October 19, 2004
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v2.1 Reference

Blood Ritual in the Hebrew Bible

Meaning and Power

In ancient Israelite sacrifice as represented in the Hebrew Bible, the handling and use of the blood of sacrificed animals took many forms and served different functions. The Hebrew Bible refers to tossing sacrificial blood onto an altar or an assembly of people, daubing it on the altar's horns or parts of the human body, and sprinkling it on or in front of sacred objects.

William Gilders investigates the significance of these blood rituals. Offering a close reading of Leviticus 17:11, Gilders emphasizes the secondary and innovative character of this biblical text, which has often been treated as a key for understanding biblical blood ritual.

Focusing on the analysis of practice, Gilders finds that blood manipulation is regularly marked as elite activity, serving as an index of social relationships and hierarchies. Blood rituals also regulate access to sacred spaces and define the limits of such spaces. Drawing on recent theoretical approaches to ritual practices, this study offers a sophisticated new understanding of ancient rites.

About the Author

William K. Gilders is an assistant professor in the department of religion at Emory University.


In this well written and often intriguing study Gilders discusses the meaning of blood in the rituals of the Hebrew Bible... All in all, a thought provoking and stimulating book!

- Journal of Hebrew Scriptures


An interesting and significant investigation of the meaning of blood in rituals and ritual-related texts in the Hebrew Bible.

- David P. Wright, Brandeis University

Readers... will benefit from his methodical assessment of relevant passages and his careful critique of prevailing interpretations.

- David A. Bergen - Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses

A fascinating and noteworthy investigation of the meaning of blood rituals in the Hebrew Bible for laypersons, students of ritual, and scholars alike.

- Johnson M. Kimuhu - Religious Studies Review

Gilder's work stands as a sound scholarly investment.

- Casey A. Toews - Shofar

In this notable resource, Gilders provides a bold revision of traditional interpretative models and opens up new perspectives through his attention to latent soci-cultic dimensions of ritual activity.

- Christian A. Eberhart - Toronto Journal of Theology

One of the most important works on its subject in recent years... Beautifully produced.

- Walter Houston - Journal of Theological Studies
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801879937 : blood-ritual-in-the-hebrew-bible-gilders
272 Pages
$63.00 USD

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