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Quotes About Sacrifices

Quotes about sacrifices from throughout Christian History.


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Clement of Rome, A.D. 95-96

The Lord, brothers, stands in need of nothing, and he desires nothing of anyone except that confession be made to him. "For," says the elect David, "I will confess to the Lord and that will please him more than a young bull that has horns and hoofs. Let the poor see it and be glad" [Ps. 69:30-32]. And again he says, "Offer to God the sacrifice of praise, and pay your vows to the Most High. Call upon me in the day of your trouble. I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me" [Ps. 50:14-15]. For "the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit" [Ps. 51:17]. (First Clement 52)

Pseudo-Barnabas, A.D. 120-130

[God] has revealed to us by all the prophets that he needs neither sacrifices, nor burnt offerings, nor oblations. He says it in this way, "'What is your multitude of sacrifices to me?' says the Lord. 'I am weary of burnt offerings, and I do not desire the fat of lambs or the blood of bulls and goats. When you appear before me, who has required this of your hands? … " [Is. 1:11-12]. He has therefore abolished these things that the new law of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is without the yoke of necessity, might not have a man-made oblation.

   Again he says to them, "Did I command your fathers when they left the land of Egypt to offer me burnt offerings and sacrifices? Instead, this is what I commanded them: Let none of you cherish any evil in your heart against your neighbor, and do not love a false oath" [Jer. 7:22 & Zech. 8:17]. Therefore, since we possess reason, we ought to perceive the gracious intention of our Father. For he speaks to us, not wanting us to go astray like them but to ask how we should approach him. To us, then, he declares, "The sacrifice that is pleasing to God is a broken spirit. A smell of sweet savor to the Lord is a heart that glorifies him that made it" [Ps. 51:19, poorly quoted]. (Letter of Barnabas 2)

Letter to Diognetus, A.D. 80 - 200

The Christians do not observe the same forms of divine worship as do the Jews. The Jews [are right], then, if they abstain from the kind of service described above[i.e., idol worship] and deem it proper to worship one God as being Lord of all. However, if they offer him worship in the way which we have described [i.e., by animal sacrifices], they greatly err.

   The Gentiles, by offering [sacricifices] to [idols] that are destitute of sense and hearing, furnish an example of madness. [The Jews], on the other hand by thinking to offer these things to God as if he needed them, might justly consider it an act of folly rather than of divine worship. For he that made heaven and earth, and all that is in them, and gives to us all the things of which we stand in need, certainly requires none of those things which he himself bestows on [us]. (ch. 3)

Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 150

But we have received by tradition that God does not need the material offerings which men can give, since, indeed, he himself is the provider of all things. (First Apology 10)

Under [Moses] your nation [i.e., the Jews] appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness. Therefore, God accomodated himself to that nation and commanded them to offer sacrifices, as if to his name, so that you would not serve idols. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 19)

"And that you may learn that it was for the sins of your own nation and for their idolatries and not because there was any necessity for such sacrifices, that they were likewise enjoined, listen to the manner in which he speaks of these by Amos, one of the twelve [minor prophets], saying: ‘ ... I have hated, I have despised your feast-days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Therefore, though you offer me your burnt-offerings and sacrifices, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your presence. ... But let judgment be rolled down as water, and righteousness as an impassable torrent. Have you offered me victims and sacrifices in the wilderness, O house of Israel?' says the Lord. 'And have you taken up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of your god Raphan, the figures which you made for yourselves? ... You who come to the evil day, who are approaching, and who hold to false Sabbaths ... ’ [Amos 5:18ff]. And again by Jeremiah: ‘Collect your flesh and sacrifices and eat, for concerning neither sacrifices nor libations did I command your fathers in the day in which I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt' [Jer. 7:21-22]. And again by David, in the forty-ninth Psalm, he said this: ‘ ... Hear, O my people, and I will speak to you, O Israel. I will testify to you, "I am God, even your God." I will not reprove you for your sacrifices; your burnt-offerings are continually before me. I will take no bullocks out of your house, nor he-goats out of your folds. For all the beasts of the field are mine, the herds and the oxen on the mountains. I know all the fowls of the heavens, and the beauty of the field is mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world is mine and the fulness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God the sacrifice of praise, and pay your vows unto the Most High. Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. Unto the wicked God says, "You have nothing to do with declaring my statutes, and taking my covenant in your mouth. You have hated instruction, and cast my words behind you. When you saw a thief, you consented with him and have been partaker with the adulterer. Thy mouth has framed evil, and thy tongue has enfolded deceit. ... These things you have done, ... The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me; and there is the way in which I shall show him my salvation"' [Psalm 50:7ff]. Accordingly he neither takes sacrifices from you nor commanded them at first to be offered because they are needful to him, but because of your sins. (Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew 22, brackets mine)

Tatian, c. A.D. 165

Nor even ought the ineffable [unnameable] God to be presented with gifts, for he who lacks nothing is not to be misrepresented by us as though he were needy. (Address to the Greeks 4)

Athenagoras, A.D. 177

As to our not sacrificing, the Framer and Father of this universe does not need blood, nor the odor of burnt-offerings, nor the fragrance of flowers and incense. He is perfect fragrance, needing nothing either within or without.

