Did God Really Demand the Death of His Son as a Sacrifice for Sin?

One of the more poignant arguments against Christianity is that the Christian God demanded that his son be offered up as a human blood sacrifice in order for justice to be satisfied and forgiveness offered. In this view the Christian God is an angry, blood thirsty tyrant who must be sated before he becomes a loving father. Christians will of course argue that people who view the crucifixion this way are missing the point, don’t understand God’s righteous anger, are minimizing the need for justice, etc. However, I think that the real truth is that many Christians misunderstand the reasons for the crucifixion and our critics are simply making some pretty obvious observations about our own teachings regarding the propitiation of sins and the death of Jesus. I know that I’m treading on some pretty hallowed theological ground here, but if you’ll stick with me, I think you may find that my upside down world understanding of this issue is a better fit with reality than what many of us have been taught.

Let’s start our discussion with the issue of blood sacrifice itself. The first thing to be noted is that blood sacrifice is not something which originated with the Hebrew God. It had been practiced for millennia prior and has occurred all over the world. It is a human invention. In his excellent book Ideas That Changed the World, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto offers the anthropological explanation for the pervasiveness of the practice of blood or animal sacrifice:

Gifts are a common way of establishing reciprocity and cementing relationships between individuals and human groups; by extension, a gift should also work to bind gods and spirits to the human givers, connecting deities to the profane world and alerting them to its needs and concerns. . . During the last 10 millennia . . . sacrifice has acquired a great many meanings: as penance for sin; as thanksgiving; as homage to divinity; as a contribution to the well-being of the Universe; or as a sacrilized gift, considered as an act of worship or of imitation of God.

One of the things which we need to understand about God as revealed in scriptures is that over and over again, God does not wait for us to become acceptable or advanced enough to establish a relationship with him. Instead, he reaches out to meet us where we are and bit by bit draws us forward towards him and away from our previous ideas and ways of doing things. The rituals of animal sacrifices did not reflect a need or demand of God. Instead, by instituting rituals of animal sacrifice God is co-opting a human institution and way of doing things and directing it back to himself with the ultimate result that the human institution drops away while the devotion to God remains.

If we look in scripture the first offering made to God is made by Cain and Abel, which did not turn out so well. But it was not an offering in response to a demand of God. We don’t know what prompted them to make their offerings to begin with; perhaps they were imitating the actions of others around them. The second instance of animal sacrifice which appears in scripture is when God makes his covenant with Abram. Again it is not a sacrifice made in response to a demand on God’s part. The purpose of this sacrifice isn’t Abram seeking to appease or please God, but God’s way of demonstrating his commitment to Abram and the promises made to him. The specific actions of the ritual – cutting the animals in half and passing between them – are noted in other contemporary accounts as a form of sealing an agreement between two parties. The implication was that if either party broke the covenant, they would be cut in half like the sacrificed animals had been. So, we see clearly here God using a ritual of mankind’s own making that Abram would understand and be comfortable with. The first example we have of God demanding a ritual sacrifice is when God tells Abram, now Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. At this time, God then provides a substitution for the sacrifice and the boy’s life is spared. In fact, the first actual instructions from God regarding ritual animal sacrifice don’t come until the law is given through Moses hundreds of years later. By that time, the Hebrews had been living among the Egyptians for many, many generations and would have been heavily influenced by Egyptian religious practices which included animal sacrifices.

I’ve gone through all of this out simply to establish that animal or blood sacrifice did not originate with demands from God at all. Instead, they are almost certainly an example of God meeting people where they were and using what they were already familiar with to turn them towards himself. God didn’t need animals sacrificed to him. But people needed assurances that they were acceptable, forgiven and in right relationship with their God. God uses the already familiar rituals of animal sacrifices to meet the needs of the people, not to meet his own blood thirsty demands.

So we get to the time of Jesus. One of the pressing issues of the religious community during Jesus day was the keeping of the law. The Hebrews were, of course, living under Roman occupation and the keeping of the law had in many ways become a nationalistic rather than a spiritual pursuit. This is part of what accounts for the zealousness of parts of the religious establishment; breaking the Hebrew law was not simply a demonstration of a lack of faith – it was akin to treason. Keeping the peculiar laws of the Hebrew bible was what ensured that the Hebrews would remain a separate nation that could take its rightful place when the Messiah arrived and lead them to victory over their oppressors. In this environment, the law and the sacrifices no longer served to turn the people’s hearts and devotions towards God, but  often served largely secular, political purposes. Once again, God reached out to meet humanity where it was in a way it could understand in order to turn us back to himself again. Enter the Word made flesh – Jesus.

Since the topic at hand is whether God demanded the sacrifice of his son to provide for the forgiveness of our sins, I’m going to skip straight to the death of Jesus here. The first thing we must understand about the death of Jesus is who it originated with. The reality is that throughout Jesus’ ministry there were people who wanted him dead. There are quite a few places in the gospels where Jesus slipped out of town in order to escape those who would kill him. It was human desire which sought the death of Jesus and not the demands of God. In fact, there was nothing about the execution of Jesus which conformed to the rules of God. Regular rules for trial were ignored. Jesus wasn’t subjected to the scriptural means of death for one who blasphemed – that being stoning. Even the usual proscription against killing during the Passover feast was ignored. And it wasn’t the fury of God which propelled events forward; it was the fury of men which did that.  This was an event of human motivations and means from start to finish.

The claim that the crucifixion of Jesus was a sacrifice demanded by God, ignores the bald, ugly reality of what actually happened. The religious leaders, caring nothing for what God cares for – our hearts and need for redemption – had turned Jesus over to the powers of this world. The people in demanding his execution and the release of Barabbas committed an act of gross betrayal against Jesus who had never harmed anyone and healed many. It was the worst of human nature on display. The soldiers mocked Jesus, mocked his royalty, mocked the miraculous power he had demonstrated purely in service to needy humanity. The means of his death was a rather extreme example of man’s capacity for cruelty towards fellow man. It was carried out by those just doing their jobs – the banality of evil at work 2000 years before we had a term for it. While Jesus suffered on the cross, we see further examples of the difference between God’s ways and mankind’s ways. Before he is even dead, the soldiers amuse themselves with a bit of vice, gambling for his clothes. When he asks for some small comfort – a drink – he is met with yet another example of how people will treat those suffering and offered a dose of vinegar which will not alleviate his suffering but simply makes it worse. All in all, rather than an example of a sacrifice demanded by God, the death of Jesus is a fantastic display of the worst behaviors and traits that humans can muster up. There was nothing about it that reflected God’s desire or demands. This was the work of human beings through and through.

And yet . . . God takes this ugly, evil display of cruelty, vice, power, betrayal, self-interest and arrogance and does what he is wont to do with the things we humans come up with. He uses it to turn us towards himself. It’s as if he says, “are you done now? Are you satisfied? Have you vented your fury and poured out your sinfulness on me to your satisfaction? Fine. Then it is done. You poured out your sin on me and my son. And now, I have redeemed even the worst that you can do. He is risen. He is Lord of Lords and King of Kings now. You sin has no power. It has no power to defeat me and it has no power to separate us any longer. Turn away from it and seek after me.”

This claim that God reacts to this lurid display of human cruelty and sin by declaring it as the means by which we are reconciled to him may seem to be a stretch, but tomorrow I’ll use the story of the prodigal son to explain why this reaction is exactly the way that God behaves with us. I would do it today, but this post is already way too long. But I do have it written already, so if you aren’t already subscribed, you should go do that and it will be delivered into your inbox tomorrow. I know you’ll be waiting with baited breath for its arrival! J

65 thoughts on “Did God Really Demand the Death of His Son as a Sacrifice for Sin?

  1. Interesting take. However, this all ignores the overriding issue of whether events in the Bible happened exactly the way they were written. After all, God’s intervention in the affairs of man is a direct violation of the universal law of “free will”. If you’re seriously interested in this subject, you might want to check out what historians and theologians are pouring over (writings such as the Sumerian Creation Tablets, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Book of Enoch and the Nag Nammadi Library).

