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Would salvation have been possible if Jesus died without shedding His blood?

As far as I understand, the Bible says that the believers are saved through joining together with Christ in His death and in His resurrection through faith and baptism.

From such verses as these:

I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. (John 10:17,18, KJV)

And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:46, KJV)

I gather that the Lord was the Lord of His own human life, too. In other words, He could have passed away at any moment during His presence on earth if He only wanted to. This means that He had the power to die without having to be put through any physical sufferings and shedding His blood.

However, as we know from the gospels, He did take upon all the sufferings -- both physical and soulish ones -- and He did shed His blood.

Does this mean that the shedding of His blood was a necessary part of His death? Would His death have still been valid in terms of our salvation if He had only died for us by willingly laying down His life (having previously, of course, let us know that He was doing that for our salvation), yet without shedding His blood?

From Heb 9:22 we know that without the shedding of blood there is no remission. And from the Gospels we know that Jesus' death for saving His believers was not without shedding His blood. Does that mean that His death would have been of no value for His believers if He had died without shedding His blood?

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    Good Question. I just want to point out that the manner of Jesus's death has significance in other ways: 1) to fulfill prophecy in Isaiah 53, 2) symbol for solidarity for human beings who suffer terrible evil at the hand of enemies yet forgive them, 3) symbol for faith in God while God seems far away, 4) symbol of power in being weak to rely on God the Father who gives everything; 5) symbol of the greatest love in giving one's life for the most unworthy of sinners, etc. So what's important may not be the "shedding blood" per se, but how dying at the hand of others can support those symbols. Sep 13 at 3:27
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    @brilliant It has never occurred to me, in the whole of my lifetime (coming up for seventy years) to even consider the possibility that the blood of Christ was not, or could ever not have been, shed. He was slain 'from the foundation of the world', Revelation 13:8, and slaughter involves bloodshed.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13 at 5:06
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    Fulfilling all prophecy about messiah meant there would be blood shed. Animals sacrificed by the Jews always had blood shed. The scriptures emphasize that the life is in the blood the temporary atonement of sin in the blood and the once for all time sacrifice of Jesus provide salvation through his blood.
    – Kris
    Sep 13 at 12:10
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    @curiousdannii - Yes.
    – brilliant
    Sep 13 at 13:52
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    Leviticus 17:11 - the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar, it is the blood that makes atonement for ones life. Hebrews 9:22 - In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
    – dezkev
    Sep 15 at 5:47
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This is an impossible question to answer and not profitable to consider, IMHO. If Jesus could have died without bleeding and still saved us there are so many other aspects of the entire Scripture that would have to be different.

For example, the bloodshed of the Levitical system would be pointless, the Day of Atonement moot, the blood consecrating the covenants would be useless, Abel's blood crying out from the ground would be senseless, Adam and Eve's coats of skins, the Passover and Jesus' repurposing of it...etc. The necessity of blood is woven all throughout the revelation that God has given.

Since Jesus died according to the Scriptures, if there was another way for it to happen the Scriptures would have had to be different. If the Scriptures were different and He died another way (according to them) we could still ask this same pointless question.

To answer this question in the affirmative is to require the concoction of an entirely different revelation. The Lamb was slain before the foundation of the earth and then God created. Jesus didn't shed His blood as a reaction...it was foundational.

