Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice by Jennifer Wright Knust, Zsuzsanna Varhelyi

By Jennifer Wright Knust, Zsuzsanna Varhelyi

Studying the various spiritual texts and practices of the past due Hellenistic and Roman classes, this choice of essays investigates the numerous meanings and services of formality sacrifice within the historic international. The essays survey sacrificial acts, historical theories, and literary in addition to inventive depictions of sacrifice, exhibiting that any try to establish a unmarried underlying value of sacrifice is futile. Sacrifice can't be outlined purely as a primal expression of violence, regardless of the widespread equation of sacrifice to faith and sacrifice to violence in lots of glossy scholarly works; neither is it adequate to argue that every one sacrifice might be defined through guilt, through the necessity to arrange and distribute animal flesh, or through the communal functionality of either the sacrificial ritual and the meal. because the authors of those essays show, sacrifice will be invested with all of those meanings, or none of them. The killing of the animal, for instance, may well ensue offstage instead of in sight, and the sensible, daily regimen of plant and animal choices could have been invested with which means, too. but sacrificial acts, or discourses approximately those acts, did provide a huge web site of contestation for lots of old writers, even if the religions they have been protecting not participated in sacrifice. Negotiations over the that means of sacrifice remained significant to the aggressive machinations of the literate elite, and their refined theological arguments didn't quite a bit undermine sacrificial perform as proceed to imagine its crucial validity. historic Mediterranean Sacrifice bargains new perception into the connections and transformations one of the Greek and Roman, Jewish and Christian religions.

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He wonders, then, if sacrifice (thysia or sacrificium) was as universally present and important as it is generally presumed in modern scholarly studies. Animal killing was simply not central to Egyptian cult; instead, the manifestation and procession of the divine image served as the central ritual and any killing that did take place occurred off stage, away from the zone of pilgrims and worshipers. Even within a single geographical and chronological milieu, then, no single backdrop of practice can be assumed.

Still, he suggests, Philo’s interpretation can only be decoded using the cultural lexicon of his context, suggesting that symbolism is always historically and culturally bound. Gilders therefore resists symbolic interpretations of religion in his chapter, arguing that indigenous interpreters and scholars alike extract meanings—symbolic, instrumental, and otherwise—that are culturally and historically contingent. They do not explain sacrifice—or any other ritual—once and for all. To Jonathan Klawans, however, symbolic interpretations remain important, especially in contexts like ancient Israel, where symbolism was dense, intentional, and significant for both biblical writers and their audiences.

See Ekroth, The Sacrificial Rituals of Greek Hero-Cults in the Archaic to Early Hellenistic Periods (Liege: Centre International d’Étude de la Religion Grecque Antique, 2002). In a recent essay, Ekroth considers the distance between gods and humans as negotiated, in part, on the basis of cooking methods and animal parts; “Burnt, Cooked or Raw? Divine and Human Culinary Desires at Greek Animal Sacrifice,” in Transformations in Sacrificial Practices from Antiquity to Modern Times, edited by Eftychia Stavrianopoulou, Axel Michaels, and Claus Ambos (Berlin: Lit, 2008), 87–111.

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