understood by it (2) is a wonderful character story, personally translating a certain experience.

According to Girard, the myth here has developed about the following content. The deity was angry with the people, and disaster struck on them. Outbreaks of internecine violence were then perceived as phenomena akin to natural disasters, epidemics and other misfortunes. In order for a disaster to stop, it is necessary to entreat this god to take it, there is no other way out. But the deity does not want any other offerings, except … and further the above described conditions are formulated, which were previously found empirically.

Obviously, the ideal candidate for the role of the victim is a stranger or slave — a person who is not a member of the victim community. Sometimes a person who was specially prepared for this, “Farmak”, was sacrificed. But if there is none, some animal can also descend. True, it satisfies the first condition only with some stretch, but the rest is complete. The further development of this practice has led to the fact that the sacrifice from an emergency means of healing outbreaks of violence has gradually turned into a means of their prevention, and therefore a regular means, used not only in emergency cases. In addition, it was also used for the prevention or resolution of other problems that mythological thinking attributed to the same forces as outbreaks of violence, from natural disasters to life failures.

In relatively modern practice, this kind of thinking can be observed by studying such a phenomenon as a cargo cult. During World War II, the Americans built their military bases on some of the Pacific Islands. With the natives who inhabited them, they easily agreed to grant them land for this, supplying them with all sorts of trinkets such as pen knives and lanterns, as well as canned food, sweets and alcohol. When, after the end of hostilities, the Americans turned down their bases and left, it turned out that it was already quite difficult for the natives to do without their gifts. And they began to do what, from their point of view, contributed to obtaining them: building aircraft with similar materials, clearing runways, walking systems, etc. They just created a myth: white people know the way to get everything they need from spirits . So, if you learn to do everything that they did, the spirits will give all this to us. Examples of such thinking, although less obvious, can be observed in our society – all sorts of signs, superstitions, etc. And even in Orthodoxy – miraculous icons, relics, etc.

Pagan revolution

With the advent of the state, the power of the victim crisis arises. It ceases to perform its main function – to limit violence. Signs of this Girard finds in the classic antique tragedy. Its typical plot – two (sometimes more) agonists pretend to possess something one (kingdom, treasure, woman …) – none of them have any advantage either in strength or in correctness. Usually such a collision is resolved by the intervention of a more powerful force (deus ex machina), for the obvious alternative is that they will kill each other. That is, sacrificial violence, sacred becomes indistinguishable from criminal violence. However, what is the cause, and what is the result, I personally have great doubts. It is possible that it was the crisis of the victim that led to the emergence of state power, and not vice versa.

It is not difficult to imagine how this could happen. The first states in the history of mankind, as is known, originated in Egypt and in Mesopotamia. Both were absolute monarchies, and of a very specific type. The monarch in them was a sacred figure – a deity or semi-deities (3). How, then, in a primitive community, where everything was more or less equal, could such a radical change take place? I dare to suggest that it was precisely the equality of all that served as the basis for the fact that violence, from whatever source it came to, was perceived as equally inappropriate – there was no way to distinguish sacred violence from criminal. So, the sacrifice has lost its effectiveness – has ceased to reconcile the warring. The obvious way out of this “vicious circle” is a radical violation of equality, the delegation of the “right to violence” to someone alone. In this case, there is a clear criterion – the correct, sacred violence is the one and only that comes from the monarch. He alone has the right to kill (i.e., execute) anyone he wants. All others are obliged to obey him and kill only by his order. It is clear that this puts the monarch in a completely exceptional position in relation to all the rest. In fact, in the position of God, because before none of the people to anyone of his kind so did not belong. Signs of the deification of the monarch are more or less visible in almost all ancient cultures from Central Asia to Western Europe, which are commonly referred to as pagan (4). For example, in the Greek tragedy, the typical resolution of a collision with the help of deus ex machina on the scene is represented as an intervention of God. In real life, as you might guess, behind this is the intervention of the authorities with the help of armed force. Even in Late Antique Rome, numerous attempts are made to deify the emperor and his power.

