Friday, November 13, 2015

The Church and the Sacrificial System, An 1800 Year Disconnect



“Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When any man of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of animals from the herd or the flock.’” Leviticus 1:2 NASB
Of you – Do you remember Kushner’s comment about word order in translation? (see November 10, 2015). She noted that “In the Hebrew Bible, a verb often appears before a noun; . . . For translators, this one seemingly small difference in sentence structure can create big problems, because once the order of a sentence is altered, the meaning can be up for grabs too.”[1] Jonathan Sacks points to this mistake in Leviticus 1:2. The translators have moved the phrase, “of you,” from its original position in the sentence. In Hebrew the prepositional phrase is attached to the word “sacrifice,” not “man.” The literal translation says, “When any man brings a sacrifice of you.” Sacks notes that the rabbis consider thisoriginal word order to mean that we bring ourselves in the sacrifice. “The real sacrifice is mikem, ‘of you.’ We give God something of ourselves.”[2] Changing the word order significantly alters the meaning of the text.
Did you realize that sacrifice is about you, not about the animal that is merely the symbol of you? Once you embrace the real word order of the text, is it still possible to imagine that sacrifice is a legal requirement annulled by the death of Yeshua on the cross? How could that be if the sacrifice is really you? Doesn’t this change everything? Doesn’t this mean that sacrifice, in whatever form it is offered, cannot cease until you no longer need to present yourself before the Lord? Yes, the Temple is not standing, but does that really make any difference at all to the intention and significance of sacrifice? Yes, Temple sacrifices have been temporarily halted and rabbinic teaching has substituted study and charity, but does that alter the real purpose? Aren’t you and I still the ones who symbolically must climb onto the altar and be burned? What difference does the process make, other than to be as close as possible to the instructions of YHVH?
How disappointing to discover that the translation of the text changes the intention of the ritual! What happened to us? Why were we so willing to make sacrifice something external to us, something that involved merely following ritual directions? Didn’t we hear His voice telling us that He hates the stink of bulls? Sacrifice was never about the animal, was it? Sometimes it seems as if we have clouded the text so much that we can barely see the face of YHVH in the darkness of the translation. And how will we ever remove the cover-up?   How can we as English readers ever find our way through the layers of translation revisions in order to really know what the Lord of all creation says to us? Oh, some days we just want to throw up our hands and plead, “Lord, oh Lord, the God I love, how can I ever know You when men have so carefully disguised You from me? Help me, Father, to diligently uncover your true voice.”
Topical Index: sacrifice, of you, Leviticus 1:2
[1] Aviya Kushner, The Grammar of God, p. 27.
[2] Jonathan Sacks, Covenant & Conversation, p. 80.










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