Sages of the New Covenant
The best way to understand what is “Good News” is, by knowing: “What Is Not Good News”. Most of the time, evangelists present the Good News of Jesus through “Theology of Blood Sacrifice”. This article will give you an insight how ‘Theology of Blood Sacrifice’ is not the Good News.
The scriptures that are supposed to create a harmonious society are mis-interpreted by the political / religious leaders to achieve their violent agenda; and one such concept is the ‘Theology of Blood Sacrifice’. These interpreters goes to the extent of saying that Eve had sex with the Serpent and as a result Cain was born; and as an atonement for the birth of Cain, blood-shed was needed, which is why, God accepted the offering of Abel. Swami Sthevananda wonders from where they got this myth! In the Bible we read the following:
“Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD.” 2 Then she bore again, this time his brother Abel.” (Genesis 4:1 & 2)
The above verses negate the “Serpent Seed” theory, as Cain was born only through Adam; not through the Serpent. If Abel’s blood or the offering of the first-born of Abel’s flock could serve as an atonement of the ‘so called sin of Eve’, the salvation ends there; and it makes the advent of Jesus redundant. In addition, if Cain had to be eliminated from polluting the descendants of the Seth, or daughters of Adam and Eve, then God would not have saved Cain. God set a mark on Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him. (Genesis 4:15). How could human beings condemn the man, whom God Himself didn’t venture condemning!
If the giants who lived before the Great Deluge were mixture breed of the descendants of Cain Seed and Seth Seed, what is logic do we have for the pygmies of Africa?
Before dealing with the Theology of Blood Sacrifice, let us try to understand what sacrifice is all about. A sacrifice is a loss or something you give up, usually for the sake of a better cause. To give examples of sacrifices, Swami Sthevananda presents two incidents from the Bible - one from the Old Testament another from the New Testament:
These two incidents define what sacrifice is. ‘Our giving’ qualifies to be called a sacrifice, when it pinches our hand and savings. Swamiji remember the following episode that happened in his life, during his college days. His mother didn’t have money left to buy a new dress for Swamiji’s birthday in 1980; but she mortgaged her golden bangles to buy a set of birthday dress for him. Swamiji he came to know that his mother had mortgaged her golden bangles, only when he noticed the missing bangles in his mother’s hand, few days later. What Swamiji’s mother did was a sacrifice. Sacrifice means giving up what you love.
In what manner the sacrifice of the Jews, which they had been offering till demolition of the Temple in 70 A.D. and once for all after their defeat in the Jewish War of 132-135 A.D., aligned to the above mentioned examples?
God gave Decalogue to Musa (Moses), who delivered the followers of God (Yahweh) from the slavery in Egypt; and in Decalogue no commandment speaks about sacrifices of any kind. But later the Jewish religious leaders introduced various Qorbanot (Sacrifices and Offerings) as atonements for any non-compliance to the Laws of Musa (Moses). The following are few such offerings:
None of the six sacrifices qualify to be called a sacrifice, as in all the above mentioned sacrifices, the one who offers do not give up what he / she loves.
The scribes and Pharisees were promoting the ‘Theology of Blood Sacrifice’, as it was a means of promoting merchandise in the Synagogue in Jerusalem. The following were the Chatat offered, which varied from people to people, depending on social standing and means:
Right from the beginning, there were commandments from God and people will be judged by the light to what extent they were aware of the commandments. God blessed Adam and Eve, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28
From the Tosefta (dated to 220 A.D.) and the Babylonian Talmud (dated to 300 A.D.), we learn that God gave Seven Commandments to Noah / Nyuha / (Manu / Ziusudra / Akkadian Atrahasis / Utnapishtim ) are:
The Decalogue given to the Musa (Moses), list the following:
None of the Three Commandments – to Adam & Eve, Noah and Moses - speaks anything about Blood Shed / sacrifice.
Then from where did this “Theology of Blood Sacrifice comes? Animal Sacrifice is a concept that was never a commandment God; but a human initiative to please God, as a bribe to escape the so called impending divine-wrath. Would the God who wanted Cities of Refuge to be built even for the man-slayers, be pleased with any blood-shed? God’s name was used to fulfil the human decision and desire.
According to Walter Burkert, a scholar on the study of sacrifice, Greek sacrifices derived from hunting practices. Hunters, feeling guilty for having killed another living being so they could eat and survive, tried to repudiate their responsibility in these rituals. Hence we have reasons to believe that Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat to offer as a sacrifice to God, so that he could eat the living being, which he himself reared in his animal-husbandry farm without any guilt.
