Blood and Seed: Sacrifice and Kinship in Early Christian Texts

Townsend, P. (Invited speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Questions of genealogy and descent weave through ancient Jewish debates about sacrifice, the temple and its priesthood. The prevalence of these themes can be understood within the broader context of the deep and multivalent connections between sacrifice and kinship in the ancient Mediterranean world, as Nancy Jay has demonstrated. However, scholars who have focused on ancient Christian debates about sacrifice have often paid little attention to these themes, perhaps because of the perception that issues of kinship and descent were unimportant or quickly became irrelevant to early Christians. In this paper I make the case that the association between sacrifice and descent is in fact integral to a wide range of Christian texts. Examining first and second century texts about sacrifice and priesthood allows us to trace an ongoing debate among Jews and Christians about the importance of physical ancestry and descent in the legitimation of religious communities, and demonstrates that the malleable discursive association between sacrifice and kinship played a fundamental role in both Christian and Jewish discussions of sacrifice in antiquity. In particular, I argue that Christians increasingly deployed traditional sacrificial logic in new ways in order to establish legitimacy and inheritance on grounds other than birth and descent.
Period3 Sep 2015
Event titleBritish New Testament Conference
Event typeConference
LocationUnited Kingdom