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The Jews Were Cannibals, Wtf?


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This raises the question: Is the idea of the inhabitants of Jerusalem eating their babies in time of siege in the original Jewish texts? Or does it appear only in the Christian Old Testament? Anyone, beginning in the first century AD, could have revised it to denigrate those Jews who was against the Jesus movement.

The story of the woman eating her baby in the siege comes from Josephus as does the story of the Greek man (though he's repeating Apion here). There are no Jewish texts from Josephus and should never have been (based on the internal evidence). The copies of his writings that we have are very late, from about the 10th century(?), which is why many passages get questioned. This one looks to be legit but it would simply be based on nothing more that hearsay since Josephus, at this time, would have been nowhere near Jerusalem. So it's entirely possible, given the conditions he describes, that people had turned to cannibalism to survive, but that this particular story is not true. There's just no way to prove either way since there's no actual first-hand evidence to support the claim.

 

mwc

 

Are you saying there are pieces of Josephus in the Christian OT? Just asking. I've never before (before writing that post) entertained the idea of the OT being corrupted by Christians. According to Wikipedia, Josephus lived in the first century AD and was not around when the OT was being written. If any of his writing appears in the OT, I assume it was inserted by Christian editors? Just clarifying whether that is what you are saying.

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Are you saying there are pieces of Josephus in the Christian OT? Just asking. I've never before (before writing that post) entertained the idea of the OT being corrupted by Christians. According to Wikipedia, Josephus lived in the first century AD and was not around when the OT was being written. If any of his writing appears in the OT, I assume it was inserted by Christian editors? Just clarifying whether that is what you are saying.

No, I'm not saying that at all. I saw you ask this "Is the idea of the inhabitants of Jerusalem eating their babies in time of siege in the original Jewish texts?" and took that to mean the siege during the first war with the Romans (since that is where Josephus does makes mention of a Jewish woman in Jerusalem eating her baby). None of this appears in any canonical documents. It's not in the Hebrew or xian bible. It's in Josephus' Wars. The mention of the Greek man comes from Against Apion where Apion had made accusation of cannibalism the Jews, during the time of Antiochus (early 2nd century BCE roughly...he's mentioned in the book of Daniel and 1st/2nd Maccabees).

 

mwc

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MWC, thanks for the clarification. I don't remember where it is in the OT. But I remember coming across it many years ago when reading the OT and being so terribly shocked--practically traumatized--by it. I think it might be in the time of Ahab, or whenever the enemy had surrounded the city and all food and water supplies had been cut off.

 

One woman says to another something like this: We had my son for supper yesterday with the agreement that we would have yours today. Where is he?

 

Apparently the second woman was hiding her child and this caused a problem in the agreement. I don't remember the end of the story. Possibly I did not read it.

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And also that male writers have an easier time to be published than female, especially in the theological scene.

 

JK Rowling also chose a gender neutral pen name to write Harry Potter under because it was believed nobody would want to read a fantasy book written by a woman, but I think in Rowling's case, it was her publishers who pushed her to use a pen name and not her own choice. I don't know how true it is that books by women sell worse than books by men. At least it seems Harry Potter has only become more popular since JK Rowling revealed her real name and gender.
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MWC, thanks for the clarification. I don't remember where it is in the OT. But I remember coming across it many years ago when reading the OT and being so terribly shocked--practically traumatized--by it. I think it might be in the time of Ahab, or whenever the enemy had surrounded the city and all food and water supplies had been cut off.

 

One woman says to another something like this: We had my son for supper yesterday with the agreement that we would have yours today. Where is he?

 

Apparently the second woman was hiding her child and this caused a problem in the agreement. I don't remember the end of the story. Possibly I did not read it.

Ah, okay. I looked up what you've mentioned here and found it:

2 Kings 6

 

24 Now after this, Ben-hadad, king of Aram, got together all his army and went up to make an attack on Samaria, shutting the town in on all sides with his forces. 25 And they became very short of food in Samaria; for they kept it shut in till the price of an ass's head was eighty shekels of silver, and a small measure of doves' droppings was five shekels of silver. 26 And when the king of Israel was going by on the wall, a woman came crying out to him, and said, Help! my lord king. 27 And he said, If the Lord does not give you help, where am I to get help for you? from the grain-floor or the grape-crusher? 28 And the king said to her, What is troubling you? And she said in answer, This woman said to me, Give your son to be our food today, and we will have my son tomorrow. 29 So, boiling my son, we had a meal of him; and on the day after I said to her, Now give your son for our food; but she has put her son in a secret place. 30 Then the king, hearing what the woman said, took his robes in his hands, violently parting them; and, while he was walking on the wall, the people, looking, saw that under his robe he had haircloth on his flesh.

