Rabbinic views . . .Concerning the need for Sacrifice

The LORD said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the Lord by fire.” (Leviticus 23:26-28).

He (the high priest) shall then slaughter the goat for the sin offering for the people and take its blood behind the curtain and do with it as he did with the bull’s blood: He shall sprinkle it on the atonement cover and in front of it. In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been (Leviticus 16:15-16).

In a booklet entitled “The Jewish Response to Missionaries, Counter-missionary Handbook” published by Jews for Judaism Bentzion Kravitz wrote: “The notion that, without the practice of animal sacrifices, Jews cannot atone for their sins represents a blatant misinterpretation of the Jewish Bible. First of all, sacrifices were intended only for unintentional sins (Leviticus 4:1) and served as a means of motivating individuals to true repentance. Numerous passages, including Hosea 14, inform us that today our prayers take the place of sacrifices. “

Hosea 14:3 says: “Forgive all our iniquity, and accept that which is good; so will we render for bullocks the offering of our lips.” The Soncino commentary on this verse says, “i.e. what is good in God’s sight, viz. not sacrifices but sincere repentance.”

Repentance essentially means turning from our own way to obey the Word of the Lord. There cannot be true repentance if we dismiss the Word of the Lord as unimportant. The Law of Moses states that nothing may be added to, nor taken away from it (Deut. 12:32). Many Jews take pride in the fact that Israel was entrusted with the Torah, but rather than acknowledge the seriousness of their predicament (being unable to obey the law) they simply dismiss two-thirds of the Law as superfluous to modern Judaism. Can such a flippant disregard of God’s Law accompany repentance? Surely the prophets did not intend to imply that the sacrifices can be replaced by prayer, thereby nullifying the law so solemnly given at Sinai, but rather that sacrifice is meaningless if not accompanied by sincere repentance and obedience.

This gives rise to some very pertinent questions:

  • Have the sacrifices become redundant?
  • If atonement can be made without the sacrifices and atoning blood, what meaning is there for the Jew today in all the laws pertaining to the sacrifices and priesthood?
  • Have the sacrifices merely been suspended until another temple can be built or have they become completely obsolete?
  • If they are not essential to modern Judaism what would be the purpose of re-instating the Temple worship with the priesthood and the sacrifices?

The truth is that Rabbinical Judaism cannot uphold the Law of Moses. Jesus said, “Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set” (John 5:45). The Jewish-Christian writer Alfred Edersheim makes the following observation: “While Christianity was from the first universal in its character and design, the religious institutions and the worship of the Pentateuch, and even the prospects opened by the prophets were, so far as they concerned Israel, strictly of Palestine and for Palestine. They are wholly incompatible with the permanent loss of the land. An extra-Palestinian Judaism, without priesthood, altar, temple, sacrifices, tithes, first-fruits, Sabbatical and Jubilee years, must first set aside the Pentateuch, unless, as in Christianity, all these be regarded as blossoms designed to ripen into fruit, as types pointing to, and fulfilled in higher realities.” 1

Rabbinical Judaism disobeys the very essence of the Law by rejecting Jesus the Messiah and his atoning sacrifice to which the Law testified. Contrary to the notion that Christianity glibly brushes aside the Law of Moses by claiming to be under grace through faith in Christ, we uphold the Law of Moses. The teaching of the New Covenant adequately explains why the covenant made at Mount Sinai has indeed become obsolete rather than superfluous:

Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20 cf. Gal. 2:16).

God has bound all men over to disobedience (in relation to the Law of Moses) so that he may have mercy on them all [through the once for all atoning sacrifice of the Messiah] (Rom.11:32; Heb. 10:10).

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22; Leviticus 17:11).

The sacrifices were a central and vital part of the true faith of Israel under the Sinai covenant in that they pointed ahead to the ultimate atoning sacrifice of Jesus the Messiah.

Israel’s unfaithfulness and inability to keep the Law of Moses was the very reason why the Lord promised to make a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31). Under the Law they all stood condemned. The angel Gabriel revealed to Daniel the precise time when the Messiah would come, that he would put an end to sin and make atonement for iniquity, that he would be killed (cut off), and that he would also put an end to sacrifice and offering through the making of the new covenant (Daniel 9:24;27). This explains why the covenant made at Sinai has indeed become obsolete. Those who enter into the new covenant die as it were to the old.

Once the New Covenant had been made and sacrifices ended by the providence of God it became impossible to live in obedience to the Law. True obedience and repentance can only be found through faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus our Messiah.

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:1-2).

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:8-10).


1. Edersheim – “Sketches of Jewish Social life in the days of Christ” p. 4.