Will it be over-exaggeration to say that the “Blood Sacrifice” to the deity was a concept invented by the people, who had developed a taste for the flesh of the animal!, As they have developed a taste for the aroma of the burning flesh, they also thought that that aroma would please God. The writers of Pentateuch were also those who had developed a taste for the aroma of the smoked-flesh, which is why we find verses like the following:
“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” (Genesis 8:20 & 21)
“You shall present a burnt offering, an offering made by fire as a sweet aroma to the LORD: one bull, one ram, seven lambs in their first year without blemish” (Numbers 29:36)
“You shall offer a burnt offering as a sweet aroma to the LORD …” (Numbers 29:2 & 28:27)
“And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.” (Exodus 29:18)
What swamiji says hurts those who believe in the infallibility of the Bible. But it is an elephant in the room. Many people think that the God who was in the Word form became the Bible. But the truth is: the God, who was in the Word form (OM) manifested as Jesus. If have to repeat the words of Dr E Stanley Jones, I would quote, what he spoke in his sermon series “My Life Convictions”: “We do not believe that the Bible is the revelation of God. It is the inspired record of the revelation. The revelation (of God is what) we see in the face of Jesus Christ. Shall I repeat that silence? The Bible is not the revelation of God. The Bible does not say the word became printer’s ink. It says the word became flesh! The Bible is not the revelation of God; it is the inspired record of the revelation. The revelation was seen in the face of Jesus Christ. (“Love Is the Strongest Force in the Universe & Will Win”- The New Birth on the Pattern of Jesus  “Living Upon The Way” by Dr Anne Mathews-Younes. Lucknow Publishing House, 2008 ISBN : 978-81-87739-58-6, pages 246 & 247) The more we accept the fallibility of the Bible, the deeper we shall understand the Christian theology, particularly pivotal message of Jesus. The process of canonization of the books to form the Bible was done through human efforts; and as a result the Bible became a victim of subjective writing with authors’ perception loaded into it, whether it was about glorifying the Jews as the chosen people or about the issue of our discussion – Blood Sacrifice as a ransom for our sin. For example, the Classification of the animals as clean and unclean was done after Moses’ time. How could Noah aware of the classification done by the Israelites? The author of the Pentateuch was an Israelite and was aware of what was classified as clean and unclean in animal kingdom and had developed a taste for the aroma of the smoked-flesh and on that premise he described Noah’s the collection of all species to be housed in the ark and his animal sacrifice after the Great Deluge.
So the mentions found in Geneses 7:2, 8 and 8:20 are the Freudian slip of the author of the Pentateuch.
God is the creator of the Universe and whatever we find in the world belongs to God. Would God desire some of His creation (animal) be sacrificed by another creation (human beings) to get pleased? If he wants to smell the sweet aroma of the flesh burning, He could send the fire and consume one of the animals of His choice. Why would God need a human being to do the burning? Only to perpetuate the practice of sacrifice, the covenantal sacrifice of Abram is mentioned. There is no logic in the sacrifice mentioned in Genesis 15: 8 and 9.
The Israelites were in constant competition to prove that the Yahweh God is superior to that of the non-Israelites. Hence the scribes had compelling reason to write the following: “the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.” (1 Kings 18: 38 & 39)
Some power hungry king of Israelites like Jephthah performed human sacrifice Jephthah after defeating the Ammonites, to fulfill a rash vow of his, sacrificed his daughter. (Judges 11:39). Because of the wrong teaching that another human-beings blood could atone their sin, one in the Jew asked God: “Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” (Micah 6:7). Fortunately the response for his plea had been recorded in the next verse; otherwise many would have followed the suit of Jephthah.
Animal sacrifice is practiced by adherents of many religions as a means of appeasing a god or gods or changing the course of nature. It also served a social or economic function in those cultures where the edible portions of the animal were distributed among those attending the sacrifice for consumption. Animal sacrifice has turned up in almost all cultures, from the Hebrews to the Greeks and Romans (particularly the purifying ceremony Lustratio), Ancient Egyptians (for example in the cult of Apis) and from the Aztecs to the Yoruba.
