Was Paul Validating the Need for Sacrifices in Acts 21?

Acts 21:23–27, Vow.  When Paul offered a sacrifice, is this  proof that the sacrificial system is still in force today, even after the death of Yeshua the Messiah on the cross? Some people say yes despite what the writer of Hebrew’s lengthy discussion about how Yeshua’s death replaced the sacrificial and Levitical systems (Heb chapters 8–11; 10:10). 

The rituals that Paul and his fellow Israelites did in Acts 21 actually fits the description of one who is coming out of a Nazirite vow (see Num 6:1–21). This was a sin offering and was the only way that the Torah allows one who has taken a Nazirite vow legally to terminate his vow to Elohim. A sacrifice was to be made at the door of the tabernacle (later the temple) by a priest. 

Today, one can’t technically do a Nazarite vow, since there is no way legally to come out of it unless, of course, one stays a Nazirite until he dies. This is because there is no tabernacle or temple, and there is no Aaronic priest who is available to make the sacrifice. However, in Paul’s day, the priesthood still existed, and the temple still stood. 

The sacrifice for coming out of a Nazarite vow is the only example of a disciple of Yeshua performing any sacrifice after Yeshua’s resurrection. Therefore, this sacrifice was a special exception for believers doing a sacrifice, else how could one legally come out of a Nazarite vow?

Why would Paul involve himself in a sin-sacrifice in Acts 21:24 after the death of Yeshua? We mustn’t read too much into the text. It is true that coming out of a Nazarite vow involved a sin offering. However, Acts doesn’t say that Paul was coming out of his own Nazarite vow. What the text says is that he was acting as a wealthy patron—an act of charity—for four individuals who, presumably were unable to afford the costs of paying for the necessary sacrifices to exit a Nazarite vow. 

Admittedly, this is a perplexing passage. None of the Bible commentaries I examined on this text could give an adequate explanation as to why Paul would involve himself in this particular ceremony to prove to the Jerusalem mob that he was Torah-observant. The Acts text just doesn’t give us enough background information on the subject. One thing seems certain though. Paul was not making a sin offering for himself. His paying for the sacrifices of the Nazarites seems to have been a public relations gesture to appease those in the Jewish mob who were slandering him. It is a logical overreach and reading into the text to take Paul’s act of charity as him making a doctrinal statement favoring the continued validity of the sacrificial system after the death Yeshua, especially in light of what the other apostolic writers had to say about Yeshua’s fulfilling that system by his death. Certainly, the writer of Hebrews makes this point abundantly clear.


7 thoughts on “Was Paul Validating the Need for Sacrifices in Acts 21?

  1. So then, what is one to make of the grand endeavors of those participating in the work of the Temple Institute in Israel, seeking to rebuild the temple, ordain and train an Aaronic priesthood, and offer animal sacrifices?

      • Exactly! Yet will there be a place for an Aaronic priesthood including the animal sacrifices, separate from but simultaneously
        along with the Melchizedek priesthood, in the Millennial Reign of Messiah, for those who have not yet come to the knowledge and ways of Yeshua as Messiah?

  2. Shalom Natan

    I agree Yeshua did the atonement for sin but I didn’t know that the end of a Nazarite vow required a chattat offering. I was under the impression that the chattat was only required if somehow the Nazarite failed inadvertently to keep it eg. by becoming unclean by accident.

    That person then had to start the time of separation again to actually complete the vow made to Elohim successfully and then go through the completion of the separation with the specified offerings.

    Numbers 16:18 refers to peace offerings. Not sure if there are other verses.

    If it is the case, that it is only peace offerings for a Nazarite separating his vow correctly from Elohim then what Paul was paying for didn’t deny Yeshua’s blood for atonement for sin at all & is entirely separate as a fellowship offering.

    Perhaps what James was after is the proof that Paul would attest to the sacrificial system being in place for our fellowship offerings but not sin offerings because the believing Priests and Lawyers etc would have seen there are still offerings to God that have no involvement with sin. All the offerings given to Israel by God are always about relationship. Whether to restore it or to show love and appreciation and enjoyment toward our Creator.

