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sacrificial language applied to him in the New Testament, agree with known facts?
It must be granted, no one will deny, that if Christ was literally a sacrifice to God, he must have been offered as such: he must have been put to death by some one as a sacrifice. For the very notion of a sacrifice is that of a religious offering made by some person or persons to some God or Gods, as a religious act. There is no prayer, where there is no intent to pray. In the idea of a gift, is embraced that of a giver. There can be no sacrifice where there is not an offering made with a sacrificial intent. If Jesus then was a sacrifice, who sacrificed him?
1. Was he offered, as a sacrifice, by the Romans? They were his immediate executioners. It was a Roman magistrate that pronounced sentence of death against him :-a Ronan soldiery that executed that sentence: a Roman spear that pierced his side. Was he offered, as a sacrifice, by the Romans?-To this hypothesis it may be objected, in the first place, that human sacrifices were never allowed by the established laws of Rome. It is true that a few, very few, cases of human sacrifices can be found in Roman history during the eight hundred years from the foundation of the city to the death of Christ. Some time after Christ, during the reign of Nero or Vespasian, Pliny (a) states that human sacrifices sometimes occurred in Rome. But, before that declining period of Roman greatness and virtue, we find but a single instance in which human sacrifices were offered in Rome, to propitiate the gods: and this took place nearly two centuries before Christ, when the approach of Hannibal to its gates had thrown the city into the utmost consternation.(b) But the historian, to whom we are indebted for the knowledge of this fact, assures us that the place had never before been stained by his countrymen with the blood of human victims.(c) And from the terms of abhorrence in which the Romans, at that very time, speak of those nations which sacrificed even their prisoners of war, we learn in what detestation human sacrifices were held by that people.(d)
To the present hypothesis it may be objected, secondly, that Rome, the city itself, was the only place in which human victims were ever offered by the Romans. But Jesus was put to
(a) Ap. Jahn, Archæologia Bib. § 404.
(b) Livii Hist. Lib. xiii.
(e) Gallus et Galla, Græcus et Græca, in foro Boario, sub terra vivi demissi sunt, in locum saxo conceptum, ibi ante, hostiis humanis minime Romano sacro, imbutum"-(ut supra.)
(d) See the speech of Cn. Metellus before the Senate, in regard to the Galli, in Asia. Livii Hist. Lib. xxxviii.
death in Judea.-A third objection is that, among the Romans, all sacrifices were offered by their priesthood; whereas Jesus was executed by their soldiery. And, fourthly, it may be objected that, whereas the few human victims that were offered in Rome were buried alive,(a) Jesus, on the contrary, suffered death upon a cross, a species of punishment inflicted by the Romans, only upon slaves, robbers, assassins, and those who were adjudged guilty of sedition: (b) and we know, for the evangelists inform us, that this was the crime for which our Lord was tried and, however improperly, condemned.- Was he, then, offered as a sacrifice by the Romans?
2. Was he offered, as a sacrifice, by the Jews. To the idea that he was, the first objection which we have to offer is, that there is no evidence in the scriptures that, in procuring his death, they had any intent to offer him as a sacrifice. And we must remember that a sacrificial intent is as indispensable, in order to constitute any thing a literal sacrifice, as an intent to pray, is to render any address a prayer. And secondly we object they could not have intended to offer Jesus as a sacrifice, for the following reasons. 1. The only sacrifices which the Jews ever did, or ever could offer, in the land of Canaan, without committing a crime that was construed into treason, and capitally punished as such, were those which were expressly appointed in the Mosaic law. That law not only does not permit human sacrifices, but it repeatedly forbids them ;(c) and abounds with the most fearful denunciations against them. 2. All the bloody or animal sacrifices which were required or allowed by Moses were either piacular, such as were offered in expiation of trespasses, or sins; or eucharistical, such as were offered as testimonials of gratitude. All these must be animals of certain kinds, distinctly specified. With these facts before our eyes, it is a needless waste of labour to prove that our Lord could not have been regarded by the Jews as a literal sacrifice, either eucharistical, or piacular: either as an expression of gratitude, or as an atonement for sin.-3. A third reason why the Jews could not have considered Jesus as a sacrifice, of any kind, is that, from before the entrance of the Iraelites into the land of Canaan, they were strictly and re
(a) Jahn, Arch. Bib. § 404. (b) Jahn, Arch. Bib. 261. ibi laudata.
