EDITOR’S NOTE: This series is excerpted from the bestselling book God’s Ghostbusters
Vampires are hot. There is no question about it; over the last quarter century, the mythological stuff of nightmares has been transformed from “scary” into “sexy.” Somehow, the monstrous image of the vampire has been rehabilitated to the point that, today, they are more often than not portrayed as sympathetic, if not downright heroic.
If you know a young woman, you’ve probably witnessed first-hand the powerful appeal of the vampire. Author Stephanie Meyer’s immensely popular Twilight series has drawn millions of predominantly female fans, not all of them still in their teens, into the saga of protagonists Bella, an awkward teenage girl, and her love interest, the painfully handsome, virtuous (by human standards), 108-year-old but eternally young, Edward.
HBO’s popular True Blood takes the vampire to the American South (and to a more adult audience), and other popular television series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy spin-off Angel, and Being Human have helped popularize the idea that vampires are more to be admired than feared.
This is the culmination of a trend that began in the mid-1970s with the Vampire Chronicles novels of Anne Rice. Rice, the premier vampire storyteller of our generation, succeeded in adding a seductive veneer to a creature that had terrified us for millennia.
How has the ghoulish become genteel? Why is our culture awash in entertainment based on the exploits of the formerly cursed undead? These are not idle questions. For Christians, this trend should be disturbing. Vampirism, which has become so appealing that it’s spawned an active and growing subculture (that sometimes insists on the alternate spelling vampyre), is nothing less than an absolute mockery of the central tenet of the Christian faith: salvation by the shedding of blood.
The transformation of the vampire from monster to hero reflects the gradual decay of the Christian faith into an anemic shell of its former self. The critical role of the blood shed by Jesus Christ for the redemption of our sins has been replaced in many churches today, either by an emphasis on our own works, or by a kinder, gentler Jesus for whom the greatest sin is being untrue to our innermost desires.
Against such a spiritual backdrop, it is much easier to portray the vampire as a sympathetic, even noble, character. Modern vampires, especially as portrayed in the Twilight series, are angst-ridden, struggling against their omnipresent thirst for human blood and striving for redemption through moral behavior.
Further, vampires are agents of transformation who can free us from the often painful limitations of our humanity—which is, perhaps not coincidentally, the alluring goal of the growing transhumanist movement.
The precise origin of the vampire is shrouded in the mists of history. The first recorded use of the word from which “vampire” is derived, the Old Russian Upir’, is found in a manuscript of the Book of Psalms translated into Cyrillic in 1047 AD. However, demonic, blood-sucking creatures resembling the modern vampire, evil spirits called Edimmu, were part of the cosmology of ancient Mesopotamia.
More recently, vampire hysteria erupted in the well-documented eighteenth century cases of Arnold Paole and Peter Plogojowitz[i] in Serbia and Mercy Brown in 1890s Rhode Island, all of whom were believed to have returned from the grave. Paole and Plogojowitz appear to have been accused posthumously due to an imperfect understanding of the process of decomposition. Miss Brown, who succumbed to tuberculosis along with her mother and two siblings within the span of four years, was the inspiration for the character Lucy Westenra in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Our modern concept of the sophisticated, aristocratic vampire began to develop in the early nineteenth century. Dr. John Polidori, an associate of Lord Byron and Mary Shelley (the author of Frankenstein), published a novella in 1819 titled The Vampyre. The villain of the tale, Lord Ruthven, is clearly a precursor to Count Dracula, the central character of Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel which defined the character and mythology of the vampire as we know it today.
But even in the works of Polidori and Stoker, the vampire was, like its ancient predecessors, absolutely malevolent; a parasite on the body of humanity that was exterminated only with extreme difficulty—and divine assistance. The most effective weapons against the vampire, as conceived by Stoker, were symbolic of key elements of the Christian faith: holy water (representing baptism), and a sharpened piece of wood: an analog for the cross.
A variety of theories have been put forward to explain the origins of the vampire myth. Some suggest that it was a primitive attempt to explain the mystery of death and decomposition; others believe that premature burials might be the source of stories of revenants, animated corpses that returned from the grave to terrorize and prey on the living.
