Preface

As a Greek born in Athens, during my childhood I often came across the spectacle of tourists, who were swarming around the temples of Attica in order to admire the artistic miracles of ancient Greece. At the same time, being born a Christian in a big modern city, I had the experience of a cult that had nothing to do with animal sacrifice. My knowledge of animal sacrifice at that time was limited to stories from the Old Testament, which, as I was taught, referred to an old cultic reality finally outdated by Christianity. Furthermore, mentions of a 'temple' other than a 'church' in narrations belonging to the New Testament always constituted a puzzle to me, because I had stayed with the impression that anything pertaining to a temple other than a Christian church 'ought to' belong to the Old Testament. It took me much time to realize that, in the early years of Christianity, the successor to Solomon's Temple was still standing in Jerusalem, and much more time to think of that temple as an area where animal sacrifices were performed. Due to my romantic view of Greek marble temples, I was also late in accepting that, much to my disappointment, what is left from Greek shrines today is far removed from their functional profile: in fact, the smell of animals—dead or approaching their death—was what mainly reigned in the sacred areas of ancient Greece. These late realizations are directly connected with the questions from which the present book has stemmed.

I wanted to explore the fact that Christianity is known as a religion with no altars for slaughter, in combination with the historical fact that early Christians came from religious environments where animal sacrifice was practised. Did the absence of sacrificial interest on the part of Christians come about suddenly and abruptly? Or was it a gradual development? In order to study this issue, I have chosen to start from a date when Greek and Jewish animal sacrifice was still practised (100 bc), but Christianity had not yet appeared. I have chosen to stop before the better-documented third century, but at a date when Christianity had already expanded in the Mediterranean as a religion without altars for slaughter (ad 200). At that point Greek animal sacrifice was still practised, whereas official Jewish animal sacrifice had stopped long before (ad 70).

The area of my study is the Greek-speaking East and Jerusalem. By the term 'Greek-speaking East', I mean—roughly—mainland Greece, the Aegean islands, Asia Minor, and any area of Greek settlement where Christians came or could come into contact with Greek pagans.1 Egypt is not considered, given the differences in the Greek material coming from an area with a very distinctive local religious culture.2 In the book, I shall not deal with Roman ritual, but rather with Greek ritual in an area and a period of Roman influence. The main reason for this limitation is that the first encounter of Christianity with paganism took place in Greek-speaking areas, so it would be extremely important to envisage this cultural encounter in its original form.

Readers must have noticed that I have so far avoided choosing the following as the main question: 'why did Christians not offer animal sacrifices?' In the course of the book, it will become obvious that such a question might be misleading, and only partly legitimate. However, acknowledging that the question will progressively arise in the reader's mind, I have ventured to express an answer to the question of 'why' in the last section of the book (Epilogue). This answer constitutes the counterpoint to Section 2 of Chapter 1, where my suggestion on the way in which the issue of sacrifice can be studied is presented.

In the remaining chapters the issue of animal sacriWce is studied both from the point of view of Greeks and Jews separately, and in combination with Christians. Thus, Chapter 2, on Greek animal sacriWce, can function in itself as the first systematic approach to Greek sacrifice in the Roman period, but it mainly points to the problems possibly generated within Greek communities by the emergence of Christianity. Similarly, Chapter 4, on Jewish animal sacriWce, focuses on some aspects which have not been emphasized in the bibliography on late Second Temple Judaism, but it also emphasizes the multifarious character of the Jewish context, which formed the background to Christianity. Finally, Chapter 6, on early Christians and animal sacriWce, shows that the implication of unity contained in the term 'Christianity' is in fact misleading, since the different religious backgrounds of the groups which this religion encompassed resulted in a wide spectrum of responsiveness to the new message.

Chapters 3 and 5 are 'bridges', which help the reader understand the fundamental differences between the Greek and Jewish sacrificial systems, and make more obvious the contrast between, on the one hand, two religions in the context of which animal sacriWce took place, and, on the other hand, the religion of Christianity, which called the practice of animal sacriWce into question.

1 On pagan cities in Palestine, see Schiirer (1973-87), vol. 2.I, pp. 85-183. More recently, Belayche (2001).

2 The most recent description of the multifold Egyptian religious world is Frankfurter (1998).

In seeking to draw conclusions on animal sacrifice for each of the three religions studied here, I have come to realize that one cannot help utilizing sources from within the specific religious context. However, a few cases do not follow this pattern (for instance, Pliny on Christians, or Paul on tables laden with meat).

