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SACRIFICE AND REVELATION IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS: OBSERVATIONS AND SURMISES ON HEBREWS 9,26
It is a commonplace of contemporary biblical research that the under standing of biblical categories (a) is essential for progress in understand ing Scripture and (b) is difficult. The present note, written with this commonplace in mind, attempts to elucidate what seems to be a N T cate gory, sacrifice as revelatory, with particular attention to Heb 9,26. The revelatory aspect of biblical sacrifice has been pointed out in several modern treatments. 1 A number of OT sacrifices were characterized by revelatory elements : the covenant sacrifice of Abraham and the revelation of the future of his descendants and their relation to God (Gn 15) ; 2 the sacrifice associated with the Passover and the sign of divine protection in blood ( E x 12,113,16) ; 3 Gideon's sacrifice and the revelation that it was Yahweh who was speaking to him (Jgs 6,17-24) ; 4 Elijah's sacrifice in competition with the prophets of Baal and the revelation of Yahweh's supremacy over Baal (1 Kgs 18,21-39).5 Sacrifice is a notoriously thorny subject, and despite all that has been written on the subject there is abun dant lack of agreement among scholars on its nature and function in the Hebrew mentality. But the texts cited above do seem to indicate as they stand in the Bible that there is a relation between some sacrifices and revelation of aspects of the divinity in regard to man. What is vague and uncertain in the OT regarding the possible relation between sacrifice and revelation is perhaps somewhat less so in the N T . This is not to say that the relation is obvious or certain : unqualified cate gorical assertions, given the present state of knowledge, would be unwarR. K. Yerkes, Sacrifice in Greek and Roman Religions and Early Judaism (New York: Scribners, 1952) 200-202; Markus Barth, Was Christ's Death a Sacrifice? {ScotJ Occasional Papers, 9; Edinburgh-London: Oliver & Boyd, 1961) 31; H. Wheeler Robinson, The Religious Ideas of the Old Testament (New York: Scribners, 1919) 148. Yerkes stresses the role of sacrifice in attempting to learn (and follow) the divine will. Robinson stresses revelation to the point of exaggeration: ". . . the whole conception of sacrifice falls under the category of revelation; this is the way God has commanded sacrifice to be offered, and when it is offered in this prescribed way the worshipper effectually draws near to God" (op, cit. 148). 2 Barth, op. cit. 17. 3 Ibid. 21. 4 Ibid. 31. 5 Ibid.
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ranted. But it seems justified to state that several N T loci seem to point to a common view that the sacrifice of Christ was in some way associated with an act of revealing. The most explicit of the N T texts which seem to associate sacrifice and revelation is Heb 9,26. There it is stated that "once and for all, at the closing of the ages, for the annulling of sin, through his sacrifice, he [Christ] has been made manifest" (pephanertai) (or, "for the annulling of sin through his sacrifice, he has been made manifest" ; in the latter interpretation the association of sacrifice with revelation is not as explicit but it is still present). The context of this statement is the imagery of the Day of Atonement ceremonies which, along with the imagery of the Sinai covenant, dominates chapter 9. Specifically, Heb 9,26b is to be understood in the light of Heb 9,8, where the holy place of the desert tabernacle is viewed as obscuring the "way" into the holy of holies. Only with Christ's entrance does the way become manifest (cf. Heb 10,19-20). Thus Christ's sacrifice of himself has made himself manifest as the means of access to the holy of holies. In view of this association of the imagery of the holy of holies with Christ's sacrifice it is instructive to note two other N T texts where the association of Christ's sacrifice with traditional Hebrew cult symbolism seems to occur: Rom 3,21-26 and Ap 4,1. Romans 3,25 Rom 3,21-26 is, of course, a pericope about which differences of opinion flourish.6 The present treatment follows the recent detailed study of Pre Stanislas Lyonnet.7 According to Lyonnet, the word hilastrion in Rom 3,25 is understood by Paul primarily with reference to its OT antecedents, and not primarily with reference to the contemporary culture.8 In the LXX the word is used to refer to the physical cover of the ark or to that which stood for the cover in the ideal temple of Ezekiel. This cover was an important element in the holy of holies by reason of its function, and it was termed the "propitiation-place" (hilastrion) by reason of that function ;9 the entire sanctuary could be termed the "house of the propitiationFor a somewhat dated but still valuable treatment of the problems involved in the interpretation of hilastrion in Rom 3,25 see William SandayArthur C. Headlam, The Epistle to the Romans (ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, *1908) 871 7 Stanislaus Lyonnet, S J., De peccato et redemptione. II. De vocabulario redemptions (Rome: PBI, 1960) 106-117. 8 Ibid. 108. 9 Ibid., 110-112. Lyonnet, writing in Latin, uses the term "propitiatorium" for the Hebrew kappret and the Greek hilastrion, thus focusing attention (as the Hebrew
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place" by reason of it 1 0 The propitiation-place was holy, the place of God's presence, his throne. 11 But most significant for the present purpose is the fact that the propitiation-place was the scene of God's communication with his people.12 Furthermore, the propitiation-place had a special role in the sacrificial ritual of the Day of Atonement as well as during other times of the year. 13 As the scene of God's communication with his people the propitiation-place served, for example, as the focal point for his "appearances" to Moses.14 As an important part of the apparatus of the Day of Atonement ritual it was smeared with blood in connection with the remission of Israel's sins. In connection with other sacrifices, too, the propitiation-place was sprinkled indirectly with blood inasmuch as the blood was directed to the curtain which was in front of the sanctuary.15 The text in Rom presents Christ as the propitiation-place, and the context and text itself speak of revelation and of sacrifice. In v. 21 it is said that the justice of God "has been made manifest" (pephanertai), and in v. 25 itself mention is made of the blood of Christ. The stress in Rom is on the unrestricted nature of the manifestation of Christ as focal point of sacrificial remission of sin in contrast with the restricted manifestation of God's justice in the sacrificial remission of sin under the old dispensation.1* Apocalypse 4,1 In Ap 4,1 the statement is made that there was a "door open in heaven" and that this open door was the occasion for a vision by the seer. The center of the vision is the Messiah under the figure of a lamb which has been slain and which has redeemed through its blood (cf. Ap 5,5-10) Padre Giovanni Rinaldi has suggested that the background of this imagery
and Greek seem to do) on the function of the cult object. The English "propitiationplace" attempts to do the same. 10 Ibid. 112. Lyonnet refers to 1 Chr 28,11, where the sanctuary is called the "house of the propitiation-place" (in the Hebrew, bet hakkappdret; in the LXX: oikos tou exilasmou). 11 Lyonnet, op. cit. 113. 12 Ibid. 113. Ibid. 113f. 14 Nm 7,89. 15 Lvl6,14ff.; Lv 4. 1 It is the "open" nature of Christ's manifestation as portrayed in Rom 3,25 which SandayHeadlam cite as being one reason why hilastrion should not be understood with reference to the cover of the holy of holies (op. cit. 87). But this argumentation is valid only if the supposition on which it is based is valid : that the Christian cult "fulfills" the Old Law cult in terms of exact correspondence.