    1. Thanks for the comment!
      In my research and thinking, I prefer to work from the most restrictive understanding of things – that what happened has been reported pretty straight-forwardly. I have of course read up on the arguments against taking the accounts of events at face value. However, I have never found any real benefit or learned anything enlightening from such arguments. I prefer to take a “assuming that this is the way things are, what understandings and explanations would make sense?” For me it’s been a very productive approach, so I’ve pretty much decided to stick with it.
      I think that the idea of free will is often over-stated. For example, we have a lot of evidence that things which have moral components are heavily influenced by genetics, brain structures, hormones and other biological processes which we have no real control over. Does this interfere with free will? And interacting with something always changes its course, So would our interactions with each other and our environment constitute an interference with free will? I would argue that re God, his influence and interactions may infringe on the most stringent ideas about free will, but an understanding of free will which holds such influence and interaction to be violate free will is unrealistic. Particularly in light of all the other things which influence us and all the other interactions we have.

  2. Rebecca, I do not really know how theologically sound is this argument, but it is beautiful, and it makes a lot of sense to me…. Thank you!!!!!

    1. Thanks!
      I know that it seems to go against a lot of established theology, but I’ve thought it through a lot and I really think it holds up. I’ll get into it further re some of the scripture verses that are pertinent to the discussion tomorrow. But like I said, I think it does hold up both scripturally and it makes sense in reference to a God of love. 🙂

  3. This view helps make more sense of the account of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane and his plea to the Father that this cup to pass from him. In my opinion the only other explanation of that account in the Garden that makes sense is Willard’s view that Jesus is actually praying that he not give into Satan’s temptation to stop him from making it to the cross. That is, that the cross was Jesus’ goal. I have documented Willard’s account at http://thelocution.blogspot.com/2012/04/good-friday.html. As it turns out, Willard’s view on the garden incident makes sense with both your take and the more conventional take on the sacrifice of Jesus.

    Excellent article, thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the comment!
      I think I prefer NT Wright’s idea that Jesus knew what he was setting himself up for when he put on his street theater coming in on a donkey with palms and praise and then making a huge scene at the temple. He wrote his death warrant then. I don’t have a problem with the idea of a fearful Jesus in the garden. He was human as much as divine and he clearly asks the Father to allow the cup or the hour to pass from him if possible. If he had not experienced great fear at what he knew was coming, it would diminish the claim in Hebrews 4:15 that he shared in all our weakness.
      I’ve been meaning to write a post about it, but I think that there’s a tendency to underplay the humanity of Jesus in favor of Jesus as super-human. And part of that is this idea that Jesus knew exactly what he was doing and why. None of us really know what our mission in life is or exactly what roads we ought to take. We have to rely on doing our best, using discernment and trusting that God will guide us. It would have been no different for Jesus. And if he didn’t sometimes doubt himself – am I crazy? Does God really want me to do and say “x”? – again, it would diminish the claim that he shared in all our human weaknesses.

  4. Good, I didn’t know anyone else was reading through NT Wright’s phone books!

    You left out the 2nd animal sacrifice: when Noah grounded, let most of the animals go, and set up an altar, whereupon God takes a good snift, & says “I don’t think I’ll drown these people after all. Nobody else knows how to fix a kosher holocaust like they do!” [Much like the Babylonian gods do in the original version!]

    Much of the reason for sacrifices, as anthropologists describe it– is so slaughtering an animal for food doesn’t become a casual, routine affair. [as large busy Temples would tend to make it, after awhile.]

    A better angle on the ‘atonement’ thing would be: ~God didn’t need a sacrifice to know sHe didn’t hate people– but people did.

    Basically, we had the best, most religious people of their day– and confronted with a person who thought like God, they were terrified enough to want him killed. And rather than call in a ten-legions-of-angels airstrike, God lets them do it. Then brings the man back as a sign, “This guy was telling you what you need to know!” (But not showing him to those individuals who’d had him killed. “Even if someone were to return from the dead,” they wouldn’t believe him.” Maybe after a few more kalpas…)

  5. dear Rebecca, you have put into words exactly my thoughts and feelings about the suffering and death of our beloved Jesus, or, if you prefer so, Michael. There is no use in discussing about theological and historical research if you KNOW the truth, because it feels right. Trying to convince other people, which you do not, would only minimize your credibility. There is no need for theoretical evidence, no need for followers or get approval if you are convinced yourself… However, it is very nice to get my own view confirmed by someone from across the ocean! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hej Rebecca

    It is a brilliant topic which I am also writing on a long ongoing series in my blog, as a go through what Christians from A.D. 30-2012 think of the death of Christ.

    I think,Rebecca, Hebrews 9: 22b: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” and Hebrews 10:4 “[it was] impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”(ESV) opened a door for me to explore this blood of Jesus, God holiness, love and justice again.

    The notion of God so loved the fallen world (John 3:16) that He did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all (Rom. 8:32), a demonstration of His own love for us while we were still sinners (Rom. 5:8), that Christ died for us, so that by the grace of God, Jesus suffered and tasted death for everyone (Heb. 2:9) thus we might live through him (1 John 4:9) since Jesus’ atoning sacrifice (1 John 4:10) has freed us from our sins by his blood (Rev. 1:5) is hard teaching to understand given our modern worldview.

    But I think N.T. Wright was very right contending: “Jesus has announced God’s imminent judgment on his rebel people, a judgment that would consist of devastation at the hands of Rome. He then goes ahead of his people to take precisely that judgment, literally, physically and historically upon himself, ‘ Not only in theological truth, but in historic fact, the one bore the sins of the many’ This is both penal and substitutionary, but it is far bigger and less open to objection than some other expressions of that theory”. (Wright 2011: 181)

    Going through the prodigal sons(both were lost, but one found) I also see a payment for the return of the young prodigal son.Restoration of the young son costed the big brother’s 3/4 part of inheritance (I answered this in my blog series). Christ is our true big brother, unlike the one in the story, Christ came down searching for us, paying everything so we can come home. He said “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(Matt 20:28)

    As the father in the story, God did not love and welcome us home because Jesus died for us, Jesus died for us because God already loved us and welcomed us home before time began(Ephe. 1:3-11)

    I will dance with your thoughts Rebecca and I pray that God will open our eyes to see how beautiful He even in hard passages and doctrines like atonement.

    Your brother in Christ,


    1. Huh – I’m re-reading The Challenge of Jesus right now! And I do agree in large part with attonement theology. I think that my main point and quibble is that blood sacrifice wasn’t a requirement for God – it was a requirement for us. I agree with substitutionary theology with the caveat that it was our needs, our psychology and our way of relating with God which drives it. God’s desire is to be in restorative relationship with us. Whatever stands in the way – including our own guilt, sin and errant ideas – must be removed. By allowing his son to be given up to our evil ways, God was removing those barriers for us. It was our need and not some need on his part for sacrifice that drove the manner in which this was accomplished. At least, that’s my understanding of it. I guess my concern is less with the effect of the death and ressurection of Jesus and more with the character of the God we serve. If that all makes sense.

      I have wondered about Christ as the older brother in the prodigal son. The issue with this, however, was that the older brother was angry with his father over his acceptance of the younger back. Jesus played a willing part in the family drama going on. Lately I’ve been wondering if the older brother doesn’t represent other spiritual children of God – like literally spiritual. Angels or even the enemy and the like. It’s just an idea. 🙂

      1. Hello Rebecca,

        I have being thinking of your articles ever since I read them. Thank you so much for your writings. You have a talent to see things in different angle.