A quick read of the story shows that it takes place in the city of Samaria. This is all that is mentioned about the women and their cannibalism.

 

mwc

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And also that male writers have an easier time to be published than female, especially in the theological scene.

 

JK Rowling also chose a gender neutral pen name to write Harry Potter under because it was believed nobody would want to read a fantasy book written by a woman, but I think in Rowling's case, it was her publishers who pushed her to use a pen name and not her own choice. I don't know how true it is that books by women sell worse than books by men. At least it seems Harry Potter has only become more popular since JK Rowling revealed her real name and gender.

 

This is probably worth its own thread in the Off Topics section, if we wish to pursue it. But the Anne of Green Gables books are written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), an openly female author. Louisa May Alcott (1832-1888), author of Little Women, is another.

 

Both those classics have been turned into movies in recent decades. Here are the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) links:

 

I don't know how successful these women were originally or how easily their books sold at first. However, I don't see how anyone can dispute the fact that these books were a success in the end despite the fact that their authors were female.

 

Of course, they're not exactly fantasy books but the idea that women can't fantasize is a joke. When was the last time that we ladies were accused of being so emotional and fantastic as to be disjointed from reality???

 

But the misconception that women can't write theology as Acharya S. reportedly says--now that is a realistic claim. Women theologians are still being kicked out of what they thought were permanent teaching positions at liberal seminaries while their male counterparts get to call the shots.

 

The men will teach feminist theology in a course on theological traditions if they must, but alongside a woman???

 

I know of two seminaries that kicked out a female theologian in the last decade, one of them my own.

 

My school said it was about money--or, rather, lack thereof. However, it did not escape my observation that the school had at the same time hired a number of new social work profs for its pastoral counseling program.

 

The theologian they kicked out continues to be one of the best teachers I encountered in all my years at university, meaning that I continue to think of what I learned from her as being of the highest quality information and excellently presented.

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But the misconception that women can't write theology as Acharya S. reportedly says--now that is a realistic claim. Women theologians are still being kicked out of what they thought were permanent teaching positions at liberal seminaries while their male counterparts get to call the shots.

 

The men will teach feminist theology in a course on theological traditions if they must, but alongside a woman???

 

I know of two seminaries that kicked out a female theologian in the last decade, one of them my own.

 

My school said it was about money--or, rather, lack thereof. However, it did not escape my observation that the school had at the same time hired a number of new social work profs for its pastoral counseling program.

 

The theologian they kicked out continues to be one of the best teachers I encountered in all my years at university, meaning that I continue to think of what I learned from her as being of the highest quality information and excellently presented.

 

I am not disputing misogyny in theistic circles, but the claim by Thor and/or Acharya S is not that women are not considered able to write theology, but that Acharya S is not respected as a scholar because she is a woman. That, imho, is complete BS. Karen Armstrong and Elaine Pagels immediately come to mind. The beef with Acharya S is that she uses outdated and discredited sources, and her entire book is nothing but quote mining from these and other sources to support her hypothesis. It has nothing to do with her being a woman.

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MWC, thanks for the clarification. I don't remember where it is in the OT. But I remember coming across it many years ago when reading the OT and being so terribly shocked--practically traumatized--by it. I think it might be in the time of Ahab, or whenever the enemy had surrounded the city and all food and water supplies had been cut off.

 

One woman says to another something like this: We had my son for supper yesterday with the agreement that we would have yours today. Where is he?

 

Apparently the second woman was hiding her child and this caused a problem in the agreement. I don't remember the end of the story. Possibly I did not read it.

Ah, okay. I looked up what you've mentioned here and found it:

2 Kings 6

 

24 Now after this, Ben-hadad, king of Aram, got together all his army and went up to make an attack on Samaria, shutting the town in on all sides with his forces. 25 And they became very short of food in Samaria; for they kept it shut in till the price of an ass's head was eighty shekels of silver, and a small measure of doves' droppings was five shekels of silver. 26 And when the king of Israel was going by on the wall, a woman came crying out to him, and said, Help! my lord king. 27 And he said, If the Lord does not give you help, where am I to get help for you? from the grain-floor or the grape-crusher? 28 And the king said to her, What is troubling you? And she said in answer, This woman said to me, Give your son to be our food today, and we will have my son tomorrow. 29 So, boiling my son, we had a meal of him; and on the day after I said to her, Now give your son for our food; but she has put her son in a secret place. 30 Then the king, hearing what the woman said, took his robes in his hands, violently parting them; and, while he was walking on the wall, the people, looking, saw that under his robe he had haircloth on his flesh.

