Sacrifice is a catch-all concept. I will use it to mean the action of God that sanctifies and teaches us sanctification, which we could call the process of making the holy nation of God. so I am first using the word ‘sacrifice’ (sacri-ficere, holy/to make) to mean to be made holy. This is the proper place to start. We cannot sense of what is going on if we start by defining sacrifice as killing an animal for some propitiatory (to please/appease) or expiatory (cleansing, purificatory) purpose.
Though there are two parties to every sacrifice, it is not the case that one is killed for the sake another (see ‘sin-offering’ in 3 below) because this immediately raises the issue of in what rationality this makes sense. This question can be answered, but the question of the rational context for sacrifice on this definition must be given an answer, not avoided. We cannot be satisfied with simple or simplistic statements of ‘what sacrifice is’ than of ‘what Christ’s action for us is’. We must not try to answer the question ‘what sacrifice is’ from any other source than Christ’s act for us. Both Christ’s death and sacrifice as concept for Christ’s death complex statements. Sacrifice was the concept by which the Church for much of its history provided the necessary complex accounts of how Christ is for us. The abandonment of the conceptuality sacrifice is the abandonment of complex accounts for simple ones, and it is the abandonment of personal accounts for mechanical ones, and the abandonment of mechanical accounts of moralism. For the pre-modern Church sacrifice functioned as the concept for action. We need an account not merely of salvation and justification but of our being given a new action. We are given employment, we are set in purposeful motion. We are given action – and an account which is adequate to this action is required for an account of being. Man is given a new action. Man is to be drawn into the co-work of creation and perfection, and that action we can summarise as ‘sacrifice’.
There are any number of ways of opening up the concept of sacrifice. Here are some examples:
1. God initiates. God gives his hospitality, communion, protection. God feeds us and draws us the unfed/unprotected into the safety of his community and economy.
2. God gives gifts. He gives all the means (material and physical and but also intellectual and spiritual) with which to bring up (holy) sons.
3. God maintains his creation. God services the cosmos by maintaining of distinctions, keeping the poor in the assembly by proactively using the re-integration apparatus of the law.
4. Atonement and epistemology – rejecting the rationality of the opponent.
5. Paideia/Sanctification – the demonstration of good husbandry.
6. The single continuum and economy of God. Heaven extends to earth, and holds earth in the social economy with itself.
7. Barth on sacrifice and the law-court
1. God initiates. God selects, elects, adopts, picks, chooses.
Sacrifice was understood to mean the killing of one in favour of the other. Twentieth century anthropological and biblical scholarship (Mary Douglas) has shown this for much of the time this is not the case. Sacrifice is therefore not primarily about killing, but about the selection of one body from the many and re-arrangement of it as analogy of the relationships Israel is in. Israel is engaged in the process of re-building and maintaining this microcosm of her relationship with God, constantly arranging and grooming itself back into its place within this relationship.
Oaths as public contract, blood and skins as media of public contract, employing the audience as the guarantors of the contract.
2. Gift. Who gives what to whom?
2.1 The Son is given to us. He is the gift and the offering and we the recipients. Heaven gives itself (the combined economy of heaven-and-earth) to us. It is receivable by us in the form of this Son. We are given the Son – and have to receive him in the form of the Holy Spirit – the Host. We receive him in two forms – as discrete other person, who stands opposite us, who stands over us, who is our leader and head. And we receive him as forms of action – as he who is not separable from us – we are the body that is his body. He is available to the world in form other than us. We are his servants and service – our labour is his labour. The action we have is all his. He feeds his actions to us. We are his arms and legs. He implants (one time) these actions in us, and supplies them (ongoing and continuously) through us to those we must serve.
We are sent the boy of the opposing regime, its young hopeful, its bright future. The regime itself gives us its own future. It hands over to us all its hopes of its continuation. It hands its future to us in the fragile form of this single person. It makes itself utterly vulnerable. It invites us to join with it by giving into our hands the sole means of its continuation, survival, and futurity.