        The blood sacrifice in Old Testament was a symbolic “means by which the guilt-punishment chain produced by violation of God’s will is broken, as well as the resulting state of reconciliation (‘at-onement’) with God.” (Achtemeier et al. 1985: 80)

        I think we err if we deny that blood sacrifice is something which originated with the Hebrew God. Because Hebrews 8:5 states “They[sacrifical and offering system] serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.””(I will recommend reading of Leviticus 12-16, Isaiah 52-53 and Hebrews 8-9)

        Atonement is the demonstration of the righteousness and holiness God as He justified all, without distinction, through the redemption work of Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as propitiation by His blood. (Rom. 3:22-24)

        The Apostle Paul argued that, “[t]his was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”(Rom. 3:25-26 ESV)

        Thus we err again understanding it as a way “people needed assurances that they are acceptable, forgiven and in right relationship with their God” since it is the offended part that demands reconciliation and does it. ”
        I[God], I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” Isaiah tells us in 43:25, “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake!” says Psalmist in 79:9, “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you.” says Jeremiah in 14:7.

        “Your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.”(1 John 2:12) and not our name sake, or our pyschological persective. I am moved, Rebecca, to conclude that God did really demand the life and death of His Son to passover our sins and give us what is of Christ, holiness and righteous as ours. Isaiah 53:10a puts it this way ” it was the will of the Lord to crush him; ” bearing the justice which was rightly yours and mine.(there was no other way Rebecca, as I read Jesus prayer at Gethsemane , than that Jesus drinking the cup of wrath Mark 14:32-41)

        I am open and exploring your angle Rebecca as I pray for the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to see the Holy Love, Holy Mercy, Holy Justice, Holy Wrath, Holy Righteousness, Holy Holy Holy our God who so loved us, even though we were unworthy and hostile to Him, that He gave His Son to live and lay down His life for you and I.

        Your brother in Christ,

    2. I kept meaning to get back to your response, but I’ve been rather scattered lately. I think that the key can be seen in that verse:

      “I [God], I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.” When God says he’s blotting out our transgressions for his own sake, what does he mean? I believe that this refers back to his primary concern which is to be in relationship with us. He desires relationship with us and so while he could choose to hold our transgressions against us, her forgives them. The problem he faces is two-fold, however. How to discourage sin and how to encourage us to come closer. Sin needs to be discouraged due to the harm that it does to ourselves, each other and our openess to relationship with God. I have come to believe that most sin has its roots in trauma and a desire to avoid suffering. Healing is the answer to that, so forgiveness which is closely tied to healing is part of how sin is diminished. The real issue is always God’s desire for relationship with us – for our sake and his.

      As to the specifics of sacrifice, sacrifice IS indeed required in order to bring about this union with God. However, that sacrifice is ultimately a sacrifice of self and of anything that keeps us from God. Animal sacrifice was purely symbolic – God has no need of blood or animals – but it was one that people already used and whose meaning was understood. It had meaning because of that and because it required people to forgo food or money to perform. And became spiritual by using those as a symbolic means of offering up our hearts and sins. But it was never about animals or blood. With the death of Jesus, the real locus of sacrifice moved to where it mattered – anything that held the place in our hearts that God ought to occupy. Now we are asked to offer up our bodies – our very being – to God. Which is what God has sought all along. Getting rid of animal sacrifice was actually a benefit to us as no longer is the sacrifice outside of ourselves.

      I guess that what I am saying is that ultimately, none of it is about God’s need to see us sacrifice or meet his demands. To the extent that any of this originates with God, it is simply that as our creator and the one whose image we bear, he wants to see us restored, We are supposed to be a reflection of him and while we are failing at that, the world is missing a key component – walking, talking, acting displays of God on this earth. When God says that for his sake he forgives us, this is what his sake is – to have his creation and his own images set right. It’s about fixing what is wrong. The way to get there is through sacrifice, yes. But not because it’s what God needs and demands. Rather because it’s the medicine by which we get better.

  7. Hi Rebecca, my name is Jim Chen. Thanks for reading my blog! I agree with your title. I will read more carefully this Sunday perhaps when my four year old is not jumping around behind me, but I’ve always had the idea that GOD has plans and this plan of salvation are the 7 seals (scroll) in Revelation. Did you notice that the Lamb (Christ) was bloody before He took it, so He has been crucified over and over again. GOD calls, and we answer (volunteer – for ex. Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah – “Who will go?”). The idea that GOD sacrificed his Son unwillingly and cruelly makes for bad theology. I mean that if believers believe that, they may unknowingly be justifiably cruel themselves. These sacrifices are really missions. And after a mission, GOD always refreshes, rewards, and promotes. That’s what I think. I hope that makes sense,

    1. I like what you say about missions. I’ve often thought of Jesus and all of our lives in a similar way – there’s a mission to be completed. I think that the specific how’s are left up to us, but the core thrust surrounds some work that needs to be done.

  8. Have you read “Healing the Gospel: A Radical Vision for Grace, Justice, and the Cross” by Derek Flood? He argues that penal-substitution is unscriptural and we are better served by seeing the atonement as a victory of Christ over the powers of sin and death (the Christus Victor model).

    1. It’s funny – I get asked all the time if I’ve read this person or that person because they say something similar and the answer pretty much always is no. I just don’t have money to buy books, so at best I read reviews of books on the internet – which is pretty much the same thing, right?

      My understanding is that the Christus Victor model is the teaching of the Eastern Orthodox church as well. I haven’t studied Eastern Orthodox theology myself, but my experience is that very often I will get some idea worked out myself and then discover that it’s pretty well in line with Eastern Orthodox teachings. I don’t have any desire to be Eastern Orthodox myself, but perhaps we Protestants could save ourselves a lot of trouble by just reading EO theology. They seem to have done a pretty good job of hanging onto the theology of the early church.

  9. So… he basically cut himself in front of the audience and yelled: “See what I do to myself?! Y’all can’t touch me!”? Doesn’t really make it better 🙂

  10. I am just now reading this in June, 2013 because while reading Hebrews this morning, my attention was drawn to Christ being a sacrificial lamb. I have a friend who denies that God could ever sacrifice His son, and then scripture says He did. Then I googled “sacrifice” and ended up reading about the Aztec civilization sacrificing children to attain to the rising of the sun, each morning. Amazing! Further reading led me to your site and your essay about this subject. IT IS AN EXCELLENT RESPONSE, Rebecca. It is simply so right. Men are the problem , not God. Man’s heart is so deceitful, that it will trick you and everyone else , every time. Thanks !

    Jim Rap / Benson, NC

  11. I am just finding this article as I am teaching on Guilt vs Condemnation, vs Conviction soon and while it is an interesting conclusion, I think you are treading on very dangerous grounds. This thought tends to focus largely if not exclusively on a single characteristic of God … that God is Love. And while it is true that God is love and that is his character, we also need not forget that God is also (among other things) Holy, Righteous, Merciful and Sovereign. But also, an often overlooked character trait of God, is that God is Wrath. (Romans 1:18-32). And Wrath is just as much a character trait of God as Love, not one over the other. God is Love. God is Mercy. God is Holy. God is Wrath. We dare not lose sight of this lest it taint our interpretations.

    I know you say you don’t read much (“I just don’t have money to buy books, so at best I read reviews of books on the internet – which is pretty much the same thing, right?”), but your view more or less lines up with what Rob Bell calls a “toxic” form of substitutionary atonement in his book “Love Wins”. And among other things can lead to a Universalist view of salvation where Jesus is hardly needed and all good people go to heaven. In your view, you down play the guilt and punishment aspects of sin and seem rather to focus on sin as a form of victimhood. Here is a free read that sheds some light: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/aprilweb-only/christusvicarious.html?start=1

    My biggest concern when reading your work, is that very thing. A shift in thinking toward relativism. A drift that eventually leads to the “theological” idea that the truths of the bible are not absolute, but rather, the meaning of biblical truths is to be reinterpreted by each successive generation so that what a truth meant to one generation may not be what it means in the next. And this is indeed a very dangerous slope.

