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Change of Religious Consciousness under the Roman Empire: Animal Sacrifice and its Substitutions

Panel Chair: Hiroshi Ichikawa | Friday, August 28, 9-11 a.m. | Venue

In the history of religion, there was a period when religious consciousness changed, and we witness the formation of self-identified religions under the Roman Empire. For example, in the second temple period, Judaism consisted of two basic elements of religion, i.e. sacrifice and law. However, after the destruction of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, Judaism began to identify itself as a religion of the divine law. Christianity had the same tenet of new religious consciousness, which gave rise to conflicts with the traditional Roman state religion. The panel will focus on the change of the significance of animal sacrifice in respective religious communities in the late Roman Republic and the Roman Empire. The emphasis will be on the development of new ideas concerning the reflection and adaptation of the sense of sacrifice in various spheres of life.

Hiroshi Ichikawa

From Sacrifice to Divine Law: The formation of the Halakhic Religion of Jews under the Roman Empire

In terms of the perspective of religion, Judaism ceased to be a religion of sacrifice after the two destructive wars against the Roman Empire, and Jews have established the identification of Judaism as a religion of the divine law, whose historical significance is to be a forerunner of the Islamic religion of Sharia. However, this did not mean that Judaism denounced sacrifice as superstitious or obsolete. On the contrary, the sages endeavored to give theological interpretations of the lack of temple sacrifice. Some theories will be analyzed including the theory of substitution by the deed of loving-kindness and the theory of prayer as the sacrifice of the heart. In this context, the reasons for the attitudes of the Romans will be considered for showing mercy to the Jews and thus helping them to survive and preserve their own way of life after the wars.

Keiko Kobori

Roman sacrifice in the late Republic and under the Empire

Animal sacrifice is said to have been "the heart of most acts of cult worship" in the modern Roman studies of the last half century. In fact, Church Fathers denounce the Romans due to an act of animal killing at sacrificial rituals. However, was animal sacrifice centred in Roman cult worship? Firstly, the Latin word sacrificare does not mean animal killing but just "to make it belong to deities." Also another Latin word for sacrificial ritual immolare means "to sprinkle meal." Secondly, did distribution of sacrificial meat have a great significance in Roman urban life as described in 1 Corinthians? Recent osteological evidence shows that the quantity of meat produced by sacrificial rituals feeds far less people than the population of a city or a large group. Finally, despite Church Fathers' denunciation, the Romans had gradually come to avoid blood-shedding and animal killing at rituals throughout the imperial period.

Yumi Doi

How Early Christianity reacted to Sacrifice in Judaism and Roman sacrificial rituals

This presentation will focus on sacrifice in the Early Christian community in the first century A.D. of the Roman Empire. In the earliest Christian community in Jerusalem there were already both Jews (who spoke Hebrew) and Gentiles (who spoke Greek). In addition, in the course of his missionary journeys, Paul encountered the various Gentiles who were Pagans within/outside Judea as the Acts says. Both Jews and Gentiles had Sacrifice rituals. In contrast early Christianity had no longer sacrificial rituals, but the Eucharist that could be interpreted as substitution for them. This change process will be analyzed minutely. Firstly, how did the people, who had converted from Judaism to Early Christianity, react to the Roman sacrificial rituals including animal sacrifices. Secondly, did the Gentile Christians carry out sacrificial rituals in the Jewish Jerusalem Temple? How did they begin to put sacrifice of the Eucharist in the Temple?

Iskra Gencheva-Mikami

Religio Nova: Sacrifice, State and the Self in Late Antiquity

This presentation will reconsider the modifications in the practice of religious sacrifice in the Mediterranean world of Late Antiquity as a result of the Roman state policy before and after the triumph of Christianity under Constantine the Great. The presentation will argue that the changes in the official attitudes to animal sacrifice have to be analyzed in the context of a growing fascination with human sacrifice represented by the ascetic and the martyrdom traditions of Late Antiquity. In conclusion, it will be suggested that the official prohibition of animal sacrifice and the reverence for asceticism and martyrdom appeared as two aspects of a new phenomenon: the birth of the religious self in Late Antiquity.


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