Digesting the sacrifices: Ritual internalization in Jewish, Hindu, and Manichaean traditions

Jason BeDuhn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Scopus citations


In the words of Peter Brown, “the emergence of the holy man at the expense of the temple marks the end of the classical world” (Brown 1971a: 103). That classical world extended further than we tend to think. One region of substantial cultural contact included all of the Semitic and Indo-European speaking peoples, who for millennia coexisted and influenced each other in every aspect of life. Certainly, other populations contributed to the mix in various locations within this continuum, but for the ritual development with which we are concerned here, these two major groups provide the essential context. Within this cultural environment, settled life and the rise of states had been closely associated with an organized priesthood and ritual sacrifice that made use of fire on an altar to transmit food offerings to the gods. The holiness of the priest was inextricably tied to his function in the sacrificial ritual. When such holy persons became the center of the ritual, rather than functionaries of it, something fundamental changed in the religious ideology of this world. While the priest had always been supported by a portion of offerings made to the gods, this remanded or leftover portion was usually distinguished from that transmitted to the gods through the sacrificial ritual. In various places at different times we can observe an erosion of this distinction, by which the meal of the priests becomes conflated with the sacrifice itself, and the traditional place of the sacrificial fire is replaced by the digestive fire of the priest's body.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationReligion and Identity in South Asia and Beyond
Subtitle of host publicationEssays in Honor of Patrick Olivelle
PublisherAnthem Press
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9780857288110
ISBN (Print)0857287907, 9780857287908
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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