Since the publication of my books, Jesus and the Temple and Jesus, the Essenes, and Christian Origins, I have continued to explore the role(s) of sacrifice in early Judaism and Christianity. My article, "In the Days of His Flesh, He Offered Up Prayers”: Redescribing the Sacrifice(s) of Jesus in the Letter to the Hebrews" - now published in the Journal of Biblical Literature - explores the Letter to the Hebrews, widely regarded as the most "sacrificial" text in the New Testament. Hebrews not only visualizes Jesus' heavenly "self-offering" as an efficacious sacrifice, it also re-conceptualizes Jesus' death as "sacrificial" by extending sacrificial language to the "prayers" that he "offered up" to God, introducing an expanded semantic range of "sacrificial" language into the early Jesus tradition.
Although the Letter to the Hebrews is usually read as a "Christian" text advocating the superiority of Jesus' "sacrificial" offering to that provided in the Temple, thus implying "Christianity's" abrogation of "Judaism," I propose here that the Letter to the Hebrews reflects an alternative Jewish sacrificial system in competition with the Jerusalem Temple, that is, a Jewish text that envisions the "sacrifice(s)" of Jesus as an alternative sacrificial system within Judaism, not a "Christian" system that "supersedes" or "replaces" Judaism.
This article is dedicated to James A. Sanders (1927-2020)