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Jesus is referred as the lamb who took away the sin of the world:

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29 ESV)

In addition to lambs, Leviticus prescribes sacrifices of bulls, goats, etc. What's the argument that supports that it fulfills and fits all imperative procedures for the removal of sin? Since the lamb isn’t the only animal required for redemption, does Christ fully or partly fulfill the redemption plan? I'm a Christian myself, so I'll need biblical proofs.

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    Can you clarify which Scriptures you have in mind that refer to the lamb as an animal offered for redemption?
    – user33515
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 13:37
  • A biblical text must be given to base a hermeneutical Q on, Ken. Also, the Q seems to assume that the sacrifice for redemption (or 'ransom') that Jesus made had to conform to all details regarding a lamb sacrificed in Jerusalem's temple. Is it not the other way around? Is not Christ the 'original,' "sacrificed from the founding of the world" Rev.13:8, and earthly animal sacrifices were but a shadow of that heavenly reality? Your Q would benefit from more explanation as to your suppositions.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 14:04
  • I edited the question to bring it in conformance with this site's guidelines. If removal of sin is not what you are asking about, you should provide Scripture to make clear the connection between taking away the sin (singular) of the world and the redemption plan. Commented Feb 2, 2022 at 16:45

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There are two questions here:

1. Animals Sacrificed

There were many animals used as a sacrifice for various purposes such as:

  • Lambs: Num 24:9, 28:4, 21, 29:10, Ex 12:4, Lev 14:10, etc.
  • Bulls: Num 8:8, 2 Chron 30:24, Lev 4:4, 20, 21, 8:14, 16:11, etc
  • Goats: Lev 3:12, 9:15, 16:9, 15, etc
  • Doves and pigeons: Lev 1:14, etc
  • Heifer: Deut 21:3, 4, Num 19:5, 6, 9, etc

2. Why Messiah (Jesus) is likened to a lamb

Jesus is likened to a sacrificial lamb in places such as: John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19.

The sacrifice of the lamb was especially significant because it was used:

  • As the Passover sacrifice, Ex 12:4, and Jesus was crucified at Passover time. This the point of history where Israel was released from slavery
  • Lambs were sacrificed "morning and evening" as the "regular" or "daily" or "continual" at the temple/tabernacle, Num 28:4, Ex 29:39

Thus, Jesus represents the sacrifice that frees us from slavery to sin, John 8:32, 34-36, Gal 5:13, 14, 3:22, Acts 13:38, 39, Rom 6:14, 15, 22, 1 Peter 2:16, 19, Rom 8:1-4, Luke 4:18, 19, etc.

Jesus eternal sacrifice is once for all and also frees us from slavery to the ceremonial law, 1 Cor 3:12-17, 6:12, 13, Eph 3:12, Acts 13:38, 39, Gal 2:4, Rom 6:14, etc.

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  • +1 Passover is the key to symbolizing Jesus as the lamb of God.
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Feb 5, 2022 at 0:28
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Clearly not, for the Hebrew scriptures detail other animals used sacrificially with regard to various sins. Different animals were used to symbolically "deal with" sin. No animal sacrifices could actually take sins away for "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4). But because blood represents life, the shed and sprinkled blood of various animals was used to teach sinful humans the cost of their sin being dealt with by God. Life had to be taken, that they might not instantly die, for "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

We have the benefit of hindsight, knowing what Christ's death achieved and why he had to die sacrificially, like a lamb, but before Jesus came into the world, God's people could only look forward, not knowing that Christ was the reality, "sacrificed from the founding of the world" Revelation 13:8. Earthly animal sacrifices were but shadows pointing to the eternal, heavenly reality. Only Christ has the substance. Animal sacrifices were but illustrative of him, with no need of any more after his perfect, once-for-all-time sacrifice of himself.

To give but one example of how various animals were used to deal with sin, read Leviticus chapter 4, where a young bullock, or a kid of the goats, a male, or in other cases a female, or a female lamb could all be sacrificed to deal with human sins.

