March 18, 2013

The original meaning of the word "bless" is about blood.

"Bless" is the word of the day, blogged already here. Now, I'm looking in the Oxford English Dictionary (which, unfortunately, I don't have a way to link to) to see whether it is only God that blesses, and I see that in the original meaning, it is human beings who do the blessing and they do it with blood.
Orig. meaning (prob.), To make 'sacred' or 'holy' with blood; to consecrate by some sacrificial rite which was held to render a thing inviolable from profane use of men and evil influence of men or demons. (The streaking of the lintel and doorposts with blood, Exodus xii. 23, to mark them as holy to the Lord and inviolable by the destroying angel, was apparently the kind of idea expressed by blóedsian in pre-christian times. Cf. also the history of the Latin words consecrāre and sacrificium.)
Note that the etymology is about blood:

Old English blóedsian , blédsian , blétsian : not found elsewhere in Germanic, but formed on the Germanic type *blôdisôjan , < *blôdo-m (Old English blód ) blood... The etymological meaning was thus ‘to mark (or affect in some way) with blood (or sacrifice); to consecrate’. But the sense-development of the word was greatly influenced by its having been chosen at the English conversion to render Latin benedīcere , and Greek εὐλογεῖν , which started from a primitive sense of ‘speak well of or to, eulogize, praise,’ but were themselves influenced by being chosen to translate Hebrew brk , primarily ‘to bend,’ hence ‘to bend the knee, worship, praise, bless God, invoke blessings on, bless as a deity.’ Hence, a long and varied series of associations, heathen, Jewish, and Christian, blend in the English uses of bless and blessing.... At a very early date the popular etymological consciousness began to associate this verb with bliss n. ‘benignity, blitheness, joy, happiness,’ which affected the use of both words...
Ah! That connects nicely with yesterday's discussion of the necessary connection between religion and happiness.

23 comments:

chickelit said...

...and I see that in the original meaning, it is human beings who do the blessing and they do it with blood.

Does that make abortion a "blessed" event?

edutcher said...

The Old Testament patriarchs did it with the blood of a lamb.

Christ did it for all of us with His Own.

Agamemnon did it with his daughter's.

The Aztecs did it with anybody they could get their hands on.

Blood was very sacred to (Godwin Alert).

One man's blessing is very often another man's abomination.

Rusty said...

Blessed whisky and Oliver Plunket.

chickelit said...

blessiert: Adj: (Verletzung) injured; (Wunde) wound.

Duden/Oxford dictionary, dead tree edition.

campy said...

Clearly Judeo-Christianity has always been a violent sect, unlike to The Religion Of Peace.

Mitchell the Bat said...

It's important to remember that holy water is a fairly recent invention.

tiger said...

The professor seems to be trying to 'walk back' her previous comment.

Scott M said...

It's important to remember that holy water is a fairly recent invention.

That's only because the vampire threat was only truly realized as late as Victorian England.

Chip S. said...

The professor seems to be trying to 'walk back' her previous comment.

Bless her heart.

YoungHegelian said...

The French verb "to hurt" is blesser, and it shares the same Germanic etymology.

Those Teutonic tribes must have been violent indeed! They gave most western European languages the root word for "War" (Ver). Even for the Romance languages, which use the Old High German word (ver) and not the Latin root (bellum).

And, of course, just to make things confusing, modern German uses a completely different root for war --- Krieg. maybe they wanted to hide the evidence.....

traditionalguy said...

Everything is done for the first time in Moses Book of Genesis, also called The Beginning. That establishes the covenants with Noah, with Abraham, extendd to Isaac and then to Jacob and his 12 sons.

The religious use of blood is the evidence that a life has been given/killed to show that a party entering a covenant relationship became dead so that he can then become a new person by entering a binding covenant with the other covenantee... which can be a god/ spirit, or Yahweh Himself.

The protections and gifts that flow to the man from that covenant relationship with a god/Spirit become what Blesses the man.

A covenant is never inaugurated without a shedding of blood.

Lawyers understand this Christian doctrine easily. It is a simple legal transaction set forth in a writing called a Testament that only takes effect upon the death of the Testator.

The Easter Week comes to remind us of on Maundy Thursday's Last Supper instituting a new covenant being established in the morning by a seven fold shedding of the blood of the God/man Jesus.

Darrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Darrell said...

Spike on Buffy The Vampire Slayer said it was always about the blood.

wyo sis said...

Have a blessed day takes on a new meaning.

Donna B. said...

wyo sis -- it sure does! And knowing the etymology of "bless" is going to make saying "bless her heart" even more amusing now.

Carl Heppenstall said...

May someone bless each and everyone of you!

ken in sc said...

Tis a Blessing to Be Simple.

ken in sc said...

It's a great Christian hymn, and one that most people recognize because of Aaron Copeland, a Jew.

ken in sc said...

Actually, I think it was once used in a Buick commercial.

chickelit said...

The Word is a blessing in disguise.

kentuckyliz said...

To cut a covenant--to cut animals in half and lay them out and pass between them. It's sort of like saying, may what happened to these animals happen to me if I do not keep my end of the agreement.

God as a pot of fire passed between the cut animals, so God took on the promise to be rent and torn.

kentuckyliz said...

(Then the barbecue.)

SOJO said...

When I looked into religion as an adult, I was actually really shocked about this. And even more shocked that Jewish ppl were once primitive enough to sacrifice animals.

(I had never been made aware of the historically symbolic context as a kid.)