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is the ideal temple of Ez 46,1-12, with its open gate between the outer and inner court to permit the people to see the sacrifices performed in the latter place.17 Whether this specific attribution is justified or not, it is clear from the presence of the sacrificed lamb that there is general question of some sacred building.18 Further, it is this open door which seems to allow the seer to have the lengthy vision which culminates in the open holy of holies and the vision of the Ark of the Covenant (Ap 11,19) and which in turn permits a new vision.19 Thus it would seem that the "slain lamb" which is the center of the vision is associated with the door which had been opened and with the holy of holies which had been opened. Again, though in a context considerably different from the context of Rom 3 and in a different genre of writing, there is the theme of a revelation associated with Christ's sacrifice. Hebrews 9,26 Against the background of Rom 3,21-26 and Ap 4,1 it would seem legitimate to place Heb 9,26. For in Heb 9,26 there is question of Christ becoming manifest through sacrifice. True, the context of the Heb passage is quite different from that of either Rom or Ap. Further, there is always a risk involved in wandering through the NT, pointing to analogies here and there. But in the case of the sacrifice-revelation association it would seem that the combination is too unusual to be fortuitous, particularly when it is placed against a similar association in the OT and against the passion catechesis in which Christ's death on the cross is associated by all three Synoptics with the rending of the veil in the temple.20 Granted the existence of a N T category linking sacrifice and revelation, it does not follow that the category is to be interpreted univocally in every passage in which it occurs. In Heb it should be interpreted in the light of the context of Heb.
17 Giovanni Rinaldi, C.R.S., "La porta aperta nel cielo," CBQ 25 (1963) 336-347, especially 343f. is Ibid. 341. 19 "Nella porta che 'sta aperta* e nella voce che invita a salire concretizzato in immagine il pensiero dell'iniziativa, che parte da Dio, per l'elevazione dell'uomo alla conoscenza dei misteri." Ibid. 346. 20 Cf. J. E. Yates, The Spirit and the Kingdom (London: SPCK, 1963) 232-237 (Appendix A) : "The Velum Scissum: Mark 15.38." Yates maintains that the veil in question is the inner veil of the temple, and that the reference is to the historical death of Jesus on the cross and to the divine acceptance of his sacrifice. It is Christ as the new temple who is thus revealed (cf. 236f.). In Mt, as in Mk, the rending of the veil is placed immediately after the verse describing the death of Jesus ; in Lk, it is immediately before.

