The doctrine of atonement in Christianity



Jesus taught that he would become a “ransom” for mankind
Jesus is our ransom

Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

MK 10:45 Karena Anak Manusia juga datang bukan untuk dilayani, melainkan untuk melayani dan untuk memberikan nyawa-Nya menjadi tebusan bagi banyak orang.”

When instituting the Lord’s supper, Jesus explains the symbolic meaning of the wine. It represents his blood “which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Matthew 26:28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

MT 26:28 Sebab inilah darah-Ku, darah perjanjian, yang ditumpahkan bagi banyak orang untuk pengampunan dosa.

“Ransom” does not refer to suffering in the Bible

Muslim: Jesus is talking about suffering

Jesus devoted his life to bringing human beings to God, to salvation and it is the hardships he suffered which are the price for bringing the teaching.

Christian response

When Jesus talks about ransom (Greek : Lutron), it is not equivalent to suffering. We suffer for many reasons that may even include persecution for preaching the message. But that is not ransom. Ransom is the price you pay as compensation for something. Because mankind fell into sin, the penalty of death in hell is due to man. But Jesus paid with his life as compensation. That is the meaning of ransom and that same word is used the same way in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) as in the following verse.

(Exo 21:28-30 NIV)  “If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held responsible. {29} If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. {30} However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem (or KJV ransom, Greek word : Lutron) his life by paying whatever is demanded.

The meaning is clear from the passage above. The owner of the bull should pay with his life but the law allows him to ransom his life by making a payment. This is the meaning of Lutron.

Sacrificed animals were put to death without inflicting unnecessary pain upon them. It was not their suffering that expiated sin (contrast 1 Kings 18:28). It was the loss of life they suffered that was significant as well as the blood representing life. In a sense the life of the animal was given for the life of the worshipper.

Through this incident a supreme sacrifice yet to come was indicated by God-a sacrifice which was to end all animal sacrifices and bring about a reconciliation between Him and lost mankind.

“Ransom” does not refer to suffering in the Quran

037.107
YUSUFALI: And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:

{C} {C}[107] Dan Kami tebus anak itu dengan seekor sembelihan yang besar.

The ransom is the ram provided by God to be sacrificed in place of his son. It does not refer to “suffering”.

The closest approach to this perspective is the story of the sacrifice of Abraham in the quran:

And he said, “Verily I repair to my God who will guide me. O Lord, give me a son, of thy righteousness.” We announced to him a youth of meekness. And when he became full grown youth, his father said to him, “My son I have seen in a dream that I should sacrifice thee; therefore, consider what thou seest right?” He said, “My father, do what thou art bidden; of the patient, if God please, shalt thou find me.” And when they had surrendered themselves to the will of God, he laid him down upon his forehead. We cried unto him, “O Abraham! Now hast thou satisfied the vision. See how we recompense the righteous?” This was indeed a decisive test. And we *ransomed* his son with a noble victim. And we left this for him among posterity, peace be on Abraham. Thus we reward the well-doers, for he was of our believing servants. (Sura 37:99-111)

There are three unique features of the sacrifice of Abraham that merit consideration. First of all, the animal was provided by God directly. Second, it was a ransom or substitute for the son of Abraham. Finally, the whole incident had a symbolic meaning.

Jesus taught that his blood has to be shed for the remission of sins

(Mat 26:28 NIV)  This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Again Jesus was not referring to suffering for the sake of spreading God’s message of salvation.

In all animal sacrifices a sense of the sacredness of life was expressed by the reverent use of the blood

Lev. 17:11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.

Jesus is the fulfillment of the “lamb” that takes away sins during the Old Testament
Atonement in the form of animal sacrifices is carried out in the Old Testament

God is just and cannot overlook sin. In the Old Testament sin has to be dealt with by offering sacrifices of animals.

(Lev 14:12-13 NIV)  “Then the priest is to take one of the male lambs and offer it as a guilt offering, along with the log of oil; he shall wave them before the LORD as a wave offering. {13} He is to slaughter the lamb in the holy place where the sin offering and the burnt offering are slaughtered. Like the sin offering, the guilt offering belongs to the priest; it is most holy.

Exodus 12: 12-13 God instructed the Israelites to kill a lamb to spare them when God smites the first born and the Jews celebrate this by killing an unblemished lamb and Jesus was the unblemished lamb. *

In the New Testament refers atonement specifically to the reconciliation between God and humanity effected by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Jesus the “lamb of God”

(John 1:36-37 NIV)  When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” {37} When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.

Jesus was there when John called him the “lamb of God”. Jesus did not think that John was a heretic. He confirmed John as a messenger of God.

The Old Testament also taught that there would be a man who will come to take the sins of the world upon himself.

(Isa 53 NIV)  Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? {2} He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. {3} He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. {4} Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. {5} But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. {6} We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. {7} He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. {8} By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. {9} He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. {10} Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. {11} After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. {12} Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Muslim response

Isaiah’s words, “He was wounded for our transgressions” (Isa. liii. 5), cannot refer to Jesus, but must have reference to some prophet who preceded Isaiah 2.

Christian response

A knowledge of Hebrew or even of Arabic grammar would show you that the past tense is often used for the future, when the future event is so firmly fixed and certain to come to pass that it may be regarded as already past.  An example of this from the quran itself (according to many commentators) is found in the first verse of surah LIV., Al Qamar, where the Day of Judgment is said to have approached, and the moon to have been split, the meaning being that these things will take place.  With God there is neither past nor future, all is present.  The Hebrew past tense is called the permansive, because it denotes a permanent state of things.  The older 1  Jewish commentators understood Isa. liii as a Messianic prophecy, and the New Testament shows its fulfilment in Christ.

The Old Testament taught that the righteous are those ransomed by the Lord

(Isa 35:8-10 NIV)  And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. {9} No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, {10} and the *ransomed of the LORD* will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

The last plague of Egypt and atonement

In Ancient Egypt, God used Moses to deliver ten plagues as judgement on Egypt because of Pharaoh’s refusal to let the Israelites go (Taurat, Exodus 7-12). The last plague was indeed the worst, falling on Egyptians and Israelites alike if they did not follow God’s instructions. God commanded Moses to prepare his people to slaughter a lamb without blemish, which was called the Passover lamb, each for every household and apply the blood of the lamb on the top and on both sides of the doorframe. The blood of the lamb was the sign to avert the death judgement on the firstborn because the innocent Passover lamb had died in place for the household. When God came in judgement to kill the firstborn, He would pass over every house where the blood was applied — whether Israelite or Egyptian. The blood on the doors was an outward evidence that the inhabitants of that house trusted God, believing what He said was true.

Atonement is believed by early Christians

“He bore our sins”, says Peter, 1 Pet. 2 : 21 and 24.

(1 Pet 2:21-24 NIV)  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. {22} “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” {23} When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. {24} He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

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