Lamb of God

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Zurbaran Agnus Dei, Prado Museum, c. 1635-1640 Francisco de Zurbaran 006.jpg
Zurbarán Agnus Dei , Prado Museum, c. 1635–1640
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, with gushing blood, detail of the Ghent Altarpiece, Jan van Eyck, c. 1432 Ghent Altarpiece D - Adoration of the Lamb 2.jpg
Adoration of the Mystic Lamb , with gushing blood, detail of the Ghent Altarpiece , Jan van Eyck, c.1432

Lamb of God (Greek : Ἀμνὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, Amnos tou Theou; Latin : Agnus Deī [ˈaŋ.nʊs ˈde.iː] ) is a title for Jesus that appears in the Gospel of John. It appears at John 1:29, where John the Baptist sees Jesus and exclaims, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." [1]

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Names and titles of Jesus in the New Testament Designations for Jesus used in the New Testament

Two names and a variety of titles are used to refer to Jesus in the New Testament.

Gospel of John The fourth of the canonical gospels

The Gospel of John is the fourth of the canonical gospels. The work is anonymous, although it identifies an unnamed "disciple whom Jesus loved" as the source of its traditions. It is closely related in style and content to the three Johannine epistles, and most scholars treat the four books, along with the Book of Revelation, as a single corpus of Johannine literature, albeit not from the same author.

Contents

Christian doctrine holds that divine Jesus chose to suffer crucifixion at Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of his divine Father, as an "agent and servant of God" as well as to pick up and carry away the sin of the world. [2] [3] In Christian theology the Lamb of God is viewed as foundational and integral to the message of Christianity. [4] [5]

God the Son

God the Son is the second person of the Trinity in Christian theology. The doctrine of the Trinity identifies Jesus as the incarnation of God, united in essence (consubstantial) but distinct in person with regard to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

Crucifixion of Jesus Jesus crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels

The crucifixion of Jesus occurred in 1st-century Judea, most likely between AD 30 and 33. Jesus' crucifixion is described in the four canonical gospels, referred to in the New Testament epistles, attested to by other ancient sources, and is established as a historical event confirmed by non-Christian sources, although there is no consensus among historians on the exact details.

Calvary Geographic location

Golgotha, or Calvary, was, according to the Gospels, a site immediately outside Jerusalem's walls where Jesus was crucified.

A lion-like lamb that rises to deliver victory after being slain appears several times in the Book of Revelation. [6] It is also referred to in Pauline writings: 1 Corinthians 5:7 suggests that Saint Paul intends to refer to the death of Jesus, who is the Paschal Lamb, using the theme found in Johannine writings. [7] The lamb metaphor is also in line with Psalm 23, which depicts God as a shepherd leading his flock (mankind).

Book of Revelation Final book of the New Testament

The Book of Revelation, often called the Book of Revelations, Revelation to John, the Apocalypse of John, The Revelation, or simply Revelation, the Revelation of Jesus Christ or the Apocalypse, is the final book of the New Testament, and therefore also the final book of the Christian Bible. It occupies a central place in Christian eschatology. Its title is derived from the first word of the text, written in Koine Greek: apokalypsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation" (before title pages and titles, books were commonly known by the incipit, their first words, as is also the case of the Hebrew Five Books of Moses. The Book of Revelation is the only apocalyptic document in the New Testament canon The only extended passage in the Old Testament is in the Book of Daniel.

Psalm 23 Book of Psalms, chapter 23

Psalm 23 is the 23rd psalm of the Book of Psalms, generally known in English by its first verse, in the King James Version, "The Lord is my Shepherd". The Book of Psalms is the third section of the Hebrew Bible, and a book of the Christian Old Testament. In the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible, and in its Latin translation in the Vulgate, this psalm is Psalm 22 in a slightly different numbering system. In Latin, it is known as "Dominus reget me et nihil mihi deerit".

