Jesus, an acceptable “sacrifice”?
Christianity makes a claim that Jesus was not only “god” in a human body, but also a “sacrificial lamb” whose death atoned for the innumerable sins of billions of people, past, present and future. Although one would be hard-pressed to find support for such an idea in the Hebrew Bible, for hundreds of years Christian theology has taken it for granted that its idea of G-d becoming His own servant and then executing Himself (or rather an “avatar” version of Himself, a deity with human flesh on) to pay for the sins of His creatures is completely in accord with the Jewish scriptures. Not only that, Christians believe this is what G-d intended to do all along. (It’s too bad that Jews can’t seem to find the “obvious” clues in their own scriptures.)
So, was Jesus really sacrificed to rescue all of us from ourselves and to reconcile all “sinners” with G-d? For Christians completely immersed into the Christian worldview it’s preposterous to even consider such a question. How dare?! But to an outside observer, especially one who is familiar with the Hebrew Bible, it obvious that not only was Jesus not sacrificed “according to Biblical regulations”, he wasn’t sacrificed at all.
Jesus was killed the same way all other Jewish criminals and rebels against Rome at the time were killed – by the Romans, using a distinctly Roman method of execution. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were executed by the Romans or killed during Roman military onslaughts. One could say that they were slaughtered “like sheep”, but they were not sacrificed and their deaths paid for nobody’s sins. Besides, as the Bible teaches, each person is responsible for his own sin (Deuteronomy 24:16). Jesus was a messianic pretender, one among many, before him and after him. He wasn’t a sinless person (since there’s no such thing) and in fact, if what NT records about him is true, he was a great sinner because he was a false prophet and teacher who deceived many.
It’s true – there are many good Christians today who want nothing but to help their fellow human beings. I know quite a few myself. They are kind, generous and friendly, and unlike their predecessors, even toward the “unbelieving Jews”. However, it’s equally true that the religion founded on worshiping a Jewish man as if he were god was a catalyst for terrible hatred, suffering and death to millions of Jesus’ own countrymen as well as horrific treatment of the millions of others who were forcibly converted or slaughtered for resisting Christianity.
Some would object by saying that Christianity’s acquisition of political power is what ultimately corrupted the once “pure” message. I get it, perhaps this is so, at least on some level. Yes, religion in the hands of a political power can be a terrible thing. However, even if we were to excuse all of this pain inflicted in the name of Jesus on humanity by claiming that his followers were mere “failed” human beings, we should not forget about Jesus’ own failings that started it all. We should still remember that Jesus’ own teachings (as recorded in the New Testament, faithfully or not) sowed the seeds of hatred for those who rejected him, especially Jews. They sowed a great deal of confusion and division, chiefly among his own followers, which persist to this day. We should also not forget that his prophecies of speedy return in the lifetime of his own followers and even foes who were his contemporaries failed miserably, forever branding him a false prophet in Jewish eyes and in the eyes of those who can judge Jesus objectively. Was he the same sort of “prophet” that we still see in our own day and age when we witness the numerous and invariably Christian “prophets” predicting the end of the world in the lifetime of their own followers? Was Jesus misunderstood and were his original teachings corrupted by later church scribes? We may never know what really happened. What becomes clear, however, is that in Jesus one could hardly find a less acceptable sacrifice to reconcile us with G-d, at least from a Jewish point of view. Which makes me thankful to the G-d of Israel that He is already near to all who call upon Him, to those who do so in truth (Psalm 145:18).