Temple Sacrifice & Offerings Sanctioned by Jesus & Apostles

Temple Sacrifice & Offerings Sanctioned by Jesus & Apostles April 13, 2017

. . . and Practiced by St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. John After the Death of Jesus

TempleSteps
First century southern steps of the Temple Mount, Jerusalem (photo by Mark A. Wilson, 5-28-09). Jesus and the apostles walked these. So did I in October 2014. [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

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Matthew 5:23-24 (RSV) So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,[24] leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
 
Matthew 8:4 And Jesus said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” (cf. Mk 1:44; Lk 5:14)
 
Acts 2:46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts,
 
Acts 3:1 [right after the Day of Pentecost] Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
 
[The notes in my RSV explain that the ninth hour was 3 PM “when sacrifice was offered with prayer (Ex 29.39; Lev. 6.20; Josephus, Ant. xiv.4.3).” ]
 
Acts 21:17-26 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. [18] On the following day Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. [19] After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. [20] And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, [21] and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. [22] What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. [23] Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; [24] take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law. [25] But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity.” [26] Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them. 
*
Acts 24:11-12 As you may ascertain, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship at Jerusalem; [12] and they did not find me disputing with any one or stirring up a crowd, either in the temple or in the synagogues, or in the city.
Dom Bernard Orchard, A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture (1953) comments with great insight on this passage and St. Paul’s views:

21 St Paul’s Attitude to the Law — In view of the false accusations against him St Paul was bold indeed to come to Jerusalem. He had taught that the Law does not justify, which would eventually lead to its abandonment even by Jewish Christians. The Jews rightly concluded that he denied an absolute value to Circumcision, the Law and the temple, 28. On the other hand as long as Jewish Christians acknowledged that salvation came through faith in Christ, he had never forbidden them to observe the Law. It became for them something in the nature of a work of supererogation. The breach with the Synagogue was gradual. It is generally held that after A.D. 70 it was complete, and that then all participation in Jewish rites became unlawful. Thus when St Paul now acceded to the request of St James, he did not go against his principles. He was hardly the man to do that. He acknowledged a relative value in the Law, and he seems generally to have observed it himself; cf. 16:3; 18:18. He claimed to be a strict Pharisee, 23:6; 26:4–5. He protested that he had not offended in anything against the Law or the temple, in which he had come ‘to adore’, 24:11; 25:8; 28:17. These things were not incompatible with the preaching of the new faith. They prepared the way for it, and found in it their fulfilment, 24:14; 26:22–23, cf. Rom 9–11, 1 Cor 7:18–20.

22–26 The Nazirite Vow — 22. ‘What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come’. St Paul must clear himself of the charges that are reported against him. 23. The four men had taken the Nazirite vow; see 18:18. They could not cut their hair until the period of their vow was over, and they had made their offering in the temple. 24. St Paul must pay the offerings of these four Jewish Christians, whose vow had still seven days to go, 27. He will thus sanctify himself by sharing in their vow, and it will be seen that he ‘walks in the observance of the Law’. St James meant St Paul to show that he observed the Law, and to refute the report about his attitude, which implied that he despised it. 25. He is reminded that his vow will not prejudice the case of the Gentile Christians, whose liberty the Apostles and presbyters had recognized at the Council of Jerusalem. Thus his action will not have the effect of that for which he blamed St Peter in the mixed church of Antioch, Gal 2:11 ff. 26. Being all things to all men, St Paul agrees, goes to the temple, and arranges for the day on which the sacrifice is to be offered. He seems to have had ample funds at his disposal at this period, Ramsay, St Paul the Traveller, 310 ff. ‘Being purified’: cf. Lev 15:13; ‘the days of purification’: cf. Num 6:5.

Pope Benedict XVI also wrote in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection (Ignatius Press: 2011, p. 38):
 
[S]trangely there is not a hint to be found anywhere of a dispute over the Temple and the necessity of its sacrifices, even though, according to the Acts of the Apostles, ‘a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith’ (6:7).
The Protestant Eerdmans Bible Commentary agrees (commenting on Acts 21:15-30):
Paul himself, as far as we can tell, continued to observe the law throughout his life, especially in Jewish company, and his consent to take the advice of James on this occasion and share the purificatory ceremony of the four men who had taken a temporary Nazirite vow and pay their expenses was entirely in keeping with his settled principle: “To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews” (1 Cor. 9:20).
This paper was stimulated by a challenge from one David James, replying to my article, “The Biblical Understanding of Holy Places and Things”: recently posted at National Catholic Register. He wrote (his words will be in blue):
 
Ahem…..Mr. Armstrong is obviously not familiar with the fate of the Temple of stone in Catholic Christology.
 
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. . . .” (Mt 23: 37-38; Lk 13: 34-35).
 
This is an intertextual echo from Jeremiah. Pointed out by none other then our Pope Emeritus:
 
Jeremiah records the words spoken by God concerning the abuses in the Temple: “I have forsaken my house; I have abandoned my heritage” (12: 7). Jesus says exactly the same thing: “Your house is forsaken” (Mt 23: 38). God is withdrawing. The Temple is no longer the place where he sets down his name. It will be left empty; henceforth it is merely “your house”.
 
I suggest Mr. Armstrong might want to pick up Pope Benedict’s 2nd volume on Jesus. Perfect reading for the Passion week. He’ll find out where the new temple is.
 
None of this overthrows anything I wrote in the article. If the temple was already a spiritual non-entity and irrelevant by the time of Jesus, why were the apostles still offering sacrifices there (after Jesus died)? Indeed, St. Paul was arrested at the temple, doing precisely that.
 
Didn’t say it was irrelevant by the time of Jesus. I said Jesus himself made it irrelevant in both word and deed. To discuss what the Apostles did following Jesus Ascension I again point to Pope Emeritus B:
 
“Regarding the relationship of the earliest community to the Temple, the Acts of the Apostles has this to say: “Day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts” (2: 46). So two key locations are named for the life of the infant Church: for preaching and prayer they meet in the Temple, which they still regard and accept as the house of God’s word and the house of prayer; on the other hand, the breaking of bread—the new “cultic” center of the lives of the faithful—is celebrated in their houses as places of assembly and communion in the name of the risen Lord.”
 
Nothing I wrote denied that the temple ceased to exist (that’s a matter of history) and would be in effect replaced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and churches, etc. Not my topic . . . I was simply recounting the biblical understanding of the holy place. The temple plays a key role in any such account.
 
Jesus referred to the continuation of offering of sacrifices at the temple (Mt 5:23-24; 8:4 / Mk 1:44 / Lk 5:14). Paul was directly associated with the offering of temple sacrifices from four Nazirites: having been commanded by James and “all the elders” in Jerusalem to do so (Acts 21:18-26).
 
That doesn’t mean that Gentiles were required to do likewise (they weren’t), but it was not indicative of an irrelevant temple after Jesus’ death. The temple system was still in operation for Jewish Christians, including Paul, James, Peter, and John (Acts 3:1).

My comment was and is temple worship became less important following the resurrection of Jesus.

Temple worship certainly became relatively less important following the resurrection of Jesus. That’s your point. My point is that it was not so much less relatively important that this precluded worshiping and the offering of sacrifices there, including that of St. Paul, St. John, St. Peter, and with the recorded approval and sanction of St. James and “many elders” in Jerusalem.
 
For related reading, see my paper, Apostles and Synagogue and Temple Worship.
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