A sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15) is really about the Eucharist

Updated: Feb 8

By Luke Lancaster

Many Protestant-Christians will attempt to undermine the Catholic Mass by saying that Jesus alone is our priest; that His sacrifice on Calvary alone is our sacrifice. We Christians only have a “sacrifice of (vocal) praise” to give to God, as Hebrews 13:15 says. This is why Protestant worship services have only songs to sing, but no physical sacrifice. How do we respond to such a statement?

First off, Jesus is the “high priest,” but we also are a “kingdom of priests” (1 Peter 2:9). We participate in Christ's priesthood. Second, in the Old Covenant, there was a group in between the kingdom of priests and the high priest: the Levital priesthood. The New Covenant did not eradicate the Old, but fulfilled it (Mt. 5:17); the Old Covenant was only "shadows" compared to the New (Heb. 10:1). So, we have a New Covenant priesthood in between the kingdom of priests and the high priests. See this post. Third, Jesus's sacrifice on Calvary alone is our sacrifice, however, Catholic priests re-present this sacrifice at Mass (see this post).

A Sacrifice of Praise

Finally, according to Biblical scholar Pablo Gadenz, a "sacrifice of praise" is called the “thanksgiving sacrifice” or "todah sacrifice" in Lev. 7:11-15. This todah sacrifice had a vocal song of thanksgiving, but it was not only a vocal song as Protestants believe. Rather, there was a physical, sacrificial offering of a lamb, bread, and wine. We see this in Psalm 116, where the prayers of our lips are combined with the todah sacrifice. This is what we have in the Eucharist (meaning "thanksgiving), which is the true "sacrifice of praise." The Mass is a thanksgiving sacrifice offered by a priest in the form of bread and wine, which is truly the Lamb of God - Jesus.

Fr. Pablo says, "With regard to "sacrifice of praise" (Heb 13:15), it is helpful to interpret this expression in light of its OT background. The phrase in fact occurs only here in the whole NT, but in the Greek OT (LXX) it is used for the todah or thanksgiving sacrifice (Lev 7:11-15) which involves the eating of bread, a sacrifice, and prayers/hymns. A case can be made that Heb 13:15 is referring to the Christian transformation of the thanksgiving sacrifice which is precisely the Eucharist. The Protestant exegete Hartmut Gese has written about the Lord's Supper as the Christian todah."

He continues, “Certainly there is the verbal praise of God, but this accompanies the ritual action -- as in Psalm 116 where the psalm accompanies the "sacrifice of thanksgiving" (Ps 116:17; "sacrifice of praise" in the Greek LXX). So, in the Christian todah / sacrifice of thanksgiving (= Eucharist), you have the threefold combination of the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ, its memorial involving the eating of bread from the "altar" (Heb 13:10), and the verbal praise of God (Heb 13:15). As I see it, Hebrews does not contrast ritual and no-ritual (see the reference to "baptisms" and "laying on of hands" in Heb 6:2), but rather between ineffective ritual and effective ritual - ritual which is made effective by and united with Christ's once-for-all sacrifice.”

Thus, Hebrews 13:15 is not a good argument against the sacrifice of the Mass.