Was Paul still “under” the sacrificial system?

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.

Acts 21:25, Observe no such thing. The phrase “that they should observe no such thing, except” is a dubious one and is not found in all the oldest and reliable Greek NT manuscripts. I suspect this is an example where the KJV got it wrong. My NKJV has a footnote attached to this phrase saying that it’s not found in the Alexandrian family of NT texts. Furthermore, it’s not in the Aramaic Peshitta. Therefore, I suspect that this phrase was a scribal addition and was not in the original autographs, especially since it is inconsistent with the rest of the Scriptures including the writings of Paul.

 

An Overview of the Sacrificial System and Its Relevance to YOU

Leviticus 1–7

Although Jewish and Christian scholars disagree about whether the sacrifices were to cease after the coming of the Messiah, as Edersheim points out, all agree that the object of a sacrifice was substitution for the offender (The Temple – Its Ministry and Service, p. 90). He also notes that the Jewish fathers along with the Scriptures that all these substitutionary sacrifices pointed to none other than the Messiah. This understanding is especially expressed in the proto-rabbinic biblical Aramaic commentaries or Targumim (e.g. Tarum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum; ibid., p. 92). Later rabbinic sages, in light of the rise of Christianity, were loath to accept this interpretation and, to this day, pretend it was never the belief of their ancient predecessors. 

As the Tanakh progresses, the concept of the substitutionary sacrifice as it relates to the sinner and to the Messiah expands and unfolds. The unity of the Tanakh in this regard and its progression of revelation on this subject must be taken into consideration when studying the sacrifices listed in Leviticus and the rest of the Torah if we are to understand completely the biblical concept of substitutionary sacrifice as well as the Messianic prophecies. The concept of sacrifice in the Tanakh point us prophetically in progressive stages to the sin atoning death of the Messiah on behalf of sinners. Such passages in the Tanakh as Pss 2, 22, 35, 69, 72, 89, 110, 118 along with Isa 52:13–53:12 (many other scriptural passages could be cited here as well) point undeniably to the Person and work of Yeshua the Messiah including his suffering and glorification. The apostolic writers understood these prophecies and how Yeshua fulfilled them perfectly (e.g. Isa 52:13–53:12 cp. Heb 9:11–15; 10:4–7, 1; etc.), and this understanding forms the basis for the New Testament, which the authors thereof refer to as The Testimony of Yeshua (Rev 1:9; 6:2; etc.). 

Brief Overview: Six Types of Offerings (Heb. korban) Offered on the Altar (Lev 1-7)

Burnt or Elevation (Heb. Olah) Offering (Lev 1:3–17) 

The olah or ascending offering signified the offerer giving himself up totally, wholly ascending or complete surrender to Elohim. The priests offered up this sacrifice up twice daily—the morning and evening (Exod 29:38–42; Num 28:1–8). This offering was always a male animal whose blood was to be sprinkled around the altar. The offerer was to lay his hands on the head of the animal before it was slaughtered symbolizing substitutionary atonement for sins. The offering would be accepted as a sweet aroma by Elohim.

Continue reading
 

The Sacrificial System, Yeshua and the Saint

There’s so much in the first few chapters of Leviticus, that I hardly know where to start. Here are a few of my notes on this wonderful section of Scripture. —Natan

Leviticus 1:5, He shall kill. The sinner must kill the animal to be sacrificed as an atonement for his sin. The reinforces upon the individual’s heart and mind the gravity of his sin and the consequences there of upon an innocent animal, which symbolically pointed to the death of Yeshua, the Lamb of Elohim, upon the cross, who had to die for each person’s sins. If killing an innocent animal brings grief to a person’s heart, then how much more the death of Yeshua, the Son of Elohim?  

Sprinkle. Heb. word zaraq means “to scatter, sprinkle, toss, throw, scatter abundantly, strew.” The sprinkling of the blood of the sacrificed animal on and around the altar of sacrifice (and elsewhere in the tabernacle as well) is mentioned numerous times in the Torah (e.g. Exod 24:6; 29:16; Lev 1:11; 3:2, 8, 13; 4:6,17; 5:9; 7:2). The blood was even sprinkled on the people (Exod 24:8), and on Aaron and his sons (Exod 29:20–21). This is a prophetic picture of Yeshua bleeding, Continue reading


 

The blood of animals vs. the blood of Yeshua

Hebrews 9:13–14, Purifying the flesh…cleansing your conscience. The Levitical sacrificial system was never able to atone for sin in the full sense. These sacrifices were effective only temporarily in that they had to be continually repeated.

