©by Menashe Dovid ben Avraham
So how is it possible to make sense of atonement which according to Jewish thinking is a legal mystery? Well for starters there are many principles and ideas to help avoid making pitfalls which have been shown in Part 1. There is also another idea yet to be introduced in this part which will hopefully tie a few things together. The idea is very often presented by Christians to Jews and goes something like this:
“The temple was destroyed in 70CE by Titus and therefore, Jews have not had a means for atonement for 1940 years because there is no temple. Moreover, as the book of Hebrews explains, a far superior priesthood and sacrifice of Jesus exists which atones completely for all sins unlike animal sacrifices which do not. Indeed Jesus’ sacrifice has also been applied to a ‘superior’ heavenly temple too!” (Adventists still have Jesus applying his sacrifice in a heavenly temple from 1844 onwards)
As pointed out previously in Part 1, assertions made by the book of Hebrews are in actual fact false. One of the assertions of Hebrews claims that animals are not capable of atoning for sins. In contradistinction, the Torah clearly states that all of a person’s sin may be forgiven entirely by virtue of atonement with animals with the often ignored proviso that an animal sacrifice without repentance is worthless. Indeed ample evidence in the Jewish Scriptures, show that repentance alone without blood atonement is sufficient to attain forgiveness and atonement for sin. Moreover, the writers of the New Testament conveniently skip over the fact that there has been at least three time periods in biblical history where no temple or tabernacle has been in existence.
The first case is in the time period from the time of Cain and Abel leading up to the time of the Exodus. During this time sacrifices are seen as ‘man initiated’ events without even a reference or inference that these sacrifices were done as a means for achieving forgiveness and atonement for sins. The notion that the Passover lamb was an ‘atonement’ offering is merely something projected onto the Torah by the New Testament. A careful and honest assessment of Passover shows clearly that this is not the case.
The second case is the time period between the destruction of the first temple to the time of the rebuilding of the second temple. The prophet Daniel here provides an insight as to means of obtaining forgiveness and atonement right in a portion of chapter 9 prior to the much maligned and misapplied 70 weeks of Daniel 9 which Christians view as their ultimate proof for Jesus. The 70 weeks of Daniel 9 presented in Daniel and his prayers is in the context of a previously functioning Temple and a dysfunctional sinning people. The people persist in a wilful deviation from G-d’s commandments and ordinances (v5) and G-d’s teachings (lit G-d’s Torah) with the subsequent destruction of Temple and City being a specific reference to a fulfilment of the curses found in the law of Moses (v10, v11, v13) along with the current exile in Babylon.
The situation and context of Dan 9 serves to prove the point that even with a temple, a continuation in sinful behaviour is unacceptable and blood atonement by the use of animals is worthless. Moreover, the situation and context of Daniel 9 also underscores the attitude of the Jewish Scriptures in the rejection of the idea of penal substitutionary atonement, where the animal takes instead, the punishment for the sin of the sinner. Rather the focus and the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures for an individual and a community are to repent and keep G-d’s teachings (lit G-d’s Torah), commandments and ordinances (v5). In fact obedience to Torah has always been the desire of G-d and preferable to sacrifices:
“Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (1 Sam 15:22,23)
Not only are the 70 weeks of Daniel 9 an example of ‘holy’ mathematics gone astray but a chance to perform ‘holy’ theological gymnastics which projects onto Daniel 9 an idea from the New Testament that atonement is ‘finished’ ‘once and for all’ by The Messiah who does it all for each individual and/ or community and who takes all the punishment for each individual and/ or community too. In light of individual repentance and obedience being preferable to sacrifice, the so called classical verses of Daniel 9 used to prove the idea of Jesus performing the ultimate once and for all substitutionary atonement is eliminated.
The highly emotional idea of a ‘wonderful does it all saviour’ projected onto the ‘old’ testament from the ‘new’ testament serves as a strong delusion for the Christian mind! The strong delusion insists that the program must be completed within the 490 year time-frame mentioned in Daniel 9 by Jesus. The strong delusion also ignores the description of the destruction of temple and city by the ruler (Dan 9:26), which should be within the 70 weeks or 490 years. According to Christian calculations, half way through the 70th week corresponds with the year 30CE or 33CE. The temple was in fact destroyed in the year 70CE some 40 years after 30CE!! Closer examination shows that the 490 year time-frame is a probationary period which must precede the implementation of God’s program. The probationary period of seventy weeks is a possible opportunity for the people:
“to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sin, and to forgive iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal vision and prophet, and to anoint the most holy place.” V24
The second temple never had the most holy place anointed and the Talmud in Yoma 21b indicates that:
“in five things the first Sanctuary differed from the second: in the ark, the ark-cover, the Cherubim (the first three form one unit), the fire, the Shechinah, the Holy Spirit [of Prophecy], and the Urim-ve-Thummim [the Oracle Plate] — I will tell you, They were present, but they were not as helpful [as before].
So God’s program continues in Daniel 11 verse 31, where Daniel describes the violation of the sanctuary and G-d’s people using the same terminology that he uses in the passage under discussion (9:26, 27). The violation of the sanctuary and G-d’s people is to take place at the close of the 490 years (Dan 11:31, 32), followed by a refining process (Dan 11:33-35). The refining process represents God’s program for the ultimate expiation of sin and for the salvation of mankind. The refining process by ‘flame, by captivity and by spoil‘, is for ‘many days‘; (verse 33) and continues ‘even to the time of the end‘, (verse 35).
A further point to consider is if sacrifices are finished why do sacrifices continue in the messianic age? According to New Testament teaching in Hebrews 10, sacrifices are no longer needed since Jesus’ once for all self sacrifice is forever and perfects forever those who accept it. Hebrews 10 adds further, that the sacrifice of animals can never take away sins. The messianic age described in Jeremiah 33:14-18 has a messianic figure (David A Branch of Righteousness), a promise fulfilled to Israel and Judah who along with Jerusalem will dwell safely and a Levitical Priesthood offering the sacrifices prescribed by the Torah:
‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the LORD, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah: ‘In those days and at that time I will cause to grow up to David A Branch of righteousness; He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In those days Judah will be saved, And Jerusalem will dwell safely. And this is the name by which she will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. “For thus says the LORD: ‘David shall never lack a man to sit on the throne of the house of Israel; ‘nor shall the priests, the Levites, lack a man to offer burnt offerings before Me, to kindle grain offerings, and to sacrifice continually.’ ” Jer 33:14-18
So much for a once and for all Sacrifice!!
The two goats of the day of Yom Kippor whilst presenting a legal mystery also teach us something very deep and profound apart from the speculative ideas and errors shown in Parts 1 and 2. Whilst repentance alone is sufficient to forgive and atone for sin if one is sincerely repentant. The day of atonement also requiring repentance, also helps us to repent in a way through our senses of sight, sound, touch and smell. The day of atonement has two goats which are chosen so that visibly their is no real difference between them but in each way their respective fates forces us to face up to the very real creation of evil by ourselves and the price to be paid if G-d had not so graciously provided repentance even before the creation of the world! True repentance also provides the way in which we also are capable to effect the good. The good which we are in fact capable of doing.