We have come some ways through this series. If you want to know where I’m coming from, just check out my first post. The missionary has given his best shot at trying to appeal to a person’s conscience to convince them to go for Jesus. He’s stated that he is judging whether a person is a good person or not based supposedly on the 10 commandments.
In this series I’ve gone through serious problems with the missionary’s method, through ways that the 10 commandments and rest of the Torah Law that surrounds it actually rebels against their method. In this part, I’m going to deal with a crucial part of their method.
So you’re a sinner, who can save you?
The missionary has gone through his list of the 10 commandments to convince the target that they are guilty and condemned, that they deserve nothing more than punishment. So what next? Here’s an excerpt of what the missionary may just say to you or their target.
EVANGELIST: So imagine you’re in court, and you’ve been fined [a high amount of any currency]. You don’t have any money, or you don’t have enough. You can only go to prison. But then some stranger [or the judge himself in some versions] chooses to pay your fine. In your case, God chose to pay your fine by sending Jesus to take your punishment. Jesus died for you. You can’t get to heaven (be right with God) by lying on a bed of nails, fasting or praying. The bible says all our righteousness is as filthy rags. So no other religion can give you forgiveness. None of our deeds can save us. But if you repent of your sin and trust in Jesus to save you, then you’ll get eternal life not just because you’re sorry but because Jesus pay the price for you and now God can let you go free. It’s a free gift of God.
OK, so I make the mistakes, I’m guilty, and because I can do nothing about it, Jesus steps in and dies for my sin. That seems to be the impression the missionary is giving. In a way, it seems logical, maybe even plausible. So what’s the problem?
Apart from what I discussed in part 2 where I show that God doesn’t need sacrifice to forgive, apart from that, the problem is what the missionary is using the condemn a person. I mean, think about it. The missionary says that he is judging a person based on the 10 commandments. These 10 commandments are part of a whole body of Law called the Torah. So based on God’s law, the Torah, is it legal or acceptable for a human being, or a person, to die to pay the penalty for the sins of others?
It is important that we answer this question based on the Torah because it is on this foundation that the rest of the Jewish Bible is based. No prophet, no king, no body could add or subtract from it or contradict it. If a prophet would teach against it, then that prophet by default is a false prophet. That’s how fundamental this law is.
So if a missionary is going to use the law of God to judge a person, then we should use that same law of God to determine what is acceptable payment or penalty for the law breaking and what is not acceptable. So what does the law say about someone like Jesus paying for our sins? We’ve already seen that the Jewish Bible has already shown repentance is an acceptable way to get forgiveness and atonement. But what about a man (whether he was just a man or God himself) paying for our sins?
In simple terms
If you were to read Jewish Torah, the first five books of the Bible, the books that contain the 10 commandments, you would notice that something is glaringly missing with regards to the christian argument. Now I’ll be going through the plain text, not any metaphorical understanding of it.
There are certain sins for which an offering is required according to Jewish law. These “sin” offerings were only given for sins committed inadvertently or by mistake. They only atoned for past mistakes and sins. Only specific things could be offered and only in specific ways. The specific things to be offered were either animals or birds denoted as “pure” or clean (bad translations of the hebrew word) or flour that was pre-prepared. And even if the animals were “pure,” they had to be specific animals of the flock, like goats, bulls and sheep. The birds could only be of a certain type, like doves and pigeons. They had to have no physical blemish or wounds. These offerings had to be knowingly and repentantly offered by the person who committed the sin on the special altar in the tabernacle or temple, and the rest of the rite had to be carried out by Levitical priests, priests descended from Levi through the biological father. The sin offering, if an animal, would killed in a way to ensure blood-loss (Jewish tradition shows that the throat was cut to ensure a quick death with heavy blood loss) for use in the temple/tabernacle, and was normally cut into pieces with different parts of it being used in different ways, but all of it ended up burnt up.
Now that is just a general summary of the “sacrificial” law in the books of Moses, which is why I’m not quoting particular verses. It is highly recommended that you just read the books yourself, especially Exodus chapters 24-40, Leviticus 1-10, Numbers chapter 28 and 29. So just to give some bullet points of what I’ve just said about the legal offerings and sacrifices according to the law of Moses which contains the 10 commandments.
- only for inadvertent sins or sins by mistake.
- only atoned for past sins.
- specific practices involved in each type of sacrifice.
- only “pure” animal, “pure” bird, or flour offerings accepted.
- only specific domesticated “farm” animals, or certain birds used.
- only whole, unblemished, uninjured animals or birds accepted.
- only offered on the special altar in the tabernacle or temple.
- only the person who committed the sin could offer the sacrifice.
