The Problem w/Atonement

“Some good questions. I have mentioned this before elsewhere, but this is a very appropriate place to bring it up again. The idea of substitutionary atonement is deeply rooted in Judaism. Remember that in Genesis 3, we owe death for our sin…He needed to become the perfect sacrifice, He needed to pay the penalty that was due the Lord, He needed to take our death onto Himself” (Mike)

“Uhm…Mike…I think you are forgetting something in this theology….we all still die…yeah…it’s still happening. So if Jesus’ sacrifice was to replace the ‘temporary coverings’ then how come death is still being required of us? Did i miss a memo somewhere?…If Jesus has taken our death – then there should be no death at all for us who believe?” (SVS)

“Yes, it is. But His resurrection is “proof” of that future promise being fulfilled. This is confirmed in Paul’s epistles as well as Revelation. Revelation especially shows the saints yearning for that future restoration of the new heavens and new earth. The “not yet” aspect is also prophesied in the Old Testament (Ezek. 37). Jesus accomplished in the middle of history what He will do for us at the end of history.” (Brad)

“But Brad, if it is ‘not yet’ then what did the atonement actually accomplish? Jesus resurrected – that’s great – but we all die still irregardless of some subsitution for our sins (which apparently is the penalty for our sin – this death thing – passed on from Adam)…we are still paying for our sins (dying) because the substitution is not fulfilled? Isn’t that what it has to mean in this theoogy? It’s also quite ludicrous to say Adam sinned so he died and we will not die because our sin has been wiped clean…fact of the matter is…we die…thus sin still exists.” (SVS)

See, here is the problem with the rhetoric…sin = death. We are all still dying – that’s a fact we all can attest to (even as I sit here and read the obituaries). So if we are so ‘free from sin’ as is claimed – then shouldn’t it also be that we wouldn’t die (since sin is taken care of)? But we do die. So the atonement theory needs more explaining in my opinion – what did Jesus die for then? And if sin is still the problem and Jesus died to correct the situation some 2000+ years later – and sin is still the problem (forget resurrection) – how does this all work?

Taken from ‘Substitutionary Atonement’ on Confessions of a Seminarian.

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18 thoughts on “The Problem w/Atonement

  1. These are all great questions. It’s awesome that you are wrestling with the implications (loved the Jacob-esque post, btw). I replied on our blog, but if you like I can copy paste it here as well. Check out chapter 9 of Hebrews either way. It’s good stuff.

  2. This is how I’m reading the conversation.

    The starting point: We “owe” death for our sin, and so Jesus became the perfect sacrifice in order to fufill that debt.

    First question — in reading Genesis 3, I always find it curious that the reason why they are expelled from the Garden is so that they don’t live forever. They are already like God, knowing good and evil. God wanted to keep them away from the Tree of Life, since they were already like “them.” So if they had eaten from the tree in time, they would have lived forever. Does this mean that they were already dying prior, since it can be read that they had not yet eaten of the fruit at all.

    How is death defined? As Society said, we all still die. Yet we are told that Jesus took on the death owed to God. But how? We’re still “paying” that debt through death. And how does becoming a perfect sacrifice pay off the debt? Why perfection?

    Does this mean a permanent death? A death with no resurrection? But then wouldn’t Jesus have had to stay permanently dead, in order for the debt to be paid off? But since we do still die, and can be resurrected, how does Jesus operate as some form of currency? Why can’t our death, since it happens regardless, pay off what is owed?

    If it is going to be said that Jesus pays off our debt, I don’t think that can be combined with the idea that death will still occur. If your debt is paid off, it means that God is no longer ‘owed’ anything.

    For example, if I owe my parents an arm, and someone else gives their arm to pay off that debt, we can’t turn around and say that I’ll still lose my arm, because the pay-off operates in the sense that my arm stays.

  3. OSS,

    Good questions, all. Lemme try and tackle some…

    Starting point: I don’t think it is “merely” that we “owe” death for sin, so much as it is the natural consequence of rebellion. If God is the giver of all life (creator), it makes sense that to rebel from the source of that life is to rebel INTO death. Paul does say that “the wages of sin is death,” but it is less a “payback” and more of a “salary.”