(c) Levit. xviii. 21. Deut. xviii. 10. 2 Kings xvii. 17, 18, Ps. cvi. 37. 38.40. Deut. xii. 31.-If then, Jesus had been offered by the Jews, animo sacrificandi, with the most sacrificial intent, the offering would have been a capital crime by their law, and, of course, not an acceptable sacrifice with God, who gave their law; for he accepts no sacrifice of which the very offering is guilty. To even a heathen moralist it was obvious "nullam scriere religionem exsolvi:"-that no 'religious duty is discharged by the perpetration of a crime. Livii Hist. Lib. ii.-
peatedly forbidden, under penalty of excision, to offer any sacrifices whatever, except in such place as the Lord should appoint for that purpose.(a) Before the building of the temple, the place of sacrifice seems not to have been permanently fixed; but the altar was raised whenever the tabernacle stood, or wherever the ark of the Covenant, which was the great sanctuary of the Israelitish religion, happened to rest. (b) The object of this law, from which there was no exception, except that a prophet had authority to dispense with it,(c) was to guard the worshippers, and even the priests of Jehovah, from all temptation and all opportunity of relapsing into the idolatry by which they were surrounded, and to which they were so propense. This law was, it is true, often violated by wicked monarchs before, and even after, the building of the temple. It was occasionally violated even down to the time of the transportation into Babylon; and, indeed, the transgression of this law was the principal cause of the transportation. But, after the return of the Jews from Babylon, they observed that law so faithfully, that not an instance of its violation in Judea(d) can be shewn till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. And it is owing to the destruction of the temple and altar in Jerusalem, that all Jewish sacrifices have ever since been suspended. From the return of the Jews from Babylon to this moment, the offering of a sacrifice, of any kind, in any other place than the altar and Temple in Jerusalem, would have appeared to them as an inexpiable offence, the most shocking of all abominations. But Jesus "suffered without the gate."(e)
Again, 4. As with the Romans, so it was, especially after the captivity, with the Jews: all their bloody sacrifices must be affered by the hands of their own priesthood.(f) The interference of strangers, and especially of their enemies, with the offering of their sacrifices, would have been regarded by the Jews with the utmost horror. Yet Jesus died by the hands of the idolatrous Romans, and the Jews were clamorous that he might die by their hands. Did they, then, consider him as a sacrifice? Could they have so considered him? If in any sense, it can be said that Jesus was sacrificed by the Jews, it can be only in a
(a) Levit. xvii. 1-9.-especially vs. 8, 9. Deut. xii. 5-28. Levit. xxvi. 30. (b) Vide Michaelis, Mos. Law, 188. Jahn Arch. Bib. § 376.
(c) 1 Sam. xiii. 8-14, xvi. 1-5. 1 Kings xviii. 21-40.
(d) The case of Onias, in Egypt, (Joseph. Ant. Jud. xiii. 3 § 3. Michaelis Mos. Law, 188.) could hardly be considered as an exception, had the observation been general. But it is no exception, restricted, as the statement is, to Judea.
(e) Heb. xiii. 12.
(ƒ) Jahn Arch. Bib. 378.
figurative sense. It may be said that they sacrificed him to their envy, to one of the most bitter and malignant of their own passions; but not to the God of their fathers, the God of holiness and mercy, either as an expression of their gratitude or as an expiation of their sins.
3. Did Jesus, then, sacrifice himself?-It will not be denied that, as, at one time, it might be said that the Jews sacrificed our Lord to their envy, so, at another, it may be said, that he sacrificed himself upon the altar of his duty, or of benevolence, or of pity to the human race. But this is figurative language: and by it we mean that he devoted himself, gave up his life, rather than abandon the arduous and painful offices which he had been commissioned to fill ;-the offices of our Teacher, example, and Saviour. But this metaphorical sacrifice is the result of a metaphorical construction of the passages under consideration. A literal construction of those passages makes the Saviour not only a literal sacrifice, but the greatest of all literal sacrifices. As such, we now ask, did he offer himself?
