Chapter

Jewish Sacrifice

William K. Gilders

in Ancient Mediterranean Sacrifice

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199738960
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199918676 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199738960.003.0004
Jewish Sacrifice

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Offering a close reading of the writings of Philo of Alexandria, William Gilders pursues a “literary ethnography” that analyzes the gap between Philo’s presentation of the symbolic significance of sacrificial action and the effective practice of sacrifice in his period. Philo is unique among his Jewish contemporaries in his concern to address the meanings of sacrifice in conceptual terms, and the concepts he develops are quite specific to his distinctive context. Written by a highly-literate Greek-speaking Jew from Alexandria, Philo’s arguments can only be decoded in light of his specific cultural lexicon. A similar concern with symbolic meanings, however, is mirrored in the work of cultural anthropologists and scholars of religion today, who also seek universal meanings for what may well have been provisional acts. As such, both Philo and contemporary scholars mistake symbolism for practice, thereby overlooking the cultural and historical contingency of all interpretation.

Keywords: Philo of Alexandria; theories of sacrifice; cultural anthropology; symbolism

Chapter.  5975 words. 

Subjects: History of Religion

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