- only a priest descended from Levi by the biological father could perform the rites.
- animal offering was killed quickly with heavy blood loss so that the blood could be used in the rites.
- body parts were cut up and burned in different places.
So let me state the obvious right now. Jesus’ death was no legal sacrifice whatsoever! In almost every single way, Jesus’ death breaks Torah law for sacrifices.
- Torah sacrifices are only for inadvertent sins or sins by mistake. Jesus’ death is supposed to cover all sin. Thus this is not a Torah sacrifice.
- Torah sacrifices only atone for past sins. Jesus’ death is supposed to cover sins for all times, past, present and future. This is not a Torah sacrifice (for more fundamental reasons on why his death is fundamentally invalid to atone for anyone’s sin, see the following section on personal responsibility)
- Torah sacrifices have specific practices involved in each type of sacrifice. In Jesus’ “passion,” his death, he was more or less just brutalized and hung out to die. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
- In Torah sacrifices, only “pure” animal, “pure” bird, or flour offerings are accepted. Jesus was a human or god-human hybrid/monster. That is not categorized as a “pure” animal or bird, and he ain’t flour pre-prepared. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
- In Torah sacrifices, only specific domesticated “farm” animals, or certain birds could be used. Jesus was a human or god-human hybrid/monster. He was not one of the domesticated animals or birds specified for use in Torah sacrifices. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
- In Torah sacrifices, only whole, unblemished, uninjured animals or birds were accepted. Jesus was brutalized and injured heavily before he was hung out to die by suffocation on a cross/stake. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
- Torah sacrifices were only offered on the special altar in the tabernacle or temple. Jesus died on a Roman cross which is not the special altar in the Jewish temple. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
- With Torah sacrifices, only the person who committed the sin could offer the sacrifice, and only a sacrifice of knowing repentance was accepted by God. Jesus offered himself and he didn’t represent anyone. No one apart from his followers accepted him as anything whilst the rest of the whole world on a whole either didn’t know of his existence or were not repentant of the sin he supposedly came to die for or didn’t accept his human body as a worthy sacrifice. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
- With Torah sacrifices, only a priest descended from Levi by the biological father could perform the rites. Jesus was not a Levitical priest, his father was not of the lineage of Levi. The Romans who brutalised, tortured, killed him and put him on a cross were gentiles and so were definitely not descended from Levi, much less any Israelite tribe. So this is not a Torah sacrifice.
- In Torah sacrifices, animal offerings were killed quickly with heavy blood loss so that the blood could be used in the rites. Jesus had a slow agonizing death by suffocation by hanging on the cross with whatever little blood loss splattered wherever it splashed but nowhere near the temple. Crucifixion victims died generally of suffocation, lack of air, rather than blood loss. Again, this is not a Torah sacrifice.
- In Torah sacrifices, the body parts of the animals were cut up and burned in different places. Jesus’ internal organs were not touched. No part of him was burned. This is not a Torah sacrifice.
Let’s be blunt. I could have started and stopped with the fact that Jesus wasn’t of the animals specified by the law to be used for sacrifice. That would have said everything there! But just to be a bit more detailed, I just wanted to show you that in every important aspect of the Torah sacrifice, Jesus failed miserably to be a sacrifice according to Torah. And since Jesus can’t be a Torah sacrifice, how can he atone for sins again Torah law? The answer is that he can’t. And we haven’t touched on the principle of personal responsibility yet.
Let me put it a different way. The missionary is going to confront his target stating that he will judge them by the 10 commandments. Yet the same law that is inextricably connected to the 10 commandments tells a person what to do if they commit certain sins. If you are going to judge a person by the law, then you should be consistent and give the judgments that the law gives. If a person breaks the 10 commandments, then the law tells them what to do. If they are a Jew and their act falls under a certain class of sin, then the person uses an animal sacrifice in the temple. Jesus’ sacrifice is illegal. There is nothing about his sacrifice that fits with Torah law. You can’t give someone a judgment, a condemnation, based on law and then give a remedy that is not part of that law.
If the law of Moses had only said that only death and blood is needed to atone for sin, then the christian would have a case. The ancient Israelites would just have to kill anything to get atonement, be it a pig, a spider, a coyote, a wolf, a human child. If they had knowledge of bacteria in those days, maybe they could have just given their house a nice anti-bacterial wash. That would have killed loads of bacteria and provided loads of atonement. If only blood was needed, then an Israelite could get instant atonement and prick his finger or bite his lip. So it is not good enough for Jesus to push past everyone and say “it’s ok, guys! All God wants is death as payment, so I’ll die for you!” It’s not like our modern concept of a fine where as long as it’s paid, everything’s ok, regardless if the criminal pays it or someone pays for it on his behalf.