In order to make clear the scope of the study, I should specify that by 'animal sacrifice' I mean the ritual slaughter of an animal for various religious purposes. In my treatment of religious animal slaughter, I include both alimentary and non-alimentary slaughter.3

In this book, priority is given to the sacrificial use of animals, and not of other sorts of organic or non-organic matter. Since there is also evidence for non-animal offerings in the period 100 bc-ad 200, I acknowledge that my disregarding this evidence might be criticized by readers. As a response to this supposed criticism, I must stress that, first, the sacrificial status of non-animal offerings is still disputed among scholars,4 and as such these cannot constitute a safe basis for a comparative study. Second, the prominence given to animal offerings characterizes both Greek religion and Judaism, as I will specify in the course of the book. Third, I chose to focus on animal sacrifice because, among all the other types of sacrifice, animal sacrifice is the one most often mentioned or alluded to in Greek pagan, Jewish, and Christian texts, so I see it as the basic common ground between the three religions.

Finally, I have to warn readers of what they will not find in this book, despite their reasonable expectations.

This book does not deal with human sacrifice. Even if the authors used in our study talk about the issue, the relevant discussion would be beyond the scope of this book. My study focuses on everyday Greek and Jewish ritual reality, and human sacrifice cannot be considered as such. Furthermore, the fact that reports on human sacrifice were actually influenced by conceptual categories such as Greeks-Jews, Greeks-barbarians, myth-history, reality-

3 By contrast with that of J.-P. Vernant, my study is not limited to the alimentary character of sacrifice. Vernant himself, being aware of the fact that dvw designates different rites, chooses to talk only about 'sacrifice sanglant de consommation alimentaire'. See the 'Discussion' following Vernant's paper in Rudhardt-Reverdin (1981), 29-30.

4 This was made obvious in a Table Ronde on sacriWce, which I attended in Paris, entitled 'Sacrifice animal et offrande vegetale dans les societes de la Mediterranee ancienne' (organizers: Centre Gustave Glotz (CNRS-UMR 8585), Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, College de France, 24-6 June 2001). There the category of non-animal offerings caused a major problem as regards the definition of the term 'sacrifice', and this difficulty dominated the discussion until the very end of the seminar. See Georgoudi-Koch Piettre-Schmidt (eds.) (2005).

The greatest bulk of the present book has actually resulted from my doctoral work. I am extremely lucky to have been one of Professor Fergus Millar's supervisees during the years I was writing my doctoral thesis. My personal interest in the comparative study of religions fitted well with Fergus Millar's way of looking at the Roman Empire as a whole: he is a scholar who has been always insisting on the importance of comparing and contrasting the various cultures constituting the Empire. Fergus Millar is the person who encouraged me to publish my thesis, and has been advising me until the last stage before publication. I take here the opportunity to express my great gratitude for his constant kindness, help, and concern.

The origin of this book then obliges me gratefully to mention here those people whom I met and with whom I worked during my years as a graduate, both in Oxford and elsewhere. I especially thank Professor Robert Parker and Dr Charles Crowther, who helped me in my early steps as a postgraduate. I also had the chance to learn a great deal from Professor Martin Goodman and Dr Simon Price. The aforementioned scholars were more than willing to help me find my way in Greek epigraphy, Greek religion, Judaism, and Christianity. I will always remember my academic discussions with them, at various stages of my DPhil. work.

I am also happy to have made the acquaintance of visiting scholars, who enlightened Oxford, and to have gone to other countries in order to attend seminars related to my thesis. Here, I first have to thank Professor John Scheid, who, during his stay in Oxford in Trinity 2001, spent not a little time discussing sacrifice with me. It was he who invited me to the Table Ronde in Paris, entitled 'Sacrifice animal et offrande vegetale dans les societes de la Mediterranee ancienne', organized in 24-6 June 2001 (now in Georgoudi, Koch Piettre, and Schmidt (eds.), 2005). In the same seminar in Paris I also had the opportunity for discussions with Professors Guy Berthiaume, Stella Georgoudi, Francis Schmidt, and Gilles Dorival, among others. I thank them all for their ingenious and thorough comments on sacrifice, and for their willingness to continue their contact with me, even after the seminar (through e-mails).