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    I don't like to disagree with Augustine, but on this issue I see no other way and must side with you. The points that matter for me are (1) Gathsemane - Jesus asked for another way and was not told that there was one (2) Your allusion to Rev 13:8 (3) Psalm 34:20 "he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken." This final one shows that the Father placed limits on His Son's suffering. We can assume that He prevented Satan from inflicting more pain than was necessary - there was no surplus of unnecessary suffering. Sep 13 at 16:20
  • @paul I don't get why 'no broken bones' has anything to do with minimising suffering. He died early b/c he was so badly mutilated, broken bones - legs were to speed up the death after an agonising wait. Do you know any evidence for, "the Father placed limits on His Son's suffering"?
    – steveowen
    Sep 14 at 12:43
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    @steveowen - The first analogy is to Job, a type of Christ. God allowed Satan's testing of Job to proceed in stages with precise limits set. The next analogy is to Moses and the peculiar saying in Jude: But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” The dignity of Moses' body was protected, as was the body of Jesus after death. Sep 14 at 13:16
  • Thx, they seem a bit 'arms length' and tenuous to be sound support for your hypothesis. I cannot think of any scripture that might give support to God minimising J suffering.
    – steveowen
    Sep 14 at 13:21
  • @steveowen - How about Luke 22:43 ("And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening Him")? Coupled with Matthew 26:53 ("Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?") we may assume that the angel from heaven's appearing and strengthening Him was God's act of minimizing Jesus's sufferings.
    – brilliant
    Sep 15 at 4:39
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Would salvation have been possible if Jesus died without shedding His blood?

The only answer is possibly, but this is what God willed.

Ultimately God could have chosen another way to save mankind, but He willed his Son to die on the Cross.

Both St Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas have written on this very subject.

Michal Hunt gives us the following excellent explications and reasons for it being so necessary that Christ should shed his blood.

Was it God’s Plan that Jesus Christ should Die and Suffer for the Salvation of Man?

Was Christ's suffering and crucifixion really God's plan or could our salvation have been achieved some other way, and why did Jesus have to suffer as brutally as He did to accomplish our salvation? These questions are not new. Sixteen centuries ago St. Augustine addressed the same questions, and he noted that he was not the first theologian to discuss these issues. He wrote: There are those who say "What did God have no other way to free men from the misery of this mortality? No other way than to will that the only begotten Son [...] should become man by putting on a human soul and flesh, becoming mortal so He could endure death?"

St. Augustine reasoned that there were two issues to be considered in the first question: Was there another way?

Issue #1. If the crucifixion of Jesus was the only means God could find to rescue man from sin and eternal death then he would have to be limited in His power and His wisdom.

Issue #2. But, if God preferred the cruel death of His Son over some other plan of salvation then God cannot be kind and merciful and good.

In some ways this is similar to the question posed by so many people down through the centuries concerning God's goodness: "Why if God is a good God is there is suffering in the world He created?" St. Augustine and other doctors of the Church like St. Thomas Aquinas addressed the dilemma by first defining the attributers of God. Sacred Scripture tells us God is full of power, grace, wisdom, covenant love, and compassion. If we believe our God is all-powerful, all wise, and full of mercy and compassion, then we must reject the notion that He was limited in His choice of the means for our salvation. He could have indeed chosen another way other than the cross. God cannot be limited. St. Augustine wrote: Other possible means were not lacking on God's part because all things are equally subject to His power (On the Trinity 8:10). Writing nine centuries later in the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas agreed that of course God could have chosen another way. In his argument he quoted St. Augustine and supported Augustine's statement with a quotation from Sacred Scripture when he wrote: It was possible for God to deliver mankind otherwise than the Passion of the Christ, and then quoting from the Gospel of St. Luke 1:37 he wrote: because nothing shall be impossible for God (Summa Theologiae, 3:46:2).

However, if we believe God is all wise, full of mercy, compassion, and love then we must acknowledge there must have been a good reason He chose the terrifying and bloody Passion of His beloved Son as the means for our redemption. St. Thomas noted that Jesus spoke of this Passion as a plan that must be fulfilled. As a matter of fact, in each of the Synoptic Gospel accounts Jesus warns the Apostles on 3 separate occasions of His passion (1st: Mt 16:21-23; Mk 8:31-33; Lk 9:22; 2nd: Mt 17:22-23; Mk 9:30-32; Lk 9:44-45; 3rd Mt 20:17-19; Mk 10:32-34; Lk 18:31-33) . In Matthew chapter 16 for example, after Simon-Peter gives his confession of faith that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, Jesus begins to prepare His disciples for the terrible coming events of His Passion: From then onwards Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to rebuke him. "Heaven preserve you, Lord," he said, "this must not happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do" (Mt 16:21-23).

