Christ Was, in the Strict Jewish Sense, a Sacrifice

by A. A. Hodge


OUR third argument is derived from the fact that the Scriptures constantly represent Christ as dying, and thus effecting the salvation of his people as a SACRIFICE. The points involved in this argument are the following. 1. From the dawn of sacred history the first and everywhere prevailing mode in which the true people of God worshipped him with acceptance was in the use of bloody sacrifices. From the family of Adam this usage prevailed among the inhabitants of all countries and the votaries of all religions up to the time of Christ. And these sacrifices were universally regarded by those offering them as vicarious sufferings, expiating sin and propitiating God. 2. The sacrifices which God ordained under the Mosaic economy were certainly expiatory. 3. They were, moreover, certainly typical of the sacrifice of Christ; that is, Christ, in dying, expiated the sins of his own people on precisely the same principles that the Jewish sacrifices expiated the offerer's violation of the ceremonial law.

I. That sacrifices originated in the family of Adam, that down to the time of Christ they continued the inseparable accompaniment of all acceptable worship, and that they were diffused among the people of all lands and all religions, are simple matters of fact admitted by all. It has, however, been much disputed whether they originated in an immediate divine revelation, and whether their observance was at first imposed by divine authority. The early Christian Fathers generally, the learned and orthodox Outram, the great body of Socinian, rationalistic, and Broad Church writers, as Maurice and Bushnell, have answered this question in the negative; while the Unitarians, Priestly, Dr. John Young, and the great body of orthodox divines, have decided affirmatively. This is just as we should have expected to find it. The question as to the origin and character of the primitive sacrifices is not necessarily bound up with the far more important questions which concern the Mosaic sacrifices and the sacrifice of Christ. Men may take orthodox views as to the divine origin of sacrifice, while they utterly misconceive its true nature and design. Yet truth is so self-consistent in all its parts, that it is eminently natural for all those who believe that the Mosaic sacrifices were piacular, and that they were typical of the work of Christ, to believe that the whole system of primitive sacrifices was ordained by God to be typical of that great event.

At any rate, their divine origin appears to be established with sufficient certainty by the following considerations. (1.) It is inconceivable that either the propriety or probable utility of presenting material gifts to the invisible God, and especially of attempting to propitiate God by the slaughter of his irrational creatures, should ever have occurred to the human mind as a spontaneous suggestion. Every instinctive sentiment and every presumption of reason must, in the first instance, have appeared to exclude them. (2.) On the hypothesis that God intended to save men, it is inconceivable that he should have left them without instruction upon a question so vital as that concerned in the means whereby they might approach into his presence and conciliate his favour. (3.) It is characteristic of all God's self-revelations, under every dispensation, that he discovers himself as jealous of any use by man of unauthorized methods of worship or service. He uniformly insists upon this very point of his sovereign right of dictating methods of worship and service, as well as terms of acceptance. The religion of unfallen men might, well enough, proceed on a basis of natural reason and conscience acting spontaneously. But since the salvation of the sinner must be only of grace, the religion of the sinner, in the principles on which it rests, the methods by which it is realized, and the very forms whereby it is to be expressed, must originate with God, and be dictated by him to us. Thus, all manner of 'will-worship' and 'teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,' are forbidden with equal emphasis in both the Old and New Testaments. Matt. 15:9; Mark 7:7; Isa. 29:13; Col. 2:23. (4.) As a matter of fact, the very first recorded instance of acceptable worship in the family of Adam brings before us bleeding sacrifices, and seals them emphatically with the divine approbation. They appear in the first recorded act of worship. Gen. 4:3, 4. They are emphatically approved by God as soon as they appear. From that time down to the era of Moses they continued to be universally the characteristic mode in which the people of God worship him acceptably. Gen. 8:20–22; 15:9, 10; 22:2–13; Job. 1:5; 42:8.

That these primitive sacrifices were strictly piacular appears to be certain—(1.) From the manner in which the sacred record presents the direct effect of the sacrifice of Noah. Immediately after he left the ark 'Noah builded an altar unto the Lord, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a savour of rest;* and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake,' &c. Gen. 8:20–22. (2.) Also from what is said of the occasion and design of the sacrifices of Job: 'His sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day … And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt-offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job all the days.' Job 1:4, 5.* (3.) The bleeding sacrifices which prevailed among all races of mankind, and the votaries of all the ethnic religions from the ages preceding all written history, were certainly regarded as piacular. This fact is freely admitted by Bähr and by all the advocates of the Moral Theory of the sacrifice of Christ.

