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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Although found only once in the NT ( Romans 5:11) and there in the Authorized Versionalone, this word has become the elect symbol in theological thought to indicate the doctrine in the Apostolic Church which placed the death of Christ in some form of causative connexion with the forgiveness of sins and with the restoration of men to favour and fellowship with God. The development of a doctrine of atonement in the NT is almost entirely the product of the experience and thought of the Apostolic Church. It moved along two lines; these were neither divergent nor exactly parallel, nor is it probable that one was precisely supplementary to the other; they are best considered as converging towards an ultimate point of unity in which Godward and manward aspects are merged. They have been contrasted as objective and subjective, juridical and ethical, substitutionary and mystical. They correspond also to two definitions of the word itself. Originally and etymologically the word means ‘at-one-ment’; it is a synonym for ‘reconciliation’ as an accomplished fact. Historically its usage signifies ‘a satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing or suffering that which is received in satisfaction for an offence or injury’ ( Imperial Dict., s.v .). Here its synonym is ‘expiation’ as a means to reconciliation. Theologically it has been chiefly used in this latter sense, to indicate ‘the expiation made by the obedience and suffering death of Christ to mark the relation of God to sin in the processes of human redemption.’ A decided modern tendency is to return to the more original use of the word. It will probably be seen that both uses are required to state the fullness of the apostolic doctrine.

The literature preserved in the NT witnesses to the undoubted fact that the Apostolic Church had very early established a close connexion between the death of Jesus the Messiah and the redemption of men from their sins. Within seven years of His death-or probably considerably less-a ‘doctrine of the cross’ was freely and authoritatively preached in the Christian community; it appears to have been distinctly Pauline in general character; it held a primary place in the apostolic preaching; it was declared to be the fulfilment of the OT Scripture; it was set forth as the essence of the gospel, and was definitely referred to the teaching of Jesus for its ultimate authority. This much seems to be implied in what is probably the earliest testimony, if regard be had to the date of the writings in which it occurs, concerning the apostolic doctrine of the atonement. It is St. Paul’s confident assertion, ‘I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received, bow that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:3). This is undoubtedly typical of the teaching accepted by the primitive Church; whatever St. Paul’s differences with other apostolic teachers on other matters may have been, agreement seems to be found here. The confidence of this common witness so early in the Apostolic Church raises many interesting questions, some of which must be considered. To what extent can we find the more elaborate Pauline doctrine, which we shall find elsewhere in his writings, presented in such fragments of the teaching of the first Christians as we possess? How far is the apostolic interpretation of Christ’s death sustained by appeal to the experience and teaching of Jesus Himself? By what means had the swift transition been made by the apostolic teachers themselves from the state of mind concerning the death of Jesus which is presented in the Synoptic Gospels to the beliefs exhibited in their preaching in the Acts? How was the unconcealed dismay of a bewildering disappointment changed into a glorying? It is clear from the contents of the Synoptic Gospels that, whatever the confusion and distress in the minds of His disciples which immediately followed the death of Christ, they were already in possession of memories of His teaching which lay comparatively dormant until they were awakened into vigorous activity by subsequent events and experiences; these, together with the facts of their Lord’s life and the incidents of His death, may be spoken of as the sources of the apostolic doctrine of the atonement, as to its substance. For the forms into which it was cast we must look to the religious conceptions-legal, sacrificial, ethical, and eschatological-which constituted their world of theological ideas, and the background against which was set the teaching of Jesus.

I. Sources

1. In the Synoptic Gospels. -Briefly summarized these are: (1) The intense and consistent ethical interpretation that Jesus gave to the Kingdom He came to establish, and to the conception of the salvation He taught and promised as the sign of its establishment in the individual soul and in the social order. It was no mere change of status; it was a becoming in ethical and spiritual character sons of God in likeness and obedience; it was actual release from the selfishness of the unfilial and unbrotherly life, and access into living communion in holy love with His God and Father.

