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The Origin of the Scapegoat Ritual

Calum Carmichael
Vetus Testamentum
Vol. 50, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 2000), pp. 167-182
Published by: Brill
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1585003
Page Count: 16
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The Origin of the Scapegoat Ritual
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Abstract

This paper argues, contrary to the dominant view, that the ritual of the scapegoat in Leviticus xvi is a purely native, Israelite invention, not a modification of pre-Israelite, Near Eastern rites. The key to its construction is the procedure by which the biblical lawgiver examined his nation's traditions, singled out the first time a particular issue arose, and presented a law ostensibly the product of Moses' judgment. In the case of the scapegoat ritual, the issue he focused on is the occasion when Joseph's brothers seek forgiveness for their offense against Joseph. The offense involved the killing of a goat to suggest an evil beast had slain Joseph, thereby transferring to the beast their own wrongdoing. The thesis revives a view found as early as the Book of Jubilees and which turns up again in Maimonides that the Day of Atonement was first instituted to expiate the brothers' offense against Joseph.

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