It would seem that in these new conditions sacrifice should disappear. Why kill the sacrifice, if the deity is in front of you in human form? You can simply ask him what it wants and fulfill his requirements. But the disappearance does not occur. There is a rethinking – filling the new content of the form, almost no different from the old. The fact is that a monarch, as a rule, understands best of all others that his special position is not connected with his personal qualities, but with some kind of conditionality. Everyone agrees to obey him because they know no other way to insure against outbreaks of violence with their tragic consequences. But this means that his status, in principle, can be challenged by anyone else. After all, the status of the monarch is important for society, and not the person he is endowed with. So, if in any way it stops arranging too many, it can be replaced by someone else. Therefore, any monarch needs constant confirmation of loyalty to him by all his subjects. This means that a ritual is needed in which this loyalty will be regularly symbolically (5) confirmed. And the sacrifice for this fits perfectly. Firstly, this is a very traditional affair. Secondly, the same tradition obliges all members of society to participate in it, so that no one evades, and also regularly. Thirdly, it implies the obligatory participation of a hierarchical person – a priest or a priest, by whose hands it is directly performed. And most importantly, the violence perpetrated by this hierarchical person is radically different from any other, even very similar in form. Thus, the monarch, taking upon himself to all other functions also the functions of the priest (priest), may well turn the sacrifice into a regular, symbolic acknowledgment for all of the loyalty of his subjects to him.

I dare to suggest that the requirement of Nebuchadnezzar described in Dan 3: 8-15 to all his subjects to bow to the golden idol is nothing more than the requirement to take part in the sacrifice headed by him. Therefore, the pagan monarch, being in one sense or another a deity for his subjects, is at the same time a priest of another deity to whom he makes sacrifices. And there is no contradiction in this. After all, for a pagan god is only a higher power, far superior to his own. Therefore, the recognition of the monarch as a god does not in the least contradict the fact that he too can have his own god. Such a combination of functions of a god, a priest (priest) and a monarch (king) in one person is characteristic of many cultures of the ancient era. In particular, the Roman emperors continued to retain the title of pontifex maximus even when they were already Christians. As a matter of fact, I propose to call precisely those cultures for which this is characteristic pagan.

Old Testament Revolution

A no less revolutionary rethinking of sacrifice occurs with the appearance of Judaism, more precisely its most ancient form, sometimes called Yavism or the Old Testament religion (6). But the point here is not in the sacrifice itself, but in the radical difference between the ideas of yavivists about God. As a rule, pagans also guessed about the existence of God – the Creator of the universe. But they could not completely coincide with the supreme deity of the pantheon. And in any case, not to Him, they offered up their prayers, considering Him to be an absolutely inaccessible authority. The Old Testament puts a person directly in front of God the Creator and calls for worship and serve exclusively to Him. In fact, this places a person (a Jew) on an equal, if not higher, position not only with the kings and priests of other nations, but also with their gods. After all, the pagan kings themselves, being in divine status, offered sacrifices to deities of a higher order. But even for them, a direct appeal to the Creator seemed something unattainable. Or meaningless, because the answer still will not get. The idea of ​​"king – god" in Israel miraculously turns into its opposite – "God is king." Not the king is endowed with divine status, but God is kingly. Not the king, but God gives the people laws and rules, and sometimes directly orders what to do and how.

Of course, most of the Israelis were not able to take it all directly from God, although everyone was called to it. So for some time now, Israel was ruled by charismatic leaders called at various times judges (שׁוֹפְט), seers (רוֹאֶה), or prophets (נָבׅיא), who assumed responsibility for announcing the will of the Most High to the people. However, there was nothing unusual in this, since not everyone who was willing to admit to the pagan monarch at all.

What happens with the sacrifice? Its initial meaning is obviously becoming irrelevant, since the people now have a Law that clearly defines what violence is permissible and what is not. The confirmation of loyalty to the monarch is also irrelevant, since God does not need it at all, He is absolutely alien to not only any person, but to the world as a whole. But now the people themselves – members of the people of God – need it. After all, their special position as members of God's chosen people obliges them to clearly distinguish who belongs to this people and who does not. And for this person II millennium BC. er knows no other means than through participation in his special sacrifice. Obviously, now the sacrifice is losing its grossly violent nature, violence is no longer necessary. Therefore, human sacrifices are immediately and categorically prohibited (7) and, although they do not disappear altogether (8), they are always condemned. The spelling of animals for cattle people in general is not perceived as violence; meat is their usual food. Yes, and the Law prescribes such a procedure of their sacrificial slaughter, so that any cruelty is excluded. So the sacrifice for the Israelites becomes primarily a ritual confirming their membership in God's chosen people.

But to limit it to this would be a significant simplification – this is just one aspect. First, for a pagan to participate in the offering of a sacrifice to a single deity does not at all exclude participation in the same action and in relation to any other, he can make a sacrifice to God the Creator without any problems. So participation in one’s own, proper sacrifice as a criterion for belonging to the people of God would be ineffective without prohibiting participation in others who are wrong. This last really drastically removes man from the pagan world. Secondly, communication with the God of Heaven is fundamentally different from communication with the earthly king. Anyone can turn to Him, this is fundamental. But getting an answer requires certain efforts and skills and is far from always unequivocal – it needs interpretation. Sacrifice comes to the rescue, or rather its different types.