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In Heb Christ "has been made manifest through his sacrifice" (Heb 9,26). This is to be understood in the light of Heb 9,8 as a manifestation of the "way" into the holy of holies and in the light of Heb 10,19-20. In the latter text Christ's earthly "flesh" (sarx)21 is said to be the "curtain" (katapetasma)22 "through" which he inaugurated the new "way." In the rather elaborate conceit which the author of Heb has chosen to follow, the supposition would seem to be that Christ's earthly body is like the curtain which hangs in front of the holy of holies : each hides the innermost reality of God's cultic relations to man. When Christ's earthly body is pierced in sacrificial death, the innermost reality of God's cultic relations to man is revealed.28 In Heb Christ is manifested through Christ's sacrifice. This is the statement of Heb 9,26. Further, if the interpretation of Heb 10,20 above is correct, Christ's earthly flesh (sarx) when sacrificed manifests Christ who has died : the Christ who has been manifested is the Christ who has been sacrificed. This seems to be part of what is implied in Heb 2,9, where the addressees and the author are pictured as "gazing on" Jesus who "because of suffering death has been crowned with glory and honor." It is interesting to note the use of soma in Heb with reference to Christ at 10,5.10 and 13,11, for the word seems to be used with the connotations of a body which is associated with sacrifice.24 But the Christ who has been made manifest is not just a Christ who has died. He is above all a Christ who is risen and who is alive. The resurrection is mentioned explicitly in Heb only at 13,20.25 But this does
21 "An allen diesen Stellen [sc, in all texts in the Epistle to the Hebrews where the word sarx occurs] beschreibt sarx zwar den irdischen Bereich, der von Gottes Welt getrennt ist. Aber nirgends ist damit der Gedanke an die Snde verbunden. Wie das Kultgesetz im Verhltnis zum neuen Bund, so ist der irdische Bereich im Verhltnis zum himmlischen der nicht gengende, vorlufige, vom Tode bedrohte, nie aber der rebellische, sich gegen Gott auflehnende." E. Schweizer, art. "sarx" ThWNT 7, 143. 22 It is instructive to notice how close is the connection in the NT between the word katapetasma and the body of Christ: Mt 27,51; Mk 15,38; Lk 23,45; Heb 6,19; 9,3; 10,20. 28 Cf. William Manson, The Epistle to the Hebrews: An Historical and Theological Reconsideration (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1951) 67f. 2 * "Eine besondere Note klingt in Hb 10,5.10; (13,11); 1 Pt 2,24 an. Zwar ist vom Leibe Jesu die Rede, der stirbt und auferweckt wird, bzw von Tierleibern, die wie er ausserhalb des Lagers verbrannt werden. Das entspricht ganz dem Sprachgebrauch, nach dem der Tod und Auferweckung erfahrende Mensch als soma gekennzeichnet i s t . . . . Der Ton liegt aber darauf, dass Jesus seinen Leib bewusst zum Opfer darbringt." E. Schweizer, art. "sma," ThWNT 7, 1055. 2 Cf. Rom 10,7.