(2) The Baptism and the Temptation of Jesus, which initiated Him into the course of His public ministry, were events associated in the minds of those who preserved the Synoptic tradition with the voice from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased’ ( Luke 3:22). Apparently the consciousness of Jesus as He realized His vocation, judging from what He afterwards taught His disciples of its inner meaning, was aware of this combination of  Psalms 2:7 with  Isaiah 42:1 ff.-the Son of God as King, and the Buffering Servant of the Lord. The inference Denney draws, though obviously open to keen criticism from the eschatological school, has a suggestive value: the Messianic consciousness of Jesus from the beginning was one with the consciousness of the suffering Servant; He combined kingship and service in suffering from the first.*[Note: Death of Christ, 14 f.]This finds support in the accounts of the Temptation, which was supremely a temptation to avoid suffering by choosing the easy way.

(3) All the Synoptics assure us that, when Jesus received the first full recognition of Messiahship from His disciples, He instantly met it by the open confession that His suffering and death were a necessity. ‘The Son of Man must (δεῖ) suffer- must go up to Jerusalem and be killed’ ( Mark 8:31,  Matthew 16:21,  Luke 9:22). Henceforth His constant subject of instruction was concerning His death, which, when ‘the Son of Man was risen from the dead, His disciples were to interpret. The necessity associated with His death was not merely the inevitable sequence of His loyalty to His ideal of righteousness in face of the opposition of His enemies. It was that, but it was more. In the career of one such as Jesus the violent and unjust death to which He was moving could not be separated in thought from the Father’s will to which He was so exquisitely sensitive, and which He came perfectly to fulfil. What was in His Father’s will was appointed and could not be the mere drift of circumstances into which He was cast and from which the Divine purpose was absent. The necessity was inward, and identical with the will of God as expressed in Scripture; to His disciples it was incomprehensible.

(4) Jesus described His death as for others and as voluntarily endured. Definite terms are selected in. which the meaning more than the fact of the death is set forth. ‘The Son of Man came … to minister, and to give his fife a ransom (λύτρον) for many’ ( Mark 10:45). Whether we approach the meaning of this term (see Ransom) from Christ’s conception of His life-work as a whole, or by closer exegetical or historical study of the word itself, it is clear that the giving of His life was to Jesus much more than the normal experience of dying; it was a dying which was to issue in largeness and freedom of life for mankind-it was probably even more than ‘on behalf of,’ ‘in the service of’; it was ‘instead of’ (ἀντί) men. From what He is to release them, however, is not definitely stated. The objection often made that the term is an indication of Pauline influence on Mark is part of the general problem of Paulinism in the Gospels, too large for discussion here. The saying is in perfect harmony with its setting.

(5) The other selected term is connected with the critically difficult passages recording the institution of the Supper. ‘This is my blood of the covenant [possibly the ‘new’ covenant] which is shed for many unto remission of sins’ ( Matthew 26:28). Here the purpose or ground of the death of Jesus is set forth. It is only just to say that Matthew alone makes the reference to ‘remission of sins.’ The earliest account of the Supper-St. Paul’s ( 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)-omits this reference; he is followed by Mark and Luke. Questions also turn on the sacrificial significance of ‘blood of the covenant.’ The reference is obviously to the solemn ratification by blood-sprinkling of the covenant of Sinai ( Exodus 24:8). Whether this was strictly sacrificial blood with expiatory value is debated. Robertson Smith*[Note: Sem.2, London, 1894, p. 319 f.]and Driver†[Note: HDB, art. ‘Propitiation,’ iv. 132.]may both be quoted in favour of the view that ‘sacrificial blood was universally associated with propitiatory power.’‡[Note: Denney, Death of Christ, 53.]Whilst too much should not be built upon a single authority for the precise word of Jesus, the criticism does not touch the value of the citation as an index to the mind of the Apostolic Church.