    First question: In re: to the tree of life.. I’ve heard a lot of different ideas on this, but it’s important to acknowledge that Genesis doesn’t state this either way. It could be that, or something else.

    “How is death defined? As Society said, we all still die. Yet we are told that Jesus took on the death owed to God. But how? We’re still “paying” that debt through death. And how does becoming a perfect sacrifice pay off the debt? Why perfection?”

    The sacrificial system, given to Israel by God (Exodus 28-30, Leviticus 16-17) is a foreshadowing to the “true” and “perfect” sacrifice of Jesus (Hebrews 8:2; 9:24; 10:1). Whereas numerous priests had to enter the sanctuary to offer numerous sacrifices (Hebrews 9:6-7, 25; 10:11), under the “new covenant,” a single high priest, Jesus, enters the heavenly sanctuary once (through his death and resurrection) and offers a singular sacrifice once for all time (Hebrews 9:12, 26; 10:10, 12). Check out C.C. Newman’s “Covenant, New Covenant” in “Dictionary of the Later New Testament and It’s Development,” eds. Ralph P. Martin and Peter H. Davids. (sorry for the academic citation, I happen to be reading related topics for class. 🙂 )

    In general, reading Hebrews 8-10 is an awesome way to go. It’s amazing how effectively the author explains it and answers just those questions.

    “Does this mean a permanent death?… (shortened for the sake of length)… Why can’t our death, since it happens regardless, pay off what is owed?”

    Here’s a start to that question, but Hebrews answers much more fully:
    http://seminarianblog.com/2008/04/07/substitutionary-atonement/#comment-2174

  4. Brad,

    Well, I think now you’re going to have to define ‘life.’ Mere existence? Or eternal life? Because we don’t know in Genesis what they had prior to eating the fruit. To say that it’s a natural consequence of sin doesn’t really fit for me in light of the Genesis story, given that the it’s almost like God has to quickly cast them out. If they had eaten of the tree, they would’ve lived forever. But it’s not reading like ‘life’ is something they had then lost, but rather something they hadn’t had from the get go, until they ate of the tree.

    (The other thing I’ve also never understood is that the animals died as a sacrifice for the sin — because the text says God killed the animals to clothe the people).

    But you also have Mike saying that someone had to pay the penalty to the Lord. Isn’t that a payback, then? And that God did not require the sin, but passed over it.

    **In general, reading Hebrews 8-10 is an awesome way to go. It’s amazing how effectively the author explains it and answers just those questions.**

    The problem, though, is this isn’t letting the Tanakh stand on its own, but rather reading an interpretation of the Tanakh. I don’t think the TAnakh itself would say that the system foreshadows a perfect sacrifice, let alone those who simply interpret the Tanakh alone? Because in the Hebrew chapters, I also have a reference to the idea that sin can’t be forgiven without the shedding of blood, and I’ve seen on Judaism websites that there’s nothing in the Tanakh that says that. People were forgiven without the shedding of blood.

    Not only that, but I’m not sure how you answered how death is defined? You did recommend Hebrews 8-10, but I’m looking more for how you would interpret that particular aspect. We have Jesus paying the salary, but we all still die. So we still end up paying, in a way, since sin pays death, and we die. We all still owe/receive the salary of death, no matter whether we are saved or unsaved. It does seem like the sins are still counted against you, since they’re still paying out death. To say that Jesus took on our death on himself is a meaningless statement to me, because the death still occurs. How is something ‘taken’ if we still have it?

    It’s just in reading that the atonement accomplished something, and yet making the focus of the substition that Jesus died in our place seems to go at cross-purposes, because if Jesus replaced us, and we still die … how does the replacement function? I do see the response that it’s not intended to prevent death, but assure resurrection. However: as I understand it, there is sitll a resurrection for everyone. What matters is what happens to you after the resurrection — good thing or bad thing? It seems that the proof should more be in what happens after the resurrection, not just the resurrection itself.

