Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Dr. Ben F. Meyer
How Jesus understood his death is an important datum for the reconstruction of the aims of Jesus. Having experienced the rejection of his message of the Kingdom of God, Jesus found himself in a situation of crisis, wherein he was forced to reflect on the theological significance of his failure. He came to the conclusion that it was God's will that his death be an expiation for sin. This is how he incorporated his death into his understanding of his role as the messenger of the Kingdom of God. If the historian does not take Jesus understanding of his death into consideration, his reconstruction of the aims of Jesus will necessarily be truncated.
In particular, Jesus came to understand his approaching death in the light of Jewish paschal theology. He viewed the sacrifice of the Passover lambs in Egypt as typological of his own death. In like manner, his death would be a redemptive event, being both an expiation for sin and the means by which the new covenant, foretold by Jeremiah, would be realized. Appropriately enough, he expressed this to his disciples at his last Passover meal. Jesus' understanding of the significance of his death parallels the Jewish tradition of the Binding of Isaac. In post-biblical Judaism, Isaac's sacrifice or at least his willingness to be sacrificed was interpreted as expiatory and as the ground of the efficacy of the original Passover offerings. Similarly, Jesus saw his own death as expiatory and the typological fulfilment of the original Passover offerings.
The words of institution moreover, represent the establishment by Jesus of a new liturgical practice in continuity with the Passover, reflecting his self-understanding of being the eschatological messenger of God.
Smith, Barry Douglas, "The Words of Institution : Jesus Death as Eschatological Passover Sacrifice" (1988). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 2065.