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Hebrews 10:1-18: Jesus Christ, the Final Sacrifice

Hebrews is a word of exhortation, centering on Jesus Christ our high priest. This essay is a look at the doctrine of the atonement in Hebrews, especially as it is laid out in 10:1-18. In this section of the book He is upheld as the final sacrifice. The question that we are looking to answer is, What does the death of Jesus Christ mean? To that end we will proceed by first defining the text. Here we are answering the question, Why chapter ten and why verses one to eighteen? Next we will look at some general characteristics of our chosen text in order to get an overview: What is generally going on? After that we will dig into the each of the eighteen verses doing our exegesis, trying to find out, What does the text say? In the final two sections we will be trying to find out what the text means and what does it mean for us?

I. Defining the TextThe definitive work on the structure of Hebrews has been done by Vanhoye. He puts Hebrews 8:1-9:29 into one section and 10:1-18 in another. Attridge, on the other hand, disputes this separation and argues for the unity of 8:1-10:18. Vanhoye thinks 8:1-9:28 deals with the theme of perfection, while 10:1-18 deals with Christ as the "cause of eternal salvation," both announced in 5:9-10. Attridge sees the overarching theme to be the self offering of Christ, announced in 7:27, and developed in 8:1-10:10. Attridge's arguments are very convincing and his development of the antitheses working in these chapters is quite revealing. There is a great deal of connection between 8:1-9:28 and 10:1-18. Many of the same themes are present in both.

However, it is too large of a task for this paper to try to tackle such a large segment of scripture for exegesis. Instead, we will focus on 10:1-18, noting some connections that exist with the previous material. Verse 19, widely accepted as a natural breaking point in the text, starts the final paraenetic section, which will conclude the book.

II. General CharacteristicsSince we have seen where the chosen text is situated within the larger framework of Hebrews, we now turn to the general flow of our section. We will follow the UBS text, Lane and Ellingworth in dividing the material into four paragraphs: vv. 1-4, 5-10, 11-14, and 15-18. The first two paragraphs contrast the impotent sacrifices of the law with the decisive offering of Christ in conformity to God's will. What even the Day of Atonement could not do, because its sacrifices occurred year after year, Christ's sacrifice has accomplished once for all. The third paragraph reiterates the contrast of the first two, this time more in terms of the priests who offer the sacrifices rather than the sacrifices by themselves. In the final paragraph, scripture backs up the claims that the author has made. Although it is a confirmation of the presentation in the last three paragraphs, it also concludes the whole argument since 8:1.

In the last three paragraphs, the author uses scripture extensively to back up his claims. The UBS text puts what it considers to be quoted words in bold. Out of a hundred and ninety-nine words in verses 5-18, eighty-seven are bold, meaning that 44 percent of the text is quoted material. Three texts are quoted, Psalm 40:6-8, Psalm 110:1, and Jeremiah 31:33-34. The author puts the words of Psalm 40 into the mouth of Christ and the Holy Spirit speaks Jeremiah 31, but Psalm 110 is left on its own. Hebrews also shifts the time aspects of the quotations. Psalm 40 is spoken "when Christ came into the world." Psalm 110 is set "when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins." And the introduction to the quotation from Jeremiah is set in the present tense, indicating that the Holy Spirit is speaking it now.

This section of Hebrews also includes all three phases of the Christ event. "When Christ came into the world" (10:5) speaks of the pre-existence and the incarnate existence. Christ's offering then sitting "at the right hand of God" moves from the incarnation to the exaltation phase.

III. Exposition10:1 This verse starts by contrasting between the "shadow" (skian) of the law and the "true form" (eikona) of these realities. We have already seen this kind of distinction in 8:5-6 and something of it again in 9:23. However, the contrast between skia and eikwn presents some difficulties. While the sentence structure of this verse clearly marks off eikwn as the opposite of skia, which would give it a meaning of "substance" or "reality," its normal meaning is "figure," "image," "form," or "appearance."Reflections on Hebrews 10:1-18" The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 17 no 2 (February 1972): 218. These alternate meanings may have been why the scribe of P46 (the earliest known copy of Hebrews) changed the verse to read "Since the law has only a shadow of the good things which are to come and the mere copy of those realities" (he removed ouk authn and replaced it with kai). Yet, since platonic and middle-platonic thought used eikwn as an image in contrast to the true form, universe with skia at the low end, eikwn in the middle, and the true form at the top. Cf. Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews: a Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia--a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, edited by Helmut Koester (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 270. Cf. Stylianopoulos (219) and Ellingworth (490) both of whom see skia and eikwn as having essentially the same meaning. Whether or not skia and eikwn had the same meaning in the philosophers, eikwn still did not have the meaning of reality itself. the question comes, how can Hebrews use eikwn for reality? Evidence from Philo shows that during Hellenistic times eikwn was sometimes used as an opposite to skia in the way that our author uses it here. Attridge also points to the Jewish exegetical tradition and the emphatic authn as evidence of the breakdown between eikwn and reality.

