Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 110: The Letter to the Hebrews, part 2
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 110: The Letter to the Hebrews, part 2

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

Last week, we reviewed Hebrews 10-18. I suggested that Jesus death was a self-sacrifice to God’s will. Support for this view comes from chapter 9: “Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (9:25-26). The writer has said that, according to former sacrificial order, sacrifice needed to be repeated yearly. The reason is that people needed to regularly transfer their sins onto the scapegoat, which, the writer noted, is what has been happening since the foundation of the world. The writer also observed that the priest shed “blood not his own” – forcing animals to suffer the consequences of human sinfulness. The writer then pointed out that Jesus sacrificed himself in order to end all sacrifices.

This is the crucial difference. Previous sacrifices involved killing an unwilling victim. A Girardian reading indicates that Jesus chose to accept his destiny and to sacrifice himself for all humankind. Jesus did not want to be crucified – on the Mount of Olives “he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will but what thou wilt’” (Mark 14:35-36; see also Matthew 26:38-39, Luke 22:42). Jesus was the sacrifice to end all sacrifices not because God had desired “sacred” violence or because Jesus wanted to die, but because Jesus needed to reveal that God does not want sacrifices. In other words, Jesus did not surrender to death, but rather he chose to die to serve God’s will.

If Jesus’ destiny was to stop the perennial violence against innocent individuals, he would need to reveal the scapegoating process, because it was no longer an option to have God destroy the world with a flood. Jesus could only demonstrate the scandal of scapegoating violence by becoming a willing victim himself, because he was unequivocally innocent. I do not think that either God or Jesus wanted Jesus’ death. However, the Son’s divine nature allowed him to see that submitting to the fires of scapegoating violence was the only way to undermine scapegoating.

Many Christians hold that Jesus’ death was designed to atone for humankind’s sin. However, if the “sin of the world” (John 1:29) is scapegoating, then scapegoating Jesus cannot be God’s desire. Many Christians regard “the sin of the world” as Adam’s “Original Sin,” which all humankind has inherited.

There are problems with this theory, to which we will turn next.

Go on to: Part 111: Original Sin, part 1
Return to: Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence Table of Contents
Return to: Christian Living Table of Contents