  5. On life and death…

    In regards to the tree of life, there are more ways to seeing it than just that. Some speculate (key word, that) that it was the “continual” eating from the tree that sustained them. I’m not sure where I stand on this and hesitate to speculate because that is purely what it would be. Either way, as Mike recently commented on our blog, the expulsion from Eden was both a physical death (they would eventually die) and a spiritual death (they were separated from God). Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished an immediate spiritual redemption resulting in the giving of the Holy Spirit (Pentacost), and a sneak peak at a future physical redemption.

    For more:
    http://seminarianblog.com/2008/04/07/substitutionary-atonement/#comment-2174

    (sorry, I hate doing that, but it’s necessary when we’re having almost the same conversation in 2 places at once)

    On debt…

    Jesus immediately reconciled spiritual death. NT authors do not seem to expect an immediate erasure of sin from this world, but a spiritual redemption that connects us to God. Physical redemption is delayed so that more would be spiritually connected to God. This is a huge act of God’s grace. If He did not delay judgment (and thus physical resurrection), many would be lost because few were connected to Him spiritually.

    For more:
    http://seminarianblog.com/2008/04/07/substitutionary-atonement/#comment-2177

    Of course, key to this aspect of orthodox doctrine is that Jesus’ death, while sufficient and freely given for all, is only effectual for those who know Him.

    “The problem, though, is this isn’t letting the Tanakh stand on its own, but rather reading an interpretation of the Tanakh.”

    How are you, or these Jewish websites you are visiting not doing anything different? Also, no communication “stands alone.” The very nature of communication assumes that it must be interpreted for it to be understood by anyone. Is a 1st century writer of Christian scripture somehow less equipped to interpret than a 21st century interpreter? 21st century Judaism (much less the different spectrums thereof) interprets scripture very differently than say, Paul’s Pharisee peers. That the websites you read differ from the book of Hebrews is little surprise.

  6. Just some observations from Genesis 3:

    The text speaks of the serpent and the ground being cursed, but curse is never used in conjunction with people. The teaching that Adam was cursed with death is an interpretation of the text, not a straight reading of the text.

    The text says that God made clothes of skin for Adam and Eve, but never says what the skin is or where God obtained the skins. It is our assumption that God killed animals but does that have to necessarily be the case? Is this not also reading back into the text the teaching that death is required for transgressions? After all, the previous two chapters with their different creation stories both speak of creation out of nothing. Is it a stretch to think God might have provided skins out of nothing as well? Perhaps, but perhaps not.

    As an interesting alternative POV, a midrash has it that the skins are actually snake skins! That sounds quite ridiculous at first, but in a strange way I find that image much more fitting. Judaism has a view of justice as measure for measure. The serpent contributed to the problem, the serpent contributes to the solution. You were so enamored by the snake, good, wrap yourself up in a snake and live with it for awhile.

    I don’t hold to the standard Christian interpretation of this chapter, but do find some interesting lessons here anyway.

    In Chapter 2 God speaks to Adam that he may not eat of the tree, but when Eve talks to the snake she tells the snake they may not eat of the tree or even touch it, something we have no record of God ever saying. Perhaps Adam passed on the rule incorrectly or perhaps Eve added to it herself? One of our sages commented that Adam wanted to protect Eve from transgressing so he added to God’s words. But, when Eve touched the tree and didn’t die, she went ahead and ate the fruit as well since in her mind what she’d been told was not the truth.

    A good lesson for us bloggers to learn? To be careful in our claims as to what God ‘clearly says’? Are we sometimes adding in our own words? Did we even ‘hear’ correctly to begin with?

    A good lesson for teachers? To not feed misinformation to their students even with good intentions?

    A good lesson for transgressors and for those who so readily dismiss mitzvot? That just because we think we got away with one thing, does not mean we’ll be able to keep going on the same path with no consequences? That God actually might consider it important that we follow the rules God gave us? That even if we don’t understand the rules correctly, if we do follow even these incorrect rules we’ll be just fine. If Eve had refused to touch the tree, she wouldn’t have been able to eat that fruit, you know what I mean?

    And you have to love how that snake speaks so confidently for God, even as he leads the woman right down ‘the garden path’. As Pam commented on another thread, who can totally comprehend the mind of God? It is perhaps another tension, to speak of what the texts mean to us without overstepping and becoming like the snake?