Again it’s the missionary’s infantile notion of what sacrifice in the Jewish Torah and the Jewish Bible is, and the ignorance of their target which makes their argument persuasive to the target.
Escaping the text
You see, even though the christian missionary is attempting to confront their target with the text of the 10 commandments – or rather their interpretation of the 10 commandments – once they’ve finished forcing a person to condemn themselves with their re-constructed 10 commandments, they then leave the text and context of the Torah, the law of Moses, and the Jewish Bible. Where the law of Moses continues afterwards, where it explains in good detail the other commandments and the offerings, the missionary takes the target out of the law to a crude view of brutal justice where only death can make up for sin. The question that remains in their method is this: If the missionary is going to judge a person by the law, why then promote a sacrifice that is foreign and illegal to that same law???
But as you may have guessed, missionaries and christians have their “answers” to what I’ve said above, but you will notice a certain motif in how they deal with their own inconsistency.
Some will say Jesus didn’t fulfil Torah law because he was a greater sacrifice that the Law could not provide. He was the spotless perfect human sacrifice (whether people believe he was “god” or not, he was still a man that died). The only problem is that there is nothing about his death that makes it a sacrifice. For all intents and purposes, it just looks like a death, an execution. Thousands of executions were done the same way in that era, by crucifixion. And the claims of his resurrection, whether true or not, could never prove that his death was an acceptable sacrifice. In times of old, when the animals were slaughtered and burnt, you didn’t see any of them reforming and springing back to life because God accepted the sacrifice. What was dead remained dead, but the sacrifice was still accepted. But in those sacrifices there were the conditions that made it look like a ritual sacrifice, not simply a routine slaughter. There was nothing in Jesus’ death that made it any different to a routine crucifixion and changed its nature to someone offering himself for the sins of the whole world, as if such a thing were possible.
Christians will say that the law pointed to Jesus’ death, that the sacrifices of the law of Moses were just shadows and hints towards Jesus’ coming and his death. But that’s one of the reasons I titled this section as I did: “Escaping the Text.” There is nothing in the Law of Moses that implies that its sacrifices were in some way prophetic, something that would fade or change with time. It’s actually stipulated in the law that no one should add or subtract from any of the Torah laws (Deuteronomy 4:2; 13:1 [12:32 in christian translations]). In fact, in a later book called Ezekiel, there are prophecies at the end of the book, from chapter 40-48, that speak of a future third temple where the sacrificial law will be re-instituted, including offerings for atonement. There is no overt sign in the text that says that the whole thing is purely metaphorical or that it pre-figures something else.
There is no sign in the Jewish Bible that one man can die for another. In fact, there are passages in the Jewish Bible that contradicts such an idea, which I’ll talk about in the next session.
But to really sum all this up, the missionary cannot build a case based on the words of the law of Moses to claim that a man can be a valid sacrifice for any sin whatsoever. It’s therefore ridiculous to claim that Jesus’ death was some sort of sacrifice for sin based on that fundamental law. I’ll say it again, it is inconsistent and bad practice for a missionary to condemn a person or guide a person to condemn himself/herself based on part of the law of Moses, the 10 commandments, and then give a solution that not only has no part of the law, but is illegal and invalid based on that law.
What is lacking from the missionary’s understanding of the sacrificial law and the rest of the Jewish Bible is the fact that everyone is responsible for their own sin, their own mistakes. See the following quotes:
The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers; every man shall be put to death for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16)
The soul that sins, it shall die; the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:20)
The Jewish Bible – its law and its prophets – are fundamentally about personal responsibility. They say that each person is responsible for their own actions and no one can take that away from an indvidual. If a person does wickedly, it doesn’t matter if his brother or son or best friend is as good as good can be. One person cannot transfer his good character and deeds onto another. If a person acts properly and in a good manner, it doesn’t matter if his brother or son or best friend is as evil as evil can be. One person cannot transfer his wicked character and deeds onto another.
It’s this principle of personal responsibility that explains why sacrifices can only atone for past sins, why there must be knowing repentance when the sacrifice is offered, and why no one else can atone for the sins of any other person. Firstly, when a person breaks the law, they’ve committed a new sin. So they have to take personal responsibility for that new sin and therefore do the appropriate act to gain forgiveness for the wrong as a sign that they aim to correct their behaviour. Secondly, to take responsibility of a mistake, a person has to take ownership of it, i.e., that person must know that they did a wrong action and account for whatever part of the action was their own fault. In that knowledge, the sacrifice is a sign of that acknowledgement, the accepting upon oneself of the bad deed in order to bring a sign that one wants to do better. And lastly, no one else can atone for the sin because no one else was responsible for the act that the individual is guilty of. This is not just an act between a human and a human court. This is a sin, a disturbance, between man and God. No one else can step in in such cases.