The Lamb of God title is widely used in Christian prayers, and the Agnus Dei is used as a standard part of the Catholic Mass, as well as the classical Western Liturgies of the Anglican and Lutheran Churches. It also is used in liturgy and as a form of contemplative prayer. [8] [9] The Agnus Dei also forms a part of the musical setting for the Mass.

Agnus Dei (liturgy) liturgical text and music of "Lamb of God"

In the Mass of the Roman Rite and also in the Eucharist of the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, and the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church the Agnus Dei is the invocation to the Lamb of God sung or recited during the fraction of the Host.

Liturgy is the customary public worship performed by a religious group. As a religious phenomenon, liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance. It forms a basis for establishing a relationship with a divine agency, as well as with other participants in the liturgy.

Agnus Dei (music)

Agnus Dei, referring to the Christian theological concept of the Lamb of God and the associated liturgical text from the Roman Catholic Latin Mass, has been set to music by many composers, as it is normally one of the movements or sections in a sung Mass setting. However, sometimes it stands alone, e.g. it provides the lyrics for Samuel Barber's Agnus Dei, the choral arrangement of his Adagio for Strings.

As a visual motif the lamb has been most often represented since the Middle Ages as a standing haloed lamb with a foreleg cocked "holding" a pennant with a red cross on a white ground, though many other ways of representing it have been used.

Gospel of John

Agnus Dei with the vexillum Agnus Dei.png
Agnus Dei with the vexillum

The title Lamb of God for Jesus appears in the Gospel of John, with the initial proclamation: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" in John 1:29, the title reaffirmed the next day in John 1:36. [1] The second use of the title Lamb of God takes place in the presence of the first two apostles of Jesus, who immediately follow him, address him as Rabbi with respect and later in the narrative bring others to meet him. [10]

In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. The basic form of the rabbi developed in the Pharisaic and Talmudic era, when learned teachers assembled to codify Judaism's written and oral laws. The first sage for whom the Mishnah uses the title of rabbi was Yohanan ben Zakkai, active in the early-to-mid first century CE. In more recent centuries, the duties of a rabbi became increasingly influenced by the duties of the Protestant Christian minister, hence the title "pulpit rabbis", and in 19th-century Germany and the United States rabbinic activities including sermons, pastoral counseling, and representing the community to the outside, all increased in importance.

These two proclamations of Jesus as the Lamb of God closely bracket the Baptist's other proclamation in John 1:34: "I have borne witness that this is the Son of God". From a Christological perspective, these proclamations and the descent of the Holy Spirit as a dove in John 1:32 reinforce each other to establish the divine element of the Person of Christ. [1] In Johannine Christology the proclamation "who takes away the sin of the world" begins the unfolding of the salvific theme of the redemptive and sacrificial death of Jesus followed by his resurrection which is built upon in other proclamations such as "this is indeed the Saviour of the world" uttered by the Samaritans in John 4:42. [11] [12]

Christology Study of Jesus Christ in Christian theology

Christology, literally "the understanding of Christ," is the study of the nature (person) and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, and the relation between these two aspects; and the role he plays in salvation.

Holy Spirit, is a term found in English translations of the Bible that is understood differently among the Abrahamic religions. The term is also used to describe aspects of other religions and belief structures.

Salvation in Christianity Saving of the soul from sin and its consequences in the Christian faith

Salvation in Christianity, or deliverance, redemption is the "saving [of] human beings from death and separation from God" by Christ's death and resurrection, and the justification following this salvation. Christians partake in this redemption by baptism, repentance, and participating in Jesus' death and resurrection.

