Sacrifice and the New Testament

Christian Eberhart

In the ancient Near East and Roman Empire of the first century CE, sacrificial rituals were a common worship practice of many different religions and cultures. Due to the destruction of the Herodian Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, early Christianity developed – as a movement of Jews who followed Jesus as Messiah – during a time when early Jewish sacrifice was about to cease (Josephus, Jewish War, 6:238–266). This article outlines the concept of sacrifice in the New Testament (NT), with attention to both a broad understanding of the term denoting mostly loss and death as well as specific Greek terminology. In addition, it traces the development of the christological concept of the ‘sacrifice of Jesus’. It also discusses the meaning of sacrificial terminology for the ethical behaviour of Christian communities. Overall, the NT presents salvation in Christ with multi-faceted resourcefulness, drawing on cultic rituals from the temple, texts from the Hebrew Bible (HB)/Old Testament (OT) like Deutero-Isaiah’s song of the suffering servant, martyrdom traditions from early Judaism and Greek drama, and the sphere of military campaigns and slavery in the Graeco-Roman environment.

1 Introduction

A terminological category with multiple meanings, ‘sacrifice’ is contested ground; its meaning is notoriously ambiguous (Drexler 1993: 164–165; Malina 2000: 23–25; Gladigow 2000). Therefore, it is not exactly clear what the phrase ‘sacrifice of Jesus’ means, despite being frequently invoked in Christian church statements and liturgies, as well as in politics, journalism, and entertainment (Varone 1993: 12). Pertinent studies usually take one of two trajectories: some assume a widespread modern understanding of the term ‘sacrifice’ and see it operative in many of NT christological-soteriological concepts and elsewhere (approach 1); the term is then used as a comprehensive conceptual abstraction. Others focus on the sense of ‘sacrifice’ as it emerges specifically from ritual HB/OT texts about early Jewish worship ceremonies, informing only certain christological-soteriological ideas that are linguistically derived from such terminology (approach 2; see Sacrifice and the Old Testament). Both approaches have led to somewhat different results and to the study of different NT passages. Yet, according to both approaches, ‘sacrifice’ is an important interpretive category because it articulates a core insight about the pro-existence of Jesus: ‘[…] the earthly Jesus was not significant primarily for what he said or did during his life, but for what he was’ (Dunn 1974: 126, original emphasis). Human salvation is, according to the NT writings, based on the vicarious relevance of Christ for humans and the world.

1.1 Approach 1

Today, the term ‘sacrifice’ is commonly employed in various areas of religious, public, and academic discourse; an internet search for the term mostly yields entries related to tragic accidents, crimes, warfare, and/or martyrdom. In these discourses, the term denotes voluntary loss in a broad sense, as the term sacrificium intellectus – with the meaning of (wilful) surrender of one’s reasoning capacity – conveys. As such loss often pertains to property, health, and life, the term implies deprivation and misfortune (Feldman 2007; Alonso and Fernández Rodríguez 2021).

Interpreted in this way, the idea of sacrifice is often understood to occupy a central place in both the evolution of human society and biblical religion (Yerkes 1952: 1–3; Stegemann 2000: 191–194; Finlan 2016: 75). In religious studies, and specifically biblical exegesis, the term ‘sacrifice’ has been associated with rituals of expiatory sacrifices in the HB/OT. Gordon J. Wenham describes the theology of sacrifice in the OT as an institution of restoration and new life upon human repentance: ‘The animal is a substitute for the worshipper. Its death makes atonement for the worshipper’ (Wenham 1995: 82; see Nonhuman Animals in Christian Theology). For Hartmut Gese, the vicarious death of a sacrificial animal affects atonement with God; the salvific nature of the death of Jesus can only be grasped according to this logic (Gese 1981: 116; see also Janowski 2000). NT scholars applied these theories to soteriological and christological concepts.

Otfried Hofius explicated the relevance of Gese’s concepts of sacrifice and atonement for NT scholarship by proposing that the reconciliation of humans in Christ’s death always happens upon divine initiative and is a vicarious event at its core, because, in Christ, God became identical with sinners. Often with specific reference to the saying of Jesus that the Son of Man gave his life as ‘a ransom for many’ (Mark 10:45/Matt 20:28), this principle has variously been called ‘inclusive place-taking’ (Hofius 1989a: 190) or ‘exclusive place-taking’ (Hofius 1989b; Gathercole 2015: 33–36); other scholars also labelled it as ‘existential place-taking’ (Stuhlmacher 1980; Wilckens 2003: 15–18; survey in Dalferth 1994: 241–246). It is often seen to operate with some level of reference to the suffering servant song in Isa 52:13–53:12, which describes a (perhaps corporate) individual who silently accepts to be wounded and ultimately killed for someone else’s iniquities. Under this approach, terminology such as ‘sacrifice’ or ‘atonement’ is employed as a comprehensive conceptual abstraction or interpretive category – i.e. even if the terms are not attested in the texts. With further aspects such as forgiveness, redemption, and/or substitution, this interpretive category is broad and used in different ways in exegetical discourse and beyond (Frey 2005: 10–26).

1.2 Approach 2

An alternative approach to the study of ‘sacrifice’ asks for explicit terminology in ritual HB/OT texts about early Jewish worship ceremonies to define and discuss sacrifice (see Sacrifice and the Old Testament). Here, the term ‘sacrifice’ is interpreted in relation to its meaning as consecration and implicit aspects of dedication (Varone 1993: 138), while the Hebrew comprehensive term for sacrifice, qorban, was understood to convey the activity of approach based on the literal meaning of its root qrb, ‘to approach’ (Milgrom 1991: 145; Marx 2005: 109). It denies any constitutive connection specifically to the referent of killing. Therefore, sacrifice does not work through killing; it has little to do with martyrdom (Marx 2005: 92, 136; Marx 2006; McClymond 2008: 31, 33, 64; Eberhart 2018: 94–101).

