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Review of Biblical Literature Blog

The Strange World of Human Sacrifice
Bremmer, Jan M., editor

Leuven: Peeters, 2007 pp. xii + 268. €42.00

Series Information
Studies in the History and Anthropology of Religion, 1


Description: «The Strange World of Human Sacrifice» is the first modern collection of studies on one of the most gruesome and intriguing aspects of religion. The volume starts with a brief introduction, which is followed by studies of Aztec human sacrifice and the literary motif of human sacrifice in medieval Irish literature. Turning to ancient Greece, three cases of human sacrifice are analysed: a ritual example, a mythical case, and one in which myth and ritual are interrelated. The early Christians were the victims of accusations of human sacrifice, but in turn imputed the crime to heterodox Christians, just as the Jews imputed the crime to their neighbours. The ancient Egyptians rarely seem to have practised human sacrifice, but buried the pharaoh's servants with him in order to serve him in the afterlife, albeit only for a brief period at the very beginning of pharaonic civilization. In ancient India we can follow the traditions of human sacrifice from the earliest texts up to modern times, where especially in eastern India goddesses, such as Kali, were long worshipped with human victims. In Japanese tales human sacrifice often takes the form of self-sacrifice, and there may well be a line from these early sacrifices to modern «kamikaze». The last study throws a surprising light on human sacrifice in China. The volume is concluded with a detailed index.

Subjects: Methods, Social-Scientific Approaches, Anthropology, Theological Approaches, Comparative Religion

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Review by David Frankfurter
Published 6/1/2010
Citation: David Frankfurter, review of Jan M. Bremmer, ed., The Strange World of Human Sacrifice, Review of Biblical Literature [http://www.bookreviews.org] (2010).


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