We have the imperial ruler of heaven, the glorious king, in the form of the servant he sends. This servant is the commander of the king’s forces. The Servant charges into the line of the enemy and is swallowed up and obliterated in the impact of this collision. He ‘gives’ himself to the enemy – he is the gift, but this time a gift of poison, or the bullet. He is rock the enemy charges and against which it is broken. He is the morsel the enemy thinks to swallow, but which by biting into is himself consumed. The boy is the animal given. This rests on understanding that you ‘give’ the enemy the sword, spear, bullet you discharge in their face, in the same way you ‘give’ a present or gift or some token and appearance of yourself to whoever it is you like and want to please and make your friend – by the giving (sacrifice) of a gift – of yourself. A lamb from the flock is sent whenever everyone wants to inform or ask any neighbour of anything. The lamb is the form this greeting takes. When you eat this lamb, you eat with the shepherd who sent it.
2.2 We are given to the Son. The Holy Spirit gives the Son back to the Father. This means two further things. The Holy Spirit involve us in this act, so we in and with the Holy Spirit give the Son back to the Father. And the Holy Spirit gives us to the Son, so when the Son goes to the Father he takes us with him. The Son brings us home with him to the Father. He presents us to the Father: we are those he has adopted and presents. In our action of laying hands on God’s servant, we are seized and consumed. We become the booty – made his property. We are first his slaves, then become his troops.
2.3 Israel sends gifts to the temple (to God) as tokens and representations of their presence. This giving has already started. The process of the Spirit’s giving the Father back to the Father and with the Son us, is now in process. It is underway in all that goes on in the assembly in worship and cult.
3. Circulation and creation-maintenance
Sacrifice describes how God cares for his economy of heaven-and-earth. How does he maintain this economy? It is not sufficient to say that God gives something new. In order that what he gives remains current it must also continually be drawn back in again. His gifts do not remain good and effective or in working order without being regularly returned and serviced by God. There must be such a circulation because nothing that stays in our hands remains for long in the condition in which we received it. So he takes his gifts away again for service. They must pass through God’s hands again to be restored to their shape. He receives our involuntarily-given gifts from the willing hands of the Son. He redistributes his gifts in order to keep the whole body nourished by them. What mankind fails to share and circulate, tends to clot to form obstacles and local centres of disobedient power. But God is responsible for all the business of arbitrating between the claims of different creatures – which we call justice. It is his task – when no one else does it – to step in and take away from those who have abrogated to themselves too much, who have taken but not given, who have refused to do the work of benevolence and (re-) distribution. God restores the circulation. What he wants though is the return of his currency in order to service it and keep it in good order for our sake, so to give it back to us.
Keeping the poor in the assembly by proactively using the re-integration apparatus of the levitical law. The Torah is a fail-safe system for the work of keeping the little ones inside the circle – so they are not picked off by outside forces. This is a work of reintegration – tidying and cleaning up. This work is permanent and ongoing. Jesus declares that the leaders of Israel have not understood that this system is to be operated, set in motion and kept in motion – and that this is their service to God – that though leaders they are servants of the very least. It is powerful machinery and needs only machine minders – but they have not used it.
Sin offering. Payment (repayment) – first to the offended party – as opening gesture towards requesting forgiveness. Sacrifice as stamp tax formalising the giving and reception of cancellation of debt/sin and its forgiveness.
4. Atonement, rationality and epistemology.
This is the issue of who pays whom, and in what currency. This issue usually arises in the form of the devil’s rights.
God makes, and he knows, sustains and gives recognition to what he has made. The issue of which models and metaphors to adopt to this purpose. This must be re-subordinated to the doctrine of God who is for us. The question of the status of biblical language – its models and metaphors – is not to be settled by a distinct discipline of hermeneutics to which the political and theological nature of biblical statement can be referred. It is intrinsic to the theological task of making the doctrine of God obediently evangelical. This can be done only by the more convincing performance of theology, including what might be called typological interpretation that belongs to a logic and ontology of participation. The question is not which metaphors we should adopt in talking about the person and work of God. Rather it is the task of theology to commandeer every modern concept in turn and bring it under the discipline of scripture and the doctrine of the church.
