God Loves the Smell of Burning Flesh: Human Sacrifice in the Bible

World famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig is well known for his hilariously inept defense of the savage excesses of his God, who apparently isn’t able to present a defense himself.

For the Canaanite genocide, Craig’s punch line is that every Canaanite adult deserved death because they sacrificed children to their god, all the children hacked to pieces were actually getting a ticket to heaven, and it was the Israelite soldiers forced to perform this butchery for whom we must actually shed a tear. (Craig’s argument is eviscerated here.)

Let’s move from genocide to another area of biblical violence, human sacrifice.

Abraham and Isaac

The Abraham and Isaac story in Genesis 22 is often given to show God’s rejection of human sacrifice and, as it is in the Bible today, that may well have been the purpose. But, like a cheerful fairy tale that comes from a darker original, the Isaac story may not initially have had its happy ending.

The documentary hypothesis (discussed more here) argues that the first five books of the Bible are an amalgam of four sources with differing agendas. Read the Abraham and Isaac chapter closely to see how it might have originally read (my source: The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Elliott Friedman, 65).

  • Verses 11–15 have an angel stop Abraham and declare the whole thing a test, but where did the angel come from? God has no problem talking directly to Abraham to demand this inhuman sacrifice, and then an angel pops up from nowhere? That section looks like an addition.
  • Verses 16–17 say, “Because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you.” Done what? If Isaac was not withheld, apparently he did get sacrificed.
  • Abraham and Isaac set out together in verse 6, but verse 19 concludes the story with, “Then Abraham returned to his servants.” Alone.

There’s very little condemnation of child sacrifice in a story that rewards a man for his willingness to perform it.

But doesn’t the Bible reject human sacrifice?

Just to make clear that the Old Testament comes from a post-Bronze Age Mesopotamian culture, it tells us 37 times that God loves the pleasing aroma of burning flesh. And God has a big appetite: “The first offspring of every womb belongs to me, including all the firstborn males of your livestock.” (Ex. 34:19). But God is reasonable. One verse later, he clarifies: “Redeem all your firstborn sons”—that is, sacrifice an animal instead.

We find a similar demand in Deuteronomy 18:10, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire.”

Human sacrifice in the Bible

The Bible acknowledges that sacrificing humans is powerful mojo, because that’s how the Moabite god Chemosh beat Israel’s God (2 Kings 3:27). The combined forces of Israel, Judah, and Edom were about to defeat Moab when the Moabite king sacrificed his son to Chemosh. The result: “There was an outburst of divine anger against Israel, so they broke off the attack and returned to their homeland.” (More here.)

Though the Bible talks a good story as it rejects human sacrifice, it’s a sock puppet, and you can make it say just about whatever you want. You think God can’t say precisely the opposite of what he commanded before? Take a look:

You must give me the firstborn of your sons (Ex. 22:29).

But nothing that a person owns and devotes to the Lord—whether a human being or an animal or family land—may be sold or redeemed; everything so devoted is most holy to the Lord. No person devoted to destruction may be ransomed; they are to be put to death (Lev. 27:28–9).

As if bragging to his drinking buddies, God laughs about it afterwards. To teach the stiff-necked Israelites who’s boss, God said, “So I gave them other statutes that were not good and laws through which they could not live; I defiled them through their gifts—the sacrifice of every firstborn—that I might fill them with horror so they would know that I am Jehovah” (Ez. 20:25–6).

Now what was William Lane Craig saying about sacrificing children to gods? Looks like there was a lot of that going around, not just among the bad guys.

Conclude with examples in the New Testament in Part 2.

Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a god superior to themselves.
Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.
— Robert A. Heinlein

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

    If Isaac was not withheld, apparently he did get sacrificed.

    Uh, except that he went on to grow up, marry Rebekah, and father those boys Jacob and Esau.

    To us nonbelievers, sure, this is an ethically problematic story. But let’s admit that the only reason the binding of Isaac was considered an act of Abraham’s faith in the first place is precisely how abhorrent the concept of child sacrifice was in this instance. This was his miracle son by aged Sarah, remember, and represented the promise the Big G made to Abraham that he’d be the patriarch of a tribe as populous as the stars in the sky (don’t do that math for a few millennia). This was not only a test of faith, but an overt betrayal by the not-always-merciful OT God, who couldn’t even be bothered to show up to stay Abraham’s hand.

    Kierkegaard redefined the story in Fear and Trembling to describe the horror of freedom and existential angst in a world beyond conventional morality. We can make of the story what we will, but let’s not make it sound like the message is that child sacrifice is peachy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Good point, elsewhere in the OT we do see Isaac grow up. So from that tradition, Isaac didn’t get sacrificed. But it seems that in the original E source, Abraham indeed sacrificed Isaac.

      If the story was written from the context that assumed that child sacrifice was abhorrent, then God’s test of Abraham would’ve been a moral test, not an obedience test. The correct answer would’ve been, “WTF? Are you insane? You want him dead? Then you kill him. I sure as hell won’t.”

      The case that the original E story had Isaac sacrificed certainly isn’t ironclad, but the clues are there to strongly suggest that, IMO. (Again, I use Friedman as my source.)

      • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

        In Terry Southern’s satire The Magic Christian, millionaire prankster Guy Grand goes around offering people large amounts of money to do humiliating things. But it’s not like he actually wants them to perform these senseless acts (often he just sends them away with the money after they capitulate), he just wants to make sure everyone has a price.

        I get the point about the textual variants in Genesis now. But even the way the Binding of Isaac story comes down to us today, whether Issac was sacrificed or not is a barely relevant detail. The extant text makes it clear that Abraham’s intent is to sacrifice his son, and the angels make a big deal out of the fact that his “fear of God” was so great that he “did not withhold” his son.

        I’m not sure why you think the story is trying to tell us that child sacrifice is a good thing. Your attempt to distinguish between an obedience test and a moral test seems like you’re making a distinction without a difference. Abraham had to choose, and opted to perform the morally repugnant act because it was commanded by the Big G. If it weren’t abhorrent, why would it have been any sort of test at all?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          There’s morally wrong and there’s difficult. If God says, “Give me your house,” that’s difficult. But if you’re a loyal servant of the Lord, you do it. But if God tells you to kill someone, that’s not just difficult, that’s wrong.

          Some would say that doing that would also be morally justified, but that’s a bizarre situation in which you do something morally wrong to be morally right with God, but how could he have commanded such a thing, and maybe you should’ve just said No because it was a morality test, and …

        • wtfwjtd

          As Stewart says in Big Bang, “calling a tomato a vegetable is wrong, but calling a tomato a suspension bridge is more wrong.” In this case, which is more wrong, telling God “no” to child sacrifice, or performing child sacrifice? Today, we’d say (of course) it’s far more wrong to perform child sacrifice than to tell God “no”. People of the bronze and iron age apparently had a different take, and this is what to me makes the whole scenario worth discussing. And what makes God look suspiciously like a post-bronze-age creation that reflected men’s take on morality of that time period.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          OK. (And that’s a great quote.)

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          For a well researched assessment of morality in the Tanakh I recommend the online free book ‘Is God a Moral Compromiser?’ by Thom Stark. It has a lot of interesting stuff about apologist tactics to downplay or outright hide human sacrifice and other crap in the Bible (also, sacrifice of one’s child, while heartbreaking to the parent, was seen as a moral imperative in certain situations in the ANE).

    • Greg G.

      The Binding of Isaac is an E story but the bit with the ram is a J redaction. Isaac is never heard from again in the J story, according to Friedman.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

        The angel/ram bit (4 verses) are assigned to the Redactor of JE (The Bible with sources revealed 2003, p. 65). Other sources may differ.

