Sacrifice, Sabbath, and the Restoration of Creation
Sacrifice often connotes death or some form of lack within popular discourse. The association of sacrifice with death is assumed in some strains of the Christian tradition that employ sacrifice within a penal substitutionary account of the atonement. In this framework, sacrifice is understood as death for the purposes of punishment. This dissertation challenges the identification of sacrifice with death. It presents a reinterpretation of sacrifice through a canonical and literary reading of Old and New Testament texts. Sacrificial practice displayed in Leviticus and Hebrews suggests that sacrifice is oriented at life rather than at death. Specifically, sacrifice in Leviticus aims toward a reinstatement of the good order of creation displayed in Genesis 1. The telos of the Levitical cult is humanity’s redemption and creation’s restoration. Both are achieved on the Day of Atonement described in Leviticus 16 as a Sabbath. Hebrews expands upon the sacrificial logic of Leviticus in presenting Christ’s resurrection as the perfection of the cult. Christ’s sacrifice is his resurrected body, not his death. Christians are called to participate in Christ’s sacrifice, and discipleship assumes a form that challenges society’s deathly sacrifices.
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