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Question: 101 [<< | >>]
Article: 3 [<< | >>]
Objection 1: It would seem that no suitable cause can be assigned for the
ceremonies pertaining to sacrifices. For those things which were offered
in sacrifice, are those which are necessary for sustaining human life:
such as certain animals and certain loaves. But God needs no such
sustenance; according to Ps. 49:13: "Shall I eat the flesh of bullocks?
Or shall I drink the blood of goats?" Therefore such sacrifices were
unfittingly offered to God.
Objection 2: Further, only three kinds of quadrupeds were offered in sacrifice
to God, viz. oxen, sheep and goats; of birds, generally the turtledove
and the dove; but specially, in the cleansing of a leper, an offering was
made of sparrows. Now many other animals are more noble than these. Since
therefore whatever is best should be offered to God, it seems that not
only of these three should sacrifices have been offered to Him.
Objection 3: Further, just as man has received from God the dominion over
birds and beasts, so also has he received dominion over fishes.
Consequently it was unfitting for fishes to be excluded from the divine
Objection 4: Further, turtledoves and doves indifferently are commanded to be
offered up. Since then the young of the dove are commanded to be offered,
so also should the young of the turtledove.
Objection 5: Further, God is the Author of life, not only of men, but also of
animals, as is clear from Gn. 1:20, seqq. Now death is opposed to life.
Therefore it was fitting that living animals rather than slain animals
should be offered to God, especially as the Apostle admonishes us (Rm. 12:1), to present our bodies "a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto
Objection 6: Further, if none but slain animals were offered in sacrifice to
God, it seems that it mattered not how they were slain. Therefore it was
unfitting that the manner of immolation should be determined, especially
as regards birds (Lev. 1:15, seqq.).
Objection 7: Further, every defect in an animal is a step towards corruption
and death. If therefore slain animals were offered to God, it was
unreasonable to forbid the offering of an imperfect animal, e.g. a lame,
or a blind, or otherwise defective animal.
Objection 8: Further, those who offer victims to God should partake thereof,
according to the words of the Apostle (1 Cor. 10:18): "Are not they that
eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?" It was therefore
unbecoming for the offerers to be denied certain parts of the victims,
namely, the blood, the fat, the breastbone and the right shoulder.
Objection 9: Further, just as holocausts were offered up in honor of God, so
also were the peace-offerings and sin-offerings. But no female animals
was offered up to God as a holocaust, although holocausts were offered of
both quadrupeds and birds. Therefore it was inconsistent that female
animals should be offered up in peace-offerings and sin-offerings, and
that nevertheless birds should not be offered up in peace-offerings.
Objection 1:: Further, all the peace-offerings seem to be of one kind.
Therefore it was unfitting to make a distinction among them, so that it
was forbidden to eat the flesh of certain peace-offerings on the
following day, while it was allowed to eat the flesh of other
peace-offerings, as laid down in Lev. 7:15, seqq.
Objection 1:: Further, all sins agree in turning us from God. Therefore, in
order to reconcile us to God, one kind of sacrifice should have been
offered up for all sins.
Objection 1:: Further, all animals that were offered up in sacrifice, were
offered up in one way, viz. slain. Therefore it does not seem to be
suitable that products of the soil should be offered up in various ways;
for sometimes an offering was made of ears of corn, sometimes of flour,
sometimes of bread, this being baked sometimes in an oven, sometimes in a
pan, sometimes on a gridiron.
Objection 1:: Further, whatever things are serviceable to us should be
recognized as coming from God. It was therefore unbecoming that besides
animals, nothing but bread, wine, oil, incense, and salt should be
offered to God.
Objection 1:: Further, bodily sacrifices denote the inward sacrifice of the
heart, whereby man offers his soul to God. But in the inward sacrifice,
the sweetness, which is denoted by honey, surpasses the pungency which
salt represents; for it is written (Ecclus. 24:27): "My spirit is sweet
above honey." Therefore it was unbecoming that the use of honey, and of
leaven which makes bread savory, should be forbidden in a sacrifice;
while the use was prescribed, of salt which is pungent, and of incense
which has a bitter taste. Consequently it seems that things pertaining to
the ceremonies of the sacrifices have no reasonable cause.
On the contrary, It is written (Lev. 1:13): "The priest shall offer it
all and burn it all upon the altar, for a holocaust, and most sweet savor
to the Lord." Now according to Wis. 7:28, "God loveth none but him that
dwelleth with wisdom": whence it seems to follow that whatever is
acceptable to God is wisely done. Therefore these ceremonies of the
sacrifices were wisely done, as having reasonable causes.
I answer that, As stated above (Article ), the ceremonies of the Old Law had
a twofold cause, viz. a literal cause, according as they were intended
for Divine worship; and a figurative or mystical cause, according as they
were intended to foreshadow Christ: and on either hand the ceremonies
pertaining to the sacrifices can be assigned to a fitting cause.