In reality, these sacrifices never mitigated YHVH’s judgment against sin. The Levitical sacrifices simply covered over sin, so that the sinner could stand before Elohim without being consumed by his righteous judgments. But only Yeshua’s death could satisfy Elohim’s judgment against sin permanently in the life of the believer. Only his atoning sacrifice can thoroughly wash away our sins, remove the death penalty, which is the wages or penalty of sin, and cleanse the sinner of the guilty conscience which resides in his personal spirit, so that one could “serve the living Elohim” with a clean slate.

Sin can contaminate the spirit of man, which houses the conscience of man (2 Cor 7:1; see notes at Col 3:10). Only the blood of Yeshua can miraculously cleanse our soul (the mind, will and emotions) and spirit of a person and bring us to perfect holiness in the fear of Elohim (ibid.) This Yeshua did in a spiritual sense in the spiritual temple in heaven, which is greater than the physical temple on earth, which was a mere copy or shadow of the one in heaven (Heb 8:3–6).

The cleansing that the Levitical sacrificial system offered was physical and external, while the one Yeshua offers through the heavenly temple gives internal cleansing.


 

A Riddle: What is as bitter as wormwood and as sweet as honey at the same time?

I got this email question the other day from Rick who teaches about the Tabernacle of Moses in his church. Allow me to share my answer with all of you. — Natan

While teaching on the offerings when I presented the “meal offering” I had a few questions. Since the meal offering was fine flour, green ears, frankincense, oil, or salt, I mentioned that there was not supposed to be any leaven or honey put on the sacrifice. Questions follow;

  1. Why couldn’t honey be put on the offering?
  2. I was also asked “no shedding of blood there is no remission of sin”? I think I know why this is, and that is, that this is a meal offering of fellowship and not for trespass or sin offering. Am I correct in my thinking?

I have looked for the answers to both these and can’t seem to find the answers to either. Can you help? I appreciate your answers to questions I have had so far and am thankful that I have someone that I can call on. I think I have as much curiosity about a deeper study as my class does. Any help, I would be grateful.

Honey is sweet  and delightful to the taste and such has nothing to do with the death or is not an attribute of Yeshua’s death. His atoning death for sin was not a sweet or delightful thing and is therefore not an apt symbolic prophetic representation of his horrific death on the cross! That’s why I believe it was a prohibited ingredient for the meal offering.
The meal or grain offering (it was like matzah) was part of the twice daily (olah-tamid) sacrifices and was baked on the altar of sacrifice, which represented Yeshua’s death on the cross. In fact, Yeshua was crucified during the evening sacrifice at about 3:30PM. The meal offering was also part of the fellowship or peace offering and didn’t represent Yeshua’s death per se. It was as barbecue among friends celebrating a reconciled relationship (now that our sins are forgiven and we’re redeemed and can come into the presence of YHVH in right relationship). Thus, the meal offering was part of both both the expiatory and fellowship aspects of the sacrificial system. Why is that? This is because there are two aspects to Yeshua’s death on the cross: the blood/wine and his body/the bread—which are the communion elements we take during the Passover seder meal as per Yeshua’s command. First, our sins are  remitted by his shed blood, not by his  broken body. His blood is for atonement of sin—it paid the legal debt of our sin. His body, on the other hand, was for our healing (“by his stripes we are healed”). Now that our sin debt has been paid, we can be healed by his life flowing through us unhindered by sin. His body also resurrected. Bread is the staff of life. Our sins are washed away by his blood, but his body or His Word brings us life and resurrection once redemption has occurred. This is why the meal offering was part of the sacrificial and fellowship offerings. It speaks not to redemption, but to life in Yeshua now that we’re redeemed. This is what the communion elements represent. Together, they speak both to the idea of redemption from sin and new life as a result. HalleluYah!
Answer to the riddle: The death and resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah!

