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My Response to a Jewish Skeptic

John Aziza

LambCarried (1).jpg

Several years ago, I was introduced to a YouTube video called "The Passover Lamb-Debunked". Apparently, this video was produced by a Jewish teacher with the aim of debunking the Christian belief in Jesus as the Passover Lamb. The bulk of the video is focused on attacking Paul's message in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 and challenges the plain but symbolic meaning of Christ's sacrificial death, which fulfilled the Jewish festival of Passover. After watching the entire video, I felt it necessary to provide a proper rebuttal to this overt attack on Christianity. In the following sections, we will examine the main challenges presented in the video with an accompanying response. 


Claim 1. According to Leviticus 1:2, the only acceptable burnt offering or sacrifice was taken from the herds of clean animals. Since Christ was a human, not an animal, He could not be sacrificed on behalf of humanity. After all, God would never allow a human sacrifice to substitute for the animal sacrifices required under Torah.


My Response: Jesus never attempted to pose as the actual Passover lamb. And Protestants have never regarded Christ as an actual human sacrifice. That is why we so vehemently reject the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and wine literally turn into the body and blood of our Savior. Instead, we realize that the elements of communion represent the life and sacrifice of Jesus. So we partake in communion to be reminded of the fact that Christ ransomed us from the consequences of sin and sealed our redemption through His death on the cross. offers the following explanation in respect to the symbolic relationship between Christ and the Passover: "The New Testament establishes a relationship between the prototypical Passover lamb and the consummate Passover Lamb, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 5:7). The prophet John the Baptist recognized Jesus as “the Lamb of God” (John 1:29), and the apostle Peter links the lamb without defect (Exodus 12:5) with Christ, whom he calls a “lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). Jesus is qualified to be called One “without blemish” because His life was completely free from sin (Hebrews 4:15). In Revelation, John the apostle sees Jesus as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (Revelation 5:6). Jesus was crucified during the time that the Passover was observed (Mark 14:12) and thus fulfilled the symbolic meaning of the Passover festival." Because of this, Believers have symbolically applied the sacrificial blood of Christ to their hearts and thus have escaped eternal death (Hebrews 9:1214). Just as the Passover lamb’s applied blood caused the “destroyer” to pass over each household, Christ’s applied blood causes God’s judgment to pass over sinners and gives life to Believers (Romans 6:23).

It's important to realize that Christ's symbolic relationship to the Passover parallels His other symbolic roles. For example, Jesus claimed to be the "Bread of Life" (Jn. 6:35), "the Cornerstone" (Mat. 21:42-44), "the Door" (Jn. 10:7), and "the Vine" (Jn. 15:1). Jesus applied these descriptions to Himself in order to portray the different roles of His ministry. The reason Jesus is called the "Lamb of God" is because He was pure and without sin. Isaiah 53 promised that exactly such a righteous man would atone for the sins of many (Is. 53:12). He is also described as the "Chief Shepherd of our souls" (Jn. 10:11) and the "Great High Priest" who makes it possible for us to enter boldly before God that we might receive His grace (Heb. 4:14-16). So we see that Jesus represents both the sacrifice and the One offering up the sacrifice, which makes His role both significant and complex.

We must remember that while God is exceedingly merciful, He is also just, and justice demands punishment. So there comes a time when God must punish the ungodly and all who rebel against Him (Ex. 20:5). Through persistent sin, humans have accumulated God's wrath and therefore deserve to be punished. But that's why Jesus was revealed to men. God sent Jesus to live a sinless life and to act as the intercessor who would stave God's wrath by taking our punishment upon Himself. Just like Moses interceded on Israel's behalf when God threatened to destroy them for their idolatry (Deu. 9:13-20), Jesus interceded on our behalf and offered to take our punishment for us. Because of this, Isaiah 53 identifies the Messiah as the Redeemer of mankind who bore the "chastisement of our iniquity" upon Himself:


"But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand" (Isaiah 53:5-10).

But besides Isaiah's text, the idea of redemption through substitutionary atonement can be found elsewhere in the Hebrew Tanakh or Old Testament. For instance, consider the instruction pertaining to the cities of refuge in Numbers 35. The cities of refuge were places designated to protect the "man-slayer" or accidental killer from the "avenger of blood". Only the death of the high priest could expiate the man-slayer and protect him from further pursuit by the avenger of blood. In this way, the death of the High Priest symbolically atoned for the man-slayer's unintentional crime, just as the death of Christ, our High Priest, atones for our own sin. 