We need an account of atonement that does not rest on a choice between models that requires a resultant separate work of hermeneutics and epistemology, with further separate discussion of the appropriateness of such models for today, and thus of the issue of time and modernity. Atonement means that he wrenches out of our grasp our certainty that we are one, we are integers, have already arrived at and are stable. He extends to us unity – unity that is first his, and which remain his, unity which is not abstract – but which is the relationship of the Father and the Son.
Modern man is a scientist. He is sure he knows, defines himself in terms of what he knows and the certainty of his knowledge. an appropriate atonement model (proclamation) to this modern man must be epistemological. Salvation comes for the man who is certain he knows everything when this certainty and knowledge is taken away from him. He is not admitted to the book of the life of creation. Our knowledge is taken away from us, we have lost our mind and now nothing matters anymore. He is divided by the modern epistemology and his functions are farmed out to him – he considers himself now entirely patient, who need only summon the expert to tell what is wrong with him – but no expert will relate his diagnosis to that of the expert in any other dept, so it is never related to the whole Western story. But this epistemology that has created the modern constitutional separation of powers and transparent hierarchy (perfect market of information) relate only to the private sector. In the business world the conceptuality of loyalty and alliance (feudalism) is more appropriate.
Rejecting the enemy economy.
Refusing pharaoh’s rationality – calling it ‘violence’. In Israel’s theology ‘violence’ is simply a synonym for ‘gentile world’. Modernity refuse the other man’s help in coming to know him and so intends to come to know him without his cooperation, violently. It is to decide that the other person’s medium should only be understood as threat which must be rebuffed. What is violent depends on in what (whose) economy of rationality we reason. What you are calling violence is peaceful to me who benefit from it, violence to you who are disadvantaged by it. The claim of modernity to exert its own pure vision is a claim to see past Israel, the medium of God, and impose on Israel our own medium.
Returning to God as gift a proportion of the creation he leases to her, Israel demonstrated her progress towards competence as custodian of his creation. God is inducting the other into creaturehood, an event and process of paideia. God has given man the mandate to be steward of creation. Sacrifice is the process by which man is trained into the skills by which he can exercise this mandate. This is an event, in which one party mandates the other, and a process, in which one is trained by another into the skills by which he can receive and exercise this mandate. The two parties comprise a teacher and a learner, a man sacrificing, and his Lord supervising his learning and correct performance of sacrifice, the exercise of the priestly office. God is teaching and man in form of Israel is learning, and God is supervising his learning and correct performance of sacrifice, the exercise of the priestly office. The sacrifice is not for the benefit of the lord, but is part of the practice of the husbandry into which the Lord inducts his servant. Every process of teaching and learning is accompanied by a process of testing and inspection. By the performance of sacrifice and bringing some of the results of her husbandry to the temple for inspection, Israel’s progress in appropriating the land and learning the holy practices of husbandry of her God are tested. The identification and isolation of sin is a component of this process of progress-checking which is itself a part of learning.
The finished work (The account in terms of being). Man is given a new action. Leviticus (1.4) instructs that man ‘is to lay his hand on the head of the burnt offering and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him.’ In laying his hands on this creature he is appointed its steward. He is given the office of the steward mandated to exercise the authority of God over his creation. This is both a single event and a process of training and instructing him in this task. By this hand gesture the Israelite takes up his task, and through the sacrificial animal he will have access into the court and presence of the Lord. The man enters the place of the Lord sponsored and accompanied by the animal, and as the animal is the servant and representative of the Lord, we can say that the Lord escorts the man into the place of the Lord. Man and animal do not swap places, but the agency of the animal is extended to include the man. Like a court usher the sacrificial animal accompanies the man through the courts of the king to the throne room where the king sits. In this place he will receive from his king his own place. The animal is the whole world and medium God gives man and man obediently receives. It is a lease and commission. It is given only as long as it is obediently received and returned and received again. Leviticus tells us that God puts his hand on the world in the form of the animal, and keeps his hand on it to ward off other gods and claimants.
