Rabbi Michael Skobac has a short video out called “Jesus Was Not Our Passover Lamb” (Click here to watch the full video) in which he tries to point out the “mistakes” he claims are made by the New Testament authors who refer to Yeshua or Jesus as the Passover Lamb. The problem is that the good rabbi doesn’t correctly represent the Christian position on the issue. As you will see, it’s not really even close. Instead, he puts up a strawman…or if you will, a straw-lamb argument. Let’s take a look at the three biggest errors in the rabbi’s teaching.
Error #1: A Faulty Connection
The rabbi opens with a reason that he claims Christians connect Jesus with the Passover Lamb:
“One of the weird reasons that Christians connect Jesus to the Passover Lamb is that in the story of Jesus crucifixion we are told that, unlike the two people who were hanging on the crosses next to him, Jesus expired very quickly . . . The Christian Bible says that when Jesus was crucified on a Friday, the two people next to him were still alive and kicking, so their legs were broken. But they came to Jesus and it says He already was dead and they didn’t have to break his legs. And the Christian says, “You see? In the Jewish Bible, it says that you can’t break any of the bones of the Passover lamb, and you see Jesus his legs were not broken, and that fulfilled the requirement in the Jewish Bible that none of his bones can be broken.”-Rabbi Skobac
What’s going in here? Rabbi Skobac is referring to the instructions that God originally gave Israel regarding the Passover lamb that none of the lamb’s bones are to be broken (Ex 12:46; Num 9:12). And he is then connecting those instructions in the Torah to the passage about Christ’s crucifixion in John 19. There we read about the events that the rabbi described, where the legs of the other two men on the crosses next to Yeshua were broken. “But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs” (John 19:33). And John tells us that “these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” (John 19:36)
The problem with the connection that the rabbi is making is that’s it’s not the connection John is writing about here. John’s not quoting from the verses in the Torah about the Passover lamb, He is quoting Psalm 34:20 which says “He keeps all his bones, not one of them is broken.” John is telling us that this Psalm—or at least this particular verse of this Psalm—was about the promised messiah and that, in Yeshua, we are seeing the prophecy about unbroken bones fulfilled.
That is why, contrary to what the Rabbi says, Christians don’t base the connection between Yeshua and the Passover Lamb on His unbroken bones
Error #2: A Literal Miscalculation
The second big error is that Rabbi Skobac replaces the authentic Christian teaching on the connection between Christ and Passover with a sort of wooden literalism. He wants to equate the death of Yeshua in a literal way with the Temple sacrifices of animals as if Christians believed that Yeshua was merely a human version of the Passover lamb that was sacrificed under Temple law. He says:
“First of all, you for sure couldn’t sacrifice a human being. The Bible goes to great lengths excoriating and basically cursing people who sacrifice human beings…. One of the reasons why they would take the Passover lamb and tie it up for four days before they sacrificed it was to make sure that it was examined properly, no blemishes, no nicks, no cuts, no scratches . . . Well, Jesus was beaten up before he was crucified; he had a crown of thorns put on his head . . . He had plenty of physical blemishes. He certainly could not serve as a sacrifice according to the Jewish Bible. According to the Jewish Bible, all sacrifices had to be roasted, had to be burnt. Jesus was not burned.”-Rabbi Skobac
The rabbi is trying to interpret the death of Yeshua as if He were a human substitute for an animal sacrificed at the Temple, even to the point of being roasted and eaten. But that’s not at all what Christians are talking about. The NT does not refer to Yeshua as our Passover lamb in a literal sense. When Paul wrote that “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor 5:7), he was not suggesting that Yeshua was actually a one-year-old goat killed by a priest at the Temple in remembrance of Israel’s exodus from Egypt. Rather Christ is understood as our “Passover lamb” in a figurative, symbolic, typological sense. In the same way that the Israelites in Egypt found salvation from God’s judgment through the blood of an unblemished Passover lamb, we today can find salvation from God’s judgment through the blood of a Yeshua, the Sinless Lamb of God.
