God's wrath, his eternal recoil against everything unholy, is for the believer turned aside by Christ's blood. This meaning of blood, one aspect we contemplate at Easter, has no medical counterpart today. But what follows, blood as the source of life, is central to both the Bible and medicine. Brand's thoughts were gleaned and expressed on paper by writer Philip Yancey.

Blood spatters the pages of mythology and of history. Drinking it gives strength and new life: to the ghosts of the dead in The Odyssey, to the Roman epileptics who dashed onto the floor of the Colosseum to quaff the blood of dying gladiators, to Kenya's Masai tribesmen who still celebrate feast days by drinking blood freshly drawn from a cow or goat.

In early history, blood assumed a mysterious, almost sacred, aura in human relations. An oath held more power than a person's word, but blood made a contract nearly inviolable. The ancients, unashamed to act out the physical literality of their symbols, would sometimes seal blood contracts by cutting themselves and mingling their blood.

We moderns inherit quaint symbolic tokens of the intrinsic mystery of blood: a wedding ring on the "/leech finger," which was believed to contain a vein that led directly to the heart, or perhaps a child's game of "blood brothers" in which two participants solemnly and unhygienically act out their undying loyalty. We echo misconceptions, too, when we use such terms as "pure blood," "mixed blood," "blood relations," harking back to the days when blood was assumed to be the substance of heredity.

Even after blood has been analyzed in laboratories and demythologized, it still retains some power, if only in the queasy feeling it evokes when we see it shed. There is something horribly ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.