The Final Sacrifice

The ancient Jewish Temple priests sacrificed a very great number of lambs. Josephus tells us that during the Passover in AD 70 alone the Temple priests sacrificed more than a quarter million lambs.1

These animal sacrifices came to an abrupt end on Tisha B’Av in AD 70 when the Temple fell. During the past two thousand years it has never been rebuilt. Chabad explains, “Today our prayers are in place of the sacrifices. So the principal aspect of the sacrifices was never terminated. Just the outer aspects that the Torah also demands, those are temporarily suspended.” But only temporarily. Jews pray that the Torah sacrifices of bulls and goats, one after another, an endless stream of blood, might someday be resumed, until the coming of the Mashiakh!

Will the Jewish nation build a new Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and resume the animal sacrifices? Jews say yes, Catholics say no.

The Catholic Perspective

There was a straighter line from the animal sacrifices to Rabbi Yeshua’s Final Sacrifice than casual observation picks up. As Chabad correctly observes, the Old Testament Jews understood the sacrifices to be primarily spiritual. The Psalmist said, “I will make an offering of bulls and goats. Selah” Ps 66:15.

But Rabbi Paul replied, “It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” Heb 10:4. He continued,

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Heb 10:1922.

The pure water, of course, is baptism Jn 3:5 into Rabbi Yeshua’s death Rom 6:34.

Rabbi Yeshua is God’s Mashiakh. His one single sacrifice, uniting the Passover sacrifice and feast with his own death on the Cross, was the true Final Sacrifice. Therefore St. John Chrysostom explained, “We always offer the same Lamb, not one today and another tomorrow, but always the same one.”2 His commentary on these words is profound and perceptive: “For what is the bread? It is the body of Christ. And what do those who receive it become? The Body of Christ—not many bodies but one body. For as bread is completely one, though made of up many grains of wheat, and these, albeit unseen, remain nonetheless present, in such a way that their difference is not apparent since they have been made a perfect whole, so too are we mutually joined to one another and together united with Christ.”3

The Jewish Perspective

There were about 40 years of Temple sacrifices from Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice ca AD 33 to the Temple destruction in AD 70. However, after Rabbi Yeshua‘s Final Sacrifice, when the Temple curtain was torn in two Mt 27:51, they ceased to be salvific § 587.

In Scripture

The rabbis cite Ezekiel’s prophecy Ezek 4344 that the Temple sacrifices would be restored. The The Logos Timeline dates Ezekiel’s prophetic career at 593-568 BC. Cyrus King of Persia made his proclamation, again according to the Logos Timeline, in 536 BC: “Concerning the house of God at Jerusalem, let the house be rebuilt, the place where sacrifices are offered and burnt offerings are brought” Ezra 6:3. It certainly looks as if Ezekiel’s prophecy referred to the Second Temple.

Multiple fulfillment of prophecy does occur, but it is relatively unusual. It would seem that, having a fulfillment within a few decades, as Rabbi Yeshua did in his prophecy of the Temple destruction in Jn 2:1921, we would be unlikely to see another fulfillment after 2,000 years of quiet.

And the Mishna

The Scriptures, together with the Mishna, give us a deeper insight into the Temple destruction.

For each year’s Yom Kippur service the high priest would have two similar goats. The high priest would attach to one chosen for azazel, removal of sins, a scarlet woolen ribbon. If God forgave the congregation’s sins he would turn the scarlet ribbon white, if not, it would remain scarlet.

This was a rabbinic tradition. A time of sinat khinam, hatred without cause, had set in among God‘s people Israel, when Jews in great numbers turned against each other. God reached out to Israel through Isaiah, “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” Is 1:18.

Mishna tractate Yoma (Aramaic: The Day) discusses the laws pertaining to the day of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The relevant discussion begins on page 39a. It quotes from a baraisa, a statement made by a tanna, Mishna sage, which was not included by Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi in the Mishna. It does not have the full authority of the Mishna, but its mention in the Mishna still gives it considerable weight in Jewish study. The phrase, “the Rabbis taught” or “our Rabbis taught” traditionally indicates a baraisa.

During the 40 years Shimon ha-Tzadik officiated as high priest, God‘s people Israel maintained a high level of spiritual excellence. As a result, all during his time five Temple miracles continually occurred:

  1. The lot inscribed “L’Hashem,” would always appear in the right hand of the high priest during the Yom Kippur service.
  2. The strip of scarlet-dyed wool which was tied to the head of the scapegoat always turned white during the Yom Kippur service.
  3. The western-most lamp of the Temple menorah remained lit until the priest would use its fire to kindle the next day’s lamps.
  4. The pyre on the altar did not require any additional wood to sustain a strong fire.
  5. There was a blessing upon the first fruits of the Omer, the two loaves offered on Shavuot, and on the twelve loaves of the showbread so that each priest was satisfied with a portion no larger than the size of an olive.

However, the baraisa continued, after Shimon ha-Tzadik passed on, God‘s people Israel did not maintain the spiritual heights they reached during his time. They gradually spiraled downward in their fidelity to the Torah. As they did, the five miracles gradually occurred less and less often.

During the last 40 years of the Second Temple‘s life, the years after Rabbi Yeshua‘s crucifixion, Yoma 39b quotes from the baraisa:

Our Rabbis taught that forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple the lot did not come up in the [high priest’s] right hand nor did the tongue of scarlet wool become white.

Resolving the Two Perspectives

Now, was the gradual diminution and final end of the five Temple miracles caused by the sinat khinam, hatred without cause, or by the Sanhedrin‘s rejection of Rabbi Yeshua?

“Come now, let us reason together.”

Rabbi Yeshua taught agape love, a radical transformation away from sinat khinam. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:3740. Even, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” Mt 5:44. Many Jews followed.

By contrast, the Jews who did not follow Rabbi Yeshua remained filled with sinat khinam. “When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no crime in him'” Jn 19:6. Finally, “Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, ‘Here is your King!’ They cried out, ‘Away with him, away with him, crucify him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’” Jn 19:1415. That is the very definition of sinat khinam, hatred without cause. Those particular chief priests and their followers were so filled with hatred against Rabbi Yeshua who had done them no harm that they were willing to deny God himself!

The Jews who did not follow knew Isaiah’s prophecy against sinat khinam Is 6:912 and heard Rabbi Yeshua‘s confirm it Mt 13:1415. The last 40 years of scarlet woolen strips were God‘s flashing red light warning that Rabbi Yeshua‘s great prophecies, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down” Mk 13:2, and “They will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation” Lk 19:44, were about to be fulfilled.