For, according as the ceremonies of the sacrifices were intended for the
divine worship, the causes of the sacrifices can be taken in two ways.
First, in so far as the sacrifice represented the directing of the mind
to God, to which the offerer of the sacrifice was stimulated. Now in
order to direct his mind to God aright, man must recognize that whatever
he has is from God as from its first principle, and direct it to God as
its last end. This was denoted in the offerings and sacrifices, by the
fact that man offered some of his own belongings in honor of God, as
though in recognition of his having received them from God, according to
the saying of David (1 Paral. xxix, 14): "All things are Thine: and we
have given Thee what we received of Thy hand." Wherefore in offering up
sacrifices man made protestation that God is the first principle of the
creation of all things, and their last end, to which all things must be
directed. And since, for the human mind to be directed to God aright, it
must recognize no first author of things other than God, nor place its
end in any other; for this reason it was forbidden in the Law to offer
sacrifice to any other but God, according to Ex. 22:20: "He that
sacrificeth to gods, shall be put to death, save only to the Lord."
Wherefore another reasonable cause may be assigned to the ceremonies of
the sacrifices, from the fact that thereby men were withdrawn from
offering sacrifices to idols. Hence too it is that the precepts about the
sacrifices were not given to the Jewish people until after they had
fallen into idolatry, by worshipping the molten calf: as though those
sacrifices were instituted, that the people, being ready to offer
sacrifices, might offer those sacrifices to God rather than to idols.
Thus it is written (Jer. 7:22): "I spake not to your fathers and I
commanded them not, in the day that I brought them out of the land of
Egypt, concerning the matter of burnt-offerings and sacrifices."
Now of all the gifts which God vouchsafed to mankind after they had
fallen away by sin, the chief is that He gave His Son; wherefore it is
written (Jn. 3:16): "God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten
Son; that whosoever believeth in Him, may not perish, but may have life
everlasting." Consequently the chief sacrifice is that whereby Christ
Himself "delivered Himself . . . to God for an odor of sweetness" (Eph. 5:2). And for this reason all the other sacrifices of the Old Law were
offered up in order to foreshadow this one individual and paramount
sacrifice---the imperfect forecasting the perfect. Hence the Apostle says
(Heb. 10:11) that the priest of the Old Law "often" offered "the same
sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but" Christ offered "one
sacrifice for sins, for ever." And since the reason of the figure is
taken from that which the figure represents, therefore the reasons of the
figurative sacrifices of the Old Law should be taken from the true
sacrifice of Christ.
Reply to Objection 1: God did not wish these sacrifices to be offered to Him on
account of the things themselves that were offered, as though He stood in
need of them: wherefore it is written (Is. 1:11): "I desire not
holocausts of rams, and fat of fatlings, and blood of calves and lambs
and buckgoats." But, as stated above, He wished them to be offered to
Him, in order to prevent idolatry; in order to signify the right ordering
of man's mind to God; and in order to represent the mystery of the
Redemption of man by Christ.
Reply to Objection 2: In all the respects mentioned above (ad 1), there was a
suitable reason for these animals, rather than others, being offered in
sacrifice to God. First, in order to prevent idolatry. Because idolaters
offered all other animals to their gods, or made use of them in their
sorceries: while the Egyptians (among whom the people had been dwelling)
considered it abominable to slay these animals, wherefore they used not
to offer them in sacrifice to their gods. Hence it is written (Ex. 8:26):
"We shall sacrifice the abominations of the Egyptians to the Lord our
God." For they worshipped the sheep; they reverenced the ram (because
demons appeared under the form thereof); while they employed oxen for
agriculture, which was reckoned by them as something sacred.
Secondly, this was suitable for the aforesaid right ordering of man's
mind to God: and in two ways. First, because it is chiefly by means of
these animals that human life is sustained: and moreover they are most
clean, and partake of a most clean food: whereas other animals are either
wild, and not deputed to ordinary use among men: or, if they be tame,
they have unclean food, as pigs and geese: and nothing but what is clean
should be offered to God. These birds especially were offered in
sacrifice because there were plenty of them in the land of promise.
Secondly, because the sacrificing of these animals represented purity of
heart. Because as the gloss says on Lev. 1, "We offer a calf, when we
overcome the pride of the flesh; a lamb, when we restrain our
unreasonable motions; a goat, when we conquer wantonness; a turtledove,
when we keep chaste; unleavened bread, when we feast on the unleavened
bread of sincerity." And it is evident that the dove denotes charity and
simplicity of heart.
