Philo says honor is the reason for the sacrifices

Philo says honor is the reason for the sacrifices May 17, 2016
Credit: Wikipedia

I’m preparing a course called Theology of the Atonement. In the process, I read the following quote. I thought you would find interesting. It’s from Philo, a Jewish philosopher and contemporary with Jesus.

Describing God’s design for the sacrifices, Philo says honor is at the center of the sacrificial system. He lists two reasons for sacrifices.

“Firstly, that it conduces to the honour of God, which ought to be aimed at not for the sake of any other reason, but for itself alone, as being both honourable and necessary; and, secondly, for the benefits which have been poured upon the sacrificers themselves, as has been said before. And the benefit they derive is also twofold, being both an admission to a share of good things and a deliverance from evils.

Therefore the law has assigned the whole burnt offering as a sacrifice adequate to that honour which is suited to God, and which belongs to God alone, enjoining that what is offered to the allperfect and absolute God must be itself entire and perfect, having no taint of mortal selfishness in it.….

…the whole burnt offering being sacrificed for God himself alone, who must be honoured for his own sake, and not for that of any other being or thing; and the others for our sake; the thank-offering for our preservation, for the safety and amelioration of human affairs; and the sin-offering for the cure of those offences which the soul has committed.”

Yonge, Charles Duke with Philo of Alexandria. The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995. (Spec. Leg. 1.195–97).

At ETS last year, I presented a paper suggesting that honor and shame were key elements of the sacrificial system. If you are interested in checking it out by clicking here (or at this dropbox link).


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