Demonstration of progress (The account in terms of ‘becoming’, which is to say in terms of time). God is inducting man into his office. God is teacher, man (in the form of the people of Israel) is learner. God is supervising man’s learning and correcting his performance of the highly priestly office. Every process of teaching and learning is accompanied by a process of testing and inspection. By the performance of sacrifice and bringing some of the results of her husbandry to the temple for inspection, Israel’s progress in appropriating the land and learning the holy practices of husbandry of her God are tested. The identification and isolation of poor performance (‘sin’) is a component of this process of progress-checking which is itself a part of learning.
6. The single continuum and economy of God
6.1 The cosmic continuum – the pneumatological account.
The burnt offering represents the action of heaven’s reaching down to earth, by which earth is brought into union with heaven and made one circulation and economy with it, the union of man’s stewardship of his flock with God’s stewardship of his flock. The sacrificed lamb is not going on a single journey upwards from man to God: Israel is not in a simple sense giving a lamb to God. Israel is returning one of God’s lambs to God. Israel does this to demonstrate good use of the flock God has entrusted to Israel. Husbandry and livestock are the idiom of this single economy (communion) of God with man. The sign ‘lamb’ represents this complex asymmetrical reciprocity and stewardship. The lamb becomes fire – communion that makes itself visible. The equation of bread (and meat) and body (‘This is my body given for you’) is an invitation to eat what the host provides from the harvest and permitted animals of his estate. Bread and world are metonyms. Jesus fills not only bread (the archetypal seed-product), but the whole elemental stuff which the cosmos is, so bread represents the whole of the rest of material creation and ecosystem. As bread the whole earth goes through man to be re-constituted as itself. See the discussion in Douglas ‘The Eucharist: Its Continuity with the Bread Sacrifice of Leviticus’ Modern Theology 15 1999 .
It is not that the sacrifice is burned or that God comes down and consumes it – but that the burning is God. Fire is analogous to divine creative action. God is that fire. Flame is the Holy Spirit graciously making himself visible and available to strengthen his people. It reassures them, and frightens the outsiders. The holiness of God is such that his very approach causes things to burst into flame and what is not holy is burned away.
6.2 The economy of God
Mark 10.45 to give his life as a ransom for many. 1 Cor 15.3 Christ died for our sins. Christ fought us. He fought to overcome us (we were Legion), to break the grip the consequences our sins had on us, to separate us from our sins, to take our sins away from us – and so to carry them away from us himself. ‘He bore our sins on the cross’ means he took them away from us, came between us and them, put himself between us and them. He gave his life (himself, his body) as a bulwark or wall between us and our sins. He made himself the dam wall between what we were and what we will be. He made the one, two. The Lord protector is so powerful that the sins (seven deadly spirits) cannot return to us (angel of death does not dare come back. As long as we are under his umbrella, the angel representing all our sins and unfinished business, leaves us alone.
Christ died for our sins. He died = he took our death, he took our decay, he took it away from us. He separated us from the outworking of our acts – ‘death’. The acts were ours, but the outworking of those acts he took away – he cancelled them. Normally, we die ‘for’ our sins, we die because of our sins, as a result of our sins.
To give his life as a ransom for many. He gave his life, he worked, he gave his time to extricate people from the consequences of their actions. He finished those actions for them, supplying the finish to them that they could not. What these people had promised but could not deliver, he delivered. He provided the overdraft facility, from which he could call down funds to pay off people. He could pension them out, finance their retirement. He could bail people out. He could release people. He could placate all the others, to whom much or everything had been left unpaid. He could pay their creditors, he could stump up the money to make it all right for all those who had not received a penny. He found the proper settlement for them. We are all businesses that have got into trouble, have taken investors’ money, frittered it, making huge claims and sustainable expansion, trying to attract more customers (pyramid selling scams). He can release me from you – from all the promises I have made to you but been unable to deliver on.