(6) The awful isolation of the cry of Jesus on the cross, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ ( Mark 15:34) cannot easily be separated in the experience of the sinless Son of Cod from some mysterious connexion with the sin He clearly came to deal with by His death. It is at least capable of the suggestion that for a time His consciousness had lost the sense of God’s presence, whose unbroken continuity had hitherto been the ethical and spiritual certainty of His spirit.

To complete the material provided for the apostolic doctrine in the Synoptics there should be added to the points already mentioned the minuteness and wealth of detail-quite without parallel in the presentation of other important features of His life-with which the death of Jesus is recorded, and also the extent to which the writers insist upon the event as a fulfilment of the OT Scriptures We have, therefore, in the Synoptics, whatever view may be taken of the position largely held, that they were the issue of ‘the productive activity’ of the early Church under the stimulating influence of redemptive experiences attributed to the death of Christ, at least the starting-point of the ethical and juridical views of the atonement subsequently developed in the primitive community; they lack doctrinal definiteness, and distinctly favour the ethical more than the legal view of the process of redemption; they are also accompanied by evidences that the disciples listened unintelligently or with reluctant acquiescence to the words of Jesus concerning His death. This last feature indicates the dependence of the apostolic doctrine upon another source.

2. The apostolic experience. -The doctrine of atonement arose out of the Christian experience; it was the issue of a new religious feeling rather than a condition of faith. The springs of tins new spiritual emotion must be sought, if the doctrine which is its result in the Apostolic Church is to be rightly appreciated. In this way also we shall provide a statement of the transition from the desolation wrought by the death of Jesus in the hopes of His followers to the triumphant temper and abounding joy of the primitive faith and preaching. The elements of this experience are:

(1) The Resurrection .-This is the starting-point of the new experience; the ultimate root of the apostolic doctrine of atonement was the presence of the Risen Christ in the consciousness of the primitive Christian community; for it was the secret of the restoration and enrichment of personal faith, the re-creation of the corporate confidence of the community which ‘was begotten again unto a, living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead’ ( 1 Peter 1:3). It was also the revealing light that brought meaning into the mystery of His death. Now and for always these two-death and resurrection-stood together. When the apostles stated the one, they implied the other; the Resurrection was the great theme of the apostolic preaching because it interpreted the significance of the Death. Both were closely and instinctively connected with the forgiveness of sins: ‘The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew, hanging him upon a tree. Him did God exalt with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and remission of sins’ ( Acts 5:30 f.). The redeeming virtue issues from the Death and Resurrection as from a common source, though the cross ultimately became its chosen symbol. Beginning to search the Scriptures to discover whether death had a place in the prophetic presentation of the Messiah, the disciples were surprised into the apprehension of the meaning of the words of Jesus spoken whilst He was yet with them; they thus came to see that the Death was only the shadow side of an experience by which He passed to the exaltation and authority of His redeeming work; the catastrophe was seen to have a place in the moral order of God, and the scandal of the cross was transfigured into the glory of the Divine purpose of redemption. This experience was followed by-

(2) The Great Commission .-The terms of this are influential for discerning the apostolic doctrine. As they appear in Mt. ( Matthew 28:19 f.) and in Mk. ( Mark 16:15 f.) associated with baptism, which in the primitive Church was always connected with remission of sins, they are suggestive, but not free from critical difficulties. As they appear in Lk. ( Luke 24:44 ff.). from an excellent source, they have their chief significance’ they are there bound up with ‘my words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you’; with the fulfilling of the Scriptures concerning the necessity that ‘the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name’; and especially with the opening of the minds of those who were to be ‘witnesses of these things’ that they might understand them. The historicity of this as conveying the experience and convictions of the Apostolic Church is strong, and it affords exactly the link needed to unite what we find in the Synoptics with what appears as preaching and teaching in the primitive society. The illumination of the apostolic mind for its construction of a doctrine of atonement resulting from the Resurrection and the Great Commission was perfected by the experiences of-

