Acceptable animals to sacrifice (and why donkeys don’t make the list)

Question 115, from SD, United Kingdom

This answer is sponsored by star in a jar

I have a question about Exodus chapter 34, verse 20. Why doesn’t God want first-born donkeys as a sacrifice? I can understand why he’d want us to redeem our first-born son, but donkeys…?

Exodus chapter 34 recounts God making a new covenant with the Israelite people after the Ten Commandments were inscribed on new stone tablets. Exodus chapter 32, verse 19 records that the original stone tablets were smashed by Moses when he returned to the Israelite camp and saw the people worshipping an idol in the shape of a golden calf.

The covenant in Exodus chapter 34 is a reaction to the Israelite idolatry. Verses 31 and 14 contain a command to destroy the idols of other races; verse 17 explicitly states “Do not make cast idols.” As part of this campaign against apostasy, all the first-born are to be given over to Yahweh (verse 19), except for donkeys and children.

Children were sacrificed in religious rites of the cultures surrounding the Israelites and so (more…)

Signs and wonders

Question 114: From LJ, USA

This answer on freelance theology is sponsored by

Dear freelance theology: I see the use of the term(s) “signs and wonders” numerous times in the New Testament, particularly in the Gospels signifying Jesus’ ministry. In my reading of Christian books, I cannot seem to find a description or definition of exactly what “signs and wonders” are. I see where “wonders” could mean the miracles themselves that Jesus performed, but what is a “sign” that Jesus would have used and what is its significance? Can you help me out, please.

There are several Greek words used for miracles in the New Testament. Words like dunameis (powerful act) or teraton (literally ‘wonders’) are frequently used, as well as the word semeia meaning ‘signs’.

Generally the attitude of the gospel writers is that miracles testify to the truth of Christianity. In Romans chapter 15, verse 19, Paul links his performance of miracles with the conversion of gentile believers. When Jesus is asked by John the Baptist’s followers whether he is the messiah, he instructs them to (more…)