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The Father William Most Collection

Vicarious Atonement

[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]

Daniel 3. 35 (LXX mv. Theodotion same):"And do not take away your mercy (eleos) from us, because of Abraham, the one beloved by you, and Isaac your servant, and Israel, your holy one." COMMENT: Hengel, p. 61, interprets this as atonement. It may be so--more likely, it is an appeal to the merits of the three.

Dan. 3. 40 (LXX: mv) "As though it were sacrifice of rams and bulls and thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be made before you today, and make atonement with you. (exilasai opisthen sou.)" Hengel, p. 61, comments that in view of 3. 28, "They offered up their bodies", the sacrifice must mean the sacrifice of their intended acceptance of death in the furnace.

Job. 42. 7-8 (mv) "And it happened, that after the LOrd had spoken these words to Job, the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite: My anger is inflamed against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken right of me like Job. And so take now 7 bullocks, and 7 rams and go to my servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering (olah). And my servant Job will pray for you, and his face I will accept without punishing you."Hengel, note 40 on p. 93(to p. 61) cites 11 Qtg Job. col 38. 2: wshbq lhwn ht yhwn bdylh (=Job).

Second Maccabees 7. 37 "I like my brothers, handover my body and my life (soul) for our ancestral laws, calling on God to quickly be merciful to our people." (mv)

Fourth Maccabees Probable date is 63 B.C. to 70 A.D. according to H. Anderson, editor in Charlesworth II. 533. Versions here are mv.

6. 28-29: " Be merciful to your people, being satisfied with my punishment. Make my blood their purification and take my life as a ransom for theirs." --Said by Eleazar. 9. 24:"Fight the sacred and noble fight for piety. Through it may the just providence for our ancestors become merciful to our race." Said by first of the seven brothers, speaking to the others.

17. 21-22: "They became as it were a ransom for the sin of our people. And through the blood of these pious ones and the propitiation of their death, the divine providence saved Israel, which had been badly treated." By the editor, commenting on the mother and 7 sons.

Testament of Benjamin 3. 8 [H. C. Kee in Charlesworth I. pp. 771-78 favors date in the Maccabean period. There are some Christian interpolations, probably early 2nd cent. AD he says. The passage of 3. 8 comes in two forms, one which clearly shows Christian interpolation. The following does not show that, and so seems genuine]: "In you will be fulfilled the heavenly prophecy which says that he spotless one will be defiled by lawless men and the sinless one will die for the sake of impious men." The dying Benjamin is speaking to his sons.

1QS. Manual of Discipline. Rule of Community all mv.

5. 6: [The rule is] to make atonement [kpr] for all who voluntarily give themselves to holiness."

8. 3: [There are to be twelve men and three priests]"to expiate iniquity [literally: to make God pleased or appeased by doing what is right [mishpat]."Cf. also ibid. 9. 4.

8. 6 & 10: "[when these things are done, there will be a holy community] to make expiation [kpr] for the land" [repeats in line 10].

Rabbi Meir, c. 100-175 AD [date from Travers], cited by Simeon ben Eleazar [fl. 190 AD: Encycl. Judaica] in Tosephta Kiddushin 1. 14 mv: "He has done one commandment. His blessing! He has inclined the scales, for himself and for the world, to the side of merit. He has committed one transgression. Woe on him! He has inclined the scales for himself and for the world to the side of debt [hoba = sin].

Mekilta on Exodus 12. l: (From: Jacob Z. Lauterbach, Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael, Jewish Publication Society of America. I. p. 10):"And so also you find, that the patriarchs and the prophets offered their lives in behalf of Israel. As to Moses, what did he say: 'Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin; and if not blot me, I pray Thee, out of the book which Thou hast written' (Ex. 32. 32); 'And if Thou deal thus with me, kill me, I pray Thee, out of hand, if I have found favour in Thy sight; and let me not look upon my wretchedness' (Num 11.15). As to David, what did he say? "And David spoke unto the Lord, when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said: Lo, I have sinned... ." COMMENT case of Moses seems not really atonement for another. Rather, Moses wants to die if God will NOT forgive. David does seem to offer self however. But the attitude of Rabbi Ishmael shows understanding of atonement for others even if his choice of the Moses text is not right.

