"O L-RD, Who are my power and my strength and my refuge in the day of trouble, to You nations will come from the ends of the earth and say, 'Only lies have our fathers handed down to us, emptiness in which there is nothing of any avail! Can a man make gods for himself, and they are no gods? 'Therefore, behold I let them know; at this time I will let them know My power and My might, and they shall know that My Name is the L-RD".
Jeremiah 16:19-21
Question: 

Dear Rabbi Singer,

A mutual friend of ours introduced me to your site.  I work with Michael Flanigan of Palestine, TX.  I am a gentile Christian who has many questions.  I have found a lot of fascinating reading on your site.  Michael and I have been discussing atonement and sacrifice as of late.  Now bear in mind that I am by no means a biblical scholar, so, I apologize if my questions seem silly.  Would it not be possible for the death of Y’shua to apply as an unintentional sin sacrifice with His death applying when an individual asks Him into his/her life initially?  Thereafter, sins would be forgiven as intentional sins through repentance.  I hope you are able to make sense of my question.  I am learning much through my conversations with Michael and listening to your tapes.  I will continue to visit your website in the future.

Thank you for your time.

Answer:

Your question is not silly at all.  I will first explain your question more clearly so that visitors to our website who are unfamiliar with this subject will have a better understanding of what you are asking.

Missionaries contend that the blood sacrificial system is man’s only conduit to atonement and insist that there can be no forgiveness of sin without the shedding of blood.  They maintain that the Bible sets forth only blood atonement to expiate sin.  Evangelical Christians assert that for the past nineteen centuries, since the destruction of the second Temple in 70 C.E., Jews have lacked the essential and indispensable animal sacrificial system for atonement.  Consequently, they maintain, God must have provided a blood atonement in place of the animal sacrifices of the past.  This sacrifice, they insist, is the death of Jesus on the cross.

In support of their claim that atonement can only be achieved through the shedding of blood, missionaries cite Leviticus 17:11, which reads,

This is because the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.

They conclude from this verse that only by being covered in the blood of the cross can man have any hope of being forgiven by God for his sins.

In response to this argument, I have explained that contrary to the missionary claim that blood sacrifice is the only method of atonement in the Bible, there are three methods of atonement clearly defined in the Jewish scriptures: the sin sacrifice, repentance, and charity.  Moreover, the sin sacrifice (known in the Jewish scriptures as korban chatat) did not atone for all types of sin, but rather, only for man’s most insignificant iniquity: unintentional sins.  The sin sacrifice was inadequate to atone for a transgression committed intentionally.  The brazen sinner was barred from the sanctuary, and had to bear his own iniquity because of his rebellious intent to sin against God.  The Torah teaches this fundamental principle in Numbers 15:27-31.

If a person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering.  The priest shall make atonement before the LORD for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven . . . .  The person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people, because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be on him.

Your question is excellent: “If the sin sacrifice was necessary in order to atone for unintentional sin, didn’t Jesus then have to die for those sins committed unwittingly?”

The answer to your question is simple.  Jesus could not die for anyone’s sins, whether they were committed intentionally or accidentally.  To begin with, the Jewish people were strictly prohibited from offering human sacrifices under any circumstances.  There is not one place throughout the entire corpus of the Jewish scriptures where human sacrifices are condoned.  In fact, over and over again the Bible warns the Jewish people that it is a grave sin to bring a human being as a sacrifice.  In the Book of Leviticus, only distinct species of animals are permitted for use in blood sacrifices.

The ancient pagan religions promoted the same idea about atonement as Christendom continues to preach today (e.g.  Molech).  They would joyfully offer a child into the fires of their sacrificial offering in order to expiate their sins and appease the gods.  Why would a child sacrifice be used in this pagan ritual rather than an adult?  The reason is because a child is thoroughly innocent of sin.  A child, they reasoned, could not have committed iniquity and thus mirrored the animal sacrifice which also had to be unblemished.  The Torah therefore admonishes the children of Israel never to offer human sacrifices, and forewarned Jewish people of terrible consequences if this commandment were violated.