        • Greg G.

          Yes the KJV translates ” ‘elohiym” as “God” and “Yĕhovah” as “Lord”. It is the angel of the Lord that shows up with the ram.

        • wtfwjtd

          “It is the angel of the Lord that shows up with the ram.”

          Yeah, wasn’t that convenient? I would have found the story a lot more compelling if God would have set up a scenario in which Abraham would have had to choose between his own life and that of his son’s. As the story stands, all I can think of is Abraham saying something stupid like: “son, this is going to hurt you a lot more than it’s going to hurt me”. And God just looks like a dick in this story, with his petty jealousy and all. Some morality this unchanging god has.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          This was before there was a hell. Few Christian fathers today would have any difficulty telling God to take their life instead of their child’s, and yet sassing their eternal father might put them in hell forever. Abraham had no such concern.

      • stephenshenfield

        A P (priestly) redaction.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you. I corrected it.

    • RichardSRussell

      The apparent inconsistency you discovered in the historical text is absolutely well known in literature. It’s a process called “bowdlerization“, in which something supposedly too ugly or offensive for the tender sensibilities of (mainly) women and children is prettified and sanitized. The term is especially applied to sexual content but also turns up in, for example, the Grimm Brothers’ version of Hansel and Gretel, in which the abandonment plot mutually hatched by the kids’ actual parents is watered down into the insistence of a resentful evil stepmother and the reluctant (and eventually remorseful) compliance of their father.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

        Thomas Bowdler made a bowdlerized version of Shakespeare in 1818 for the sensitive fairer sex and children. (He shouldn’t done it for the Bible.)

    • TheUnknownPundit

      Off topic here, but regarding alleged ages of Sarah and Abraham being 90 and 100 when Isaac was born, I speculate that these could be accurate counts. However, I think it likely that they tally two measures for counting the passage of time into one number, lunar cycles then solar cycles.
      I’ve read elsewhere that the ancient Hebrews likely used lunar cycle counts at one time. If so, it means that the ages in the earliest parts of the Bible need to be adjusted by dividing them by 12.36 (lunar cycles per solar cycle). If this is so, Methuselah, who reportedly lived 969 years per Genesis 5:27, really lived to be about 78 years old (969 lunar cycles/12.36 solar cycles). Obviously, living to be 78 is not out of the ordinary.
      If we assume Sarah and Abraham’s ages to be lunar cycles, then they would have been 7 and 8 years old when Isaac was born. While I suppose this isn’t impossible, it seems quite unlikely. But what if during Sarah and Abraham’s childhood, the Hebrews switched over to solar cycle counts when they were both still quite young? What if they just added the lunar counts to-date to the subsequent solar counts making their ages a combined total of both?
      Just to throw some numbers out there, suppose Sarah was 80 (lunar cycles) when the Hebrews switched over to solar cycles. So when the Bible says she was 90 when Isaac was born, it was a combination of 80 lunar cycles and 10 solar cycles. That would make her true solar cycle age to be about 16.5 years old, hardly an old lady. Abraham would have been about 17 using the same assumptions (90 lunar cycles and 10 solar cycles).
      The Bible says Abraham was 175 when he died an old man. Using the same assumptions above, that would have made Abraham about 92 when he died. While this is a long time to live, many lived to be fairly old back then if they survived childhood, so it is possible he lived to that ripe, old age. Sarah was said to have died at 127 years. Again using the same assumptions above, Sarah would have been about 53.5 years old at her death.
      The Hebrews likely did this but, being a simple people, didn’t change the word they used when describing the passage of time. Knowledge of this change was likely forgotten over the generations. Then somewhere along the way, this forgotten knowledge caused Jews and later, Christians, to view Sarah and Abraham’s life spans as extraordinary as well as those of earlier characters in the chronology of the Bible. But the truth is they lived normal lifespans and credulous believers never stop to examine the claims.

      • MNb

        Why should we throw out some numbers if Abraham and the rest are fictional characters anyway?

    • stephenshenfield

      Isaac could have been sacrificed and then resurrected. That would explain everything, I think. Why not?

      • Michael Neville

        Because Yahweh didn’t work that way. Other than Lazarus and Jesus, if you’re dead then you stay dead. Isaac would become an ex-Isaac.

        • Greg G.

          There’s also that dead guy who jumped up when dead Elisha touched him. IIRC, Ezekiel 37:7-10 had something about an army of the undead. Don’t forget the saints that Matthew says wandered about Jerusalem one weekend. Are you saying God couldn’t do Abraham a favor and wipe out just one little murder?

        • Michael Neville

          Okay, there was one other guy. Zombies wandering around Jerusalem don’t count.

        • Greg G.

          There is the son of the widow of Zarephath raised by Elijah. (1 Kings 17)

        • Michael Neville

          So two guys, but zombies still don’t count.

        • Greg G.

          Zombies count on Discworld.

        • Michael Neville

          Of course they do. Also the only way to be an atheist on Discworld is be a non-conducting ceramic golem.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    We find a similar demand in Deuteronomy 18:10, “Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire.”

    Bad news for Jephthah.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Yep. He had a god who was totally cool with Jephthah sacrificing his daughter to him.

      God works in mysterious ways.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    Human sacrifice in the Bible

    You left out the most prominent example of human sacrifice in the New Testament: the sacrifice of Jesus H. Christ. This apparently had to be done to fill some condition commanded by His father, Jealous(Exod 34:14).

    Rather than rejecting human sacrifice, we find that the entire Christian religion is built around an episode of human sacrifice. Christians frequently celebrate this act of sacrifice and torture by wearing miniatures version of the torture instrument, a cross. Some sects even use as a symbol a cross with a ded or dying body on it, just to make sure no one misses the point.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      … which you shall find in tomorrow’s exciting episode!

      • GubbaBumpkin

        Found it, thanks.

    • http://opportunityseekers20.blogspot.it AndyT

      Also, they “proudly” say we all, as members of the sinful humankind, are guilty of Jesus’ execution (at least that’s what the Catholic Church states).

      • wtfwjtd

        To be fair, in earlier times Christians tried to pin the blame of Jesus’ execution on the Jews–hence, the strong anti-semitic tone of the book of John, for example, while at the same time trying to alter history and make Pilot out to be a wishy-washy nice guy( and other Romans too). In Christian theology, though, “we all” are responsible for God creating us sinful, somehow, so your point is well-demonstrated there.

        • http://opportunityseekers20.blogspot.it AndyT

          Yes, so we all begin our lives with a murder on our criminal record.
          So nice!

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not even that it’s murder. It’s the idea that we are intrisically evil and “fallen” and must somehow be “saved”. Of course, the Catholic Church is just the organization to “save” us. Make up the affliction, and prescribe the cure.

    • stephenshenfield

      And this despite the fact that the early Christians had another much more tasteful symbol — the fish. Do any Christians still use it? However, what I have always found very hard to understand is TO WHOM did God sacrifice his beloved son? To himself? That would be odd. To the devil?!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        God sacrificed himself to himself. Something about justified rage …

        I think there are support groups for that.

  • smrnda

    I’ve heard that this story exists kind of as a way of explaining ‘hey, why don’t we do child sacrifice like all those other people?’ The idea works if you don’t consider the book divine; somehow you have to prove to yourself that someone on Your Side was just as hard core as those people out there who sacrifice their kids in a fire, but G-d was happy enough with his determination that nobody has to do it anymore.

