Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 9:22)

NT writers accord the blood of Jesus Christ a central place in their theology. Poured out in his sacrificial death on the cross (Rom 3:25; John 19:34; Heb 9:14; 10:19) Christ’s
blood procures redemption from sin and death for all mankind (Eph 1:7; Heb
9:12; 1 Pet 1:19; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5), justifies them before God (Rom 5:9),
sanctifies them, and acquires them as a holy people fit for the Lord (Heb
13:12; Acts 20:28; Rev 5:9). It inaugurates a new covenant between God and man
(Matt 26:28 and parallels; 1 Cor 11:25; Heb 10:29; 13:20) which is expressed in
the Eucharist, a repeated ritual which, from its earliest beginnings, possessed
strong sacrificial characteristics (1 Cor 10:14-22; cf. John 6:53-56). The
universal saving efficacy of Christ’s blood, shed in one perfect and complete
sacrifice on the cross, is a fundamental theological datum which the Church
Fathers and all later writers take for granted. (Robert Hayward – Professor Durham)

The central religious rite in pagan Rome consisted of the killing of animals. This was not a simple ceremony—complex rules determined the nature of the victim for a particular god or goddess, and the sequence of events consisted of procession, sanctification of the victim, prayer, killing, and cooking, leading to a feast for the participants. (John North – Professor University College London)

Sacrifices, especially blood sacrifices … In the ancient world were in effect at the very heart of religious activity, certainly of any public and official religious activity, both among Jews and pagans. Thus, Emperor Julian called the Apostate, could write in the second half of the fourth century: “The Jews conduct themselves like Gentiles except that they recognize only one God. This is something particular to them that is foreign to us. For the rest, however, we share the same ground—temples, sanctuaries, altars, rituals of purification, and some injunctions where we do not diverge from each other—or else only in an insignificant way”…. … Well before the interdiction [prohibition] of sacrifices around the end of the
fourth century, however, one could follow a great debate within
Hellenic thought about the necessity and value of sacrifices. On
this subject, there was a profound change in sacrificial ritual, the
linchpin of the pagan system, which was transformed from an
alliance between the community and its gods into the preparation of a mystical experience. (Guy Stroumsa – Professor Oxford)

All ancient religious worship involved offerings.  The Athenians would pour libations to their gods, spilling a little wine for Athene, and sharing a drinking cup among themselves.  They would sacrifice animals at their temples.  The internal organs of the sacrifice would be burned, as the god’s portion.  The willingness of the sacrificial victim (bulls were less docile than the average sheep, for example), the darkness of hits blood – these things were seen as omens.  Then the rest of the animal would be cooked and eaten by those attending the sacrifice.  The religious experience was therefore actually a social one.  (Natalie Haynes)

The Romans had a very business-like attitude to their gods, a relationship that can best be described with the Latin phrase “Do ut des”, “I give, so that you may give”.  In other words, a roman would offer a sacrificial gift to the gods in the expectation of getting something in return.  No wonder the idea of sacrifice was so integral to ancient polytheism:  how could you expect some help or favour form a god if you hadn’t killed an animal or poured some wine for them.   You can’t get something for nothing.  (Natalie Haynes)

The Jews conduct themselves like Gentiles except that they recognise only one god.  This is something particular to them that is foreign to us.  For the rest, however, we share the same ground – temples, sanctuaries, altars, rituals of purification, and some injunctions where we do not diverge from each other – or else only in an insignificant way.  [Emperor Julian - 4th century]

