Did Jesus fulfill the role of the asham, “guilt-offering,”?

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Did Jesus fulfill the role of the asham, “guilt-offering,” that’s used to describe the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:10: “If he would offer himself as a guilt-offering“?

Answer:

Can it honestly be said that Jesus, who, in his final statement on the cross, is quoted as saying: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34), willingly offered himself as a guilt-offering? The evidence points to the contrary. Yet, because Jesus died at the time of the Passover festival, the New Testament refers to him as the paschal lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) who, by his voluntary sacrificial death, takes our sins away. To use the paschal lamb as a typology of Jesus’ death (as the paschal lamb represented the redemption of Israel from bondage in Egypt, so Jesus’ death represents the redemption of humanity from bondage to sin) is at best an arbitrary assumption without a secure basis in the biblical text.

A closer look at the biblical text should convince any objective student that the annual sacrifice of the paschal lamb is not treated, in any way, as referring to a guilt-offering intended to bring about forgiveness of sin. It was instituted as part of the celebration commemorating the redemption from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 12:14, 26, 27), and in no honest way can it be used in conjunction with a typological redemption from sin.

The New Testament portrays Jesus as being literally a biblical sacrificial offering. The asham, as all other sacrifices, had to be perfect, without spot and without blemish. Jesus was none of these. In addition, one must address the fact that not only is human sacrifice abhorrent to God, but that only animals with split hooves and which chew their cud could have been offered for sacrificial purposes. Jesus, as a human being, was unfit for sacrificial purposes.

How can Jesus be the paschal lamb sacrifice and simultaneously be the offering of an asham, a “guilt offering“? The functions of each of these two sacrifices are distinct and different. There are several sacrifices whose purpose is the atonement of sin, and there is no need to misappropriate the paschal lamb for this purpose. Certainly the sacrifice offered on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, affords a more logical symbol of redemption from sin.

The rewards of verse 10 are contingent on the servant’s willingness to offer himself as an asham, or “guilt offering.” All such offerings, as we have seen above, must be perfect, without spot, and without blemish. Under Roman jurisdiction a “crown” of thorns was placed on Jesus’ head, cutting into his scalp. He was then scourged. Jesus was then affixed to the beam and to the upright pole with nails. The crucifixion preparatory treatment, the national origins of his executioners, the fact that he was a human, the geographic location of his death, the lack of a death caused by a literal shedding of blood respectively would render any potential offering as unfit for consideration as a fulfillment of a biblically required sacrifice.

If the New Testament is a continuation of what Christians call the Old Testament, it must harmonize with the “Old Testament.” False comparisons will not do. The New Testament authors cannot pick and choose what suits them in order to make it seem as if Jesus willingly offered himself as a guilt- offering. Either Jesus is complete fulfillment of Scripture or none at all–and the verdict, clearly, is none at all.

© Gerald Sigal

Check out this video on forgiveness of sin.

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