Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sacrifice - Judaism 101

A revJohn reader recently asked me about a source for the Jewish understanding of sacrifice. Like Christians, I'm sure the answer would vary, depending of the Jewish community sourced. But here is one site, Judaism 101, that provides a helpful look at the concept of animal sacrifices. The article points out that Jews do not now offer animal sacrifices because the authorized place of sacrifice, the Temple in Jerusalem, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 C.E. The author of this entry believes, however, that when the messiah comes, sacrifices will resume. Until then, forgiveness for Jews is obtained through repentance, prayer, and good deeds. See the article here.

It is helpful for me to see that after 2,000 years the concept of animal sacrifice is still seen, in some Jewish communities, as something that God desires. So it is not surprising to me that first century Jews who actually approached God in this manner and who became followers of Jesus of Nazareth and who struggled to find meaning to his cruel and horrific death, would conceptualize this event as "blood sacrifice" and as an "atonement for sin."


jakemaxwel said...

The whole sacrifice thing leaves me cold. It was very much a part of the pagan tradition. I teach Julius Caesar to sophomores (and yes, I love teaching the play). I find it timely every time I teach it, and that is once a year for 15 or so years, and I am always struck by how Caesar sends to the soothsayer and how a pig when sacrificed to Apollo reveals sacred signs in his entrails! Shakespeare shows it to be just one of many warnings that would have allowed Caesar to thwart fate.

And when it comes to atonement for sin, I am like many others. The sin of the world--the Middle Passage, the Holocaust, child abuse,etc., etc.--is something so horrible I cannot wrap my mind around its horror. I also cannot wrap my mind around its redemption. I guess it is just the age old question: why does a loving God allow such suffering?

revJohn said...

I fully agree. We are so far removed from the conceptual world of "blood sacrifice" that for many of us this is no longer a helpful way of speaking about God and the work of Christ. Based on what we know of Jesus and the God who he addressed as Father, what other concepts might prove more meaningful to our own culture and world view?