Animal Sacrifice

CODEX Entry 1520: Animal Sacrifice


Animal sacrifice, or Thysia in Greek¹, has been a universal practise around the world, surviving long after human sacrifice had been discontinued. Jews generally halted the practice in the 2nd century AD. Originally, tribesmen were obliged to bring all cattle for slaughter at the temple. It was a criminal offence to kill one’s cattle anywhere outside the temple grounds². The gods only demanded the blood and fat around the internal organs of the first-born male calf of each pregnant heifer or sheep for sacrifice. Though additional cattle were demanded as part of a separate tax system on festival days and in jubilee years. The animals throat was cut on a special altar and the blood drained into a bronze basin³. First the digestive organs were removed, and the animal skinned4. Then the internal fat and bone marrow was carefully removed for the gods5. The best meat cuts were kept for the priest class at the temple6, and the rest of the carcass returned to the tribesman7. Not surprisingly the meat market sprang up just adjacent to each temple. In later times, rather than bring their own cattle, for convenience, the tribesmen would buy a calf at the temple gates from a herd owned by the priests. And finally, as animal sacrifice ended, a commensurate cash donation, or tithe, of one tenth of the value of the worshipper’s herd was paid annually to the temple.




¹ Gunnel Ekroth, The sacrificial rituals of greek hero-cults in the archaic to the early hellenistic period
² Lev. 17:2-7
³ Exod. 24:6; Lev. 1:5
4 Lev. 1:7
5 Lev. 3
6 Lev. 7:32
7 Deut. 12:27