  7. Well, Mike just called this a ‘spiritual aspect’ of death – and not an actual death (which will be dealt with at a later date by Jesus). I would still contend ‘the wages of sin are death’ – and we somehow usurp this idea in Paul’s theology about Christ’s death. Let’s check that out.

    Rom 5:12 “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” – Which death is Paul referring to? Real or figurative?

    Rom 6:4 “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” – I am guessing none of this is ‘literal’ but more figurative in nature about going from one thing to following the gospel.

    Rom 6:13 “and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God” – This seems to be Paul’s point about all this talk of ‘dying with Christ’ – basically – follow the teachings of God.

    Rom 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – This is the promise – sin will kill you – but the eternal life is found in Jesus.

    Ephesians 2:1 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” – this is all very figurative language I must say – to talk about conversion more or less.

    Colossians 2:12 “having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” – Again we see this lingo.

    I think Mike’s point is the one that stands – this is quite figurative in language – describing something that is happening to the believer concerning conversion and what they are being asked to do (likely follow the teachings of God as a good follower of Christ).

    We may actually die – this much is true – but the death Paul is referring to in these passages concerns identifying with Jesus – via his teachings and leaving behind immorality – walking in a new kind of living.

    The reason it is not literal is because Paul is talking to a whole group(s) of people and telling them they have died (which is just not true in a literal sense). That they have also resurrected – which is also not true in a literal sense. Paul is using the life of Christ (death and resurrection) to prove a point about identification with this movement and it’s faith teachings.

    Meantime, back in reality, we are living (not dead or resurrected…well not yet) and we have the teachings to guide us. Jesus is the ‘first-fruits’ of something that will happen to us at a later time – death and resurretion into newness of life. But right now, this is not the case and we struggle with sin and still die – in a most literal sense.

    How was I ever doubting the idea that following the teachings of God is what both Paul and Jesus were aiming at.

  8. Society,

    I want to make sure I’m following this correctly. This post was originally started with the idea of a substitue, in that we owed a death to God, and Jesus paid the penalty due to God. I was taking that as the physical death. Does that now encompass the spiritual aspect, as well? Is God owed the physical death, or the spiritual death, or both? Because I read that the physical sacrifice of an animal was counted as a spiritual covering, and yet God’s people still physically died. BUt the same thing happens with Jesus. There’s a spiritual covering provided, but people still physically die.

    The thing that really troubles me is if we go with the idea that we are spiritually dead until accepting the sacrifice, doesn’t that mean we’re born spiritually dead? Why would God create spiritually dead people?

    The other thing to consider: why does being cast out of Eden signify seperation from God? There are a few verses that indicate God is everywhere. There’s Jeremiah 23: 23-24, with God saying He is a God near, and not far off, and that He fills heaven and earth. There’s Psalms 139, with the idea that God’s Spirit is never not in a place. Because the reason provided for being cast outu is not to be removed from God’s presence, but to be restricted from the tree of life. In many of the Psalms, I don’t get the impression that they are seperated only until there is an animal sacrifice.

    I do agree with you in the figurative aspect of Paul. We were crucified with Christ, we are dead to sin. All of that speaks of something no longer having a hold on us. Or even Colossians 3, with the idea of we are raised to life with Christ, we died, and our life lies hidden with Christ in God, so the things belong to the earth must be put to death.

    I think the most interesting thing about this entire conversation is what it might say about the idea of an eternal punishment. When the word ‘death’ is used, death signifies an end. Something was living, and now it lives no more. It no longer exists. So if we apply death in the spiritual sense, it seems to be a one-time thing. If you die spiritually, you cease to exist. Therefore, how can you be punished eternally? Not the point of your post, I know. But it sparks questions. 🙂

    Yael,

    **To be careful in our claims as to what God ‘clearly says’? Are we sometimes adding in our own words? Did we even ‘hear’ correctly to begin with?**

    Perhaps the question can be expanded to the idea of can we even hear correctly at all? With these texts, we are seperated by 2,000 years with the New Testament, and even more years with the Tanakh. We aren’t in that cultural anymore. We can learn about the cultural, but there’s always something different about instinctively understanding it, as opposed to having to remind ourselves about the culture.