(3) Pentecost .-The coming to abide with them of the Holy Spirit, ‘the promise of the Father’ ( Acts 1:4), ‘the Spirit of Christ,’ was for the Apostolic Church the ultimate certainty of guidance into all the truth, and the supreme authority for its adequate utterance. The work of the Spirit as Jesus had defined it was; ‘He shall take of mine and shall declare it unto you’ ( John 16:14). To the fullness of His ministry the Apostolic Church owed the interpretation of the cross, the inspiration of its preaching, the construction of its doctrine, and especially the moral and spiritual results in the life of the individual and of the community which were the living verification of its power, and also the justification of the moral grounds on which the declaration and experience of remission of sins were based. The meaning of the words of Jesus is understood through the works of His Spirit; the significance of His death can be apprehended only in the light of the experience it creates. Only so can an adequate soteriology be reached. From first to last the apostolic doctrine of the atonement is the effort to interpret this experience in the relations in which it was conceived to stand to the Christian conceptions of God and man.

II. The doctrine preached

1. In the Acts of the Apostles. -The early chapters of the Acts contain the one particular account of the earliest form the doctrine of atonement took in the Apostolic Church; for it is generally admitted that some source of considerable value underlies the speeches of Peter. Both their christology and soteriology are primitive in type-it is surely not the doctrine of the 2nd century. In this account the sufferings and death of Jesus the Messiah have a fundamental place. The cross is now more than a scandal; the ‘word of the cross’ is more than an apologetic device for getting over the difficulties of accepting a crucified Messiah. Although the great feature of the apostolic preaching is not the explanation of the death of Christ in relation to the remission of sins, but its power in spiritual renewal, it contains much which enables us to perceive how the primitive community was taught to regard it. Summarized, this is-(1) The death of Christ was a Divine necessity, appointed by God’s counsel and foreknowledge It was a crime whose issue God thwarted for His redeeming purpose ( Acts 2:23;  Acts 3:18).-(2) Jesus as the Messiah is identified with the suffering Servant of the Lord ( Acts 4:27;  Acts 8:32-35). This conception, abhorrent to the Jewish mind and a sufficient ground for rejecting the Messianic claims of Jesus, is the assertion of the vicarious principle of the righteous one suffering for the unrighteous many and also the sign of a Divine fellowship.-(3) The great gift of the gospel-remission of sins-is set in direct relation to the crucified Jesus ( Acts 2:38;  Acts 3:19;  Acts 5:31;  Acts 10:43). The prominence given to this in every sermon suggests that this connexion cannot be considered accidental.-(4) Reference to the frequent observance of the Lord’s Supper ( Acts 2:42). When it is remembered that nothing in the Apostolic Church is more primitive than the sacraments, and that both of them bear implications of Christ’s relation to the remission of sins, this reference is significant.-(5) Christ’s death is not distinctly represented as the ground of forgiveness, by setting forth the Messiah’s death as a satisfaction for sin or as a substitute for sin’s penalty. It is set forth as a motive to repentance and a means of turning men away from sin, but its saving value is not more closely defined. It is certain, however, that the early Apostolic Church attached a saving significance to the death of Christ.

