N. T. Wright on “By Means of His Own Blood” (Hebrews 9:12)

The writer of Hebrews said Jesus “entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12).

In his Hebrews For Everyone commentary, N. T. Wright writes, “This is perhaps the most striking, indeed shocking, idea in the whole letter. At almost no point in the voluminous Jewish literature from the Bible through to the Jewish writings contemporary with the New Testament, and indeed beyond, does anybody suggest that human sacrifice might be a good thing—still less that the Messiah himself would become such a sacrifice. Apart from the powerful and deeply mysterious passage in Isaiah 53.10, which speaks of the sacrificial death of God’s servant, the closest that Judaism comes to such an idea is the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac at Mount Moriah (Genesis 22), a story which played a considerable role in Jewish thinking at this time, and which Hebrews will refer to in 11.17-18; but the point there, of course, was that God stopped Abraham actually killing Isaac. The sacrifice didn’t happen. Nor, of course, was there ever a suggestion that a high priest would have to become, simultaneously, both the priest who offered the sacrifice and the sacrifice itself. The idea would have been laughable if it hadn’t, almost certainly, appeared blasphemous” (p. 95).

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