The truth behind the stories is nigh impossible to ascertain, forever lost in the archives of years gone by. What we do know is that God placed special significance on blood, especially human blood, from the very beginning. Note the Lord’s reaction to the murder of Abel by Cain: “And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand; When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth” (Genesis 4:10–12).
God elaborated to Noah: “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man. Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:5–6).
A search for the word “blood” finds nearly four hundred mentions in the Bible. A surprising number of those references deal with exactly when and how the blood of sacrificial animals was to be shed for the remission of the sins of the Hebrews. The specific nature of the instructions God gave to Moses is a clue to the special significance of blood—for example: “And the priest that is anointed shall take of the bullock’s blood, and bring it to the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood, and sprinkle of the blood seven times before the LORD, before the vail of the sanctuary. And the priest shall put some of the blood upon the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the LORD, which is in the tabernacle of the congregation; and shall pour all the blood of the bullock at the bottom of the altar of the burnt offering, which is at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Leviticus 4:5–7).
And it is in the very first book of the Bible, chapter 9 of Genesis, that God makes clear to Noah that blood has a unique property. “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat” (Genesis 9:3–4, bold added).
The Lord emphasized this point of the Law, which Moses repeated to the Hebrews no fewer than half a dozen times:
Notwithstanding thou mayest kill and eat flesh in all thy gates, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after, according to the blessing of the LORD thy God which he hath given thee: the unclean and the clean may eat thereof, as of the roebuck, and as of the hart. Only ye shall not eat the blood; ye shall pour it upon the earth as water… When the LORD thy God shall enlarge thy border, as he hath promised thee, and thou shalt say, I will eat flesh, because thy soul longeth to eat flesh; thou mayest eat flesh, whatsoever thy soul lusteth after. If the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to put his name there be too far from thee, then thou shalt kill of thy herd and of thy flock, which the LORD hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat in thy gates whatsoever thy soul lusteth after. Even as the roebuck and the hart is eaten, so thou shalt eat them: the unclean and the clean shall eat of them alike. Only be sure that thou eat not the blood: for the blood is the life; and thou mayest not eat the life with the flesh. Thou shalt not eat it; thou shalt pour it upon the earth as water. Thou shalt not eat it; that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD. (Deuteronomy 12:15–16; 12:20–25, bold added)[ii]
In Dracula, Bram Stoker put the words, “the blood is the life,” into the mouth of Dracula’s victim and servant, Renfield. In the 1931 film, with which more of us are familiar, the scripture is quoted by the Count, himself.
Why this special emphasis on blood? In our modern society, we tend to assume that the ancients were ignorant of modern physiology. How did Moses know thirty-five hundred years ago that “the blood is the life”? Is there significance to circulatory fluid that goes beyond simply oxygenating tissue?
The answer is yes. For reasons that are not clear, blood is required in our universe to redeem mankind from sin.
And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set my face against that soul that eateth blood, and will cut him off from among his people. For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul. Therefore I said unto the children of Israel, No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood. (Leviticus 17:10–12, bold added)[iii]
The author of Hebrews writes that the mission of Christ was the offering of His own blood as a sacrifice. Just as the blood of bulls and goats provided temporary purification of the flesh, so the shed blood of Jesus of Nazareth, God in the flesh and the only Man in history to live a sinless life, provided eternal redemption to those who confess Him as Lord and ended the need for animal sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11–28).
The Lord emphasized His warnings against consuming blood to the Hebrews, presumably because at least some of the Hebrews’ neighbors were doing just that. Indeed, the Lord told Moses that He intended to clear the land of its inhabitants precisely because of their abhorrent practices (Lev. 18:24–25).
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It is simple logic to deduce that since the consumption of the blood of animals was forbidden by God, a prohibition repeated by the apostolic council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:20), and the mere shedding of human blood requires a reckoning even from animals, then the consumption of human blood must be doubly abhorrent in His eyes.