We all have huge public credibility problems, liquidity problems. These credibility problems are our own very personal problems, but we shove these sideways into the vocabulary of business – so they appear not the problem of (individual) persons but of companies, so nothing to do with individuals. But as a company is a person, a person is (has shares, interests in) a (or rather many) companies (households). But precisely though a person has many companies and shares, which account for all his effort, all this effort serves only to allow him to overlook and refuses to pay anything to or lend any credit/credibility to any of the poor around him, by which he considers them Unmenschen.
Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures – in accordance with the financial regulations. There were regulations by which the strong company could take over the ailing one. There is legislation enabling rescues and amalgamation (white knights – kinsman redeemers). The righteous (liquid) for the unrighteous (non-liquid, bankrupt). He bought us out, he bought us up. He bought us up with shares in his stock. He bought our worthless shares for his good stock. He can extend his stock without diluting (adulterating it) it, because being the Spirit, he is infinitely spreadable without being divisible. Acts 20.28 Be shepherds of the Church of God which he bought with his blood. Christ bought all the smaller firm (other spirits) out. He bought out their shareholders with his own stock issue, making them his own shareholders, so they now hold their shares in his stock. Those who accepted gained this new stock. Those who did not were left with nothing, no being. The payment is in stock. This stock is the money in a particular economy. Money is stock in a particular government. He pays for them by spreading the stock held by all existing shareholders. You can pay him back:
1. in the currency he wants (money) 2. by refuting his claim on you and returning to him with violence 3. by disputing his claim in court. The Son does all three.
7. Karl Barth on sacrifice and the legal model
Barth says he decided not to sacrifice as atonement model, though he says that we could present Christ’s work in sacrificial-priestly terms, because these are now antiquated (Church Dogmatics 4.1 (275-83). Instead in he decides to present his account of reconciliation in the juridical/forensic (courtroom) terms familiar to the Western account. This account raises the question of how we come to court. The answer is that we put each other there. In court we give and receive accounts of one another. In sacrifice we give and receive all sorts of things, including accounts of one another (all ‘things’ represent implicit accounts of how things are between us).
God is judge, the judgment and judged in our place (277). But he demonstrates the complexity of the logic of theological statement. So (273) He took our place as judge, he took our place as the judged, he was judged in our place, and he acted justly in our place. (275) ‘Jesus took our place as judge’ – he is saying that he took our place as judge (compulsion to be judge) away from us – because it was his and not ours.
The Western juridical account raises the question of how we come to court. The answer is that we put each other there. In court we give and receive accounts of one another. In sacrifice we give and receive all sorts of things, including accounts of one another.
Barth compares this (juridical) account with sacrifice. He shows that the same logic can also appear in sacrificial terms. But he explores sacrifice only briefly (275-83) because this is (275) ‘a form which is now rather remote from us’. This remoteness is of course (287) ‘only a particular form of the problem of time’. The issue of sacrifice is bound up with the issue of the Old Testament and the status of the people of Israel. Is Israel back there in the past and cut off from us and superseded, or still here and now?
Barth does not link the priest to stewardship and the creation liturgy. He contrasts Law to Gospel so does not link the giving of the Law (the Word) as the giving of office and responsibility (leadership). Only on the basis of this gift, can we talk about Adam’s failure to take up this gift and work, and call this sin. Man is guilty of failure (sin is revealed by law) only when he has been given something to do, and not done it. Barth does not bring in here the concept of the poor being sinful via ‘causing to sin’.
Church Dogmatics volume 4.1 275 a priest (advocate/defending counsel) is not the equivalent of the judge. Barth’s concept of priest is already around the hattat sin offering. It knows nothing of Sander’s scholarship of registration of status changes, monitoring and policing distinctions, against the ambiguity. The language police and the value police. So Barth’s concept of sacrifice is itself forensic – the sacrificial petitioner only comes to God because he is guilty and needs atonement. The hattat is the ransom – payment – stumping up of what the boaster promised but could not deliver.