Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Jesus and Ritual Cleansing

When Jesus declares one's sins to be forgiven (implying that atonement has been made), why is there no mention of the requirement of sacrifice? Why does no one ask about it? Those forgiven instantly assume that Jesus' authority matches, or perhaps replaces, that of the temple's.

Paula Fredriksen has suggested that Jesus may have undergone ritual cleansing after having contacted ritually impure people (such as lepers). (I apologize. I will have to find the citation for this.) Her point is that Jesus was a faithful Jew, and we have no data suggesting that he didn't undergo such purification. So, I suppose a case might be made that those whom Jesus forgave took it upon themselves to make atonement at the temple, to confirm what Jesus had said. Or, Jesus may have asked them to present themselves at the temple, though it not be recorded, unless one interprets Jesus' admonition to present themselves to the priests as a submission to ritual cleansing via the temple.

I wonder if perhaps a certain case might be made regarding the question of sacrifice and forgiveness from Jesus. Crispin Fletcher-Louis has
argued that Jesus understood himself to be the echatological high priest, as described in Daniel 7, and that he presented himself in those terms. If correct, then it might very well be that his followers understood him in that way as well, and word may have gotten around of his teachings and claims. If so, then those whom he healed would have understood that they did not need to make an atoning sacrifice at the temple. Daniel 7 makes no mention of sacrifice (apart from the allusion to incense). Therefore, those healed by Jesus, the son of man, can conceive of forgiveness apart from atoning sacrifice.

Crispin does not make this point, unfortunately. I hope to explore it further.

Copyright 2007

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