More on the significance of blood

More on the significance of blood: Marlowe's audience would be very familiar with the Bible's teaching about blood.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel had ceremonies to deal with their wrongdoings and sins, which blocked their access to God. In the ancient Jewish ceremonies, the guilt of sin could, to some extent, be cleared by offering a sacrifice. Sometimes, this would be a burnt offering, at other times the key element was the blood sprinkled on the altar in the Temple. So when blood is mentioned by Christians, it refers to an offering made to make up for (atone for) sin, going back to the Old Testament Law.

In addition, blood is linked to a major Jewish festival: the Passover. This commemorated the escape of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. Under the leadership of Moses, the Jews were spared a series of plagues and disasters that befell their Egyptian masters. However, Pharaoh still refused to free the enslaved Hebrew people. The Jewish nation escaped the final disaster – death – by sprinkling the blood of a lamb on the doorposts and lintel outside their homes. They then ate the lamb with aromatic herbs. In Exodus 12:23, Moses explains to the people:

‘When the LORD goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.' TNIV

The blood saved them from death and, at last, they were released by Pharaoh.

It was very important that a sacrificial lamb was perfect and without flaws. In the New Testament, the phrase ‘the Lamb' refers to Jesus:

  • ‘The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!' TNIV John 1:29
  • Blood is used in the New Testament to describe the purpose of Jesus' death on the cross. Jesus said, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' TNIV Matthew 26:28
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