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not necessarily mean that the author of Heb is not particularly interested in the resurrection, 2a for he could well view it under a different aspect. That aspect would seem to be the sessio of Christ at the right hand of the throne of God, i.e., the attainment by Christ of full kingship.27 The act of Christ's attaining kingship is central for the author of the epistle because for him Christ's kingship is central. In the elaborate period which graces the opening verses of the epistle this theme is announced : ". . . he took his seat on the right of the majesty in the heights . . . ." The act in which Christ took his seat is the same act of entering the holy of holies as the priestly act of sacrifice (cf. Heb 10,12). In sacrificing himself Christ has manifested himself. And since in sacrificing himself he has become king, this manifestation is the manifestation of himself as king. Just as Christ's death is viewed as a sacrifice (cf. the parallelism in 9,27-28), so Christ's resurrection is viewed as an act of assuming kingship under the imagery of taking a seat at the right of God's throne (cf. 8,1 and 12,2). This Jesus whom the Christians "gaze upon" is not only one who has suffered but one who "because of suffering death has been crowned with glory and honor" (2,9). In brief, the Christ who has been made manifest by sacrifice is a priest-king. The priest-king is not yet in a definitive state : all things have not yet actually been subordinated to him (2,8b), though all things have been subordinated to him in principle (2,8a). What seems to be meant is the royal coming of Christ in some external form so that he may be "seen" (cf. 2,8b; 9,28) bringing judgment on his enemies (10,14; 9,27-28) and salvation to his people (9,28; 10,28-31). This is the eschatological aspect so clearly delineated in the epistle. But this future state of being "seen" is distinct from the "being manifest" through sacrifice which is pictured as being contemporaneous with the writing of the epistle. What is the precise way in which the manifestation has taken place ? It would seem that the manifestation of which the author of Heb speaks did not take place on the cross when Christ died, for on the cross was a dead Christ who had been alive whereas in Heb he is a live Christ who has died. True, the manifestation is made through sacrifice and this sacrifice involves Christ's death. But it is instructive to notice in the epistle as a whole and particularly in the passage 9,11-28 that Christ's death tends to be mentioned in function of Christ's sacrifice, and not vice versa. The
26 Pace C. Spicq, O.P., L'ptre aux Hbreux I (tudes bibliques ; Paris : Gabalda, 21952) 315. 27 Cf. CBQ 29 (1967) 156.