Previous approaches often focused on one type of sacrifice (usually the sin offering), one or two ritual elements (especially animal slaughter and blood rites), and one theory (atonement). Against these approaches, sacrifice has more recently been understood as referring to a variety of referents (atonement, holiness, eating, community, gratitude, life, death, purity) with attention to offerer, priest, and sacred space. This new interpretive approach acknowledged the existence of the meal offering, consisting only of grains (which can also replace the sin offering; Lev 5:11–13; Peres 2021), and the fact that most sacrificial celebrations were joyful (Gladigow 2000; Marx 1994; McClymond 2008: 28, 31, 64). Regarding its application, a more limited number of christological-soteriological ideas and concepts in NT writings were understood to be informed from there. For example, it has been argued that the Last Supper tradition does not feature sacrificial terminology (Hahn 1983: 51; Hahn 2005a: 251), that reconciliation is unrelated to atonement and cultic sacrifices (Breytenbach 1993), or that the Passover tradition does not belong to the area of cultic sacrifices (Schlund 2005). The crucifixion of Jesus is then seen as an execution of a criminal (see the inscription ‘king of the Jews’ on the cross; Mark 15:26 and parallels; John 19:19). Any deployment of the terminological repertoire that exceeds an immediate historical description of the event with the goal of establishing a counter-narrative of salvation, specifically of an atoning death, is then understood as figurative (Vouga 2005: 343; Patterson 2015: 3–5, 13–34). Based on these two different approaches to the term ‘sacrifice’, a selection of NT passages shall be presented and explained below. Both approaches shall be discussed where applicable.

2 Sacrificial terminology in New Testament literature

In Greek NT texts, the following three nouns need to be considered: thusia (sacrifice), dōron (offering, gift), and prosphora (offering, gift); they may be accompanied by verbs such as propherō (to offer).

NT texts do not describe sacrificial rituals in detail, and even the three terms for ‘sacrifice’ are rare. This is a marked difference to the HB/OT with its detailed lists of ritual sacrifices (Lev 1–8; 12; 16), occasions (Exod 34:23; Num 28–29; Deut 16:16), sacred celebrations (Num 28–29), or authorized experts (Exod 28–29; Lev 8–10). Clearly, the HB/OT has a particular interest in cultic matters and the NT does not. The fact that the NT narratives are set in a time when the Herodian Temple was still intact and its ritual worship operative – and that some of its authors knew them from first-hand experience – makes this lack of interest even more conspicuous.

The sermon on the mount contains the following saying of Jesus:

So when you are bringing your offering (dōron) to the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and bring your offering. (Matt 5:23–24)

Jesus was a Jew who lived towards the end of the Second Temple period. He knew about sacrificial rituals and the temple in Jerusalem with its altar; occasionally, he included both in his proclamation (Hahn 1983: 61). The Gospels describe how he explains the relation between sacrifice and personal reconciliation, and advises others to offer sacrifices in accordance with early Jewish traditions (Matt 5:23–24; see also 8:4). But apart from the verb that refers to ‘bringing’ the offering to the temple, no details about the ritual process are conveyed. Instead, the first sentence implicitly suggests that their correct ceremonial performance alone was not sufficient, and that the offerer must also procure reconciliation and establish peace within their social environment (Hahn 1983: 62).

Jesus is also familiar with the tradition of swearing by the altar itself, or by the sacrifice on the altar, and displays a critical attitude towards it (Matt 23:18–19). He occasionally cites prophetic words that convey a critical stance towards the sacrificial cult of their time (Matt 9:13; 12:7, both quoting Hos 6:6). Notably, this ancient tradition is no categorical rejection of the sacrificial cult, but rather conveys criticism mostly based on social justice issues in Israel and Judah (Wyschogrod 1986: 106; Eidevall 2011: 50–51; Eberhart 2013: 63–68). In line with this ambivalent attitude, NT texts never depict Jesus as offering an actual sacrifice at the temple of Jerusalem (Klauck 1992: 887). Instead they describe one of his visits there, generally known as the ‘Cleansing of the Temple’ (Mark 11:15–19; John 2:13–22), as highly provocative (Schnelle 2020: 113; Herzer 2020: 147–148). Jesus is even depicted as calling the temple ‘a den of robbers’, famously quoting a speech by the prophet Jeremiah that was also critical of this very same temple (Jer 7:11). This scene is the climax of tensions over religious authority and agency between Jesus and the Sadducees, the group overseeing temple operations. It certainly did not help that Jesus had also publicly foretold the destruction of this temple (Matt 24:1–2; Luke 21:5–6; Daly 2009: 52). In Mark’s Gospel, the audience is immediately reminded of the dimension of the problem that ushers in the subsequent passion of Jesus: ‘When the chief priests and the scribes heard [the words of Jesus against the temple], they kept looking for a way to kill him’ (Mark 11:18). Such a reaction suggests that a sensitive issue is at stake, as the ‘invariance of the liturgical order is indispensable to acceptance’ (Rappaport 1999: 285, italicized in the original). Jesus challenged these core aspects, but not the sacrificial cult per se, when he took a critical stance towards the institution of Herod’s temple.

In his letters, the apostle Paul likewise mentions actual sacrifices only in passing. When sharing his opinion about the consumption of meat sacrificed to idols – which might defile the conscience of the weak in faith – one of his arguments against doing so is not to offend the weak because of the overriding importance of love (1 Cor 8:1–13). The reference to sacrificial meat remains marginal. This corresponds to the stipulation shared with the early Christian community after the apostles’ council in Jerusalem that meat sacrificed to idols remains taboo (Acts 15:29). Acts depicts Paul as coming from Damascus immediately to Jerusalem (Acts 9:26–30), but a visit to the temple is not part of the account. The reason might be the hostility displayed previously towards Christians by temple authorities such as the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees (Acts 4:1–2). Later, the final arrest of Paul happens during a visit to the temple; the charge against him is its defilement, since he had brought ‘Greeks’ (meaning Gentiles) into areas strictly reserved for Jews. While the sanctuary and its holiness are explicitly invoked, sacrificial rituals are mentioned only in passing. They are not the focus of early Christian writers.

3 The term ‘sacrifice’ without reference to Jesus

Both the term ‘sacrifice’ and other sacrificial vocabulary are employed when Paul receives material gifts (perhaps food or money) from Philippi, delivered by Epaphroditus. These gifts are ‘a pleasing odour (osmē euōdias), an acceptable sacrifice (thusia), pleasant (euarestos) to God’ (Phil 4:18). The fact that this language is figurative is clear, as the words ‘pleasing odour’ are technical terminology directly derived from HB/OT texts on sacrifice (Lev 1–7) where they describe the effect of the ritual activity of burning sacrificial materials on the altar. Paul, however, is unlikely to have burned the precious gifts. The term ‘sacrifice’ appears to be associated with joy. It also lacks the element of killing that appears to be constitutive for many in the interpretation of ‘sacrifice’ – obviously neither foodstuff nor money could be killed. In Phil 4:18, this terminology is employed to convey the aspect of acceptance.

