The blood of the lamb

Having recently posted on Jesus as the new Manna and the new Bread of Presence, a correspendent asks me whether Brant Pitre has anything to say about the blood. Indeed he does.

Brant Pitre’s thesis is that Jesus identifies himself as the passover lamb and instituted a new passover. Jesus’s body and blood are the flesh and blood of the lamb.

In the Old Testament, the blood of the lamb – smeared on the doorpost in the sign of the cross – was more than just a sacrifice. The angel of the Lord passes over the houses so marked, but visits death on the houses of the Egyptians. The blood had the power to save the Israelites from death.

Already in John 6, Jesus had said:

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day.

This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.
– John 6:53-59 (NAB)

Drinking blood was strictly forbidden in Judaism (Genesis 9:3-4). Leviticus 17 explains: The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls. Furthermore, Yahweh says: I will set my face against that person who eats blood, and cut him off from his people.

Jesus’s saying – explicitly breaking this blood taboo – would have been extremely shocking to his listeners.

Then many of his disciples who were listening said, This saying is hard; who can accept it?

As a result of this, many (of) his disciples returned to their former way of life and no longer accompanied him.
– John 6:60,66 (NAB)

Now in the Passover, which was a ritualized meal, four cups of wine were drunk. Brant describes the traditional Passover and compares it to Jesus’s passover as described in Luke 22.

The first cup, the kiddush cup or cup of sanctification was taken before the meal began. The wine was mixed with a little water and a blessing pronounced, very similar to that in the Catholic Mass: Blessed are you, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who created the fruit of the vine.

The second cup, the haggadah cup or cup of proclamation, was mixed immediately afterwards but not drunk. Instead the father of the household would explain the meaning of the passover meal. Then all the participants would sing Psalms 113-114 in thanksgiving. These two psalms, along with Psalms 115-118, were known as the Hallel Psalms or psalms of praise and were sung over the course of the meal.

The third cup, the berakah cup or cup of blessing (see also 1 Corinthians 10:16) signalled the beginning of the actual meal, which probably began with an appetizer – perhaps the morsel that Judas dips into the dish before going out (John 13-26:27). After this the meal would be eaten.

At the conclusion of the meal, the remaining portion of the Hallel psalms were sung and the fourth cup, the hallel cup or cup of praise, was drunk.

Now, when we read Luke 22, we find that the meal appears to end with the third cup. Indeed, Jesus says:

I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out.
– Matthew 26:27-30

The implication is that the fourth cup is postponed. They go out to the garden of Gethsemane and Jesus prays, let this cup – the fourth cup – pass from me (Matthew 26:39). The fourth cup will be the cup of the cup of Jesus’ own blood.

Just before the crucifixion, Jesus refuses the wine mixed with myrrh, given to benumb the senses. But, on the cross and at the final moment, Jesus requests a drink. When he has tasted the wine, he says: It is finished, and gives up his spirit.

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~ by scalambra on June 5, 2011.

3 Responses to “The blood of the lamb”

  1. A sometimes annoying colleague at Saint J.’s, a Catholic, always makes the same reply to Protestant hostility towards the Virgin Mary with the remark ‘Yes, but where did the blood of the Lamb come from ?
    from Mary !’

    I should be at Saint J.’s this Fri. and Sat.

    Scalambra I have ‘discovered’ the possible illustrative source of the Layer Monument quaternity and would like to share it with you, valuing your assessment greatly.

    • Hydrotaphia, very interesting news about the Layer Monumnet! I will try to pop in soon – drop me an email letting me know when you might be in St Johns

  2. Ever see this site ? I read it occasionally http://goddidntsaythat.com/

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