2. In 1 Peter. -It is usual to associate with the indications of the doctrine in the early chapters of Acts the constructive tendencies found in 1 Peter. The Epistle of James is too uncertain in its date and authority, and its aim is too purely practical to warrant appeal to it on the apostolic doctrine of atonement. Indeed 1 Peter is far from being free from difficulty when used for this purpose. The signs of Pauline influence are too strong for its use as a source of primitive Christian ideas without some hesitation. Still, the fact that St. Paul and St. Peter are represented as in harmony on the significance of the redemptive work of Christ, when they are manifestly at variance in other important factors of the primitive faith, is not without its value; it is possible also that their similarities may be accounted for by their common loyalty to the accepted Christian tradition. Taken as it stands, St. Peter’s contribution may be epitomized thus: (1) Whilst the suffering death of Christ holds, as elsewhere in apostolic writings, the central place, its strongest appeal is made in regard to the moral quality of the sufferings. The patience and innocence of the Sufferer for righteousness’ sake control its theological presentation. The exhortation to suffer with Christ by expressing His spirit in the life of discipleship obviously emphasizes the ethical appeal of His example, but this is based upon a due appreciation of His sufferings on our behalf. Quite a procession of theological ideas thus emerges.-(2) The covenant idea with its sacrificial implication in ‘sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ’ is present ( 1 Peter 1:2), possibly reminiscent of the words at the Supper.-(3) Ransomed ‘with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ’ ( 1 Peter 1:19), combines the idea of the sacrificial lamb with possibly an echo of the ‘ransom’ of  Mark 10:45.-(4) The close connexion of Christ who ‘suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow his steps, and its ethical appeal, with the clear interpretation of the Passion as a sin-bearing, ‘who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree’ ( 1 Peter 2:24), and its profound moral issues, ‘that we having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed’-shows how intimately what are termed the objective and subjective conceptions of the atonement are associated in the writer’s thought; the end is moral and dominates the means, but the means are clearly substitutionary, to the extent that the obligations to righteousness involved in ‘our sins’ are assumed by the sinless Lamb of God.-(5) The writer once again glides with simple ease and familiarity from the force of the example of Christ to the abiding fact of His sin-bearing ( 1 Peter 3:18): ‘Because Christ also suffered for sins once (ἅπαξ, ‘once fur all’), the righteous for (ὑπέρ) the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.) Access to God is regarded as a high privilege obtained by a great self-surrender and not as a native right to be taken for granted. Of course these ideas, which the writer of 1 Peter discusses in this apparently incidental way, are closely akin to those of the righteousness by faith and ethical obedience ‘in Christ’ which St. Paul discusses so fully and of set purpose in Romans 3, 6 respectively, and this may suggest his influence. If so, then the evidence of 1 Peter will fall into the Later Pauline period of apostolic doctrine, which we shall now consider at length; but that would not depreciate its value as a witness to the faith of the Apostolic Church in its wider range.

III. The doctrine developed

1. The Pauline type. -It will be obvious to any reader of the literature of the Apostolic Church that its doctrine of atonement was the subject of considerable development in form. In tracing this the Pauline writings must be our main source. Of all NT writers, St. Paul goes into the greatest detail and has most deliberately and continually reflected upon this subject. Indeed, the abundance of the material he provides is embarrassing to any one seeking a unified doctrine. In St. Paul we find for the first time a philosophy of the death of Christ in relation to the forgiveness of sins, which is ultimately based upon an analysis of the Divine attributes and their place in the interpretation of the doctrine of the cross. At the same time the emphasis he lays upon this is regarded by him as in accordance with the belief and teaching of the primitive community; it is the centre of his gospel and theirs. It may be assumed, therefore, that we are as likely to learn from him as from any other source what was the inner meaning of the primitive Christian belief. He declared that what he preached concerning the dying of Christ for our sins according to the Scriptures he ‘received’ ( 1 Corinthians 15:3). Whilst it is possible that this statement finds a fuller definition in his further assertion, ‘Neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ’ ( Galatians 1:12), it seems clear that St. Paul’s doctrine rested upon the common apostolic data given in (1) the words of Jesus respecting the necessity of His death on man’s behalf; (2) the very early Christian idea that it was included in the Divine purpose; (3) the conception of the vicarious sufferings of the righteous and their merit founded on Is 53 which had been elaborated in later Jewish thought.*[Note: Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 59, 122.]Although it seems clear that this late Jewish doctrine was a source of St. Paul’s theory, it underwent partial transformation at his hands; it was ethicized; moreover, it was probably the vicarious idea, as it was associated with the prophetic rather than with the priestly or legal conceptions, that he appropriated; it was not the literal legal substitution and transfer, but the vicariousness of a real experience in which the righteous bear upon their hearts the woes and sins of the sinful.†[Note: G. A. Smith, Mod. Crit. and Preaching of OT, London, 1901, p. 120 ff.]