Book of Revelation

Lamb bleeding into the Holy Chalice, carrying the vexillum Agnus Dei with Vexillum.jpg
Lamb bleeding into the Holy Chalice, carrying the vexillum

The Book of Revelation includes over twenty-nine references to a lion-like lamb ("slain but standing") which delivers victory in a manner reminiscent of the resurrected Christ. [6] In the first appearance of the lamb in Revelation (5:1–7) only the lamb (which is of the tribe of Judah, and the root of David) is found worthy to take the judgment scroll from God and break the seals. [6] The reference to the lamb in Revelation 5:6 relates it to the Seven Spirits of God which first appear in Revelation 1:4 and are associated with Jesus who holds them along with seven stars. [13]

In Revelation 21:14 the lamb is said to have twelve apostles. [6] The handing of the scroll (i.e. the book containing the names of those who will be saved) to the risen lamb signifies the change in the role of the lamb. In Calvary, the lamb submitted to the will of the Father to be slain, but now is trusted with the judgment of mankind. [14]

From the outset, the book of Revelation is presented as a "revelation of Jesus Christ" and hence the focus on the lamb as both redeemer and judge presents the dual role of Jesus: he redeems man through self-sacrifice, yet calls man to account on the day of judgment. [15]

Christology

The concept of the Lamb of God fits well within John's "agent Christology", in which sacrifice is made as an agent of God or servant of God for the sake of eventual victory. [3] [16]

The theme of a sacrificial lamb which rises in victory as the Resurrected Christ was employed in early Christology. For example in 375 Saint Augustine wrote: "Why a lamb in his passion? Because he underwent death without being guilty of any iniquity. Why a lion in his passion? Because in being slain, he slew death. Why a lamb in his resurrection? Because his innocence is everlasting. Why a lion in his resurrection? Because everlasting also is his might." [17]

Medieval Agnus Dei with halo and cross; Euphrasian Basilica, Porec, Croatia Porec021.jpg
Medieval Agnus Dei with halo and cross; Euphrasian Basilica, Poreč, Croatia

The 11th century Christology of Saint Anselm of Canterbury specifically disassociates the Lamb of God from the Old Testament concept of a scapegoat, which is subjected to punishment for the sins of others without knowing it or willing it. [2] Anselm emphasized that as Lamb of God, Jesus chose to suffer in Calvary as a sign of his full obedience to the will of the Father. [2]

John Calvin presented the same Christological view, of "The Lamb as the agent of God", by arguing that in his trial before Pilate and while at Herod's Court Jesus could have argued for his innocence, but instead remained mostly quiet and submitted to crucifixion in obedience to the Father, for he knew his role as the Lamb of God. [18] [19]

In modern Eastern Orthodox Christology, Sergei Bulgakov argued that the role of Jesus as the Lamb of God was "pre-eternally" determined by the Father, before the creation of the world, by considering the scenario that it would be necessary to send The Son as an agent to redeem humanity disgraced by the fall of Adam, and that this is a sign of His love. [20]

San Damiano Cross depicts the sacrificial Christ as Agnus Dei 270713 Museum in Monastery of Reformers in Kazimierz Dolny - 01.jpg
San Damiano Cross depicts the sacrificial Christ as Agnus Dei

Multiple hypotheses about the suitable symbolism for the Lamb of God have been offered, within various Christological frameworks, ranging from the interpretation of Old Testament references to those of the Book of Revelation. [21] One view suggests the symbolism of Leviticus 16 as scapegoat, coupled with Romans 3:21–25 for atonement, while another view draws parallels with the Paschal Lamb in Exodus 12:1–4, coupled with John 1:29–36, and yet another symbolism relies on Revelation 5:5–14 in which the lamb is viewed as a lion who destroys evil. [21] [22] However, as above, the view adopted by Saint Anselm and John Calvin rejects the scapegoat symbolism. They view Jesus as making a knowing sacrifice as an agent of God, unlike an unwitting scapegoat. [2] [18] [19]

In modern Roman Catholic Christology, Karl Rahner has continued to elaborate on the analogy that the blood of the Lamb of God, and the water flowing from the side of Christ on Calvary, had a cleansing nature, similar to baptismal water. In this analogy, the blood of the Lamb washed away the sins of humanity in a new baptism, redeeming it from the fall of Adam. [23]

Liturgy and music

Agnus Dei from Mass in G by Schubert.

