Agnus Dei

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Agnus Dei is a Latin term meaning Lamb of God, and was originally used to refer to Jesus Christ in his role of the perfect sacrificial offering that atones for the sins of humanity in Christian theology, harkening back to ancient Jewish Temple sacrifices. The phrase "Agnus Dei" refers to several uses of this title.

The Biblical significance of the title is rendered in the context of earlier lamb symbolism. The blood of the paschal lamb of the Old Testament protects and saves the Israelites in Exodus 12. This link is made explicit in 1 Corinthians 5:7. For Paul, Christians are saved by Christ as their true paschal lamb.

The Old Testament also testifies to the earlier practice of sin offerings as a possible means of atonement. Lambs could be used in these offerings (e.g. Leviticus 4:32-34 and Leviticus 5:6), and this link is strongly suggested by Gospel of John 1:29 and 1 Peter 1:19. Just as in Judaism sins could be forgiven through the offering and the pouring out of the blood of an "unblemished" lamb (cf. Leviticus 4:32), so Christians believe they can be freed from sin by the blood of Jesus, the unblemished Lamb of God. See Sin for further discussion about the concept of sin and the means of atonement in Judaism. Those who reject the lamb of God atonement theology say that blood cannot forgive sin and that Jesus taught us to remove our sins by repentance, love and forgiving others.

Lastly, Christians believe that the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 refers to Jesus, although many identify the servant as Israel personified arguing that the identity of the servant has already been established by Isaiah in previously stated passages (Isaiah 41:8-9; Isaiah 44:1-2, Isaiah 44:22; Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 48:20; Isaiah 49:3). According to Isaiah 53, the suffering servant remains silent "like a lamb led to the slaughter" (Isaiah 53:7) and "gives his life as an offering for sin" (Isaiah 53:10). Christians add that this link is explicit in Acts 8:32 and strengthens the idea of Jesus as a sin offering. Those who reject the Lamb of God Theology say that Isaiah 53 cannot be applied to the suffering servant for the servant in Is. 53 has children and Jesus was celibate.

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