Hebrews also connects the "law" (nomoj) with the "sacrifices" (qusiaij). This supports Ellingworth's proposal that nomoj, here as elsewhere in Hebrews, refers primarily to the law's cultic aspect. Ellingworth also understands "the same sacrifices" (taij autaij qusiaij) to refer to the sacrificial rites rather than the sacrificed animals. This cultic arrangement, reflecting what Hebrews has already said in 7:11 and 19, influences the way we read "perfect" (teleiwsai), and leads us to agree with Braun's translation "consecrate." Perfection is what allows the worshipers to "approach" (proserxomenous) God.

Since the sacrifices have to be repeated year after year, a reference to the Day of Atonement, they can never really perfect the community, by bringing God's plan to completion, so that they can approach God. But since the sacrifices are prescribed by the law, this indictment on the sacrifices is also a charge against the law itself. Hebrews is arguing that merely by the need to prescribe a repetition in the sacrifices the weakness of the whole system is evident. The law and its sacrifices turn out to be only an empty shadow of reality that cannot bring us into the presence of God.

10:2 This is a rhetorical question implying an affirmative answer, where the futility of the old system is brought to the fore. Since the law does not mention any conditions under which the sacrificial system could come to completion, its inherent weakness is again evident. This argument bridges with earlier discussions of perfection, cleansing, and conscience (9:9, 14, 22, and 23) and further clarifies the author's point. Although Lane takes 10:1-18 as a discussion of the subjective aspect of the atonement, the discussion of conscience in chapter nine, along with the objective aspects of chapter ten, indicates Hebrews is not making such a decisive split. The primary interest of this verse is on what it takes for sacrifices to cease, not just the subjective need that sacrifices meet.

10:3 The verse opens with "but" (alla) to contrast the unreal condition of verse two with the real situation that follows. The sacrifices are a "reminder of sin" (anamnhsij amartiwn) for the people, not God. The reference to "year after year" is another reference to the Day of Atonement. Leviticus 16:20-22 calls for a confession of sins on this day, a sure reminder. Rather than the new covenant hope of Jeremiah 31:34 (Hebrews 8:12 and 10:17) where God promises to "remember their sins no more," the yearly sacrifices serve as a continual remembrance of sins. Not only are the cultic sacrifices of no positive value, they are a disadvantage because they remind us of our sins.

10:4 Continuing the argument in verse three, here we have the reason the Day of Atonement was only a remembrance of sins. The connection with verse one is also strong. making a break after three as some commentators have proposed. The explanatory clause "for it is impossible" (adunaton gar) resumes the "can never" (oudepote dunatai) of verse one. The expression "the blood of bulls and goats," corresponds to "the same sacrifices." Verse four also bridges to the argument in chapter nine. While associating with earlier discussions, this is perhaps the author's strongest negative injunction against the sacrifices of the law. Not only do the sacrifices fail to perfect the worshiper they do not even remove sins. If his readers still thought that the old sacrifices could be worth something, even after Christ's sacrifice, they are proven wrong. This verse offers a decisive blow by, in effect, saying that the old cultus is of no value whatsoever.

10:5-7 Now that Hebrews has established that the old cultus is ineffectual, he turns to the scriptures to find what is an effective way of dealing with sin. In these verses the words of Psalm 40:6-8 are put in the mouth of Christ as He "came into the world." "Coming into the world" is a Jewish metaphor of birth, and reflects Johannine language associated with the incarnation. Even without the affinity to John this is still incarnational language. Perhaps the simplest way to understand this is to see it as the words of the pre-incarnate Christ speaking as He is coming into the world. Yet, as seen by the connection of "body" (swmatoj) to "sacrifice" (prosforaj) in Hebrews 10:10, the author is thinking of the whole span of Jesus' incarnate life. The effect of putting this psalm into the mouth of Christ is to give it an explicit christological interpretation.