This is where the Hebrew words used to say what those sacrifices symbolised needs mention in some detail. This will help us understand what Christ has actually achieved. In Revelation he is described several times as standing in the midst of God's throne in heaven, as a lamb that had been slain (past tense) yet fully alive (Revelation 5:6).

I suggested reading all of Leviticus chapter 4, where most translations say those animal sacrifices "atoned for" peoples' sins (vss. 20, 26, 31, 35). Exodus chapter 30 also speaks of an annual day of sacrifices for national sin, usually called "the Day of Atonement". Yet nowhere in the English Bible does the verb 'atone' ever occur. The Hebrew word (kippurim) is taken as expressing at-one-ment, and has been attached to the Hebrew word 'kaphar' which is also said to mean 'cover'. So, sometimes we read atonement in English and other times it is cover. But the word kaphar is not the same word as kippurim. Also, the word kaphar is repeatedly translated 'make an atonement' or similar, implying that the Hebrew consists of a phrase containing the verb 'to make', then an article, then a noun. This is not so. The original contains just the verb kaphar - supposedly meaning cover. It seems to have been decided that an 'at-one-ment' shall be 'made' but we are not told what, exactly, that means.

Also, that when this is expressed as a noun (or perhaps a participle) in a plural way, it remains singular in the English. Kaphar is a verb. It has no plural. Twice kaphar has been translated wrongly as village; it should be 'city' for it is walled - it is a containment. Kaphar, and its noun, kopher, is a matter of containment - NOT 'cover'. But the English way of rendering, 'cover' relates to the idea expressed by the English word 'forgiven'.

In Romans 5:11, Wycliffe's 1388 translation does not have the word 'atonement' (as most of our modern versions have it). He puts "by whom we have received now reconciling." This accords with vs. 10 which has 'were reconcilled'.

Yom Kippurim is the Hebrew behind the English translation of 'Day of Atonement' but that actually means the Day of Branchings'. Yom Kippurah would be the correct singular, but that never occurs in scripture, so there is no actual Day (singular) of Atonement in the Bible. Two biblical concepts have been hidden under the word 'atonement'. Kaphar, from kaph (the hand) is a matter of containment 'in hand'. It does not mean gripped, but contained in the way one would carry water to one's mouth in a cupped hand. Kaphar is strongly linked to the word 'nasa' - uplift. So, the Psalms show that David's sins were 'nasa' uplifted - and, being then uplifted from him, were kaphar - contained in hand by God - until that time when all would be fully resolved in righteousness, within Christ at Golgotha.

In Christ alone are sins uplifted, and those who find that happening to them know that their sins have been lifted up and away from them. All their sin is, by grace and faith, fully resolved in righteousness within Christ. He accomplished that at Golgotha, when sacrificed like a perfect lamb. We receive by faith the benefit of his finished work there. None of the millions of literal lambs sacrificed over the centuries could do more than point to this one, awesome sacrifice of Christ, because he is the substance; they were only ever shadows.

This is not a detour away from the question because to understand the answer, we need to know the reality of Christ as the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world and how literal lamb sacrifices cannot be the measure to which Christ ought to compare; it's the otherway around. No literal lamb can ever redeem from sin because atonement is not what such sacrifices were ever about. They were about symbolism for sin being lifted up and taken away. Jesus actually came down to do that, then he was lifted up, and taken back into heaven as "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).

The Cherubim of Glory, Nigel Johnstone pp42-43, 155-168 snippets (Belmont Publications 2015)

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  • Help, someone! The last para went wild, I know not why, going into large size, bold format. Can someone make it like the rest?
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 3, 2022 at 16:53
  • Thanks to Lesley, who dealt with my recalcitrant last para.!
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 6, 2022 at 14:35
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Is the lamb the only animal required for redemption? - No.