    It’s sort of how in parts of the OT, it’s kind of as if the other gods exist, just the God of Israel is *their god on their side* (but still isn’t able to beat iron chariots.) Once we get to the prophets of Baal and Elijah there’s *sort of* a suggestion that (owing to the ineffectiveness of Baal) that Baal might not be real since Baal doesn’t seem to deliver on fire. The shift is pretty obvious – when Moses confronts Pharoah it’s clear that the Egyptian side has some kind of pretty viable magic going on (staffs turn into snakes) but by the time we hit Baal, *the other gods* aren’t real.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Yes, the immutable Yahweh does seem to evolve a lot with time.

      • Sophia Sadek

        The Yahweh vs. Elohim conflict deserves some closer inspection. There is a certain level of controversy over whether Elohim should be taken as singular or plural. Yahweh comes across as low deity on the totem pole.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Some have Yahweh as El’s son (I think the Ugaritic [pre-Hebrew] books say this). The Bible is clear at one point that Yahweh is part of a pantheon.

          One story was that Yahweh assumed the leadership position after he vanquished Leviathan, the chaos monster.

        • Sophia Sadek

          Multiple deities show up in the Essene literature. It is a stumbling block to academics who insist that Jews were strictly monotheistic at the time of Jesus.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I suppose they just handwave it away by saying that that was just a minority sect that doesn’t count?

        • MNb

          This academic doesn’t:


          “ik denk dat ze van alle antieke volken het meest monotheïstisch waren, maar de norm werd in de praktijk lang niet altijd gehaald.”
          “I think they were the most monotheistic of all antique people, but in practice this norm was achieved far from always.”
          According to JL (part 4) the big difference is that the jews did not sacrifice to other gods but YHWH.

        • Sophia Sadek

          That is becoming harder to do given the recent discoveries of Essene literature throughout the Jewish world.

        • stephenshenfield

          Like Tiamat in the Babylonian creation story.

      • MNb

        Maybe I will look it up sometime if I feel like, but I have read somewhere that there are five different gods in the Bible.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I’d like to hear more about this. Interesting.

        • Greg G.

          If you’ve seen one god, you’ve seen them all. –A. Monotheist

        • adam

          What about Yahweh’s wife?

          God had a wife, Asherah, whom the Book of Kings suggests was worshiped
          alongside Yahweh in his temple in Israel, according to an Oxford

        • James Walker

          if you count all the add-on names for Yahweh, there are more than 5. the argument has been made that these “aspects” were originally other deities in the ancient pantheon of the El who eventually became subsumed into a single deity as Jewish theology evolved.

  • Sophia Sadek

    How does this all tie in to the cannibalistic ritual of eating the flesh and drinking the blood of Jesus?

    • busterggi

      SSsshhhh, you’re not supposed to notice that.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      Some say that they got that from Mithraism.

      • Greg G.

        I have made a circumstantial argument that Paul may have gotten the Eucharist ritual from Mithraism while in Cilicia. Pofarmer pointed me to a compelling argument on vridar.org that 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 may have been an interpolation. It is a sizable chunk of chapters 10 and 11, including forbidding women to speak in church, which is thought by many to be an interpolation from the Pastorals.

        If so, the interpolater would have copied the passage from Luke who added just a little to Mark. The three passages are so similar, it is unlikely that they are unrelated. I suspect that whoever wrote it first was drawing from Psalm 41:9 for the betrayal and the sharing of bread and Isaiah 53:12 for the “pouring” of wine with the dividing the spoils tying in with the dividing or the bread.

        That still wouldn’t prove the author didn’t get it from Mithraism, though.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a fascinating possibility.

      • Sophia Sadek

        The Zoroastrians were tarred with a human sacrifice brush by their competitors. There is nothing in their literature that supports the charge.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Sounds like Stonehenge. Long ago, they thought it was a site for human sacrifice.

          In Maryhill, WA there’s a half-size replica (finished in 1929) that laments the human lives lost there.

        • Harry


          The Zoroastrian faith has historically been strongly opposed to homosexual behavior. Zarathustra’s writings, the Gathas, are silent on homosexuality or bisexuality. They tend to give broad guidance on basic principles without going heavily into commandments.

          The Zoroastrian law book, The Vendidad (written circa 250 to 650 CE) contains “laws against demons” which touch on homosexuality. These purity laws are still followed by some conservative Zoroastrian communities. The Vendidad states:

          “The man that lies with mankind as man lies with womankind, or as woman lies with mankind, is the man that is a Daeva [demon]; this one is the man that is a worshipper of the Daevas, that is a male paramour of the Daevas”

          An ancient commentary on the Vendidad states:

          “Four men can be put to death by any one without an order from the Dastur [high priest]: the corpse-burner, the highwayman, the sodomite, and the criminal taken in the

          One principle that might influence condemnation of homosexuality is the importance of family life within the faith. Orthodox Zoroastrianism currently does not accept converts from other religions; one must have a Zoroastrian mother and father in order to be accepted into the faith. To preserve and expand the religion, homosexuals as well as celibate persons would be pitied and pressured into marriage.

          Many Zoroastrians in the Internet and media are promoting the suppression of homosexuality within their community. Others, of a more liberal persuasion, are more
          accepting of homosexuality.


          The Vendidad, Fargard VIII, chapter 5, paragraph 32(102)

        • Sophia Sadek

          What does that have to do with the accusations of human sacrifice?

        • Harry


          Unwitting Disciples of Zoroaster:
          The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Rabbanism in the Talmud and Midrash

          From 226 to 379, the Persian kings gathered and systematized the works of Zoroaster. The result was
          twenty-one great volumes – against the twenty-one words of the most holy Persian prayer, the Ahuravarrya. Known as Nusk, it is the Talmud of the Zoroastrians (speaking anachronistically).

          Due to the hostilities between the Persians and the Arabs in the latter half of the eighth century, the books of the Nusk were singled out for destruction. What now remains to the remnants of Zoroastrianism are five volumes:

          (1) Yasna – the book of sacrifices, which contains seventy-two chapters among them the Gatha passages (the oldest and most hallowed writings of the Zend-Avesta)

          (2) Vendidad – twenty-two chapters on the laws regulating
          evil spirits.

          (3) Yasht -an elaborate, detailed account of the Persian

          (4) The Vispered – twenty-four chapters (a supplement to

          (5) Khorda – an abridged edition of the laws in the

          The Talmud was greatly influenced by Persian culture. It derives, in fact, much of its content directly from the Zend-Avesta, as will be detailed in brief below. One finds in the Talmud not only Persian superstition and legend, but many legal decisions handed down in accordance with Persian code. Not to mention the customs and usages of Persian life. Even the forms and expressions of the literary Pahlavi entered into the Talmud in no small way. The Persian influence on the Talmud is so great that, at times, it is difficult to separate what is Jewish from what is Persian in it.

          A system of nomenclature for angels in Jewish lore, prior to Persian influence, did not exist. We find for example, angels being named for the first time in the book of Daniel (a book compiled during the Persian exile). The naming of
          angels was important in the Persian religion, and the Talmud itself relates that: “Shemot HaMal’akhim ‘Alu Lahem MiBavel” – “The names of the Angels arose from Babylon”.
          Those familiar with Rabbanite theology will note how it is replete with the mention of good and bad angels (just think of the Rabbanite Shalom ‘Aleikhem song for Shabbat night).