In a similar fashion, Paul advises the early Christian community in Rome ‘through the mercies of God to present your bodies as a sacrifice (thusia), living, holy and acceptable (euarestos) to God, which is your reasonable worship’ (Rom 12:1). This exhortation is the beginning of an extended paraenetic paragraph about proper behaviour. The insistence on a ‘living’ sacrifice demonstrates here, too, that the point of sacrifice is neither killing nor death but acceptance and transformation, which is spelled out afterwards. The words also convey more generally that daily living is considered part of one’s worship, which fits well within the framework of Jewish synagogue piety. Similar insights emerge when Paul calls himself a minister of Christ Jesus who brings the ‘offering (prosphora) of the Gentiles’ (Rom 15:16; Downs 2006) or speaks elsewhere of ‘the sacrifice (thusia) and service of your faith’ (Phil 2:17).

In addition, Paul’s letters suggest a reinterpretation of the Greek term thusia, often understood to focus on the moment of slaughter. While it can occasionally have such a meaning (1 Cor 5:7), study of how the translators of the Septuagint adopted this word shows that it renders minḥah, the Hebrew term for ‘cereal offering’, 134 times (e.g. Lev 2:1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15; 9:4, 17; Num 15:4). Equally, between the fifth century BCE and the third century CE, Greek pagan texts such as the Leges Sacrae – which contained detailed instructions for the offering of sacrifices at local temples – employed the term thusia for both animal sacrifice and vegetal offerings (Naiden 2013: 280–282). The related verb thuein originally denoted a forceful motion of the air, water, etc., meaning ‘to well up, to boil up’, from which the meaning ‘to smoke’, and ‘to cause to go up in smoke’ as well as ‘to sacrifice’ developed (Behm 1938: 180–181). Thus, the term ‘sacrifice’ associates the aspect of giving or offering together with movement, acceptance, and transformation.

4 The term ‘sacrifice’ with reference to Jesus

Greek terms for ‘sacrifice’ (thusia, prosphora) are rarely – and in the four NT Gospels never – used with reference to Jesus. Yet, such a christological usage can be found in Eph 5:2: ‘[…] Christ loved us, too, and gave himself for us as an offering and sacrifice (prosphoran kai thusian) for God as a pleasing odour (eis osmēn euōdias)’. Some scholars understand this statement as a reference to Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross (Barth 1974: 558). This death is seen as the example for the life of Christians in the context of the paraenetic paragraph about proper conduct.

An alternative interpretation of the sacrificial terminology in Eph 5:2 observes its similarity to that in Phil 4:18 and Rom 12:1. Only the referent is different: in Eph 5:2 it is Jesus Christ, while in Phil 4:18 and Rom 12:1 the referent is material goods and living people. Is it likely, then, that the term thusia in Eph 5:2 refers to death? Such an interpretation is difficult to maintain, not only when compared to Phil 4:18 and Rom 12:1, but also given the wider context of Eph 5:2 which consists of ethical advice for which Jesus is evoked as the perfect example. Such an example for everyone could hardly be death. The referent here is, therefore, Jesus’ life and mission (which include his death but are not limited to it). The words ‘offering and sacrifice for God’ are then understood figuratively and applied to Christ’s loving service to humanity, which is also qualified as sacred worship. Such a classification is far from self-evident, given the context of early Christianity; Jesus and his followers were at times rejected as blasphemers by Jewish religious authorities and not seen as examples (Mark 14:63–65; Matt 26:65–68; Acts 6:11). Moreover, Eph 5:2 references the interpretive formula ‘for God as a pleasing odour’ that is frequently found in regulations on sacrificial rituals (often concealed by the frequent rendering ‘fragrant offering’; see NRSV, NIV; Sykes 1980: 76). Typically accompanying the burning rite (Lev 1–5), this phrase conveys the aspect of acceptance of the sacrificial material by God. In Eph 5:2, it means that, as part of his worship, the life and death of Jesus were accepted by God (Zimmermann 2005: 367; Sellin 2008: 388–389; Hoffmann 2013: 347–408).

5 The term ‘sacrifice’ in Hebrews: transformation and innovation

The letter to the Hebrews has various explicit references to Jesus Christ as ‘sacrifice’. For this purpose, Hebrews offers a detailed (albeit slightly modified) description of the tabernacle as backdrop of the cultic scenery (Heb 9:1–5) and of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement (9:6–10). Key in this overall exposition is the audacious combination of heterogeneous elements of the temple cult. As one of the latest NT texts (Karrer 2002: 96–98; Eisenbaum 2005), Hebrews is influenced by the Hellenism of the Jewish diaspora communities in Lower Egypt with preferences for middle Platonism, and by the ubiquity of Rome’s sacrificial cult (Nasrallah 2011).

In Hebrews, Jesus is first introduced as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek, who does not perform priestly duties for a limited time at the earthly sanctuary but for eternity in the heavenly tabernacle (Heb 4:14–5:10; 8:1–4). Through the assignment of the priestly role, Hebrews succeeds in proposing a physical representation of Christ’s mediation in heaven. Second, the functions of priest and sacrifice are merged: the high priestly Jesus who initially offers prayers and supplications (5:7) ultimately offers himself ‘once for all’ as a ‘sacrifice’ or ‘offering’ (7:27; 10:10). Hebrews 9:6–14 draws on the two rituals of the annual Day of Atonement (Lev 16) and of the red heifer (Num 19), only to combine them in Heb 9:18–19 with the Mosaic covenant ritual of Exod 24:1–8 (Green 2017: 131). The rituals there are interpreted as affecting purification, which is in turn equated with forgiveness (Heb 9:22). This peculiar combination creates a cognitive and logical dilemma. However, the author’s narrative is more interested in focusing all key parameters of early Jewish temple worship on Jesus alone (Löhr 2005: 471–475; Eberhart and Schweitzer 2019).