Dr. Judd H. Burton[iv] theorizes that vampire legends may have originated with the Nephilim, the “the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”[v] While the Bible tells us little about this mysterious race, which is mentioned only in Genesis 6:4 and Numbers 13:33, the non-canonical books of Enoch, Jasher, and Jubilees, all referenced in the Bible, expand on the little we’re told in Scripture. The picture that develops is of a world terrorized by the giant Nephilim, who “consumed all the acquisitions of men.” And when that wasn’t enough, they turned to eating mankind, and even one another.
Significantly, Enoch also records that they began to drink the blood of their victims.
While the historicity of Enoch is debatable, there is no question that the pages of history are stained with human blood. Setting aside warfare and criminal activity, cultures have engaged in ritual human sacrifice since the beginning of recorded history. Given that God, Himself, told the first son born on the planet, Cain, that the blood of a human victim cried out to Him from the very ground on which it was spilled, why did mankind so soon forget?
If the apostle Paul knew what he was writing about (and given that the apostles in Jerusalem gave him their stamp of approval, I personally assume that he did), then our world is inhabited not just by our human neighbors, but by powerful entities that seek our destruction. Paul called them ἀρχή (archē), ἐξουσία (exousia), and κοσμοκράτωρ (kosmokratōr), translated into English as “principalities,” “powers,” and “rulers.” Is it possible that these entities, perhaps ranks of angels who rebelled against God, saw a purpose in persuading our ancestors to shed human blood in sacrifice?
“The blood is the life,” God told Moses. If true for the blood of animals, how much more so the lifeblood of those created in God’s image?
Dr. Michael Heiser[vi] and the Divine Council Research Group[vii] have demonstrated that the cosmology of the Ancient Near East, including that of the Hebrews, understood that the chief deity was served by a council of small-G gods—angels, if you prefer. Dr. Heiser believes that after the incident at the Tower of Babel, where God personally intervened to stop Nimrod’s plan to build a means to access the abode of the gods, the Lord placed seventy “sons of God” (bene elohim) over the nations. “When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set the bounds of the people according to the number of the children of Israel [“sons of God” instead of “children of Israel” in the English Standard Version]” (Deuteronomy 32:8).
Dr. Heiser believes that the ESV has it right. His paper, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” is a scholarly explanation of why “sons of God” is the correct translation. This has profound implications for our cosmology,[viii] but getting into those nuts and bolts is way outside the scope of my chapter here. I strongly suggest those reading this series now to take a minute to read Dr. Heiser’s article at the following:[ix] http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DT32BibSac.pdf.
This is a reference to the seventy people-groups described in the Table of Nations recorded in Genesis 10. According to Heiser, the seventy bene elohim to whom the Earth was delegated apparently rebelled and allowed themselves to be worshipped. They were perhaps known to the neighbors of the one nation God called to Himself, the Hebrews, by names recorded in the Bible: Molech, Chemosh, Dagon, Ba’al, Asherah, Adramelech, Anamelech, Marduk, Nabu, Tammuz, Nergal, Zeus, Apollo (Apollyon), Diana, Hades, and others.
Not all of these false gods were worshipped through human sacrifice, but some most definitely were. Molech in particular was singled out by God: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Again, thou shalt say to the children of Israel, Whosoever he be of the children of Israel, or of the strangers that sojourn in Israel, that giveth any of his seed unto Molech; he shall surely be put to death: the people of the land shall stone him with stones. And I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name” (Leviticus 20:1–3).
Other references to making children “pass through the fire to Molech” appear in Leviticus 18, 2 Kings 23, and Jeremiah 32, indicating that this was a widely known practice for centuries in the Levant, since Moses and Jeremiah were probably separated by six hundred years or more. And the ritual sacrifice of children was clearly known centuries before Moses’ day; Abraham appears to have been familiar with the concept when the Lord tested his faith by asking Abraham to offer up Isaac at Mount Moriah.
Despite God’s stern warnings against performing these rites, the Israelites persisted in these detestable offerings at least through the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah at the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Judah around 598 BC.
