In Stone and Story

Early Christianity in the Roman World

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Chapter 5: Sacrifice & Sin

Class Activities

Divide the class into two groups and have them consider the extent to which Christianity is based on a do ut des principle (i.e., a person gives honor to God in order to get something back from God). One group should present a case for seeing Christianity in that light, and the other should present the opposite case.

Discussion Questions

  1. How might we understand the Greco-Roman sacrificial system in today’s terms? What did sacrificing do for the ordinary person in the Roman world? Why did so many see it as such an integral part of life?
  2. Compare the Greco-Roman understanding of sacrifice to the Judean understanding of sacrifice? How are they different? How are they similar? What shift needed to take place, either for Judeans or for gentiles, in order to understand what Jesus-followers claimed to happen in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus?
  3. Jesus-devotion fused into one system (1) the ethical dimension of ancient philosophy and (2) devotion toward a deity. What may have been challenging about seeing Jesus devotion in this light? How do the New Testament writers view sin differently from other ancient systems of the metaphysical?