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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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Sacrifice in Christian Tradition

Sacrifice in Christian Tradition

Chapter:
(p.100) 4 Sacrifice in Christian Tradition
Source:
Sacrifice in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
Author(s):

David L. Weddle

Publisher:
NYU Press
DOI:10.18574/nyu/9780814764916.003.0005

Sacrifice is pervasive in Christian theology and ethics, as the redemptive significance of Christ’s death and as the ideal of self-giving love. Paul emphasizes both meanings in his letters, and the Gospels of the New Testament focus on the sacrificial death of Christ as the climax of their narratives. The Epistle to the Hebrews interprets Christ’s death as the fulfillment and displacement of Israelite ritual sacrifices for atonement of sins. That approach was opposed by Gnostic Christians who located Christ’s significance in his esoteric knowledge leading to immortality; thus, they regarded martyrdom as foolish. Nevertheless, the dominant Christian view honored martyrs, such as Polycarp and Perpetua, as models of imitation of Christ (imitatio Christi). Sacrifice is the primary category in the orthodox theology of Athanasius and Anselm, but Abelard replaced it with a moral influence theory of atonement. Christian mystics, like Teresa of Avila, appropriated sacrifice as the ideal of self-erasure in union with transcendence. Controversy over the Eucharist erupted in the Protestant Reformation, but the Roman Catholic Church continues to regard it as a sacrifice. Finally, Abelard’s view of Jesus’s death as exerting moral suasion was revived in the theology and social activism of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Keywords:   atonement, imitatio Christi, martyrs, Abelard, Teresa of Avila, Eucharist, Martin Luther King, Jr.

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