(1) St. Paul’s early preaching .-The earliest Indication of St. Paul’s view of atonement would naturally be sought in his preaching during the fifteen or more years before he wrote the letters in which he sets forth more deliberately and with obvious carefulness his matured doctrinal judgments. The author of the Acts gives little light on St. Paul’s method of setting out his interpretation of the death of Christ in his discourses; how he was accustomed to place it in relation to forgiveness of sin in his earliest preaching does not definitely appear. The discourse at Antioch in Pisidia may illustrate the character of his reference to it: ‘through this man is preached unto you forgiveness of sins’ ( Acts 13:38); but nothing is defined more closely. To the Ephesian elders at Miletus be speaks about ‘the Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood’ ( Acts 20:28). St. Paul himself gives us the only valuable account of his preaching, its dominant topic was the crucifixion-‘the preaching of the cross’ ( 1 Corinthians 1:18); ‘I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and him crucified’ ( 1 Corinthians 2:2). No explanation is given. But the fact that he made the cross supreme when it was regarded as a direct antagonism and provocative by those he sought to win-a scandal to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles-implies that it was associated with an interpretation that made it something different from a martyrdom. Such a martyrdom neither Jew nor Greek would have regarded with the scorn they exhibited for the interpretation St. Paul gave them in order to meet their challenge for explanation.

(2) The Pauline Epistles .-On the whole, St. Paul’s preaching carries us no further towards a knowledge of any reasoned doctrine of atonement than the position reached in the preaching of his fellow-apostles-that ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.’ Of course this is in itself a vast doctrinal implication. Still, for the structure of the Pauline doctrine we are shut up to his teaching in his Epistles. In his earliest writings-the Thessalonian Epistles.-we practically get no further towards his doctrine than in his preaching, except perhaps that the idea emerges that in some way Christ identifies Himself with our evil that He may identify us with Himself in His own good ( 1 Thessalonians 5:9 f.). We meet the organized body of his doctrine in the well-authenticated group of his writings to the Galatians, Romans, and Corinthians, with a supplementary view in the Imprisonment. Epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians. We may differentiate this teaching, but it has throughout most important underlying principles in common. It falls conveniently into five divisions-Atonement and Law; Atonement and Righteousness; Atonement and Personality; Atonement and Newness of Life; Atonement and the Universe. In briefly reviewing these, it should be remembered that according to St. Paul the love of God is the first arid last motive of redemption, and that none of the atoning processes is separable from the full activities of the Divine Personality.

( a ) Atonement and Law .-This is the form in which St. Paul construes his doctrine in the Galatian I Epistle, which deals more exclusively than any other NT document with the significance of the death of Christ. ‘Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for (ὑπέρ) us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth upon a tree’ ( Galatians 3:13). The conception here is distinctly juridical; whether it is also penal will depend upon the definition of ‘penal.’ If punishment implies guilt, the sufferings of Christ were not. strictly penal, for He is always set forth as guiltless; moreover, guilt cannot be transferred as guilt. His sufferings did, in St. Paul’s judgment, serve the end of punishment: they were representatively penal; Christ took the place of the guilty as far as it involved penal consequences; for special emphasis is laid upon the instrument of death-the cross-and upon its curse, though there seems nothing to justify the attributing to Christ of the position suggested by the allusion to  Deuteronomy 21:23 of one ‘accursed of God’ which has at times been pressed by expositors. That He endured the consequences of such a position and in this sense was ‘made a curse on our behalf’ is the Apostle’s application of it. This endurance is regarded as the recognition of the just requirement of the law of God-not the ceremonial law alone, but also the moral demands arising out of God’s holy and righteous nature, and especially those which empirically St. Paul had put to tine test in vain in his seeking after personal righteousness. St. Paul does not deny the authority of this law; he asserts it, but the fact that it was added to the promise for ‘the sake of transgression’ resulted in its making men sinful; it brought a curse: ‘Cursed is every one which continued, not in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them’ ( Galatians 3:10). With this curse in its consequences Christ identifies Himself, as in the Apostle’s thought He had identified Himself with mankind in being ‘born of a woman, born under the law’ ( Galatians 4:4). By thus making Himself absolutely one with those under ban, absorbing into Himself all that it meant, He removed the obstacle to forgiveness in the righteous attitude of God towards sin which could not be overcome until sin had been virtually punished. It was thus that the way was opened for man to identify himself by personal faith and living experience with Christ’s death, so that St. Paul was justified in saying: ‘For I through the law died unto the law, that I might live unto God. I have been crucified with Christ: yet I live: and yet no longer I, but Christ liveth in me’ ( Galatians 2:19 f.)