A quick read of the story shows that it takes place in the city of Samaria.

 

Thanks for finding it.

 

Samaria. I guess that wasn't Jewish. But the king of Israel is mentioned so it seems the people must be Israelites (i.e. Jews), or what am I missing?

 

This is all that is mentioned about the women and their cannibalism.

 

Isn't that more than enough evidence to establish the existence of cannibalism?

 

Oh, I see you mean that with reference to my saying I don't remember the end of the story.

 

But what, exactly, is the writer saying? There've got to be some clues to the writer's opinion regarding the rightness or wrongness of cannibalism. That would be some indication for the actual tradition/beliefs of the people of the time.

 

In reading the passage you copied here I note that it says the king was wearing haircloth under his robe. I take that to indicate the situation was indeed dire and he was perhaps "repenting before the Lord" in the hope that the situation would change. He had also basically told the woman that it was outside his power to help her. Possibly he meant that he would not become involved in their cannibalism???...I don't know how to take all of this...

 

Another possibility is that the writer merely wished to establish the serious distress of the situation with these various images: extreme prices for inedible wares that could nonetheless possibly be ingested by starving humans, cannibalism, king walking alone without body guard, king wearing haircloth, violence against the king's person.

 

In that list, cannibalism appears like one of the lesser items but it does appear. Given the number of times the king is mentioned in that passage, the writer's main item seems to be the humiliated and vulnerable monarch.

 

However, with the very different values of today's democratic society, at least for me, cannibalism--esp. of vulnerable children--is The Item.

 

Did it exist for real, or was it just put there (in the original Jewish texts or later) for a specific political effect?

 

I think that question is directly related to the question in the title of this thread.

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But the misconception that women can't write theology as Acharya S. reportedly says--now that is a realistic claim. Women theologians are still being kicked out of what they thought were permanent teaching positions at liberal seminaries while their male counterparts get to call the shots.

 

The men will teach feminist theology in a course on theological traditions if they must, but alongside a woman???

 

I know of two seminaries that kicked out a female theologian in the last decade, one of them my own.

 

My school said it was about money--or, rather, lack thereof. However, it did not escape my observation that the school had at the same time hired a number of new social work profs for its pastoral counseling program.

 

The theologian they kicked out continues to be one of the best teachers I encountered in all my years at university, meaning that I continue to think of what I learned from her as being of the highest quality information and excellently presented.

 

I am not disputing misogyny in theistic circles, but the claim by Thor and/or Acharya S is not that women are not considered able to write theology, but that Acharya S is not respected as a scholar because she is a woman. That, imho, is complete BS. Karen Armstrong and Elaine Pagels immediately come to mind. The beef with Acharya S is that she uses outdated and discredited sources, and her entire book is nothing but quote mining from these and other sources to support her hypothesis. It has nothing to do with her being a woman.

 

Okay. I was basing my post mainly on the one line quote. So I suppose I am guilty of quote-mining. Sorry.

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MWC, thanks for the clarification. I don't remember where it is in the OT. But I remember coming across it many years ago when reading the OT and being so terribly shocked--practically traumatized--by it. I think it might be in the time of Ahab, or whenever the enemy had surrounded the city and all food and water supplies had been cut off.

 

One woman says to another something like this: We had my son for supper yesterday with the agreement that we would have yours today. Where is he?

 

Apparently the second woman was hiding her child and this caused a problem in the agreement. I don't remember the end of the story. Possibly I did not read it.

Ah, okay. I looked up what you've mentioned here and found it:

2 Kings 6

 

24 Now after this, Ben-hadad, king of Aram, got together all his army and went up to make an attack on Samaria, shutting the town in on all sides with his forces. 25 And they became very short of food in Samaria; for they kept it shut in till the price of an ass's head was eighty shekels of silver, and a small measure of doves' droppings was five shekels of silver. 26 And when the king of Israel was going by on the wall, a woman came crying out to him, and said, Help! my lord king. 27 And he said, If the Lord does not give you help, where am I to get help for you? from the grain-floor or the grape-crusher? 28 And the king said to her, What is troubling you? And she said in answer, This woman said to me, Give your son to be our food today, and we will have my son tomorrow. 29 So, boiling my son, we had a meal of him; and on the day after I said to her, Now give your son for our food; but she has put her son in a secret place. 30 Then the king, hearing what the woman said, took his robes in his hands, violently parting them; and, while he was walking on the wall, the people, looking, saw that under his robe he had haircloth on his flesh.

A quick read of the story shows that it takes place in the city of Samaria.