This message was carefully communicated at Mt.  Moriah where Abraham was prepared to offer up his beloved son Isaac as a sacrifice.  At that crucial juncture in history when Abraham was ready to sacrifice Isaac, the Almighty admonished him that He did not want the human sacrifice, and directed Abraham to sacrifice the ram caught in the thicket instead.  The Almighty’s directive — that he only wanted animal sacrifices rather than human sacrifices — was immediately understood.  This teaching has never departed from the mind and soul of the faithful children of Israel.

Moreover, if missionaries want to use Leviticus 17:11 to bolster their position that blood sacrifices are indispensable for procuring an atonement, they must use all of the verse, not just a part of it.  Leviticus 17:11 specifically says that the blood of the sacrifice must be placed “upon the altar to make atonement for your souls.”  That is to say, Leviticus 17:11 explicitly declares that blood can only effect atonement if it is placed on the altar.  Jesus’ blood, however, was never placed on the altar.  If the church is going to take the “blood” part of the verse literally, they must also take the “altar” part literally as well.  Jesus’ blood was never sprinkled on the altar, and therefore his death could not provide atonement for anyone.

Finally, the prophets loudly declared to the Jewish people that the contrite prayer of the penitent sinner replaces the sacrificial system.  Therefore, atonement for unintentional sins today is expiated through devotional supplication to the Merciful One.

In fact, in Hosea 3:4-5, the prophet foretold with divine exactness that the nation of Israel would not have a sacrificial system during the last segment of Jewish history until the messianic age.  Hosea 3:4-5 reads,

. . . for the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince,without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.  Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king.  They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.

In the words of the Bible, this period of time would last for many days.  Yet, despite the repeated proclamations of the church that the crucifixion of Jesus serves as a sin sacrifice today, the words of Hosea were meticulously fulfilled, and we are without an animal sacrificial system today.

Given the spiritual magnitude of this remarkable prophecy, Hosea was compelled to reveal how the ecclesiastical Temple functions were to be replaced.  In essence, if the prophet is testifying that the nation of Israel will indeed be without a sacrificial system during their long exile until the messianic age, what are we to use instead?  How are the Jewish people to atone for unintentional sin without a blood sacrifice during their bitter exile?  What about all the animal sacrifices prescribed in the Book of Leviticus?  Can the Jewish people get along without animal offerings?  Missionaries claim they cannot.  The Bible disagrees.

For this reason, the statement in Hosea 14:2-3 is crucial.  In these two verses, Hosea reveals to his beloved nation how they are to replace the sacrificial system during their protracted exile.  The prophet declares that the Almighty wants us to “render for bulls the offering of our lips.”  Prayer is to replace the sacrificial system.  Hosea 14:2-3 states,

Take words with you, and return to the LORD.  Say to Him, “Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will render for bulls the offering of our lips.”

The prophets never instruct the Jews to worship any crucified messiah or demigod; nor does scripture ever tell us that an innocent man can die as an atonement for the sins of the wicked.  Such a message is utterly antithetical to the teachings of the Jewish scriptures.  Rather, it is the prayers of the sinner that would become as bulls of the sin offerings.

King Solomon echoes this sentiment as well.  In I Kings 8:46-50, King Solomon delivers a startling prophetic message as he inaugurates the first Temple that had just been completed.  In his inauguration sermon, King Solomon forewarns that one day the Jewish people would be driven out of the land of Israel, and be banished to the land of their enemies, near and far.  During their exile they would fervently desire to repent of their sins.  King Solomon then declares that they would face Jerusalem from their exile, confess their sins, “and God will hear their prayers in heaven, and forgive them for all their transgressions.”

There was no mention of a cross or a dead messiah in King Solomon’s prophetic message.  Only the contrite and repentant prayer of the remorseful sinner can bring about a complete atonement.  Although King Solomon’s timeless message stands out as a theological impossibility in Christian terms, it remains the centerpiece of the Jew’s system of atonement throughout his long and bitter exile.

Best wishes for a happy Passover.

Sincerely yours,

Rabbi Tovia Singer

 

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