1st Edition

Sacrifice and the Body
Biblical Anthropology and Christian Self-Understanding

ISBN 9781138546264
Published February 18, 2018 by Routledge
254 Pages

USD $54.95

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Book Description

What is sacrifice? For many people today the word has negative overtones, suggesting loss, or death, or violence. But in religions, ancient and modern, the word is linked primarily to joyous feasting which puts people in touch with the deepest realities. How has that change of meaning come about? What effect does it have on the way we think about Christianity? How does it affect the way Christian believers think about themselves and God? John Dunnill's study focuses on sacrifice as a physical event uniting worshippers to deity. Bringing together insights from social anthropology, biblical studies and Trinitarian theology, Dunnill links to debates in sociology and cultural studies, as well as the study of liturgy. Through a positive view of sacrifice, Dunnill contributes to contemporary Christian debates on atonement and salvation.

Table of Contents


1 Why Sacrifice? Why the Body?


Part I: Explorations

2 The Economic Body: Communion Sacrifice and the Kingdom of God

3 The Purified Body: Expiatory Sacrifice and Justification

4 The Generative Body: Covenant Sacrifice and the Resurrection of the Body



On Theological Interpretation


Part II: Dialogues

5 The Victimized Body: A Dialogue with René Girard

6 The Abused Body: A Dialogue with Feminist Theology

7 The Atoning Body: A Dialogue with Anselm and His Followers



8 Towards the Convivial Body: A Eucharistic Trinitarian Theology of Sacrifice

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John Dunnill was formerly Senior Lecturer in New Testament Studies and Chair of Theology at Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia. As an Anglican priest, he is involved in spiritual direction, retreats, and formation for ministry. He is the author of Covenant and Sacrifice in the Letter to the Hebrews.


'A brilliantly readable account - both as story and as exposition - of one of the most complicated and misunderstood of religious and theological issues. Rarely has so much scholarship and Christian wisdom been so lucidly presented. Dunnill brings us into lively conversation with those countless scholars - exegetes, historians, philosophers, and theologians - who, from antiquity to today have wrestled with the practice, problems, and meanings of Christian sacrifice. With the sure-handed touch of a seasoned scholar and the elegant touch of a talented writer, Dunnill brilliantly tells the story of the many understandings and misunderstandings of Christian Sacrifice.' – Robert Daly, Boston College, USA

'John Dunnill deconstructs popular misunderstandings of sacrifice by leading the reader into a sensitive cross-cultural appreciation of its meaning and significance in its ancient contexts. The result forms the basis for both a historical reappraisal of sacrifice and an adventurous attempt to show how it can inform a eucharistic spirituality which affirms body and belonging in our own day. A stimulating book for both historian and theologian, but also for anyone seeking the roots of Christian spirituality.' – William Loader, Murdoch University, Australia

'Sacrifice and the Body provides a captivating and wide-ranging discussion of sacrifice in religion and theology. [...]This book will be excellent reading for graduate students in Religious Studies and/or Theology who are interested in the social, cultural, biblical, religious or theological dimensions of sacrifice.' – Theology

'Dunnill succeeds in crafting a much-needed reappraisal of sacrifice; the study, with its attendant bibliography, will surely contribute to ongoing work in this area and prove invaluable to theologians interested in the nature of, and value inherent in, Christian sacrifice.' – Religious Studies Review