The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The problem of the atonement


Jesus’ whole life was a living sacrifice and fragrant offering up to God. Not just His death. I like everything Christ did including His teachings.

Yes, the Septuagint differs significantly from the Hebrew Masoretic text form from which virtually all OT versions are translated (with the exception of the Orthodox Study Bible which translates toe OT from the Septuagint.

Two other significant observations:

  1. The New Testament quotes of the Old are similar or identical to the Septuagint, but are often quite different from the Masoretic text.
  2. Cave 4 at the Qumran site contained OT Hebrew texts whose translation are quite similar or identical to the translation of the Septuagint. It is my thought that the Septuagint was translated from that text type, and that this text type is probably closer to or identical with the original, and that the Masoretic text differs considerably from it. However, the Septuagint itself has been changed over the years, either from copyists’ errors or deliberately altered.

Did you ever wonder about the Messianic passage from the book of Isaiah often quoted during the Xmas season: “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father”? From the Trinitarian point of view, the Son of God is not the Everlasting Father, nor from the Binitarian view or the early Christian view that He was begotten or born before all ages. Affirming that the Son of God is the Everlasting Father is consistent only with Modalism.

However, one form of the Septuagint doesn’t read “Everlasting Father” but “Father of the age to come”. That reading is consistent with most Christological positions. For Jesus will reign in the age to come, if we understand that age to be the 1000 years mentioned in Revelation. But, of course, when all things have been put under His feet, He will turn the Kingdom over to His Father that God may be all in all! Hallelujah!

Paidion - I’ve not heard of the Orthodox Study Bible. Do you recommend it?
Are there any reliable LXX translations into English, online and free, that you (or anyone here) are aware of?

I got the LXX for my Kindle, Dave, but I don’t remember whether I paid. It wasn’t much if I did. Okay, here we go: … septuagint and it was $2.99. There was a Greek and English one available too, for $1.99, but the Greek would only have been confusing to me. If I remember, there were some negative reviews for formatting issues, but they must have fixed that because I haven’t had any problems.

Yes, Paidion, I have wondered about that. Father of the age to come makes a lot more sense. (And it will likely take me quite a long time to make it all the way to Isaiah, so I appreciate your pointing that out! Very appropriate to the season, too. :smiley:

Thanks Cindy - I’ll drop one into my kindle as well.

Dave you can download each book of the Septuatint in pdf format for free from this site:

And yes, I do recommend the Orthodox Study Bible, mainly because of its translation from the Septugint. We have a copy, but they’re rather costly.

Cindy, most, if not all, current editions of the Septuagint don’t have the “Father of the Age to Come” rendering.

The Septuagint translation in the link above doesn’t use the word “Father” at all in Isaiah 9:6. Here is the translation:

I have a physical copy of the Septuagint, both in Greek and in English. The English translation is much the same as the above except the dative case is rendered “to us” instead of “for us” and “government” is used instead of “sovereignty” and “is upon his shoulder” instead of “was upon his shoulder” and “is called Messenger of Great Counsel” instead of “is named Messenger of Great Counsel.”

Thanks Paidion.

I just looked up the Orthodox Study Bible’s rendering of Isaiah 9:6 (from the Septuagint). Only they have it as verse 5:

The NETS translation of Isaiah 9:6:

What does it mean, “Messenger of Great Counsel?”

Was Jesus not a messenger of great counsel when he gave the instruction recorded in Matt. 5, 6, an 7, often called “The Sermon on the Mount”?
This was great counsel since His closing words were:

Also He said, “Unless you forsake all and follow me you CANNOT be my disciple.” Then He announced the Kingdom of God as present in the midst of the Pharisees. That Kingdom consisted of the King (Himself) and His subjects (His disciples) Indeed, it seems to me that throughout that whole period from the time He was baptized until His death, He was a messenger of great counsel!

Oh, okay – I see that. I was mixing up council and counsel in my mind, so I couldn’t work out what a title like that could mean! Thanks – duh!

