Friday, November 27, 2009

Vampires in the Bible

We are roughly two-thirds into the book of Leviticus, which mostly consists of additional laws and regulations for the Israelites. These are dictated by God to Moses for him to instruct the nation.

Immediately preceding this study and in the previous chapter, we took a closer look at the role of the scapegoat involved in the Day of Atonement.

Vampires in the Bible
Reading the Bible has provided fascinating insight into the origin of many concepts and expressions we commonly use in our vernacular, such as being there “with bells on,” kosher food, and “scapegoats” as previously discussed. However, sometimes the influence serves as an inspiration for more abstracted concepts, such as vampires.

Several verses of the Bible forbid the Israelites from eating blood; Leviticus 3:17, Leviticus 7:26-27, Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 12:16, Deuteronomy 12:23-25, and Deuteronomy 15:23. Leviticus 17 is one of the best chapters for providing an explanation for this aversion to eating blood.

Consider Leviticus 17:10-11:
Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood—I [, God,] will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. NIV
and Leviticus 17:14
because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why [God has] said to the Israelites, "You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off." NIV
Back in those ancient times, to some extent it probably did seem like life was in blood in a very literal sense. For example, if they came upon the body of a man in a puddle of blood from inflicted combat wounds, this would have seemed like evidence that his life had literally leaked out of his body.

Yet what makes this strange, and what likely inspired the accounts of vampires, is the prohibition of eating the blood because of the life in the blood. What may have started off as being a custom to give reverence to blood provided only a short journey to the concept that eating (or more appropriately drinking) blood could elongate life, or possibly even permit everlasting life. The vampiric concept followed naturally from these prohibitions.

Even the writers of the New Testament seemed to pick up on this concept. Consider that during the Last Supper, Matthew 26:27-29, Mark 14:23-25, and Luke 22:20 record Jesus as symbolically giving His Apostles His blood to drink. John 6:53-56 explicitly says that eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood is essential for salvation into everlasting life.

Yet at the same time, the New Testament continues to prohibit the consumption of blood. In Acts 15:20, Acts 15:29, and Acts 21:25 we see that while the Gentiles would not be encouraged to keep kosher diets and other restrictions under Jewish Law, they would be told to abstain from consuming blood. It has the same importance as avoiding food sacrificed to idols and avoiding sexual immorality.

With the exception of Jesus' blood, consuming blood to live eternally would have stood starkly against God's Plan, and so God would naturally be against such a shortcut. This is why Holy Water, crosses and crucifixes, and God's light (the sun) would be expected to have a condemning effect on vampires. The vampire story principles practically grow themselves in the fertile ground of the Bible's soil. Add in a brutal yet effective monarch with a penchant for bloody and gory psychological warfare like Vlad III the Impaler. Blend well with a little creative writing. Presto! The vampiric concept born in the Bible is established as a full fledged vampire legend in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

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