In the Mass of the Roman Rite and also in the Eucharist of the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran Church, and the Western Rite of the Orthodox Church the Agnus Dei is the invocation to the Lamb of God sung or recited during the fraction of the Host. [24] It is said to have been introduced into the Mass by Pope Sergius I (687–701). [25]

Agnus Dei has been set to music by many composers, usually as part of a Mass setting. [26] [27]

Art

Lamb of God mosaic in presbytery of Basilica of San Vitale (built A.D. 547) Ravenna, Italy. Basilica of San Vitale - Lamb of God mosaic.jpg
Lamb of God mosaic in presbytery of Basilica of San Vitale (built A.D. 547) Ravenna, Italy.
Lamb of God with vexillum, Sacred Heart Church (Berlin), 1898 Lamb of God in Herz-Jesu Church.jpg
Lamb of God with vexillum, Sacred Heart Church (Berlin), 1898

In Christian iconography, an Agnus Dei is a visual representation of Jesus as a lamb, since the Middle Ages, usually holding a standard or banner with a cross. This normally rests on the lamb's shoulder and is held in its right foreleg. Often the cross will have a white banner suspended from it charged with a red cross (similar to St George's Cross), though the cross may also be rendered in different colors. Sometimes the lamb is shown lying atop a book with seven seals hanging from it. This is a reference to the imagery in the Book of Revelation 5:1–13, ff. Occasionally, the lamb may be depicted bleeding from the area of the heart (Cf. Revelation 5:6), symbolizing Jesus' shedding of his blood to take away the sins of the world (Cf. John 1:29, 1:36).

In Early Christian art the symbol appears very early on. Several mosaics in churches include it, some showing a row of twelve sheep representing the apostles flanking the central Agnus Dei, as in Santi Cosma e Damiano, Rome (526–30).

The Moravian Church uses an Agnus Dei as their seal with the surrounding inscription Vicit agnus noster, eum sequamur ("Our Lamb has conquered, let us follow him").

Although the depiction of Jesus as the Lamb of God is of ancient origin, it is not used in the liturgical iconography of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The reason for this is that the depictions of Jesus in the Orthodox Church are anthropomorphic rather than symbolic, as a confession of the Orthodox belief in the Incarnation of the Logos. However, there is no objection to the application of the term "Lamb of God" to Jesus. In fact, the Host used in the Orthodox Divine Liturgy is referred to as the Lamb (Greek : άμνος, romanized: amnos; Church Slavonic: Агнецъ, romanized: agnets).

Heraldry

An heraldic escutcheon blazoned as A paschal lamb, as drawn by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (1871-1928) Complete Guide to Heraldry Fig398.png
An heraldic escutcheon blazoned as A paschal lamb, as drawn by Arthur Charles Fox-Davies (1871–1928)

A Paschal Lamb is a charge used in heraldry, for example as the crest of the Davie Baronets, and is blazoned: A paschal lamb [28] This charge is depicted as a lamb standing with body facing towards the dexter (viewer's left), with nimbus, and with head facing forwards (or turned looking backwards to sinister, termed reguardant) holding under its right foreleg a flagpole, tipped with a small cross, resting at a diagonal angle over its shoulder, flying a banner of the Cross of St. George (except in Perth's coat of arms, where it flies a banner of the Cross of St Andrew).

Catholic sacramental

In the Roman Catholic Church, an Agnus Dei is a disc of wax, stamped with an image of Jesus as a lamb bearing a cross, that is consecrated by the Pope as a sacramental. [29] These were often set in jewelry, and might be worn round the neck on a chain, or as a brooch.