We all know that when the Lord blesses our work, even quite complex things work out without any problems. Apparently, the Israelis were guided by the same thing, creating very complicated sacrificial procedures for different occasions. Удачное в соответствии с предписаниями их совершение очевидно означало положительный ответ Всевышнего, Его одобрение, а неудачное — отрицательный, неодобрение. Ясно, что для этого потребовались специалисты, умевшие все необходимое соблюсти и получить нужный результат. Ими становится левитское священство. Хотя далеко не сразу исключительно они. Жертвы приносили и судьи, и пророки, и даже сыновья Давида исполняли священнические обязанности(9), хотя, по всей видимости, вспомогательные.

Резонно спросить, не изменилось ли отношение израильтян к жертве после появления у них монархии. Думаю, что нет, хотя тенденция к этому была. Ведь израильские цари всегда оставались лишь светскими правителями. Единственная попытка царя Саула самому возглавить жертвоприношение привела в конечном счете к его отрешению от царства(10). А уж наделение царя божественным статусом, как это было у язычников, для еврея вообще нонсенс. Так что еврейские цари, за исключением тех, что таки уклонялись в язычество, во всем, что касалось культа, уступали главную роль левитскому священству.

Реформа осевого времени

Примерно в середине I тысячелетия до н. э. происходит важная антропологическая перемена, затронувшая как иудейский, так и языческий мир, впервые замеченная К. Ясперсом(11). Содержание ее вполне конкретно, а вот временная локализация очень условна — примерно с 800 по 200 гг. до н. э. Суть в том, что с некоторых пор человек начинает ощущать себя суверенной личностью, субъектом, самостоятельно строящим отношения с другими субъектами. Тогда как до этого времени он ощущал себя лишь частью сообщества (народа, племени, полиса и т. д.) и в принципе не мыслил себя вне такового. В это время многие культы из дела общего, всенародного становятся делом частным. В Египте наблюдается «демотизация», под которой, однако, подразумевается не появление «царских» надписей в гробницах частных лиц (что многие оспаривают), а то, что о своей посмертной участи египтяне все более начинают заботиться сами и все менее связывают ее с деятельностью фараона. В культах Междуречья и Ханаана центральная идея «священного брака» между царем и богиней (которую изображает верховная жрица) на вершине зиккурата низводится до аналогичных действий частного лица с любой жрицей и в любом месте. В греческой, римской и прочих культурах возникает множество местных культов, где можно принести свою частную жертву тому или иному божеству. Не обходит стороной этот процесс и Израиль. Особенно после разделения его на Северное и Южное царства и утраты первым самостоятельности. Все чаще жертвы приносятся не всем народом, а частными лицами. А поскольку контролировать их правильность и соответствие традиции уже нет никакой возможности, правильными объявляются только жертвы, приносимые в иерусалимском храме, который с тех пор и становится центром всей религиозной жизни Израиля.

Кроме того, с превращением жертвоприношения в частное дело в нем появляется еще один важный смысловой аспект. Особенно это касается жертвы за грех, жертвы повинности и прочих жертв «компенсаторного» характера. Закон предписывает за грехи тяжкие наказания, часто смерть. Однако разрешает при определенных условиях заменять их жертвами. Приносивший такую жертву хорошо понимал, что по идее на ее месте должен быть он сам. И лишь по милости Божьей ему предоставлена возможность заменить свою жизнь жизнью животного. Что же это, как не символическое предание себя и всей своей жизни во власть Бога? Тем более, что скот в древнеиудейской культуре считался частью клана (מׅשְׁפָּחָה),  стоящей, однако, на самой низшей ступени иерархии — ниже рабов и детей.

Новозаветная революция

Что же сделал с жертвоприношением Христос? Он удивительным образом актуализировал все бывшие ранее в нем смыслы, добавив также и ряд новых. Главное Его нововведение заключалось, разумеется, в том, что Он принес в жертву Сам Себя (Евр 7:27). Большего не мог принести никто и никогда. Даже варвар, приносивший в жертву собственных детей, тем самым возносил на алтарь меньшую ценность. Ибо дети всегда иерархически числились ниже своих родителей.

Была ли Его Жертва жертвой в архаичном смысле — насилием, останавливающим насилие? Конечно. Ведь Он сам стал фармаком, сам подготовив Себя к своему убийству и подготовив к нему учеников (Лк 18:31-33). Он сам запретил им защищать Себя, когда это было возможно (Ин 18:10-11). Наконец, то, что Его Жертва послужила примирению враждующих, засвидетельствовано и от тех, кто вовсе не был к Нему расположен (Лк 23:12).