  9. “Does that now encompass the spiritual aspect, as well?” (OSS)

    I intentionally avoid the term spiritual in my long break down of Mike’s idea – because I don’t think that is what Paul is saying – I think he is being figurative (which he does a lot) about a future event for humanity being in the ‘now’ (Jesus being the first person in this case to actually do this – die and resurrect). Paul is using that langauge to compare conversion/committment to Christ (for the Gentiles) – so that it will stick in their heads and make sense…die to sin – live to a new life type thing.

    As for spiritual death – I am not sure what that is. The term likely never appears in the entirety of the bible and is purely thought up (a philosophical idea). Adam is never signified to have died spiritually – nor is anyone ever given that moniker. Paul’s writings come the closest to saying this but he even uses variables of the flesh and spirit (not both spirit – like spirit dead is now spirit alive).

    The point MIke makes is Jesus died and resurrected – beating death for all humanity. However, since the Torah and Prophets are not completely fulfilled and Jesus has to come again to complete the process – at that time death will be beaten and resurrection will also occur for all. Jesus was the ‘first-fruits’ as Mike pointed out from Paul in 1 Cor 15. I tend to agree with that.

    This ‘owing a death to God’ thing is part of payment atonement (or whatever it is called) and I don’t quite buy into it (iunless it is in regards to settling the sins aspect of ignorance we once walked in). I am not sure we owe a death in the sense we need to pay it to God – but that it was merely a result of sin entering the world (a Pauline idea) – and as result – we got used to death (and it quite the norm).

    As for the animal sacrifice thing – I tend to agree with you on this OSS (and I take my cues form Judaism on this one) – not always was animal sacrifice needed for the sins of the people (and does not exist now at all). God has provided a way for atonement – and prior to the Torah – it does seem people had relationship with God (outside of animal sacrifice) – but then again God destroyed things then (since there was no sacrifice – my new theory – LOL).

  10. “A good lesson for us bloggers to learn? To be careful in our claims as to what God ‘clearly says’? Are we sometimes adding in our own words? Did we even ‘hear’ correctly to begin with?” (Yael)

    I agree – and I include myself in this category – I don want to add to God’s words but interpretation has a funny way of allowing us this privelege. So I think the warning is grand – we need to consider what we are saying God is saying – lest we put some people out with such claims.

    “A good lesson for teachers? To not feed misinformation to their students even with good intentions?” (Yael)

    Agreed…we may not have all the answers and this is something worth noting. I was just on a Christian blog the other day and I could not believe the dis-repsect they have for someone that says something like ‘I think the bible says…’. I thought ‘hey…I do that a lot’. But i also know why I do it – because I am an aspect of interpretation (not getting it all) and that I do not want to speak for God – aware this is ‘using God’s name in vain’ on some level.

    “A good lesson for transgressors and for those who so readily dismiss mitzvot? That just because we think we got away with one thing, does not mean we’ll be able to keep going on the same path with no consequences?” (Yael)

    So true – once we start making excuses for one slip – then we enter the realm of breaking commandments based on that excuse. It’s not good – it’s like lying to ones-self to do something we know we shouldn’t.

  11. What’s rather funny about this discourse into atonement – it has very little bearing on what is being asked of anyone in the present – basically follow the teachings of God and you will be fine. I would also use the Christian version of atonement as simply about access to God and a reason for the end of sacrifices of animals…this is my next post.

  12. Just added – Brad in quote 5 (was awaiting moderation for some reason) – but OSS check it out cause you’ll be saying ‘oh no he didn’t (snap snap)’.

  13. Yael,

    “The text says that God made clothes of skin for Adam and Eve, but never says what the skin is or where God obtained the skins. It is our assumption that God killed animals but does that have to necessarily be the case? Is this not also reading back into the text the teaching that death is required for transgressions?”

    Actually no, at least no more than reading the sacrificial system into the Passover. The events in Genesis 3 and in Exodus happened before Leviticus and its sacrificial system were instituted, but they were written by the same guy: Moses. He couched the events that occurred before in terms that were intended to invoke a sacrificial understanding in the minds of his readers. So it is fair to say that his original audience understood these events as examples of the sacrificial system, and that imagining God creating the skins out of nowhere or as snake skins does more damage to the text than the interpretation of the original audience.