Such writers as Jowett and Maurice, Young and Bushnell, reject the plain teaching of the Bible on the subject of vicarious and piacular sacrifices, because it outrages their instinctive moral judgments and sentiments. Maurice, Young, and Bushnell maintain that the sacrifices of the Mosaic institute were not piacular—that they were designed to express the repentance and spiritual aspirations of the worshipper, and not to effect the propitiation of God. Jowett, more consistent than they in his Rationalism, as he far surpasses them in learning and genius, appears to admit that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were piacular, but denies that they are so far forth true types of the sacrifice of Christ. 'Heathen and Jewish sacrifices rather show us what the sacrifice of Christ was not than what it was.'* Again, he affirms that 'to state this view of the doctrine at length (that is, the orthodox view) is but to translate the New Testament into the language of the Old.'† We point them to the fact that sacrifices, undeniably vicarious and piacular, have prevailed everywhere among all nations from before the dawn of history down, at least, to the Christian era. They respond by admitting the fact alleged to its utmost extent, but maintain that it is the result and expression of crude civilization and gross superstition. Michaëlis attributes the universal prevalence of piacular sacrifices to a sensus communis, having its ground in human nature. Thompson argues the same principle at length in the second of his Bampton Lectures. Bishop Butler says: 'By the general prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices over the heathen world, this notion of repentance alone being sufficient to expiate guilt appears to be contrary to the general sense of mankind.' This reduces the question to a direct issue between the cultivated moral consciousness of a few 'advanced thinkers,' self-styled, of the nineteenth century, on the one hand, and on the other, the natural moral instincts of all races and nations. This issue is made not by us, but by the 'advanced thinkers' themselves. It appears to be a reductio ad absurdum, and a finished specimen of its kind.

II. That the sacrifices instituted by God, under the Mosaic economy, were vicarious and expiatory is susceptible of abundant proof. The death of the bleeding sacrifice was a pœna vicaria, a vicarious punishment, the life of the victim being substituted in the stead of the life of the offerer.

This is the traditional and orthodox view of both the Jewish and the Christian Churches, held in common by all writers of authority, from the Rabbins and the early Fathers down to very recent times. Even among modern German writers it is supported by many rationalists, such as Gesenius, De Wette, Bruno Bauer, &c., who have no interest in any relation the Jewish sacrifices may have to the Christian atonement, as well as orthodox expositors of the first eminence for learning and genius, as Hengstenberg, Tholuck, Lange, Ebrard, Thomasius, Kahnis and Kurtz. As I shall show below, this view is plainly taught by the inspired record of the institution, observance and history of the Mosaic sacrifices, and also by the entire mass of whatsoever traditions related to the subject remain in the world.

The old Socinian view of sacrifice taught in the last century by the Latitudinarian Sykes and the Unitarian John Taylor, of Norwich, has in this generation been revived and advocated with great ability by Bähr, and through him disseminated among classes of men not confessedly Socinian, yet unwilling to accept the hereditary faith of the Church. His opinion was, that the death of the victim, instead of being a vicarious punishment, was no essential part of the transaction, but merely incidental as a means of affording the blood. The essence of the whole sacrificial service, according to Bähr, was the sprinkling of the blood, as the bearer of the life, upon God's altar, thus symbolizing the giving away of the offerer's life to God; 'in other words, his returning back again to God, by repentance and faith and self-dedication, after being separated from him by sin.' Jowett appears to give up the Jewish sacrifices as being as entirely unjustifiable as those of the heathen. He says, 'Heathen and Jewish sacrifices rather show us what the death of Christ was not than what it was. They are the dim, vague, rude, almost barbarous expression of that want in human nature which has received satisfaction in him only.' 'The death of Christ is not a sacrifice in the Levitical sense.' 'Not the sacrifice, nor the satisfaction, nor the ransom, but the greatest moral act ever done in the world—the act, too, of one in our likeness—is the assurance to us that God in Christ is reconciled to the world.'*

Maurice, not being sufficiently advanced to reject with Jowett the Old Testament sacrifices as barbarous, must needs agree with Bähr in making them mere symbolical expressions of the subjective state of the offerer, who presented his victim in place of himself as an expression of 'his sense of gratitude, of obligation, of dependence.' He admits that the inspired apostle applied the Greek words ἱλασμὸς and ἱλαστήριον to Christ, as sacrificed for us, in the sense which those words had always born in classical Greek. Yet he says that in its Christian use its uniform 'heathen sense must be, not modified, but inverted.'* That is, Paul chose a word which always had meant, and which could only signify to his readers, the very opposite of what he intended to say. An admirable canon of interpretation, to be applied whenever the apostle says the opposite of what Maurice is willing to believe!

