Text today… Hebrews 10:4-9
There are fewer specifics known about the temple practice of the ancient Hebrew religion than most people realize. There are Biblical passages referencing temple liturgy in Leviticus and throughout the book of Hebrews. There are other places, such as Kings, Chronicles, and Ezekiel, that indicate the temple’s design from which we can conclude some practices. There are also passages in various books written throughout the intertestamental period – the period in between the last book of the OT and the first book of the NT – that gives insight. Still, it isn’t easy to draw a unified practice from these sources.
Further complicating our understanding of the specific liturgy associated with the temple, and, in particular, with the Day of Atonement was the fact that the original temple was the tabernacle, which, of course, wasn’t a building in a fixed location. After Solomon built the first temple, the liturgy grew more complex, only to change again after the destruction of the temple, the subsequent exile, and rebuilding of the second temple years later.
My point is, the Americanized Christian tradition has by and large interpreted temple practices for us in light of their own sacrificial-driven theology. Accordingly, they have made sweeping claims about the role Jesus played within their understanding of the temple and a sacrificial-driven theology.
What I have discovered is, there are a handful of different ways to view temple practices as they relate to atonement, creation, the year of jubilee, the second coming, Passover, the life and death of Jesus, and more. I am not an expert, so today, I’ll do my best not to get “lost in the weeds.” What I want to do is to point out the distinction between the way the Americanized Christian tradition has generally taught us to think and what a more expansive theology could lead us to believe.
The distinction revolves around the direction of the movement. With “the tradition,” the action has been us moving inward to God by way of an exclusionary path. A more expansive theology can read the same thing and recognize that actually, the action is God moving outward to us via an inclusionary path.
If you want to learn more about this subject matter, I encourage you to start with the chapter entitled, “God’s Self-substitution and Sacrificial Inversion” by James Alison from one of my very favorite non-fiction books called, “Stricken by God?” (I promise, Alison’s chapter reads easier than his title reads!)
And if you want to get more academic, check out “The Great High Priest: The Temple Roots of Christian Liturgy,” or “Revelation of Jesus Christ: Which God Gave to Him to Show to His Servants What Must Soon Take Place.” Both are written by Margaret Barker. Also, see a short article like https://stpaulcenter.com/jesus-as-high-priest-the-significance-of-the-seamless-robe/