Berkeley Dean Andrew McGowan gave the annual Kellogg Lectures at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., May 6, exploring the origins and meaning of sacrifice.
McGowan pointed out that what is often assumed to be the meaning of sacrifice—“deadly altruism”—is not the typical meaning of religious offerings in the ancient world. A “sacrificial ideology” has often been imposed on the concept, both by theological and anthropological commentators emphasizing elements such as human sacrifice.
McGowan suggests that the variety of ancient offerings are better understood as forms of gift rather than as primarily violent or self-abnegating acts. Leviticus, the New Testament, and the early Christian writer Irenaeus are among the ancient sources he considers in the lectures, along with modern thinkers Marcel Mauss, Nancy Jay, and David Graeber.
Video of McGowan’s two-part Kellogg Lectures is available at http://livestream.com/eds/events/5177418.