In Hebrews, the motif of the high priest who sacrifices himself refers specifically to the death of Jesus. For some scholars, this is the meaning of all NT passages about the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus (approach 1; Beckwith 1995b). With that understanding, all NT passages about the ‘sacrifice’ of Jesus convey approximately the same christological message, with a focus on the crucifixion. Approach 2 leads to a different interpretation. If Jewish sacrifice is not about killing, then in Hebrews the death of Jesus should be seen as preparatory to the atonement scenario, leading to a multi-stage act of sacrificial offering that specifically prompts ideas of ascension into heaven. While the resurrection of Jesus is not mentioned in Hebrews, his priestly intercession at the heavenly throne clearly implies both resurrection and ascension, and sets the stage for his continuous atoning ministry of mediation (Heb 7:25; 8:1–4; Moffitt 2011: 218, 222–229; Moffitt 2019).

In Hebrews, however, the motif of sacrifice itself is fused with that of ‘blood’. Nowhere else in the NT are both of these terms used as abundantly with reference to Jesus as in Hebrews. Through their combination, the author creatively transcends and reframes traditional Jewish sacrificial concepts – that were not focused on killing – to fit the general christological programme set out in Heb 2:14: salvation is accomplished through Christ’s death. Thus, the term ‘sacrifice’ has been firmly associated with crucifixion, ushering in a new stage in early Christian soteriology that considerably influenced subsequent discourses on ‘sacrifice’ as such.

6 The term ‘blood’ in the New Testament

The Letter to the Hebrews shows that the idea of sacrifice or the ‘sacrifice of Jesus’ is not only invoked when the terms ‘sacrifice’ or ‘offering’ are used. The term ‘blood’ (haima) may also belong to this semantic field. On the one hand, the application of sacrificial blood was an important element in some types of sacrificial rituals (Lev 4:5–7, 16–18; 8:23–24; 16:14–15; see Sacrifice and the Old Testament). On the other hand, the term ‘blood’ can, in the sense of blood spilled during murder or war, connote ‘death’ in secular narrative contexts. If martyrdom is considered as sacrifice (comprehensive interpretive abstraction; approach 1), then the term ‘blood’ can refer to ‘death’ and qualifies its cause as noble. An example is Paul’s statement about God presenting Jesus publicly as a place of atonement ‘through faith in his blood (haima)’ (Rom 3:25). The term ‘blood’ could be understood as meaning ‘death’. With a cultic meaning, however, it would refer to blood rites like those during the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:15–16), with an effect of purification and consecration, not vicarious death (Kraus 2008: 200–215; Schreiber 2015; Wright 2016: 302; Green 2017: 126–129). Other texts also articulate the connection of blood, purification, and forgiveness inherent in these rituals. For example, the christological statement that ‘[…] the blood of Jesus […] cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7) aligns blood with the concept of ‘atonement’ (hilasmos; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). It conveys that sacrificial blood was used as a purifying agent in the cult of the temple that had by then ceased to exist (Kraus 2008: 212–213).

The blood of Jesus plays an important role in the words of institution of the Eucharist/Last Supper (Matt 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:17–20; 1 Cor 11:23–26; see section 8, below; see also Sacrifice and the Eucharist).

The term ‘blood’ can, as synecdoche, also belong to the secular background of reconciliation. Paul writes, for example, about the outcome of justification by faith:

But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified in his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. (Rom 5:8–9)

Paul juxtaposes the so-called ‘dying formula’ (see section 12) and ‘in his blood’, using one to explain the other. It is tempting to assume that the meaning of this passage is the same as in Rom 3:25, since both feature the words ‘in his blood’. Yet the meaning of ‘blood’ in 5:9 is not derived from the sacrificial cult. Instead it refers to secular contexts (see also Acts 20:28), conveying death or murder (McLean 1992: 546). From the perspective of approach 2, this is not about ‘sacrifice’.

7 The term ‘atonement’

Given the frequency of the noun ‘atonement’ or the verb ‘to atone’ (Hebrew root kpr) in the HB (usually rendered in the Septuagint [LXX] as exhilaskomai), it is surprising that the NT seldom features atonement terminology (Hahn 2005b: 385, 393). The Greek word hilaskomai and its derivates occur only four times with reference to Jesus – including Hebrews.

Paul uses hilaskomai only once when writing that – despite the general human predicament of sinfulness – humans ‘are now justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus, whom God put forth as a place of atonement (hilastērion) through faith in his blood’ (Rom 3:24–25). The term hilastērion has been translated as ‘sacrifice of atonement’ (Daly 1978: 239–240; also NRSV, NIV), ‘propitiatory offering’, or ‘votive offering’ (Schreiber 2015), and studies have connected it with Jewish martyrdom traditions in 4 Macc 17:22 (Stowers 1994: 211–213; Hahn 2005b: 394–395; van Henten 2008). However, the recent re-dating of 4 Maccabees to the late first or early second century CE makes such a connection impossible (van Henten 1986; Jewett 2007: 23). The Septuagint uses hilastērion mostly to refer to the gold slab called the ‘Mercy Seat’ (Hebrew kapporet) on top of the ark of the covenant. In day of atonement rituals, the high priest applies sacrificial blood there and elsewhere in the sanctuary to ‘atone’ for (Hebrew kpr) and consecrate it (Lev 16:33; Hieke 2014: 597–599). Elsewhere, hilastērion designates an altar ledge (Ezek 43:14, 17, 20) that was the object of periodic blood application rites. To account for the variety of these referents, the best translation for hilastērion is ‘atonement’ or ‘place of atonement’ (Breytenbach 1989: 167–168; Finlan 2005: 40–41; Kraus 2008: 200–207). Consistent with the cultic effect of blood application (see section 6), the hilastērion in Rom 3:25 appears as a place of ritual cleansing (Wright 2016: 334).

Another occurrence of the term hilastērion in the NT, Heb 9:5, also imagines the ‘Mercy Seat’. Christ would then be visualized as the part of the tabernacle that is associated with God’s presence. Moreover, Hebrews features the only occurrence of the verb hilaskomai in the NT, explaining that the incarnation of Jesus happened so that Jesus ‘might become merciful and a faithful high priest in his service to God, to make atonement (hilaskesthai) for the sins of the people’ (Heb 2:17). Finally, Jesus is portrayed as ‘the atonement (hilasmos) for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2, see also 4:10; Brown 1982: 217; Hahn 2005b: 396).

