Sacrifice in Early Christianity: The Social Dimension of a Metaphor

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Abstract

In Early Christianity the term 'sacrifice' was understood in a metaphorical way. The key to this metaphorical was to be found in the life and the death of Jesus Christ which which was interpreted as a self-offering and, for its part, constituted the model of the Christian way of life. Although this basic idea was shared by the various Christian communities, it was developed by them in varying ways. The term 'sacrifice' and related terms have been used to designate a great variety of theological ideas, moral virtues and ritual practices. Moreover, the early Christian concept of sacrifice was the subject of continuing reinterpretations and transformations. Besides differing theological views, the social structures of early Christian communities played a prominent role in these processes. To show the interrelatedness between the development of the Christian concept of sacrifice and the changing social structures of Christian communities, use will be made of the concepts of group and grid as they ware developed by the social anthropologist Mary Douglas. While applying this method, three major types of early Christian communities are distinguished, each of them being characterized by a specific combinations of the group and grid dimension: small scale and tightly cohesive groups from the period before Constantine, (Gnostic) groups of spiritual searchers and fourth-century (more)stratified church models.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSacrifice in Modernity:Community, Ritual, Identity
Subtitle of host publicationFrom Nationalism and Nonviolence to Health Care and Harry Potter
EditorsJoachim Duyndam, Anne-Marie Korte, Marcel Poorthuis
Place of PublicationLeiden/Boston
PublisherBrill
Pages132-146
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)9789004332065
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NameStudies in Theology and Religion
PublisherBrill
Volume22
ISSN (Electronic)1566-208X

Keywords

  • Sacrifice
  • ritual
  • Early Christianity

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