Greek sacrifices derived from hunting practices. The primary evidence used to suggest this theory is the Dipolieia, which is an Athenian festival, during which an ox was sacrificed. The protagonist of the ritual was a plough ox, which it had, at one point, been a crime to kill in Athens. According to his theory, the killer of the ox eased his conscience by suggesting that everybody should participate in the killing of the sacrificial victim. The ‘ox-slayings ‘ festival – Buphonia - in ancient Greece, was part of the Dipolieia, a religious festival held on the 14th of the midsummer month Skirophorion— in June or July— at the Acropolis. In the Buphonia a working ox was sacrificed to Zeus Polieus, as Greeks believed that Zeus protects their city. A group of oxen was driven forward to the altar at the highest point of the Acropolis. On the altar a sacrifice of grain would be spread by members of the family of the Kentriadae. When one of the oxen began to eat, that ox is chosen for sacrifice and one of the families of the Thaulonidae would advance with an axe, slew the ox and then he would immediately threw aside the axe and fled the scene of his guilt-laden crime.
God has made the Old Testament Prophets to know the uselessness of the ritual of blood sacrifice, which are evident in the following verses:
“He (God) has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you; but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mica 6:8)
“For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)
“I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices.” (Jeremiah 7:22)
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, Or of lambs or goats. “When you come to appear before Me, Who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; Incense is an abomination to Me….. “ (Isaiah 1: 11-13)
Some Valid Questions:
Noah had the hangover of his ancient pagan practice and offered an animal sacrifice to God. Similarly, due to the impact of Greek philosophy this concept of Theology of Blood Sacrifice found a place in Christianity.
Emperor Constantine, who remained un-baptised till his death, made Christianity a State religion in 313 A.D. His decision was more political than spiritual, as he wanted to win the hearts of the Byzantines. What Emperor Constantine did was merely to obliterate the pagan representation of the Sun god without abolishing the Greek / Babylonian Sun god rituals and festivals. During his period most of the Christian rituals were made to aligned with the Greek / Babylonian Gods; as a result Christendom witnessed the following during his reign and later as well :
In the process of contextualization of Christianity to align Christianity with the Greek culture, the philosophy and the religious, rituals of the Greeks became part and parcel of Christianity; so was the “Theology of Blood Sacrifice”.
God wanted Prophet Muhammad to curb the extreme formalism of the "Mosaic Law" of the Jews and avoid extreme 'other-worldliness' of the Christians (Ref. "Introduction to World Religions" by O M Mathew Oruvattithara; Published by the Christian Institute for the Study of Religion and Society, 2012, page136) through a vision on 27th night of the month of Ramadan, in 611 A.D. Khadijah wife of Prophet Muhammad was a Christian. She consulted about her husband's Vision with her Christian cousin (clergyman) Waraqah, who interpret prophecies. Waraqah could not help Prophet Muhammad much; but Khadijah confirmed to him saying that it was usual for God to give such visions, as Prophet Muhammad was perturbed after the vision. Khadijah (considered to be the first protégé of Prophet Muhammad), who was the spiritual mentor of Prophet Muhammad did not live long to teach him the central message of Jesus, and as a result, Islam became a separate religion. When it became a separate religion, it failed to do away with ḏabiḥa (ذَبِيْحَة) or Qurban (قُرْبَان) - sacrifice as a ritual. On the occasion of Eid ul Adha (Festival of Sacrifice), affluent Muslims all over the world perform the Sunnah of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) by sacrificing a cow or sheep. The meat is then divided into three equal parts. One part is retained by the person who performs the sacrifice. The second is given to his relatives. The third part is distributed to the poor.
The Qur'an states that the sacrifice has nothing to do with the blood and gore; rather, it is done to help the poor and in remembrance of Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son Ishmael at God's command. The following is the verse:
"It is not their meat nor their blood that reaches God. It is your piety that reaches Him..." (Qur'an 22:37)
The above verse from Quran is similar to the following lines from the New Testament:
“.... present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Roman 12:1)
Jesus was very critical of this man made rituals, more particularly about the Chatat: Sin Offering, which is offered in the Temple of Jerusalem during the time of Jesus; and we read about Jesus’ condemnation to this practice in Matthew 15 1-9, as most of them were offering Chatat, as an atonement for the sin related to the Fifth Commandment of Musa (Moses) - Honour thy father and thy mother. Jesus called the scribes and Pharisees Hypocrites by saying:
‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”— then he need not honour his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.” (Matthew 15: 5-7).