8 The Last Supper

An important event in the passion narratives is the Last Supper (also known as the Lord’s Supper or Communion). Jesus instituted this brief celebration with bread and wine before his death on the cross (Matt 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 22:17–20; 1 Cor 11:23–26; see Sacrifice and the Eucharist). The words of institution over bread and wine have been interpreted as ‘language of a covenantal self-sacrifice by Jesus for many’ (Brown 1994: 139). Others argue that the Last Supper tradition does not feature sacrificial terminology, and that a cultic understanding of the eucharistic celebration was only developed in the Patristic era (Didache 14:1; Hahn 1983: 51). The breaking of bread (Mark 14:22) is then seen as highly emblematic of Jesus’ life and mission, referencing earlier meals to which Jesus was invited (Mark 2:15–17; Luke 7:36–50) and the feeding miracles (Mark 6:30–44; 8:1–9; Holmstrand 2017). It represents his life as pro-existence for others.

Jesus also took a cup of wine, gave thanks, and his disciples drank. Jesus then said: ‘This is my blood (haima) of the covenant, which is poured out for many’ (Mark 14:24) or: ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood’ (1 Cor 11:25). Both versions of this statement feature an explicit quotation from – or direct allusion to – the narrative of the Mosaic covenant at Mount Sinai as a clue to its meaning, according to which Moses had sprinkled sacrificial ‘blood of the covenant’ onto the Israelites (Exod 24:8). Thus, Jesus evoked scenes that were considered formative for early Jewish identity (Klauck 1992: 888; Léon-Dufour 1982: 170–172). Based on the analogy to the Mosaic covenant, this wine represented and communicated Jesus’ life, but Jesus connected it through the addition of the words ‘poured out’ (Mark 14:24) to his impending death. Physical contact with this wine by way of drinking effects forgiveness of sins (Matt 26:28), rendering the Christian congregation holy. As such it became God’s new covenant partner. The addition that the covenant is ‘new’ is a reference to Jeremiah’s vision of a covenant written on human hearts (Jer 31:31–34; Eberhart 2023: 373–402). With approach 2, only the cup of wine will count as such, because of the reference to Exod 24:8 (Léon-Dufour 1982: 170–172; Wick 2002: 248–249; Hahn 2005b: 393, 540–541).

9 Jesus, the ‘lamb’

While terminology such as ‘sacrifice’ (thusia), ‘offering’ (dōron, prosphora), or ‘for a pleasing odour’ (eis osmēn euōdias) clearly reference sacrificial rituals in the context of the temple cult, the origins and precise meaning of lamb imagery – concentrated in Johannine literature – are uncertain. There, John the Baptist salutes Jesus as ‘the lamb (amnos) of God that takes away the sin of the world’ (John 1:29; also 1:36). As an animal that is frequent in nomadic and agricultural societies, the image of a lamb is easily accessible. More fraught with problems is the idea about carrying sin. Three possible origins have been considered: first, that it conveys weakness, innocence, and abstinence from violence (Isa 52:13–53:12 MT; Stuhlmacher 1996; Spieckermann 2001: 136). In the speech of Jesus on the judgment of the nations, sheep – as opposed to goats – represent the righteous or chosen of God (Matt 25:31–46). The attributes of this animal fit Jesus as well; he was known for his renunciation of violence. However, the lamb in Isaiah 53 is no sacrificial lamb. The parallel to shearing in Isa 53:7 suggests that the lamb’s slaughter is a profane and not a cultic activity. Even the Hebrew term ašam in Isa 53:10 customarily translated as ‘guilt offering’ is, in this context, probably not employed as a technical term from the sacrificial cult but implies that guilt is vicariously borne by an innocent party and thus eliminated (Janowski 1997: 88–90; Groves 2004: 88). John 1:29 shares the motif of the vicarious carrying of sin with Isa 53:4 LXX.

Second, Jesus dies on the afternoon before the Passover Feast. As this is the moment when the Passover lambs are slaughtered, the death of Jesus can be seen in analogy to this event. The book of Revelation uses the word ‘lamb’ (Greek arnion), at times expanded through the words ‘as if slaughtered’ (Rev 5:6; see also 13:8), twenty-eight times as a synonym for Jesus Christ. This terminology features a peculiar focus on the ritual activity of slaughter, which in the exodus story made animal blood available for application at the doors of Israelite houses (Exod 12:22). This blood was a visible sign of protection, indicating that the deadly plague was to ‘pass over’ them. In the apocalyptic scenes of global destruction described in the book of Revelation, the Passover lamb Jesus likewise has the power of protecting the Christian community from existential threats through his blood. Yet, this aspect of protection does not square with the carrying of sins in John 1:29 (Loader 2020: 361).

Third, the daily tamid sacrifice has been considered the origin of this passage, as lambs were offered for this type of sacrifice (Exod 29:38; Num 28:3). However, in the first century CE the tamid had no specific association with sin (Vahrenhorst 2016: 91). Hence, a sacrificial interpretation of the lamb imagery in John 1 is difficult to maintain.

10 Jesus as martyr

Is the story of the fate of Jesus, when interpreted as a martyrdom, that of an ‘atoning sacrifice’? Scholars have also explored similarities between the NT Gospel narratives about the suffering and death of Jesus, understood as a martyrdom story, and that of other martyrs in Graeco-Roman and early Jewish traditions (including elimination and expulsion rituals). Are the passionate trials of Antigone and Jesus, both motivated through utopian love, comparable? Somewhat like martyrs in Graeco-Roman and early Jewish traditions, Jesus anticipates his suffering and death yet does not shy away (see the passion predictions in Mark 8:31–33; 9:30–32; 10:32–34; Varone 1993: 49). And seen in connection with the ransom-saying in Mark 10:45 or the words of institution of the Eucharistic tradition, for example in Luke 22:14, this death would be beneficial for others. Martin Hengel claimed the correlation of these stories about the ‘atoning sacrifice’ of the respective heroes or victims of communal human aggression (Hengel 1981: 19–32). However, the atoning death of Jesus according to the NT differs in three ways from Graeco-Roman stories: first, the death of Jesus procures universal salvation for all humans; second, the atonement was initiated by God (not by humans); third, it is eschatological in character (Pokorný 1996: 59). Jewish martyrdom traditions include, for instance, the death of Eleazar, who in a battle courageously stabbed an elephant from beneath (1 Macc 6:44), the brutal abuse of Jewish women who had their children circumcised (2 Macc 6:10), Jews who were burned alive for observing the Sabbath (6:11), or gruesome graphic descriptions of the murder of another Eleazar as well as an anonymous mother and her seven sons (6:18–7:42).