  12. Rebecca,

    I Googled my way to this page while exploring the practices of animal sacrifices and blood sacrifices and sacrifices to different gods in history.

    I had high hopes for it when I saw that you believe that such sacrifices are purely man-made and that they were never actually ordered by God. I agree completely with that idea. I don’t think some super intelligent god would be involved in such bloody rituals.

    So I thought you would believe as I do, that the ancient Jewish priesthood put words into God’s mouth, claiming that he wanted them to do those things, and they were just following his orders. But you didn’t go there…

    Instead, you seem to be claiming that God did indeed tell the ancient Jewish priesthood to perform those sacrifices, and that really surprised me. A reading of Leviticus is full of orders from the LORD about sacrifices, so I’m assuming you think God actually told Moses to do those things? It doesn’t make sense…

    Have you ever considered the idea that the priesthood was taking advantage of people already doing those things, and they decided to make a living off of it for their own benefit? They could live off of the animal meat and other things people were sacrificing to the gods at the time. If you look at Leviticus, it lists all kinds of “the best” things that the priests told people that God wanted…

    But alas, I feel that you actually trust the stories in the Old Testament which claim that God actually told the priesthood, instead of it being “upside down” like you like to think, and that it was the priesthood putting words into God’s mouth.

    Even Jesus had a beef with the Jewish priesthood and called them vipers and sons of the devil and liars, and that’s one of the reasons they wanted to kill him. He was exposing them and their sacrifices for what they were — a way to get people, no matter how poor they might be, to bring them stuff and pretend to forgive their sins.

    That’s a skeptical view of the Jewish priesthood, and one I believe is true, but I doubt you will agree with me. Oh well…

    Anyway, I really enjoyed reading your page, and am glad I ran across it!

  13. I loved reading your article and it does make a lot of sense. However, Isa 53:10 says, But the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; If he would render himself as a guilt offering..(NAS)

    So, I think that the theological stand point that is argued against in your article is actually derived from the Word of God. This has been a point of inner controversy to me as well?? Why would a loving God send His Son to be beaten to a pulp in order to satisfy justice for the sins of humanity, if the sinner will just believe in Jesus? That would be like punishing the good kid in the class in front of everyone to justify the rest of the bad kids who acted up in class and then telling them, if they only believe that the good kid got punished for their misbehavior; their deeds would be forgiven?
    Believe me when I tell you how I have struggled with this as a Christian..

    1. Jeff, I actually turned my response into a blog post:
      But basically, there’s no reason to read that verse as a contradiction to my argument. It was our needs being met and God was pleased to have them met so that our relationship with him could be redeemed.

  14. Thank you, Rebecca! I love your deep insights and thoughtful considerations that you share with others. You truly think outside the box, but this is what innovates the rest of us to get out of the boxes that we sometimes become prisoners of inside. Jeff

  15. Thank you, Rebecca! I l was enjoying as i was going through your article but what i love about Christian God who is Jesus the son of the living God who was there in the beginning with the father,who is the word that became flesh is he is so practical and when ever hi name i called he comes down and im one who have and still witnessing his power.i will continue about God sacrificing himself for the sins of the world

  16. God is God, While Humans are mere humans! the early humans who killed/murdered Jesus, changed this concept as if He was sacrificed? to cover up their…, As people of that age were considering Jesus was GOD, so if they changed the fact from murder for the fear of losing power to sacrificing him for our sins, making Jesus the Hero! showing him in the limelight while, our Creator is shown as if he was satisfied by his life, and was pleased, so he forgave all humans, from the time of Adam till today all sins are forgiven? and this will continue until… we believe in this repeated story? but why!

    -Concept Trinity-Jesus was was a mere human, who died. but the bible was altered, to show him as God, but why?

    -Eliminating punishing GOD, in human senses we have, Yes. But though we eliminated have changed/gained anything? We are losing more…

    -We can live a carefree life, to satisfy/please our senses, not worried about being punished… not in next life, but in this life only?

    We are all children of God, let us not break his commandments, that too the first one itself!

    We humans, change wife, children even parents to some extent, but from past 2014 years , we are trying to change God himself,

    He is a very loving Father God, so naturally, punishing God/Father?

    Except for a parent who wants to cover-up the mistakes, act with the child and always be very cool and are not bothered about the welfare of the child! But if the parent is really caring for the child, He will be a strict Father… this is logic, mostly all won’t agree! this is the naked truth about our God but we teaching opposite, for years.

  17. Actually, the first animal sacrifice occurred when God killed an innocent animal, took the skins and clothed Adam and Eve. This was a sacrifice to cover their sins…

  18. Now, the killing of the animal to make people some clothes is not to be taken as literal history – i.e. an act of God which some historian witnessed and gave an account of. There surely is a deeper meaning behind the narrative.

  19. Isaiah 1:11

    To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats.

    Psalm 51:16

    For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.

    Psalm 40:6

    Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.

    Hosea 6:6

    For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

    Matthew 9:13

    But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

  20. Jeremiah 7:22

    For I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices:

  21. God’s need for justice is fully balanced by his love for us. Both qualities are part of our Father’s makeup. When He gave his Son, Jesus Christ, as a sacrifice for our sins what he wanted in return from us is recognition of both the value of the gift, i.e., the infinite worth of his loving Son Jesus, and recognition of His, i.e., the Father’s, need for justice via the shed blood of His Son: Jesus. That’s what makes it a loving sacrifice. Jesus’s death on the cross and shed blood showed us the Father’s need for justice, and HIs resurection demonstrated both the Father’s love for His Son and and His love for those of us who want to be born again via the sacrifice of His Son to become part of the body of the living Christ.

    1. Actually, God doesn’t need anything. Not even justice. And all of God’s characteristics, including justice, flow directly out of love, which is the nature of his very being. Any theology which relies on balance is false. There is no balance. There is only Love and all that flows for it. Yes, justice is an attribute of love, but it’s never in opposition to or balanced against Love. If justice is in anyway in conflict with love, then it’s not how God works. Period. Amen. End of story and never, ever to be questioned again. That’s how airtight and all-encompassing God’s love is. It leaves no room for anything which is not in perfect harmony with and doesn’t flow directly out of love itself.

      The sacrifice of Jesus was all about meeting our needs. It was all about satisfying the challenge of our sin and violence and blindness. God didn’t direct it. It didn’t meet a single standard that God had for sacrifice, aside from the unblemished nature of its victim. It was a defiant rejection of God and all his ways by man. And just as the father in the story of the prodigal son, God allowed us to pursue our evil impulses to their logical conclusions and then turned the tables in such a way that ultimately mended the rift between us.

      But this whole idea of a God who had to save us from himself merely reveals how little we actually understand of God’s glory and perfect goodness.

  22. You emphasised God’s love, and I agree that is the foundation of our Lord’s character. This is an excerpt from: http://www.allaboutgod.com/god-is-just.htm to help explain why I believe God’s love of justice is also an important ingredient in His sacrifice of His Son:

    God is an all-powerful, all-knowing Supreme Being who is inherently just and who will act as our judge. What does this mean for humans like you and me? It means that our actions on earth and our attitudes toward God will ultimately be judged. This is a very serious concern since we have all fallen short of God’s perfect standards and we must pay the penalty for those shortcomings (Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23). Fortunately, we also know that God who is perfect Love is a God of mercy. In His mercy, He has provided a way for us to be reconciled with Him and to meet His standards because he is also Love. He has provided a substitute who was willing to pay our penalty if we are willing to accept that arrangement. He did this through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, who died to cover the penalty we would have to pay for our wrongdoing (Romans 3:24). All we have to do is accept this substitution. Then the God who is both just and merciful (both out of love) will forgive and forget our shortcomings. The Bible tells us He will even accept us and treat us as His children and His heirs. When God presented His Son Jesus as a substitute to pay the penalty for our wrong doing, the Bible says He did it to demonstrate His justice: “…so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).