Sifre on Numbers 25. 13 :(From: Tannaitische Midraschim. ed. G. Kittel. Stuttgart, Kohlhammer Band 2, Heft 7. p. 527):

" Dafur. dass er fur seinen Gott geeifert hat. (D. h. ), 'dafur, dass er sein Leben dem Tode preisgab' {189}) (Jes. 53. 12).

COMMENT: In Num. 25. 13 Phinehas has turned away God's wrath by killing two sinners. So he has made atonement, and has received priesthood. But we notice the interpretation of Isa 53. 12 in the sense of the atonement made by the Servant.

H. Anderson, introduction to 4 Macc. in Charlesworth II. 539: "Doctrinally, the most significant contribution of 4 Maccabees is the development of the notion that the suffering and death of the martyred righteous had redemptive efficacy for Israel and secured God's grace and pardon for his people... . The idea of vicarious atonement in and through the death of Jesus was of course of central importance in early Christianity, and it appears in many places in the New Testament... . although the concept of vicarious atonement was by no means normative or widespread in Judaism around the time of Jesus or Paul, it does have roots going far back into the Old Testament and our author was certainly no innovator in this matter... . At any rate, the idea that the suffering and death of the righteous atoned vicariously for the sins of others is sufficiently well attested in the apocalyptic literature (e. g, TBenj 3:8) and at Qumran (e.g. 1QS 5:6; 8:3f. , 10; 9:4) to suggest that it was in the air in the intertestamental period."

COMMENT: Roots show in the debt concept of sin and sheggagah.

J. Bonsirven, Palestinian Judaism in the Time of Christ

p. 111: "It was also believed that the prayers and sufferings of the just could atone for the sins of others (Mekilta on Exod. 12:1; 22:22)."(more on same page)

p. 116: "The doctrine of vicarious atonement through suffering, by death, and especially by martyrdom seems to have been generally accepted in the Jewish world before Christ (2 Mach. 7:37; Sifre on Num., 25:13)."

J. Jeremias, New Testament Theology, pp. 287-88: "Is it conceivable that Jesus saw his death as representative? ... . The general currency in the world of Jesus of ideas about the atoning power of death provides us with an answer to the question. Four chief means of atonement were known: repentance... the sacrifice of the Day of Atonement... suffering... and death... . Any death has the power to atone if it is bound up with repentance. That even holds for the death of a criminal... . The death of a righteous man was even more powerful; his supererogatory suffering was to the advantage of others... . Yet greater atoning power was attributed to the death of a witness to the faith. Hellenistic Judaism praises martyrdom, because it brings God's wrath upon Israel to a standstill and is an (substitute), (means of cleansing) (means of atonement) for Israel."

John S. Pobee, Persecution and Martyrdom in the Theology of Paul JSNT Supplement Series 6.

Martin Hengel, Atonement: pp. 60-65. Esp. his conclusion on p. 64: "As a result, after careful consideration of all the sources indicated, we must agree with Jeremias and Lohse that the vicarious atoning effect of the death or even the suffering of a righteous man was not unknown in the Palestinian Judaism of the first century AD, independently of the question of terminology."

K. Bornhauser, Das Wirken des Christus. pp. 224-29.

E. Lohse, Martyrer und Gottesknecht Gottingen, 1955, 1963, pp. 9- 110.

H. J. Schoeps, Paul. The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, p. 129: "The idea that God chooses a righteous man in expiation of sins, who is regarded as a pawn for the sins of the people, seems to have been very widespread... . Thus David, Ezekiel, Job, Jonah were thought of as suffering vicariously for the sins of the whole people. The idea lies also behind a series of rabbinical reports of martyrdoms, to which vicarious atoning power was ascribed. But for the most part they are post-Pauline and cautiously worded, because it was felt to be undesirable to lend support to the Christian interpretation. Again with the same motive and in order to eliminate the reference of Isaiah 53 to Christ, atoning power was imputed to the death of Moses."



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