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ORIGIN OF RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS.
How it came to pass that men everywhere were so generally agreed on the main symbols of their religious yearnings and their religious hopes, in this realm of their aspirations, is a question which obviously admits of two possible answers. A common revelation from God may have been given to primitive man; and all these varying yet related indications of religious strivings and aim may be but the perverted remains of the lessons of that misused, or slighted, revelation. On the other hand, God may originally have implanted the germs of a common religious thought in the mind of man, and then have adapted his successive revelations to the outworking of those germs. Whichever view of the probable origin of these common symbolisms, all the world over, be adopted by any Christian student, the importance of the symbolisms themselves, in their relation to the truths of revelation, is manifestly the same.
On this point, Kurtz has said, forcefully: "A comparison of the religious symbols of the Old Testament with those of ancient heathendom shows that the ground and the starting point of those forms of religion which found their appropriate expressions in symbols, was the same in all cases; while the history of civilization proves that, on this point, priority cannot be claimed by the Israelites. But when instituting such an inquiry, we shall also find that the symbols
which were transferred from the religions of nature to that of the spirit, first passed through the fire of divine purification, from which they issued as the distinctive theology of the Jews; the dross of a pantheistic deification of nature having been consumed." And as to even the grosser errors, and the more pitiable perversions of the right, in the use of these world-wide religious symbolisms, Kurtz says, again: “Every error, however dangerous, is based on some truth misunderstood, and every aberration, however grievous, has started from a desire after real good, which had not attained its goal, because the latter was sought neither in the right way, nor by right means."2 To recognize these truths concerning the outside religions of the world gives us an added fitness for the comparison of the symbolisms we have just been considering with the teachings of the sacred pages of revelation on the specific truths involved.
Proofs of the existence of this rite of blood-covenanting have been found among primitive peoples of all quarters of the globe; and its antiquity is carried back to a date long prior to the days of Abraham. All this outside of any indications of the rite in the text of the Bible itself. Are we not, then, in a position to turn. intelligently to that text for fuller light on the subject? 'Kurtz's History of the Old Covenant, I., 235. 2 Ibid., I., 268.
INDICATIONS OF THE RITE IN THE BIBLE.
I. LIMITATIONS OF INQUIRY.
AND now, before entering upon an examination of the Bible text in the light of these disclosures of primitive and universal customs, it may be well for me to say that I purpose no attempt to include or to explain all the philosophy of sacrifice, and of the involved atonement. All my thought is, to ascertain what new meaning, if any, is found in the Bible teachings concerning the uses and the symbolism of blood, through our better understanding of the prevailing idea, among the peoples of the ancient world, that blood represents life; that the giving of blood represents the giving of life; that the receiving of blood represents the receiving of life; that the inter-commingling of blood represents the inter-commingling of natures; and that a divine-human inter-union through blood is the basis of a divine-human inter-communion in the sharing of the flesh of the sacrificial offering as sacred food.