Import jQuery

Atonement from the Jewish Perspective

From Dr. Michael Kagan, a religious Jew,

Kagan talks about how Christianity has "went its separate way" from the Hebrew faith, but the real red meat of what he's saying is this: Christianity's idea of atonement for sin isn't really foreign to Judaism. In fact, it sprouted out of Judaism.

Take these provoking bits Kagan had to say on Jesus' arrival on the Judaic scene 2000 years ago:

This whole "technology" of atonement worked: it was shown on Yom Kippur, when a red string that was put around the goat would turn to white, and the high priest would come out of the Holy of Holies with his face shining, and everyone would be singing. And if things went wrong, we'd know: if atonement could not be made, chances are the Cohen HaGadol, the high priest, would die in the Holy of Holies. They'd have to pull him out by a string. And send somebody back, and he would give sacrifices for atonement for himself, his family, for Israel, and ultimately the whole world.

Things began to fall to pieces about 2000 years ago. The "technology" began to become out of date. There was a lot of corruption in the cohenot, in the priesthood. It is said it was lucky for a priest to go for even a season without dying, or getting kicked out of the job. There were murders, was terrible. The technology stopped being effective and people stopped taking it seriously. And as a consequence of that, there was a need to find a replacement.

"How are we going to attain atonement and alignment with God if the technology of the Temple and it's sacrificial process was breaking down?" And we know that before the destruction of the Temple, rabbinic Judaism began finding replacements for the Temple. The learning of Torah became a substitute for all Temple worship. Yom Kippur, the Holiest of Holies, we talk about what happened then. We hope that our talking, mentioning, fasting, prayer, repentance, all that, we hope it works, and we have been told by the rabbis of old, and reassured that yes, it works. My upgrade actually works.

But at the time 2000 years ago, when the Temple began to crumble, many other groups were looking for replacement "technologies" for the crumbling Temple sacrifice atonement system: "If the Temple system breaks down, how are we going to find atonement?"

One result was Christianity. In other words, Jesus sacrificed himself, became the ultimate sacrifice, so that people would find atonement through that ultimate sacrifice. So Christianity came out saying you know what, we also have a method, we have a technology for atonement and we're sure that it works. It's in the name of Jesus who -- God's son, God's being, God's appointed one, I don't know -- sacrificed himself so that we would find atonement if we mention him, eat of his matzah, his flesh, drink of his blood - we will find atonement.

Interesting indeed.

The Jewish scribes in the Talmud mention that about 40 years before the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 CE, the miracles stopped happening.

The red string would not turn white.

The lights wouldn't burn.

The massive Temple doors swung open on their own. (A new kind of miracle.)

The sacrifices were not accepted.

God was absent from His Temple. To imagine what the Levitical priesthood must have thought at the time - "Where did God go? Why have the miracles stopped?"

"Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the lot did not come up in the right hand [Lev. 16], nor did the crimson stripe become white, nor did the westernmost light burn; and the doors of the heikhal (the Holy Place of the Temple) opened of their own accord, until Rabbi Yochanon ben Zakkai rebuked them. He said to the Temple:

'O heikhal, heikhal, why do you alarm yourself? I know full well that you are destined to be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Iddo has already prophesied concerning you 'Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour the cedars' (Zech. 11:1).'

--Talmud Bavli, Yoma 39b

Even the secular historian Josephus confirms that something strange was going on with the Temple, saying in his Antiquity of the Jews,

At the same festival [of Pesach/Passover], the Eastern gate of the inner court of the Temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a base armored with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of it's own accord about the sixth hour of the night.

-Josephus; The Wars of the Jews 6.5.3

40 years before the Temple's destruction, around 30 CE, the miracles stopped happening and God left his Temple. And one new miracle started happening: the massive Temple doors swung open by their own accord, as if to say, "Hey, I'm not here." 30 CE this started happening.

Anything significant about 30 CE?

Yes: Messiah.

Messiah was sacrificed approximately in 30 CE, 40 years before the destruction of the Temple.

A better sacrifice, a more complete atonement was in place. That's what was significant about 30 CE. That's why the Temple miracles ceased.

Why haven't the Jewish people recognized this event? Surely it is no coincidence the Temple miracles ceased at the same time that this Yeshua, called the Messiah of Isra'el, was sacrificed for the sins of not only Isra'el, but the whole world? Surely G-d had a hand in that!

Paul, an early follower of the Messiah who wrote much of the New Testament, being a Jew himself raised in the Torah as a zealous Pharisee, told us 1900 years ago that this temporary rejection of Messiah by the Jewish people was all planned out by God long ago. It's purpose is to allow the fullness of the gentile nations to come into all the things of God. Here's what he had to say:

Has God has rejected his people Isra'el?

Heaven forbid!

For I myself am a son of Isra'el, from the seed of Avraham, of the tribe of Binyamin.

God has not repudiated his people, whom he chose in advance. Or don't you know what the Tanakh says about Eliyahu? He pleads with God against Isra'el,

"Adonai, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars, and I'm the only one left, and now they want to kill me too!"

But what is God's answer to him?

"I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt down to Ba'al."

It's the same way in the present age: there is a remnant, chosen by grace. (Now if it is by grace, it is accordingly not based on legalistic works; if it were otherwise, grace would no longer be grace.)

What follows is that Isra'el has not attained the goal for which she is striving. The ones chosen have obtained it, but the rest have been made stone-like, just as the Tanakh says,

"God has given them a spirit of dullness eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear, right down to the present day."

And David says,

"Let their dining table become for them a snare and a trap, a pitfall and a punishment. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they can't see, with their backs bent continually."

In that case, I say, isn't it that they have stumbled with the result that they have permanently fallen away?

Heaven forbid!

Quite the contrary, it is by means of their stumbling that deliverance has come to the Gentiles, in order to provoke them to jealousy.

What's more, if their stumbling is bringing riches to the world - that is, if Isra'el's being placed temporarily in a condition less favored than that of the Gentiles is bringing riches to the latter - how much greater riches will Isra'el in its fullness bring them!

It was no coincidence that Messiah's sacrifice aligned with the ceasing of miracles in the Levitical sacrifice system; there was an ultimate sacrifice in place. The readings of Torah, the prayers, the traditions, the candles -- all well intentioned things instituted by wise rabbis -- can never atone for sin, year by year. If those human things could atone for sin, there would have been no need for the Levitical system. There would have been no need for Messiah.

It is only with Messiah's sacrifice that completes the Torah sacrifices, can atonement be made for us.

Looking forward to Israel's fullness.


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