This conception of St. Paul’s adds the ethical idea of atonement to the juridical, which other passages reiterate ( Galatians 5:24;  Galatians 6:14). It is, however, essentially Pauline to regard the ethical as depending for its possibility and efficacy in experience upon the juridical; otherwise ‘Christ died for nought.’ God must vindicate His law so that He may justly forgive; the operation of grace is connected with the assertion of justice. But ultimately St. Paul’s conception really transcends these contrasts; for it is God Himself who in His love provides the way to be both just and gracious; He, not another, provides the satisfaction. In the last analysis God is presented as removing His own obstacles to forgiveness; the death in which His righteous law is exhibited is the provision of His antecedent love; the commending of His love is the prior purpose resulting in Christ being ‘made a curse on our behalf.’*[Note: P. Wernle, Anfänge unserer Religion, Tübingen, 1901, p. 146; Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 67.]Consequently the whole Christian life is resolved into a response to God’s love exhibited in the death of His Son; it does away with the hindrance to forgiveness in God’s law, and at the same time inspires the faith which conducts into ethical conformity to Christ in man’s experience.

( b ) Atonement and Righteousness .-This is dealt with exhaustively in the Epistle to the Romans; the great question the Epistle discusses is-How shall a sinful man be righteous with God? and the answer is-By receiving ‘a righteousness of God’ which is ‘revealed from faith to faith.’ In the interpretation of this answer we reach the heart of the apostolic doctrine, and upon it the great bulk of later historical discussions has turned. For more than the briefest hints here given of the points of exegesis involved, reference should be made to commentaries on the Epistle. St. Paul distinctly states the two aides of the meaning of atonement referred to in the beginning of this article. But his interest is primarily absorbed by the efficient cause of at-one-ment as the ideal end, viz. the atonement, the Divine provision of the satisfaction which the Divine righteousness requires to be exhibited in order that forgiveness of sins may be bestowed and a restoration of fellowship between God and man achieved. To this he devotes his utmost strength; he regards it as primary in the order of thought as well as in the redemptive process. Still he is nobly loyal to both conceptions, if, indeed, they were for him really two; for he thinks of the unity of the process with the end as exhibiting the perfectness of the Divine purpose of grace. This point will be discussed later. Meanwhile it must be pointed out that the strong divergencies revealed in the interpretation of the apostolic doctrine have frequently resulted from regarding one or other of these phases of the Pauline doctrine as in itself adequate to explain the whole. Ethical theories have sought to ignore the juridical means; juridical theories have often stopped short of the ethical end. The Pauline doctrine does neither. Both are met in the conception, essential to his doctrine, of the ideal and actual identification of Christ with man in his sin, and of man with Christ in newness of life; and also in the identification of both with God in His unchanging righteousness and in His eternal love; for St. Paul with ceaseless loyalty carries all the processes of redemption in time up to the initiative and executive of the Divine purpose.