          In Persian teaching, there were two gods, a good god, Ahura Mazda, and an evil god, Ahriman. The Talmud, in fact, went to the extent of borrowing the names of many of the deities and angels in the Persian pantheon, such as: Mithra (called Metatron in the Talmud), Hadar (called Hadarni’el in the Talmud), Dahriman, Tir, Serosh(1)
          , Aesmadiv [“spirit of anger” in Persian] (called Ashmedai in the Talmud), Angra/Agra (called Agrat in the Talmud) ,and many more…


          As with angels, so did the Amora’im [the Rabbis quoted in the Talmud]of Babylon and the writers of the Christian scriptures draw freely from the Zend-Avesta’s troves of
          superstitions about demons and imps. Let’s start with a look at Ahriman. From the Talmud, we learn that the angel, Ahriman is identified with Satan (Masekhet
          Bava Batra 16). Masekhet Sanhedrin 29, and the Vendidad II, 384 refer to Ahriman as the Serpent of Hell.

          Ahriman’s myriads of helpers are referred to as divs, what we now call devils. Vendidad I, 21 notes that these divs are more numerous than the dust of the earth (as does Talmud Masekhet Berakhot 6, Midrash Tehillim 17, Tanhuma, etc.,). The following passages from the Talmud and Midrash regarding demons (divs) were derived or directly copied from Vendidad II:

          Masekhet Sanhedrin 25 notes that devs are particularly active in graveyards. Masekhet Gitin 68 and Midrash Qohelet state that divs are male and female. Masekhet Berakhot 61 and Masekhet Hulin 105 state that demons can assume the shape of human beings, or flys. Masekhet Hagigah 16 contends that demons, like human beings, can reproduce. Masekhet Gitin 68 calls Ashemdai (Aesmadiv in Persian) the greatest of the divs. One of the fundamental teachings of Persian religious conduct is the avoidance of unclean hands (Masekhet Shabbat 109). It was believed that Sabetkh, a div, rests upon such hands: The Qissur Shulhan Arukh 2.1 quoting Yosef Caro’s Beit Yosef states, “when a man is asleep, the holy soul departs
          from his body, and an unclean spirit descends upon him. When rising from sleep, the unclean spirit departs from his body except for his fingers, and does not depart until one spills water upon them three times alternately. One is not allowed to walk four cubits (six feet) without having one’s hands washed, except in cases of extreme necessity.”

          Masekhet Megillah 3 states that during the period of night, no one must offer or receive the hand of another (for fear of an evil spirit). Masekhet Shevu‘ot 15 and Masekhet Berakhot 4 contain the Persian prayer to repel the unseen forces of evil.

          The driving off of evil spirits by adjuration was an integral part of the Persian religion. Whole systems of conjuration were devised by them; and many were the invocations with which some of them commanded the devils. All of these spells and “prayers” can be found in the Talmud. A few examples will serve to illustrate:

          Vendidad II, 223 and Masekhet Qiddushin 81 state that the chief thing to utter when exorcising a demon was, “I expel you from me.”

          If one has been bitten by a mad dog, a spell must be intoned in order to eject the hurtful spirit. [This very incantation, from Vendidad I.30, as well as the spell to ward against forgetfulness and the spell to insure that the sheep of the slaughterhouse may be fat have been written in the Talmud]

          The Persian beliefs in cameos, amulets, and talismans were also absorbed into the Talmud, along with the reading of sacred writings to restore health. In general, Zoroastrian influence is directly responsible for the presence of demons and devils in the Midrash and Talmud.


          To attempt to detail every point where the Talmud draws upon the Zend-Avesta would take a book. The following section will detail some of the more prominent concepts:

          The matter of benedictions, or the saying of grace over something that is eaten is of Persian origin (Vendidad

          The entire marriage ritual, with its special blessings, ceremony and rites is fully delimitated in the Zend-Avesta (II.157, 158, III.228)

          Vendidad II.130 and Midrash Tehillim both contend that the righteous who dwell in Paradise are as luminous as the stars.

          Vendidad 18, 166 and Masekhet Sanhedrin 17 state that the art of magic does not come from the Evil Power,
          and all wise men (in the case of the Talmud the men of the Sanhedrin can practice it).

          Both the Zend-Avesta (according to the Persians) and Torah (according to the Talmud) are able to repel demonic
          influences, merely by their recitation (c.f., Seder Eliyhau, Zuta 82, Masekhet Megillah 31, and Masekhet Ta‘anit 27).

          The passage in the Zend-Avesta where Ahura Mazda speaks to Zoroaster of the life of virtue that follows death
          has been copied directly into the Talmud (Masekhet Avot 86).

          The disciples of Zoroaster are assured of a heavenly existence, so the Talmud says of the nation of Israel (Masekhet ‘Eruvin 10).

          God is with him who studies and mediates in the night (Vendidad 18, Masekhet ‘Avodah Zarah 3, Masekhet
          Berakhot 30).

          The Persians believed that life is but a passing, unimportant state of existence, only after death does one
          truly begin to live, so Midrash Qohelet Rabba. Zoroastrians were loath to convert others to their faith, so too is found in the Talmud a discouragement to prosetylization (Masekhet Qiddushin 70).

          Though the Zend-Avesta was unknown before the coming of Zoroaster, the righteous who had lived before him
          were aware of it, and followed the precepts it contained. The Talmud, in this vein, contends that the Patriarchs perfectly observed the Torah even though it had not yet been given (Masekhet Yoma 28).

          Truly, all of the enjoinments concerning demons and spirits detailed in the Vendidad may be found in the Talmud. It is as if the authors of the Talmud sat down and copied the Vendidad into the Talmud. Many of the laws of Yasna: sacrificial arrangement, rendering of divine service, and regulations of cleanliness form the major portion of Talmudic law in these matters. The list goes on and on, to the extent that one begins to wonder if Rabbanites – and, for that matter, Christians – are unwitting disciples of Zoroaster.

        • Sophia Sadek

          I suspected as much. Zoroastrian influence extended well beyond the limits of the Persian language. They were pretty aggressive in the proselytizing department.

          Thanks for the info.

        • Harry

          Sophia, Islam took a lot from Zoroastrianism, but never gave credit to them. Most people in the West are ignorant of Talmudic Judaism and Talmudic Islam. Jews were in Arabia 500 years before Muhammad.
          Muhammad’s mother was a Jew, which makes Muhammad a Jew. His first wife, Kadijah, was a Jew. His favorite wife, Aisha, was a Jew. Islam’s first Caliph, Abu Bakr, was a Jew:



          The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia

          SCHWARZ, JOSEPH:

          Palestinian geographer; born at Flosz, Bavaria, Oct. 22, 1804; died at Jerusalem Feb. 5, 1865. When he was seventeen years old he graduated as teacher from the Königliches Schullehrerseminar of Colberg, after which he joined his brother Israel at the University of Würzburg, where for five years he devoted himself to the history and geography of the Holy Land, and published a map of Palestine (1829; republished at Vienna, 1831, and Triest, 1832). It was his ardent desire, however, to study in Palestine itself the physical history and geography of the Holy Land, where his knowledge of Talmudic sources and early Jewish writers would be of more service. Accordingly he decided to settle in Jerusalem, whither he went in 1833. Schwarz
          then began a series of journeys and explorations in various parts of Palestine, to which he devoted about fifteen years.

          The results of his investigations and researches into the history, geography, geology, fauna, and flora of that
          country have placed him in the front rank of Palestinian explorers and geographers. HE IS THE GREATEST JEWISH AUTHORITY ON PALESTINIAN MATTERS SINCE ESTORI FARHI (1282-1357), the author of “Kaftor wa-Feraḥ.”

