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Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam$
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David L. Weddle

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780814764916

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814764916.001.0001

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Common Features of Sacrifice

Common Features of Sacrifice

(p.9) 1 Common Features of Sacrifice
Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam

David L. Weddle

NYU Press

This chapter identifies elements that are common to sacrificial practices and events: signification of transcendence that requires discipline or denial of natural desires to point to what is beyond nature; suspense of offering without assurance of its intended outcome, illustrated in Pascal’s wager and Kierkegaard’s leap of faith; conditionality of the gift as a result of its qualifications, ritual performance, and contingent reciprocity of the sacred recipient; self-sacrifice through partial identification with what is offered (what Marcel Mauss called the “intermingling” of persons and things in sacrifice). This chapter offers a tentative definition of sacrifice as a costly act of self-giving, in denial of natural inclinations, that is offered in suspense, under conditions that threaten failure, for the purpose of establishing a relation with transcendent reality. This definition is developed in light of Kathryn McClymond’s proposal of “polythetic classification” of sacrifice.

Keywords:   sacrifice, transcendence, Pascal, Kierkegaard, Mauss, McClymond, definition

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