Friday, January 6, 2017

The Todah Sacrifice: From Shadow to Substance

The following a copy of the article The Todah Sacrifice: From Shadow to Substance by Jacob Michael from his now defunct site

Link to this article by referencing this address:

There are several different classes of sacrifice outlined and described in the books of the Mosaic Law. The book of Leviticus in particular describes the Holocaust Offering, the Cereal Offering, the Sin Offering, the Guilt Offering, and the Peace Offering as general categories of sacrifices.
Within this last category, the Peace Offering, there is a particular kind of Peace Offering that is described in Leviticus 7:11-21. This offering is called by Leviticus the "thank offering," or the todah (toh-DAW) sacrifice. Leviticus describes it as follows:
If he offers [the Peace Offering] for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the todah offering unleavened cakes mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of fine flour well mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with cakes of leavened bread. And of such he shall offer one cake from each offering, as an offering to the LORD; it shall belong to the priest who throws the blood of the peace offerings.
And the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it until the morning. (Lev. 7:12-15)
The todah is described in this text as a regular Peace Offering (i.e., a blood sacrifice) to which is appended the offering of leavened bread. The one offering the sacrifice would, as with all Peace Offerings, share in eating the meat and bread of the todah sacrifice.
Since the Peace Offering in general was meant to signify a shared shalom between God and the one offering, a person who was unclean could not offer this sacrifice: "but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD's peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people. And if any one touches an unclean thing ... and then eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the LORD's peace offerings, that person shall be cut off from his people." (Lev. 7:20-21)
In the Psalms we find a kind of general outline of the todah sacrifice:
Do I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving [todah; LXX: thusian aineseos], and pay your vows to the Most High; and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Ps. 50:13-15)
With the mention of "vows," calling upon God in times of trouble, being delivered by Him, and then glorifying Him for His deliverance, we have the basic structure of the todah sacrifice. Hartmut Gese explains:
The thank offering presupposes a specific situation. When someone is rescued from death, from an illness, or from persecution that poses a threat of death, then the divine deliverance is celebrated by a worship service built on a thank offering as a new foundation for the person's existence. Here he confesses ... God as deliverer in a thank offering (todah). He invites those who belong to his immediate community, contributes an animal for this particular zebah ["sacrifice" --jm] of thanksgiving, and in the meal offering celebrates with those invited the start of his new being. The essential element is that the thankful acknowledgement of God is expressed in a so-called song of thanks of the individual, which refers back to the time of troubles and "thinks on" (zkr) the deliverance and the experience of death and salvation. (Hartmut Gese, Essays on Biblical Theology [Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1981], p. 129)
Keeping this framework in mind, we now have a lens through which to view the Psalms, and through this lens, it is not difficult at all to pick out certain Psalms that may be classified as todah Psalms. A perfect example of this would be Psalm 69:
Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God ... I have become a stranger to my brethren, an alien to my mother's sons. For zeal for thy house has consumed me, and the insults of those who insult thee have fallen on me. (Ps. 69:1-3, 8-9)
From this lament, the Psalmist moves on to petition God for deliverance and vindication:
But as for me, my prayer is to thee, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of thy steadfast love answer me. With thy faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. Answer me, O LORD, for thy steadfast love is good; according to thy abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in distress, make haste to answer me. Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies! (Ps. 69:13-17)
Lastly, the Psalmist proclaims his trust in God for deliverance, and witnesses to his brethren of his hope in God:
I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving [todah. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. Let the oppressed see it and be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy, and does not despise his own that are in bonds. Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein. For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah; and his servants shall dwell there and possess it; the children of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it. (Ps. 69:30-36)
Likewise, Psalm 116 follows the pattern of todah, and actually makes specific reference to the thank offering. The Psalmist begins by saying, "the snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish" (vs. 3), moving on to recount his petition, "then I called on the name of the LORD" (vs. 4), and then recounting his deliverance: "Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling." (vss. 5-8)
In answer to the question, "What shall I render to the LORD for all his bounty to me?" (vs. 12), the Psalmist mentions the todah as the way in which he will glorify God's saving work: "I will lift up the cup of salvation [LXX: poterion soteriou] and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people ... I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving [LXX: thusian aineseos] and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people." (vss. 13-18)