Bushnell is essentially in agreement with Maurice and Bähr. With him the Jewish sacrifices were the liturgy of the Jewish religion, a transactional liturgy, expressing the confession of guilt and repentance by the worshipper before God as a reconciling God. He holds that the only effect of the sacrifices was lustral. 'Here, then, is the grand terminal of all sacrifice; taken as a liturgy, it issues in making clean; purges, washes, sprinkles, purifies, sanctifies, carries away pollution; in that sense absolves the guilty.'

Dr. John Young, of Edinburgh, holds precisely the same view of the Mosaic sacrifices. 'When a Jew brought his sacrifice to the altar, two distinct ideas were presented to his mind. On the one hand, here was a merciful divine provision for his animal life; on the other hand, the God who had made this provision was here laying claim to the reverence and love of his heart, and demanding his willing return and self-surrender. Every fresh offering was meant to be a new return and self-surrender to his God.'

This theory has been fully sifted and refuted by Kurtz and Fairbairn. Its only ground is a moral (so-called) sentiment which refuses to accept the doctrine of expiation so plainly read by the whole Church in the words of Scripture. It is utterly without support, either in the natural sense of the Pentateuch, in the New Testament application of the law to the gospel, or in the opinions of ancient Jews or Christians, who lived when sacrifices were in habitual use.

The bleeding sacrifices under the Mosaic law were of three kinds; the sin and trespass-offering, the burnt-offering and the peace-offering. The presentation, the imposition of hands and confession of sins, and the slaughtering, were the same in all. 'But in the remaining functions, the sprinkling of the blood, the burning, and the sacrificial meal, we find characteristic differences, inasmuch as each one of these three stands out by itself as a peculiarly emphasized and prominent feature in one of the three kinds of sacrifice. The sprinkling of the blood was the culminating point in the sin-offering. In the others, it evidently fell into the background, the blood being merely poured around upon the altar; but in the sin-offerings the horns of the altar of burnt-offering, in which the whole worth of the altar culminated, were appointed as the object upon which the blood was to be sprinkled. In some cases even this appeared insufficient, and the blood was taken into the Holy Place, where it was sprinkled upon the horns of the altar of incense, towards the curtain before the Capporeth, and sometimes even upon the Capporeth itself, in the Most Holy Place. In the burnt-offering, עלה, an ascension or going up, and כליל, the whole, on the other hand, the act of burning was the culminating point. Lastly, the sacrificial meal was the main point and real characteristic of the peace-offering.'* From this we obtain a by no means unimportant insight into the nature and distinguishing characteristic of the sacrifices. There was confession of sin and the infliction of death, the vicarious penalty, in all alike; but in the case of the sin and trespass-offering, expiation of some special sin, the removal of some special penalty involving exclusion from the covenant of grace, is the great thing intended. In the case of the burnt-offering, atonement was made for sin as a constant habit and condition in a more general sense, and together with this there was an expression made of the entire consecration of the life and substance of the worshipper to his God. In the case of the peace-offering, the characteristic feature was, that after the sin had been confessed, imposed and atoned, the fat and richer portions of the sacrifice were burnt upon the altar, and thus given to Jehovah, while the offerer and his friends feasted upon the remaining portions. 'This was the symbol of established friendship with God and near communion with him in the blessings of his kingdom, and was associated in the minds of the worshippers with feelings of peculiar joy and gladness.'

As it is undeniable that it was the sin and trespass-offering that were most specially typical of the work of Christ, and since it was in these that the idea of expiation was most explicitly set forth, it will abundantly suffice our purpose if we establish the truth of our general position with regard to them. It is, moreover, altogether unnecessary that we should complicate our investigation by discussing the long-debated and really obscure question as to the distinction between the sin-offering and the trespass-offering. Whatever that difference may have been, it can sustain no relation to our present discussion. As far as expiating sin and propitiating God by a pœna vicaria is concerned, 'as the sin-offering is, so is the trespass-offering; there is one law for them.' Lev. 7:7.