Thirdly, it was fitting that these animals should be offered, that they
might foreshadow Christ. Because, as the gloss observes, "Christ is
offered in the calf, to denote the strength of the cross; in the lamb, to
signify His innocence; in the ram, to foreshadow His headship; and in the
goat, to signify the likeness of 'sinful flesh' [*An allusion to Col.
2:11 (Textus Receptus)]. The turtledove and dove denoted the union of the
two natures"; or else the turtledove signified chastity; while the dove
was a figure of charity. "The wheat-flour foreshadowed the sprinkling of
believers with the water of Baptism."
Reply to Objection 3: Fish through living in water are further removed from man
than other animals, which, like man, live in the air. Again, fish die as
soon as they are taken out of water; hence they could not be offered in
the temple like other animals.
Reply to Objection 4: Among turtledoves the older ones are better than the young;
while with doves the case is the reverse. Wherefore, as Rabbi Moses
observes (Doct. Perplex. iii), turtledoves and young doves are commanded
to be offered, because nothing should be offered to God but what is best.
Reply to Objection 5: The animals which were offered in sacrifice were slain,
because it is by being killed that they become useful to man, forasmuch
as God gave them to man for food. Wherefore also they were burnt with
fire: because it is by being cooked that they are made fit for human
consumption. Moreover the slaying of the animals signified the
destruction of sins: and also that man deserved death on account of his
sins; as though those animals were slain in man's stead, in order to
betoken the expiation of sins. Again the slaying of these animals
signified the slaying of Christ.
Reply to Objection 6: The Law fixed the special manner of slaying the sacrificial
animals in order to exclude other ways of killing, whereby idolaters
sacrificed animals to idols. Or again, as Rabbi Moses says (Doct.
Perplex. iii), "the Law chose that manner of slaying which was least
painful to the slain animal." This excluded cruelty on the part of the
offerers, and any mangling of the animals slain.
Reply to Objection 7: It is because unclean animals are wont to be held in
contempt among men, that it was forbidden to offer them in sacrifice to
God: and for this reason too they were forbidden (Dt. 23:18) to offer
"the hire of a strumpet or the price of a dog in the house of . . . God."
For the same reason they did not offer animals before the seventh day,
because such were abortive as it were, the flesh being not yet firm on
account of its exceeding softness.
Reply to Objection 8: There were three kinds of sacrifices. There was one in
which the victim was entirely consumed by fire: this was called "a
holocaust, i.e. all burnt." For this kind of sacrifice was offered to God
specially to show reverence to His majesty, and love of His goodness: and
typified the state of perfection as regards the fulfilment of the
counsels. Wherefore the whole was burnt up: so that as the whole animal
by being dissolved into vapor soared aloft, so it might denote that the
whole man, and whatever belongs to him, are subject to the authority of
God, and should be offered to Him.
Another sacrifice was the "sin-offering," which was offered to God on
account of man's need for the forgiveness of sin: and this typifies the
state of penitents in satisfying for sins. It was divided into two parts:
for one part was burnt; while the other was granted to the use of the
priests to signify that remission of sins is granted by God through the
ministry of His priests. When, however, this sacrifice was offered for
the sins of the whole people, or specially for the sin of the priest, the
whole victim was burnt up. For it was not fitting that the priests should
have the use of that which was offered for their own sins, to signify
that nothing sinful should remain in them. Moreover, this would not be
satisfaction for sin: for if the offering were granted to the use of
those for whose sins it was offered, it would seem to be the same as if
it had not been offered.
The third kind of sacrifice was called the "peace-offering," which was
offered to God, either in thanksgiving, or for the welfare and prosperity
of the offerers, in acknowledgment of benefits already received or yet to
be received: and this typifies the state of those who are proficient in
the observance of the commandments. These sacrifices were divided into
three parts: for one part was burnt in honor of God; another part was
allotted to the use of the priests; and the third part to the use of the
offerers; in order to signify that man's salvation is from God, by the
direction of God's ministers, and through the cooperation of those who
But it was the universal rule that the blood and fat were not allotted
to the use either of the priests or of the offerers: the blood being
poured out at the foot of the altar, in honor of God, while the fat was
burnt upon the altar (Lev. 9:9,10). The reason for this was, first, in
order to prevent idolatry: because idolaters used to drink the blood and
eat the fat of the victims, according to Dt. 32:38: "Of whose victims
they eat the fat, and drank the wine of their drink-offerings." Secondly,
in order to form them to a right way of living. For they were forbidden
the use of the blood that they might abhor the shedding of human blood;
wherefore it is written (Gn. 9:4,5): "Flesh with blood you shall not eat:
for I will require the blood of your lives": and they were forbidden to
eat the fat, in order to withdraw them from lasciviousness; hence it is
written (Ezech. 34:3): "You have killed that which was fat." Thirdly, on
account of the reverence due to God: because blood is most necessary for
life, for which reason "life" is said to be "in the blood" (Lev.
