When Hebrews 13:15 exhorts believers to offer a continuous sacrifice of praise to God, we naturally think of a continuous offering of verbal or sung praise. That is how the verse ends: “the fruit of lips that confess His name.”
The sacrifice of praise is verbal, but I suspect that Hebrews alludes to something else as well.
“Sacrifice of praise” translates thusia aineseos, a phrase that has a technical sense in the LXX translation of the Leviticus. A “sacrifice of praise” was specifically the thanksgiving form of the peace offering. Leviticus 7:12-15 describe the rite of this offering, which is called the thusia aineseos. Hebrews 13:15 is an exhortation to offer a continuous peace offering of thanksgiving. Instead of the tamid (continuous) ascension offering of the temple, the new temple is to offer a continuous peace offering.
What could that mean? The description of the peace offering of thanksgiving helps to explain.
Leviticus 6:8-7 give a series of rules concerning the offerings that have been described in Leviticus 1-6:7. In this section, we find the “law for” the ascension, the tribute, the purification, the trespass, and finally the peace offering. The peace offering is divided into peace offerings of thanks and peace offerings to fulfill vows.
Of the animal offerings, only the peace offering of thanks, the thusia aineseos requires bread. Three forms of unleavened bread are required – cakes mixed with oil, wafers anointed with oil, and fried cakes of fine flour mingled with oil. In addition, the offerer is supposed to bring leavened bread. One of each type of cake is offered as a contribution (terumah) to Yahweh, given to the priest who sprinkles the blood of the animal offering.
Hebrews 13:15 thus names a specific type of offering, a unique type of animal offering that includes bread, an offering that includes a gift of bread to the priests, an offering of thanksgiving (todah in Hebrew). Hebrews 13:15, in short, names the types of offering that most closely resembles the Christian Eucharist.
To offer a continuous “sacrifice of praise” is not only to confess and give thanks to His name in song and words. To offer a continuous sacrifice of praise is continuously to perform the peace offering of thanks, to perform a continuous Eucharist.
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Tuesday, July 10, 2012 at 7:47 am
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