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The Scapegoat by William Holman Hunt, 1854. Hunt had this framed in a picture with the quotations "Surely he hath borne our Griefs and carried our Sorrows; Yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of GOD and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4) and "And the Goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a Land not inhabited." (Leviticus 16:22)

The scapegoat was a goat that was driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of the Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in Jerusalem. The rite is described in Leviticus 16.

Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is sent away to perish [1], the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.

Contents

Biblical scapegoat

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Origins

A concept superficially similar to the biblical scapegoat is attested in two ritual texts in archives at Ebla of the 24th century BC.[2] They were connected with ritual purifications on the occasion of the king's wedding. In them, a she-goat with a silver bracelet hung from her neck was driven forth into the wasteland of 'Alini'; "we" in the report of the ritual involves the whole community. Such 'elimination rites', in which an animal, without confession of sins, is the vehicle of evils (not sins) that are chased from the community are widely attested in the Ancient Near East.[3]

Etymology

The word "Scapegoat" is a mistranslation of the word Azazel (In Hebrew: עזאזל) originated by William Tyndale in his 1530 Bible, and appropriated in the King James Version of the Bible (Leviticus chapter 16) in 1611. Confounded by the word, Tyndale had interpreted Azazel as ez ozel - literally, "the goat that departs"; hence "(e)scape goat." According to the Talmud, Yoma 67b, Azazel is a contraction of az (harsh) and eil (strong) and refers to the most rugged of mountains. This identification is supported by Rashi, the great Medieval grammarian, who interpreted Azazel to be the name of a specific mountain or cliff over which the goat was driven[4]. According to R.H. Charles, it was called so for its reputation as the holding place of the fallen angel of the same name. Modern scholars generally reject Tyndale's interpretation and favor one related to a fallen angel/evil demon interpretation. Today in modern Hebrew Azazel is used derogatorily, as in lekh la-Azazel ("go to Azazel"), as in "go to hell" or ma la-Azazel? ("what to Azazel?"), as in "what the hell?".

Christianity

In Christian theology, the story of the scapegoat in Leviticus is interpreted as a symbolic prefiguration of the self-sacrifice of Jesus, who takes the sins of humanity on his own head, having been driven into the 'wilderness' outside the city by order of the high priests. Also see John 1:29 and Hebrews Chps. 9-10

Girard's socio-religious theory

The Christian anthropologist René Girard has provided a reconstruction of the scapegoat theory. In Girard's view, it is humankind, not God, who has the problem with violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This mimetic contagion increases to a point where society is at risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism[5] is triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again. Girard contends that this is what happened in the case of Jesus. The difference in this case, Girard believes, is that he was resurrected from the dead and shown to be innocent; humanity is thus made aware of its violent tendencies and the cycle is broken. Satan, who is seen to be manifested in the contagion, is cast out. Thus Girard's work is significant as a re-construction of the Christus Victor atonement theory.

The psychology and sociology of scapegoating

A scapegoat is someone selected to bear blame for a calamity. Scapegoating is the act of holding a person, group of people, or thing responsible for a multitude of problems. Related concepts include frameup, patsy, whipping boy and fall guy.

Political/sociological scapegoating

Scapegoating is an important tool of propaganda; the most famous example in modern history is the singling out in Nazi propaganda of the Jews as the source of Germany's post-World War I economic woes and political collapse.

A tactic often employed is to characterize an entire group of individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a small number of individuals belonging to that group, also known as guilt by association.

"Scapegoated" groups throughout history have included almost every imaginable group of people: adherents of different religions, people of different races or nations, people with different political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various political groups.

In industrialised societies, scapegoating of traditional minority groups is increasingly frowned upon.

Mobbing is a form of sociological scapegoating which occurs in the workplace.[6] A summary of research on workplace mobbing by Kenneth Westhues, Prof. of Sociology University of Waterloo, published in OHS Canada, Canada's Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 8, December 2002, pp. 30–36.

"Scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. It is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear, specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life. ... Mobbing can be understood as the stressor to beat all stressors. It is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude, punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and communications comes to be seen as legitimate."

Scapegoating in psychoanalytic theory

Psychoanalytic theory holds that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected onto another who becomes a scapegoat for one's own problems. This concept can be extended to projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group, becomes the scapegoat for the group's problems. In psychopathology, projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in people with certain personality disorders.

Scapegoating in ancient Greece

The Ancient Greeks practiced a scapegoating rite in which a cripple or beggar or criminal (the pharmakos) was cast out of the community, either in response to a natural disaster (such as a plague, famine or an invasion) or in response to a calendrical crisis (such as the end of the year). The scholia refer to the pharmakos being killed, but many scholars reject this, and argue that the earliest evidence (the fragments of the iambic satirist Hipponax) only show the pharmakos being stoned, beaten and driven from the community.[7]

See also

References

  1. ^ The Golden Bough pp569 Sir James Frazer, Worsworth Reference ISBN 1 85326-310-9
  2. ^ Ida Zatelli, "The Origin of the Biblical Scapegoat Ritual: The Evidence of Two Eblaite Text", Vetus Testamentum 48.2 (April 1998:254-263).
  3. ^ David P. Wright, The Disposal of the Impurity: Elimination Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature (Atlanta: Scholars Press) 1987:15-74.
  4. ^ Chumash with Rashi, [1]
  5. ^ The Scapegoat Model, Jean-Baptiste Dumont
  6. ^ At The Mercy Of The Mob
  7. ^ Frazer, Sir James, The Golden Bough. Worsworth Reference. pp 578. ISBN 1 85326-310-9

Further reading

  • Colman, A.D: Up from Scapegoating: Awakening Consciousness in Groups (1995)
  • Douglas, Tom Scapegoats: Transferring Blame (1995)
  • Dworkin, A: Scapegoat: The Jews Israel, and Women's Liberation. London (2000)
  • Dyckman, John M. Scapegoats at Work: Taking the Bull's-Eye Off Your Back (2003)
  • Girard, René: The Scapegoat (1986)
  • Perera, Sylvia Brinton Scapegoat Complex: Toward a Mythology of Shadow and Guilt (Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian Analysts) (1986)

External links


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki


Lev 16:8-26; R.V., "the goat for Azazel" (q.v.), the name given to the goat which was taken away into the wilderness on the day of Atonement (16:20-22). The priest made atonement over the scapegoat, laying Israel's guilt upon it, and then sent it away, the goat bearing "upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited."

At a later period an evasion or modification of the law of Moses was introduced by the Jews. "The goat was conducted to a mountain named Tzuk, situated at a distance of ten Sabbath days' journey, or about six and a half English miles, from Jerusalem. At this place the Judean desert was supposed to commence; and the man in whose charge the goat was sent out, while setting him free, was instructed to push the unhappy beast down the slope of the mountain side, which was so steep as to insure the death of the goat, whose bones were broken by the fall. The reason of this barbarous custom was that on one occasion the scapegoat returned to Jerusalem after being set free, which was considered such an evil omen that its recurrence was prevented for the future by the death of the goat" (Twenty-one Years' Work in the Holy Land). This mountain is now called el-Muntar.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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