17:11,14): while fat is a sign of abundant nourishment. Wherefore, in
order to show that to God we owe both life and a sufficiency of all good
things, the blood was poured out, and the fat burnt up in His honor.
Fourthly, in order to foreshadow the shedding of Christ's blood, and the
abundance of His charity, whereby He offered Himself to God for us.
In the peace-offerings, the breast-bone and the right shoulder were
allotted to the use of the priest, in order to prevent a certain kind of
divination which is known as "spatulamantia," so called because it was
customary in divining to use the shoulder-blade [spatula], and the
breast-bone of the animals offered in sacrifice; wherefore these things
were taken away from the offerers. This is also denoted the priest's need
of wisdom in the heart, to instruct the people---this was signified by
the breast-bone, which covers the heart; and his need of fortitude, in
order to bear with human frailty---and this was signified by the right
Reply to Objection 9: Because the holocaust was the most perfect kind of
sacrifice, therefore none but a male was offered for a holocaust: because
the female is an imperfect animal. The offering of turtledoves and doves
was on account of the poverty of the offerers, who were unable to offer
bigger animals. And since peace-victims were offered freely, and no one
was bound to offer them against his will, hence these birds were offered
not among the peace-victims, but among the holocausts and victims for
sin, which man was obliged to offer at times. Moreover these birds, on
account of their lofty flight, while befitting the perfection of the
holocausts: and were suitable for sin-offerings because their song is
Reply to Objection 1:: The holocaust was the chief of all the sacrifices: because
all were burnt in honor of God, and nothing of it was eaten. The second
place in holiness, belongs to the sacrifice for sins, which was eaten in
the court only, and on the very day of the sacrifice (Lev. 7:6,15). The
third place must be given to the peace-offerings of thanksgiving, which
were eaten on the same day, but anywhere in Jerusalem. Fourth in order
were the "ex-voto" peace-offerings, the flesh of which could be eaten
even on the morrow. The reason for this order is that man is bound to
God, chiefly on account of His majesty; secondly, on account of the sins
he has committed; thirdly, because of the benefits he has already
received from Him; fourthly, by reason of the benefits he hopes to
receive from Him.
Reply to Objection 1:: Sins are more grievous by reason of the state of the
sinner, as stated above (Question , Article ): wherefore different victims are
commanded to be offered for the sin of a priest, or of a prince, or of
some other private individual. "But," as Rabbi Moses says (Doct. Perplex.
iii), "we must take note that the more grievous the sin, the lower the
species of animals offered for it. Wherefore the goat, which is a very
base animal, was offered for idolatry; while a calf was offered for a
priest's ignorance, and a ram for the negligence of a prince."
Reply to Objection 1:: In the matter of sacrifices the Law had in view the
poverty of the offerers; so that those who could not have a four-footed
animal at their disposal, might at least offer a bird; and that he who
could not have a bird might at least offer bread; and that if a man had
not even bread he might offer flour or ears of corn.
The figurative cause is that the bread signifies Christ Who is the
"living bread" (Jn. 6:41,51). He was indeed an ear of corn, as it were,
during the state of the law of nature, in the faith of the patriarchs; He
was like flour in the doctrine of the Law of the prophets; and He was
like perfect bread after He had taken human nature; baked in the fire,
i.e. formed by the Holy Ghost in the oven of the virginal womb; baked
again in a pan by the toils which He suffered in the world; and consumed
by fire on the cross as on a gridiron.
Reply to Objection 1:: The products of the soil are useful to man, either as
food, and of these bread was offered; or as drink, and of these wine was
offered; or as seasoning, and of these oil and salt were offered; or as
healing, and of these they offered incense, which both smells sweetly and
binds easily together.
Now the bread foreshadowed the flesh of Christ; and the wine, His blood,
whereby we were redeemed; oil betokens the grace of Christ; salt, His
knowledge; incense, His prayer.
Reply to Objection 1:: Honey was not offered in the sacrifices to God, both
because it was wont to be offered in the sacrifices to idols; and in
order to denote the absence of all carnal sweetness and pleasure from
those who intend to sacrifice to God. Leaven was not offered, to denote
the exclusion of corruption. Perhaps too, it was wont to be offered in
the sacrifices to idols.
Salt, however, was offered, because it wards off the corruption of putrefaction: for sacrifices offered to God should be incorrupt. Moreover, salt signifies the discretion of wisdom, or again, mortification of the flesh.
Incense was offered to denote devotion of the heart, which is necessary
in the offerer; and again, to signify the odor of a good name: for
incense is composed of matter, both rich and fragrant. And since the
sacrifice "of jealousy" did not proceed from devotion, but rather from
suspicion, therefore incense was not offered therein (Num. 5:15).