While the view of the similarity of the death of Jesus and the martyrdom story in Graeco-Roman and early Jewish traditions has received some support among scholars, it nevertheless also showcases the specific usage of the term ‘sacrifice’ in ancient texts. These texts explicitly mention the ‘death’ or ‘blood’ of martyrs (Sophocles, Antigone 461–462; 1 Macc 6:44; 2 Macc 6:19, 27–28; 7:2; 4 Macc 6:29; 17:22) and in rare instances ascribe atoning efficiency to it (4 Macc 17:22; Klauck 1989: 670). However, the specific term ‘sacrifice’ is missing from all of these narratives; while in 2 Macc 6:19 Eleazar spits out ‘meat of sacrifice’ because its consumption would be unlawful, the narrative never uses the word ‘sacrifice’ to interpret his fate (Versnel 2005: 259).

11 Jesus, the ‘sin offering’?

In Rom 8:3, Paul writes about the incarnation of Jesus, producing an awkward sentence featuring the words peri hamartias. This phrase (or peri tēs hamartias) in the LXX often renders the Hebrew ḥaṭṭā’t, ‘sin offering’ (Vahrenhorst 2011: 340). Therefore, Rom 8:3 has been understood to describe Jesus as a vicarious sacrificial offering (Dunn 1988: 422; Beckwith 1995b: 131; Daly 2009: 55–56; J. J. Williams 2015: 162). About its meaning, James Dunn states, ‘we note that the sin offering, like Jesus’ death in Rom 8:3, was intended to deal with sin. In some sense or other, the ritual of killing the sacrifice removed the sin from the unclean offerer’ (Dunn 1974: 134).

Such a view about the modus operandi and effect of the sin offering has since been corrected. The purpose of the sin offering was not to remove the sin of the human offerer but to purge the objects to which the sacrificial blood had been applied, namely the sanctuary and its appurtenances (Lev 16:16, 20; Milgrom 1991: 254–256; Chapman 2017: 97–103). In the sin offering ritual, therefore, atonement through blood application is directed at sacred objects and effects the removal of impurity (D. P. Wright 2020: 43–45; Hartenstein 2005). Furthermore, in Rom 8:3, the triple repetition of the word ‘sin’ (hamartia) in the phrase ‘in the likeness of the flesh of sin and for the sake of sin, he [God] condemned sin’ makes it unlikely that peri hamartias means ‘sin offering’. Instead, the redundant usage of hamartia indicates that all three terms have the meaning of ‘sin’ (Breytenbach 1989: 163; Eschner 2010: 56–59).

12 Soteriological formulas

In the NT, and particularly in Paul’s letters, two types of soteriological formulas have been employed to convey salvation through Christ. The first one is the so-called ‘dying formula’, present already in the earliest NT writing (1 Thess 5:10) and part of an early creed adopted by Paul in 1 Cor 15:3: ‘Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures’. With the stereotypical form of ‘A died/gave himself for (hyper) B’, this statement can be found frequently in Paul’s writings, where it is also one of the most important christological-soteriological formulas to convey the apostle’s gospel message (Rom 4:25; 5:6, 8; 14:15; 1 Cor 8:11; 15:3; 2 Cor 5:14f; 1 Thess 5:10; see also John 11:50–52; 18:14). These kinds of formulas are well-known from martyrdom motifs in Greek drama (Gibson 2004; Gathercole 2015: 78). Often correlated to redemption and reconciliation, these ‘dying formulas’ in the NT convey that Christ’s death is an ‘effective’ death by way of attributing positive meaning to it. They may evoke an existential exchange between Jesus and humans. The result can be articulated with these words by Paul: ‘Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’ (1 Cor 15:54–55). The dying formulas had a wide appeal with ancient audiences because they draw on military concepts that were popular in the Graeco-Roman culture. The latter typically convey glorious merit in the context of military conquest. Once again, the term ‘sacrifice’ or ‘self-sacrifice’ with its common modern usage (approach 1) could be applied to such human destinies. The texts, however, avoid this terminology; soldiers dying a noble or glorious death on the battlefield were not labelled ‘sacrifice’.

Applied to the shameful death of Jesus on the cross, the ‘dying formulas’ in the NT convey that Jesus anticipated his violent death and that he could have avoided it but chose to face it instead. Thus, his death is labelled as beneficial for others and vicarious, qualifying his life as pro-existence. Considering, however, that Jesus did not die in a glorious military campaign, this kind of attribution would have posed a substantial challenge to the popular and unquestioned nationalistic expansion politics of the Roman empire (Genest 1988: 519–521; D. P. Wright 2000; Gibson 2004: 39–40; Eschner 2010: 107–376).

Another type of soteriological formula can be found in John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’. It is called a ‘surrender formula’, and frequently employs the Greek verb paradidōmi ‘to give (up)’ with the preposition ‘for’ (Rom 8:32; Gal 1:4; 2:20; Eph 5:2, 25; 1 Tim 2:5–6; Tit 2:14; also Mark 10:45/Matt 20:28 and Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:24). The question is whether the specific referent is the death of Jesus (Dunn 1974: 133; Daly 2009: 65). The occurrence of such a formula in a non-Christological context where its purpose is the endorsement of living persons (Acts 15:26) shows that some of these formulas can also refer to the entirety of somebody’s mission, its implicit danger, and the courage of the one who is willing to carry it out. As for John 3:16, the later image of the Good Shepherd who ‘risks his life’ captures the meaning best.

13 Reconciliation and redemption

Pauline (and Deutero-Pauline) writings frequently contain characteristic soteriological terminology and imagery from the secular areas of reconciliation and redemption. A typical NT text for the area of reconciliation is the lengthy statement of Paul in 2 Cor 5:18–20 (see also Rom 5:10–11). It features Greek katallassō ‘to reconcile’ and katallagē ‘reconciliation’ no less than five times, and it is remarkable that Paul refers to his own ministry as ‘ministry of reconciliation’ and calls his proclamation a ‘word of reconciliation’ (or ‘gospel of reconciliation’ according to manuscript variants of 2 Cor 5:19). Thus, Paul makes a comprehensive statement about his apostolic mission, which he understands as a response to the experience of God’s ‘revelation’ of Jesus to him (see Gal 1:16).

