Monday, April 6, 2009

פֶּסַח And The Ransom Theory Of The Atonement

---Image from: The God Blog: A Look At Religion In The News.

So originally this post was originally going to be titled שִׁ֥יר הַשִּׁירִ֖ים (Shir Ha-Shirim), Intimacy And The Passover as previously mentioned but I'm saving that post for a later and separate post as that post more specifically deals with the beginning of the impartation of the Holy Spirit to be incarnated in all peoples of the world instead of dwelling within the Holy Of Holies. Anyways, פֶּסַח (Pesach) is the Hebrew word normally translated as Passover---a word coined by English Bible translator William Tyndale who translated the first mostly complete English Bible from the original languages rather than from the Latin Vulgate translation as Wycliffe had done about 200 years earlier. Tyndale also coined the word Atonement as Wade Burleson pointed out:
William Tyndale himself coined the English word atonement to help get over translation difficulties of the Hebrew word kipper and the Greek word hilasterion. Tyndale's understanding of the words kipper and hilasterion was that they pointed to a full and entire work of the triune God in making a total satisfaction for sin by providing a complete substitution, which was a once-and-for-all act procuring everlasting salvation for His people. This "moment" of becoming "at one" with sinners He chose to redeem Tyndale called an "at- one- moment."

My friend George Ella writes about why Tyndale intentionally coined the word "atonement" in order to translate the Bible into English:
The Roman Catholic Church, in the days of Tyndale, viewed the atonement as reconciliation being made to God for man’s guilt or original sin but not for the penalty of sin which had to be worked off by works of special merit and penance. This left the reconciled without true union with Christ and with Christ’s work only half done. This error led Tyndale to realise that the entire Biblical teaching was concerned with man becoming fully accepted in the Beloved, and thus becoming one with God. Christ’s reconciling death, he therefore saw, was an at-one-ment with God and promptly used the word to express both the Old and New Testament words to do with a sinner becoming right with God through an expiatory sacrifice at God’s initiative.

Moving forward---Passover of course is the Jewish holiday which commemorates the events of Jewish Exile and subsequent Liberation from slavery---here is a brief description of that:
Passover (Hebrew, Yiddish: פֶּסַח, Pesach (help·info), Tiberian: pɛsaħ, Israeli: Pesah, Pesakh, Yiddish: Peysekh, Paysokh) is a Jewish and Samaritan holy day and festival commemorating God sparing the Israelites when he killed the first born of Egypt, and is the seven day Feast of the Unleavened Bread (it lasts eight days in the diaspora) commemorating the Exodus from Egypt and the liberation of the Israelites from slavery.[1]

Passover begins on the 15th day of the month of Nisan (equivalent to March and April in Gregorian calendar), the first month of the Hebrew calendar's festival year according to the Hebrew Bible.[2]

In the story of the Exodus, the Bible tells that God inflicted ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves, with the tenth plague being the killing of firstborn sons. The Israelites were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a spring lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term "passover".[3] When Pharaoh freed the Israelites, it is said that they left in such a hurry that they could not wait for bread to rise. In commemoration, for the duration of Passover, no leavened bread is eaten, for which reason it is also called חַג הַמַּצּוֹת (Ḥag haMaẓot), "The Festival of the Unleavened Bread".[4] Matza (unleavened bread) is the primary symbol of the holiday. This bread that is flat and unrisen is called Matzo.

Together with Shavuot ("Pentecost") and Sukkot ("Tabernacles"), Passover is one of the three pilgrim festivals (Shalosh Regalim) during which the entire Jewish populace historically made a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. Samaritans still make this pilgrimage to Mount Gerizim, but only men participate in public worship.[5][6]

It is within the context of the Passover that Jesus and the Disciples celebrated the Last Supper which was most likely part of the Passover Seder. (More on that in my next post). It is also within the context of the Exile that the Ransom Theory of the Atonement emerges as previously stated:
Limiting the atonement to any one flawed and man-made theory of the atonement does a disservice to ourselves and others. Instead I propose that when one looks at all the theories of the atonement a more holistic approach to the atonement emerges as each flawed theory corrects the flaws of the others. For example, the Ransom theory is flawed in the fact that it makes God out to be a deceiver but it’s scripturally supported such as in the case of I Timothy 2:5-6:
5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, (NKJV)
And when one reads the Jewish Exile as a metaphor for human slavery to sin, so that the Ransom theory is one that emerges from the picture of the marketplace with the Gospel accounts' use of λύτρον (lutron) and more accurately a slave market with the theory’s metaphorical use of Exilic literature.
See pgs. 81-82 of Guide to Christian Belief (Questions of Faith) by Mark W. G. Stibbe for a more detailed explanation of the Ransom Theory and the picture of the marketplace. I shall continue my discussion of the Ransom theory in the post after the next.

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