What does ‘scapegoat’ mean and how did the goat get so unlucky?
A scapegoat is defined as someone who is unfairly given the blame or made to suffer for something that someone else has done.
In William Tyndale’s 1530 translation of the Bible, there is a story in the Book of Leviticus in which a goat is symbolically given the sins of the people and sent into the wilderness. Once the sins had been transferred to the scapegoat, the community was purified.
And Aaron cast lottes ouer the gootes: one lotte for the Lorde, and another for a scapegoote.
This ritual was part of the purification ceremony of Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), where the priest sought to spiritually cleanse both the people and the temple by reciting prayers and benedictions, and making animal sacrifices.
In Christian philosophy, Jesus Christ represents the ultimate scapegoat since his sacrificial death was supposed to have led to the purification of all of humanity.
The term scapegoat derives from a mistranslation made by Tyndale of the Hebrew word Azazel (a desert demon) to ez ozel (which means ‘the goat who departs’). Later scholars corrected the mistake, and from 1884 onwards, scapegoat was out and Azazel was in again. But the term scapegoat continues to be widely used today.
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