Была ли эта Жертва жертвой царя, участие в которой есть выражение верности ему, как это было у язычников? Разумеется. Ведь Он сам заповедал нам регулярно приобщаться к Его Жертве (1 Кор 11:23-26), учредив таким образом новый народ (1 Пет 2:9-10), в котором Он сам теперь почитается царем (Мф 27:37, Ин 1:49) и на который с тех пор возложена миссия, не менее ответственная, чем на народ Израильский (Мф 28:19-20).

Была ли она жертвой в ветхозаветном смысле? Несомненно. Ибо принесена она Богу Небесному во исполнение Его воли (Лк 22:42) и по послушанию Ему (Флп 2:8). Более того. Это было и всесожжение, поскольку Его тело никто не расчленял (Ин 19:36). В то же время и жертва за грех (умилостивление, очищение), поскольку принесена она за наши грехи (1 Ин 2:2). И жертва посвящения, ибо через нее Он становится Первосвященником по чину Мелхиседека (Евр 9:11-12). И жертва мирная, поскольку символически (см. прим. 5) вкушать ее заповедано всем верным.

Стала ли она делом частным? Нет, но делом церковным. А это значит — и общим, и частным в то же время. Частным потому, что даже двое или трое христиан, согласно собравшихся на всяком месте владычества Господня, могут ее приносить. А общим потому, что в каждом таком жертвоприношении мистически участвует вся Церковь.

Разумеется, не все особенности смерти Христа в точности соответствуют процедурам, описанным в Книге Левит. Но расхождения эти имеют формальный, а не смысловой характер.  Во-первых, то, что это происходило не в храме. Но, как было упомянуто выше, признание подлинными исключительно жертв, приносимых в храме, было связано с невозможностью контролировать, как и кому эти жертвы приносятся. Здесь же ни в чем подобном сомневаться не приходится. Тем более что происходило это в нескольких десятках метров от Иерусалимского храма. А в самом храме происходить не могло тоже по вполне понятным причинам. Во-вторых, кровь Его не была излита на жертвенник. Однако смысл излияния крови на жертвенник вовсе не в том, чтобы она попала именно туда (в некоторых случаях она изливается на землю), а в запрете употреблять ее в пищу (Лев 17:10-11). Тем более что на землю кровь Христова излита была (Ин 19:34-35).

Современный итог

Что же делать в свете всего вышеизложенного нам? Считать, что принесение жертв теперь не актуально? Или все-таки приносить жертвы и какие?

Прежде всего не следует забывать, что Христос всех нас соделал царями и священниками (Откр 1:5-6). А священник (ἱερεὺς) — это именно человек, приносящий жертвы, — именно таково священническое призвание каждого христианина. Однако после того, что сотворил Он, все существовавшие прежде жертвоприношения оказались бы шагом назад, если бы мы стали их повторять. А делать то, что сделал Он сам мы не можем, ибо тогда нам всем пришлось бы умереть. К счастью, Христос сам заповедал нам приобщаться к Его однажды принесенной Жертве символически (см. прим. 5) и прямо указал, как это делать (Лк 22:17-20). Жаль только, что далеко не все христиане вполне отдают себе отчет, что, причащаясь, они тем самым принимают участие именно в Жертве Христовой, а не в концерте духовной музыки и не во флешмобе, изображающем Тайную Вечерю.

(1)     Рене Жирар. «Насилие и священное». Перевод Г. Дашевского. Изд-во «Новое литературное обозрение», 2010.

(2) А. Ф. Лосев. «Диалектика мифа».

(3)     О. Р. Астапова. «Истоки сакрализации власти». РИПОЛ-классик, М., 2017.

(4)     Этот термин вызывает в последнее время значительные разногласия в отношении его трактовки. Так что некоторые предпочитают им вообще не пользоваться. Ниже постараюсь объяснить, что в данном случае под ним подразумеваю я.

(5)     Символ здесь имеется в виду в лосевском смысле: «субстанциальное тождество идеи и вещи» (Лосев А. Ф. «Очерки античного символизма и мифологии». М.: Наука, 1993, с. 635).

(6)     Дабы снять недоразумения, иногда возникающие в связи с термином «Ветхий Завет», напомню, что ветхий по-славянски означает на обветшавший, а просто древний — не יָשָׁן , а דֶם .

(7)     Быт 22:1-14 традиция всегда без особых разночтений трактовала именно так.

(8)     Суд 11:30-40 и 3 Цар 16:34.

(9)     2 Цар 8:18.

(10)   1 Цар 13:6-14.

(11)   К. Ясперс. «Смысл и назначение истории». М., 1991, с. 32-50.

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