  14. Society,

    **but OSS check it out cause you’ll be saying ‘oh no he didn’t (snap snap)’.**
    Lol. I did. I have responses to him specifically below.

    **As for spiritual death – I am not sure what that is. The term likely never appears in the entirety of the bible and is purely thought up (a philosophical idea).**

    Okay, good. It’s not just me. Because I especially don’t see this notion in the Tanakh, with a spiritual death and so forth.

    **The point MIke makes is Jesus died and resurrected – beating death for all humanity. **
    Actually, I think there are quite a few segments where we can say that we all died and we resurrected, depending on how one reads Paul. The whole crucified with Christ idea. It’s not a matter of taking our place, but a matter of uniting us with him, and we all die, so we can all be resurrected. We still take part.

    **I am not sure we owe a death in the sense we need to pay it to God – but that it was merely a result of sin entering the world (a Pauline idea) – and as result – we got used to death (and it quite the norm). **
    Especially given teh framework: sin pays death. What is ‘owed’ is actually to those who sin.

    Brad,

    **Either way, as Mike recently commented on our blog, the expulsion from Eden was both a physical death (they would eventually die) and a spiritual death (they were separated from God). Jesus’ sacrifice accomplished an immediate spiritual redemption resulting in the giving of the Holy Spirit (Pentacost), and a sneak peak at a future physical redemption. **

    I still don’t see, going back to the original comment, how this pays off the penalty owed to God. I see how you are defining death, in two segments. However, even for the physical/spiritual death: seperate in what way? What we see in Jeremiah 23 is that God is near, fills the whole heaven/earth. In Psalms 139, we can’t escape from God’s presence. Was everyone restricted from the Holy Spirit prior to the death/resurrection?

    **Jesus immediately reconciled spiritual death. NT authors do not seem to expect an immediate erasure of sin from this world, but a spiritual redemption that connects us to God. **

    You mentioned this in terms of debt, but again, I still don’t see what penalty was paid off — a death, yes. But we have a physical death, which still occurs, so we still ‘do’ that portion. Yet Jesus paid off a physical death. Did he also “pay off” a spiritual death? I think I get stuck on this, because if we say he was seperate for a time, he was then not seperate, so what was the point of the pay off? Our punishment, based on my understanding, is that we were to be permanelty seperated from God — spiritual death. Jesus makes it so a reconciliation is possible. So if Jesus took our place, shouldn’t the seperation be permanent? Something just doesn’t add up for me here.

    esus reconciled spiritual death, in that we are no longer seperate from God. But where in the Tanakh do we have a huge emphasis on this seperation unless they sacrifice an animal? Or sacrifice anything?

    **How are you, or these Jewish websites you are visiting not doing anything different? **

    I’ll again tie into what Hebrews says — without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Where is that in the Tanakh? Or to take the virgin birth propehcy: could anyone, prior to the New Testament, read that and say that it related to a birth of a Messiah/Jesus? Or that it related to Jesus life at all? Or would they have said it was specific to that point in time? Or even Genesis, and saying that the serpent was Satan. Or even the nature of Satan himself, based on the Tanakh.

    I know I’ve asked this question previously, but shouldn’t a prophecy be clear cut before it happened? How effective is a prophecy if it can only be interpreted after the event occured? It’s suppose to help give anticipation for an event. That’s what I mean by not letting the Tanakh stand on its own.

    For example, to answer my questions about the death/life, and sacrifical nature, you provide answers from a New Testament book. Why not support from the Tanakh itself? It’s like the New Testament books are provided because they’re saying “Here’s what the Tanakh *really* means.” But why isn’t that “real meaning” above and beyond obvious in the Tanakh itself? It just seems that when Christians look for an explanation into Judaism, rather than using the same texts Judaism uses, it uses the New Testament.

  15. Mike,

    **events in Genesis 3 and in Exodus happened before Leviticus and its sacrificial system were instituted, but they were written by the same guy: Moses. He couched the events that occurred before in terms that were intended to invoke a sacrificial understanding in the minds of his readers. **

    Hmm. This might be where the conversation halts, because I know I’m not operating under the idea that Moses wrote Genesis.

