Sacrifice in Religious Experience

Sacrifice in Religious Experience

Sacrifice in Religious Experience

Sacrifice in Religious Experience


This book presents revised papers delivered at the 1998 and 1999 Taubes Minerva Center for Religious Anthropology conferences. The papers from the 1998 conference discuss the role of sacrifice in religious experience from a comparative perspective. Those from the second conference examine alternatives to sacrifice. The first theme has been much elaborated in recent scholarship, and the essays here participate in that on-going inquiry. The second theme has been less explored, and the goal of this volume is to stimulate examination of the topic by offering a set of test cases. In both sections of the volume a wide variety of religious traditions are considered. The essays show that in spite of the inclination we may sometimes have to consider sacrifice part of the idolatrous past, long overcome, it remains a persistent and meaningful part of religious experience.


The essays in this volume are revisions of selected papers presented at two international conferences, one “Sacrifice From a Comparative Perspective,” held in 1998, and the second “Alternatives to Sacrifice,” held in 1999. the papers from the first conference take up “hard core” sacrifice, instances in which an actual offering is made on an altar. They participate in the on-going discussion of sacrifice that has been so fruitful over the past decades and enriched our understanding of the meaning of this primary religious ritual. Some of the papers aim at expanding the analysis provided by others, Burkert, Detienne-Vernant, Girard, Grotanelli-Parise and Jay, for example, while other papers offer critiques of the work done thus far in the hope of correcting apparent errors. These papers also attest to the rich variety of meaning sacrifice can offer. It is difficult, if not impossible, to reduce sacrifice to one basic archetype without doing injustice to some aspect of the phenomenon somewhere. Yet these many variations on the theme prove the place of sacrificing, indicated etiologically for the Biblical tradition in Genesis, when it ascribes the first offerings to the sons of Adam.

The papers from the second conference take up a topic that has been less intensively discussed from a theoretical perspective. While individual studies have been written on particular topics in the past, the goal of the 1999 conference and of the second part of this volume is to open a broader discussion of alternatives to sacrifice across

in a series of monographs, beginning with Walter Burkert, Homo JVecans: The
Anthropology of Ancient Greek Sacrificial Ritual and Myth
(Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1983).

Marcel Détienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (Eds.), The Cuisine of Sacrifice Among
the Greeks
(Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

René Girard, Violence and the Sacred Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1977); The Scapegoat (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 1986).

Cristiano Grotanelli and Nicola F. Parise, Sacrificio e società nel mondo antico
(Roma/Bari: Laterza, 1988). See now also Cristiano Grotanelli, ii sacrificio (Bari/Rome:
Laterza, 1999).

Nancy Jay, Throughout Your Generations Forever: Sacrifice Religion and Paternity (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1992).

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