So instead of viewing Christ as a human sacrifice, Christians view Jesus as their Redeemer (Hebrew: goel). Being truly righteous, only Jesus was qualified to redeem us from the penalty of sin and the curse of the Law, and that's exactly what He did (Matthew 20:28, Mark 10:45, John 13:1-17; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12).

But do Jews recognize the principle of redemption through substitutionary atonement as valid? And more importantly, do they believe in the notion that the righteous could atone for the sins of the nation? Actually, yes, very much so! Notice the following quotes:

"The children of the world are members one of another. When the Holy One desires to give healing to the world, he smites one just man amongst them, and for his sake heals all the rest. From where do we learn this? From the saying [Isaiah 53:5], 'He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities'". (Zohar, Numbers, Pinchus 218a)


“You must bear the sufferings and wounds by which the Almighty chastises you for Israel’s sins and so it is written, 'He was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities'". (Midrash Konen; 11th century)

"The Messiah, in order to atone for them both [Adam and David], will make his soul a trespass offering [Isaiah 53:10] as it is written next to this parashah 'Behold my servant'" [Isaiah 52:13]. (Midrash Aseret Memrot)


"Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs.” (4 Maccabees 6:28–29)


"Rabbi Berel Wein said this, ...'the death of the righteous and innocent served as expiation for the sins of the nation or the world'".

"Nathan (Nata) ben Moses Hannover in his work Yeven Mezulah‘Rabbi Chiya Bar Abba said: 'The sons of Aaron died the first day of Nisan. Why then does the Torah mention their death in conjunction with the Day of Atonement? It is to teach that just as the Day of Atonement atones, so also the death of the righteous atones'".


"In Midrash Exodus rabbah Moses said to God: 'Will not the time come when Israel will have neither Tabernacle nor Temple? What will happen with them then?' The Holy One, blessed be He, said: 'I will then take one of their righteous men and keep him as a pledge on their behalf so I may pardon or atone for all their sins'".

"When Israel was in the Holy Land those services and the sacrifices that they did took up from them all the sicknesses and sufferings of the world.  Now Messiah takes them from the world..." (Zohar 212a).

"Immediately after discussing the use of Para Adumah [Red Heifer] ashes to purify a person who came into contact with the dead, the Torah tells us of the death of Miriam [Bamidbar 20:1]. The Talmud says [Moed Katan 28a] that the juxtaposition of these two parshios teaches that 'Just as the Para Adumah atones, so too the death of a righteous person atones'”.

So it's easy to see that Jewish writings well comport with the principle of redemption through substitutionary atonement. 


Claim 2. The meaning of pesach is not passover. This is a Christian misconception. Instead, Pesach (fasach) means to stand immobile as if lame over one's house. God was standing guard at the door of the homes of those Israelites who availed themselves of the lamb's blood, protecting them.


My Response: Even the official website of the orthodox Jewish community of New York acknowledges that pesach means, to pass over, but also gives alternate meanings for this Hebrew/Aramaic word (see here). By further looking up pesach in the strong's concordance, we find that pesach's primary interpretation is to "pass over", but an alternate interpretation is "to be lame" (see here).


Another clear indication that "pass over" is the correct interpretation of pesach is found in Exodus 12, which gives its clearest meaning: "That ye shall say, It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S passover, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, when he smote the Egyptians, and delivered our houses. And the people bowed the head and worshipped" (Ex. 12:27).


By misrepresenting this basic truth, the man responsible for this video makes his argument much less credible and trustworthy.


Claim 3. There are six types of offerings or sacrifices in the Torah: cleanse/sin offering (chatat), reparation/compensatory (asham), dedication offering (olah), peace offering (shlamim), meal offering (mincha), and incense offering (anan). The traditional passover lamb slaughtered every passover was not a sin offering (zevach chatat), but rather a peace offering (zevach shlamim). Jesus could not be our Passover Lamb because He is designated as a sin offering by the New Testament (He made atonement for sin). He did not present Himself as a peace offering (zevach shlamim).