There are several difficulties with the quotation of the psalm. The most obvious is the substitution of "prepared a body for me" where the MT has "pierced my ears." The LXX manuscript that the author of Hebrews used is likely to have had "body" (swma). Although the author did not change this part of the psalm, he did make other changes of his own. The LXX rendering of "I desired to do your will, O my God" becomes "to do your will, O God." The omission of the final verb "I desired" (eboulhqhn)adds emphasis by effectively connecting Christ's coming to the doing of God's will. Christ's willing obedience is emphasized, instead of the inadequacies of the old sacrifices which were the focus of verses 1-4.

10:8 Hebrews collects the references to the sacrifices and restates them in the plural for emphasis. They probably include the whole of the sacrificial system, but the emphasis is on the multiplicity of the sacrifices as opposed to the one sacrifice of Christ. The grouping of the verses allows the writer to separate the negative and positive parts of the quotation into easily distinguished sections. As in verse one, the law is connected to the sacrifices. He reiterates the negative injunction on the law and its sacrifices. As in the earlier discussion of 7:11-19, the focus now expands beyond the Day of Atonement to include the whole sacrificial system.

10:9 Again he quotes part of the psalm, pared down for emphasis. The point is that the first is annulled in order to establish the second. There has been a progression in the author's argument that is brought to its finish: in 7:12 the levitical order was set aside, 7:12 and 18 abrogated the mosaic law, then in 8:7ff. the old covenant was deemed obsolete, now the sacrifices of the mosaic cult are abolished.

The commentaries agree that "first" refers to the sacrifices of the law, but what is the "second"? Lane thinks it is in the way that worshippers are consecrated, whereas Attridge says it has to do with obedience to God's will. Stylianopoulos connects this argument with earlier arguments of Christ's sacrifice replacing the mosaic cult, thus claiming that the second is "the sacrifice (of the body) of Christ . . . firmly established in accordance with God's will." Ellingworth correctly sees that verse ten is decisive for discerning the meaning of second; he concludes with Attridge that the second is the "will," although the verse mentions both "will" and "sanctified." "second" referred to it rather than "will." Yet, the "will" of God is, as Stylianopoulos has seen, and as verse ten states, the sacrifice of the body of Christ. We can best take "second" to be referring to the sacrifice of Christ, in contradistinction to the sacrifices of the law, realizing that it is the will of God.

10:10 In this verse Hebrews goes beyond a strict commentary on Psalm 40 to sum up his whole position. This verse is also the first place in the book that the full name "Jesus Christ" appears. This use of the full name, the shift from third person to first person plural, and the final occurrence of "once for all" (efapax) contribute to the climactic feel of the verse.

The phrase "by this will" (en w qelhmati) leaves open the question of whose will it is, and just how does that will affect the sacrifice itself? While many modern translations replace the relative pronoun with "God," correctly connecting it to the content of the psalm, it may also denote Christ's will. The question is, Was the offering made by God or by Jesus? The answer is both.

The question is still left, What effect on the sacrifice does the will of God and the willful offering of the body of Jesus Christ have? Some older commentators have pointed to the "will" as the definitive aspect of Jesus' actions, putting it over the sacrificial aspect. (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1913), 369, 371. Modern commentators, on the other hand, see that the actual bodily sacrifice of Christ is important to Hebrews. However, given the primacy of the sacrificial quality of the offering, does the willingness of it, and the conformity to God's will in it, make the sacrifice interior and therefore heavenly and spiritual? This seems to lean in the wrong direction. Lane gets it right when he says,

The term 'body' shows that the contrast the writer wishes to establish is not between the sacrifice of animals and the sacrifice of obedience, but between the ineffective sacrifice of animals and the personal offering of Christ's own body as the one complete and effective sacrifice.

Hebrews is trying to anticipate an objection that his readers might have had, How can you set aside the sacrifices of the law when they were what God wanted? I.e., they were God's will. Instead, scripture itself (Psalm 40) says that God's will was not for animal sacrifices, but for the sacrifice of a human "body." Jesus truly fulfilled God's will by making the correct sacrifice: not the sacrifices of the law, but the one sacrifice that conformed to the will of God.