As Thomas Aquinas pointed out, there can be no question this and the other passages clearly show this was absolutely God's plan for man's salvation (Summa Theologiae, 3:42:2). Jesus fully understood the sacrificial nature of His death as His Father's plan as passages in John 10:16 and John 12:23-24. These and other passages clearly indicate this same understanding that the Son's self immolation on the altar of the Cross was the means by which man was to be redeemed. And, as St. Thomas also observed, it was after Jesus' Resurrection that He confirmed this was God's plan to His disciples on the Road to Emmaus: Then he said to them, "You foolish men! So slow to believe all that the prophets have said! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer before entering into his glory?" Then starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself(Lk 24:24).

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    Possibly ? ? ? Pray tell, what other means could possibly be found and if they could have been found, would the Father have subjected his Son to unfathomable suffering for no reason ? You astound me, sir.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 13 at 5:09
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    @NigelJ God can not be limited. God could have chosen another way to save mankind, but he willed the Jesus should die on the Cross.
    – Ken Graham
    Sep 13 at 5:12
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    @NigelJ I'm astounded by the opposite: the suggestion that God is somehow beholden to some unspecified set of rules that meant that he HAD to sacrifice his son to suffering. Where did these rules come from? What are they? Who made them if not God himself? And if God made the rules, could He not have made them otherwise?
    – TKoL
    Sep 13 at 10:19
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    @curiousdannii that doesn't seem to me to PROVE that God could not have chosen another way, as Ken suggests. It would at best prove that God had some reason for preferring this way.
    – TKoL
    Sep 13 at 13:54
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    @MikeBorden I would certainly find an argument that he's "beholden to his word" a bit more compelling, on the condition that you can point to which specific words ONLY Jesus, or some similar such personage, could fulfill that word. Prior to Jesus, how many Jews thought that God's words meant that he was going to come down / send his son, as a person, and that person would die for our sins? I think very few (none, more likely), which implies Jews prior to Jesus did NOT consider a Jesus-like being coming and dying for our sins was not necessary to fulfill his words.
    – TKoL
    Sep 13 at 15:20
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If the Son of God had died as a man without shedding his blood, then that would have been a violation of the plan of salvation worked out in the Godhead before any creation started. That is why Hebrews 13:20 speaks of our Lord Jesus Christ being resurrected "through the blood of the everlasting covenant". And in 12:22-24 we learn that those saved will approach heavenly mount Sion, to behold God, the spirits of just men made perfect, "and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

This indicates that had Jesus not shed his blood sacrificially, he would not have been resurrected. It also says something about the saved in heaven actually seeing that 'blood of sprinkling'.

But, supremely, Revelation 13:8 speaks of those "whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." In other words, because the Godhead had planned that particular means of salvation, the Son of God could effectively be spoken of as having been slain from the foundation of the world. Because it had been decreed, it was as good as done, for God never has a Plan B. He is in no need of contingency, for what he speaks happens. Creation happened through God speaking matter into existence from that which cannot be seen (Hebrews 11:3) and Christ sustains all creation through the power of his word (Hebrews 1:3). That is why it would have been impossible for Jesus to have been resurrected without shedding his blood, for in the eternal council of God, it was decreed - stated - that the Son of God would become incarnate and shed his blood to save sinners.

The entire book of Hebrews thrashes this out, contrasting the first covenant that was inaugurated with blood, with the new covenant, also inaugurated with blood. The parallels between the old and the new covenants are so powerful, it is unmistakable that the old pointed to the new. The lessons are there, as to why God views life as being "in the blood", and that only a sinless sacrifice of blood can take away our sins, once and for all, with no further sacrifices needed.

"Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator... Whereupon neither the first testament was dedicated without blood... [Moses] sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry, And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these." (Hebrews 9:12-26)

Nobody can read all that the Old Testament says about sacrifices and blood, and not appreciate that that is meant to teach us of the supreme, once-for-all-time sacrifice of the Son of God. That is what the book of Hebrews explains.