A further seminar, which made me realize how strong a scholar has to be in order to convince others, was the one I attended in Princeton (January 9-11, 2002), entitled 'The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages', and organized in the frame of the Oxford-Princeton Research Project 'Culture and Religions of the Eastern Mediterranean'. During it I met and talked with several distinguished scholars. I especially thank Professors Fritz Graf and Elaine Pagels for their interest in my work even after the seminar.

subconscious (in the case of dreams), would necessitate a discussion of these categories, which would lengthen the book unnecessarily.

The book does not contain a section specially dedicated to the Roman imperial cult. Admittedly, the phenomenon of animal sacrifice in this context has been thoroughly studied from various, even contrasting, angles,5 but the inclusion ofthese issues in the book would not change the main lines of the argument. Even from the point of view of Christianity, it has been proved that the role of the imperial cult was secondary in the persecutions of Christians.6

Categories of evidence such as iconography, animal remains, and cultic edifices will not be used in this book. The systematic presentation of depictions of sacrifice would require a study of the conventions used to represent animals, participants, and paraphernalia in a sacrificial ritual. Furthermore, it can be easily understood that an archaeological study of animal-sacrificial remains would require not only the undertaking of systematic excavation projects covering all Greece and Asia Minor, but that these excavations should regard sacrificial remains as a principal object of the project and not as accidental finds. As long as this condition is not fulfilled, it has to be accepted that the record of sacrificial remains does not contribute significantly to the building of a theory. What is more, studies on the functional aspect of cultic edifices are missing, and such studies cannot be undertaken here without a contribution from other fields of research, namely archaeology and, particularly, temple architecture, in which the writer of this book is not a specialist.

The issue of abstinence is also absent from this book, since abstinence had a great variety of meanings: it could be abstinence from ritual, but it could also be abstinence from meat in general, or from certain animal species, or from certain parts of the animal's body, or from certain varieties of plants. Philosophical or other spiritual trends must have played their role in such instances of abstinence, and influenced individual worshippers and cult founders. But the overall picture drawn from our literary texts and inscriptions cannot support any claim that, due to theoretical objections, the practice of animal sacrifice was forsaken by worshippers en masse.

From the Christian context, I have decided to leave out liturgical texts, since the stylistic conventions of this genre make it deserve a special study.

This book would not have been written if it were not for the support of my family, mainly my parents, both classicists. I thank them for their patience with my nervousness until the final submission to the Press.

5 Price (1984b), Friesen (1993), most recently Gradel (2002).

Because of my dealing with three religions, I had to be aware of the latest 'trends' in Classics, Oriental Studies (Judaism), and Theology (New Testament, Early Patristics). I am most grateful to Professor Chris Rowland for his advice at an early stage of my dealing with Christianity. His invitation to attend the New Testament graduate seminar in Oxford made me academically richer.

I would also like to mention with thanks the names of those scholars who discussed sacrifice with me during lunch (not a particularly appetizing experience!), and those with whom I talked after attending their papers— among the latter I mention the name of Professor Jean-Pierre Vernant with great respect—and Wnally, those scholars who read and kindly replied to my long e-mails of questions without having met me. The following names also betray my shy attempts at exploring the Welds of art depictions, zooarch-aeology, and meat trade, although the results of these attempts have not been made public: Professor Gerhard Forstenpointner, Professor Judith Lieu, Professor Robin Osborne, Professor Bert Smith, Dr Valerie Huet, Dr Teresa Morgan, Professor Andrew Wilson, and Dr Rolf Schneider. I also thank a lovely zooarchaeologist for her company, optimism, and good sense of humour, namely Priscilla Lange, Professor Millar's secretary; apart from typing Fergus Millar's comments all these years, she has been a very good friend.

Finally, I have to thank the Onassis Foundation for its Wnancial help in the period from October 1998 to January 2002. Without its contribution, my stay in Oxford would not have been easy. A part-time assistance to Dr Crowther in the Centre for the Study of Ancient Documents (2000-2) was both a financial help and a great experience!

In closing, I would like to stress that what I write in this thesis might arouse the objections of those whose names I have mentioned. This does not make their help less constructive, because it is by understanding their different views that I have better defined mine, and, more importantly, all these people have taught me the importance of choosing my own method.

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  • katja rasimus
    When did early christians stop animal sacrifice?
    8 years ago

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