As described in the previous articles the next tenant of Paul's doctrine of salvation as recorded in the New Testament is that of the vicarious atonement effected by the divine death for those who have faith in its efficacy.
Since there is no divine death in Judaism, there is nothing to correspond to the atonement effected by a divine death. Animal sacrifices in Judaism, as pointed out in a previous article, do not work in the same way as the death of Yeshua in Paul's soteriological scheme.
Answer for yourself: Do animals sacrifices in Biblical Judaism work differently from the way Paul portrays the death of Yeshua in his salvation scheme of things? Yes. Let us see how.
First, the animal sacrifices are not vicarious or prophylactic. Even in the case of sin-offerings, the animal does not die in the place of the offerer of the sacrifice.
Here is where most all of Gentile Christianity misses the boat. After reading Christian commentators describe in commentaries on Leviticus and the Sacrificial System and how it functioned, as well as Jewish commentators dealing with the same subject matter as well, I was amazed at the great amounts of misinformation which I accepted through allegorical preaching in the Christian Church. Now pay attention please. Since the offerer has already expiated his sin by repentance and reparation before ever bringing the animal to the Tabernacle or the Temple (without which no sin offering for a deliberate sin is valid at all, see Lev. 5.23), he does not stand in need of 'salvation', but only of final reconciliation. As mentioned before the Jews never looked to animal sacrifices for salvation. Yet you hear this all the time by Christians who frankly don't know much at all about the sacrificial system of Judaism. To say that the Jews were saved by the "sacrificial system" is simply a Christian invention and a lie. One only needs to study Judaism just a little to see the error of such Christian teaching.
Most sacrifices, however, are not sin-offerings, but simply gifts, offered in thanksgiving or out of piety. An exception is the sacrifice of the paschal lamb at the time of the Exodus, whose blood, smeared on the doorposts, saved the Israelites from the death dealing Lord. But this was only one historical occasion, and did not leave its mark on the sacrifices of the Temple. The paschal lamb of Egypt is carefully distinguished in the rabbinic writings from the 'paschal lamb of the generations', which has the status of a festival celebration and has no connotation of prophylaxis or atonement. Atonement was never connected with the Passover and says a lot to the thinking believer about the death of Yeshua as that special time. The message is wrong that the Church teaches. Passover is not about atonement at all!
Secondly, the sacrifice of Yeshua, according to most Christians, works as an atonement for all sins indiscriminately, while the rabbis teach that the Temple sin-offerings are each offered as final atonement for a "particular sin". These offerings were never for sin "in general" the way Yeshua's death was explained by Paul. In other words, Yeshua dies to wipe out 'sin' in general, while the Temple sin offering wipes out only one sin. Even the Day of Atonement sacrifice, which is offered for the sins of the congregation indiscriminately, acts only in respect of sins committed in the previous year. As soon as the Day of Atonement is over, the problem of sin exists just as before; all that has happened is that a kind of annual auditing has taken place, so that a new start can be made without a back-log of sin - and even this, in rabbinic theory, does not work without repentance and reparation. Thus there is no magical element of 'rebirth' of the sacrificer in the Temple sacrifices. The problem of sin is regarded in a piecemeal manner, as a perennial problem which nothing is ever going to abolish. As long as a person is alive, he will face the temptation to sin day after day. Success in the past is no guarantee of success in the future, and no mystic initiation will transform the personality. At the same time, sin itself is not regarded mystically as an ineradicable spiritual stain, stemming from the sin of Adam, but as an 'inclination' that can be handled and even channelled into good by any ordinary person, by the exercise of his own innate spiritual resources (the 'good inclination') and with the help of the guidance of the Torah. Moreover, if he fails, as he inevitably will from time to time, this is not a matter for despair, for the remedy lies in repentance, or 'return' (teshubah), and those who stray from the way can always return to it.
This whole mental climate of the sacrificial system and its relationship to obtaining forgiveness and atonement is worlds away from Paul's attitude towards sin and its cure. Paul does indeed regard sin as a mystical stain that can be removed only by mystical means. This mystical means consists of the death of Christ, which acts as a vicarious atonement for mankind; and also of the 'faith' by which the initiate makes the atonement available for himself. Both these elements as taught by Paul are derived from Hellenistic religion, not from Judaism, though terminology derived from Jewish sources is used by Paul to 'judaize' his concepts. Here again it must be stressed that the use of a Jewish term does not necessarily argue a Jewish derivation, since such a term can often be given a meaning that is totally alien to every form of Judaism in Paul's time. The term 'rejudaization' has been much used in New Testament scholarship, to denote an alleged tendency on the part of Christian communities to revert to Judaism. The value of this term is questionable, since it is often an expression of a twentieth-century tendency concerned with discounting and nullifying evidence of the essential Jewishness of Yeshua and his immediate followers; but the term 'judaization' may be a useful way of referring to the tendency of Paul and his followers to camouflage Hellenistic ideas by giving them Jewish sounding labels. This is deceptive to say the least to those who don't know any better. Again I refer to non-Jews who read the New Testament without any or much background into Biblical Judaism.