I shall attempt to make good my position, that the sin-offering expiated sin and propitiated God on the principle of vicarious punishment, by noticing (a) their occasions; (b) the qualifications and sacrificial designations of the victims; (c) the ritual of the sacrifice; (d) their declared effects; (e) the testimony of the inspired prophets, and of ancient heathens, Jews and Christians.

1. The law of the sin-offering is recorded Lev. 4–6:13. From this record it is plain, (a) that the occasion of the sin-offering was some special sin; (b) that this included moral as well as ceremonial transgressions, lying, stealing, false swearing, licentiousness, &c.; (c) that sins were in this respect divided into two classes—those which admitted of expiation and those which did not. Sins of ignorance and infirmity fell into the former class, and sins committed 'presumptuously' or 'with a high hand' were embraced in the latter class. The point to be observed is, that whenever a priest, or the whole congregation, or a ruler, or one of the common people, became conscious of a sin, the punishment of which, if unexpiated, would have involved exclusion from the fellowship of the covenant people, he, or in the case of the whole congregation, their representatives the priests, were directed to bring the bullock or the goat and offer it in his stead.*

2. The bleeding sacrifices, which were to suffer death in the place of men, were to be exclusively either sheep or bullocks or goats, or pigeons in a few cases. These last, in the economy of Jewish life, took the place occupied by the domestic fowl among us, and all classes were chosen from the highest classes of clean animals, those most immediately associated with man, and therefore of all possible living substitutes for man's life the most nearly human. These were to be selected, each individual the most perfect of its kind as to age, health and physical excellence. Lev. 22:20–27; Ex. 22:30; 29:28, &c. This physical perfection of the animal was symbolical of spiritual perfection in the man, and indicated that only an innocent and pure life could be accepted as a sacrificial substitute in the stead of a polluted one; thus typically foreshadowing the characteristics of him who was offered as 'a lamb without blemish and without spot.' And yet, notwithstanding the ceremonial perfection of the selected victim, considered in itself, the common name for them, considered as vicarious sacrifices bearing and expiating another's sins, were חטאת, sin (Lev. 4:3; 8:20–28), and אשם, guilt (Lev. 5:6, 16, 19, &c., &c.) The victim is called sin or guilt, obviously because its entire character as a sacrifice is summed up in this, that it is a substitute for a sinner, and that its death is the punishment of sin. In perfect consistency with the type it is declared of the ever-immaculate Jesus that he who, considered in himself, knew no sin, was, as our vicarious sacrifice 'made SIN for us.' 2 Cor. 5:21.

3. The truth we contend for is made very plain by the ritual of the sacrifice, or the prescribed ceremonies, which preceded and accompanied the slaughter of the victims. These were—

(1.) The laying on of hands. This is prescribed in the case of all kinds of bleeding sacrifices, including the burnt and peace-offering. Lev. 1:4; 3:2; 4:4–15; 16:21; 2 Chron. 29:23. This is a natural and expressive symbol of transfer from the person imposing to the person or thing upon which they are imposed. Thus it is used to designate a personal substitute or representative. Compare Num. 8:10 and 8:16. Also to communicate official character and authority. Deut. 34:9; Acts 6:6; 1 Tim. 4:14. And to communicate the virtue which went out from Christ and his apostles when they wrought miraculous cures. Matt. 9:18; Mark 6:5; Acts 9:12, 17. Now the sacrifice had its reason only in the sin of the offerer, and the displeasure of God with him in consequence. He appeared before God with his sacrifice in his hand as a sinner. He uniformly accompanied the laying on of hands with the confession of sins. Outram quotes from the rabbinical writings the following 'Form of deprecation used by a sinner offering a piacular sacrifice, who said with his own mouth, while his hands were laid upon the head of the victim: 'I beseech thee, O Lord; I have sinned, I have trespassed, I have rebelled; I have done this or that … but now I repent, and let THIS be my expiation.' ' Aaron Ben Chajim says, 'Where there is no confession of sins, there is no imposition of hands, because imposition of hands belongs to confession of sins.'* When the sacrifice had reference to the sin of an individual, the man placed his own hands on the head of the victim and confessed. When it had reference to the sins of the whole congregation, the elders of the congregation (Lev. 4:15) laid their hands upon the head of the bullock and confessed as the representatives of the whole body. Hence, in either case, he or they could have transferred to the victim nothing more than the guilt or obligation to punishment incidental to his or their sin. This transference is expressly declared to be effected in the case of the sin-offering for the people on the great day of atonement. Lev. 16:7–22. The two goats presented at the door of the tabernacle are expressly said to be one victim; 'two kids of the goats for a sin-offering,' 'so that the sacrifice consisted of two, merely from the natural impossibility of otherwise giving a full representation of what was to be done; the one being designed more especially to exhibit the means, the other the effect of the atonement.' That the two kids form but one sacrifice is plain from the entire reading of the passage. They are called so in verse fifth. They are brought and presented together to the Lord. The Lord decides by the lot which shall die and which shall go into the wilderness. The one stands by and is atoned for by the dying victim (see Hebrew of verse 10), and then bears away the sins thus expiated into the land of forgetfulness for ever. '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 the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited.'*