Take note of the poetic parallelism between vss. 13-14 and vss. 17-18, where the todah sacrifice is interchanged with the "cup of salvation":
1) I will lift up the cup of salvation
2) and call on the name of the LORD
3) I will pay my vows to the LORD
4) in the presence of all his people
1) I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving
2) and call on the name of the LORD
3) I will pay my vows to the LORD
4) in the presence of all his people
Fr. James Swetnam notes this parallel and says that this indicates that a cup of wine was also included in a todah sacrifice:
The toda ceremony was a type of thanksgiving offering associated with a bloody sacrifice. Both bloody sacrifice and toda ceremony are offered by someone who has escaped from the danger of death, serious illness, or life-threatening persecution. An essential element is a hymn of thanksgiving which serves to recall the salvation achieved. The toda ceremony involves such a hymn of thanksgiving plus the offering of leavened bread, and it can involve a cup of wine which serves as the ceremonial proclamation parallel to the bread which is the ceremonial meal. The Psalter indicates that the toda had an importance difficult to exaggerate in the religious life of Israel ... In the toda meal the bread offering had a special place (Lev 7,12-15). The use of wine had a prominent part (in Ps 116 vv. 17-18 [LXX 115,8-9] with mention of the toda ... are parallel to vv. 13-14 [LXX 115,4-6] with mention of the 'cup of salvation' ...). (Swetnam, J., "The Crux at Hebrews 5,7-8", Biblica, Vol. 81 [2000], p. 358, 359, emphasis added)
In the prophetic age, we find mention of a future "eschatological todah sacrifice." Isaiah says that in the last days, "the LORD of hosts will reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem and before his elders he will manifest his glory." (Is. 24:23) The mention of God revealing His glory "before his elders" on a mountain (Zion, in this case) recalls the words of Exodus 24:
Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel ... they beheld God, and ate and drank. (Ex. 24:9-11)
Corresponding to the eating and drinking of the elders on Mount Sinai, Isaiah says that at this future gathering on Mount Zion, "the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of fat things, a feast of wine on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wine on the lees well refined." (Is. 25:6) This section of Isaiah's prophecy, appropriately enough, begins with a kind of todah-style song of thanksgiving:
O LORD, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure. For thou hast made the city a heap, the fortified city a ruin; the palace of aliens is a city no more, it will never be rebuilt. Therefore strong peoples will glorify thee; cities of ruthless nations will fear thee. For thou hast been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the blast of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. Thou dost subdue the noise of the aliens; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is stilled. (Is. 25:1-5)
Further, in a very Messianic prophecy of Jeremiah, we find God speaking of future "glory days" for Jerusalem:
But if you listen to me, says the LORD ... then there shall enter by the gates of this city kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their princes, the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and this city shall be inhabited for ever. And people shall come from the cities of Judah and the places round about Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the Shephelah, from the hill country, and from the Negeb, bringing burnt offerings and sacrifices, cereal offerings and frankincense, and bringing thank offerings [LXX: ferontes ainesin] to the house of the LORD. (Jer. 17:24-26)
In light of these kinds of Messianic/last-days prophecies, in which the todah seems to have some prominence, Gese says:
We can understand the verdict of the ancient rabbis, "In the coming (messianic) age all sacrifices will cease, but the thank offering will never cease; all (religious) songs will cease, but the songs of thanks will never cease." [Pesiqta ed. S. Buber, 1868, p. 79a; e. B. Mandelbaum, 1962, I, p. 159] (Gese, p. 133)
Fr. Swetnam, in his article in Biblica ("The Crux at Hebrews 5,7-8," cited above), shows how the todah sacrifice is taken up in the New Testament and brought to its fulfillment in the Sacrifice of the Cross.
It is very much significant that one of the seven last sayings of Our Lord from the Cross is a quotation from one of the most well-known todah Psalms:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lama sabach-thani?" that is, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46)
This is the opening line of Psalm 22, which is not only another perfect example of the todah structure, but is, along with Psalm 69 (already cited), one of the most explicit Messianic Psalms which predict the Passion of the Christ. Note the movement from lament to thanksgiving in these verses, as well as the references to the Passion:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but thou dost not answer; and by night, but find no rest ... All who see me mock at me, they make mouths at me, they wag their heads; "He committed his cause to the LORD; let him deliver him, let him rescue him, for he delights in him!" [c.f. Matt. 27:39-43] ... I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaves to my jaws; thou dost lay me in the dust of death. Yea, dogs are round about me; a company of evildoers encircle me; they have pierced my hands and feet-- I can count all my bones--they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my raiment they cast lots ...
