Guy G. Stroumsa

The End of Sacrifice Religious Changes in Late Antiquity Publication date : May 25, 2005

 How did the Graeco-Roman world become Christian? Did this transformation result from a long and barely perceptible process of evolution, or did it occur with revolutionary speed? Can the attraction of monotheism suffice to explain such a changeover?

Guy Stroumsa reviews several decades of research into the religious shift that occurred within the Roman Empire. He examines the appearance of a new form of self-regard and the rise of a new relationship to learning. He describes the transformation of ritual and the transition from a civic religion to a community religion. He argues that sacrifice was central to piety in the Ancient world and that its abolition played a crucial role in the religious shift, not only among the Greeks and the Romans but also among the Jews who, in the wake of the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70, felt that they had to invent a new form of Judaism.

This highly accessible examination of a key period in the history of religion — the rise of monotheism — is also an original and stimulating comparative study of paganism, Judaism and Christianity.

Guy Stroumsa is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.