Judaism, as a modern religion, exists in four general forms: Orthodox, Conservative, Reformed, and Messianic (Ridenour, 2001, p. 67). An Orthodox Jew is one who claims the Mosaic code of the Old Testament, along with certain non-biblical Jewish documents, as his religious authority. At February’s end, CNN reported that certain “extremist rabbis” (Orthodox Jewish leaders) in Jerusalem wanted to “resume the biblical practice of animal sacrifice” despite the absence of the Levitical priesthood (“Extremist...,” 2007). Since the Romans destroyed Herod’s temple in Jerusalem in A.D. 70, the ritual of animal sacrifice has ceased there (see Ridenour, p. 67). Now, a new group that calls itself the “Re-established Sanhedrin” is trying to reinstitute the practice at the Temple Mount (“Extremist...”).
Some Jews are against restoring animal sacrifices. Doniel Hartman, of the Shalom Institute in Jerusalem, said of the A.D. 70 destruction: “Around that time, animal sacrifice, as a mode of religious worship, stopped.... Moving back in that direction is not progress” (quoted in “Extremist...”). Muslims also are protesting the move to renew animal sacrifices. Jerusalem’s senior Islamic cleric, Mohommed Hussein, said: “Regrettably, there are many extremist Israeli groups who want to carry out their plans.... Let them say what they want, Al Aqsa [formerly the site of Herod’s temple—CC] is a Muslim mosque” (quoted in “Extremist...”). Jewish leaders have conceded that the sacrifices will not be renewed anytime soon.
The Sanhedrin was “[t]he Jewish court in Jerusalem from the Persian through the Roman period; it had both religious and political powers and comprised the elite (both priestly and lay) of society” (Moulder, 1988, p. 331, parenthetical in orig.). Though the Sanhedrin was a manmade institution, absent any divine mandate, these modern Jews are reviving it to add perceived authority and significance to their movement.
Of course, the Bible plainly teaches that the Old Covenant between God and Israel was removed and replaced when Christ provided the single, perfect sacrifice for the sins of humanity. Consider these biblical passages:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt...” (Hebrews 8:7-9; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).
But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter (Romans 7:6).
[H]aving wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:14; cf. 2 Corinthians 3:2-11).
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace... (Ephesians 2:14-15; cf. Galatians 4:21-31).
The prophets foretold the coming of a new covenant, and the Lord established it in the New Testament age; the theme of the entire Bible centers around God’s plan to redeem mankind through His Son and the church that Christ would establish. So, persisting in the Jewish faith in the Christian age is out of harmony with both Old and New Testaments.
However, consistency demands that modern Jews keep Old Testament sacrificial policy. As it stands now, the only religious rite on which all Jews seem to agree is the observation of the Sabbath (Korobkin, 2004; Ridenour, 2001, p. 68). While the Bible makes it plain that Christians must not observe the Sabbath as a holy day (Colossians 2:16; see Wright, 1977), it seems unthinkable that any religionists would adhere to one portion of Mosaic legislation and dismiss hundreds of other regulations as being non-binding for those alive today. The Seventh-Day Adventists are eager to develop this dichotomy, but the Bible makes no such distinction (“Fundamental Beliefs,” 2007; see Lyons, 2001).
Non-orthodox Jews have attempted to justify their piecemeal application of the Old Covenant by arguing that that God “has no delight in sacrifices, and that the sacrifice He has chosen is a contrite spirit” (e.g., Morris, 1984, 7:170; see Psalms 34:18; 51:17; etc.). While the Bible certainly teaches that the follower of God must be contrite, he also must keep God’s commandments. To teach otherwise is to ignore multiple Old Testament passages that reflect how God insisted that Israel keep every statute of the Covenant.
But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise my statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break my covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart.... I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies.... And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins (Leviticus 26:14-18, emp. added; cf. 19:37; Deuteronomy 5:29; etc.).
And you shall have a tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God (Numbers 15:39-40, emp. added).
We could list many similar passages from the Mosaic law. We may never understand fully why some Jews are trying to revive sacrificial practices, or for that matter, any portion of the Old Testament. Perhaps is it largely because of what Ahlstrom noted: “In addition to these domestic confrontations, secularization, increased social mobility, and the decline of anti-Semitism tended to erode the Jewish sense of particularity” (1973, p. 984). It could be that modern Jews feel a need to authenticate, bolster, and/or justify their religion by restoring ancient practices, starting with animal sacrifices and ultimately, logically culminating in a rebuilt temple (see “Extremist...”).
Because modern Jewish faith is based squarely on a rejection of the best-attested historical fact in antiquity, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, one might expect the Jewish religion to exhibit striking confusion and contradiction (see Butt and Lyons, 2006, pp. 135-168). Those of us at Apologetics Press will continue to stress that the evidence proves that “we have found the Messiah,” the only Son of God, Jesus Christ (John 1:41; see Butt, 2002). Man gains access to the Father only through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6-7).
Ahlstrom, Sydney E. (1973), A Religious History of the American People (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
Butt, Kyle (2002), “What Did You Expect?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1780.
Butt, Kyle and Eric Lyons (2006), Behold! The Lamb of God (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
“Extremist Rabbis Call for Return of Animal Sacrifice” (2007), The Associated Press, [On-line], URL: http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/meast/02/28/israel.animal.ap/index.html.
“Fundamental Beliefs” (2007), Seventh-Day Adventist Church, [On-line], URL: http://www.adventist.org/beliefs/fundamental/index.html.
Korobkin, Daniel N. (2004), “Lost in Translation: Parshat Beher-Bechukotai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34),” [On-line], URL: http://www.jewishjournal.com/home/searchview.php?id=12238.
Lyons, Eric (2001), “Which Law Was Abolished?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1659.
Morris, Joseph (1894), “Note by the Author of ‘The Ideal in Judaism’,” The Jewish Quarterly Review, 7:169-172, October.
Moulder, W. J. (1988), “Sanhedrin,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Ridenour, Fritz (2001), So What’s the Difference? (Ventura, CA: Regal).
Wright, Gerald N. (1977), Sabbatarian: Concordance and Commentary (Fort Worth, TX: Star Bible Publications).
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