THE MYTH OF BLOOD ATONEMENT

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The blood of Jesus is unnecessary as atonement for sins. 

Have you noticed the tendency to emphasise the less weighty matters of the Christian faith at the expense of weightier ones?  For example, Jesus says tithing is not a weighty matter: “You pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith” (Matthew 23:23).  Nevertheless, many pastors continue to insist tithing is a weighty matter. 

Similarly, Paulinists say Jesus atoned for the sins of mankind with his blood.  However, blood sacrifice is not even necessary for atonement.  Listen to Jeremiah: “The Lord, the God of Israel says, ‘Away with your offerings and sacrifices!  It wasn’t offerings and sacrifices I wanted from your fathers when I led them out of Egypt. That was not the point of my command’” (Jeremiah 7:21-22). 

Where employed, blood sacrifice is the least weighty element in atonement.

  

Unnecessary atonement

 

A major confusion arises where a bible passage is based on error, and yet Christians deem it infallible.  Hebrews says: “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22).  This is not true.  David was forgiven his adultery with Bathsheba without blood sacrifice.  He says to God: “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.  The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit” (Psalm 51:16-17).

Even if, according to Hebrews, “nearly everything” is cleansed with blood, then “not all things” are cleansed with blood.  This means there can be forgiveness without shedding blood, meaning the blood of Jesus is unnecessary as atonement for sins.

It is actually more truthful to say “nearly everything is cleansed without blood.”  The shedding of blood is only required in the few cases where the sin is unintentional (Leviticus 4:2-3; Leviticus 5:4-6).  Even Hebrews acknowledges this: “The high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed IN IGNORANCE” (Hebrews 9:7).

Unintentional sins account for a very small fraction of the sins we commit, making the blood of Jesus applicable to only an insignificant proportion of sins, if at all.

 

Unintentional sins

 

Even with unintentional sins, blood sacrifices are not compulsory, making the blood of Jesus unnecessary.  If you are poor and cannot afford a blood (animal) sacrifice, the law prescribes fine flour as an acceptable sin offering, and flour does not entail blood (Leviticus 5:11).  Aaron atoned for the sins of Israel with incense (Numbers 16:47-48).  Incense is without blood.  On occasion, the children of Israel atoned for their sins with jewellery (Numbers 31:50).  Jewellery is without blood.  Atonement was made for Isaiah’s sins with a live coal (Isaiah 6:6-7).  Coal is without blood. 

The truth is different from the fiction of Hebrews.  The overwhelming proportion of sins is intentional.  However, blood sacrifices are unacceptable for intentional sins under the law because they involve guilt (Numbers 15:30-31).  Here, atonement is only attainable through repentance and restitution (2 Chronicles 7:14).

 

 

Sacrifice of repentance

 

Think this through with me.  If for every sin there must be blood sacrifice, which could only take place in the Jerusalem temple (Deuteronomy 12:13-14); then there would have been sacrifices every second of the day.  Ancient Israel would soon have run out of sacrificial animals.  Jews living far away from Jerusalem in Babylonian exile, who were actually greater in number than those in Palestine, would not have been able to atone for their sins. 

However, the law says they could do without sacrifices.  Hosea even envisages that the Israelites would live for many years without any sacrifices whatsoever (Hosea 3:4).  Indeed, blood sacrifices have ceased in Judaism since the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70.  Nevertheless, Mosaic Jews have continued to atone for their sins. 

This is because the law provides acceptable alternatives to blood sacrifices.  Again, Hosea counsels: “Take words with you, and return to the Lord.  Say to Him, ‘Take away all iniquity; receive us graciously, for we will offer the sacrifices of our lips’” (Hosea 14:2). 

Jesus himself could not be more categorical that blood sacrifices are unnecessary.  He says: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’  For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Matthew 9:13).  If God does not desire sacrifices, why then would he desire Jesus’ blood sacrifice?  According to Jesus, the weightier matter that God desires is for men to repent of sin. 

“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” (Acts 3:19).