    1. You know, if you had caught me about 15 years ago, I would have been in full agreement with everything you say. However, since that time, God has lead me to a rather different, much more life-giving, full, and fruitful understanding of the faith. Much of it started with going back and taking a fresh look at those verses that I had been taught to use as justification for my theology. And over and over and over and over and over again – almost without exception – I found that those verses didn’t actually, or at least didn’t necessarily mean what I had been lead to believe they meant. For example, In pretty much every case, one had to read a bunch of assumptions and pre-existing beliefs into the texts in order to have them mean what I had thought they meant. Like neither Romans 3:23 or 6:23 necessarily lead to the idea that we are condemned to hell and must be rescued. They are simple statements of reality and we’ve poured all this fear, judgment and condemnation into them! God never did expect that we’d reach his glory! He’s certainly not miffed or undone or feeling rageful of our failure. It’s just a simple fact that none of us ever have or ever will reach God’s glory. We’ll probably also never fashion a galaxy together either, but that’s hardly a sign that we’re terrible failures and an offense to God. Same thing with Romans 6:23 – it’s a statement about life in Christ but we make it all about sin and death. What negative ninnies we are!

      Also, I began digging in deeper to the theology of the early church fathers and learned a bit more about the ancient faith preserved in Eastern Orthodox theology and realized that if a modern, American born-again Christian were transported back in time to, say, 200 AD, our theology would be nearly unrecognizable to those early Christians. This was not the gospel they preached. They preached that the cross reconciled the world back to its creator. That those who followed in Jesus’ footsteps must devote themselves entirely to love, charity, good works, prayer, forgiveness and in doing so, they would bring the light of Christ into the world, thus participating in God’s unfolding Kingdom here on earth. There was none of this “turn or burn” nonsense that we’ve been taught in our churches. In fact, the majority of the church taught that the fires of hell were purifying fires meant to burn away all that was not of God. for some people, this would be particularly painful, but that eventually all would be restored to their true identity as image bearers and be reconciled to God. These early Christians did not give Satan, sin or human stupidity nearly as much credit or power as we’ve been taught to. We view individual human choice and sin as powerful enough to defeat the cross! How crazy is that? You and I and bubba down the street can render the cross pointless and useless just by what we believe? I mean, in our modern, western, protestant theology, the first Adam has far more power than the work of the second Adam! The work of the first Adam is universal, yet we actually think that masses of people will be lost because of something as ridiculous as what we believe?!?!? It’s crazy. And blasphemous, frankly. Our lack of faith is downright astounding. And this lack of faith is actually a core doctrine and a prerequisite to be accepted in most American churches! Nuts!

      At any rate, God is Love. That’s what the bible says. Jesus says that all the law hangs on love. The world was made by and through love. We give ourselves entirely too much power and credit. Love isn’t really phased by our foolishness anymore than a father is phased by his child’s immaturity. When God judges, he does so not as an imperial ruler, setting out decrees and rulings. He does so as love itself which is always seeking and serving the good of the offender and the victim all at once. If the offender needs to be disciplined and to face their offense, then love provides for that for their own good. And once there’s nothing more to be gained by the offender in dealing with their error, love’s mercy lets it all go as if it never happened. God is so much more beautiful and caring than we give him credit for.

      But Jesus on the cross really was God submitting to our sinful evil as a means of defeating that sin once and for all. God has no need of sacrifice. Never did. That was always for our benefit. God has no need of anything – not even the death of Jesus on the cross. But we did. We needed to know that we are right with God. We needed to know that nothing we did, no matter how evil, could get God to pack his bags and forsake us. In fact, God simply takes whatever nonsense we throw at him and transforms it into Love. All God wants is for us to draw near to him so he can heal and grow us as we were meant to be from the beginning. That’s God’s offer – not the horrific idea that we needed to be saved from God! We don’t need to be saved from God, we need to be saved from ourselves.

      At any rate, no doubt you will label me a heretic and a false teacher. It won’t be the first or the last time. But it bothers me not in the least. God has been very good to me. He wakes me in the morning to watch the sunrise and whisper his love to me. He is closer than my breath and the healing he has worked in my poor little life has been nothing short of miraculous. My only hope is that my words might help others who are ready to see the God I have been blessed to know who is so much better, so much mightier, so much more loving and so much less worried about our foolishness than anyone in church will ever tell you. The God I know is worthy of all glory, honor and praise – not because that’s what my theology or bible or teacher says – but because that’s how he’s revealed himself to me. Peace!

  23. I don’t disagree with the way you put it. I never thought calling God wrathfull was right, given the love he showed in his Son, Jesus, who is a fundamental part of God’s trinity. God has showed us what we have to do to overcome our sinful natures: i.e., by accepting His love as shown through the sacrifice of his loving Son, and believing in Jesus’s resurection. Jesus’s love does not fit with giving God a wrathful nature. I just believe that God’s just nature is in no way contradictory with His loving nature. When you think about it justice is a fundamental and foundational aspect of being able to show Love, i.e. without justice love is close to unatainable because it defines the basic rules we need to follow to give God’s Love a chance of surviving in a sinful world. Both Justice and Love are fundamental truths from God, since justice is a necessary foundation for Love to exist, i.e., the 10 commandments preceed Jesus’s tour of duty on earth. In fact Love summarizes what the 10 commandments are here for. Jesus summarized this as: His first and most important commandment: (1) Love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and with His second most important commandment: (2) to love our fellow man as ourselves. So I see both justice and Love as fundmental aspects of God’s marvelous truth shared with man: both of which were embodied in the love and justice shown by His Son. I actually agree with you, but I incude justice as part of the equation necessary for Love to be expressed by us all. I think that is why the 10 commandments (God’s justice rules) preceeded Jesus’s time on this earth, because they are a necessary foundation for God’s truth. Your emphesis on Love is a very important part of God’s truth as revealed by his Son, because justice is useless without a the building on top of it: Love. Thanks for the way you showed love in this interchange we’ve had.

    1. Richard, I guess it depends on what we mean by justice. In my thinking, justice is simply being faced with the reality of your own life, your own behavior, your own character, etc. It is entirely possible that this will be a horrendous experience for some people. But I suspect that for a good number of us, it’s all going to go better than expected. Unfortunately, judgment is typically spoken of from the perspective of fear and condemnation. Or at least that’s how it sounds to a lot of us. And at this point, anyone who really needs to fear judgment isn’t listening anyways. But a whole lot of people who are in need of re-assurances that they have nothing to fear and there is no condemnation waiting for them are being warned of judgment and condemnation nonetheless. We went from Jesus who preached to the under dogs, the lowly, the suffering and the oppressed to people who preach a message only fit for Caesar everywhere we go. Most people are not Caesar. Most people are Mary Magdalene or the Roman centurion with the sick companion or the crippled man trying to get to healing waters. So I tell people that God’s justice is nothing more than his love in action. It’s his love pouring over us, cleansing us of whatever is not of him. And it may be painful. There may even be some wailing and gnashing of teeth involved. But you’re never condemned. You never have to fear. Even if you find yourself in the depths of the grave, God is with you always. The rest is just inside ball among people who can’t really know what we’re all talking about anyways. 😉

      And I must thank you for your civil tone as well. I generally don’t engage in much discussion of this issue and it’s pretty easy to chase off anyone who tries to give it a go simply by being blunt and straightforward. Part of the reason I started this blog was so I could connect with people willing to take my ideas seriously and with some respect. Unfortunately, that is not often the tone of conversation when differences in theology are raised. And equally unfortunately, people who talk about God’s justice overlap mightily with people who are not going to approach my thoughts with any respect or charity. So I appreciate your persistence and patience.

  24. GOD led me. He lead me – not! That’s the least argumentative comment i can think of. Whether or not my comment is loving is yet to be determined.

    1. When? Where? Did,God demand that his son be offered up as a human blood sacrifice in order to be satisfied and to offer forgiveness for humans sin?