(2.) The slaying of the victim. The original sentence pronounced by God upon all sin, from the commencement, was death. Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 17, 19. The apostle declares that the principle abides for ever that 'the wages of sin is death.' Rom. 6:23. To this the whole Mosaic law was conformed; for 'without shedding of blood is no remission.' Heb. 9:22. The sinner having presented his victim, and laying his hands upon its head, confessed and transferred his sin upon its head; 'it was accepted for him, to make atonement for him,' Lev. 4; and he executed upon it with his own hands the penalty incurred by the sins he had transferred. 'For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar, to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul,' Lev. 17:11; that is, the life or soul of the victim atones for the life or soul of the offerer, having been judicially executed as its substitute. Hence the altar of sacrifice, which was in an eminent sense the place where Jehovah met and held intercourse with his guilty children, was called by a name (מזבח) which etymologically signifies 'the place of slaughter;' 'for the way to fellowship with God for guilty beings could only be found through an avenue of death.'

(3.) The sprinkling of the blood. All that precedes, the imposition of hands, the confession of sins, and the infliction of the vicarious penalty of death, were common to all the bleeding sacrifices. In the case of sin and trespass-offering, in addition to these there supervened the sprinkling of the blood upon the altar, and especially upon the horns or more exalted and sacred parts of the altar. Lev. 4:7, 18, 25, 30, 34. In the case of a sin-offering in behalf of the high priest and of the whole congregation, the blood was carried within the Holy Place, and sprinkled before the veil, and smeared upon the altar of incense. Lev. 4:5, and following. On the great day of atonement, when the most exact representation the ancient worship could afford of the all-perfect atonement of Christ was given, the blood was taken into the Holy of Holies itself, and sprinkled upon the Capporeth. This brought the blood, which had thus vicariously discharged the penalty incurred by the worshipper, into immediate contact with God. It signified that the vicarious satisfaction was accepted, and that in each case the soul-bearing blood of the victim avails to cover from the judicial sight of God the sins attached to the soul of the offerer.

4. The Scriptures declare that the effect of these sacrifices was uniformly and actually to expiate the guilt of the offender and to propitiate God. Neither the Moral Influence nor the Governmental theory of the sacrifice of Christ finds the least support in the analogies of the sacrifice of the law. There is not the slightest indication that the design of any sacrifice was ever to produce a moral influence upon the transgressor, or to place him in a position in which the remission of the penalty was a possibility, or to exhibit God's determination to punish sin. The sin and trespass-offering were always offered with the single and definite design of securing the actual remission of the penalty. The effect is said to be 'to make atonement for sin.' 'to reconcile,' and the promise always attached is, 'AND IT SHALL BE FORGIVEN HIM.' Lev. 4:20, 26, 31; 6:30; 8:15; 16:10. Forgiveness is the immediate end sought and promised; and this necessarily issued in that ceremonial purification which Bushnell mistakenly describes as 'the grand terminal of all sacrifices.'* But the forgiveness obviously was the condition of the purification, not the purification of the forgiveness. Sin, unexpiated, excluded a man from the society of the covenant people. When expiated and forgiven, the person was, ipso facto, cleansed and returned to the full enjoyment of all ecclesiastical privileges. As we have seen above, these sacrifices secured the remission of the penalties denounced by the Jewish Theocratic State-Church law upon all sins, whether moral or simply ceremonial, except such as were committed 'with a high hand.' As far as this ceremonial State-Church penalty was concerned, these sacrifices effected a real expiation. But as far as the penalty attaching to the moral law, absolutely considered, was concerned, they were of course only symbolical of the principles upon which alone remission could be obtained, and hence typical of the one all-perfect sacrifice of Christ. 'It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins,' Heb. 10:4; that is, sin viewed absolutely. But they did avail to 'sanctify to the purifying of the flesh.' Heb. 9:13. A member of the theocratic community broke the law, and incurred the penalty at once of the ceremonial and of the moral law. He presents a faultless victim, lays his hands upon its head, confesses his sins, slays it, giving life for life, and then the penalty is remitted. That is, the ceremonial penalty is remitted, ipso facto, upon the completion of a regular sacrifice, and the penalty of the moral law is remitted if the offerer, spiritually discerning the evangelical principles of which these sacrifices were the symbols, acted faith, however darkly, upon the promise of God relating to that sacrifice of which they were the types. The sacrifice of a dumb animal was fully sufficient, when divinely appointed, to satisfy for the infringement of the law, when considered simply in its character as a ceremonial; while the law, viewed as an expression of absolute righteousness, can evidently be satisfied with nothing else than either the full execution of the penalty in the person of the sinner, or a full equivalent therefor in the person of an adequate substitute.*