I don’t think that the cross is simply a financial transaction to pay the fine (as per Judge Judy example). This is parable speak. God’s intention is one of reconciliation… but not simply that either. It is a process in which we come of age. Life is a bar mitzvah. Atonement and sacrifice is where we see our Father in the eyes of a spiritual man, and no longer as a wayward child. The bail is the reconciliation for all those who believe; and yet Christ is reconciling the entire world to Himself. Those who are firstfruits have been immortalized as pillars and foundations of the royal city; whereas everyone else will become part of the mortar and path of the very same building (as per Shepherd of Hermas). There is a great deal of parable used in scripture, because “the Kingdom of Heaven is like …” so many different things. It cannot be encompassed in one simple monograph or idea. It is all encompassing.

These are excellent points, Paidion. Thanks for this.

“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the purity of the flesh, how muc more will the blood of Christ who through the (or His) eonian spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your [or in some mss our] conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Heb 9:13-14

The people who apply that sentence (9:22) to Christ’s sacrifice were in fact reading the preceding context. :wink: “Not through the blood of goats and calves but through His own blood, He entered the holy place one for all, having obtained eonian redemption” (v.12) The Hebraist, if he isn’t St. Paul, is agreeing with St. Paul about the reconciliation of all things being through the blood of the Son on the cross. He goes on to talk about that some more in chapter 10, too. Much of the Hebraist’s argument is that the usual high priest’s sacrifice is imperfect because he enters year by year with blood not his own while Christ sacrifices Himself. (vv.26-27)

So the people who apply v.18 to Jesus as well as to the sacrifices of the Law aren’t just pulling that connection out of nowhere. They are in fact taking it from the contexts.

I argue over in the Exegetical Compilation notes for Heb 9 (and 10, and Gal 3, with followups in Gal 4) that it isn’t “blood” per se that’s the important thing (except that the ancients thought life was in the blood, and so what they’re really focusing on here is the giving of life), but that the Son is fulfilling the covenant He made with the Father, standing in for Abraham (as the incarnated descendant of Abraham) during the Abrahamic covenant.

As for the term “remission” (which I don’t think anyone in the thread came back to talk about in Greek", it’s a noun form of a common Greek verb “to send out”. (“Of sins” isn’t actually there in the text, but is implied by the context.) The verb form has a ton of different uses with some variant meanings based on the basic imagery; the noun form tends to stick with one or two of those meanings, namely the idea of either “sending away” (if sin is the topic) or “setting free” from imprisonment (if people are the topic) including punitive imprisonment due to sin. (I think it’s occasionally used for setting someone free from bonded service, too.)

When Jesus is baptized with John’s baptism into repentance for remission of sins, Jesus has no sin to repent of, but the underlying term metanoia can also refer to an intentional commitment and Jesus is very committed to sending away sins. So should we be in being baptized along with Jesus; not only in sending away our own sins (which we should repent of and change-mind against), but the sending away of other people’s sins (as Jesus was committed to sending ours away from us). “For in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all fair-togetherness” as Jesus replied when John was shocked at Jesus asking for baptism instead of the other way around.

Jesus’ baptism of people not by water but by Spirit-even-fire, must therefore have the same goal in mind: the sending away of sin out of people. And the contexts of the Malachi references there bear that out (as does the grain/chaff imagery).

Jason, I am not taking the position that Christ’s death is of no significance. As I have frequently pointed out, it is the very means of delivering us from sin, that is, from sin itself, and not merely the consequence of it. When we are in the process of being saved from sin, then of course God will not hold our past against us.

What I oppose is the concept of using the phrase “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” as meaning that Christ had to shed his blood or God cannot forgive us. Under the Hebrew system God forgave their sin when they shed blood and offered sacrifices to Him. But that’s not the way it is under the New Covenant. Now, it is through Christ’s death that we are DELIVERED or SAVED from sin. Forgiveness naturally follows.