 

Thanks for finding it.

 

Samaria. I guess that wasn't Jewish. But the king of Israel is mentioned so it seems the people must be Israelites (i.e. Jews), or what am I missing?

 

This is all that is mentioned about the women and their cannibalism.

 

Isn't that more than enough evidence to establish the existence of cannibalism?

 

Oh, I see you mean that with reference to my saying I don't remember the end of the story.

 

But what, exactly, is the writer saying? There've got to be some clues to the writer's opinion regarding the rightness or wrongness of cannibalism. That would be some indication for the actual tradition/beliefs of the people of the time.

 

In reading the passage you copied here I note that it says the king was wearing haircloth under his robe. I take that to indicate the situation was indeed dire and he was perhaps "repenting before the Lord" in the hope that the situation would change. He had also basically told the woman that it was outside his power to help her. Possibly he meant that he would not become involved in their cannibalism???...I don't know how to take all of this...

 

Another possibility is that the writer merely wished to establish the serious distress of the situation with these various images: extreme prices for inedible wares that could nonetheless possibly be ingested by starving humans, cannibalism, king walking alone without body guard, king wearing haircloth, violence against the king's person.

 

In that list, cannibalism appears like one of the lesser items but it does appear. Given the number of times the king is mentioned in that passage, the writer's main item seems to be the humiliated and vulnerable monarch.

 

However, with the very different values of today's democratic society, at least for me, cannibalism--esp. of vulnerable children--is The Item.

 

Did it exist for real, or was it just put there (in the original Jewish texts or later) for a specific political effect?

 

I think that question is directly related to the question in the title of this thread.

 

I found this story of cannibalism shocking and disturbing when I read the Old Testament.

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Samaria. I guess that wasn't Jewish. But the king of Israel is mentioned so it seems the people must be Israelites (i.e. Jews), or what am I missing?

The story is a strange story and I'd have to do more research to really make more sense of it. But prior to what I posted the king of Aram is attacking Israel and Elisha gets involved and leads some of their troops (blindly via some magic) to Samaria. So the king thinks to kill them but is told to feast these troops instead so he does and they leave which ends the attacks against Israel. But this then leads to the attack against Samaria in which the king is shut into the city with everyone else. It seems to me that if they had made peace he could at least get himself out of the city and not suffer needlessly but there's no explanation for the situation he's in other than the king of Aram, who is no longer invading Israel, is now invading Samaria just to the north and it appears no negotiations are taking place and the provisions used for the feast that just occurred at Samaria are now used up.

 

The Samaritans were considered Jews until much later (roughly the early Roman period) when the schism appeared to develop. It probably started to happen much earlier since they had their own temple and it competed with the one in Jerusalem just like the temples in Israel and Judea were in competition with one another.

 

Isn't that more than enough evidence to establish the existence of cannibalism?

It depends. Whoever authored this certainly seems to indicate that the women of Samaria resorted to cannibalism and apparently made deals to eat each others children at that. Maybe even to the point that the conditions had gotten so bad that the cannibalism had gotten so commonplace that the stigma wasn't against the act of eating of humans but the breach of the contract since that is essentially what the story is about. The woman is complaining that she had shared but the other woman had now broken their agreement to reciprocate.

 

So is the story about cannibalism or about breaking an agreement? The complaint is less about the loss of the child and more about the breach of contract. It's really hard to determine if anyone really did commit cannibalism based on this story or if it's just the backdrop for some life lesson (ie. the woman gave up her child for a meal and expected the other woman to do the same but when the other woman backed out of the deal and she went to the authorities how could she expect them to react? Did she expect them to order the other woman to commit the illegal act of cannibalism to satisfy the agreement? It's extremely hard to say what this is doing in the text).

 

Did it exist for real, or was it just put there (in the original Jewish texts or later) for a specific political effect?

 

I think that question is directly related to the question in the title of this thread.

It is and you've raised many valid points. It's difficult to know. It times just like these research has shown that people do resort to cannibalism. I saw research related to the druids that demonstrated this. But without any physical evidence it's impossible to know if it actually happened or if this is something placed there by some author for another reason. It's possible that they did resort to cannibalism in similar circumstances but this story is entirely false.

 

mwc

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If I remember correctly, this happened in recent centuries (within the past two to five hundred years) on exploration voyages in extreme climates of either the hot desert or frozen polar regions. Horrible topic. I've given some thought to it recently and asked myself what I would do. I think I would rather die. Usually, the rescue teams never found them in time anyway. Sometimes not for decades or centuries.

