Monday, August 27, 2012

Review of Ullucci, The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice

Daniel C. Ullucci, The Christian Rejection of Animal Sacrifice. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Pp. x, 227. ISBN 9780199791705. $74.00.

Reviewed by Philippa Townsend, Ursinus College (


Sacrifice in the ancient Mediterranean has been the subject of renewed scholarly attention in recent years.1 Daniel Ullucci’s book makes a significant contribution to the debate, focusing on the fascinating issue of when and why Christians stopped participating in the previously ubiquitous practice of animal sacrifice. While much previous scholarship has interpreted the Christian rejection of animal sacrifice as the culmination of a long tradition of enlightened criticism of the practice, Ullucci argues instead that early Christians were participating in an ongoing competition between elite “cultural producers” to define what sacrifice meant and how it should be practiced (5). First through third century Christian texts display a wide variety of views on sacrifice, and it was not until the fourth century that these disparate interpretations came to be read as consistent and that a coherent Christian position on sacrifice was developed (8-9). Readers will appreciate Ullucci’s concise and sophisticated explication of theoretical issues, and his close analytical overview of a large number of Christian and non-Christian texts on sacrifice.