Since before the end of the first century CE the Jews (much against their will) had offered the example of a society that had succeeded in conserving its ethnic and religious identity, even after the destruction of the only temple where daily sacrifices could be offered.  For the historian of religions, the sudden disappearance of sacrifices in a community represents a transformation of the deep structures of its religious life…. … new accent placed on interiorizaton and privatisation of worship.  Among the Jews, as in other communities, sacrifice was replaced above all by prayer.  The new religious status of the word gives it the power of action:  to say is now to do… It was the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem by Titus in 70 CE, as a result of the Jewish revolt, that activated the slow – overly slow – transformation of religion to which we owe, among other things, European culture.  The Jews should no doubt pay thanks to Titus, whose memory they hold in contempt, for having destroyed their temple for the second time, for imposing on them the need to free themselves from sacrifice and its ritual violence, before any other society….  The destruction of the temple of the Jews after practically a millennium of existence and activity was bound to have consequences… one of these consequences, of course, was the creation of not one but at least two religions… to a certain extent both rabbinic Judaism and Christianity would both remain sacrificial religions, but very special sacrificial religions, because they functioned without blood sacrifice… between the past imaginatively invented and the messiah who will restore it, the Jews lived in a state of expectation rather similar to that of parousia for the Christians, the return of the Christ, who is both priest and sacrifice according to the epistle to the Hebrews… spiritualisation of the liturgy… to indicate the shift to a ritual without priests and without blood sacrifices… the Jews are people whose ways of worship had been destabilised, and who, in order to survive, had to reinvent their religion, or at least their ritual – might offer under the high empire the very example of a spiritualised religion, or a religion without blood… Jewish ritual was now no longer linked to a sacred space…to the Temple… it could take place anywhere, with anybody.  … The Talmud Torah replaced sacrifice among the rabbis.    The rabbis succeeded in constructing a system in which individual daily praxis had replaced the order of sacrifices.  This transformation stressed the story of sacrifice, whose reactivated memory had been invested with a new power…. The liturgical prayer that replaced sacrifices… telling has replaced the doing.   (Guy Stroumsa – Professor Oxford)

Human sacrifices were practised much longer than one might want to believe, since Tertullian among others mentions their existence in the province of Africa at the start of the third century.  Both Clement of Alexandria and later Eusebius assert that only Christianity succeeded in putting an end to animal sacrifices.  But this horror at human sacrifice went hand in hand with an acceptance of martyrdom, sometimes even with an attraction toward it… Ignatius of Antioch, in the second century, specifically identifies his future martyrdom with the sacrifice offered to God…. Christians offered themselves voluntarily as human sacrifices.  … The martyrs and virgins no longer bring the sacrifice – they are the sacrifice… In effect, Christianity offers to every man and woman the possibility of becoming the sacrifice…   (Guy Stroumsa – Professor Oxford)

The practice of sacrifice does not want to die.  (Guy Stroumsa – Professor Oxford)

In the canonical gospels Jesus does refer to the sacrificial act;
however, his sayings can be used selectively according to whether the scholar
interpreting them is against or in favour of the act of sacrifice. I list here
some indicative examples: after Jesus
has healed the leper, he tells him to go and offer the sacrifice that Moses had
prescribed for the case, apparently referring to Lev. 14: 2–32, where these
sacrifices are specified (Matt. 8: 4, Mark 1: 44, Luke 5: 14). In Matt. 5: 23–4
Jesus advises worshippers not to offer a sacrifice if they do not settle their
disputes with their neighbours first. Elsewhere (Matt. 9: 13) Jesus reminds
people of Hos. 6: 6 (‘I want pity and not sacrifice’), and he approves of the
scribe who realized that love is more than holocausts and sacrifices (Mark 12:
33). Some of these cases not definitely constituting criticism of Jewish
sacrifice on Jesus’ part, canonical tradition lacks any explicit criticism of
Jewish sacrificial cult made by Jesus.
only narrations which could be considered as Jesus’ criticism of sacrifice
describe the so
‐called ‘cleansing of the Temple’, 70 but even this episode is not without problems. For one thing, it is only in John’s version that Jesus ejects the sacrificial
victims from the Temple. (p.226) Moreover, if Jesus
accompanied his action by words, it is not certain that these were the Old
Testament aphorisms attributed to him by the authors of the gospels (Isa. 56:
7, Jer. 7: 11). At a deeper level, too, it is not certain whether these
aphorisms contained hints at criticism of the sacrificial cult per se, or of
the way in which the sacrificial cult was conducted. Except for the puzzling
episode of the ‘cleansing’, the rest of Jesus’ career is presented in
accordance with the assumption that he respected Jewish sacrificial cult… …
John’s depiction of
Jesus repeatedly visiting Jerusalem at festivals has been thought by some to constitute the main element in favour of John’s historicity. 71 It is very natural to deduce that Jesus was one of the worshippers during these festivals and, consequently, that he must have participated in the Temple cult and offered animal sacrifices… … First‐century narrations about Jesus provide strong evidence for the fact that Jesus
respected Jewish sacrifice, but weak evidence for his rejection of the Temple
cult. The ‘cleansing of the Temple’ does not constitute incontestable evidence
for Jesus’ criticism of Jewish sacrificial cult
. (Marie-Zoe Petropoulou)