10:11 With this verse we turn again to the priesthood of Christ. The men . . . de comparison of this and the next verse connects the reasoning in both. Verse eleven gives the negative part of the comparison while verse twelve gives the positive. He is emphasizing the vast difference between Christ and the cult.This time Hebrews moves the contrast from the high-priest's role in the Day of Atonement to the general levitical priesthood with its daily offerings. This verse also has several connections to 10:1 as Lane and others have noted:

    10:1 10:11
    kat' eniauton kath' hmeran
    "year by year" "day by day"
    autaij qusiaij autaj . . . qusiaj
    "the same sacrifices" "the same...sacrifices"
    oudepote dunatai . . . teleiwsai   oudepote dunantai perielein
    "can never...decisively purge" "can never remove utterly"
The repetitive "day by day" nature of the old sacrifices is a familiar critique in Hebrews. Deuteronomy 18:5 designates standing as the position the aaronic priests are to take while ministering before the Lord. Our author is pointing out their standing position because it emphasizes the unfinished nature of the priestly duties under the old covenant. It is this day by day, unfinished element of the old system that shows why it cannot take away sins.

10:12 The positive half of the contrast emphasizes the singular nature of the sacrifice of Christ and its continuing efficatiousness. Again, the argument is not new to Hebrews. The "one" (mian) offering of Christ compared to the many sacrifices of the old order was present in chapter nine and the early part of chapter ten. The aorist participle for Christ's "offering" (prosenegkaj) contrasts with the present participle of the priest's "offerings" (prosferwn), bringing out the completed character of Christ's sacrifice even more.

The fact that Christ "sat down at the right hand of God" recalls earlier references to Psalm 110:1 (Hebrews 1:3, 13 and 8:1-2). Since His sitting is in contrast to the standing of the priests, it implies that Christ's work is finished. It has little to do with royal enthronement points out that Christ is not just seated in the presence of God, but at His right hand. A position that indicates more than just an end to his work. But the author of Hebrews does not expand on the meaning of this special position. or the nature of Christ's session. We must understand it from the framework of Hebrews where the emphasis is on the honor and glory rather than the sovereignty of Christ. Verse fourteen brings this out more when the author argues for the decisive nature of Christ's finished work.

Authorities debate whether the offering or session is "for all time" (eij to dihnekej). The NRSV, Lane, and Stylianopoulos take it with the offering whereas (N)JB, Attridge and Ellingworth put it with the session. Either way, the perpetuity of the effectiveness of the offering is in view. The mention of Christ's session denotes the offering's finality and therefore its ongoing efficacy.

10:13 The allusion to Psalm 110:1 continues, and its application to Christ is assumed. The psalm seems to suggest the reality of Christ's position and His ongoing ministry, insisting on the value of His offering. According to 7:25, Jesus is also engaging in a ministry of intercession for those He has saved by His offering, not just waiting.

10:14 Once again Hebrews stresses, by sheer repetitive force, the singleness of Christ's offering. Thus, by association, he is reminding us of the multiple offerings of the mosaic cult. While the previous development centered on the death and session of Christ himself, this verse focuses more on its meaning for believers. Christ's offering is the means by which we are perfected. Since the perfection is of "those who are sanctified" (touj agiazomenouj), the ideas of perfection and sanctification that were developed earlier in this chapter are now more closely connected. The use of the present tense is probably a stylistic variation, although it may connote the ongoing effects of Christ's offering for us.

10:15 The witness of the Holy Spirit is further evidence of the truth of what the author has been saying. He uses the present tense, giving the quotation that follows a present reality, because the Holy Spirit is speaking now. The Holy Spirit has previously been associated with scripture in 3:7 and 9:8.

10:16-17 Hebrews selects portions of Jeremiah 31:33-34 (quoted at length in Hebrews 8:8-12) and changes them to fit his present needs better; he does this without radically changing the meaning. Making these changes helps him better apply the text to his readers. His main message here is forgiveness. By associating the quotation with his earlier argument, the author is forcing the interpretation that Christ's sacrificial offering in willing obedience to God brings the new covenant into effect. Jeremiah's prophecy is now real in Christ.

10:18 The ultimate end of the sacrifice of Christ is forgiveness of sins. Since Christ's death achieves forgiveness there is no longer any need for further sacrifice. We are reminded of the insights of 10:8-9 where the old system of sacrifices has been done away with. "Where" (opou) is probably spatial in that it refers to the believing community. The forgiveness of sins obtains in the believing community, doing away with the need for sacrifices. This verse is not only the conclusion to the quotation from Jeremiah it also completes everything from 8:1.