          (Be sure to Google this article)

          614-1096 C.E.
          From the Accession of the Mahomedans to that of the Europeans.
          By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

          Rabbi Shallum, son of the then Resh Gelutha, in Babel, aka Abu Bachr al Chaliva al Zadik, Abu Bakr, the first Caliph, was in fact: [A JEWISH RABBI] Rabbi Shallum, son of the then Resh Gelutha, in Babel, perceiving this dreadful predicament, went to Mahomed, and offering him his submission, friendship, and services, endeavoured to enter with him into a friendly compact. Mahomed accepted his proposition with pleasure, conceived a great affection for him, and took his daughter, a handsome young girl (A 6 YEAR OLD CHILD), for wife; he made him also a general in his army, and gave him the name of Abu Bachr al Chaliva al Zadik, literally:

          The father of the maiden, the descendant of the righteous; this means, that of all his wives, who were either widows or divorced women, this one was the only one who had never been married before, and then she was the granddaughter of the celebrated chief
          of the captivity; therefore, the descendant of the righteous. This occurrence induced Mahomed to give up his terrible intention to destroy the Jews in his
          country, and thus did Rabbi Shallum save his people.

          THE BETRAYAL
          [Why Muhammad hated alcohol]

          Abu Bachr and Aliman now resolved among themselves to remove the dangerous enemy of the Jews, Bucheran. One evening Mahomed, Bucheran, Aliman, and Abu Bachr, were drinking together; the latter two soon saw that Mahomed and the astrologer were strongly intoxicated, and lay stretched out in a deep and profound sleep. Abu Bachr thereupon drew the sword of Mahomed from its scabbard, cut off therewith Bucharan’s head, and put the bloody sword back
          into its receptacle, and both then lay themselves down quietly near Mahomed to sleep. When Mahomed awoke and saw his friend lying decapitated near him, he
          cried out in a fury:

          “This terrible deed has been done by one of us three in our drunkenness!”

          Abu Bachr thereupon said quite unconcernedly:

          “Let each one draw his sword, and he whose weapon is stained with blood, must needs be the murderer!”

          They all drew their swords, and that of Mahomed was completely dyed with fresh blood, which proved thus clearly to his satisfaction that he had murdered his friend. He was greatly grieved at this discovery; cursed and condemned the wine which was the cause of this murder, and swore that he never would drink any more, and that also no one should do so who wishes to enter heaven. This is the cause why wine is prohibited to the

          At a later period, Mahomed learned the whole transaction, and that his father-in-law was the perpetrator of the bloody deed; wherefore, he lost his favour, and he would not permit him to come before him. Abu Bachr went thereupon and conquered sixty places, which had not yet submitted to Mahomed, and presented them to him, through which means he became again reconciled to him, was received in favour, and remained thereafter at court.


          Ben Abrahamson

          Not in the sense of “Jewish” as the word is used today. However, I propose, based on a reconstruction of events, that the progenitor of the Quraysh – Adnan
          – was identical with Onias IV (Anan in Hellenized Hebrew). This would make the Quraysh one of the last remaining descendants of the Zadokite priesthood which was expelled from Jerusalem when the Hasmoneans took over the priesthood. This is supported by alternative versions of the name Adnan being spelled as Anan. I also offer it as an
          explanation for why the Ka’aba, at a certain point in its history, was structurally similar to the Temple of Onias in Heliopolis. It is apparently also referred to in Tractate Menuchos, as a place which had fallen into idolatry in the first centuries of the Common Era. Abu ‘Ubayda
          Ma’mar b. al-Muthanna (d. 825CE) book called Kitab al-mathalib and another work Kitab al-munammaq and also Ibn al-Kalbi’s (d. 819CE) book Kitab mathalib
          al-‘arab document the numerous marriages between the Quraish and Jewish women, including members of the “noble house” of the Jewish Exilarch. It is related
          there that Abd al-Muttalib (ra) married a noble Jewish woman, and this was the maternal grandmother of ‘Ali (ra). ‘Ali (ra) descent and his relationship to the Exilarch is also mentioned in Geniza fragments. Some of this is also discussed in Graetz, Geschichte der Juden von den ltesten Zeiten bis auf die Gegenwart. (History of the Jews) His positive relationship with the academies
          in Babylon is described in Iggeres Sherira Gaon. The Prophet (pbuh), however, was from a different marriage. His great grandmother was from the tribe of Hind. The
          “Judaism” of the Oniads was similar to what we know today. Qussai (ra) married the daughter of the Jurham King named “Hillel”. He formed a Sanhedrin in Mecca, called the Dar Al Nadwa, within a generation after it was forcibly disbanded in Tiberias. He announced the New Moons in an office called the Nasa (Nasi). Even so, the
          “Judaism” practiced in Arabia was a syncretic mixture of Sadducean, proto-Christian, and even Rabbinic influences. Though certain families among the Quraysh were “Jewish” enough to intermarry with the family of the Exilarch, it is uncertain how widely this applied.

        • Sophia Sadek

          Muslims treated Zoroastrians much the way that Christian treated Jews. It was as if they had to be eliminated because they knew too much.

    • wtfwjtd

      Maybe we’ll find out in tomorrow’s exciting conclusion! :)

  • busterggi

    One hopes the flesh was shaved before burning because the stink of burning hair is pretty awful.

  • Harry

    Just after the Exodus!
    If you read Exodus 32 with 1 Kings 11:1-11; Amos 5:15-27; Acts 7:42-43 and Sanhedrin 64a, you will see that Jews having been offering HUMAN sacrifices for thousands:



    Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 64a

    Soncino 1961 Edition, page 437

    Following the Mishnah is a discussion among the sages. One of the Talmud Sages, Rabbi Ashi, comments as follows:

    GEMARA. R. Ashi propounded: What if one caused his blind or sleeping son to
    pass through, (3) or if he caused his grandson by his son or daughter to pass
    through? — One at least of these you may solve. For it has been taught: [Any
    men … that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall he put to death …
    And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his
    people;] because he hath given of his seed unto Molech. Why is this stated? —
    Because it is said, there shall not be found among you any one that maketh his
    son or his daughter to pass through the fire. From this I know it only of his
    son or daughter. Whence do I know that it applies to his son’s son or
    daughter’s son too? From the verse, [And if the people of the land do any ways
    hide their eyes from the man] when he giveth of his seed unto Molech [and kill
    him not: Then I will … cut him off.]

    — Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 64b

    Soncino 1961 Edition, page 439

    Rabbi Dr. Freedman, one of the translators of the Soncino Tractate Sanhedrin,
    clarifies the passage. In a footnote, Rabbi Dr. Freedman confirms that the
    Talmud Sages use “seed” to denote living children, in the same sense as the Biblical translators understand the term in the above Biblical quotes.
    In this footnote, Rabbi Dr. Freedman paraphrases the question from Rabbi Ashi:

    3. Is ‘thou shalt not cause to pass’ applicable only to a son who can naturally
    pass through himself, but not to a blind or sleeping son, who must be led or
    carried, or does it apply to all?

    Rabbi Dr. Freedman

    Other footnotes within the same context clarify the fine point of distinction
    being drawn in the Mishnah and subsequent debates among the sages:

    5. Lev. XVIII, 21. This proves that the offence consists of two parts; (I)
    formal delivery to the priests, and (2) causing the seed to pass through the

    Rabbi Dr. Freedman (2)

    5. As two separate offences, proving that giving one’s seed to Molech is not
    idolatry. The differences [sic] is, that if one sacrificed to Molech, or caused
    his son to pass through the fire to some other deity, he is not punished.