 

Leviticus 1–7 An Overview of the Sacrificial System

 

Although Jewish and Christian scholars disagree about whether the sacrifices were to cease after the coming of the Messiah, as Edersheim points out, all agree that the object of a sacrifice was substitution for the offender (The Temple – Its Ministry and Service, p. 90). He also notes that the Jewish fathers along with the Scriptures that all these substitutionary sacrifices pointed to none other than the Messiah. This understanding is especially expressed in the proto-rabbinic biblical Aramaic commentaries or Targumim (e.g. Tarum Jonathan and the Jerusalem Targum; ibid., p. 92). Later rabbinic sages, in light of the rise of Christianity, were loath to accept this interpretation and, to this day, pretend it was never the belief of their ancient predecessors.

As the Tanakh progresses, the concept of the substitutionary sacrifice as it relates to the sinner and to the Messiah expands and unfolds. The unity of the Tanakh in this regard and its progression of revelation on this subject must be taken into consideration when studying the sacrifices listed in Leviticus and the rest of the Torah if we are to understand completely the biblical concept of substitutionary sacrifice as well as the Messianic prophecies. The concept of sacrifice in the Tanakh point us prophetically in progressive stages to the sin atoning death of the Messiah on behalf of sinners. Such passages in the Tanakh as Pss 2, 22, 35, 69, 72, 89, 110, 118 along with Isa 52:13–53:12 (many other scriptural passages could be cited here as well) point undeniably to the Person and work of Yeshua the Messiah including his suffering and glorification. The apostolic writers understood these prophecies and how Yeshua fulfilled them perfectly (e.g. Isa 52:13–53:12 cp. Heb 9:11–15; 10:4–7, 1; etc.), and this understanding forms the basis for the New Testament, which the authors thereof refer to as The Testimony of Yeshua (Rev 1:9; 6:2; etc.).

The Prophetic Significance of the Offerings

Along with the burnt offering there were five other types of offerings each representing different aspects of a follower of Yeshua dealing with sin in his life. They are listed in Leviticus and elsewhere in the Torah. They are:

  • the meal or cereal offering (Lev 2; 6:14–23)
  • the guilt or sin offering (Lev 4; 6:24–30)
  • the trespass offering (Lev 5:14–6:7)
  • the peace or wave offering (Lev 3; 7:11–21)
  • the drink offering (Exod 29:40;–41; 30:9; Lev 23:13; Num 6:17; 15:5, 7, 10, 24; 28:7–10, 15, 24; 29:16, 22, 25, 28, 31, 34, 38)

In these offerings, there is great spiritual symbolism. For example, the oil, salt, flour, frankincense and baking over fire of the meal offering all point to Yeshua. In scriptural Continue reading


 

Overview of the Book of Leviticus/Vayikra

Outline of Leviticus

Leviticus is divided into to several main parts. Chapters one to 16 deal with laws of sacrifice and purification. In the second section (chapters 17–25), Elohim sets forth his demands for holy living that his people might maintain a right relationship with him. Chapter 26 lays out the blessings and curses for obedience to YHVH’s commands. The final chapter of the book ends with some miscellaneous laws.

  • The five main offerings (Lev 1–7)
  • The ordination of priests (Lev 6:8–7:38)
  • Laws of cleanliness (food, childbirth, diseases, etc.) (Lev 11–15)
  • Day of Atonement (Lev 16–17)
  • Moral laws regulating relationships between humans (Lev 18–20)
  • Regulations for priests, the offerings of the annual feasts (Lev 21:1–24:9)
  • Punishment for blasphemy, murder, etc. (Lev 24:10–23)
  • The Sabbatical year, Jubilee, land laws, slavery (Lev 25)
  • Blessings and curses (Lev 26)
  • Regulations pertaining to vows made to YHVH (Lev 27)

Themes and Main Points of Leviticus

Leviticus stands at the center of the Torah, and there’s a reason for this, since it shows man how to come into relationship with Elohim.

Holiness (or being set-apart) is the key theme of Leviticus. This includes the set-apartness of YHVH and the need for man to become set-apart (Heb. kadosh, Lev 11:44). Leviticus lays out the terms are laid out by which an unholy, profane, polluted or sinful people can come into a spiritual and even contractual and marital relationship with their holy, morally pure and sinless Creator. It also delineates the terms of the contract including penalties for its violation and blessings for adherence to it.

Leviticus carries on to completion the giving of the Torah-law, which started in Exodus 20, and which firmly established the Torah as Israel’s binding covenant with Elohim and the legal corpus that would govern that nation. The Torah literally became Continue reading