Salvation would not have been possible if Jesus had died without shedding his blood, because it was his shed blood that assured his resurrection. No risen Christ - no salvation. The plan of salvation was worked out to the nth degree in the Godhead, before creation started, and - having been decreed by the Word of God - was as good as done. There is never any Plan B in the perfect counsels of God!

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  • "it was his shed blood that assured his resurrection" - so, if the Romans decided to hang Christ instead of crucifying him, they would have killed God for good?
    – IMil
    Sep 14 at 1:36
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    @IMil The Romans were unwitting agents of killing Christ according to the foreordained plan of the Godhead, so that not even a bone in his body was broken, so that blood and water gushed out after he had given his spirit to the Father. The Jews would have stoned him to death but they were prevented by God. Crucifixion served the purpose with only a narrow window for that in history, one reason why Jesus was born when he was. Nothing the Romans nor the Jews decided could ever thwart God's sovereign plan of salvation. He was in control, not them.
    – Anne
    Sep 14 at 8:31
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You can read On the Incarnation, a classic of Christian theology. There St. Athanasius considers the possibility that Christ might have died in some other way. One pertinent reflection is the following:

Some might urge that, even granting the necessity of a public death for subsequent belief in the resurrection, it would surely have been better for Him to have arranged an honorable death for Himself, and so to have avoided the ignominy of the cross. But even this would have given ground for suspicion that His power over death was limited to the particular kind of death which He chose for Himself; and that again would furnish excuse for disbelieving the resurrection. Death came to His body, therefore, not from Himself but from enemy action, in order that the Savior might utterly abolish death in whatever form they offered it to Him. A generous wrestler, virile and strong, does not himself choose his antagonists, lest it should be thought that of some of them he is afraid. Rather, he lets the spectators choose them, and that all the more if these are hostile, so that he may overthrow whomsoever they match against him and thus vindicate his superior strength. Even so was it with Christ. He, the Life of all, our Lord and Savior, did not arrange the manner of his own death lest He should seem to be afraid of some other kind. No. He accepted and bore upon the cross a death inflicted by others, and those others His special enemies, a death which to them was supremely terrible and by no means to be faced; and He did this in order that, by destroying even this death, He might Himself be believed to be the Life, and the power of death be recognized as finally annulled. A marvelous and mighty paradox has thus occurred, for the death which they thought to inflict on Him as dishonor and disgrace has become the glorious monument to death's defeat.

So, although it's an indirect conclusion: at least one extremely prominent theologian in church history has considered your question, and his answer was not simply, “No, that wouldn't have been possible at all.”

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    What a marvelous analogy! Sep 13 at 19:01
  • I think his answer IS simply, "No, that wouldn't have been possible at all." Even though this doesn't directly deal with bloodshed, Athanasius says, "But even this would have given ground for suspicion that His power over death was limited to the particular kind of death which He chose for Himself; and that again would furnish excuse for disbelieving the resurrection." If his reasoning is right then, since the Divine intent is to leave us without excuse, Jesus died the way that He had to die. Sep 13 at 20:50
  • @MikeBorden Yes he is arguing that the death on the cross was the most appropriate, but he doesn't take for granted that it was the only way for it to happen; that's all I'm saying.
    – adam.baker
    Sep 14 at 5:45
  • Since Jesus died according to the Scriptures, if there was another way for it to happen the Scriptures would have had to be different. If the Scriptures were different and He died another way (according to them) we could still ask the same pointless question. Sep 14 at 11:50
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    Christ died according to the Scriptures, but it doesn't follow from that that there was exactly one way for that to occur.
    – adam.baker
    Sep 14 at 12:46
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  • Man was created in the image of God. (Genesis 1 & 2)

  • In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:4)

  • The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

  • For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. (Leviticus 17:11)

  • Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

  • “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (John 10:11)

Is another form capable of representing Christ in complete fidelity in bodily form? We were made in God's image and he in ours. Only by both being true was the incarnation possible.