In all fairness the idea of sin as a stain on the soul of mankind deriving from the primeval Fall is not entirely absent from rabbinic Judaism, it is there a peripheral notion but always as a "minority opinion", marginalized by conflicting conceptions, and the remedy is not a vicarious sacrifice, but the giving of the Torah. The idea of vicarious sacrifice is also not entirely absent from rabbinic Judaism either; but again as a peripheral idea and a "minority opinion" that has no importance for the general theory of how a person achieves righteousness. I must stress that these "scattered rabbinic comments" are MINORITY OPINIONS and do not reflect the majority opinion of Jewish scholars or the writers of the Old Testament. They reflect rabbis who following the destruction of the Temple were influenced by Hellenism at places like Alexandrian. Thus they are minority opinions not carrying weight with mainline Biblical Judaism.
It is necessary to point out that it is the Pauline idea that Yeshua died for the sins of mankind that has been rejected by Jews, as irreconcilable with the Jewish way of coping with sin and guilt. But the idea that the Jews rejected Yeshua as under a 'curse' because of the manner of his death is entirely wrong. Many Jews died by crucifixion and were regarded as heroes and martyrs, not as under a curse. Paul's very individual use, in Gal. 3:13, of the biblical verse (Deut. 21:23) about hanging after death by execution, as if it applied to a Roman crucifixion, was not based on any rabbinic source and misses the mark completely. Even a criminal dying by Jewish execution was not regarded as under a curse; on the contrary, his death was regarded as an atonement for his sin. But a Jewish patriot dying by Roman oppression was not regarded as a criminal in any way, but as a martyr. While some scholars, in recent years, have stressed the alleged Jewishness of Paul's ideas, this is one area in which Paul is supposed to have rejected a rooted Jewish idea, the 'curse' of crucifixion, and substituted something new and shocking...especially shocking because of the alleged previous Jewish belief that he who died on a cross incurred a curse - the redemptive power of the cross. There was, in fact, no 'curse' or 'scandal' of crucifixion in Judaism to exorcise, the 'curse' being entirely of Paul's own manufacture. What was indeed divergent but not new in Pauline thought however, was the concept of the cross, or any form of violent death of a savior figure, as the central way to atonement and redemption for mankind. It is true, of course, that Yeshua's death on the cross demonstrated to most Jews (not believing in his resurrection) that he was not the Messiah. But this was not because of the manner of his death, but simply because he had not succeeded in ending the Roman tyranny and instituting the kingdom of God. The idea that his catastrophic failure was a success on the cosmic level was not part of Jewish thinking, and was therefore rejected; but his death on a Roman cross was cause for sorrow, not condemnation, like the deaths of other Messiah-figures before and after him.
For Paul, the idea of vicarious sacrifice is of paramount importance. Again and again, he stresses that the violent death of Yeshua atones for the sins of mankind, which could find no atonement except through this sacrifice. Relevant passages are Rom. 3:25 and 5:8-9, which refer to forgiveness and justification through the death and blood of Christ, and Paul's account of the institution of the Eucharist, referring to 'the new testament in my blood'. The necessity of the death of Christ for human salvation is expressed by Paul as follows: 'I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain' (Gal. 2.20-21).
W. D. Davies, however, argues that the concept of sacrifice does not figure largely in Paul's writings (unlike in the pseudonymous Epistle to the Hebrews). Davies is aware that first-century Judaism did not regard the animal sacrifices of the Temple as central to atonement for sin (see above). Paul, he argues, as one steeped in rabbinic thought, saw the concept of sacrifice as limited in scope, and therefore gave other concepts priority.
Paul, Davies argues, sees the death of Yeshua not as a sacrifice, primarily, but as an exemplification of the concept of 'obedience unto death', the chief model of which, in the Hebrew Bible, is the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. Thus the atonement brought about by Yeshua was not caused by his death, but by his obedience to his mission. Davies adduces evidence from Jewish sources to show that obedience to heavenly commandments by individuals (the Patriarchs being the most noteworthy instance) can build up a stock of 'merits' that is available for others, and thus acts as a means of vicarious atonement.