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imagery which the author of Heb uses explains this : he uses the imagery of access to and entrance into the holy of holies of the Mosaic tent on the Day of Atonement. He is concerned with Christ's sacrificial manifestation in terms of cult. Christ is depicted as being manifest "within" the holy of holies,28 where he has taken his seat at the right of God's throne. Christ has been manifested in a cult sacrifice, and he is still manifest in relation to that cult sacrifice. That sacrifice is related to Christ's death; indeed, it has validity only by reason of Christ's death (9,17). But in itself it is a cultic reality.29 The hypothesis of cultic sacrifice as a medium of divine revelation offers an arresting new perspective from which to view one of the minor cruces of the epistle: 12,24-25: (24) "[You have approached] Jesus, mediator of a new testament, and sprinkled-blood speaking better than Abel's.30 (25) See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less shall we escape should we reject him who warns from heaven." One difficulty here is to decide who is doing the speaking in v. 25 ; a related difficulty is the abrupt transition between w . 24 and 25. If cultic sacrifice is viewed by the author of Heb as a medium of divine revelation, then there is no abrupt transition between vv. 24 and 25, nor is there any doubt that God is speaking: he is speaking in Christ's blood (Christ is mediator; cf. Heb 1,2). God spoke through one who "warned" on earth (cf. Heb 1,1) and now he speaks through one who "warns" from heaven (cf. Heb 12,25-26). Neither Moses, who warned on earth, nor Christ, who warns from heaven, is said to be "speaking." It is God who is speaking in them : they are mediators. God speaks in various ways (Heb 1,1),81 and in Christ he speaks in blood.82 The passage 12,24-26 is parallel to 10,26-31, where rejection of
28 SandayHeadlam (op. cit. 87) argue that the Christian hilastrion as "place of sprinkling" in the literal sense, is the cross on which Christ died. This is true. But for the author of Rom (and for the author of Heb) is the Christian hilastrion the place where Christ sprinkled his blood or rather the "propitiation-place"? It would seem that the latter is true: that Christ is the new focal point of God's redeeming presence to man, where he communicates with man. 29 Cf. the theory of the present writer that in Heb 9,11-12 the "greater and more perfect tent" is Christ's body as Eucharistie sacrifice: "'The Greater and More Perfect Tent'. A Contribution to the Discussion of Hebrews 9,11," Bib 47 (1966) 81-106; "On the Imagery and Significance of Hebrews 9,9-10," CBQ 28 (1966) 155-173, especially 171f. so Cf. Heb 11,4. 31 The cultic relevance of Heb 1,1 has been hinted at by Lyonnet, op. cit. 113. On the relation between sight and hearing as modalities of divine revelation cf. note 19 above. 32 This last statement is to be understood in an affirmative, not an exclusive, sense.

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the Law of Moses is contrasted with possible rejection of the cultic blood of Christ ("the blood of the testament ,, ). 33 Conclusion The theme of revelation in Heb is a rich one and it would be beyond the scope of this paper to do more than point out something which is not pointed out sufficiently in discussions of the subject: that revelation in Heb occurs in the context of a writing which is preoccupied with cult. Whether the basic surmise advanced in this paperthe association of revelation with sacrifice in the Epistle to the Hebrewsis justified remains to be tested by time.34 But it seems safe to say that unless the difficulties inherent in establishing this type of category are overcome, no substantial progress will be made in understanding the theology of the epistle.
JAMES SWETNAM, S.J.

Pontifical Biblical Rome, Italy

Institute

The contrast between the tenses of the verb lalein in Heb 1,2 and Heb 12,24-25 is perhaps to be understood in the context of Christ's unique entrance by which he is constituted priest-king once and for all and the cultic presence of that act. For in Heb 1,2 God spoke (elalsen) in one who is son, but in Heb 12,24-25 the blood of Jesus is speaking (lalounti, lalounta) contemporaneously with the addressees. The cultic blood of Jesus testifies to the past act by which God acted in Christ. 33 The contrast between Christ and the Law in Heb 10,26-31 is so pointed that one has the impression that the author of Heb regards the Christ of cult as somehow constituting the New Law. This impression is reinforced by the parallelism between the impotency of the Old Law in perfecting its devotees and the success of Christ in perfecting his. Compare Heb 10,1 and 10,14. 34 It will be interesting to see the effect of the current liturgical changes in the Roman Catholic Church on the trends in Roman Catholic exegesis. Exegesis certainly influences the liturgy; but perhaps the influence of liturgy on exegesis will also be a source of new insights into old truths.

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