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The chapter unites anthropological accounts of blood. It introduces refrains that unify themes of the entire book. It argues that blood marks the bounds of religious and social bodies, using Durkheim, Douglas, and Bildhauer; Irenaeus, Maximus, and Aquinas. Iron compounds make blood red, but societies draft its color and stickiness for their own purposes. Inside, blood carries life. Outside, blood marks the body fertile or at risk. But that’s a social fiction. Skin makes a membrane to pass when a body breathes, eats, perspires, eliminates, menstruates, ejaculates, conceives, or bleeds. Only blood evokes so swift and social a response: It brings parent to child, bystander to victim, ambulance to patient, soldier to comrade, midwife to mother, defender to border. The New Testament names the blood of Christ three times as often as his cross – five times as often as his death. The blood of Jesus is the blood of Christ; the wine of communion is the blood of Christ; the means of atonement is the blood of Christ; the kinship of believers is the blood of Christ; the cup of salvation is the blood of Christ; icons ooze with the blood of Christ; and the blood of Christ is the blood of God.
“Jesus and the Gender of Blood.” Here’s a place blood seeps in where it hardly seems to belong: Crucifixion kills not by blood loss but suffocation. Neither crucifixion nor a common meal requires blood. Hands and feet can be lashed without nails. Why must Jesus bleed? Gospel writers portray Jesus at the Last Supper as mobilizing the language of blood to transform a structure of violent oppression – crucifixion – into a peaceful feast. The image of the Woman with a Flow of Blood, read as dysmenorrhea, recognizes a kinship: three gospels identify both the woman and Jesus with their bleeding, as leaky. The stories feminize Jesus by turning his blood away from male-gendered violence and toward female-gendered purposes of new life and rebirth. Reflections on the Eucharist and taboo.
In modern creationism, blood-language (even more than a high view of scripture) determines whether evolution can be true. In One Blood, leading creationist Ken Ham finds evolution too bloody for a good God. A good God could hardly use predation, extinction, and death as a means. For Ham, blood sets humans at one with or apart from the “dumb beasts.” But Ham drafts too narrow an atonement, where the blood of Christ makes up only for sin. Blood must also mean solidarity. Uses Irenaeus, William Jennings Bryan, Marilyn Adams, Teilhard de Chardin, Sergei Bulgakov.
“Blood after Isaac” reads the binding of Isaac, where some interpreters see blood, although the story never mentions it. This chapter introduces the pattern that blood seeps in where it seems not to belong. The little word "na," untranslated in English versions of the story, in modern Hebrew means simply "please," but in the Hebrew Bible indicates irony, as in "say, go ahead, see if I care." The chapter argues that the story of Isaac is best understood in terms of divine irony, God imitating Abraham as a trickster. Why does Abraham not catch on?
In Reconquista Spain, a barely united state turned its anxieties inward with anti-Semitic laws on blood purity among converts from Judaism and Islam. The same insecure state turned outward to conquer Mexico, where Franciscans spent fifty years recording Aztec human sacrifice in codices and color drawings. Castilians and Aztecs alike marked their external bounds and internal bonds with blood. Ethnicizing ideas of blood purity crossed the Atlantic to ruddy Christian perceptions of Mesoamerican sacrifice. Two blood-obsessed cultures met to reveal disturbing resonances in Christian blood language. Uses Sircoff on limpieza de sangre and Timothy Radcliffe on cultic irony in Hebrews.
Maximus the Confessor's theory of the logoi in the Logos applied to human evolution. God's use of material things – such as stones – to bring about the incarnation. Maximus's pregnant mentions of the blood of Christ as the intelligibility of things.
In 2007 the bishops of the US Episcopal Church invited my advice on a “theology of same-sex relationships.” Of what other panelists said – PhDs teaching at respected institutions – the most arresting was: “The trouble with same-sex relationships is they impugn the blood of Christ.” They do what? The original remark attempted a hazing; the final result bestowed a gift, the gift of blood made strange. Blood is supposed to wash gay people with the atonement, even as self-accepting gay people say they don’t need cleansing. It’s supposed to unite Christians in communion, even as sexuality debates divide the churches. It’s supposed to protect the succession of priests, even as bishops shield them for sexual crimes. To some Christians, such failures of Christ’s blood amount to a cosmological disturbance. But what if Jesus becomes a bridegroom of blood, who stays on the cross for love of the (male) thief to whom he promises a life together in paradise? Reflects on Anselm, Abelard, Sebastian Moore, and "pleading the blood."
“Blood after Leviticus” observes there is initially not “enough” blood in Leviticus, which only “daubs” or “sprinkles” it, with the rest poured on the ground, removed from cultic use. The reinterpretation of Leviticus in the New Testament book of Hebrews imagines much more. Leviticus’ reception history shows how drops of blood become floods in imagination: Blood burgeons at need. The chapter includes accounts of Christian animal sacrifice at sites of St. George in the West Bank and Samaritan animal sacrifice at passover. It reflects on tropes of infinite blood.