    But if it was driven in sacrifical terms, why doesn’t the Eden text mention blood was spilt? Or that the animals were killed at all? Why tie it so directly to providing clothing for Adam/Eve?

  16. Actually no, at least no more than reading the sacrificial system into the Passover. The events in Genesis 3 and in Exodus happened before Leviticus and its sacrificial system were instituted, but they were written by the same guy: Moses. He couched the events that occurred before in terms that were intended to invoke a sacrificial understanding in the minds of his readers. So it is fair to say that his original audience understood these events as examples of the sacrificial system, and that imagining God creating the skins out of nowhere or as snake skins does more damage to the text than the interpretation of the original audience.

    First off, Jews don’t read the sacrificial system into Pesach, that is totally a Christian reading of the texts. Second off, there is no proof that Moses wrote these books at all, only tradition says this is so.

    I don’t think it’s fair to say what the original audience thought of it at all, only what the sages thought about it, and only what Christianity thought about it, which are not the same things, obviously.

    How does looking at any other interpretation do damage to the text? Are only Christian speculations as to the meaning of Torah allowed these days?

  17. OSS,

    You are right, and I appreciate your wisdom in naming a difference of opinion on one of the points. All i can do is offer a link to Gordon Wenham’s article on the composition of the Pentateuch

    http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_pentateuch_wenham.html

    in the meantime, can we agree that at the very least the implied author of the Pentateuch is Moses? By this I mean that at least the actual author wanted us to assume Moses wrote it, and so should lend us to the idea that there is thematic unity in the Pentateuch.

    Yael,

    “First off, Jews don’t read the sacrificial system into Pesach, that is totally a Christian reading of the texts. ”

    They certainly dont today, but then, I never said they did.

    “Second off, there is no proof that Moses wrote these books at all, only tradition says this is so.”

    There is no proof that he didnt, and besides it is the Jewish tradition that he wrote it. So what exactly are you saying here?

    “I don’t think it’s fair to say what the original audience thought of it at all, only what the sages thought about it, and only what Christianity thought about it, which are not the same things, obviously.”

    You are really gonna have to qualify what you mean when you say “sages,” because depending on that I might agree with you or not.

    “How does looking at any other interpretation do damage to the text?”

    Looking at them does no damage at all (in fact it can often be fruitful), but accepting one over the others for poor reasons does.

  18. A Jewish tradition says that Moses wrote the Torah, but only Orthodox Judaism teaches this and I don’t know how many Orthodox Jews even believe such a thing. What am I saying here? That I don’t hold to Orthodox traditions? OK. I don’t hold to Orthodox traditions. Now I could be wrong, but I think you might be going the route of many before you who think that if one tradition is ‘proved wrong’ all of Judaism will somehow crumble before my very eyes. We’re not a belief system, and we’ve always allowed for multiple voices and interpretations. The only thing that is beyond debate is that God is ONE, there is no other God but the ONE God who is ONE.

    Pesach: Am I to take it you think Jews today have distorted the message of Pesach from what perhaps ‘real’ Jews accepted as valid at some time in the past?

    Sages? My question: how do you know what is Jewish tradition or not if you don’t know what is meant when a Jew says ‘the sages’; the rabbis quoted in Pirke Avot? So, are you now claiming that at one time some of these rabbis taught Christianity?

    What constitutes a poor reason differs depending on the religious tradition a person follows and is truly in the eyes of the beholder. Talmud includes both majority and minority opinions for ‘good reason’. One never knows the final value of either.

    Time for me to take off and finish preparing for Shabbos. All of this stuff is way too serious anyway. I don’t get why only one interpretation, one POV, one story, is allowed in your world. Doesn’t that get kind of boring after awhile? What’s the point of studying? To prove that one thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over? Not my style at all, so guess it’s just as well I’m not a Christian. Barukh attah Adonai Eloheynu Melach ha-olam, shi-asani Yisrael. 8) Good luck with your studies, Mike. No hard feelings I hope. We just walk different paths and view the world, Torah, and God quite differently.

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