    If God provides the restoration from sin then perhaps it is OK to provide thank offerings?

    This brings me to the Temple described in Ezekiel 44 is it future? It also brings me to the verses about admitting foreigners in verse 7.

    I am sure you have carefully looked into Galations when it refers to circumcision. I actually always thought there is a lot more going on in this, than physical circumcision, BUT IT WAS SO DIFFICULT TO PUT A FINGER ON IT.

    I got this from House of David Fellowship and it makes a lot of sense of the difficult things Paul says without destroying Torah.

    There is Protestant Christian scholarly thought indicating the section is most likely referring to proselytes but as these xstians do not take the Torah seriously there is no impact who it is talking to or about, but for us who are followers of the Word of God it may have much greater implications.

    The verses about circumcision are referenced to the GK word anthropos and NOT specifically males. So it may be a reference to proselytism which actually is the bondage.

    We know historically in Torah, females are not circumcised physically as proselytes but would be considered part of the “circumcision” as Jewish citizens after agreeing to do all the customs/ traditions and then Torah of Moses.

    The Torah of Moses always came a distant 2nd to the man-made traditions. And Yeshua said as much about proselytism. Mat 23:15 “Your travel the world to make a single convert and make him TWICE as worthy of hell. sic”

    So Paul says, ” you who proclaim the Law do you not read the Law ” in effect means “you who desire to follow the oral Torah do you not read the written Torah”.

    Proselytes became “Jews” being grafted into the Hagar plan of salvation ( manmade effort of dogma that is not producing the line of salvation) and not waiting on the promise of Salvation which is God’s way and timing. Mt Sinai reference is to the old covenant that the Jews added to make up their own salvation. Necessitating a New Covenant to overcome the hard hearts and inability to perform the covenant.

    Jews of the time of Christ were often under the dogma whether proselytes or blood Jews by following encultured falsehoods of men as if it were Truth. So in effect at the time of Christ all Jerusalem was in bondage and Christ came to set them free.

    Salvation has always been about faith & all they were doing was attaching themselves to the hypocrites who did not live the Word of God by faith for salvation but a creeded salvation of works of how to become a Jew to be saved that men gave you to do.

    Not all Israel is Israel….

    Therefor no connection to salvation for most. A bit like many Christians …say the sinners prayer and call yourself a Christian of a particular denominational stance and your room in heaven is guaranteed, because you are now a ‘Christian’ accorded full citizenship.

    This next bit may be hard to look at & this is from me seeking to divide the word truthfully in prayer but Ezek 44 really makes me wonder & the parts that say we are grafted into the spiritual Israel in Christ ..

    I never perceive Paul as a man of convenience or of expedience, but one of integrity and honesty whether against God’s Kingdom in ignorance or full on proclaiming in all trials of body and spirit.

    This is conjecture and not set in concrete but perhaps this would explain the circumstance of why Paul was happy to circumcise physically the fellow who had a Jewish mother and a Greek father…..perhaps he just wanted to keep Passover according to a requirement written in Torah that he could do.

    I also believe Paul was so vehemently opposed to to the Galation circumcision because it represented proselytism.

    As it is Christ who bought us with a price into His household He is the one who with his hand gives his slaves (believers male and female) the heart circumcision as a spiritual transaction.

    The only physical Torah appropriate circumcision for males is just simply a part of faithfulness to the command. Either for Passover or as a male child born to faithful parents and awaiting the heart circumcision if he is called for salvation.

    And most definitely NOT the cut of proselytism which cuts male and female from Christ as they will not rely on Christ’s atonement by doing that and they will deny many of God’s instructions in preference to the oral Torah that abrogates the Truth of Torah.

    Proselytism referred to as becoming part of the Nation of Israel enabled the Jewish religious power brokers to virtually ‘buy’ a convert as a slave and enforce circumcision ( their control ) on you.

    Do you get what I am seeing?


  3. Do the prophets not speak of sacrifices in the future (during the Messianic Era specifically)? Do we consider the prophets to be incorrect? If not, then why are we trying to say that Yeshua destroyed/did away with a law?

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