I will tell of thy name to my brethren; in the midst of the congregation I will praise thee: You who fear the LORD, praise him! all you sons of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you sons of Israel! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him ...
For dominion [meluwkah, LXX: basileia, "kingdom"] belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations. Yea, to him shall all the proud of the earth bow down; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, and he who cannot keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; men shall tell of the Lord to the coming generation, and proclaim his deliverance to a people yet unborn, that he has wrought it. (Ps. 22:1-2, 7-8, 14-18, 22-24, 28-31)
This particular todah is frequently linked by the New Testament writers to the Passion. We have already seen that the opening words are quoted by Our Lord on the Cross; St. John, in his narrative of the Passion, quotes verse 18 (c.f. John 19:24); St. Paul quotes verse 22 in a certain kingdom-context ("we see Jesus ... crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death") in Hebrews 2:9-12. To get a clearer view of todah in relation to the Sacrifice of the Cross, Fr. Swetnam's insights are particularly helpful:
Toda-piety's basic experience of death and redemption took on, in the perspective of apocalyptic, the dimensions of an absolute, and salvation from death led to the conversion of the world, to the participation of the dead in life, and to the eternal proclamation of salvation (Ps 22[21],8-32). (Note the occurrence of 'kingdom' - basileia - in v. 29.) The cry of Jesus at Mt 27,46 and Mk 15,34 in which He cites the opening verse of Ps 22[21] is designed to indicate not that God had abandoned the petitioner, but that salvation through death - Jesus' death - is the occasion for the arrival of the Kingdom of God as interpreted in Ps 22[21]. Abandonment by God is a common theme in the psalms, and it is difficult to see what the distinctive purpose of the citation of the opening verse could be if not an indication of this abandonment in the context of the entire psalm, i.e., an abandonment which leads to the advent of the Kingdom. (Swetnam, pp. 358-359)
There are those who would object to the idea that, when Our Lord quotes the opening line of Psalm 22, it is with the intention of communicating the entire message of the Psalm. That is to say, the words "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" should not be interpreted to mean that God the Father abandoned the Son during His hour of Passion, but rather, those words are meant to propel us forward to the words "he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; and he has not hid his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him."
Objectors to this view must answer the counter objection suggested by Swetnam: there are many Psalms which speak of abandonment by God. Consider:
Hide not thy face from me. Turn not thy servant away in anger, thou who hast been my help. Cast me not off, forsake me not, O God of my salvation! (Ps. 27:9) Do not forsake me, O LORD! O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation! (Ps. 38:21-22)
I will praise thee with an upright heart, when I learn thy righteous ordinances. I will observe thy statutes; O forsake me not utterly! (Ps. 119:7-8)
Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me. (Ps. 51:11)
Our Lord could have quoted any one of these or several other verses, had His desire been to express the fact that He feared abandonment by God - why did He pass over these in favor of Ps. 22:1, a Psalm which just coincidentally is a todah Psalm of praise and deliverance? It is entirely too coincidental that this particular Psalm includes so many explicit prophecies of Our Lord's suffering on the Cross, and that these sufferings culminate (just as the Psalm does) in the coming "kingdom" of God.
Having established the link between todah and the Crucifixion, however, it becomes very difficult to miss the link between todah and the Last Supper - precisely because it is impossible to miss the connection (even if viewed as only casual) between the Cross and the Upper Room.
By way of a side-tangent, we must recall for ourselves just how saturated in sacrificial context is the Upper Room narrative. The historical/liturgical context of the Upper Room narrative is the Passover Feast, which itself was a sacrificial meal involving the slaughter of an animal and the eating of bread and wine; the phrase "do this for an anamnesis of me" recalls the particular category of Old Testament sacrifice known as the "memorial offering"; the words "this is the New Covenant in my blood" is an echo of Moses' words to a newly inaugurated ecclesia of Hebrews, when he sprinkled the blood of a slaughtered bull upon the people and said, "this is the blood of the covenant" (c.f. Ex. 24:1-8); finally, the description of the chalice as "blood which is poured out for you" evokes another category of sacrifice in Israel, namely, the libation offering which was intended to be "poured out" at the base of the altar.