To the idea that he did, it may be objected, 1. That he never told his disciples that he intended to offer himself, he never gave them to understand that he considered himself as a sacrifice. On the contrary, he did tell his disciples that he came, among other things, to give his life, not a sacrifice, but a ransom for many. On this fact we have something more to offer shortly. 2. We may object to the supposition that Jesus offered himself as a literal sacrifice to God, in any sense, the known fact, to which all the evangelists testify, that he did not offer himself at all. While he did not shun death, if it lay where duty led him, he did not seek it. He was followed, arrested, led away to trial and to death. He did not court danger but rather sought to avoid it. When we see the Roman Curtius(a) voluntarily leaping into a gulf to appease the offended gods of his country and his worship;—or the two Decii, father and son,(b) after dehberately devoting themselves as victims, and, as such, receiving consecration from the priesthood, voluntarily rush into the thickest ranks of their enemies, and fall by their swords, we say that here are men who offer themselves a sacrifice to their country and its gods. We admire their patriotism; and, while we lament their superstition, we give them credit for a lofty, though perhaps misguided, devotion. But how different from the conduct of these men was that of Jesus of Nazareth! They voluntarily plunged into the abyss, that they might be destroyed. He cast himself upon the current of his duty, and was borne (b) Id. Lib. viii. x.
(a) Liv. Hist. Lib. vii.
on by that. They sought death. He merely did not shrink from it, when called by duty to meet it. They actively gave themselves to the destruction which they might have escaped. He passively, though magnanimously, submitted to that which appeared inevitable. So far from courting his sufferings and seeking death, his prayer to his Heavenly Father was reiterated and earnest, that, if it were possible, the cup which was preparing for him might pass from him. How then can it be said that Jesus offered himself to God as a literal sacrifice of any kind?-And if it is a fact, that he did not offer himself,--if it is a fact that neither the Romans nor the Jews offered him-as a sacrifice, by whom was he so offered?--Is not the literal construction of the sacrificial language relating to him, contradicted by so many known facts, that we ought to hesitate before we adopt it?
Thirdly. Do not many of the texts in which Jesus is spoken of as a sacrifice, when literally construed, contradict each other, no less than other scriptures, and known facts?" Wherefore, when he cometh into the world, he saith sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me."(a) For what?-A sacrifice! to be made an offering!-Again; we have just remarked that although Jesus never spoke of himself as a sacrifice, yet he did tell his disciples that he came to give his life a ransom for many.(b) Now, though, in the metaphorical use of language, we may say, of the same thing, now, that it is a sacrifice, and now a ransom, we are not allowed that license when we are using language in its literal sense. Strictly speaking, a sacrifice is one thing, and a ransom is another, so different that one can neither be used nor mistaken for the other. If, then, the body, or the blood, or the life of Jesus was, either strictly or figuratively, a ransom,-as he declares that it was, either strictly or figuratively, it could not have been a literal sacrifice.
Again. Does the writer to the Hebrews (c) in one of the texts quoted at the beginning of this article, say "This man, after that he had once offered a sacrifice for sins?" Paul, in another of these texts says: "for even Christ our passover, is sacrificed for us." (d)-We have already seen that all bloody sacrifices under the Mosaic law, the only sacrifices in Judea that were not idolatrous, were either piacular or eucharistical. All sacrifices for sins were piacular. The passover however was eucharistical. (e) The literal construction of one of these
(a) Heb. x. 5. (b) Matt. xx. 28. (c) Heb. x. 12. (d) 1 Cor. v, 7. (e) " Ad recolenda majora beneficia divina instituta erant festa paschatis, pen, tecostis, et tabernaculorum"-Jahn, Arch. Bib. 353. Vide et 354.