      WHAT A JOKE!

      YOU CHRISTIANS are the most Egoist people, WHO DEMAND YOUR GOD to be KILLED for your sins? but YOU WILL NEVER CHANGE. what Humans are you?

      Do you think GOD THEE FATHER will be satisfied by offering human, EVEN if this to be believed! What is the validity of one human sacrifice?

      Is it based on,
      1.NUMBER of sins.
      2.Types of Sins.
      3, Expiry date.
      4. Number of people.
      I can list thousands, but it is a mere joke. though Romans killed Jesus to save their power.
      Just wanted lame people to join Christianity so this concept was added,

      God wants to know your mindset when you offer something to HIM, not WHAT YOU OFFER makes sense to HIM,(HE IS GOD)
      How you offer is important! Eg. Cain and Abel offering story, Jesus quoting, a woman offering 2 coins is better compared to Gold offered.

      Change your thinking and understand who is real God.

  25. Hi Rebecca,

    That is an amazing explanation. Thank you! I found it googling the answer for the same question of mine. I could not agree more. Very normal, natural, just plain truth. So liberating! Thank you.
    Me too, 5-10 years ago – I was almost a literalist, but then I decided to give the truth in my mind a chance.
    Two things though:
    1. We have to agree that this explanation is well understood by us who are basically brought up with these concepts, traditions etc. In other words, it seems that God expressed himself as Jesus specifically for those people in that specific time with those specific cultural and thinking traits and heritage. Yes, we believe his message is universal. But how would you explain it to people who have not had a concept of sacrifice? Who had a completely different way of thinking? For whom God expressed himself in different format? For example (but don’t quote me on this in your answer), Buddhists, who think about the world not in terms of a story but in terms of a process – and a never-ending and never-beginning one, who have a concept of “no self”, or to uncontacted tribes of Brazil or to an innocent 4-year old etc?
    2. Jesus is fully human as well as fully God – you know that. In the same way the bread is baked dough as well as his body. He is almighty. In line with your reasoning, he is giving himself to us (rather than to God), and accepting him we give a “sacrifice” of praise to Him. But, please, don’t feel obliged to respond to this one. We know it is a hard nut.

    Looking forward to your answer (to 1 :-))


    1. In Bible, When did Jesus call himself GOD? He only called himself, THAT TOO sometimes as son of God, If he is only son of God, Then WHO THE …are WE?

      People after Jesus died had their own reasons to call him also as God, by pure compulsion, though.

      Whenever I have asked these question…
      1. Can a child 12 years old reply back harshly when his mother comes in search of him after 3 long days, that too traveling back from their band?
      Why did god convert pure water to wine? his first recorded miracle?
      Could god drink like humans do, to satisfy their senses? In India, it happens, though.
      Could god cry to be saved?
      Could God pray to himself?

      If he only loving God then there should have been no suffering after he went, whether YOU follow his teaching or NOT? As he is a loving god, who was killed by people like us?
      CAN GOD DIE?
      Finally, Could god, SACRIFICE HIMSELF TO HIMSELF?
      If your answer is Yes, then expect all these to happen to your child! and U ONLY say, my god underwent all this to save US!
      IF at all, YOUR ARE SAVED?

      1. Hi consultgtf,

        I don’t understand what you are trying to say. Anyway, you posed some questions and those straightforward I will try to answer (if you want):
        1. WHO THE … are WE – Now we know that we are children of God and we do not know yet what we are to be. I think we will one day realise that we actually all are part of God. Kind of HIM. Hard to explain, eh?
        2. A 12-y.o can reply harshly, trust me on this. I have had 2 of those 🙂
        3. Converted water to wine to ultimately bring joy, I think. There were a lot of prophetic reasons for this act too, but I do not know them all.
        4. God can drink. God can do anything. Even cry.
        5. God, as we perceive (or rather define) him with our growing ability to express ourselves, is a relationship, family… the simplest and the most perfect one – the epitome of a relationship – is that between three. So he revealed himself to us as a Trinity of (and this is dictated by the Jewish patriarchal, agrarian culture) Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, where the Spirit is the “She”, if you like. They are together – they have a communion. And so they communicate. So they “talk” to each other. If you like, yes, God talks to himself. That’s how he expresses himself/herself. That’s what the universe is – his ever-expression. Look in the mirror (and maybe close your eyes) and see – Him.
        6. God can die as a human but He IS so death doesn’t apply. I think that’s the message of resurrection: you cannot kill BEING, BEING never stops, BEING just is. Rejoice! – There no need to worry. Everything is part of BEING – Him.
        7. The sacrifice business is dictated by the patriarchal violent culture of that time and location. God communicates (to himself… and to us… and to all things), that’s the essence. If this is perceived as a sacrifice, fine.
        8. Yes, we are all “saved”. You too, so cherish the life and forget the little word-tricks. 🙂

        God bless


  26. Hi Rebecca – googling a question almost the same as this post title, I have spent some time reading the post and the conversation in the comments boxes.

    As well as a blog the Lord and I do together, there is another blog called “Church Set Free”, http://churchsetfree.wordpress.com, which came about as He drew a number of us together.

    On February 10th we will have a bunch of posts under the umbrella of “Kitchen Table Conversation: (theme”). The February theme is Justice.

    The conversation between you and Richard (above) – I have to tell you (and this was without any “planning” on my part), my Lord just went “Justice – there is your post”

    So, with a pingback fully attributable to you – the post link and a copy/paste of your conversation with Richard became my post for Him for February. The full title is “Kitchen Table Conversation: Justice … Whose Justice?”

    If you have any concerns, questions or thoughts – please email me and we can chat. Big thanks ((hugs))


    HE KNEW NOTHING ABOUT JESUS & HAD CONTEMPT FOR HIS APOSTLES (Galatians ch 1 & 2; 2 Corinthians ch 11).

    It was his writings which the ROMAN church took on board and created Christianity!




    1. Agreed, Romans are ruling us even today…

      Whoever believes in GOD will never believe in their SON/DAUGHTER getting sacrificed for others SINS, WILL YOU…

      I am asking this to everyone of YOU, who is reading this,” WILL YOU sacrifice YOUR CHILD for others to live their sinful life?

      If you answer is “YES” then let me know the validity?
      How many sins.
      How long we can sin,
      Is this a GOLDEN card which can be used for all types of sins?…

      Now if, at all, this was true, NONE on this earth should suffer. ?!

  28. Good thought.

    If divine beings needed to drink the blood of healthy humans, then they would not be omnipotent and they would have human bodies with needs. They would be like vampires or aliens.

    I think Froyd is one of the most famous anti-biblical writers, who focused on this subject of a bad father demanding the punishment of the son, for the original sin.

    But besides all this I have some questions. Why Isaiah writes that God wanted the suffering of Jesus in Isaiah 53? And why Jesus says in some verses that he must be sacrificed and rise the 3rd day? Also in the Garden of Gesthmane he says “But let your will be done”.


    1. Here’s my take on it; it was God’s will and it pleased God to be reconciled to the world. The death of Jesus – at our hands – was probably an inevitable, forgone conclusion. Israel always kills her prophets. To avoid that would have required some kind of super-natural event that would ultimately widen, rather than narrow the divide between heaven and earth and therefor, God and man. So, the trick was to use what was inevitable – us killing Jesus – to turn events in such a way that reconciliation could be achieved. I think that was the plan. It pleased God to have this plan in place that would accomplish his goals, even though there was a cost to it. But there’s a cost to everything, so that wouldn’t change the fact that it was a fundamentally solid plan. As to Jesus’ words in the garden, Jesus was, in my way of thinking, the divine essence of or being of God, living as a human being. Which means having all of our experiences, including the lack of clarity that all human beings suffer from. Jesus was at a point where he really, really didn’t want to go through what was ahead of him. He knew it was the plan and that he was committed to the plan, but from the garden, late at night, all alone, it was very hard to see how there might not be a better alternative. But if there wasn’t, then it was part of God’s plan (which is how I think of God’s will – as his plan) and he could trust it. So, not sure if that answered your question or if it all sounds like crazy talk, but that’s how it seems to me. 😉

  29. Rebecca, I have been pondering the same thoughts as you, that is, that men are really the ones demanding sacrifice and not God – His intention is reconciling ourselves with Himself and each other. I haven’t read all the comments to your post yet so perhaps someone else has discussed what I do below.