    Rabbi Dr. Freedman (3)

    Following the Mishnah, Sanhedrin 64a and 64b contain a rousing debate between the Sages concerning:

    * the circumstances under which worshipping an idol is idolatry,

    * which idols may be worshipped without indulging in idolatry,

    * which parts of child sacrifice in what combination are punishable, and

    * how children may be sacrificed without violating Leviticus.



    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Seems like an odd flavor of anti-Semitism going on there. Just come out and tell us: what is the point?

      • Harry



        The Book of Joshua describes little more than a genocidal campaign against the unsuspecting inhabitants of Canaan. The Canaanites never attacked the Israelites, never enslaved the Israelites, and aren’t described as ever having done anything to warrant mistreatment of any sort.
        Their only crime was living in the wrong place at the wrong time — land promised to the Israelites by God at the time when God decided to make good on that promise.


        It’s impossible to know the moral or mental disposition of the Israelites and in fact the text doesn’t really delve into their psychology at all; the length and breadth of their roles consists of obeying or disobeying Yahweh. It is thus to Yahweh that we turn to understand the genocidal actions of the Israelites. Through much of the relevant text only Yahweh is presented as being truly active and, as one might expect, all of the impetus for genocide indeed comes from Yahweh.

        Already in Exodus, Yahweh promises that the Canaanites would “melt away” and that he would drive away the Canaanites when the Israelites arrive. By Deuteronomy, Yahweh says:

        And when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make
        no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

        (Deuteronomy 7:2-3)

        Similar instructions appear in subsequent texts and they are clear that not only are the Israelites to make total war on the
        inhabitants, but they are also prohibited from entering into any sort of peace treaty with any group. There is to be no mercy for anyone, only death.

        The Israelites got some practice in this by making war against the Midianites:

        And they warred against the Midianites, as the Lord commanded Moses; and they slew all the males. …And
        the children of Israel took all the women of Midian captives, and their little ones, and took the spoil of all their cattle, and all their flocks, and all their goods. …

        And Moses said unto them…Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves.

        (Numbers 31:7-18)

        So were the young virgin girls lucky that they weren’t slaughtered like the rest of their people, or were they unlucky that they were essentially taken as sex slaves to be used to satiate the lusts of the soldiers who slaughtered their fathers, mothers, brothers, and older sisters?

        The Book of Joshua makes it clear that the Israelites get to the murderous work of genocide and become quite efficient at it:

        And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord
        commanded. …every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe. As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua, and so did Joshua; he left nothing
        undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses.

        (Joshua 11:12-15)

        Raphael Lemkin argues in Axis Rule in Occupied Europe that one of the distinguishing features of genocide is not simply
        mass killing, which happens frequently in war, but the goal-oriented mass killing that is designed to destroy or culture or society with the purpose of replacing it entirely. This is definitely what we see happening in Joshua: the Israelites kill all the people in order to destroy their culture then move in to take over their fields, vineyards, cities, and lands.


        To be fair to the Israelites, it should be noted that they may have been operating from more than a little fear. Given their
        experience of what Yahweh did to their enemies, did they really want to become Yahweh’s enemies too? Probably not — and Yahweh certainly made threats about what would happen if they Israelites didn’t do as they were told:

        But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and
        shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell. Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.

        (Numbers 33:55-56)

        This is of course not the only threat issued to the Israelites, but it is the one which most closely associates Yahweh’s actions against the Canaanites with possible action against them: if they don’t follow orders to commit genocide, Yahweh might decide to cause a bit of genocide against them instead.

        This doesn’t entirely let the Israelites of the hook for their actions, but insofar as their guilt is mitigated at all, it’s
        magnified many times over for Yahweh. Not only did Yahweh order genocide to be committed and not only did he actively assist to ensure that genocide was committed, but he threatened his thugs that if they didn’t blindly obey their
        murderous orders then he’d do the same to them later on.

        And even that’s not the worst…


        Committing genocide against the indigenous people of Canaan was made easier by the fact that they were willing to fight for their ancestral homes. It’s easier to slaughter people who are trying to kill you, even if you’re the one who started the fight. Had the Canaanites tried to welcome the newcomers and pursue peaceful treaties, genocide might have been harder. Even the most fanatical religious zealot has a harder time slaughtering unarmed, peaceful people.

        Apparently Yahweh thought of this and took steps to ensure that nothing like this would interfere with his plans:

        There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they
        should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favor, but that he might destroy them, as the Lord commanded Moses.

        (Joshua 11:19-20)

        So Yahweh “hardened” the hearts of the Canaanites to guarantee that they would “come against Israel in battle.” Had he not done that, some of the Canaanites might have chosen a
        more peaceful solution and the Israelites might have been tempted to befriend them. Instead, they slaughtered everyone.

        Where else have we seen this? Not long before, Yahweh did the same thing with the pharaoh in Egypt: every time the pharaoh was about to let the Israelites god, Yahweh hardened his heart to ensure that he would say “no” and keep them a while longer as slaves. This guaranteed that Yahweh would get to kill all the firstborn sons of all the Egyptians as a show of psychopathic power.

        This is thus a persistent pattern for Yahweh: order one group of humans to harm a second group of humans, then take away the
        free will of the second ground and force them to act in a way that ensures conflict can occur. This sounds remarkably like a child torturing small animals and we all know what happens to kids like that.

        • adam

          Of course, Yahweh is a War God, I mean even his wife left him, probably because he was so abusive.

        • Harry


          Bob Seidensticker


          an hour ago

          Seems like an odd flavor of anti-Semitism going on there. Just come out and tell us: what is the point?


          — George Orwell, 1946


          — Goethe





          Foreword — Daat Emet (Israeli Jews)

          For a long time we have been considering the necessity of informing our readers about Halacha’s real attitude towards non-Jews. Many untrue things are publicized on this issue and the facts should be made clear. But recently, we were presented with a diligently written
          article on the subject, authored by a scholar from the Merkaz HaRav yeshiva — so our job was done by others (though we have already discussed some aspects of
          this issue in the weekly portions of Balak and Matot). Since there is almost no disagreement between us and the author of the article on this issue, we have
          chosen to bring the article “Jews Are Called ‘Men'” by R’ David Bar-Chayim (in Hebrew) so that the reader will be able to study and understand the attitude of the Halacha towards non-Jews.

          In this article R’ Bar-Chayim discusses the attitude towards “Gentiles” in the Torah and in the Halacha and comes to an unambiguous conclusion:

          “The Torah of Israel makes a clear distinction between a Jew, who is defined as ‘man,’ and a Gentile.”

          That is to say, any notion of equality between human beings is irrelevant to the Halacha. R’ Bar-Chayim’s work is comprehensive, written with intellectual honesty, and deals with almost all the aspects of Halachic treatment of non-Jews. It also refutes the statements of those rabbis who speak out of wishful thinking and,
          influenced by concepts of modern society, claim that Judaism does not discriminate against people on religious grounds. R’ Bar-Chayim shows that all these people base their constructs NOT on the Torah but solely on the inclinations of their own hearts. He also shows that there are even rabbis who intentionally distort the Halachic attitude to Gentiles, misleading both themselves and the general public.

          For the English readers’ convenience we will briefly mention the topics dealt with in R’ Bar-Chayim’s article:

          Laws in regard to murder, which clearly state that there is Halachic difference between murder of a Jew and of
          a Gentile (the latter is considered a far less severe crime).

          A ban on desecrating the Sabbath to save the life of a Gentile.

          A Jew’s exemption from liability if his property (e. g. ox) causes damage to a Gentile’s property. But if a
          Gentile’s property causes damage to a Jew’s property, the Gentile is liable.