Jesus’s shameful death remained a scandal, but followers explained it as a sacrifice for the sins of humankind (Rom. 3.25), the vehicle for the inauguration of a “new covenant” between God and humanity (Heb. 8–10).  (Harold Attridge – Professor Yale)

Given the fact that Jubilees predates the earliest New Testament documents by roughly 200 years, it is often argued that traditions of the Aqedah influenced
Christian reflection on the death of Jesus. Both the traditions of the Aqedah
and the presentation of the death of Jesus in the New Testament have striking
similarities: Isaac is the ‘beloved son’, as is Jesus; Isaac goes willingly to
his death, as does Jesus; Isaac’s sacrifice is a Passover event, as is the
death of Jesus.4 (Luis Huizenga – Notre Dame)

In Part One, Levenson points to three series of texts. The first set allows
for human sacrifice, particularly of the first-born
. Thus, Ex. 22:28-29,
“You shall give Me the first-born among your sons. You shall do the same
with your cattle and your flocks: seven days it shall remain with its mother;
on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” Thus, too, Micah 6:7,
“Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for
my sins?” Later he points out that Gen. 22 (the binding of Isaac) surely
presupposes that God is within God’s rights to ask for the sacrifice of Isaac.
So, too, Ju. 11:29-40 where Jephthah offers up his daughter and perhaps also 2
Kings 3:26-27.  The second set of texts ordains redemption of a consecrated human (and sometimes an animal) destined for sacrifice.
Thus, Ex. 13:2, 11-13, “Consecrate to Me every first-born, the first issue
of every womb among the Israelites, among the people and the animals; it belongs
to Me…. you shall hand over every first issue to the Lord … the first issue
of the donkey you shall redeem with a sheep; if you do not redeem it, you shall
break its neck; but the human first-born among your children, you shall
redeem.” This is repeated in Ex. 34:19-20.
The third set of texts simply denies that child sacrifice, even of the first-born, was ever envisioned in biblical religion. Hence, Jer. 19:5, “They have built shrines to Baal,
to put their children to the fire as burnt offerings to Baal — which I never
commanded, never decreed, and which never came into My mind.” Similarly,
Ezek. 20:25-26, “I, in turn, gave them laws that were not good and rules
by which they could not live: When they set aside every first issue of the
womb, I defiled them by their very gifts …” And Dt. 15:19-23 which does
not even mention human first-borns as consecrated to God.Drawing on parallels
from the ancient near east (chapters 2,3,4) and pointing out the symbolism of
the Jewish people as a first-born and, hence, subject to the rule of
consecration as well as to the special protection of God (chapter 5), Levenson
argues that there were three stages to this rule. In the first, one usually
redeemed the first-born human but, under unusual circumstances, God could
demand the real sacrifice. In the second stage, redemption of all first-born
humans was obligatory. And in the third stage, the existence of the possibility
of human sacrifice was denied or asserted to be “laws that were not good
and rules by which they could not live.”
The forms of redemption were five: [1] The Passover sacrifice
substituted for the first-born of Israel who were spared while the first-born
of Egypt were killed.
This was reenacted each year, the Jewish people
being the first-born of God. [2] The Levites were chosen to serve in the sanctuary and temple in place of the first-born, as provided in Nu. 8:16-19, “For they are formally
assigned to Me from among the Israelites: I have taken them for Myself in place
of all the first issue of the womb, of all the first-born of the
Israelites….” [3] Money could be used to redeem the first-born, as provided in Nu. 3:6-8 and 18:15-18, a practice later embodied in rabbinic Judaism as “pidyon ha-ben.” [4]
The child could be made a nazirite, subject to those special vows, as provided in Nu. 6:1-21, with the examples of Samson (Ju. 13:2-7), Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), and maybe Joseph (Gen. 49:26). Finally [5], circumcision substitutes
for child sacrifice, not only for the first-born but for all male children.
(All this is well presented in chapter 6.) In sum, “the mythic-ritual complex that I have been calling `child sacrifice’ was never eradicated; it was only transformed
(45, italics original).  (From Professor David Blumenthal review Professor Levenson “The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son”)

