What is the meaning of the altar mentioned in (Hebrew 13 : 10)?  Catholic and Orthodox Churches use this verse to prove that there is an altar in the New Testament–justifying their use of an altar in their worship, and the idea that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. In Arabic translations, the word altar is translated “مذبح”which means literally “the place of sacrifice” What’s the sacrifice, and what is the place??


I am afraid the Catholic and Orthodox churches get this one very wrong.  We must consider the context and style of writing in the Book of Hebrews in order to interpret Hebrews 13:10 correctly.  The book is full of type/antitype comparisons between the Old and the New Testaments.  As the Hebrew writer says about Mosaic covenant, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.  For this reason, it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” (Hebrews 10:1)  The general pattern, as pointed out repeatedly by the Hebrew writer, is that in the Old Covenant, a physical thing was used which is a foreshadow of something spiritual in the New Covenant.  The spiritual thing replaces the physical thing.  If you look at Hebrews 9:1-9 you will see that all the things in the tabernacle, including the altar of sacrifice, were mere physical symbols of a spiritual, heavenly reality.  Hebrews 9:9 says, “This [the physical things in the Tabernacle] is an illustration for the present time, indication that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.”

Therefore, in Hebrews 13:10, the “altar” being referred to certainly is not some sort of physical altar set up here on the earth.  To teach this is to completely ignore the entire message and teaching of Hebrews.  This is a fundamental error.  To quote from Hebrews 13:10, We do have an “altar” from which those who minister at the Tabernacle have no right to eat.  “Those who minister at the Tabernacle” would be the Jews who do not accept Christ.  Our “altar” is the heavenly one, in the real Tabernacle in heaven, of which the Jewish Tabernacle is a mere copy and shadow  (Hebrews 8:5).  It is the altar on which Jesus has already given an eternal sacrifice which does NOT need to be repeated year after year or week after week!

The idea that Christians make an “offering” on an “altar” weekly as we take the communion is blasphemy.  It implies that the sacrifice of Jesus was not sufficient for our salvation.  For us, the place of sacrifice was in Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago.  It is not on a Catholic “altar” in a sacrifice/Eucharist.  The Lord’s Supper is a remembrance and it certainly is not a sacrifice made on an altar. To use Hebrews 13:10 as evidence that Christians have altars is to make the passage do exactly the opposite of what it was intended to do!  Our “altar” is not a physical place on the earth. Look at the context of the passage.  Our sacrifice is the one offered by Jesus who “suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).  The Lord’s Supper is not a sacrifice.  The “sacrifice” we offer to God is one of praise—the fruit of lips that confess his name. (Hebrews 13:15).  It certainly is not the remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice that we participate in weekly as Christians.

John Oakes

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