Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Orlov, Andrei A.

Second Advisor

Cover, Michael

Third Advisor

Burns, Joshua E.


Ancient Christians often interpreted the death of Jesus through the lens of Leviticus 16, conceiving Jesus as both the immolated “goat for Yahweh,” whose blood the high priest brought into the Holy of Holies once a year to purge Israel’s sins, and the “goat for Azazel,” which bore Israel’s iniquity into the wilderness far away from God’s presence. Such an understanding of Jesus’s death did not strike theologians such as the author of the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Jerome, Cyril of Alexandria, and the earliest Markan commentator as strange. What is strange is how seldom modern critics have scrutinized the potential impact of early Judaism’s most significant occasion of atonement on the First Evangelist’s conception of the death of Jesus, whose blood is explicitly poured out “for the forgiveness of sins” only in his Gospel (Matt 26:28)Building upon the insights of John Dominic Crossan, Helmut Koester, Adela Yarbro Collins, Richard DeMaris, Albert Wratislaw, Daniel Stökl Ben Ezra, and Jeniffer Maclean, this dissertation investigates the influence of the Day of Atonement on the First Evangelist’s passion narrative by employing redaction, literary, and intertextual criticism. The Barabbas episode (Matt 27:15–26), the Roman-abuse scene (Matt 27:27–31), the crucifixion, death, and burial narratives (Matt 27:32–66), and Leviticus 16 are the primary texts in this study, though I draw upon a wide range of Second Temple Jewish literature, including the Book of Zechariah, the Book of Watchers, the Book of Jubilees, 11QMelchizedek, and the Apocalypse of Abraham.I conclude that Matthew crafts a sustained Yom Kippur typology in the twenty seventh chapter of his Gospel. He remodels the Barabbas episode as a Yom Kippur lottery between two “goats,” thereby merging the themes of new Passover and forgiveness of sins. In this dark ritual parody, Pilate acts as high priest, designating Jesus as the sacrificial goat for Yahweh and Barabbas as the goat for Azazel. The governor transfers the iniquity of bloodguilt from his hands onto the crowd, which corresponds to sin-bearing Azazel. Since the crowd is only a provisional sin-bearer in his view, Matthew also casts Jesus as a scapegoat. The evangelist depicts Jesus as receiving the sins of the world in the curse-transmission ritual of the Roman-abuse scene. In his death and burial narrative, Matthew portrays Jesus as offering his πνεῦμα/lifeforce to God as the goat for Yahweh and as descending to the realm of the dead as the goat for Azazel.

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