My Response: There is ample reason to believe that the passover lamb was indeed a type of sin offering because it was a peace offering. In other words, without sin, a peace offering was not necessary. Nevertheless, this point does not need debating, because Jesus fulfills ALL of the sacrificial types, not just one. Christ was the cleansing sin offering (John 1:29). He was the reparation offering. He paid our debt and ransomed us (Mat. 20:28; Rom. 6:23, 1 Cor. 6:20, 1 Pet. 1:18-19). He was our dedication offering. Joseph and Mary dedicated Jesus to the service of the LORD on our behalf (Luke 2:22). He was our peace offering (Passover Lamb): "And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself..." (Col. 1:20). He was our meal offering--the bread of life of which the priesthood partook (Lev. 2:10, Jn 6:35). He was our meal offering too. The meal offering was given as a thanksgiving offering alongside the burnt offering. It had to be free of any leaven. Jesus was free from sin/leaven and through His life we offer continual thanksgiving to God our Father (Heb. 13:15). Jesus was the most pleasing incense offering ever presented to God. His life was a "sweet aroma" and well pleasing in God's sight (Mat. 3:17). But it must be noted that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. He did not just cover sin, He removed it altogether (Heb. 9:8-14).


Nevertheless, there are many Jews who view the paschal lamb as propitiation for sin, including the most revered Rashi and Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra. Here are some of their own quotes:

Rashi: “I see the Paschal blood and propitiate you. . . . I mercifully take pity on you by means of the Paschal blood and the blood of circumcision, and I propitiate your souls” (Ex. R. 15, 35b, 35a).

Rashi: “It is as if a king said to his sons: ‘Know you that I judge persons on capital charges and condemn them. Give me therefore a present, so that in case you are brought before my judgment seat I may set aside the indictments against you.’ So God said to Israel: ‘I am now concerned with death penalties, but I will tell you how I will have pity on you and for the sake of the Passover blood and the circumcision blood I will atone for you’” (Ex. R. 15.12, on Exodus 12.10).


Rabbi Abraham ibn Ezra: “The mark of blood was designed as an atonement for those within the house who partook of the paschal offering, and was also a sign for the destroying angel to pass by the house” (Soncino Chumash, pg. 388).


Claim 4. The codex Sinaiticus proves that the traditional reading of 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 is false and must therefore be rejected. The actual correct reading of these passages is as follows: "And in truth, the passover is ours, was killed Christ, thus we shall celebrate the festival". 


My Response: This fourth claim is easy to debunk. First, the man responsible for this video is obviously unfamiliar with the rules of ancient Greek grammar, as it would seem, because he greatly contorts the obvious meaning and order of words present in the original Greek. He is also lacking in a sufficient understanding of textual criticism. He makes a big deal of using the very "oldest and best" manuscript, the Sinaiticus, to produce the "correct" rendering of the text. When in fact, I can offer strong evidence to prove that the Byzantine text is far more reliable and more accurate than the Sinaiticus. If you go to this site here you can actually view catalogue images of the Sinaiticus manuscript which plainly reveal that this text has been heavily corrected and edited many times over. Very little of the original text is even distinguishable any longer. 


It is also rather presumptuous to suppose that we can handle the Greek text far better than the hundreds of scholars who diligently undertook the task of translating the New Testament Scriptures for the past 14 centuries. Some of which were the finest Greek and Hebrew scholars the world had ever seen. [Study the history of manuscript transmission and translation to see just how astute these men were at faithfully translating our New Testament Scriptures.] So why should we trust this single individual's biased opinion over the diligent research and work of the numerous paleographers and Bible scholars preceding him?


You see, when you start off with a faulty premise, your end result will lack integrity also. And since this man's starting premise is faulty (Jesus is not the Passover Lamb), he is forced to rearrange the order of the Greek words located within these passages and apply a whole lot of eisegesis (imposing one's interpretation into the text) in order to make sense of the verses. Even so, his translation still doesn't make sense. Notice: "And in truth, the passover is ours, was killed Christ, thus we shall celebrate the festival". 


But let's look at how 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 actually reads in both the Sinaiticus and Byzantine:


1 Corinthians 5:7-8 NIV (based on the Codex Sinaiticus )
7 "Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."


1 Corinthians 5:7-8 King James Version (based on the Byzantine)
7 "Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth."


As we can see there is little variance between the Sinaiticus reading or the Byzantine. Both indicate the same thing, namely that Christ is our symbolic Passover Lamb, a covering of protection for those who take refuge in His atoning work. 


Now as far as matching the original Greek words to their English counterparts, you can do so rather easily by downloading an e-Sword concordance here. Or by visiting the online interlinear Bible (a parallel Greek to English reading) here. With the easy use of a Greek concordance we see that all the words match perfectly to their intended English counterparts.


It's easy to see that in spite of the attempts of many to disqualify our Savior's sacrificial atonement and to devalue its symbolic significance, the record of Scripture and the simple understanding of the Gospel's testimony continue to remain impeccably trustworthy.


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