Modern Commentary

Torah & Spirit
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By Blood Alone Shall you be Saved. Well, not exactly...

First off, the most important thing to consider, is that the TaNaKh does not concern itself with spiritual salvation. In every instance where the TaNaKh addresses salvation, it is physical - the salvation of a man from his enemies. The purpose of atonement for sin (sin is a poor word choice to begin with) is to bring a person closer to God. This we can see from a correct translation of the Hebrew word for sacrifice which implies causing to come near. Therefore, when a person wishes to deepen their relationship to God, they must make themselves acceptable to Him. If there is anything in their lives that would prevent them from being close to Him, then they must address that. Sacrifice is ONE aspect of this process.

Christian theologians, in attempting to find meaning and importance for the death of their leader, have blown the importance of the sacrificial system, and most especially the role of blood in the sacrificial system, out of all proportion.

Issue of contention: Blood is the only acceptable form of sacrifice for the remission of sins.

Most often, missionaries will cite Leviticus 17.11 to prove this point. However, let's take a look at this in context:

Leviticus 17.10-11
And, if anyone of the house of Israel or of the strangers who reside among them partakes of any blood, I will set My face against the person who partakes of the blood, and cut him off from among his kin. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have assigned it to you for making expiation for your lives upon the altar; it is the blood as life that effects expiation.

What is at issue here - expiation? Not exactly, as will be shown below, expiation is only part of a larger issue. What this section is concerned with is the prohibition of consuming blood. The mention of expiation serves to explain, in part, why the consumption of blood is forbidden. Now, consider the above passage, in light of the following passage, which precedes it:

Leviticus 5.1-11
If a person incurs guilt... when he realizes his guilt... he shall confess that wherein he has erred; and he shall bring as his penalty to the Lord, for the sin of which he is guilty, a female from the flock, sheep or goat as a sin offering; and the priest shall make expiation on his behalf for his sin...

And, if his means do not suffice for two turtledoves or two pigeons, he shall bring as his offering for that of which he is guilty a tenth of an ephah of choice flour for a sin offering;

Also, there is:

Numbers 17.11-12 (16.46-47 in certain editions). To preface this quote, this is the scene: Korah, and a band of contentious followers have been consumed while burning their incense (Korah, Datan and Aviram by being swallowed by the earth). This is the next day. The people are rallying against Moses for the death of Korah and his men.

[The Lord says to Moses and Aaron], "Remove yourselves from this community, that I may annihilate them in an instant." They [Moses and Aaron] fell on their faces. Then Moses said to Aaron, "Take the fire pan, and put on it fire from the altar. Add incense and take it quickly to the community and make expiation for them. Fro wrath has gone forth from the Lord: the plague has begun!" Aaron took it, as Moses had ordered, and ran to the midst of the congregation, where the plague had begun among the people... he stood between the dead and the living until the plague was checked.

Other verses that show that blood is not the only method of atonement are Exodus 30.13-16, 1Kings 8.46-50, Hoshea 14.1-3, 2 Chronicles 7.14, Ezekiel 18.21, Jonah 3.10, Daniel 4.24 (4.27 in certain editions), Jeremiah 36.3, and Isaiah 55.7. That's quite a list!

For a moment, for the sake of argument, let's assume that the Christians are right, that Leviticus 17.11 does in fact entail that only a blood sacrifice will atone for sins. If this is true, then Jesus could not have served as a blood sacrifice (this despite the fact that the Torah prohibits human sacrifice!). Leviticus 17.11 specifically states, "...I have assigned it to you for making expiation for your lives upon the altar." Jesus was crucified. His blood was not offered on the altar. It would not suffice. Remember, we're taking this verse literally - we can't just pick and choose what aspects of it we want to recognize.

All of this ignores the fact that if Jesus were to be considered, assuming human sacrifice was acceptable, a kasher sacrifice, he would have to have been unblemished; he was not; he would have to have been offered up by priests; he was killed by Gentiles; and his remains would have to have been burned; he was buried.