Commentary on Hebrews 10:11-14
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Commentary on Hebrews 10:11-14
(November 15, 2010)

10:11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

10: 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,

10:13 then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.

10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
Many people interpret this passage in support of the atonement theology that regards Jesus’ death as an atonement for human sinfulness. This makes Jesus a scapegoat for human iniquity, and that is morally problematic not only because this constitutes grossly unjust of Jesus but because it helps justify contemporary scapegoating “in the name of God.” I discuss other difficulties with this “substitutionary atonement” theology in my book Guided by the Faith of Christ. Here, I will suggest a non-sacrificial interpretation of this passage from Hebrews.
I think it is crucial to recognize that the daily sacrifices of the priests can never take away sins. Sacrifices constitute scapegoating animals as substitutes for human sinfulness. Scapegoating relieves individuals’ sense of guilt and brings people together in their common disregard of the scapegoat victim, but scapegoating does not address the underlying human sinfulness that generates both individual guild and community disharmony. Therefore, scapegoating is a temporary solution to a chronic problem and can never take away sins.
Jesus exposed both the injustice of scapegoating and the tendency of people to be captivated by scapegoating’s attractions. This could only happen if he willingly became a victim of the scapegoating mob.

Go on to: Reflections on Forgiveness and Faith
Return to: Reflection on the Lectionary, Table of Contents 

Return to Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion