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|In the Hebrew Bible|
|Altars · Korban|
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Love of God · Awe of God
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The term offering as found in the Torah in relation to the worship of Ancient Israel is mainly represented by the Hebrew noun korban (קָרְבָּן) whether for an animal or other offering. Various words are used in the Torah. Their exact meaning can vary. The most common usages are animal sacrifice (zevah זֶבַח), peace offering and olah "burnt offering." In Hebrew the noun korban is used for a variety of sacrificial offerings described and commanded in the Hebrew Bible.
Such sacrifices were offered in a variety of settings by the ancient Israelites, and later by the Jewish priesthood, the priests, at the Temple in Jerusalem. A korban was often an animal sacrifice, such as a sheep or a bull that underwent Jewish ritual slaughter, and was often cooked and eaten by the offerer, with parts given to the priests and parts burned on the Temple mizbe'ah. Sacrifices could also consist of doves, grain or meal, wine, or incense.
The Hebrew Bible narrates that God commanded the Israelites to offer offerings and sacrifices on various altars, and describes the offering of sacrifices in the Tabernacle, in the Temple in Jerusalem until the First Temple was destroyed, and resumed with the Second Temple until it was destroyed in 70 CE.
The practice of offerings and animal sacrifices in Judaism mostly ended with the destruction of the Temple, although it was briefly reinstated during the Jewish-Roman Wars of the 2nd century AD and was continued in certain communities thereafter. Rabbinic Judaism continued to maintain that the Torah allowed observance of Jewish law without animal sacrifice based upon oral tradition and strong support from scripture, such as Psalms 51:16-19 and Hosea 6:6. However, the practice and nature of sacrifices continue to have relevance to Jewish theology and law, particularly in Orthodox Judaism.
When sacrifices were offered in ancient times they were offered as a fulfillment of the 613 mitzvot. Modern Jews instead offer tzedakah a form of charity. Traditionally most common among Ashkenazi Jews, some perform kapparot as a form of tzedakah. On Yom Kippur God judges each individual yearly. The coming of the messiah will not remove the requirement to keep the 613 mitzvot. Most Orthodox Jews believe that animal sacrifice will be resumed once the third temple is built.
The Semitic root Q-R-B (Hebrew ק-ר-ב) means "to be close to someone/something"; other words from the root include karov, "close", and kerovim, "relatives." The senses of root meaning "to offer" suggest that the act of offering brings one closer to the receiver of the offering (here, God). The same stem is found in Hebrew and for example in the Akkadian language noun aqribtu "act of offering." The Hebrew feminine noun qorban (plural qorbanot קָרְבֳּנוֹת) first occurs in the Hebrew Bible in Leviticus 1:2 and in all occurs 80 times in the Massoretic Text; of which 40 in Leviticus, 38 in Numbers and 2 in Ezekiel. The related form qurban appears only in Nehemiah 10:35 and 13:31 "wood offering." Traditionally the etymology is from the verb stem karab and indicates the purpose to bring man close to God. The Hebrew noun korban, in Classical Hebrew, is pronounced qarban in Sephardic Hebrew.
The Hebrew word qorban passed as a loan word into Samaritan as qaraban, into Syriac as qurbana, and is documented in 
The Septuagint generally translates the term in Greek as doron, "gift", thusia "sacrifice", or prosfora "offering up". By the time of the Second Commonwealth in Jewish Hellenistic texts qorban had come to be specific to a vow. The New Testament preserves qorban once as a transliterated loan-word for a vow, once also a related noun korbanas "temple treasury", otherwise using doron, thusia, prosfora and other terms drawn from the Septuagint. Josephus also generally uses other words for "offering" but uses korban for the vow of the Nazirites (Antiquities of the Jews 4:73 / 4,4,4) and cites Theophrastus as having cited a korban vow among the Tyrians (Against Apion 1.167 / 1,22,4).
The word Korban is pronounced similarly in the Arabic language (Arabic qurbān قربان) and Mizrahi Hebrew, and also means a sacrifice offered to God. The word is used in Islam besides its use in Judaism.
Offerings were practiced from earliest times, particularly for over one thousand years in the tabernacle and during the eras of the Temple of Solomon and the Second Temple in Jerusalem when the Israelites lived in the Land of Israel until the destruction of Judea, Jerusalem, and the Temple by the Roman Empire in 70 CE. Offerings are mentioned in Genesis, but codified in the later four books of the Torah outlining their origins and history. Every regular weekday, Sabbath, and many Jewish holidays had their own unique offerings. The priests performed the offerings first in the ancient Tabernacle and then in the Temple of Solomon (the first Temple in Jerusalem) and later in the Second Temple in Jerusalem. The Hebrew Bible describes the priests as descendants of Aaron who meet certain marriage and ritual purity requirements. The high priest in particular played a crucial role in this regard on the Day of Atonement, a day when multiple offerings were offered.
Women were required to perform a number of offerings, including:
Women could also voluntarily participate in a number of other offerings and rituals for which they were not obligated, including:
Many books of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible, such as the Book of Isaiah and Book of Jeremiah, spoke out against those Israelites who brought forth sacrifices but did not act in accord with the precepts of the Law. The Prophets disparaged sacrifices that were offered without a regeneration of the heart, i.e., a determined turning from sin and returning to God by striving after righteousness (Hosea 14:1-2, Joel 2:13, Micah 6:6-8). At the same time, prophets stressed the importance of offerings combined with justice and good even as they taught that offerings were unacceptable unless combined with heartfelt repentance and good deeds. Malachi, the last prophet in the Hebrew Bible, emphasized that the goal of repentance is not to end sacrifices, but to make the offerings fit for acceptance once again (Malachi 3:3-4). Similarly, the Book of Isaiah despite disparagement of sacrifices without justice, portrays sacrifice as having a role complementary with prayer in a universalistic eschatology (Isaiah 56:1; 6-7).
In classical rabbinic literature Leviticus is sometimes known as Torat kohanim "Law of the Priests," the "Law [book of the] Priests". According to Maimonides, about one hundred of the permanent 613 commandments based on the Torah, by rabbinical enumeration, directly concern sacrifices, (excluding those commandments that concern the actual Temple and the priests themselves of which there are about another fifty)
The Mishnah and Talmud devote a very large section, known as a seder, to the study and analysis of this subject known as Kodshim, whereby all the detailed varieties of korbanot are enumerated and analyzed in great logical depth, such as kodshim kalim ("of minor degree of sanctity") and kodashei kodashim ("of major degree of sanctity"). In addition, large parts of every other book of the Talmud discuss various kinds of sacrifices. As but a few examples, Pesachim is largely devoted to a discussion of how to offer the Pesach (Passover) sacrifice. Yoma contains a detailed discussion of the offerings and Temple ritual on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), and there are sections in seder Moed (Festivals) for the special offerings and Temple ritual for other major Jewish holidays. Sheqalim discusses the annual half-shekel offering for Temple maintenance and Temple governance and management, Nashim discusses the offerings made by Nazirites and the suspected adultress, etc.
The Talmud provides extensive details not only on how to perform sacrifices but how to adjudicate difficult cases, such what to do if a mistake was made and whether improperly performing one of the required ritual elements invalidates it or not. The Talmud explains how to roast the Passover offering, how to dash blood from different kinds of sacrifices upon the altar, how to prepare the incense, the regulatory code for the system of taxation that financed the priesthood and public sacrifices, and numerous other details.
Maimonides, a medieval Jewish scholar, drew on the early critiques of the need for sacrifice, taking the view that God always held sacrifice inferior to prayer and philosophical meditation. However, God understood that the Israelites were used to the animal sacrifices that the surrounding pagan tribes used as the primary way to commune with their gods. As such, in Maimonides' view, it was only natural that Israelites would believe that sacrifice would be a necessary part of the relationship between God and man. Maimonides concludes that God's decision to allow sacrifices was a concession to human psychological limitations. It would have been too much to have expected the Israelites to leap from pagan worship to prayer and meditation in one step. In his Guide to the Perplexed he writes:
In contrast, many others such as Nachmanides (in his Torah commentary on Leviticus 1:9) disagreed. Nachmanides cites the fact that the Torah records the practices of animal and other sacrifices from the times of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and earlier. Indeed, the purpose of recounting the near sacrifice of Isaac, known in Judaism as "The Binding of Isaac" (Akeidat Yitzhak or the Akeidah) was to illustrate the sublime significance and need of animal sacrifices as supplanting the abomination of human sacrifices.
The korban also has a spiritual meaning, and refers to some part of an individual's ego, which is given up as a sacrifice to God in honor of the mortality of the worshipper. In keeping with the root of the word, meaning to draw close, and to the common usage as the sacrifice of an animal, so too can the worshipper sacrifice something of this world in order to become closer to God.
With the destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans, the Jewish practice of offering korbanot stopped for all intents and purposes. Despite subsequent intermittent periods of small Jewish groups offering the traditional sacrifices on the Temple Mount, the practice effectively ended.
Rabbinic Judaism was forced to undergo a significant development in response to this change; no longer could Judaism revolve round the Temple services. The destruction of the Temple led to a development of Judaism in the direction of text study, prayer, and personal observance. Orthodox Judaism regards this as being largely an alternative way of fulfilling the obligations of the Temple. Other branches of Judaism (Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist) regard the Korbanot as an ancient ritual that will not return. A range of responses is recorded in classical rabbinic literature, describing this subject.
In the Babylonian Talmud, a number of sages opined that following Jewish law, doing charitable deeds, and studying Jewish texts is greater than performing animal sacrifices.
Nonetheless, numerous texts of the Talmud stress the importance of and hope for eventual re-introduction of sacrifices, and regard their loss as a terrible tragedy. Partaking of sacrificial offerings was compared to eating directly at one's Father's table, whose loss synagogue worship does not quite entirely replace. One example is in Berachot:
Another example is in Sheqalim:
Numerous details of the daily religious practice of an ordinary Jew are connected to keeping memory of the rhythm of the life of the Temple and its sacrifices. For example, the Mishna begins with a statement that the Shema Yisrael (Hear O Israel) prayer is to be recited in the evening at the time when Kohanim who were Tamei (ritually impure) are permitted to enter to eat their Terumah (a food-tithe given to priests) following purification. A detailed discussion of the obligations of tithing, ritual purity, and other elements central to the Temple and priesthood is required in order to determine the meaning of this contemporary daily Jewish obligation.
Jewish services for Shabbat, Jewish holidays and other occasions include special prayers for the restoration of sacrifices. For example, the traditional Yom Kippur liturgy contains repeated prayers for the restoration of sacrifices and every High Holiday Amidah contains Isaiah 56:7:
Since the destruction of the Temple, Judaism has instituted a system of study, public Torah readings, and prayers that connect the Jewish people to the Temple and the Temple service.
The prevailing belief among rabbinic Jews is that in the messianic era, the Jewish Messiah will come and a Third Temple will be built. It is believed that the korbanot will be reinstituted, but to what extent and for how long is unknown. Some biblical and classical rabbinic sources hold that most or all sacrifices will not need to be offered.
The majority view of classical rabbis is that the Torah's commandments will still be applicable and in force during the messianic era. However, a significant minority of rabbis held that most of the commandments will be nullified in the messianic era, thus holding that sacrifices will not be reinstated. Examples of such rabbinic views include:
Orthodox Judaism holds that in the messianic era, most or all of the korbanot will be reinstituted, at least for a time. Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism, hold that no animal sacrifices will be offered in a rebuilt Temple at all, following the position of Tanchuma Emor 14 and Vayikra Rabbah 9:7. See the article on the Temple in Jerusalem for examples of how prayerbooks by many Jewish groups deal with this issue.
In the 1800s a number of Orthodox rabbis studied the idea of reinstating korbanot on the Temple Mount, even though the messianic era had not yet arrived and the Temple was not rebuilt. A number of responsa concluded that within certain parameters, it is permissible according to Jewish law to offer such sacrifices.
During the early 20th century, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan known as the Chofetz Chaim and himself a kohen, advised some followers to set up special yeshivas for married students known as Kodshim Kollels that would specialize in the study of the korbanot and study with greater intensity the kodshim sections of the Talmud in order to prepare for the arrival of the Jewish Messiah who would oversee the rebuilding of the original Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem that would be known as the Third Temple. His advice was taken seriously and today there are a number of well-established Haredi institutions in Israel that focus solely on the subject of the korbanot, kodshim, and the needs of the future Jewish Temple, such as the Brisk yeshivas.
A few groups, notably the Temple Institute and the Temple Mount Faithful, have petitioned the Israeli government to rebuild a Third Temple on the Temple Mount and restore sacrificial worship. The Israeli government has not responded favorably. Most Orthodox Jews regard rebuilding a Temple as an activity for a Jewish Messiah as part of a future Jewish eschatology, and most non-Orthodox Jews do not believe in the restoration of sacrificial worship at all. The Temple Institute has been constructing ritual objects in preparation for a resumption of sacrifices.
Today Orthodox Judaism includes mention of each korban on either a daily basis in the siddur (daily prayer book), or in the machzor (holiday prayerbook) as part of the prayers for the relevant days concerned. They are also referred to in the prayerbooks of Conservative Judaism, in an abbreviated fashion.
In the very early morning daily Shacharit prayers for example, they include the following in order of mention, actually called the korbanot. (The following example is taken from the Ashkenazi liturgy.)
