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date: 17 January 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses mortuary ritual practices among early Jews/Christians and Romans in order to draw a ritual profile of early Christian mortuary practices in their ancient Mediterranean context. The theoretical framework for the chapter is CSR-inspired ritual theory with a special focus on the ‘action perspective’, that is an underlying premise that ritual actions mirror social actions and that they are analysable as such. The chapter begins with a brief introduction to mortuary ritual in general, followed by a presentation of the most relevant sources (texts and archaeology). Finally, rituals of funeral and mourning and of visiting and eating with the dead are discussed. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the relationship between mortuary rituals and afterlife beliefs, in which it is argued that mortuary rituals are rarely influenced by dogma and belief systems, but are rather pragmatic, traditional, and local practices that are directed at the deceased as a social agent.

Keywords: afterlife, Christian, cognitive science of religion, eating with the dead, funeral, Jewish, mortuary ritual, mourning, Roman, visiting the dead

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