THE TEMPLE OF JESUS: HIS SACRIFICIAL PROGRAM WITHIN A CULTURAL HISTORY OF SACRIFICE, by Bruce Chilton. Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, 1992. 209 pp. $34.50. ISBN 0-271-00824-5.
This book undertakes two projects: to reconstruct the attitude of the historical Jesus towards levitical purity and sacrifice; and then to interpret that attitude within the context of a general theory of the meaning of sacrifice in human culture. The first two chapters deal with the important theories of sacrifice in the social sciences and the subsequent chapters with the historical material pertinent to the time and person of Jesus. There are two appendices on the theory of sacrifice and one on the diversity of Judaism in the time of Jesus.
Jesus is presumed to be a levitical Jew who thinks entirely within the framework of the laws of purity and whose piety is centered on the temple. It is especially important to him that the sacrifices in the temple take place in accordance with his own understanding of sacrifice. His understanding emphasizes the elements of forgiveness, fellowship, and generosity in sacrifice. Jesus "occupies" the temple because a change in the venue of the victim shops makes it impossible for the purchasers of victims to have personal contact with the victims and thus deprives the sacrifice of the personal element in generosity. The attack on the moneychangers and animal-hawkers is therefore not a symbolic attack on the temple system but a protest against a detail of its functioning and an attempt to improve the animal sacrifice system.
Sacrifice is, generally speaking, an act of fellowship and sharing. …