 

It is even documented within the past 20-30 years to have happened. One case was when a sports team was flying over frozen mountains and crashed; the team resorted to cannibalism because they didn't have any provisions with them in the plane. If I remember correctly, they didn't kill anyone, just waited for them to die before they ate them. No one faulted them for having resorted to it when they admitted to having eaten a team mate.

 

Another case was some men were marooned at sea, and when one of their mate died, they decided that in order to survive, they would eat him.

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If I remember correctly, this happened in recent centuries (within the past two to five hundred years) on exploration voyages in extreme climates of either the hot desert or frozen polar regions. Horrible topic. I've given some thought to it recently and asked myself what I would do. I think I would rather die. Usually, the rescue teams never found them in time anyway. Sometimes not for decades or centuries.

 

It is even documented within the past 20-30 years to have happened. One case was when a sports team was flying over frozen mountains and crashed; the team resorted to cannibalism because they didn't have any provisions with them in the plane. If I remember correctly, they didn't kill anyone, just waited for them to die before they ate them. No one faulted them for having resorted to it when they admitted to having eaten a team mate.

 

Another case was some men were marooned at sea, and when one of their mate died, they decided that in order to survive, they would eat him.

 

Well, I see that in a different light if they waited for a person to die. I don't know what I would do if I were a survivor in such a case. In the accounts I read, a decision was made (I forget how) to actually kill someone. That is what I was responding to.

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Did it exist for real, or was it just put there (in the original Jewish texts or later) for a specific political effect?

 

I think that question is directly related to the question in the title of this thread.

It is and you've raised many valid points. It's difficult to know. It times just like these research has shown that people do resort to cannibalism. I saw research related to the druids that demonstrated this. But without any physical evidence it's impossible to know if it actually happened or if this is something placed there by some author for another reason. It's possible that they did resort to cannibalism in similar circumstances but this story is entirely false.

 

mwc

 

Thank you for this post. I read the entire post more than once and it makes sense.

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If I remember correctly, this happened in recent centuries (within the past two to five hundred years) on exploration voyages in extreme climates of either the hot desert or frozen polar regions. Horrible topic. I've given some thought to it recently and asked myself what I would do. I think I would rather die. Usually, the rescue teams never found them in time anyway. Sometimes not for decades or centuries.

 

It is even documented within the past 20-30 years to have happened. One case was when a sports team was flying over frozen mountains and crashed; the team resorted to cannibalism because they didn't have any provisions with them in the plane. If I remember correctly, they didn't kill anyone, just waited for them to die before they ate them. No one faulted them for having resorted to it when they admitted to having eaten a team mate.

 

Another case was some men were marooned at sea, and when one of their mate died, they decided that in order to survive, they would eat him.

 

The people in the airplane crash were stranded in the Andes for around 60 days. They did not kill anyone to eat them but instead ate the frozen [already dead] bodies of their comrades. They feel they were not cannibals in that they harmed no one.

 

There are instances of people stranded at sea that were indeed true stories of cannibalism in that the persons in the life boats drew lots on who would be killed and/or murder was committed to enable the persons who were still alive to eat those who died/ were murdered. In one poignant instance, the young lad who got the short straw said of his fate, "I like my portion well enough." The fellow passengers shot him and then ate him.

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This is fascinating. I've been reading all the bits about cannibalism in the Bible, and they all, so far, are associated with siege. Are there extra-Biblical accounts of such desperation amongst people (Israelite or otherwise) during sieges in ancient times?

 

It is surely twisted...

 

Has anyone else seen the 2000 documentary Keep the River on Your Right: A Modern Cannibal Tale? It's about the modern (20th century) cannibalism of enemy tribes. A different type of cannibalism, though... There one is not eating one's own people. What strikes me in the 2 Kings tale is the absence of the maternal instinct to sacrifice self for child.

 

Phanta

 

Edit: The movie is not actually about modern cannibalism...I miswrote. It merely speaks an account of some as part of the documentary. The documentary was wider in scope.

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The people in the airplane crash were stranded in the Andes for around 60 days. They did not kill anyone to eat them but instead ate the frozen [already dead] bodies of their comrades. They feel they were not cannibals in that they harmed no one.

 

There are instances of people stranded at sea that were indeed true stories of cannibalism in that the persons in the life boats drew lots on who would be killed and/or murder was committed to enable the persons who were still alive to eat those who died/ were murdered. In one poignant instance, the young lad who got the short straw said of his fate, "I like my portion well enough." The fellow passengers shot him and then ate him.

 

Thanks for the clarification. Western society is lest likely to condemn cannibalism if it means survival, and the families of the eaten, whether they were killed or died naturally, seem to be very understanding.

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