Sacrifices at Herod’s Temple were performed on a large horned altar directly outside the Temple, in the, Court of the Priests. In Jesus’ time Israelites would bring their animals to the Temple, present the animal to the priest and declare which kind of sacrifice they wanted to offer whether a peace offering, burnt offering or other type. Although slaves and women were not allowed into the Court of the Israelites, free men brought their animals into this court and laid their hands on the animal’s head to express their ownership so that the sacrifice would be acceptable on their behalf.1

At the turn of the millennium, the priest performed the ceremony, while the person offering the sacrifice watched from the Court of the Israelites. The priest would slaughter the animal in the “slaughter house,” separating the “flesh” from the “blood,” which he collected in a bowl. In earlier periods and on Passover, however, the person offering the sacrifice slaughtered the animal himself, and the priest performed this act only if the offerer was in a state of impurity. Jesus may have objected to the Temple sacrifice because it had become impersonal and it treated everyone as impure.2 After slaughtering the animal, author Bernhard Lang conjectures, the priest offered a bowl of blood to God, pronouncing a formula: “This is [name of the offerer]’s blood.” The priest then threw the blood against all sides of the altar.3

In the case of a burnt offering, the priest next presented the animal’s body at the altar, saying, “This is [name of the offerer]’s body.” The priest then completed the ritual by throwing the animal flesh onto a pyre on the altar.4