The weekday Torah reading
Conservative Judaism disavows the resumption of Korbanot. Consistent with this view, it has deleted prayers for the resumption of sacrifices from the Conservative Siddur, including both the morning study section from the sacrifices, prayers for the restoration of Korbanot in the Amidah, and various mentions elsewhere. Consistent with its view that a priesthood and sacrificial system will not be restored, Conservative Judaism has also lifted certain restrictions on Kohanim, including limitations on marriage prohibiting marrying a divorced woman or a convert. Conservative Judaism does, however, believe in the restoration of a Temple in some form, and in the continuation of Kohanim and Levites under relaxed requirements, and has retained references to both in its prayer books. Consistent with its stress on the continuity of tradition, many Conservative synagogues have also retained references to Shabbat and Festival Korbanot, changing all references to sacrifices into the past tense (e.g. the Orthodox "and there we will sacrifice" is changed to "and there they sacrificed"). Some more liberal Conservative synagogues, however, have removed all references to sacrifices, past or present, from the prayer service. The most recent official Conservative prayer book, Sim Shalom, provides both service alternatives.
Reform Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism disavow all belief in a restoration of a Temple, the resumption of Korbanot, or the continuation of identified Kohanim or Levites. These branches of Judaism believe that all such practices represent ancient practices inconsistent with the requirements of modernity, and have removed all or virtually all references to Korbanot from their prayer books.
Jews do not believe in original sin. It is believed that each Jew individual is responsible to follow the 613 mitzvot to the best of his abilities. On Yom Kippur God judges each individual yearly. The coming of the messiah will not remove the requirement to keep the 613 mitzvot. Non-Jews are expected to keep the Seven Laws of Noah. Self-sacrifice in Jewish law is only required in three cases. The following three sins must never be committed; Idolatry, sexual misconduct and murder. Martyrdom is not one of the 613 mitzvot. In no case does it count as a ritual sacrifice. In ancient times sacrifices were offered only as a fulfillment of the 613 mitzvot. According to Maimonides, in a situation where one is not required to sacrifice himself rather than transgress, to do so would be considered suicide, which is strongly forbidden and condemned under Jewish law.
Most Christians believe that sacrifices were commanded by God because of mankind's need to be ransomed from the punishment of sin (Lev. 17:11). They believe that since God is holy, he demands perfection in his followers, which is an unattainable standard (Rom. 3:23). The sacrificed animals were a sign of God's grace to mankind - in effect allowing the death of an acceptable animal to take the place of a man's death. Many Christians[who?] believe that this system of substitutionary atonement was prophesied to end with the coming of the Messiah. The Messiah's death was to be the atoning sacrifice for the entire world, thereby invalidating the need for the old system of animal sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-18). See Isaiah 53 Some other Christians[who?] (arguably fewer in number) believe that the atonement by the sacrificial system worked in allowing the worshiper to approach a Holy God who dwelled among them, but did not take away sins which they never intended to do.
Lewis Sperry Chafer taught that the entire modus operandi of the Levitical priesthood was a "shadow Christology." This included the structures, furniture, furnishings, clothing, and rituals. Hebrews 10:1 "For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect them that draw nigh." The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews asserts that these sacrifices do not have the ability to "make perfect them that draw nigh," but were instead, a "shadow of good things to come," specifically, the person and work of Jesus Christ. The Letter to the Hebrews, written c. 67 AD, was addressed to the Jews living in Jerusalem. The content, grammar, syntax, style, and the use of Attic and Patristic Greek terms, idiom, and structures, all point to the writer being someone intimately familiar with the Old Testament rituals, and solidly educated in Greek. All the Old Testament quotes are directly from the Septuagint. Two examples of Jesus Christ fulfilling the "shadows" are the following: John the Baptist noted (John 1:29) "On the morrow he seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold, the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" In John 8:12, Jesus states, "Again therefore Jesus spake unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life." In the context, Jesus is referring to the golden candelabra that is in the Holy Place inside the Tabernacle. John 10:22 tells us the time period during which Jesus made this statement.
Jesus rebuked some of the Pharisees for their inappropriate position on korban Mark Chapter 7, also parallel Matthew Chapter 15. In these passages, Jesus condemned the Pharisees for "…making void the word of God by your tradition…" by violating the Commandment to <honor your father and mother>, when they rather followed their "traditions". In the Gospel narrative, the Pharisees were keeping people obligated to their vow once something was set aside as korban, prohibiting them to use it even in order to attend to the need of the parents. Many modern translations render Matthew 15:6 as if putting aside as korban exempts people from their filial duty to the parents. Thus, it relieves people of any further responsibility to support their parents, whether it was actually turned over to the Temple treasury, being not important. This line of interpretation is easily spotted in many Bible commentaries on this Gospel text.
The phrase al-Qurbaan al-Muqaddas (القربان المقدس; The Holy Korban) is the usual term used to translate the term "Eucharist" into Arabic among Arab Christians.
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Corban.|