Other cultures around the world are also known to have sacrificed human victims to their gods. Roman historians reported that the Carthaginians offered up infants on a bronze statue of Cronos, beneath which the children were dumped into a gaping fire pit. The Romans, however, were guilty as well; they buried prisoners of war alive as an offering to the Manes, or spirits of the dead, and archaeologists have found sacrificial victims entombed in the foundations of Roman buildings.
Ancient Celts from France to Britain apparently engaged in ritual sacrifice—beheadings, hangings, drownings, and the infamous Wicker Man described by Julius Caesar in his history of the Gallic War (a giant wicker figure filled with people who were burned alive). Ritual sacrifice, including cannibalism, was practiced in Tibet prior to the arrival of Buddhism in the seventh century.
Some of the best-documented examples of human sacrifice are found in the Americas. The Mayans, Toltecs, Incas, and Aztecs sent victims into the afterlife well into the modern age. Aztec practices are particularly well-documented (and gruesome); their eighteen-month calendar demanded specific rituals for the various gods of their pantheon, each with a different type of victim and method of execution, which included beheading, drowning, bludgeoning, immolation, and extraction of the heart.
Now, it is noted that these sacrifices did not specifically involve the consumption of human blood, except for those cases in which victims were cannibalized as part of the rite. Still, the question must be asked: When it is fundamental, human nature to shrink from death, why was religious significance attached to the shedding of human blood in so many places for so long? Why did parents consent to the slaughter of their children in cultures on opposite sides of the globe? Is it possible that a compelling, external force—in other words, “divine revelation” from fallen angels masquerading as gods—is responsible for this legacy of bloodshed?
Further, is it beyond imagining that “the blood is the life” is more than a simple statement of biological fact—that there are spiritual properties to blood that we don’t understand? Can it be that the ritual spilling of blood actually results in some sort of supernatural transference of energy?
In other words, is blood, and especially human blood, intrinsically sacred?
One could devote an entire book to a psychological analysis of the reasons for the vampire’s redemption in the collective consciousness—and indeed, many have. Such a study is beyond the scope of this series (and the academic qualifications of this author). It’s not difficult to reason that the otherworldly nature of the vampire appeals to the innate human desire for eternal life. The “kiss” of the vampire offers that link to eternity; submitting to that kiss is the price of admission to the next life.
In modern television of cinematic portrayals, vampires are typically played by model-gorgeous young men and women. This appeals to our prurient desires, which makes it easier to draw us into the stories and cast vampires as benign and empathetic. This admixture of the divine and the carnal has been so appealing that it’s birthed an active vampire subculture.
Vampires believe they need to feed on the life-energy of others. That doesn’t necessarily involve drinking blood; some call themselves psychic vampires, or “psy-vamps,” and believe they draw their strength from the aura, life force, or “pranic energy,” of others. Sanguinarians are those within the vampire subculture who do drink blood. These modern-day vampires typically consume small quantities offered by “black swans” (willing non-vampire donors).
It’s easy to write off this recent outgrowth of the Goth movement as a group of mentally disturbed people who find odd comfort in emulating the morbid and unhygienic practices of their literary heroes. Indeed, in a recent survey of 950 self-identifying vampires conducted by the vampire community, 30 percent reported being diagnosed with depression, 16 percent suffered from panic disorder, and more than 15 percent had been diagnosed as bipolar.[x]
But before we write this off as a manifestation of psychological issues, we should note that the majority of people who suffer from panic, depression, or bipolar disorder, and the alienation and rejection that can result, do not always turn to a parasitic lifestyle for comfort alone. And this subculture has only emerged within the last twenty-five years, in the wake of the aforementioned Vampire Chronicles. Could there be another cause for this unusual cultural phenomenon? Are the same principalities and powers that presumably lured our ancestors into practices condemned by God now using pop culture to glorify bloodshed?
It’s difficult to get to the heart of the appeal of the vampire lifestyle, and understanding their beliefs and practices is somewhat constrained because there is no central authority on doctrine to codify vampire theology. That said, there are some very broad and basic conclusions that can be drawn about the recent emergence of the vampire subculture and the vampire’s sudden rock-star status.
First: the vampire represents the polar opposite of Jesus Christ. Simply put, Jesus shed His blood so that others may have eternal life. The vampire sheds the blood of others so that he can have eternal life.
