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Reviewing unprejudiced historical accounts, a large population of the religious
throughout the known world voiced their opposition to Trinitarian Christianity, and those
who denied Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death were not necessarily a minority. Many
would argue that from a gut level it makes more sense for God to have punished Judas for
his treachery than to have tortured Jesus for his innocence. The argument would be more
convincing if the doctrines of atonement and original sin could be shown to be invalid,
for these two doctrines hinge off the doorframe of the alleged death of Jesus. The first
hurdle for many people in considering such revolutionary notions is the age­old assertion
that Jesus Christ was the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John
1:29), for in the mind of the Trinitarian, this verse can have no relevance other than to
that of the doctrine of atonement. Unitarians, however, conceive Jesus to have lived a life of sacrifice in order to bear a purifying teaching which, if adopted, would put humankind
on the path of God’s design.

 

Lamb of God

There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept. —Ansel Adams

 

Many Christians claim to find proof of the crucifixion and atonement in John
1:29, which calls Jesus Christ the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Others are more speculative, and for good reason.
To begin with, Christians disagree on the meaning and significance of this
concept of “lambness.” Some question the Bible translation while still others fail to link
Old and New Testament “lamb of God” references into a reasonable chain of logic. Even
John the Baptist, whom this verse quotes, seemed to have trouble with the term. The
Christian claim is that John the Baptist knew who Jesus was, and identified him as the
“lamb of God” in John 1:29. But if he knew Jesus so well as to identify him with
certainty in one verse, why did he question Jesus years later: “Are You the Coming One,
or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3)

Among those who have difficulty rectifying Old and New Testament
inconsistencies are Catholic clergy themselves. The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits
inability to determine the origin of the title “Lamb of God,” for although attempts are
made to trace the term through Isaiah (chapter 53) by way of Acts 8:32, “this text is
incapable of explaining the expression …”
185
The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament has this to say: “The Aramaic
might also offer a basis with its use of the same word for both ‘lamb’ and ‘boy or
servant.’ Thus the Baptist in Jn. 1:29, 36 might have been describing Jesus as the servant
of God who takes away the sin of the world in vicarious self­offering (Is. 53).” 186 Excuse
me, but was that servant of God? Hm … lamb/servant; animal/human … Perhaps we
should be content that the translators confined their differences within the same animal
kingdom, but all the same …
So could John the Baptist’s native Aramaic have been corrupted in translation to
the New Testament Greek amnos? Could the correct translation be “boy” or “servant”
rather than “lamb?” If so, any link between Old and New Testament references to “lamb
of God” would shred faster than ticker tape in a turboprop. Hence, it is with great interest
that we encounter the New Catholic Encyclopedia agreeing that the Aramaic word talya’
can be translated to “boy” or “servant,” as well as “lamb.”187 Furthermore, the proposal
that the phrase uttered by the Baptist was “Behold the Servant of God,” and not “Behold
the Lamb of God” is, in their words, “very plausible” and “much easier to explain.”188

As with pais theou, the first translation of which is “servant of God” rather than
“Son of God,” could this be yet one more instance of theologically prejudiced
mistranslation? Quite possibly.
Finally, there is the now­familiar pattern of Jesus being labeled “lamb of God” in
the Gospel of John but in none of the other gospels, which implies a minority opinion or,
at the very least, lack of substantiation. Once again, the vote is three gospel authors to
one that the phrase was never spoken in the first place, or not stated with the meaning
into which it has been translated. Had the original meaning been “servant of God,”
(assuming the phrase was uttered in the first place) the other three gospel authors are to
be applauded for refusing to corrupt the message into an abstract recipe of “lambness.”
On the other hand, if we are to trust the Bible as the word of God, we have to wonder
why God didn’t inspire this knowledge to the other three gospel authors. Assuming God’s
objective to be that of spreading His truth as widely and precisely as possible, we have to
ask which is more likely:
A)  Our infallible God failed to propagate His truth three times (uh—no).
B)  The author of the book of John, verses 1:29 & 1:36, espoused a false
doctrine twice. (Possible, but let’s assume not, for if this were the case it
becomes difficult to trust any part of the Bible.)
C)  The true meaning is “servant of God,” but doctrinal prejudice resulted in
the translation “lamb of God.”

Perhaps we should consider this issue in the context of Christian creed as a whole,
for the doctrine of Jesus being the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”
bleeds into those of original sin and atonement. After all, what’s the need for a sacrificial
lamb, if not to atone for the (original) sin of the world?

 

 

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