Ancient Cannibalistic Ritual Inspired Christian Eucharist, Claims Controversial New Book
A new book about the origins of Christianity, written by the Israeli historian, Amram Eppstein, has stirred some violent outrage across the world by linking the Eucharist, one of the central sacraments of the Christian faith, with an ancient Babylonian ritual involving disturbing acts of cannibalism.
In his controversial book, entitled The Babylonian Origins of the Christian Religion, Professor Eppstein claims that the acts of drinking wine and eating bread, symbolizing the flesh and blood of Christ, are actually inspired by a ritual in honor of the Babylonian goddess of the Underworld, Ereshkigal.
This ritual, called the Arumkhvär, presumably involved drinking the blood and eating the flesh of sacrificed children, in order to obtain some form of blessing from the goddess.
The children that were sacrificed in this ceremony, had to be “sons of virgin mothers” to be pure enough for their sacrifice to appease the deity. The boys were drained of their blood, which was collected in a large vessel, and their flesh was cut into small pieces and distributed to the audience.
Worshippers eating the flesh of the child, were believed to receive forgiveness for any of their actions that might have displeased the goddess.
“This ancient Babylonian ceremony was almost identical to the Christian Eucharist, except that the cannibalistic part of it was not purely symbolic” says Professor Eppstein. “The son of a virgin mother would be sacrificed to pay for the sins of the entire community and to ask the goddess for forgiveness. The worshippers would eat his flesh and drink his blood, much like modern Christians still do, but in a strictly symbolic way.”
According to him, the early Christians only adapted this popular ritual which was still celebrated across much of the Middle East during Jesus’ lifetime, by turning it into a less violent event.
It is well-known that the ancient Mesopotamian cultures have influenced the Jewish and Christian traditions, like the biblical story of Noah which seems to have been inspired by the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, but Professor Eppstein’s claims seem to have hit a sensitive chord with many Christians.
Many scholars have thus denounced his theories as anti-Christian, noting that there is little evidence other than “a few similarities” between the rituals, to prove that the Arumkhvär actually inspired the Eucharist.
Despite the critics it has raised and the controversy surrounding it, Professor Eppstein’s book has already become a best-seller in eleven countries and multiple translations of the work are under way.
By Barbara Johnson