The effect of this argument is to portray Yeshua, in Pauline thought, as primarily a martyr, not a sacrifice. A martyr dies because of his steadfast adherence to his moral principles even in the face of death. A sacrifice, on the other hand, dies not because of principles so strong that they overcome his instinctive desire to stay alive, but because his death itself is desirable and necessary to his aim. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah is undoubtedly a martyr, or at least one prepared to be a martyr (whether he actually suffers death is doubtful). But it is very difficult to conceive Christ, in the Pauline scheme, as a martyr. Christ is certainly 'obedient unto death', but to what commandment is he obedient? The answer surely is that he is obedient to the commandment, or mission, of undergoing death (Phil. 2.8). There is certainly some precedent for this in Jewish tradition, as well as in pagan legends of willing sacrifices, for the figure of Isaac is often portrayed in rabbinic literature as one utterly obedient to the command to suffer a sacrificial death. This makes Isaac a sacrifice, not a martyr, the great difference being that the sacrifice of Isaac was cancelled.
Another strategy has been employed by some scholars to argue that the Pauline concept of the death of Yeshua was not sacrificial. This is to argue that the death was not primarily atoning but 'participatory'; i.e. that the effect of the death of Christ is not to wipe out human sins, but to enable humanity to participate in the divinization and resurrection of Christ. This topic belongs to the next article, but here it is sufficient to say that sacrifices may be participatory as well as atoning. In other words, it is an unacceptable narrowing of the definition of sacrifice to confine its purpose to atonement. As we shall see, the sacrifices of the pagan world (though not of Judaism) were often aimed at divinization rather than atonement (though the two concepts are not finally separable). In any case, Paul's participationism does nothing to detach him from the notion of sacrifice, since the sacrificial death of Yeshua is just as necessary to the participationist as to the atoning theory.
The general conclusion of the present section is that the idea of vicarious atonement by the death of Christ is not based on any Jewish source. Judaism has an entirely different theory of atonement, based on a radically different psychology of sin and Paul's ideas can be shown to have no genesis in Biblical Judaism or the Old Testament.
Again the place to look for essential similarity to the Pauline view is in pagan mystery religion. Here we find many examples of the willing sacrificial victim whose death averts the wrath of a god and saves the community from the punishment it deserves for its sins. These are human figures who were 'obedient unto death' as atoning sacrifices in cases of special crisis. Even more relevant, however, are the human-divine sacrificial figures of the mystery religions, whose deaths purge their devotees of their sins and make them eligible for immortality, so rescuing them from the continuing crisis of earthly life. The mystery religion which is nearest in tone to Paulinism is perhaps Orphism, which, more than other mystery religions, had a negative attitude towards human earthly endeavour, and regarded its rites as a universal panacea for the human dilemma, rather than as merely conferring special privileges on the initiated. The death of Dionysus, in Orphism, had an atoning effect for those who shared it mystically, and the resurrection of the god was the guarantee of the entrance of the initiate into a new and superior form of life, in which moral problems were transcended. Whether there was a direct influence of Orphism on Paul, or whether he was influenced rather by the cult of Attis, as seems more probable both for geographical and cultic reasons, is difficult to decide. Further evidence, both about the diffusion of Orphic beliefs, and about the earlier worship of Attis may throw light on the question. There seems no reason, however, to reject the conclusion that some form of mystery religion was the chief influence on him, in respect to the atoning death of Christ, rather than any form of Judaism.
I encourage you to read a couple of books that deal with these issues. There are literally hundreds to choose from but my favorites are these:
The Religion Of The Occident by Martin Larson
The Essene Christian Faith by Martin Larson
Ayran Sun-Myths...The Origin Of Religion by Charles Morris
Bible Myths And Parallels In World Religions by T. W. Doane
One last though if I might.
Mal 3:6 6 For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.
If you like I believe the above verse and trust its validity then our God does not change. Well if you read these articles you can see that Paul's teachings are often a complete contradiction and in opposition to what was given through Holy men of Old as recorded in the Old Testament. Something sure changed. Coupled with that is the evidence I presented as to the origin for Paul's "changes" as taken from Gnosticism and Pagan Mystery Religions the conclusion is inescapable. If you consider yourself a thinking believer then you easily see that what is recorded in the New Testament and in the Pauline corpus of writings are "changes" from God Word as collected in the Jewish Scriptures. This God which changes not gave us these truths through the Jewish nation and are the backbone for which the church is to founded upon. This God says He changes not. That means His Word does not change as well. Well something did. You now have the facts and can make an intelligent decision on this matter. It is time to return to the faith once given to the saints...Biblical Judaism where the non-Jew is grafted into Israel and not as its "replacement".
Now on to the next article.