This is why repentance is a way of getting atonement: because it is the individual taking responsible for his wrong actions, leaving those bad ways acknowledging that they were wrong, and seeking to do what is right. In essence, he is observing God’s teaching in the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 30:15-20) that says “I set before you life and good, and death and evil … so choose good.” He personally has left death and evil and chosen good. That relates to an individual’s relationship with God.
It would appear that God’s law and the teachings of the Jewish prophets is not simply to live “covered under the blood” as christians do. But rather the emphasis of the teaching is to take personal responsibility for your actions and do good. According to the Jewish Bible, this is possible and recommended.
Now understand that even in our legal system, you can see how the christian missionary is actually trying to cause a miscarriage of justice by having Jesus take the penalty for everyone else. Think about it! What the missionary tells you first is that you are worthy of death, i.e. capital punishment, or worse for your sins. And then he switches things and treats your “just” punishment as if it is not a capital punishment case anymore but just a fine that needs paying. And thus, in that other part of law (civil law), since all that is needed is for a fine to be paid, then as long as the fine is paid, everything is settled. But if you know a bit about law, you’ll see there is a difference between an offence that can be paid off with a fine, and an offence that requires a life sentence or the death penalty. If an innocent person was to take the death penalty or a life sentence for an admitted criminal, like a serial murderer or rapist, even if that innocent person was to do so willingly, it would be a miscarriage of justice. The crime is so great that the person who did the act must pay for it and no one else. To have an innocent person pay that sort of penalty and the criminal walk scot free does not glorify grace and mercy, but rather reeks and stinks of the destruction of true justice. Even if the criminal is truly repentant, neither justice nor mercy can be served by an innocent party having to serve the life sentence or getting the death penalty.
Just think about the God of the Bible! He is not simply about being paid off, as if a person is having a fine paid. That’s why in Isaiah chapter 1, He says through his prophet Isaiah to a sinning nation, that He doesn’t want their sacrifices or festivals, even though He commanded these things. He doesn’t even want prayer! What He wanted was for the actions and lifestyle of the people to change and be corrected. He said the following in Isaiah chapter 1 verses 16 and 17.
(16) Wash! Clean yourselves up! Remove the evil of your doings from before My eyes! Cease to do evil! (17) Learn to do well! Seek justice! Relieve the oppressed! Defend the cause of the fatherless! Argue the case for the widow!
The first thing you’ll notice in this whole piece of writing is that these missionaries are inconsistent in their usage of the law to condemn a person and then using the death of another person as some form of substitution which is an illegal, invalid and illegitimate sacrifice according to that same law.
The Jewish Bible is about personal responsibility which is another factor that invalidates Jesus’ death as atoning for anyone’s sin but his own. It is that teaching of personal responsibility that gives the most important conclusion to this article and to all the others that came before it:
Based on the teachings of the Jewish Bible, God doesn’t want a person to rely on any sacrifice, no matter how perfect people will tell you that sacrifice is. Through his prophets we have the following messages:
(6) With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? (7) Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression? the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ 8 It has been told to you, O man, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: only to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:6-8)
(21) Thus has said the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Add your burnt-offerings to your sacrifices, and eat flesh! (22) For I didn’t speak to your fathers, nor did I commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, about burnt-offerings or sacrifices; (23) but this thing I commanded them, saying: ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people; and walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you. (Jeremiah 7:21-23)
For God, it’s not all about the blood! It’s not all about some sacrifice. The primary thing that the Creator asks of each of us is to live according to His way, to live righteously, to be a good person who recognises his Creator. The quote in Jeremiah isn’t meant literally, but simply means that the first thing God wanted from His people is obedience.
Likewise for us today, whether Jew or Gentile, it is wrong for us to “live under the blood,” to focus on any one sacrifice as if that is what really matters. For all the sacrifices mentioned in the law – and they have their place – God wants our lives to change for the better. As a biblical proverb says, God much prefers a righteous life and standard than sacrifices.
So the missionary tactic is both misleading and a misdirection. They try to point you to some invalid and fundamentally powerless human sacrifice to pay some “fine” that is supposed to refer to a death sentence placed on your life because of any mistake, small or great, you’ve made in the past. I would ask you to actually look for God’s way when it comes to handling our sins and wrongdoing, focus on Him and live according to His law rather than accepting an empty gesture from the dying Jesus or from those who interpret his execution as sacrifice.