          The question of whether robbery of a Gentile is forbidden by the Torah’s law or only by a Rabbinic decree.

          A ban on returning a lost item to a Gentile if the reason for returning it is one’s sympathy towards the Gentile
          and compassion for him.

          The sum which a Gentile overpays in a business transaction due to his own error is forfeit; whether a Jew is permitted to intentionally deceive a Gentile is also discussed.

          One who kidnaps a Jew is liable to death, but one who kidnaps a Gentile is exempt.

          A Jew who hurts or injures a Gentile is not liable for compensation of damage, but a Gentile who hurts a Jew
          is liable to death.

          One who overcharges a Gentile ought not return him the sum that the Gentile overpaid.

          A Gentile — or even a convert to Judaism — may not be appointed king or public official of any sort (e. g. a
          cabinet minister).

          One who defames a female proselyte (claiming that she was not virgin at the time of her marriage) is liable to neither lashes nor fine.

          The prohibition to hate applies only to Jews; one may hate a Gentile.

          One may take revenge against or bear a grudge towards Gentiles; likewise, the commandment “love your
          neighbour” applies only to Jews, not to Gentiles.

          One who sees Gentile graveyards should curse: “Your mother shall be greatly ashamed…”

          Gentiles are likened to animals.

          If an ox damaged a Gentile maidservant, it should be considered as though the ox damaged a she-ass.

          The dead body of a Gentile does not bear ritual impurity, nor does a Gentile who touches the dead body of a Jew become impure — he is considered like an animal who touched a dead body.

          One is forbidden to pour anointing oil on a Jew, but there is no ban on pouring that oil on a Gentile because Gentiles are likened to animals.

          An animal slaughtered by a Gentile is forbidden, even if the ritual slaughter performed was technically
          correct, because Gentiles are deemed like animals. (Daat Emet does not agree that this is the Halachic reason for invalidating a Gentile’s ritual slaughter
          — but this is not the place to delve into the subject).

          Their members are like those of asses” — Gentiles are likened to animals.

          Between the Jews and the Gentiles — In the
          Aggadah, the Kabbalah, and in Jewish Thought

          R’ Bar-Chayim’s arguments and conclusions
          are clear, Halachically accurate, and supported by almost all the existent major Halachic works. It would be superfluous to say that R’ Bar-Chayim fully embraces this racist Halachic outlook as the word of the Living G-d, as he himself pointed out in the “Conclusion” of his article:

          “It is clear to every Jew who accepts the Torah as G-d’s word from Sinai, obligatory and valid for all generations, that it is impossible to introduce ‘compromises’ or ‘renovations’ into it.”

          On the other hand, we want to make it clear that Daat Emet — as well as any reasonable people who do not embrace Halachic laws as the word of the Living G-d — are repulsed by such evil, racist discrimination.

          In the Hebrew text we have abridged the second part of R’ Bar-Chayim’s article,

          “Between Jews and Gentiles — In the Aggadah, the Kabbalah, and in Jewish Thought,” because, in our view, the Halacha is the law which obligates every religious Jew while concepts of the Aggadah, the Kabbalah, and Jewish thought are not binding on anyone, as our rabbis have already written:

          “And so the Aggadic constructs of the disciples of disciples, such as Rav Tanchuma and Rabbi Oshaya and their like — most are incorrect, and therefore we do not rely on the words of Aggadah” (Sefer HaEshkol, Laws of a Torah Scroll, p. 60a); we have expanded on this issue in the portion of Vayeshev.


          Was the great and revered rabbi Moses Ben Maimon (Maimonides) a racist?

          The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion refers to Moses Maimonides, a.k.a. Rambam, as “the symbol of the pure and orthodox faith.” His Guide of the Perplexed is considered the greatest work of Jewish religious philosophy, and his view of Blacks was pure Talmudic:

          “[T]he Negroes found in the remote South, and those who resemble them from among them that are with us in these climes. The status of those is like that of
          irrational animals. To my mind they do not have the rank of men, but have among the beings a rank lower than the rank of man but higher than the rank of apes.
          For they have the external shape and lineaments of a man and a faculty of discernment that is superior to that of the apes.”

          Several Jewish scholars have translated the “Guide,” interpreting the above passage as referring to Black

          1. Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), The Guide of the Perplexed, translated and edited by Shlomo Pines; with an introductory essay by Leo Strauss (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1963), Chapter 51, pp. 618-19. Moses Maimonides, The Guide to the Perplexed, trans. and ed. Shlomo Pines (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1963), 2:618-19. Other translations use the term “cushites” or “blacks” in place of “Negroes.” See M. Friedlander’s translation (1904; reprint, New York: Dover, 1956), 384.

          Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), The Guide of the Perplexed; an abridged edition with introduction and commentary by Julius Guttmann; translated from the Arabic; Dalalat al-ha’irin; English; selections by Chaim Rabin; new introduction by Daniel H. Frank (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1995), p. 185.

          Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), The Guide of the Perplexed, translated from the original and annotated by M. Friedländer (New York: Hebrew Pub. Co., 1881), pp. 279-80. Here the word “Kushites” is used.

          One might also see Essays on Maimonides; An Octocentennial Volume, edited by Salo Wittmayer Baron (New York: Columbia University Press, 1941). Baron is quite explicit about the attitudes of Maimonides on slavery. On page 239, for instance, he writes, “For Maimuni [Maimonides] a slave is not fully human in matters of sex…”


          “If there was a legal case between a Jew and a Gentile (non-Jew), then the manner of judging between them is as I will explain: if we [i.e., a Jew] will win under their laws, we judge them according to their laws and say
          to them: this is your law! If it is better that we judge according to our laws, we judge them according to our laws and say to them: this is our law! And do not find it difficult, and don’t be surprised by it, just as one is not
          surprised about the slaughter of animals even though they have done no harm, for one in whom human characteristics are not complete is not truly a man, and
          his end purpose is only for ‘man’ [that is to say, the entire raison d’etre of the Gentiles is only for the benefit of the complete man —

          comment by Rabbi Y. Kapach shlita in his edition of Maimonides’s Commentary on the Mishnah], and the discussion on this matter requires a separate book.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What’s your point? How is this relevant? You need to stay within the topic of this post.

        • Harry


          “Seems like an odd flavor of anti-Semitism going on there. Just come out and tell us: what is the point”?


          In what I commented, there was solid historical and religious facts and for you to use “terrorist” attacks, shows that it is YOU who have problems with a larger picture of the topic of the post.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You sound anti-Semitic, and you sound pointless. Correct both problems or leave.

        • Harry

          Bob Seidensticker, the Reasonable Doubter

          (I’m not totally out to my family.)

          HA! HA! HA!


          The atheist and author challenges religious beliefs with logical, thoughtful debate.

          Published Nov 28, 2012, 8:00am

          By Matthew Halverson

          Bob Seidensticker was never a man of strong faith—he calls his Presbyterian upbringing “Christianity lite”—but it took an email exchange with a creationist relative to make him turn his back on God. How, he thought, could
          any educated person believe in an all-powerful entity without any proof? For years now that lack of evidence has fueled his writing on the subject of Christian apologetics, via both his blog and his 2011 book, Cross Examined, a fictional account of a young pastor questioning his faith. Seidensticker’s approach is measured and logical—he is, after all, a retired Microsoft software developer—and never emotional. For him, the debate about religion, Christian or otherwise, is a matter of fact versus fiction I want to convert people, but that’s not my primary goal. My real goal is to make people think: “Mr. Christian, let’s make sure you’re evaluating this thoroughly.” Now he could say, “Look, I don’t have any good reasons for believing. I just believe on faith.” That’s fine. But if you want to jump into the ring of intellectual debate and offer your intellectual reasons for believing, I’ll be happy to critique them.