    Some verses I have found that may support what you’ve described are in John 6 and the parable of the sheep and goats. In John 6, the second part of the chapter deals with Jesus telling his listeners that they must eat his body foreshadowing the last supper and crucifixion, and acknowledging their reluctance at the thought. I think this is a dig at the whole industry and cult of animal sacrifice. At the end, he points out that life is not in the flesh (so not gained by eating it) but in the spirit. So this at the same time takes away any significance as far as Jesus physical death effecting our salvation. I think it requires further discussion then, about what Christ is sacrificing, and how it saves us, and who or what he’s saving us from.

    Other verses I think relate to the discussion would be in the parable of the sheep and goats. Jesus refers to the receivers of our action or inaction (righteousness or sinfulness) towards ‘the least of these’ – but if viewed in parallel with the question of ‘who is my neighbor’, the scope of our sinfulness becomes that, what sin we commit against each other, we commit against Christ.

    I think your point that God is not the one doing the demanding or the killing of Jesus or animals is right on, literally and symbolically, physically and spiritually. The psalmist pleads with the Lord for salvation not from the Lord, but from his own sins and from those that would see his demise. When Cain kills Abel, isn’t it interesting that God doesn’t kill Cain, even though his death would be demanded by later biblical laws? Instead, when Cain is scared to venture into the world because another human would seek his life, God makes it clear that no one would be allowed to do that!

    I just read a web page that depicted the animal sacrifice of the OT not as a demand by God, but as a reminder to people that there are consequences for sin when they see blood shed. I’m not sure I’m fully on board with that, but in a way it makes sense for, say, sins which we don’t see an immediate or physical consequence.

    This line of thought might relate to how Jesus’ death could in any way save us. Perhaps when we realize that humans couldn’t see the very presence of God amongst them, but instead brutally ended that presence, it would give us all pause to think about what we are really doing. Realization can lead to repentance, which as you discuss leads to or is part of salvation. Or is salvation. Personally, I think Jesus’ life as an example for us is our salvation. If the Trinitarian doctrine is correct, then, what it really is, is God amongst us, showing us in person!

    I think you’re on the right track here in that the historical and cultural situation of the biblical writers is essential in understanding the text. We may not have all the details, but I think if its ignored or glossed over, then for sure there can be no understanding. Why not use all the tools God has given us?

    Thanks for listening.

    1. Do we expect GOD to be a person with heart like human? Whose EGO will be fulfilled with sacrifices?

      God does not have children, That is GOD,

      With Human perspective, Who is mother of Jesus if God is Father?

      Why should a father sacrifice his son for a immortal, unrepentant, humans?

      Has the world changed for good after sacrifice?

      Humans kill and killed Humans, and raised the status to get their empire to spread, … how can a prosecutor become saint?

  30. Hi Rebecca,

    Thank you for putting so much time and energy into searching for understanding that we may reflect on the love of God. I read your article and it makes a lot of sense. I then began to read comments but stopped after skimming through the first few when I realized how many there were. This just shows that you have struck a chord on an important topic. I see a lot of terminology being used in the comments area which I am sure has significance among learned theologians but for the sake of many who just need a simple explanation I will try to spell out what I have learned from this discussion so far.

    God is love. Humans invented blood sacrifices and attached spiritual significance to it. God used this to communicate to humans the significance of his love. God didn’t and doesn’t demand things arbitrarily. I cannot search the scriptures at the moment but I think that if God did demand anything sacrificial, it would be in the context of the demand for obedience. Obedience is what he is actually demanding. As scripture says, obedience is better than sacrifice. Obedience is probably the only thing he demands. Why wouldn’t he if his will isn’t perfect? It would be a disservice to us if he didn’t demand obedience from us.

    Anyway, Abel’s sacrifice to God was an expression of his passion for God and was therefore pleasing to God. Not only is God worthy of that which we value the most, it is in our best interest to be in harmony with God’s worthiness of obedience as no other is worthy of this. Jesus dying on the cross was not God wanting to bask in the suffering of his Son. It was a demonstration of ultimate obedience. It was not the wrath of God that was on display. It was the wrath of humanity. The wrath of God will be discovered on judgment day by those who have rejected his Son.

    If obedience is better than sacrifice then it was Christ’s obedience that the Father sought, not his sacrifice. The sacrifice was a means for communication. God was using references that humans understood to be spiritually significant as Rebecca has somewhat argued. The crucifixion of Jesus was self-imposed sacrifice for the sake of humanity. Out of love, God suffered to death. He carried this out in human form, which required obedience to the Father and the result was victory over death and eternal life. Jesus was not a victim because he had the choice to destroy those sentencing him to death but chose to fulfil the will of the Father, which led to eternal glory.

    Correct me if I’ve said something inaccurate or misrepresented Rebecca. I think I may have gotten a bit excited and slightly gone off track but my straightforward comment is in there somewhere haha.

    Thanks again Rebecca.


  31. This is one of the most comforting texts I have ever read. Thank you so much for writing it. It really gives me a new understanding of God. It strikes me with wonder at how loving He can be. God bless you!

  32. Very confusing and confused essay. Cain and Abel were observing the “people around them”??? Blood sacrifice did not originate with the Hebrew god but was practiced for “millenia before”??? God used man’s wickedness and subsequent self-realization to allow an opportunity for man to restore himself by himself? If Jesus was not the planned sacrifice then why did he state otherwise on multiple occasions? Do you believe the Bible or not? Do you believe Jesus is Christ or not? From this essay, it is easiest to surmise that you are picking and choosing the parts of the story that suit your desires. That is trusting in yourself, friend, not in God.

    1. I’m not a fundamentalist and I don’t write to engage with fundamentalist readings of scripture. I prefer to engage with the historic theological perspectives which engage scripture at a deeper, more insightful level than fundamentalism allows for. Also, my trust is in God, not the inspired record of the Hebrew people’s relationship with God. It sounds like we’re starting with very divergent assumptions and that’s why my essay doesn’t make sense to you.

      1. But to answer your question regarding the sacrifice of Jesus, my argument is that the sacrifice was made for our satisfaction, not God’s. God was pleased to have this happen owing to our need for reconciliation. As God says repeatedly through the prophets, he has no need of sacrifice. Sacrifice was always about our needs, not God’s.

  33. I think you made a lot of good points which sounds exactly like the God I love. I do think there’s a bit of a spiritual law at work too though. For example remember in Job where the devil and the sons of God approached God about man. The devil would mock and accuse God of being self-righteous because God kept forgiving man. His argument was that he only did that for God’s own glory and to demand worship. However when he sent a part of the trinity or himself (jesus) he proved to all that he is a self sacrificial and merciful God…above all including the law. So he receives worship because to be near him is to love him.

    I came to really know God when I met an angel in my dream and felt emotions I’d never felt before. The angel kept saying the same thing “this is the love of God.” But even though I was religious, I never really thought emotions were involved and I certainly didn’t know God loves us like that. I thought God just considered us sinful. I can’t even describe it…but it’s more than any person could even love hence why I didn’t understand the emotion. It felt so good it almost hurt.