The word habitually used to define the exact nature of the process through which the Mosaic sacrifices attained to their constant effect, forgiveness, is כפר, to cover, to make expiation, to atone. Lev. 4:20, 26, 30, 31, 35; 5:6, 10, 13, 18, &c., &c. All admit that the Greek word ἱλάσκεσθαι, and its cognates ἱλασμὸς and ἱλαστήριον, have universally and from time immemorial, the sense, when construed with God, of propitiation, and when construed with sin of expiation in the strict sense. And yet it is a fact that the authors of the Septuagint, three hundred years before Christ, while the Jewish and ethnic sacrifices were still in constant use, habitually translated the Hebrew כפר by the Greek ἱλάσκεσθαι, and the כפרת (mercy-seat) they translate ἱλαστήριον, propitiatorium, or seat of expiation and propitiation. The Septuagint was the version of the Old Testament habitually quoted by Christ and his apostles. Instead of ever hinting that the inspired Hebrew text was misrepresented by the Greek words used as equivalent, they adopt the same words themselves when speaking of the sacrifice of Christ. Christ is said to have been made a faithful high priest 'to make expiation for the sins of the people,' εἰς τὸ ἱλάσκεσθαι τὰς ἁμαρτίας τοῦ λαοῦ, Heb. 2:17. See also Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2, and 4:10. See below, chapter twelve.

5. In confirmation of the truth of this interpretation of the Jewish sacrifices, we can cite the unanimous testimony of (a) the inspired prophets and apostles, and (b) the ancient heathen, (c) Jews, and (d) Christian writers. In opposition to this ancient external testimony to the meaning of sacrifices, the school of Bähr, Maurice, Bushnell, Young, &c., have not a single witness to cite.

(1.) As to the testimony of the prophets to the piacular character of the Mosaic sacrifices, I cite the witness of Isaiah 53:4, 6, 10, &c. Speaking of the Messiah, the prophet says God 'made his soul an offering for sin,' a sin-offering; and to this end 'laid on him the iniquity of us all,' and hence he was punished in our stead; 'he was wounded for our transgressions, … and the punishment of our peace was upon him.'* As to the apostolic testimony, in part, compare 1 Cor. 5:7, where Christ is said to be 'sacrificed for us,' and 1 Pet. 1:18, 19, where it is said that we are redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as 'a lamb without blemish and without spot,' with Matt. 20:28, 'The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many.' 'The prominent idea of ransom is that of payment—of vicarious substitution—of one thing standing in place of another. No figure can so fully convey this idea as one drawn from purchases with money. What a source of misconception, then, would it have been thus to yoke the idea of sacrifice to that of vicariousness, if these ideas were not harmonious, but discordant? It sacrifice pointed to no substitution, no expiation, but only to self-surrender of the penitent worshipper, could any mode of speaking be devised more likely to mislead than calling the sacrificial offering a ransom—a λύτρον—the most potent symbol of substitution and exchange.'*

(2.) It would be entirely a work of supererogation for us to encumber our pages with citations from heathen authors, proving that they universally practised their sacrificial rites and used their sacrificial language in the sense for which we are contending, since no man living contests the point.

