Sacrifice in Early Christianity: The Social Dimension of a Metaphor

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


    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
    Number of pages15
    ISBN (Print)9789004332065
    Publication statusPublished - 2016

    Publication series

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


    • Sacrifice
    • ritual
    • Early Christianity


    Dive into the research topics of 'Sacrifice in Early Christianity: The Social Dimension of a Metaphor'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this