Second: the eternal life promised by the vampire is a cheap imitation of that offered by Jesus Christ. The vampire lives in eternal darkness, fleeing the light, always seeking new victims to prolong its dark and bloody half-life. Those redeemed by partaking of the shed blood of Christ drink from “living water” and their thirst is eternally quenched (John 4:14). They will know darkness no longer, as the glory of the Lord Himself will illuminate the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:23).
It will be difficult to convince girls who have been drawn into the story of Bella and Edward that their fantasy love-interest stands diametrically opposed to God, but in very basic terms, it’s true. Similarly, adults eagerly awaiting the next episode of True Blood may be unwilling to give up their weekly dose of vampy titillation. Nosferatu has been replaced by sexy sanguinarians to a growing audience of vampire romance fiction—and a shadowy subculture of those who emulate their literary heroes.
We Christians can pretend it doesn’t matter. It is, one may argue, only fiction—imaginative, entertaining stories that have inspired some harmless fantasy role-playing. And on one level, that’s correct.
On a deeper level, however, we must be wise enough to understand that stories affect our worldview in ways that non-fiction does not. For example, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code compelled hordes of pilgrims fascinated with the legend of the Holy Grail to visit Scotland’s Rosslyn Chapel, a site that’s featured prominently in the novel. The (allegedly) non-fiction book from which Brown lifted his Gnostic theology, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, had far less effect on the masses.
It should be no surprise that Meyer’s Twilight series has inspired a disturbing new trend: teens are literally biting one another—drawing blood—as a sign of affection.[xi]
So we should recognize the spirit that inspires these modern stories of hunky, virtuous vampires. Blood is the central element of the biblical narrative—why blood had to be shed, how blood had to be shed, and especially whose blood had to be shed. Christ’s blood, and His alone, was the only human blood God ever intended to shed on planet Earth.
The blood is the life. Consuming blood, even animal blood, is an unholy act, condemned in the Old and New Testaments because it was to be reserved for the altar and atonement for sin.
Thus, by its very nature, the vampire, no matter how glamorous, represents nothing less than the spirit of antichrist.
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[i] The Serbian form of Plogojowitz’s name is Blagojevic. Readers in Illinois may find this amusing given the political proclivities of their former governor.
[ii] See also: Deuteronomy 15:23, Leviticus 7:26-27, 17:10-14, and 19:26.
[iii] See also: Hebrews 9:22.
[iv] Dr. Burton’s website: www.burtonbeyond.com.
[v] As do some in the vampire/vampyre subculture.
[vi] Dr. Heiser’s website: www.DrMSH.com.
[vii] See: www.TheDivineCouncil.com.
[viii] For example, the Good News Translation renders Deuteronomy 32:8–9 this way: “The Most High assigned nations their lands; he determined where peoples should live. He assigned to each nation a heavenly being, but Jacob’s descendants he chose for himself” (bold added).
[ix] Dr. Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” last accessed July 9, 2010, http://www.thedivinecouncil.com/DT32BibSac.pdf.
[x] Alexandra Zayes, “V is for Voracious: Vampire Culture Unveiled,” St. Petersburg Times, August 16, 2009, http://www.tampabay.com/features/humaninterest/v-is-for-voracious-vampire-culture-unveiled/1027763.
[xi] See the following articles: Meena Hartenstein, “Teenagers Inspired by Twilight Sink Fangs Into Each Other In New ‘Biting’ Trend, Parents Fear Risks,” NY Daily News, July 7, 2010 http://articles.nydailynews.com/2010-07-07/entertainment/27069327_1_bites-vampire-diaries-true-blood. “‘Twilight’ Fan Police Report: Teen Makes False Claim about Fantasy Biting Behavior,” Huffington Post, February 11, 2011, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/11/twilight-fan-police-report_n_821930.html. Juju Chang, “‘Twilight’ Effect: Are Teens Biting One Another Because of On-Screen Vampires?” ABC News: Good Morning America, July 9, 2010, http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/twilight-movie-effect-teens-biting-vampire-fascination/story?id=11122324.
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