scapegoat was a goat that was
driven off into the wilderness as part of the ceremonies of the
Day of Atonement, in Judaism during the times of the Temple in
The rite is described in .
Since this goat, carrying the sins of the people placed on it, is
sent away to perish , the word "scapegoat" has come to mean a
person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins,
crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting
attention from the real causes.
superficially similar to the biblical scapegoat is attested in two
ritual texts in archives at Ebla of the 24th
They were connected with ritual purifications on
the occasion of the king's wedding. In them, a she-goat with a
silver bracelet hung from her neck was driven forth into the
wasteland of 'Alini'; "we" in the report of the ritual involves the
whole community. Such 'elimination rites', in which an animal,
without confession of sins, is the vehicle of evils (not sins) that
are chased from the community are widely attested in the Ancient Near East
The word "Scapegoat" is a mistranslation of the word
עזאזל) originated by William Tyndale
in his 1530 Bible
, and appropriated in
the King James Version
Bible (Leviticus chapter 16) in 1611. Confounded by the word,
Tyndale had interpreted Azazel
as ez ozel
literally, "the goat that departs"; hence "(e)scape goat."
According to the Talmud, Yoma 67b, Azazel
is a contraction
(harsh) and eil
(strong) and refers to the
most rugged of mountains. This identification is supported by
, the great Medieval grammarian, who
to be the name of a specific mountain
or cliff over which the goat was driven. According to R.H. Charles,
it was called so for its reputation as the holding place of the
fallen angel of the same name. Modern scholars generally reject
Tyndale's interpretation and favor one related to a fallen
angel/evil demon interpretation. Today in modern Hebrew Azazel
derogatorily, as in lekh la-Azazel
("go to Azazel"), as in
"go to hell
" or ma la-Azazel?
to Azazel?"), as in "what the hell?".
In Christian theology
, the story of the scapegoat in Leviticus
is interpreted as a symbolic
prefiguration of the self-sacrifice of Jesus
who takes the sins
of humanity on his own head,
having been driven into the 'wilderness' outside the city by order
of the high priests.Also see John 1:29 and Hebrews Chps. 9-10
Girard's socio-religious theory
The Christian anthropologist René
has provided a reconstruction of the scapegoat theory.
In Girard's view, it is humankind, not God, who has the problem
with violence. Humans are driven by desire for that which another
has or wants (mimetic desire). This causes a triangulation of
desire and results in conflict between the desiring parties. This
increases to a point where society is at
risk; it is at this point that the scapegoat mechanism
triggered. This is the point where one person is singled out as the
cause of the trouble and is expelled or killed by the group. This
person is the scapegoat. Social order is restored as people are
contented that they have solved the cause of their problems by
removing the scapegoated individual, and the cycle begins again.
Girard contends that this is what happened in the case of Jesus.
The difference in this case, Girard believes, is that he was
resurrected from the dead and shown to be innocent; humanity is
thus made aware of its violent tendencies and the cycle is broken.
Satan, who is seen to be manifested in the contagion, is cast out.
Thus Girard's work is significant as a re-construction of the
Christus Victor atonement
The psychology and sociology of scapegoating
is someone selected to bear blame
for a calamity
is the act of holding a person, group
of people, or thing responsible for a multitude of problems.
Related concepts include frameup
and fall guy
Scapegoating is an important tool of propaganda
; the most famous example in modern
history is the singling out in Nazi
of the Jews
as the source of
Germany's post-World War I
and political collapse.
A tactic often employed is to characterize an entire group of
individuals according to the unethical or immoral conduct of a
small number of individuals belonging to that group, also known as
guilt by association
"Scapegoated" groups throughout history have included almost every
imaginable group of people: adherents of different religions,
people of different races or nations, people with different
political beliefs, or people differing in behaviour from the
majority. However, scapegoating may also be applied to
organizations, such as governments, corporations, or various
In industrialised societies, scapegoating of traditional minority
groups is increasingly frowned upon.
is a form of sociological
scapegoating which occurs in the workplace. A summary of research
on workplace mobbing by Kenneth Westhues, Prof. of Sociology
University of Waterloo, published in OHS Canada, Canada's
Occupational Health & Safety Magazine, Vol. 18, No. 8, December
2002, pp. 30–36.
"Scapegoating is an effective if temporary means of
achieving group solidarity, when it cannot be achieved in a more
It is a turning inward, a diversion of energy away from
serving nebulous external purposes toward the deliciously clear,
specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life.
Mobbing can be understood as the stressor to beat all stressors. It
is an impassioned, collective campaign by co-workers to exclude,
punish, and humiliate a targeted worker. Initiated most often by a
person in a position of power or influence, mobbing is a desperate
urge to crush and eliminate the target. The urge travels through
the workplace like a virus, infecting one person after another. The
target comes to be viewed as absolutely abhorrent, with no
redeeming qualities, outside the circle of acceptance and
respectability, deserving only of contempt. As the campaign
proceeds, a steadily larger range of hostile ploys and
communications comes to be seen as legitimate."
Scapegoating in psychoanalytic theory
that unwanted thoughts and feelings can be unconsciously projected
onto another who becomes
a scapegoat for one's own problems. This concept can be extended to
projection by groups. In this case the chosen individual, or group,
becomes the scapegoat for the group's problems. In psychopathology,
projection is an especially commonly used defense mechanism in
people with certain personality disorders.
Scapegoating in ancient Greece
The Ancient Greeks practiced a scapegoating rite in which a cripple
or beggar or criminal (the pharmakos
) was cast out of the community,
either in response to a natural disaster (such as a plague, famine
or an invasion) or in response to a calendrical crisis (such as the
end of the year). The scholia refer to the pharmakos
killed, but many scholars reject this, and argue that the earliest
evidence (the fragments of the iambic satirist Hipponax) only show
being stoned, beaten and driven from the
- The Golden Bough pp569 Sir
Worsworth Reference ISBN 1 85326-310-9
- Ida Zatelli, "The Origin of the Biblical Scapegoat Ritual: The
Evidence of Two Eblaite Text", Vetus Testamentum
48.2 (April 1998:254-263).
- David P. Wright, The Disposal of the Impurity: Elimination
Rites in the Bible and in Hittite and Mesopotamian Literature
(Atlanta: Scholars Press) 1987:15-74.
- Chumash with Rashi, 
- The Scapegoat Model, Jean-Baptiste Dumont
- At The Mercy Of The Mob
- Frazer, Sir
James, The Golden Bough. Worsworth Reference.
pp 578. ISBN 1 85326-310-9
- Colman, A.D: Up from Scapegoating: Awakening Consciousness in
- Douglas, Tom Scapegoats: Transferring Blame (1995)
- Dworkin, A: Scapegoat: The Jews Israel, and Women's Liberation.
- Dyckman, John M. Scapegoats at Work: Taking the Bull's-Eye Off
Your Back (2003)
- Girard, René: The Scapegoat
- Perera, Sylvia Brinton Scapegoat Complex: Toward a Mythology of
Shadow and Guilt (Studies in Jungian Psychology By Jungian