Sacrifice, Scripture, and Substitution

Readings in Ancient Judaism and Christianity

Edited by Ann W. Astell and Sandor Goodhart

Christianity and Judaism in Antiquity

This collection of essays focuses on sacrifice in the context of Jewish and Christian scripture and is inspired by the thought and writings of René Girard. The contributors engage in a dialogue with Girard in their search for answers to key questions about the relation between religion and violence.

The book is divided into two parts. The first opens with a conversation in which René Girard and Sandor Goodhart explore the relation between imitation and violence throughout human history, especially in religious culture. It is followed by essays on the subject of sacrifice contributed by some of the most distinguished scholars in the field, including Bruce Chilton, Robert Daly, Louis Feldman, Michael Fishbane, Erich Gruen, and Alan Segal. The second part contains essays on specific scriptural texts (Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22 and the book of Job in the Jewish tradition, the Gospel and Epistles in the Christian tradition). The authors explore new ways of applying Girardian analysis to episodes of sacrifice and scapegoating, demonstrating that fertile ground remains to further our understanding of violence in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

Contributors: Sandor Goodhart, Ann W. Astell, René Girard, Thomas Ryba, Michael Fishbane, Bruce Chilton, Robert Daly, S.J., Alan F. Segal, Louis H. Feldman, Erich S. Gruen, Stuart D. Robertson, Matthew Pattillo, Stephen Stern, Chris Allen Carter, William Morrow, William Martin Aiken, Gérard Rossé, Christopher S. Morrissey, Poong-In Lee, Anthony Bartlett.

Ann W. Astell is professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Sandor Goodhart is associate professor of English and Jewish studies at Purdue University.

“In increasing numbers, scholars are turning to the mimetic theory espoused by René Girard in their research for answers to key questions about religion and violence. For the first time, the editors of this volume place in conversation with each other scholars who, from the perspective of Christian and Jewish traditions and scholarship, engage from the perspective of mimetic theory the sacrificial and antisacrificial features of ancient Judaism and early Christianity and explore their subsequent trajectories.” — Martha Reineke, University of Northern Iowa


“This important book consists of twenty-one essays that are knowing, critical, and venturesome. . . . The intent of the collection is to understand better the ancient relationship of Judaism and Christianity. The accent of the volume, variously explored, expanded, appreciated, and in small ways critiqued, is the work of René Girard, to whom, along with his wife, the book is dedicated.” — Journal of Ecumenical Studies

“The ground-breaking work of René Girard on the theme of violence and mimesis in religion is the inspiration for this collection of twenty-one essays. The impact of Girard’s thinking is particularly felt in biblical studies, as this volume demonstrates. The first nine essays address some aspect of biblical sacrifice itself; the rest focus on explicit biblical passages that treat the topic. . . . This is a very readable treatment of an important yet unresolved topic.” — The Bible Today