As [Levenson] bluntly observes : “Israel did not always abominate the sacrifice of the firstborn son, and some biblical passages are best taken as an endorsement of the practice” (p. 126). At the same time, Jon Levenson goes considerably beyond  simply taking  sides in  a long-standing  debate. In a creative move, he manages  to tum what is usually regarded as an embarrassment into the Bible’s central theme, and even that of subsequent Judaism and Christianity, by tracing the ways in which human sacrifice came to be replaced by a variety of other practices, including circumcision, the levitical priesthood, monetary ransom, naziritehood, the Passover sacrifice, and in Christianity the death of Jesus .  (from Frederick Greenspan review of Levenson “The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son”) 

Levenson argues that the literal sacrifice of the firstborn son to YHWH was an authorized practice in the early history of Israel, although after a certain point it became possible to sacrifice an animal in place of the child. He argues too that this relates to a wider pattern of ancient mythology and religious practice in which child sacrifice and substitution can be seen on both human and divine levels.  (from Walter Moberly review of Levenson “The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son”) 

Levenson finds inadequate both those who assume the purity and normativeness of what is ancient and original (for it is only when sacrifice is trans­ formed from literal practice into religious metaphor that it becomes enduringly significant) and those whose concern for modern sensibilities leads them to deny or obfuscate the true significance of the biblical text…(from Walter Moberly review of Levenson “The Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son”)

since “the Binding of Isaac” (‘Aqedat YitslJ,aq , cf. Gen 22 9) was a Jewish theological concept which must have been familiar to Paul, a former Pharisee, it served as Paul’s model when he undertook to develop out of the doctrine of the Messianic atoning death of a divinely sent envoy, his doctrine of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross. (Hans-Joachim Schoeps) 

The expiating  power of the ‘Aqedah is known from  ancient times. As early as the first century it must have been a portion of the New  Year liturgy, for the order of  prayers on that day is already discussed in the schools of Hillel and Shammai.16 To the present day the Jewish prayer books bear witness to  the central position of the doctrine of the merits in the expiatory sacrifice of Isaac for the seed of Abraham. (Hans-Joachim Schoeps)

On the expiatory power of blood in ancient Judaism … Here it suffices to refer to Jomah Sa, There is no expiation without blood.” Rashi says, ad Lev 17 11, “The soul of every creature is connected with  the blood. Therefore I have ordained it as expiation for the soul of man, so that one soul should come and expiate for another.” (Hans-Joachim Schoeps)

The pieces of surviving evidence strongly suggest that animal sacrifice was not a phenomenon entirely foreign to the Early Christian liturgy. Contrary
to the prevailing opinion that denies the existence of any form of animal
sacrifice as a part of Christian worship, the survival
of ritual immolation of animals in the Christian milieu is convincingly corroborated by a number of texts. The enactment of animal sacrifice is reflected in the literature of the Early Christian and Medieval period.  (Katerina Kovaltchuk – Leuven)

There are several sources that evidence the practice of Christianized sacrificial rituals in the Western parts of Christendom. A vivid description of miracles connected with the enactment of animal sacrifice can be found in the poem 20 of Paulinus of Nola. (Katerina Kovaltchuk – Leuven)

It appears from this passage that there was a special association of the church dedication feasts with the ritual immolation of animals. A custom of sacrificing an animal at Easter is also testified to among the liturgical practices of the Roman Church. Some ninth-century authors record that such a custom of offering a paschal lamb, which was subsequently consumed by the priests and all the faithful, was still in use in the church at their times. (Katerina Kovaltchuk – Leuven)

The account of the celebration of the encaenia of St. Sophia, which described lavish animal immolations conducted by the emperor Justinian, has been re-examined in the light of surviving evidence. The conclusion reached in the process of the present study suggests that the theme of animal sacrifice was not that alien and bizarre to the Byzantine audience as it had been thus far believed.  (Katerina Kovaltchuk – Leuven)

And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness (Leviticus 16, 21–22)

share save 256 24 Sacrifice