(3.) It is certainly important to know the opinion of the Jews with respect to their own religious rites. And it is an indisputable fact that the whole body of ancient Jewish theological literature is unanimous in expounding their national sacrifices as vicarious and piacular. Thus Rabbi Levi Ben Gerson, quoted by Outram, says, 'The imposition of hands was a tacit declaration on the part of every offerer that he removed his sins from himself and transferred them to that animal.' So also Isaac Ben Arama: 'Whenever any one sins through ignorance, or even with knowledge, he transfers his sins from himself and lays them upon the head of the victim. And this is the design of those confessions,—I have sinned, I have been rebellious, I have done perversely,—as appears from the confessions of the high priest, pronounced over the bullock sacrificed as his sin-offering on the day of atonement.' Rabbi Moses Ben Nachman says: 'It was just that his blood be shed and that his body should be burned. But the Creator, of his mercy, accepted this victim from him as his substitute and ransom, that the blood of the animal might be shed instead of his blood; that is, that the life of the animal might be given for his life.' Rabbi Solomon Jarchi says, referring to Lev. 17:11: 'The life of every living creature is in the blood: wherefore I have given it to make an atonement for your souls: life shall come and atone for life;' and Aben Ezra, 'The blood makes atonement for the soul; the meaning is life instead of life.'*

(4.) Outram cites the following testimonies from the early Christian Fathers, and declares, that as far as his knowledge extended, they were agreed in understanding that the Jewish sacrifices were vicarious and piacular. 'He laid his hands upon the head of the calf; that is, he laid the sins of mankind upon his own head: for he is the head of the body, the Church.'‡ 'On the head of the victim the offerer laid his hands, as it were his actions; for hands are significant of action; and for these he offered the sacrifice.'* 'The priests laid their hands, not upon all victims, but on those that were offered for themselves, and especially their sin-offerings; but upon others the offerers themselves laid their hands. This was a symbol of the substitution of the victim in the room of the offerer for whom it was slain.'† 'An attentive observer may learn this very thing, also, from the law respecting sacrifices, which enjoins every one who offers a sacrifice to lay his hands on the head of the victim, and holding it by the head, to bring it to the priest, as offering the animal instead of his own head. Wherefore its language respecting every victim is, Let the offerer present it before the Lord, and lay his hands upon the head of his offering; … whence it is concluded that the lives of the victims were given instead of the lives of the offerers.'

III. It only remains for us, in this third division of our argument, to prove that the sacrifices of the law were typical of the sacrifice of Christ; that is, that the principles of vicarious and piacular suffering upon which they proceeded are identical with those upon which, by one sacrifice for sin, he has for ever perfected them that are sanctified.

'Every true type,' says Litton, 'is necessarily a symbol; that is, it embodies and represents the ideas which find their fulfilment in the antetype; but every symbol is not necessarily a type; a symbol may terminate in itself, and point to nothing future; it may refer to something past. The difference between the two will become evident if we consider that the learned researches of modern times have made it more than probable that the religions of antiquity were all symbolical in character, or so framed as to convey, under sensible images, the ideas on which they were respectively based; but no one would think of calling the rites of heathenism types; they were a species of acted hieroglyphics, which reached the understanding through the senses,—and here their use terminated. A type is a prophetic symbol; and since prophecy is the prerogative of him who sees the end from the beginning, a real type, implying as it does a knowledge of the reality, can only proceed from God.'

Now we claim that it can be proved that the Mosaic sacrificial system was not only symbolical of divine truth in connection with the then existing dispensation, but that it embraced types, or prophetic symbols, of the better things to come in the gospel. This is certain, because—

1. Christ himself declares that the whole Old Testament Scripture in all its divisions, the law as well as the prophets and the Psalms, spoke of him and his work. John 1:45; 5:39; Luke 24:27. 'To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.' And all these things stood in such a relation to him that all these things must be fulfilled which were therein written concerning him. Luke 24:44. And in what sense this was so, we can trace in John 19:36. John, as an eye-witness of the crucifixion, declares that the exemption of our Lord's person from the mutilation to which the two thieves with whom he was crucified were subjected, 'was done THAT the Scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.' But the Scriptures say this only of the Pascal lamb. Ex. 12:46; Num. 9:12. And the Apostle John declares that the saying this of the Pascal lamb was equivalent to saying this prophetically of Christ. That the Pascal lamb was a sacrifice in the strict expiatory sense is admitted by all modern theologians. It is expressly called קרבן (Num. 9:7), which everywhere means something offered to God. It is called זבח, sacrifice (Ex. 12:27), which is, in the Old Testament, only applied to the bleeding offerings presented to Jehovah. This the apostle distinctly asserts in the very sentence in which he declares that Christ is the Christian Passover; 'For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed (ἐτύθη) for us.' 1 Cor. 5:7.

