When I wrote my latest book, A New Look at the Old Testament, one of my goals was to bring to Christians and Messianic Jews a sound theology of the sacrificial system. Liberal Jews, and most Christians, think that the sacrificial system of Leviticus was primitive and will not return. The Reform and Conservative Jewish prayer books omit references in the Amidah and other places to the restoration of the sacrifices of Israel. Maimonides felt they were an accommodation to the culture of the Ancient Near East, a system of worship needed by Israel in its primitive setting, but no longer needed since we have outgrown ancient ways. Most Christians are of the opinion that the sacrifices are outdated, replaced by the better sacrifice of Jesus.
Yet more conservative-minded Jews and some Christians who take the prophets at their word still believe the sacrificial system has a future. Most importantly, this is due to Ezekiel 40-48, a description of the Coming Temple of Messiah.
So, I offer the following thoughts (actually part of my preparation for our Torah class at Tikvat David) as a way to start the discussion about this important topic. I plan to write several posts on this topic and hopefully answer many questions. I believe the sacrificial and purity laws of the Torah are foundational theology. They show the need for a cross and the certainty of resurrection. More on that later, but for now, let’s begin the conversation:
By some ways of thinking, the sacrifices of Israel and the purity laws should have no place in the Age to Come. Many regard these as outmoded ways of thinking, throwbacks to an era of paganism and ritual worship. These have no place now that worship in the spirit has come.
A quick survey of verses from Ezekiel