          What drives me is the harm that I see Christianity doing
          within American society today. If it was simply like knitting, fine—what you do in your own home is no problem. It’s when you want to get creationism into
          public schools that I have a problem. It’s when you justify prayer at a city council meeting or when the President is obliged to have a day of prayer. It’s
          when you use the Bible to justify the banning of same-sex marriage. Some of these things are small, but some are pretty important.

          Christians say, “You’ve got to pray. You have to
          give God a chance.” And I’m thinking, Give God a chance? He could just appear right here. I’m giving God the chance to do that.

          But even if God showed up here right now, he could be an alien. Technology exists. Life-forms exist. So having a life-form from another planet that’s a million years more advanced than us is not a hard concept to accept. The supernatural? We have no evidence of that. Now what if everyone in the entire world has the same dream about God? That’d be a starter.
          The point is that it can’t just be me. If I have a personal experience, then I could just be going crazy.

          I haven’t read the whole Bible. And I’ve gotten
          heat for that, which is valid. But where Christians seem to be coming from is the idea that if you read the Bible, something magical will happen. I’ve read much of the Bible and I’ve read the parts I disagree with in context. If I just pull something out of context and lampoon it, I’ve done nothing but made a fool of myself. I really do want to understand it.

          Pascal’s Wager suggests that we think of believing in God as a bet: If God exists and you bet against him, you’re really going to regret it. If you bet for him and he exists, then you’ll go to heaven. If God doesn’t exist, it doesn’t matter either way. But that assumes that your
          only choices are Christianity and atheism. There’s Buddhism and Sikhism and Shintoism and religions we haven’t even invented yet. What about all of those?
          Maybe you should bet on Buddhism. It would suck if you didn’t and went to the Buddhist hell. I’ve been to the monasteries and seen the pictures. It’s not cool.

          I’m not totally out to my family. My sister kind
          of knows. But I’m not sure my mother does. She’s Presbyterian, and the church is super important to her, more from a community standpoint than from any
          spiritual standpoint. So for the sake of familial harmony, it’s a topic best left untouched.

          You’ve seen children’s Bibles that have the story
          of Abraham and Isaac or the story of Noah’s flood? I read those to my kids, just to make them aware. It’s like being aware of Shakespeare. So simply for cultural vocabulary, I found it’s important to expose them to these things. And it would be hypocritical of me to reject the indoctrination that I see from Christians and then indoctrinate my own kids in non-Christianity by not
          exposing them to those ideas.

          Death doesn’t scare me. As you’re going, as you’re
          saying goodbye, that sucks. My father died about 10 years ago, and it was tough. I grieved just like a Christian would. But once you’re gone, problem solved.

          If belief in an afterlife had no ramifications, that would
          be fine. But look at people who do believe that there’s life after death and they’re going to be in heaven for a trillion years, hanging out with God and talking philosophy. I fear that focusing on the afterlife means you don’t focus on the life you have right here and using it to do things for future generations. There’s a proverb that goes, “It’s a good society where old
          men plant trees under which they know they will never sit.”

          Christians often say that with atheism there is no purpose. That’s bullshit. With atheism there is no absolute purpose. There is no book for God to write your name down in. You will not be recognized; no one
          will care about you a billion years from now. But so what? I’ve got a wife. I’ve got two kids. I can look at what I write, and in my own small way it’s a contribution to the greater good. It ain’t much, but it’s all I got. Which is fine
          with me.

          File Under: Quote Unquote, Faith and Religion

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Bye bye

        • MNb

          Hm, someone is asking for a ban.

        • 90Lew90

          Shalom. BOOOO!

        • MNb

          When it comes to pieces of shit like you I’m a talmudic jew indeed, despite that 7 on the scale of Dawkins (another talmudic jew in your view).

        • adam

          Well WHY dont you just make your point?
          Looks like your creating a puzzle but no interest in anyone trying to decipher what you want to say.

  • MR

    World famous Christian apologist William Lane Craig is well known for his hilariously inept defense of the savage excesses of his God, who apparently isn’t able to present a defense himself.


  • Broot

    you seem to be taking one line from the bible and assuming the meaning of it. but the verses surrounding the ones you selected are equally important. You also misinterpret quite a bit. You are obviously looking for things to be critical about. You also TAKE OUT WORDS to manipulate the meaning of the verse.

    Exodus 22:29- An offering of a first born son was not a sacrifice. It may have been a calling for them to be given to to do the work of God, so they may work for the priests To heard the animal offerings or take care of the land offerings and other such things.

    Lev 27:8 – Like mentioned previously, people would give offerings of land, their children, animals or other personal belongings. If they offered it up, they couldnt be an ‘Indian-giver’ and want to take it back because they already gave it to God. this doesnt mean sacrifice. You can’t sacrifice a pot or a plot of land. They didnt sacrifice every animal. animals back then were used as money. this was considered a tithe, like people today will give 10%. back then, they only gave the first born calf, but would keep all the rest. this was a tithing system. (Redemption meant to buy back after it was given up as an offering)

    Lev 27:9 – Someone devoted to destruction, (a murderer) would be put to death. (also not a sacrifice.

    Ez 20:25-26 – Again, you don’t read before and after this one or two sentences. This chapter was talking about how god provided for the Israelites but they kept disobeying Him. They were influenced by Egyptian ways after being there so long. They enjoyed the Egyptian way, the Egyptian gods, the mythology, the idols, and worshiped them. God was angry, but didnt hurt them, instead waited for the next generation, again, they too were influenced by their parents ways, so he “gave them over to” (ALLOWED THEM TO) this means He let them do what they wanted. They wanted to follow their own statues, They wanted to sacrifice the first born (cattle) to the Egyptian idols. and many other things. So He didnt force them to do otherwise like He wanted to, He stayed His hand and didn’t show his anger to them by destroying them.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for your input. Your concerns would be easier to follow if you’d respond directly to the points I raised above. In reading your comment, I simply feel like repeating what I’ve already said.

    • Ben

      Yeah I mean, you’re basically saying there’s a context in which “give your first born sons to [god]” is okay. Where human sacrifice, slavery and genocide are all okay. What is this context that makes it okay? Does god say in Ex 22:1-28 “The last verse in this book is rhetoric and you should never do it but…” Ex 22:29 “Give me your first born son”. No he just makes other ridiculous demands. No where is there some context that any of this is moral. You are simply making excuses.

  • Steve

    You completely forgot Judges 11: 31-40. Jepthath sacrifices his daughter as a burnt offering for success in battle agains the Ammonites. The act is then celebrated and commemorated by young Israeli women for generations. Ugh. Ugly stuff.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve heard the apologetic that he didn’t actually sacrifice her but just dedicated her virginity to the temple, or something like that.

      • Steve

        But that’s not what the bible says. It says he did that which he said he was going to do – sacrifice her as a burnt offering. His faithful act was even celebrated and commemorated. I don’t see how they can walk out of that one when it’s what the bible actually says.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Agreed. I’m just passing on what I’ve heard, and I agree that it’s weak.

      • Spiritdove Smith

        yes if they dont like a story they just make up a new one.

  • Spiritdove Smith

    And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing
    unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not
    withheld thy son, thine only son from me. IT SAYS HE DIDNT KILL HIM.. BUT how the heck did he know God was talking to him? And if a truely loving creator asks you to kill your son you would be backing water.. Evil god you.. how cruel.. glad he dont exist..lol