What exactly was the point on animal sacrifices

by jwfacts 51 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Narkissos
    Like I love the smell of meat grilling on my BBQ grill, God just loves the smell of burnt flesh. 'Tis a restful odor you know
    Not buring FLESH, burning FAT. It was the FAT that was removed from the sacrifices that was offered up and made to smoke. Fat smells great when burnt. It was not charred meat. So, little details make a difference. A casual reading of the Scriptures doesn't always give the clearest picture. Glad to help.

    Ever heard of holocausts (aka "burnt offerings")?

    Glad to help...

  • M.J.

    Leolaia, great info.

    What about the theme from Paul which posited that the whole law (sacrifices included) was simply a "tutor" leading to the cross of Christ? That it was in itself not able to impart life, but symbolized and pointed to the "real deal" which was the sacrifice of Christ?

    I guess I don't see where Paul considers animal sacrifices to be a "temporary justification", but even less than that.

  • JosephMalik

    I think it is important for one to realize also that the Christian concept of Jesus' sacrifice is an expiatory one, not a propitiatory one. It is not a matter of God needing to be appeased, but a matter of an abstract legal debt being absolved.


    Actually it is both. And important enough to send a Son to die. But for what? For the life that was given to the human race in the first place. No one, no animal, the Law, nothing could appease God for the abstract legal dept He suffered but the one that provided this life in the first place, the literal creator of man. Animals could make better human beings of those that had this life with the forgiveness of their sins, and establish this Godly principal but their life (the one common and contiguous feature we all have) was still condemned regardless. This is why the statement you made: "Meanwhile, the Jesus movement universalized the old hopes of a revived, restored Israel into a gospel proclamation that the whole world will, or has been, set right to God through Christ" now became possible. This life was not limited to one nation or tribe. It was common to us all.

    Why only Jesus? Paul elaborated on theological grounds the uniqueness of Jesus in relation to God and to man.

    Uniqueness? Yes, you can say that. But John said: 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men. That life was the source of that same life passed on to Adam at this beginning. Joh 6:40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." Joh 6:47 I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. So many examples we simply overlook. And we now learn that this life can be selectively redeemed and restored. A word like "life" we think we know what it is and may gloss over it without realizing it’s significance to God. Yet who understands life or can create life from the dust of the ground?


  • Leolaia

    You're correct, that is certainly the view in Galatians where Paul declares that "no one can be justified by keeping the Law" (2:16) and that the Law is the means through which "the elemental principles of the world keep us in bondage" (4:3), cf. Romans, ch. 6 which elaborates on the metaphor of the Law as a slaveholder. What I was trying to express was that Paul used the internal logic of the Law against it while not affirming the "reality" of these consequences of the Law. Paul seems to be quite fond of subversive twists like this. Using the metaphor of a slaveholder, he describes sin as undermining its own hold over its slaves via the Law which is the very means through which it holds followers of God in bondage to sin (6:22-23; in the ancient Roman empire, the "wages" paid by the slaveholder could be saved up and used to secure a person's emancipation). This is also a theme in 1 Corinthians 2 which refers to the wisdom of Christ as a secret hidden from the invisible principles of the world who, as described in Galatians, hold the world in bondage. "It is a wisdom that none of the rulers of this age have ever known, or they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory" (2:8). By crucifying Christ, they provide their own undoing. The same subversive theme is again encountered in Colossians (which has contested Pauline status): "He has overriden the Law and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay, he has done away of it by nailing it to the cross, and so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession" (2:14-15). But Paul had a very nuanced view that could almost be viewed as self-contradictory if the nuance is not respected. After describing sin as a slaveholder that uses the Law the hold mankind in bondage (Romans, ch. 6), Paul declares: "Does it follow that the Law itself is sin? Of course not. What I mean is that I should not have known what sin was except for the Law ... The Law is sacred, and what it commands is sacred, just and good" (7:7, 12). He thus shifts the blame away from the Law to abstract sin: "The commandment was meant to lead me to life but it turned out to mean death for me because sin took advantage of the commandment to mislead me and so sin, through that commandment, killed me" (7:10-11). So by itself, the Law is good and would do what it is supposed to be if it weren't for sin interfering with things.

  • M.J.

