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Atonement in the Maccabees

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#1 luke



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Posted 18 June 2011 - 02:40 AM

Here's an extended quote from David A. Brondos' Paul on the Cross I found interesting regarding "atonement" in the books of Maccabees. Sometimes the Maccabees are quoted in defence of (some element of) substitutionary atonement, but the overall example of the Maccabees might not be quite so useful.

In addition to the sacrificial means of atonement God had provided, in ancient Jewish thought there were other ways to atone for sin. Sanders, for example, mentions that suffering and death were believed to be atoning. Yet this idea has also been frequently misunderstood. In support of the view that the death of a righteous man could make atonement for others, scholars often cite the examples of the deaths of Eleazar and his sons in 2 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees. In 4 Macc 6:27-29, as he was about to die, Eleazar prayed, "You know, O God, that though I might have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law Be merciful to you people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification [hilasterion], and take my life in exchange for theirs." Later on, the author of the book concludes, "Because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified -- they having become, as it were, a ransom [antipsychon] for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an atoning sacrifice [hilasterion], divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been mistreated" (17:20-22)/ Some have regarded these passages as supporting a penal substitution view of atonement, as if Eleazar and his sons were believed to have undergone the divine punishment of death for the sins of the people in their place, so as to procure their salvation or deliverance.

As Sanders stresses, however, both suffering and death were atoning only when accompanied by repentance and a commitment to obey God's law. What was atoning about the suffering and death of the Maccabean martyrs, therefore, was the fact that in the midst of persecution and torments, they remained committed to God's laws until the end and inspired others to repentance and obedience as well. According to the authors of 2 Maccabees, those who were suffering believed that this was a chastisement sent from God: "these punishments were designed not to destroy but to discipline our people. In fact, it is a sign of great kindness not to let the impious alone for long, but to punish them immediately....Although [the Lord] disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people" (2 Macc 6:12-13, 16). "For we are suffering because of our own sins. and if our living Lord is angry for a little while, to rebuke and disciple us, he will again be reconciled with hos won servants" (2 Macc 7:32-33; cf. 4:16-17; 5:17, 20; 7:18). Just as in Rabbinic thought "chastisements lead one to repent and seek God," so the sufferings experienced by the Jewish people were understood as having the purpose of testing their commitment to god's will and bringing them back to God. According to both 2 and 4 Maccabees, this is what the deaths of Eleazar and his sons helped accomplish: they inspired others to obey by leaving "a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws" (2 Macc 6:28) and "strengthened [the people's] loyalty to the law through [their] glorious endurance" (4 Macc 7:9).

It is important to note that the words attributed to Eleazar in the passages quoted above are presented as a prayer on behalf of others. Basically, Eleazar was asking God to put away his wrath at the people's sins because of his faithfulness to God's will to the point of suffering torments and death; this demonstrated that the punishments sent by God had accomplished their end of bringing about the obedience God desired. Because of Eleazar's obedience and his prayer on behalf of the nation, God put an end to their chastisements and delivered the people from their oppression under Antiochus. In this way God was "wholly reconciled with his servants" (2 Macc 8:29). The basis for Eleazar's petition and God's favorable response to it was therefore the commitment to obedience shown first by Eleazar and then by others as a result of his unbending faithfulness to God's law. In Jewish thought this was the only thing that could satisfy and please God and turn away God's wrath. Eleazar's death was thus an "atonement" or "propitiation" (hilasterion) and a "ransom," because it was the expression and cause of repentance and a renewed commitment to God's will on the part of God's people, as well as a petition on their behalf. It was this hat pleased God and moved God to become reconciled to them, putting away his anger at their sins and redeeming them from their afflictions. When the author of 4 Maccabees ascribed Israel's purification and preservation to the martyr's' "blood," it is clear that he has in mind their faithfulness until death in keeping God's law, and not merely their death per se, as if this in itself had fulfilled some condition necessary for God to save the people. there is no hint here of the idea that Eleazar's life or the punishment he endured was equivalent to what the people owed for their sins, or that it was not possible for God to forgive and redeem the people until his wrath had been exhausted by being poured out on Eleazar as their substitute. God had been punishing the people not for his own sake, but for [/i]theirs[/i].

Of course, this story also illustrates the Jewish belief that the righteousness of one might in some sense avail for others; but behind this belief was the conviction that God listens to the prayers of the righteous and grants them what they ask for others, especially those who are less worthy of having their petitions heard. A similar ideas is that at times God mercifully "suspends his judgement against the world for the sake of a few," just as God suspended the chastisement of Israel for the sake of a few in the story of the Maccabean martyrs. Neither one of these ideas, however, contradicts the notion that in the end repentance and a commitment to doing God's will are necessary in order for one to enjoy God's favour and have a share in Israel's redemption.

David A. Brondon, Paul on the Cross (Minneapolis; Fortress Press,2006),p. 27-29

#2 Mercia2



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Posted 19 June 2011 - 07:11 AM

Although [the Lord] disciplines us with calamities, he does not forsake his own people" (2 Macc 6:12-13, 16).

All the writer is doing above is putting God in first principles in language. If the narrative does not mention God sending an angel to manipulate events then it should be understood as [calamities discipline us] in doing the right thing to avoid them in future. In other words the calamaties are of our own making not Gods, only that in the way the ancient theists spoke God was always put in first principles so to a modern reader it looks like it is saying God did these things in first principles. I no longer believe that to be so. God is not a weather God of calamities and disaster. But calamities and disaster are of Gods making in as much as he created physics so the negative effects are either a restrictive design flaw or intentional.

hen the author of 4 Maccabees ascribed Israel's purification and preservation to the martyr's' "blood," it is clear that he has in mind their faithfulness until death in keeping God's law, and not merely their death per se

Exactly right Luke, so now just apply that to Christs death and as the emphasis was never supposed to be on the actual act of death as I have understood it, that is why I cannot watch that Catholic drunks film the Last Temptation of Christ, for example, nor worship a cross. You have it spot on above.

Precious blood of Christ = prescious life of Christ, any literal understanding of those words make it satanic, vile, catholic.

Incidently, if you watch atheist Richard Dawkins on that Big Questions video I posted, Dawkins biggest vocal protest was against the idea of Christ being a sacrifice in the traditional sense so your argument and understanding above (when fully developed) would totally disarm his strongest protestation.

*Couple of additional thoughts for you to build on, the life is in the blood - Leviticus 17:11, Christ poured out His life unto the end/death. Notice there are two ways of reading that.

1. Isolate that to the act of death in which His blood was literally pouring out (blatently wrong).

2. Christ lived a self sacrificial life and example for us all to the end, in which the pouring out of His blood that saves us is His entire life and example, not the act itself.

Also, the animal sacrifice or death required in the OT is clearly a non literal riddle referring to the death of that aspect of our nature required upon repentance and conversion. Abel made a life sacrifice, he killed the old self or animal nature within.

Edited by Mercia2, 20 June 2011 - 04:49 PM.

"If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” = "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?" = "Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who maketh His angels spirits; his ministers a flaming fire" Psalms (104:1) = "They saw what seemed to be flames of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them." Acts 2 - the secret is over, your ministering angel you need to be saved is the Holy Spirit.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?

Mark Of The Beast - his Name is the charachter/image of the medievil popes (now modern man)

Historicists - Dual Fulfillment (seven thunders = more literal warning)

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