   The noblest sacrifice to him is for us to know who stretched out and vaulted the heavens, fixed the earth in its place like a center, gathered the water into seas, and divided the light from the darkness. He adorned the sky with stars and made the earth to bring forth seed of every kind. He made animals and fashioned man. When we hold God to be this Framer of all things … and we lift up holy hands to him, what need has he further of a hecatomb [sacrifice of 100 cattle]?

    … And what have I to do with holocausts [whole burnt offerings], which God does not stand in need of? Though indeed it does behoove us to offer a bloodless sacrifice and the service of our reason. (A Plea for the Christians 13)

Apostolic Constitutions, c. AD 250-300

This is a long quote, but the last paragraph of the quote sums up the point. The meaning of this quote is that God originally gave Israel a law, especially the ten commandments, that was in line with the freedom that the patriarchs had. After they turned on him, though, by making the golden calf, he added a harsher law filled with "sacrificing, and resting, and purifying themselves, and ... similar observances." This was done to constrain them to hold to him. This quote is an excellent overview and explanation of the other early Christian quotes about the Law of Moses and sacrifices.

Now the law is the decalogue, which the Lord promulgated to them with an audible voice, before the people made that calf which represented the Egyptian Apis. And the law is righteous, and therefore is it called the law, because judgments are thence made according to the law of nature ... This law is good, holy, and such as lays no compulsion in things positive. For He says: "If thou wilt make me an altar, thou shalt make it of earth." It does not say, "Make one," but, "If thou wilt make." It does not impose a necessity, but gives leave to their own free liberty.

For God does not stand in need of sacrifices, being by nature above all want. But knowing that, as of old, Abel, beloved of God, and Noah and Abraham, and those that succeeded, without being required, but only moved of themselves by the law of nature, did offer sacrifice to God out of a grateful mind; so He did now permit the Hebrews, not commanding, but, if they had a mind, permitting them; and if they offered from a right intention, showing Himself pleased with their sacrifices. Therefore He says: "If thou desirest to offer, do not offer to me as to one that stands in need of it, for I stand in need of nothing; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof."

But when this people became forgetful of that, and called upon a calf as God, instead of the true God, and to him did ascribe the cause of their coming out of Egypt, saying, "These are thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt;" and when these men had committed wickedness with the "similitude of a calf that eateth hay;" and denied God who had visited them by Moses in their afflictions ... whose voice He had vouchsafed to let them hear; Him did they deny, and said to Aaron, "Make us gods who shall go before us;" and they made a molten calf, and sacrificed to an idol;—then was God angry, as being ungratefully treated by them, and bound them with bonds which could not be loosed, with a mortifying burden and a hard collar, and no longer said, "If thou makest," but, "Make an altar," and sacrifice perpetually; for thou art forgetful and ungrateful. Offer burnt-offerings therefore continually, that thou mayest be mindful of me.

For since thou hast wickedly abused thy power, I lay a necessity upon thee for the time to come, and I command thee to abstain from certain meats; and I ordain thee the distinction of clean and unclean creatures, although every creature is good, as being made by me; and I appoint thee several separations, purgations, frequent washings and sprinklings, several purifications, and several times of rest; and if thou neglectest any of them, I determine that punishment which is proper to the disobedient, that being pressed and galled by thy collar, thou mayest depart from the error of polytheism, and laying aside that, "These are thy gods, O Israel," mayest be mindful of that, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord;" and mayest run back again to that law which is inserted by me in the nature of all men, that "there is only one God in heaven and on earth, and to love Him with all thy heart, and all thy might, and all thy mind," and to fear none but Him, nor to admit the names of other gods into thy mind, nor to let thy tongue utter them out of thy mouth.

He bound them for the hardness of their hearts, that by sacrificing, and resting, and purifying themselves, and by similar observances, they might come to the knowledge of God, who ordained these things for them. (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles. Bk. VI. Sec. IV. Par. 20.)

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