    Now I have lucid dreams and astral project (lift my spirit out). I talk to God like this….he is fiercely protective of us. I always thought he was passive, but he is not. He listens to us and is always nearby. You will love the feeling of it one day….and will feel it forever. <3

    1. Hi Kym,

      Thanks for sharing. How did you get to astral project? I want to do that. I had a brief (microseconds) episode about 25 years ago but it was so brief and scary I don’t even know for sure, but I have an awareness of seeing my own face in the bed. I would like to do it again, more fully to, precisely as you say, to be closer to God, to be able to talk to him/her with less barriers, to ask him my big questions.
      At a mass, especially after the consecration of the bread and the wine which turns them into the Lords Body and Blood, I sometimes intensely realise his closeness, love, reality, presence, so much that I would spent all my life there. But to be closer to him in that sort of state of lifted spirit/soul, as you describe, would be more substantial, I think, more “tangible” in a sense, freed up from the material symbols and hence more immediate. What are your thoughts, and can you share how you learnt and did the astral projection, please?

      Thank you.


  34. Paul Young’s “The Shack” is out in theaters right now. He had an incredible question to ask about Atonement: “If a mob boss was owed a million dollars and the debt not paid, what would this powerful person who was both blood thirsty and capable, do?” If however the “boss” had been paid by some other means…other than the poor sap who owed him the money…having received the money to clear his books, would the mob boss still go after the poor sap and his whole “damned” family? Probably not, the debt had been paid.

    So when we watch and discuss, and celebrate the brutal blood-letting, suffocation and death of Jesus Christ on the Cross, why do we call this “forgivness”? Like the mob-boss…the debt was paid at the most expensive price…nothing was forgiven.

    So, (back to Paul Young’s question), why is it called forgiveness? Why did it have to happen? I think you have the first question nailed. God didn’t need a sacrifice, we did. We were so utterly shattered by the sin and separation from our creator that we couldn’t accept anything less and he made sure we REALLY understood atonement by inceptiing it into the culture 1,500 years before “He Would Provide the Sacrifice”…which is what he told Abraham when he stopped his hand from descending the death dealing blow to his own son. But you are dead wrong on the intentionality of God’s specific and brutal demands for a blood Sacrifice from Abraham. Go to the only place that recounts that episode and tell me God wasn’t perfectly specific. “I want you to take your son, youir only son Isaac…”

    I know the “Why” of such a thing might bend you as it always has bent me. So Why? Don’t let God off the hook, He put it there in plain Aramaic…”I want you to take your son…” So why?

    Could it be that he knew the only way of reconcilliaton with such a shattered creation, was this establishing the law, then atonement, then grace, acceptance of forgiveness and finally relationship. That the prodigal son, could concieve daddy would still give him some kind of place back home…whatever that would be? And could it be that before the whole plan to kick this off with the faithful friend who trusted him enough to follow him wherever God told Abraham to go…before he blessed Abraham’s DNA with the replicating miracle that would produce a people that would produce a line from which Jesus Christ would be born…that in the moment that covenant was made and iwth this follower who he called friend, the God of this universe, who was also a father, may want just one human to know what it felt like to give your only begotten son to fix this relationship? Just one…just the Father of Nations and at the very beginning? See all of look to Jesus as the great giver in this whole thing. No greater love hath this…right?

    I’m a father, I have two boys and a girl. On the day of Calvary, I promise you, one Being was soffering more than Jesus Christ.

    Let me know your thoughts?

    1. I have to get my kids out, but I did write my take on the binding of Isaac at the link below. Like animal sacrifice, child sacrifice preexisted God’s encounter with Abraham. I argue that this episode was meant to shock Abraham out of the surrounding culture’s ideas about the normalcy of deities who asked for children to be sacrificed and demonstrated that the God of Abraham was not like that. It was a step in the progression away from old ideas about man’s relationship with the divine and towards a more accurate understanding of God’s love and care for his children.

  35. What you are saying is, in effect, God made a conscious decision to employ the evil devices (destruction, murder and mayhem) of man in order to get his will accomplished. He did this with the fore-knowledge that using these devices wouldn’t work! It may be noted that supposedly God drove out and/or slaughtered those, whom he judged and condemned for doing these very things. Can God be a hypocrite?

    When I read that God, in effect, stooped to the level of fallen men and demanded a savagely bloody human sacrifice to appease his obviously frail ego, anger and thirst for blood, I am shocked. The thing is, his demand for blood was no more effective than was his prohibition given to Adam and Eve, his worldwide flood, his killing off of the Jews in the deserts, his annihilation of the Canaanites and the laws he gave to Moses. As shown by the bible, Jesus, with his “I am God too” approach, topped the list of failures by God in dealing with the man, whom he created(?). In the first of the Ten Commandments, we find this information. You shall have nor worship any other god but me. And, I am the only God and there is no other God besides me. Now, if Jesus was standing there besides God, wouldn’t God have said so or stated the fact that He had a son? Wouldn’t He have been up front and told the world that He was going to send his son, who would forfeit his life for the sins of all mankind? I have not found crucifixion or resurrection anywhere in the prophecies of the Old Testament. This total lack of clarity (another failure by God) has led to an entire industry of dollar-driven apologetics.
    Jesus’ success in convincing the Jews that the first of the Ten Commandments, was, in effect, a lie and therefore cancelled, was, for all practical purposes, zero. It is so telling that Jesus never cited the huge contradiction and conflict his claims set up, given the first of the Ten commandments, which was so heavily emphasized repeatedly by God to the Jews.
    I find it further shocking that God, seeing that the Romans, the world ruling dominant power of the day, were not able to separate the Jews from their, One God only, theology, would think that Jesus would or could do so. Wasn’t this thinking but another colossal failure on God’s part? The Jews found Jesus, by the laws given to them by God, to be a blasphemer and by those same laws was to be put to death. Deut. 13:1-5 and 18:20-22 identifies Jesus, by what and whom he claimed to be and his teachings, more precisely than any others in the Old Testament. I note that apologists avoid these identifiers of Jesus like they do a plague.
    We need to stop lying on God. And we need to identify and point out these lies when and wherever we find them, even if in the bible.

    1. Go back and reread. I quite explicitly said that it was men and not God that put Jesus to death. God chose to use man’s actions to do good. It’s how he works. He doesn’t go around controlling our behavior. As you might have noticed.

  36. To echo the words that Jesus spoke to Simon in Matt 16:17, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven”, I sincerely believe this article by Rebecca is inspired by God. This is the second article that I have read that clarifies the misconception about the sacrifice of Jesus. I believed a lie for more than half of my life, having been born and brought up in a so called christian background. However, my ‘Ephthatha!’ moment arrived when I started to search for the right understanding. Like God says in Jeremiah 29:13-14, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,”. Oh what joy I had when I found out what it really means. This completely changes the way I thought about God. I would like to share the link to the first article and would love to get all of your comments. Here is the link http://www.christians.eu/jesus-death-sacrifice/

  37. Hi Rebecca 🙂

    The article is amazingly explained!

    As a Non-Christian, I must admit that when I first heard about the sacrificing of the blood of Jesus for the humanity — that sounded to me as paganism.
    And as you mentioned, the Hebrews most likely got it from Egypt. And it is also worth mentioning that it was also practiced in other places as well. But I find it hard to understand it is why God did not condemn it? Since it a wrong way to worship and connect with God. It would make sense if God stopped these people from exercising this practice. That is one of the roles of prophets, right? Prophets were sent to tribes who were misled and away from the correct way of believing in God. They taught people what do to, as well as inciting them to stop of doing things that they were doing wrong .i.e. having idols, adultery…
    What I am trying to say is this: the idea of blood sacrifice is undoubtedly wrong, so why God did not stop? God will not adjust himself to the custom of the people; people ought to adjust to His. Even if that means that people have to totally change.

  38. Is this what is known as the Christus Victor view of the atonement? I still have a few questions because God was pleased with the smell of many of the sacrifices and nothing can be cleansed without blood and there could be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood, so Jesus was the Lamb of God and his blood shed is what enables God to forgive us. It sounds like you are saying that the blood that he shed from man God just decided to turn it around for good.

Leave a Reply to Jim Rapalje Cancel reply