Confessional Prayers with Repentant Behavior (not bribery through sacrifice) atones for sins, as declared in [ II שְׁמוּאֵל Shmuel 12:13 ] - and decreed in [1 Chronicles 7:14] - and decreed in [ הוֹשֵׁעַ Hoshea 6:6 ] "For I desire kindness, and not sacrifices, and knowledge of God more than burnt offerings." (כִּי חֶסֶד חָפַצְתִּי וְלֹא־זָבַח וְדַעַת אֱלֹהִים מֵעֹלֽוֹת) - as sung in [ תְּהִלִּים Tehillim 49] "a brother cannot redeem a man, he cannot give his ransom to God." (אָח לֹֽא־פָדֹה יִפְדֶּה אִישׁ לֹֽא־יִתֵּן לֵאלֹהִים כָּפְרֽוֹ) - as sung in [תְּהִלִּים Tehillim 51] "For You do not wish a sacrifice, or I should give it; You do not desire a burnt offering." (כִּי לֹא־תַחְפֹּץ זֶ֣בַח וְאֶתֵּנָה עוֹלָ֗ה לֹא תִרְצֶה) "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; O God, You will not despise a broken and crushed heart." ( זִֽבְחֵי אֱלֹהִים֘ רוּחַ נִשְׁבָּרָה לֵב־נִשְׁבָּר וְנִדְכֶּה א֜לֹהִ֗ים לֹא תִבְזֶה )

Based on Torah alone, the only “Messiah” | Ha-Mashiach הַמָּשִׁיחַ ever mentioned by Moses to Atone for unintentional sins was in [ וַיִּקְרָא Vayikra | Leviticus 4] - High Priest (Kohen Gadol) who atones for unintentional sins with 'proper' (kosher) animals used as instruments of guilt to be burnt by the anointed High Priest as odorous reminders of unintentional sins. The only male Animal set aside for unintentional sin atonement the [ "innocent" (תָּמִים Tamim) male בָּקָר Bull ]

The sacrifice of the innocent male Bull is metaphorically linked to the slaughter of an innocent man - [ יְשַׁעְיָהוּ Yeshayahu 66:3]. The slaughter of one's own spiritual innocence is represented by the smell of the Burnt Offering. And the loss of our innocence is not desired, as stated in [ יְשַׁעְיָהוּ Yeshayahu 1:11] "Of what use are your many sacrifices to Me? says the Lord. I am sated with the burnt-offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle; and the blood of bulls and sheep and hegoats I do not want." (לָמָּה־לִּ֚י רֹֽב־זִבְחֵיכֶם֙ יֹאמַ֣ר יְהֹוָ֔ה שָׂבַ֛עְתִּי עֹל֥וֹת אֵילִ֖ים וְחֵ֣לֶב מְרִיאִ֑ים וְדַ֨ם פָּרִ֧ים וּכְבָשִׂ֛ים וְעַתּוּדִ֖ים לֹ֥א חָפָֽצְתִּי)

If animals like male bulls are not desired as burnt offerings (representative of sinful behavior), then the desire of human atonement must be for innocent behavior, as stated in [ יְחֶזְקֵאל Yechezqel 18:32] "For I do not desire the death of him who dies, says Lord YHVH: so turn away and live!" (כִּ֣י לֹ֚א אֶחְפֹּץ֙ בְּמ֣וֹת הַמֵּ֔ת נְאֻ֖ם אֲדֹנָ֣י יֱהֹוִ֑ה וְהָשִׁ֖יבוּ וִֽחְיֽוּ)

As a strange violation of the Torah's sacrificial laws regarding blood consumption of lambs [Leviticus 17:10-14, Deuteronomy 12:23, Deuteronomy 15:23], Some Readers of the NT [John 6:53-54] do not consider the resurrection of disciples into the eternal presence of YHVH was never dependent in Tanakh on the figurative drinking of Blood in remembrance of any sacrificial Lamb of God [John 1:29].

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