IV. InterpretationThe Christ event, the climax of which is His death on the cross, is the heart of the message in chapter ten. section from 8:1 to 10:18 as well as the entire New Testament. The once for all bodily sacrifice of Jesus Christ, in conformity to the will of God, supersedes all other offerings (10:9-10). This is the theological center of our exposition. What might well have been affirmed by his first readers, that "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (9:22), later turns out to have been a setup. In 10:4 he says that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." But these are the only blood sacrifices that the law called for. Not only are the sacrifices condemned, but the law is useless. The only thing left is what Hebrews has been arguing for all along: Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ has done what could not be done by the law (10:1), all the sacrifices--including the Day of Atonement--(10:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8), or the levitical priesthood (10:11). His sacrifice has permanently (10:10, 12, 14) cleansed our consciences (10:2, cf. 10:22), done the will of God (10:7, 9, 10), taken away sins (10:12), perfected those who are sanctified (10:13), abolished the old (10:1, 9), established a new covenant (10:1, 16), written God's law on our hearts and in our minds (10:16), brought forgiveness of sins (10:17, 18), and put an end to sacrifices (10:18).

How does sacrifice, whether animal or human, atone for sins? Hebrews apparently does not say. He seems to assume that it does (9:22, 10:10), but many people in Hellenistic times questioned the validity of sacrifice. Lindars sees "consciousness" (suneidesij) as the crucial issue, however, of the four actual uses of the word in Hebrews (9:14; 10:2, 22; 13:18) none of them actually develops the point, they only mention it. Cleansing our conscience is only one of the many things Christ's sacrifice accomplishes.

Obedience and the will of God might offer a better explanation. At least from the standpoint of 10:1-18, the will of God and Christ's willing obedience to it are the key points at which the sacrifices of the law and Christ's sacrifice differ. From verse two the question becomes, What does it take to put an end to sacrifices? There is one sacrifice, and only one, that puts an end to all other sacrifices. It is the sacrifice that God has willed. It is the sacrifice that is willingly given in absolute obedience to God's will. But it is not just a matter of obedience and will. It is also sacrifice. The "body" that God has prepared for the offering must be sacrificed. This atonement is the permanent one.

What makes the sacrifice of Jesus permanent? Chapter ten assumes that it is permanent, and I have argued that its permanence comes because it is according to God's will. Yet, the perpetuity of a Day of Atonement type sacrifice would not have been obvious to the first readers of Hebrews. The Day of Atonement sacrifices were done in order to deal with past sins, not future ones.

Hebrews uses two different types of sacrifice to make his case: legal sacrifices like those on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) and covenant sacrifice from Exodus 24. Although Hebrews never completely segregates his arguments, 9:15-28 mainly deals with the covenant sacrifice which was introduced in chapter eight. It is in the section on covenant sacrifice that the permanence of Christ's atonement is argued for most

vigorously. Hebrews uses the idea of a "will" (as in testament) because the same Greek word means both "will" and "covenant" (diaqhkhj). Once someone dies their will takes affect in perpetuity. Hebrews argues that a covenant works in the same way. Therefore, Jesus' death, because it is a covenant sacrifice, extends eternally into the future.

Hebrews does not say, however, that the atonement sacrifice of Jesus only covers past sins. Because Jesus sat down after his sacrifice and does not repeat His offering, it is a permanent atoning sacrifice. Like the covenant inaugurating sacrifice, Jesus death is not repeated, therefore its effect is perpetual.

The argument in Hebrews 9:1-14 and 10:1-18 revolve around the sacrifices of the law. The Day of Atonement is the main legal sacrifice that Hebrews uses because it is the highest sacrificial act of the law. Whatever sins had not been atoned for during the previous year, the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement made up for. By showing that even these highest sacrifices do not really remove sins, but only remind us of our sins, Hebrews is nullifying the whole mosaic cultus. If the greatest thing we have put our hope in is no good then we are left with nothing. It's here that Hebrews makes his point. There is one thing that we can trust in, the final sacrifice made by Jesus Christ.

