The So-called Hebrew Christian Seder

I was recently invited by a "Hebrew Christian" acquaintance to a program called "Christ in the Passover". She told me that Jesus was the ultimate manifestation of the Paschal lamb that was sacrificed each Passover, and that he was killed as a sacrifice to redeem the world from sin. How do Jews respond to these claims?

The exodus of the Jewish people from their long bondage in Egypt 3,300 years ago was preceded by ten plagues that G-d visited upon our oppressors. The last of these plagues was the slaying of the Egyptian first-born.

The Passover lamb was a yearly sacrifice that was eaten in commemoration of G-d's passing over the houses of the Israelites when He slew the Egyptian first-born (Exodus 12). The Paschal lamb had nothing to do with atonement from sin.

If, indeed, Jesus' death was supposed to be an atoning sacrifice, it would have been more appropriate to liken him to the special goat that was offered on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. This goat served expressly as an atonement for the sins of the Jewish people (Leviticus 16).

Missionaries frequently point out that although the two people who according to Christian scripture were crucified beside Jesus had their legs broken with a mallet to ensure that they would die before the Sabbath, Jesus had already expired by the time the Roman soldiers came to check whether he was still alive.

They believe that this enhances their claim that Jesus was the Paschal lamb since, according to the Bible, there was a prohibition against breaking any of the bones of the Paschal lamb (Exodus 12:46 and Numbers 9:12).

Of course, if missionaries are determined to play this game, it is important that their arguments be consistent. If they capitalize on the alleged similarity between Jesus and the Passover lamb regarding the law forbidding the breaking of its bones, Jesus would also have to fulfill the other legal requirements of the Passover sacrifice. There is no justification in seizing only upon the single aspect that was fulfilled, while ignoring the numerous times that Biblical rules were observed only in the breach.

For instance, the Bible teaches that any sacrifice that was blemished or maimed in any way was disqualified (Leviticus 22:19-22). However, before Jesus was crucified, the Christian Bible claims that he was beaten and whipped by Roman soldiers. These wounds would have disqualified Jesus from being a legitimate sacrifice.

In addition, the Christian scriptures claim that Jesus was circumcised as a child. According to the Apostle Paul (Phillipians 3:2), circumcision is considered "mutilation", which would also disqualify Jesus from being a proper sacrifice. Finally, the Christian Bible alleges that Jesus' side was pierced by the spear of a Roman soldier, which also would invalidate him as a ritual sacrifice.

However, the missionaries' more fundamental error is their insistence that it is only through faith in Jesus that one's sins can be absolved. The Tanach (Jewish Bible) is very clear in its teaching that we always have the ability to atone for our sins by prayer and repentance (I Kings 8:47-50; Hosea 14:1-3; II Chronicles 7:14; Ezekiel 18; Ezekiel 33:14-16; Jeremiah 36:3; Isaiah 55:6-7; Jonah 3:10; Daniel 4:27; Proverbs 16:6; etc.).

For a full discussion of this issue, check the article on Leviticus .