See also

Related Research Articles

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References

  1. 1 2 3 The Lamb of God by Sergei Bulgakov 2008 ISBN   0-8028-2779-9 page 263
  2. 1 2 3 4 The Christology of Anselm of Canterbury by Dániel Deme 2004 ISBN   0-7546-3779-4 pages 199–200
  3. 1 2 The Christology of the New Testament by Oscar Cullmann 1959 ISBN   0-664-24351-7 page 79
  4. Karl Gerlach (1998). The Antenicene Pascha: A Rhetorical History. Peeters Publishers. p. 21. Long before this controversy, Ex 12 as a story of origins and its ritual expression had been firmly fixed in the Christian imagination. Though before the final decades of the second century only accessible as an exegetical tradition, already in the Pauline letters the Exodus saga is deeply involved with the celebration of bath and meal. Even here, this relationship does not suddenly appear, but represents developments in ritual narrative that must have begun at the very inception of the Christian message. Jesus of Nazareth was crucifed during Pesach-Mazzot, an event that a new covenant people of Jews and Gentiles both saw as definitive and defining. Ex 12 is thus one of the few reliable guides for tracing the synergism among ritual, text, and kerygma before the Council of Nicaea.
  5. Matthias Reinhard Hoffmann (2005). The Destroyer and the Lamb: The Relationship Between Angelomorphic and Lamb Christology in the Book of Revelation. Mohr Siebeck. p. 117. ISBN   3-16-148778-8. 1.2.2. Christ as the Passover Lamb from Exodus A number of features throughout Revelation seem to correspond to Exodus 12: The connection of Lamb and Passover, a salvific effect of the Lamb's blood and the punishment of God's (and His people's) opponents from Exodus 12 may possibly be reflected within the settings of the Apocalypse. The concept of Christ as a Passover lamb is generally not unknown in NT or early Christian literature, as can for instance be seen in 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19 or Justin Martyr's writing (Dial. 111:3). In the Gospel of John, especially, this connection between Christ and Passover is made very explicit.
  6. 1 2 3 4 Reclaiming the book of Revelation: by Wilfried E. Glabach 2007 ISBN   1-4331-0054-1 pages
  7. "CHURCH FATHERS: Homily 15 on First Corinthians (Chrysostom)". www.newadvent.org.
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  9. Prayer Book Parallels: The Public Services of the Church by Paul Victor Marshall 1990 ISBN   0-89869-181-8 page 369
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  12. Studies in Early Christology by Martin Hengel 2004 ISBN   0-567-04280-4 page 371
  13. New Testament Theology by Thomas R. Schreiner 2008 Baker Academic ISBN   0-8010-2680-6 page 502
  14. Studies in Revelation by M. R. De Haan, Martin Ralph DeHaan 1998 ISBN   0-8254-2485-2 page 103
  15. Revelation by Ben Witherington ISBN   978-0-521-00068-0 page 27
  16. The Johannine exegesis of God by Daniel Rathnakara Sadananda 2005 ISBN   3-11-018248-3 page 281
  17. Revelation by William C. Weinrich 2005 ISBN   0-8308-1497-3 page 73
  18. 1 2 The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures by Hughes Oliphant Old 2002 ISBN   0-8028-4775-7 page 125
  19. 1 2 Calvin's Christology by Stephen Edmondson 2004 ISBN   0-521-54154-9 page 91
  20. The Lamb of God by Sergei Bulgakov 2008 ISBN   0-8028-2779-9 page 129
  21. 1 2 Symbols of Jesus: A Christology of Symbolic Engagement by Robert C. Neville (Feb 4, 2002) Cambridge Univ Pres ISBN   0521003539 page 13
  22. The Lion and the Lamb by Andreas J. Kostenberger, L. Scott Kellum and Charles L Quarles (Jul 15, 2012) ISBN   1433677083 page 114
  23. Encyclopedia of theology: a concise Sacramentum mundi by Karl Rahner 2004 ISBN   0-86012-006-6 page 74
  24. See "Agnus Dei (in Liturgy)" article from The Catholic Encyclopedia
  25. Lives of Orthodox Western Saints by Reader Daniel Lieuwen (St Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney TX)
  26. The Harvard dictionary of music by Don Michael Randel 2003 ISBN   0-674-01163-5 page 28
  27. The earliest settings of the Agnus Dei and its tropes by Charles Mercer Atkinson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 1975 page 14
  28. Montague-Smith, P.W. (ed.), Debrett's Peerage, Baronetage, Knightage and Companionage, Kelly's Directories Ltd, Kingston-upon-Thames, 1968, p.232
  29. "Agnus Dei" article from The Catholic Encyclopedia