The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice

Overview

Sacrifice dominated the religious landscape of the ancient Mediterranean world for millennia, but its role and meaning changed dramatically in the fourth and fifth centuries with the rise of Christianity. Daniel Ullucci offers a new explanation of this remarkable transformation, in the process demonstrating the complexity of the concept of sacrifice in Roman, Greek, and Jewish religion.

The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice challenges the predominant scholarly model, which...

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Overview

Sacrifice dominated the religious landscape of the ancient Mediterranean world for millennia, but its role and meaning changed dramatically in the fourth and fifth centuries with the rise of Christianity. Daniel Ullucci offers a new explanation of this remarkable transformation, in the process demonstrating the complexity of the concept of sacrifice in Roman, Greek, and Jewish religion.

The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice challenges the predominant scholarly model, which posits a connection between so-called critiques of sacrifice in non-Christian Greek, Latin, and Hebrew texts and the Christian rejection of animal sacrifice. According to this model, pre-Christian authors attacked the propriety of animal sacrifice as a religious practice, and Christians responded by replacing animal sacrifice with a pure, ''spiritual'' 'worship. This historical construction influences prevailing views of animal sacrifice even today, casting it as barbaric, backward, and primitive despite the fact that it is still practiced in such contemporary religions as Islam and Santeria.

Rather than interpret the entire history of animal sacrifice through the lens of the Christian master narrative, Ullucci shows that the ancient texts must be seen not simply as critiques but as part of an ongoing competition between elite cultural producers to define the meaning and purpose of sacrifice. He reveals that Christian authors were not merely purveyors of pure spiritual religion, but a cultural elite vying for legitimacy and influence in societies that long predated them. The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice is a crucial reinterpretation of the history of one of humanity's oldest and most fascinating rituals.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Daniel Ullucci's work will certainly recast how scholars and others understand the end of animal sacrifice, but in the process may also offer a new picture of early Christianity itself, and even of how religion in the modern sense emerges from the rubble of late antiquity. Ullucci dethrones glib assumptions about ancient sacrifice as altruistic, and presents its more basic reality as a practice of reciprocity. His ancient Christian 'cultural producers' thus appear more clearly, not only as those whose discourses ended animal offerings, but as creators of Christian and post-Christian understandings of sacrifice, ritual, and religion."
— Andrew McGowan, Warden and President of Trinity College, The University of Melbourne

"In this unique combination of theoretical argument and lucid writing, Daniel Ullucci shows that a wide range of ancient texts commonly assumed to reject animal sacrifice were no more than discursive positions on its meaning, and not those of religious groups either, but of individual 'culture-producers.' Ullucci has written a superb introduction to the meanings of animal sacrifice in the Greco-Roman world."
—-David Frankfurter, author of Religion in Roman Egypt: Assimilation and Resistance

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199791705
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 12/27/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Ullucci received his PhD in Religious Studies from Brown University. He has taught at a number of colleges and universities in the New England area, including: Wheaton College, Holy Cross, Bowdoin College ,Wesleyan University, and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. He is currently at Rhodes College. His research focuses on the interactions between early Christian groups and traditional Mediterranean religion.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements
1 The Problem of Animal Sacrifice
2 Animal Sacrifice: Theory and Practice
3 Ideal Sacrifice vs. the Ideal of No Sacrifice
4 Christian Positions on Animal Sacrifice
5 A Redescription of Early Christian Positions on Animal Sacrifice
6 Epilogue: Julian and the Rejection of Sacrifice
Appendix: Summary of Early Christian Positions on Sacrifice not Covered in Chapter 4
Bibliography

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