The Christian connection between Yeshua and Passover is based on two important factors. First, this thematic connection of innocent blood bringing salvation. And second, the fact that Yeshua’s Last Supper, the last meal He ate before He was crucified, occurred on Passover. We read in Luke,
And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” . . . And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise, the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”-Luke 22:15, 19-20
It was at the Passover meal where Yeshua revealed that He was establishing the New Covenant that God had promised centuries earlier through the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34). And it was at the Passover meal where Yeshua revealed that the new covenant would come through his blood sacrifice. It’s in that sense that Yeshua can be called the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). That’s the connection that Christians teach between Jesus and the Passover lamb.
Error #3: A Sacred Omission
Lastly, Rabbi Skobac attempts to make the ambitious argument that the Passover sacrifice was ultimately a rejection of idolatry which leads us to reject Jesus. Here’s how he puts that argument together:
We know from the Jewish Bible in Exodus 8:22 that the Egyptians worshiped the lamb. Egyptians worshiped the lamb, and one of the things that we were doing by taking the lamb and tying it up in our homes for four days was to really rub it into the faces of the Egyptians. We were making a statement. . . . We were tying up their God to our bedpost and if anyone would ask us what are you doing with the lambs we would say well in four days we’re going to kill it and eat it . . . We were very dramatically taking the god of the Egyptians and desecrating it in front of them and then slaughtering it and eating it. It was a rejection of idolatry. The Passover sacrifice at its core was not simply a commemoration of the Exodus from Egypt. The sacrifice of the Passover lamb was a rejection of idolatry.-Rabbi Skobac
And then Rabbi Skobac ties this rejection of idolatry to Yeshua:
So to equate Jesus with the Passover lamb is incredibly ironic because the Passover lamb—if we really understand its message—would be saying run as far away from this religion as you can! This religion that took a human being and deified him and worships him as God is the antithesis of the Passover lamb. It’s not a fulfillment of the Passover sacrifice.-Rabbi Skobac
Rabbi Skobac is equating the worship of Jesus with the idolatry of Egyptians worshiping lambs. Let’s unpack his claim a bit. Remember, the Rabbi said, “We know from the Jewish Bible in the book of Exodus 8:22 that the Egyptians worshiped the lamb.” Is that true? Exodus 8:22 in the Hebrew Bible is 8:26 in the Christian Old Testament. This is where Moses is talking to Pharaoh during the fourth of the ten plagues, the flies. Pharaoh has just told Moses to:
…go and sacrifice to your God in the land. But Moses said, “It would not be right to do so, for the offerings we shall sacrifice to the Lord our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us?”-Exodus 8:25b-26
There’s nothing here specifically about Egyptians worshipping lambs. But we see Moses is worried about the sacrifice offending the Egyptians for some reason. Rabbi Skobac wants us to believe the reason is that Egyptians worshipped the lamb. But that’s not what the Torah says. If we keep reading this passage, we find that Moses isn’t concerned about the object of the sacrifice, but rather the place of the sacrifice. Picking up at verse 26:
For the offerings we shall sacrifice to the LORD our God are an abomination to the Egyptians. If we sacrifice offerings abominable to the Egyptians before their eyes, will they not stone us? We must go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as he tells us.” So Pharaoh said, “I will let you go to sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you must not go very far away. Plead for me.”-Exodus 8:26-28
This isn’t about lambs it’s about location. Isn’t that the very thing Rabbi Skobac said would spite the Egyptians? The truth is that the Bible doesn’t teach anywhere that the Egyptians worshipped the lamb. Which is a good thing, because the Egyptians didn’t worship lambs. There were a number of sacred animals in ancient Egypt, but lambs aren’t on the list.
So why does Rabbi Skobac teach “Egyptians worshiped the lamb, and one of the things that we were doing by taking the lamb and tying it up in our homes for four days was to really rub it into the faces of the Egyptians.” Is he misinformed, or misinforming? Either way, because Egyptians did not worship the lamb, Rabbi Skobac’s entire idolatry argument against Jesus as the Passover Lamb falls apart.
Hey, I certainly get why a Jewish rabbi would completely reject Jesus as our Passover lamb. There’s no surprise there. But if someone wants to argue against any Christian position, I’d say they should at least make sure they understand the Christian position first, rather than arguing against a false version of it.
Shalom, Rabbi Skobac! Chag Pesach Sameach