I’ve recently figured out that many people don’t know why Jesus is referred to as “the lamb of God” and why the image of a lamb is found in much of Christian art. Many people, evidently, think that Jesus is referred to as a “lamb” because he was meek and mild. This is soooo not the case.

Jewish practice up until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE was to bring an animal to the Temple to be slaughtered by a priest. It’s not a pretty picture by today’s standards, but that’s the way it is (or was). Hundreds of animals had their throats slit every day, and the bigger your animal, the more value it conferred. (There is even a common English idiom which refers to someone or something being led “like a lamb to the slaughter” which is probably a variation on a phrase in Isaiah 53.)

Evidently, during the time of Jesus, there was a kind of a con going on, wherein those who came to the Temple had to buy their ritually “pure” animals from approved sources (at the marketplace just inside the Temple), and they had to pay for the approved sacrificial animals with specific Temple money which – it just so happened – could be exchanged for Roman or other non-approved foreign currency right there at the same place – at usurious exchange rates. All of this was organized and approved by the High Priest (Caiaphas), and used to make the priests (especially the High Priest) wealthy. This was Jesus’s issue with the “money changers” made famous in, among other places, Mark 11:15:

And Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves;

Mark 11:15 (KJV)

Jesus isn’t known as a lamb because he was meek and mild, but instead because he was sacrificed like one.

Image: Jesus Christ Superstar