2. The sacrificial language of the Mosaic ritual is constantly applied to Christ. Jowett, no mean witness, admits that the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews presents the 'New Testament as hidden in the Old, and the Old as revealed in the New.'* But it is not confined to the Epistle to the Hebrews, but characterizes the whole Testament. John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet (John 1:29), stood as the index-finger, and spoke as the voice of the whole Old Testament dispensation, when he said, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.' Paul (Eph. 5:2) witnesseth of Christ that 'He gave himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour,' which certainly means that the effect of his sacrifice terminates upon God, and not upon either the sinful offerer or the moral universe. 'Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself … having been once offered to bear the sins of many.' 'For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us.' 1 Cor. 5:7. 'We were redeemed with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.' 1 Pet. 1:19. 'This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins, for ever sat down on the right hand of God.' 'By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.' Heb. 10:12, 14.

3. They are expressly said to have prefigured Christ and his work. These things, Paul says, 'are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ.' Col. 2:17. The law had 'a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things.' Heb. 10:1. The tabernacle and its services were patterns of things in the heavens, and figures—antetypes—of the true tabernacle into which Christ has now entered for us. Heb. 9:23, 24. 'For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. WHEREFORE Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.' Heb. 13:11, 12. In this case, as in the case of the unbroken bones of the Pascal lamb, the antetype must conform to the type. The argument of the apostle, in Heb. 9:13, 14, necessarily involves the assumption of this identity of principle between the type and the antetype. 'For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; HOW MUCH MORE shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?' If the one can avail to effect the lower end on the same principle, how much more shall the infinitely better avail to effect the higher end? Young attempts, in the first place, to prove that the Mosaic sacrifices signified nothing more than an expression of the subjective exercises of the sinner, and then that these sacrifices are not typical of the greater and better sacrifice of Christ. But the correspondences which the apostles point out cannot be understood in the vague and general sense which Young prefers. They not only declare that there is, in some sense, an analogy between the sacrifices of the law and the sacrifice of Christ, but they affirm that the former were patterns, types, shadows, of the latter. They point out, in particular, wherein the analogy consists and wherein it fails. They show that it holds in all the essential particulars of 'bearing sin,' Christ being 'made sin' (that is, חטאת, sin-offering), of being vicarious, of 'giving his life as a ransom,' of 'redeeming us by his blood,' of expiating sin, of propitiating God, of securing pardon. Matt. 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 2:17.

4. And lastly, the Scriptures habitually assert, in the plainest and most direct terms that language admits of, that Christ accomplishes for the man who comes to God by him just what we have shown that the Mosaic sacrifices accomplished for the man who approached God by them, and that he accomplishes it in the same manner. 'He that knew no sin was made a sin-offering for us.' 2 Cor. 5:21. 'Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.' Gal. 3:13. He says of himself, 'The Son of Man came to give his life a ransom for many.' Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45. 'The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth from all sin.' 1 John 1:7. 'He is the propitiation (ἱλασμός) for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.' 1 John 2:2. 'Herein is love, not that we love God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation (ἱλασμός) for our sins.' 1 John 4:10. This making propitiation, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews declares, Christ effects as our 'High Priest.' Heb. 2:17. Paul says, 'Being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (ἱλαστήριον), through faith in his blood.' Rom. 3:24, 25. 'Much more, then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be SAVED FROM WRATH through him. For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.' Rom. 5:9, 10. 'Our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins' (περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν), which is the very phrase frequently used in the Septuagint to translate חטאת, sin-offering. See Lev. 4 and 16; Gal. 1:3, 4. 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.' Eph. 1:7. 'But now, in Christ Jesus, ye, who sometime were far off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ.' Eph. 2:13. 'In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins,' and, 'Having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself.' Col. 1:14, 20. 'Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man (διὰ τούτου) is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him (ἑν τούτῳ) all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.' Acts 13:38, 39.*

We claim that these passages teach the gospel, not in a figure, but in direct terms, to be understood according to the ordinary use of language and force of words. All that Jowett, and those who agree with him on this subject, can say to turn the force of the Scriptures is, that they are 'figurative;' that we must take their 'inward meaning,' because their literal meaning is dishonouring to God, and revolting to the refined moral sense of advanced thinkers.

Thus we have the whole heathen world, the Jewish people, and the entire Christian Church, the Old Testament symbols, and the New Testament historical narratives and didactic statements, all on one side, and the Socinians, Rationalists, Jowett, Maurice, Bushnell and Young on the other.


From The Atonement by A. A. Hodge

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