Is this terminology derived from the narratives about the Maccabean martyrs (2 Macc 3:1–7:42; 8:29; Wolter 1978: 44–45), from Deutero-Isaiah’s fourth song of the suffering servant (Isa 52:13–53:12) from the atoning sin offering (Hofius 1989a; Hofius 1989b), or from the ancient Graeco-Roman diplomatic/political sphere of enmity, warfare, and peace (Breytenbach 1989; 1993)? The interpretive terminology is used differently in this debate. While Cilliers Breytenbach maintains that reconciliation (katallagē, katallassō) is unrelated to atonement (hilaskomai) and cultic sacrifices, for Otfried Hofius, ‘atonement’ may comprise ‘reconciliation’ (see also Hahn 2005a: 262). Breytenbach’s interpretation allows one to account for and integrate other imagery in the context of these passages. In his proclamation, Paul imagines enmity between humanity and God; because of human sin, God’s wrath needs to be propitiated. In other passages, this terminology signifies that damaged relations have been restored through the mediation of somebody who risked his life for this purpose. Christ intercedes, which in wars and other conflicts is a perilous mission. This explains the death of Christ in this concept as vicarious (2 Cor 5:14–15, 21; Rom 5:6–11). What is special about Paul’s usage of the concept is that God is the author and initiator of reconciliation, not humans (Sölle 1970: 95).

Another secular concept is ‘redemption’ (apolytrōsis); it is not related to the temple cult and is separate from ‘reconciliation’. Paul, for example, writes that ‘you were bought with a price’ (1 Cor 6:20). Elsewhere, the term ‘ransom’ (lytron) appears, for example in the saying about the pro-existence of Jesus (Mark 10:45/Matt 20:28). Further Greek terms belonging to this concept are lytroōmai (‘to redeem’, Rom 3:24; Eph 1:7; 1 Pet 1:18) and agorazō/exagorazō (‘to redeem/purchase’, 1 Cor 6:20; Gal 3:13; 4:5; 2 Pet 2:1; Rev 5:9). Both terms are mercantile and point to the sphere of economics. The pronouncement of Jesus that the Son of Man gave his life as ‘a ransom for many’ appears as a response to the desire of the Sons of Zebedee to have positions of privileged status. Jesus explains that true leadership among his disciples is, in contradistinction to the Gentile (Roman) world, based on humility and altruistic service to others. This remains the basic meaning of this concept. Its origins may be found in three different spheres. First, a likely meaning of ‘ransom’ is ‘a payment for release of prisoners or hostages’ (Wilcox 1996: 178). As mentioned above, due to the ubiquity and importance of the military realm in the Graeco-Roman world, audiences knew about prisoners of war and attempts to release them. Second, it may also refer to money paid for the manumission of slaves (Lang 2020: 166). Considering that a large percentage of the population in the ancient Graeco-Roman world consisted of slaves, this soteriological concept was intelligible to many.

14 Jesus, the ‘curse’

Two further passages in Paul’s letters feature christological-soteriological statements, yet the origins of the imagery are disputed. The first one includes a quotation from Deut 21:23about crucifixion:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’ – in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Gal 3:13–14)

Paul juxtaposes the innocence of Jesus and the sinfulness of humans who cannot free themselves from their existential bondage. Therefore, salvation is existential exchange; the parties involved swap their predicaments. Christ shared the human predicament while humans participate in his holiness and glory. The idea of ‘becoming a curse’ may envisage the ‘goat for Azazel’ of the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:20–22; see Sacrifice and the Old Testament). This goat survives and carries Israel’s sins away. Paul uses this image in combination with the quotation from the Deuteronomic law to convey forgiveness of sins through the vicarious death of Jesus (Schröter 2003: 68).

A similar substitution is envisioned when Paul writes: ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God’ (2 Cor 5:21). It has been connected to Deutero-Isaiah’s songs of the suffering servant, particularly Isa 53:9 (Hofius 1989a). Morna Hooker prefers instead to call the logic behind 2 Cor 5:21 ‘interchange’ (Hooker 2008). Like every faithful person, Paul himself is now God’s righteousness (Söding 2005: 379; for a critical view, Gathercole 2015: 41–42). In 2 Cor 5:21, the way sin is dealt with is by the appropriate substitution of the one who alone is the true representative. The one bore the sin of the many. The innocent died in the place of the guilty. This only makes sense within the narrative of love (Wright 2016: 254). In the end, these christological passages all convey the extreme form of the humility and altruism that was manifest in the pro-existence of Jesus.

15 Scientific interactions

Scholars in a variety of academic disciplines such as history, classics, and anthropology have explored the topic of sacrifice across multiple religions and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean and/or the ancient Near East. Sacrificial rituals, or ‘sacrifice’ as a conceptual abstraction (according to approach 1), have also been the terminological paradigm for cross-cultural comparative research. Recent historical research has suggested that the connection between sacrifice and killing in ancient Greece or other cultures does not need to be perceived as mandatory. It has been proposed that sacrifice can be seen as part of a communal meal, which became its own conceptional paradigm (Détienne 1979). In a notable turn, the HB/OT scholar Alfred Marx defined sacrifice as a festive communal gathering of the faithful with the purpose of honouring God (Marx 2005: 221). Recently, the classicist Fred Naiden came to a similar conclusion in the study of ancient Greek sacrifice (Naiden 2013).