    "This was a provision that allowed one's legal guilt to shifted to another person or creature. Punishment for the crime is still meted out, but it is the animal or person that substitutes for the criminal that receives the punishment. In the Torah, a scapegoat (hence the idiom) serves this purpose."

    ...Which is not harmonious with the WTS teaching that Christ was a "corresponding ransom" for Adam's fall. According to the WTS, Jesus didn't act as a substitute in taking punishment at all. For ANYONE. Not even for Adam (who will not be resurrected according to them). Instead this "corresponding ransom" bit is speculated (out of thin air) to mean that it won back the right for humankind to live eternally again. Which of course has no parallel or corresponding theme within Jewish or Christian thought or practice.

    On the other hand, as you mention, substitution was the central idea around animal sacrifice. Hebrews 9 highlights the practice in Lev 16 of a substitutionary atonement for the nation of Israel (is a pair of goats a "corresponding ransom" to the whole nation of Israel?)...and describes how it symbolizes the sacrifice of Christ.

  • Narkissos

    I'm not sure whether Paul is "nuanced" (implying that he is also thoughtfully consistent) or he sometimes (often) gets scared of the logical consequences of his main argument and tries to dismiss those emphatically (cf. the typical mè genoito, usually translated "God forbid") with a bold but rather weak counter-argument (Romans 3:1ff offers several good examples). The bulk of his reasoning in both Galatians and Romans is that the Law, including its sacrificial system, is not God's original nor primary way of dealing with mankind (already sinful mankind, cf. Abraham's justification), so that it hardly provides THE standard for "salvation". Iow, the expiatory pattern which can be construed from Leviticus 16 is not central to his understanding of redemption, even though he may allude to it once (according to one interpretation of the word hilasterion in Romans 3:25). It is just one illustration among many of how the relationship of grace and faith can "work" in Christ.

    Stepping back, there is simply no one single interpretive model for the how of "salvation" in the NT. The death/resurrection of Christ is central to Paul, not to all (e.g. Matthew and James where salvation comes from doing what the Master says). Those who focus on it sometimes express its value in sacrificial terms, not always. And in sacrificial speech the expiatory model plays only a small part. How it became THE explanation in later theology is another matter.

  • Leolaia

    Narkissos... Paul indeed seems to use rhetoric to gloss over difficulties in his thought, and perhaps "nuance" ought best to remain an open question. My understanding of Paul is that he uses many different conceptualizations of Christ's death...death as a martyr, death as a paschal sacrifice, death as a scapegoat, death as a form of redemption, death as propiation, death as a judicial acquittal, death as a trick on the elementary principles of the world, etc., and these don't always mesh together too well. I was reading Romans 3:25 with an expiatory understanding, but that is not the only text that seems to reflect the expiatory pattern in Leviticus 16 (i.e. as a sin offering):

    "For God has done what the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: he sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh as a sin offering(cf. the LXX background of peri hamartias with respect to sin offerings, e.g. Leviticus 15:30, 16:3, 5-6, 9, etc.) to condemn sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirements of the Law might be fully met in us" (Romans 8:3-4).
    "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:20-21).
    "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming cursed for our sake" (Galatians 3:13).

    These seem to reflect the scapegoat pattern in which the (cursed) animal bears the sins of the people as opposed to the pattern in which the (spotless) animal wipes clean the sins of the people through its blood.

  • Stealth453


  • Narkissos


    I think we agree as to the relative part played by "expiation" proper (only hilastèrion strictly corresponds to kpr) in Pauline theology -- one in a network of alternative patterns.

    Taking peri hamartias in Romans 8as a technical term (= sin offering) because of LXX usage implies some syntaxical difficulty imo (I wonder how many readers in the first generations could have got it rather than the plain exocentrical, non technical, sense "about sin"). Taking hamartia the same way in 2 Corinthians 5:20 would imply that here Paul derives his technical terminology, not from the LXX but from an ad hoc calque of the Hebrew (chatt'ath = sin or sin offering). This is unlikely to me (again, who would have got it?), and at least it seems impossible to hold technical sense in both cases. The curse in Galatians is explicitly derived from Deuteronomy, where the context is penal, not sacrificial (of course substitution is central to the Pauline argument, but it is no more evidence that the underlying pattern is sacrifice or expiation than for any other use of huper hèmon, "for us, in our stead").

  • minimus

    It all pointed to the Greater Animal, Christ The Lamb. (close enuf)

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