The ancient Hebrews copied the heathen in many ways. They wanted a King, because the other nations had a king. God wanted to rule them through judges. But since they insisted, God chose a King for them as a concession, but He sadly said, “You wouldn’t have me to rule over you.”

Similarly, the Hebrews offered appeasing sacrifices to God, just as the other nations did to their gods to avoid punishment. The Hebrews did this so that God would forgive their sin, and not punish them. So God went along with it. But it wasn’t what He really wanted. He wanted obedience. He never asked them to sacrifice when He brought them out of Egypt, but asked them to obey:

For in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, I did not speak to your fathers or command them concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ (Jeremiah 7:22,23)

Indeed, God has no desire for sacrifices and offerings:

Sacrifice and offering you have not desired, but you have given me an open ear. Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required. (Psalm 40:6)

God gave them an open ear so that they might hear Him and obey.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)

Great post, Paidion.

While I agree that Christ doesn’t intrinsically have to shed His blood for God to forgive us (which for a trinitarian ought to be especially obvious: why does God have the shed the blood of one of His persons in order for God to forgive us???), I don’t think you’ve worded it quite right yet. If forgiveness follows from being delivered or saved from sin, and if Christ sheds His blood to deliver or save us from sin, then through Christ’s blood we are forgiven from sin.

So under the old law without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin, but under the new covenant forgiveness still comes through the shedding of blood. This won’t answer people who try to insist that unless God (or Christ if Christ is not also substantially God) sheds His blood He cannot forgive us. (The people taking this position haven’t usually thought about it that far out. :wink: )

Also, the Hebraist goes on soon afterward to point out that the contrast is between a high priest who sheds blood not his own, and the greatest high priest Who sheds his own blood. The sacrifice of life (to the blood, so to speak) is still important to the process. But like you point out (via Jeremiah) while God accepted sacrifices before Moses (and before they started breaking the covenant of the meal immediately after Sinai) He didn’t really want the sacrifice of other things, He wanted (in effect) the sacrifice of the people themselves, and not in a way that killed them.

However, while it isn’t an intrinsic requirement, once YHWH pledges His own life on the side of Abraham and His descendents in the covenant made with YHWH, then if any descendant of Abraham rebels (which is any rational creature at all via the Incarnation of the Creator as a descendant of Abraham) YHWH has to pay the price on that side of the covenant or else YHWH will be breaking the covenant with YHWH (the Son breaking the covenant with the Father). What’s necessary is that YHWH keeps His covenants, without which existence itself (including YHWH’s own existence) would fail (including all our past, present and future). The goal of the covenant is that all Abraham’s descendants shall be righteous and loyal to God, which cannot happen unless those who rebel into injustice have their sin sent away and become righteous and loyal again. (The term for forgiveness here means being delivered or saved or set free from something, so it isn’t like there’s a process being talked about here of being X first and then Y, though sequences of process are sometimes talked about elsewhere. The Hebraist says under the Law there was no sending away of sin, or being sent out from sin, except by the shedding of blood.) God’s going to get that done, too.

You’re right. I haven’t worded it clearly. I contend that Christ’s death is not about forgiveness but about deliverance. I think that God is not interested in dealing with past sin per se but with present character. Yet past sin often reveals present character. So if a person has not repented and begun the process of salvation from sin, then God must deal with him, and his past sin is not “forgiven”, that is, not overlooked. However, for the person who IS on the narrow path which leads to rightousness, God does not hold that past sin against him in any way.

Indeed, I don’t believe God holds with penal punishment at all. I believe all of God’s punishments are for remediation and for no other purpose. So that is the reason I cannot see Christ’s death as a necessity for God’s forgiveness.

You may ask, “What about the statement that God will not forgive us our blunders if we don’t forgive others their blunders?”
What does it mean not to forgive someone his blunders? Does it not mean to keep holding a person’s blunders against him so that we don’t have a good relationship with him? I think so. So God will not have a good relationship with us if we continue to harbour a negative attitude toward others.