The theme of sacrifice – particularly with its popular meaning of voluntary or involuntary loss in a broad sense – is often found in modern public discourse. First, sacrifice and atonement, understood in a broader conceptual sense (approach 1), can be useful categories to explore psychological problems such as patterns of injury, guilt, shame, and appeasement in human communities. Early in the twentieth century, the founder of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud interpreted the self-sacrifice of Jesus as being for the purpose of eradicating sin as murder and blood guilt. From this idea, he describes the ambivalent feelings of sons vis-à-vis their fathers (Freud 1989: 437). More recently, Stephen Finlan has described theories of the origins of atonement thinking in fear and traumatic childhood experience and in ambivalent or avoidant attachment to parents. Finlan demonstrates the continuous relevance of sacrifice and atonement for all who wonder about the sometimes paradoxical implications of the categories in the modern world (Finlan 2016). Second, Lorenzo Magnani and Tommaso Bertolotti consider the self-sacrifice committed by God in Jesus Christ as the epitome of sacrifice and highest form of intellectual violence. They relate it to products of the popular entertainment industry – specifically the sacrifice of fictional US superhero Batman – to study the extent to which the sacrifice of intellect is operative at the intersection of kenotic self-sacrifice and scapegoating (Magnani and Bertolotti 2015). Third, sacrifice is said to be ever more present in the sphere of modern economy, mainly during financial crises. Accompanied by symbolic violence, situations like these feature a wide spectrum of sacrificial aspects; suffering loss of property, victims end up in personal bankruptcy, indebtedness, or poverty (Alonso and Fernández Rodríguez 2021). Fourth, the term ‘sacrifice’ can, specifically in René Girard's definition, be applied to the sociological interpretation of sport events (Girard 1979; also Gebauer 1987).

16 Spiritual information: Christian exhortation

The longest and most elaborate exhortation in the NT, in Rom 12:1–15:13, is framed by sacrificial terminology. The Christians in Rome are to give their own bodies ‘as a sacrifice (thusia), living, holy and acceptable (euarestos) to God’ (12:1), while Paul describes himself as a minister who brings the ‘offering (prosphora) of the Gentiles’ that ‘may be acceptable (euprosdektos)’ (15:16). In either sentence, the term ‘acceptable’ explicitly conveys the ‘point’ of the metaphor of ‘sacrifice’. These words refer to an exhortation to, for example, ‘hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good, love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour; […] rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer’, etc. (12:9–12). This demonstrates in its own peculiar way how little a direct connection may exist between sacrificial terminology and suffering and death. In this passage, sacrificial language refers to actions that are good and positive and joyful; at the same time, they are considered as part of one’s personal worship or Paul’s missionary activity before God.

A Deutero-Pauline text adds – once more in the context of a lengthy exhortation – that Christians should ‘be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us’, and that Christ’s ‘offering (prosphora) and sacrifice (thusia) for God as a pleasing odour (eis osmēn euōdias)’ (Eph 5:1–2) may be the paradigm for such behaviour. If this terminology is interpreted as a reference to the life and mission of Jesus (including, but by no means limited to, his death), then the basis for an ethical life is imitatio Christi. Similar exhortations are found elsewhere in the NT. In 1 Pet 2:4–10, the audience is asked to ‘offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God’ (v5). It may be understood as ‘the richest source for a NT theology of sacrifice’ that endorses practical and ethical instead of cultic activities (Daly 2009: 58–59). In general, sacrificial language is not conceptually linked to suffering and pain, hence the sacrifice of the faithful can refer to positive activities. This is manifest in a passage from Hebrews:

Through him [Jesus], then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Heb 13:15–16; Varone 1993: 138)

Exhortations such as these, which always address a community of believers, not individuals, do not depict ethical behaviour as the key to human justification. Such justification is rather the result. Salvation is God’s gift for humans, conveyed through sacraments such as baptism and the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper.

Considered more broadly, NT concepts of sacrifice can be read as a template for the whole life as ‘sacrifice’ (Daly 2009: 57). This would imply the imitation of Jesus, including the readiness to costly love. However, are categories of sacrifice and atonement always understood properly?

Many contemporary Christians, quite possibly even a majority of them, take violence for granted as an integral part of their specifically Christian worldview. For example, although the great majority of people in the United States profess to be Christian, many of the fifty states practice capital punishment. Throughout the so-called Christian West, support for war, even far beyond what is allowed by the just war theory, is widespread and considered to be quite consistent with Christianity. (Daly 2007: 37)

For this reason, there are some contemporary voices that call for a decisive re-interpretation of the archaic and outdated logics of sacrifice and atonement for modern audiences, because they are considered to convey important faith aspects yet are no longer comprehensible. Other voices call for the discontinuation of these categories altogether as they are deemed not essential to Christianity (Zager 1999; Frey 2005: 10–13; Finlan 2007: 126–128).

Some feminist critics have supported either of these options. They have challenged patriarchal power systems globally as the sources of women’s oppression and, within the Christian tradition and biblical studies, scrutinized abusive aspects in christological and soteriological concepts, particularly those alleged to be conveyed by sacrifice and atonement. Mary Grey, for instance, reimagines the cross of Jesus as an essential symbol, but with a different meaning. The ‘cross as symbol of at-one-ment is a call for us to take up our responsibility to be co-sufferers, co-redeemers, and co-creators – to stand in solidarity to prevent further crucifixions’ (Grey 1990: 191). Arnfríður Guðmundsdóttir proposes to redeem the soteriological relevance of the cross by understanding it as a symbol of the kenosis of patriarchy, and to maintain the constitutive connection with incarnation; divine compassion is only recognized when one understands that, in Jesus, God was willing to be crucified (Guðmundsdóttir 2017: 349, 354; see also Strobel 1991; Schottroff 1995: 212–216).


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  • Further reading

    • Beckwith, Roger T. 1995a. ‘Sacrifice in the World of the New Testament’, in Sacrifice in the Bible. Edited by Roger T. Beckwith and Martin J. Selman. Carlisle/Grand Rapids: Paternoster/Baker, 105–110.
    • Eberhart, Christian A. 2018. The Sacrifice of Jesus: Understanding Atonement Biblically. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock. 2nd edition.
    • Finlan, Stephen. 2016. Sacrifice and Atonement: Psychological Motives and Biblical Patterns. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
    • Frey, Jörg, and Jens Schröter (eds). 2005. Deutungen des Todes Jesu im Neuen Testament. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 181. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.
    • Wiley, Henrietta L., and Christian A. Eberhart (eds). 2017. Sacrifice, Cult, and Atonement in Early Judaism and Christianity: Constituents and Critique. Resources for Biblical Study 85. Atlanta: SBL Press.
  • Works cited

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    • Beckwith, Roger T. 1995b. ‘The Death of Christ as a Sacrifice in the Teaching of Paul and Hebrews’, in Sacrifice in the Bible. Edited by Roger T. Beckwith and Martin J. Selman. Carlisle/Grand Rapids: Paternoster/Baker, 130–135.
    • Behm, Johannes. 1938. ‘θύω’, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament 3: 180–190.
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