Our bodies are containers for life. Blood is said to be that life. If life was not in blood but in something else, then this would be a different world. Then the alternate "life holder" would be that which must be spilt. It would be different in chemistry and physics, but not different in theology and philosophy. It would be blood by another name.

We give blood at Red Cross blood drives. It may be everything to the person that receives it by transfusion, but for us it is a small sacrifice. We can grow more of it.

If God is is to show love to the fuillest extent, then Jesus as God must lay down his life. He is not a blood donor. He has to give it all. If the life of the world is to get into us dying sinners, his life-container must be breached so that his life may enter us.

In the final analysis, Jesus could have saved some creatures in some other hypothetical universe without spilling his blood, just not humans in this one. To save humans, in whom life is in the blood, he must be made in our image and then spill his blood. His great sacrifice must be commensurate with the greatest sacrifice that we as humans can make (giving our life for others) or else his action is not the greatest act of love possible in our universe.

To the preceding, I add the Father's perfect love for his Son and the Son's perfect understanding of his Father's commands. At Gethsemane, Jesus asked if there was another way:

39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

This seems to only answer the question conditionally. Given everything leading up to that moment, going forward there was no other way than the cross. However, Christ is eternal. His words are eternal. The question he asked in time he had already asked in eternity, since nothing was made without his participation. So this temporal question is also an eternal question. Is there another way? If a Father simultaneoulsy possessed of infinite wisdom, power and love knew of another way, He was capable of choosing it and loving enough to do so. The Father did not, so there was no other way.

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This is not really a proper answer, but it appears that no one has mentioned this point, and I think it is pivotal… although I am not in a position to say why.

It seems to me that it is part of the salvation concept that Jesus had to be killed by those for whom he was dying.

As for the immediate question… .  I think the expression “shed… blood” is just a way of saying, “died”, informed by the tenet that “the life is in the blood” (Lev 17:11).  However, there is also the point that shedding of blood is associated with being killed by a violent attacker.

I take it that the intent of the question is to make a distinction between Jesus dying in any sense (including quietly dying of old age, drowning, being killed by a wild beast, and what-have-you), and dying in some particular way that qualified (according to whatever criteria) as being on the behalf of anyone else.

As far as that goes, the answer is that Jesus’s death definitely had to qualify as being intended by him as being on the behalf of others.  Ostensibly, being killed by them, particularly for being good and for being God, satisfies the requirements… but again I am not in a position to say why it (apparently) works that way.

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  • "I take it that the intent of the question is to make a distinction between Jesus dying in any sense ... and dying in some particular way that qualified ... as being on the behalf of anyone else" - Well, not really. The fact that He died on the behalf of others is not questioned here and is not subject to any doubt. The real intent is to try to explore and understand why and how the act of shedding blood was the crucial part of that death.
    – brilliant
    Sep 15 at 11:45
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No, human as it has been created could not be saved in some much easier way.

Possessing free will and living not so easy life, it is the human that could not be correctly persuaded by demonstrating almighty power alone. If salvation requires some more and different feelings towards the God than just a fear followed by the hatred, it is not that simple to achieve.

This interpretation is from One of us by Joan Osborne. Not a Bible of course but may be relevant. Immanuel Kant in The Critique of Practical Reason also says that compliance just from the fear is worthless and the God wants more from us.

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  • Welcome to this site, h22. If you care to take the Tour (below) you will see how this site differs from other sites. This question is not about free will, as such, nor whether salvation requires feelings on our part, towards God. It's about whether Christ blood had to be shed, or not. Can you add something about that?
    – Anne
    Sep 16 at 13:35
  • Immanuel Kant is beyond any doubt notable philosopher, and a rather popular song likely reflects the feeling of the listeners between those it is popular. Hence I am still under impression that the answer is based on the sources, reflects some views in societiy and does not say anything negative about God either.
    – h22
    Sep 16 at 14:30

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