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HTS Theological Studies

Print version ISSN 0259-9422

Abstract

BOTHA, Pieter J J. Blood sacrifice and moral formation: violence as a facet of Christian traditions. Herv. teol. stud. [online]. 2008, vol.64, n.4, pp. 1601-1631. ISSN 0259-9422.

Is it possible that the discourse (and the corresponding assumptions) of blood sacrifice contribute to violent behavior? After a brief review of the pervasive presence of blood sacrifice language in formative Christianity, some theoretical perspectives on the concept of sacrifice are discussed. Attention is given to traditional views emphasizing sacrifice as transaction and communication, as well as to the theories of René Girard and Walter Burkert. These theoretical reflections remind us of how interwoven sacrifice and our cultural histories; sacrifice is rooted in coping strategies for powerful and dangerous emotions and events. Some connections between blood sacrifice imagery and sacrificial talk and the possible substantiation and naturalization of violent actions and values are indicated. Sacrifice language is not the only cause of violent behavior, but it does contribute to the cultural scripts of communities, promotes egocentric values, maintains magical components in worldview and facilitates the perception of violence as a commodity.

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