As people didn’t understand this concept, church planters like Arumai Nayakam Sattampillai founder of Nattu Sabai (Indian church of the only Savior or Hindu church of Lord Jesus, 1857 at Prakasapuram) resorted to 'animal sacrifice' (Ref. "The Pearl of Greatest Price" By L. Emmanuel Lankadieu, Leo Books [City of Truth, Zion - Manujothi Ashram, Pappagudi, Tirunelvelli, July 2001], Page 158) in his Jehovah Messianic church, which was one of the reasons for the divorce between the Seventh Day Adventist from Nattu Sabai, who actually invited the Seventh Day Adventist to come to India. Sattampillai failed to keep the wolf (Theology of the Jews) from the door.
Abel must have had the guilt of eating livestock from his flock and offered the First-born to God to become guilt-free, while eating the flesh of an animal. Noah had the hangover of his Nature Worship tradition and offered an animal sacrifice. God Himself could have identified which house is a Jewish house and which is non-Jewish. God’s instruction to the Israelites was only to testify how obedient they are and to prepare them for an energetic 40days journey to the promised land- Canon, after a good non-vegetarian meal. The Passover (Pesach) was celebrated by the Jews, remembering their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The events that happened (Passion and crucifixion of Jesus) closer to the Jewish Passover, was just an accident. Jesus’ starting his ministry and ending His ministry closer Passover festival must not have been a choice of Jesus. Even if it was Jesus’ choice, there is no parallel between Passover and Crucifixion of Jesus. Most of the time, Christians try to equate the blood of lamb that was put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel during the Passover to save their first-born to the blood of Jesus Christ to save the humanity from the Original sin inherited from Adam and Eve.
To perpetuate the Jewish belief in blood sacrifice the following verses are put as a counter by the theologians, who are vocal about the “Theology of Blood Sacrifice”:
In Mark 10:45, the words “to give His life” means Jesus had dedicated His life for others, so that they could inherit the Kingdom of God, by becoming Immanuel Conscious. In addition, this verse clarifies that He has come NOT to establish an earthly kingdom, where others would serve Him; but be an 'archetype' of a true Immanuel, by serving the entire humanity, which was under the bondage of an illusion that they were not created in the image of God and in the likeness of God, through His teachings and through His life-style.
At the Suburb of Samaria - Sychar, Jesus mentioned about the "Living Water" to the Samaritan woman. Similarly in Matthew 4:4 He talks of "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.". Hence, the MANNA Jesus was talking has to be equated with the ‘Living Water” and “Living Bread. The manna, Jesus was talking about is quite different from that of the Israelite ate in Wilderness. In John 6: 41-59. What He meant was “Manna of Life”; not the manna that was needed by the digestive system. In addition, it is an indication it is a prelude to the invitation to become part of the Body of Christ, by observing the Eucharist [a ritual to be done to remember Him - the ONLY FESTIVAL JESUS CREATED for His followers – “He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19).] Moreover, these verses give the vivid logic how the followers of Jesus would be aligned to God, by aligning with the true Immanuel, by becoming Immanuel Conscious.
If Jesus was the proponent of the "Theology of Blood Sacrifice", He would have said to those who came to Him to know the means to enter into the Kingdom of God: "Wait for a while; soon, I will be sacrificed as the Ultimate Sacrifice during the Passover festival, which will qualify you to enter into the Kingdom of God". rather, He said about being BORN-AGAIN and about selling all the possessions and follow His foot-steps. Either in the Sermon on the Plains (Luke 6:17–49) or in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Matthew 5-7), Jesus speak nothing about the blood sacrifice as atonement for the "Original Sin".
The concept of “Theology of Blood Sacrifice” is un-Christian, as the multitude of Angels declared the following only: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14), announcing the birth of Jesus. The Angels did not say: “As per the prophecy of Isaiah 53, the Lamb to be slaughtered for the atonement of the Sin human-being have inherited through Adam and Eve, is born in Bethlehem.”
The purpose of Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus was to demonstrate to the humanity the need for them to allow the Old Adam in them to die and the need to resurrect as a New Adam with Swadharma (natural and original state of creation), by becoming Immanuel Conscious. This process is called: Dvij (Twice born).
The ‘Theology of Blood Sacrifice’ is a monkey on the back of Christianity. But, Passion and Crucifixion of Jesus is not the Good News.
Swamiji has a bee in his bonnet. The fully human, the fully divine Jesus had a human death and a divine resurrection only to drive home the message to the human beings that the Old Adam (who failed to acknowledge that he was handcrafted in the image of God and created in the likeness of God) in him / her has to die and the New Adam (who is conscious of the Immanuel in him / her) has to resurrect in him / her.
Jesus made the humanity aware of the Immanuel in them by becoming an archetype of the true Immanuel. This is the Good News.
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Sages of the New Covenant