To return to the discussion of the todah, we see the link between Calvary and the Upper Room in that fact that, in the Upper Room, Our Lord offered (using overtly sacrificial language that recalled both bloody and unbloody categories of Old Covenant sacrifice) precisely those two elements that are present at the todah sacrifice: the bread and the cup of wine.
The connection between the three (todah, Calvary, and the Upper Room) becomes even more focused and clear when we consider that the three elements of the todah are accounted for in the combination of both Calvary and the Upper Room.
To put it another way: if we view the Upper Room as the beginning of the Sacrifice of Christ, and Calvary as the completion of the Sacrifice, then what we have is one continuous sacrificial action that corresponds exactly to the several parts of the todah sacrifice. In the todah, there was the offering of bread and wine, but also the blood of a sacrificial animal; if we see the Upper Room and Calvary as bookends of the same singular sacrifice, then in the bread and wine of the Upper Room we can account for the bloodless sacrifice of the todah, while in the pierced body of Our Lord on the Cross we account for the bloody aspect of the todah sacrifice.
The similarities are too rich to be passed over. It was because of the bloody sacrifice of the animal on the altar that the offerer could then participate in the meal of bread and wine, which signified his harmonious relationship with God; however, the meal of bread and wine was not an afterthought, but was clearly understood in Levitical terms to be a part of the sacrifice proper.
This bloody-unbloody combination contained in one single sacrifice has but one counter-part in the New Covenant: "In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner." (Council of Trent, DS #1743)
Recall also that the perpetual offering of the todah sacrifice - a bloody-unbloody sacrifice involving bread and wine - was understood by the rabbis to be a sign of the Messianic age (see quote above). What else can it mean when Our Lord, the Messiah, comes to earth to offer His body as a bloody sacrifice, but prefaces this by first offering bread and wine - which He calls His body and blood, thus clearly making it one sustained sacrificial act with that of Calvary - and tells His disciples to continue this act ad infinitum until the end of time - except that the Sacrifice of the Mass is one with the supernatural and elevated todah sacrifice of the New Covenant?
The early Church understood this, and perhaps this is why the term applied to the weekly liturgical sacrifice was nothing less than the Greek translation of the word todah. In Hebrew, todah means "thanksgiving"; in Greek, the word is eucharistia, or in English, "Eucharist."
The understanding of the Church as regards the todah sacrifice and its connection to the Mass could not be stated more clearly than what we find in the Roman Liturgy. Just prior to the drinking of the Precious Blood of Our Lord, the priest recites the prayer Quid retribuam Domino ... - the very verses discussed above, belonging to the todah Psalm 116:
What return shall I make to the Lord for all He has given to me? I will take the chalice of salvation, and call upon the Name of the Lord. Praising I will call upon the Lord, and I shall be saved from my enemies. (Communion of the Priest, Roman Missal)
This is clearly what the Church wants us to see in the offering of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: the todah of the Old Covenant, which was both a bloody and an unbloody sacrifice, which the rabbis said would be a perpetual sacrifice (to the exlusion of all other sacrifices) in the Messianic age, is to be found in no other place than on the high altar at every single Eucharistic Liturgy, where the bloody sacrifice of Calvary is perpetuated in an unbloody manner under the appearances of bread and wine.
This is, perhaps, what St. Paul was referring to in the epistle to the Hebrews, "let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise [thusian aineseos] to God, that is, the fruit [karpos] of lips that acknowledge his name." (Heb. 13:15) Can we overlook the fact that St. Paul uses exactly the terminology that is found in the Old Testament to describe the todah sacrifice? Or that the work karpos can mean "praises, which are presented to God as a thank offering?" (C.f. Strong's #2590)
This final and fulfilled todah sacrifice, offered by Our Lord both in the Upper Room and on the Cross, and perpetually offered by the Church in the re-presentation of Calvary via the Sacrifice of the Mass, is the sacrifice to which the Old Covenant todah sacrifice - and indeed all sacrifices of the Old Covenant - pointed, and in which it finds its telos.
Panem coelestem accipiam, et nomen Domini invocabo ...
Jacob Michael

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