Because the atonement secured by Christ is permanent, it "make[s] perfect those who approach" (10:1, cf. 14) where the sacrifices that were repeated could not. Because it is permanent there is no more sacrifice, so they "no longer have any consciousness of sin" (10:2) like they had with the repeated offerings. Because it is not repeated, there is no "reminder of sin year after year" (10:3). Because the sacrifice according to God's will is once for all "we have been sanctified" (10:10). Because it is permanent, the priest who offered it (Christ) "sat down at the right hand of God" (10:12). Because it is permanent God will never "remember their sins" (10:17). Each of these verses speaks of either the repetition of the old sacrifices or the singleness of Christ's offering. The difference between these two is that Jesus' sacrifice is the offering that God willed. The elaborate proof of Jesus' priesthood in chapter seven is necessary in order for Hebrews to be able to have Him perform the priestly half of this act. The sinlessness, willing obedience, and prepared body are needed for Him to properly perform the bodily sacrifice part.

It is the once for all character of Jesus' ministry that sets it apart most from the levitical cultus. Jesus' ministry has this permanence because it is the "true form," (10:1) it conforms perfectly to the will of God (10:7, 9, 10), and it fulfills the new covenant. Since God no longer remembers sins, there is true and lasting forgiveness. Since sins have been decisively forgiven there is no longer any need for sacrifices.

Perfection language also speaks to the permanence of Christ's ministry. By perfecting us once and for all we are now free to approach God without the need for more sacrifices because we are sanctified and always have a clean conscience. The old system has served its purpose as a shadow of the good things to come, but since the "good things to come" have arrived in Jesus Christ they are no longer necessary.

We have talked a lot about Christ as the sacrificial victim, but Hebrews also talks about Him as the one who offers the sacrifice. Of the two major title of Christ in Hebrews, "Son" and "high priest," neither are explicitly mentioned in chapter ten, but the second is alluded to in 10:11. Jesus, as the high priest, offers the supreme offering of himself. Although there is no explicit formulation of Jesus as priest and sacrifice the arguments that Hebrews make involve both aspects of Jesus' ministry. His body was offered in 10:10 and He is the offerer of the definitive sacrifice in 10:11. His offering is different because it is a one time offering effective forever. Jesus Christ, the final sacrifice, is also the great high priest who offers that sacrifice.

V. Theological SummationWhat does all this matter to my church today? They would too easily agree with the author of Hebrews that God does not desire sacrifice and that the blood of bulls and goats does not take away sins. The whole sacrificial system is foreign to them. They do not even think about slaughtering animals in order to deal with their sins. What would they care about the repetition of sacrifices that Hebrews is so concerned about?

The concerns that Hebrews has and the questions that he is answering are not our concerns and questions. Yet, we still must deal with sin and guilt. Maybe that is why so many commentaries concentrate on the interior aspects of chapter ten. We have to deal with our conscience, even if we do not handle it with animal sacrifices. No matter what we do to deal with sin, Jesus Christ has said the final word. We may try to deal with our own sins by attempting to do God's will. We might substitute our own kinds of sacrifices for those required by the mosaic law, but only Jesus fulfilled the will of God.

Attempting to be obedient to the moral aspects of the law is just as futile as trying to be obedient to its cultic aspects. However, is Hebrews dealing with the moral law by speaking about doing the will of God? He is talking about fulfilling what God had already willed as the way to deal with sins. A body was prepared for offering and Jesus was that body and made that offering. Yet, Jesus was sinless and made an offering that was without any blemish. His sacrifice is put in moral terms, but those moral terms are absent from chapter ten. It's too much to read chapter ten in terms of Jesus making a moral sacrifice.

Where does that leave us? There are at least two options. We can learn to think in ritualistic and cultic ways by studying the Old Testament. We need to learn more about what our scriptures teach us. We could also focus on the permanent quality of Jesus' sacrifice. Because Jesus has fulfilled the will of God, bringing forgiveness of sins we no longer have to worry about sacrifices. We can understand the single sacrifice for sins without having to first fathom the many ineffectual sacrifices. We do not need to be reminded of our sins by putting ourselves into the sacrificial cult. Hebrews is trying to get us to stop thinking in terms of the cultic repetitions. Maybe my church has a better understanding of the argument of Hebrews than his first readers might have had. They were thinking in terms of the legal sacrifices. Hebrews is trying to get them to stop looking at the cult and look at Jesus Christ, the final sacrifice.

by Terry A. Larm
Pasadena, CA

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