Righteousness is the starting-point of his discussion; it, is seen in ‘the wrath of God revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men’ ( Romans 1:18). Cod can never be at peace with sin. Law brings no righteousness; ‘by the law is the knowledge of sin’ ( Romans 3:20). All have sinned; not one is righteous; the necessity for a righteousness apart from the law is obvious. The provision of this, ‘even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe’ ( Romans 3:22), is the Divine atonement. This implies, of course, in its completion a great moral and spiritual change in the nature and character of those who ‘have received the atonement’; that end does not jet receive St. Paul’s attention; his mind is preoccupied with the means. He is not even at present intent on demonstrating the necessity of this ethical transformation; he is in subjection to the arresting fact that all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men was exposed to the Divine wrath, and is constrained to show how the wrath was withheld. This was not primarily to be sought in the measure in winch men might be arrested by the fact and cease to sin; they must and would do that in proportion as they received the atonement. But for the time being St. Paul is confining his thought entirely to the ‘objective’ work of Christ in the atonement, whereby was provided and set forth the means by which the ‘subjective’ work of Christ in personal union with the believing soul might be possible; indeed, in some respects it had been actual also in the past, for sins had already been remitted by God. ‘Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, by his blood, to show his righteousness, because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; for the showing, 1 say, of his righteousness at this present season; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus’ ( Romans 3:24 ff.).

Thus St. Paul conceived the method of deliverance from the wrath of God which was inevitable in the presence of unrighteousness; it is an objective work and is in response to faith, however full of personal renewal in righteousness its ethical implications may eventually become; for the destruction of sin and the gift of life are regarded as depending upon a free bestowal on sinners of a righteousness of God. The interpretation of this crucial passage and its context depends upon the meaning assigned to the terms ‘righteousness of God’ and propitiation.’ The idea expressed in the former term occupies the central place in St. Paul’s conception of atonement. Righteousness was his passion; its quest the summum bonum of his life; ‘he had sought it long in vain, and when at length he found it he gave to it a name expressive of its infinite worth to his heart: the righteousness of God .’*[Note: Bruce, St. Paul’s Conception of Christianity, 146.]To this title-‘a righteousness of God’-he firmly adheres; it is distinctive; to him it is something belonging to the Christian man, yet it is not his personal righteousness of character; he receives it. It also belongs to God, but it is not His personal righteousness which is imparted to the believer. St. Paul’s conception of it does not occur in the Gospels, where the term stands for the righteousness of which God is the centre, which is His essential attribute. The nearest approach to the Pauline sense in the teaching of Jesus is the grace of God in the free pardon of sin. In St. Paul, righteousness is a ‘gift’ from God to him who believes in Christ. He is dealt with as righteous. To regard the righteousness of God as essentially self-imparting, taking hold of human lives and filling them with its Divine energies, without any reference to the problem sin has created, is not Pauline. To St. Paul, as well as to all NT teaching, God’s righteousness was the affluent, overflowing source of all the goodness in the world, but he felt that sin made a difference to God; it was sin against His righteousness; and His righteousness had to be vindicated against it; it could not ignore it.

Any view which failed to appreciate this problem would miss the characteristic solution that St. Paul unceasingly presents in the ‘propitiation’ in the blood of Christ, ‘whom God had set forth to show his righteousness in passing over sins done aforetime. Ritschl’s view, that always in St. Paul the righteousness of God means the mode of procedure which is consistent with God’s having the salvation of believers as His end,*[Note: Rechtfertigung und Versöhnung, ii. 117.]overlooks the emphatic contention of the Apostle, that it is the ungodly to whom God is gracious rather than the faithful within the covenant privilege; this latter is the class referred to in the Psalms and Second Isaiah, to whom God exhibited His righteousness in presence of the wrongs done them by their enemies. Ritschl’s conception is an attractive presentation of the meaning of the term in other relations, but it is irrelevant to St. Paul’s distinctive meaning. The suggestive view of the term expounded by Seeberg in Der Tod Christi , that the righteousness of God means simply His moral activity to harmony with His true character, the norm of which is that He should institute and maintain fellowship with men; that if He did not do so He would not be righteous and would fail to act in His proper character, leaves unanswered in any distinctive Pauline fashion the question what means Cod takes to secure fellowship with sinful men so that He may act towards the ungodly in a way which does justice to Himself St. Paul does not leave the presentation of Christ as a means by which this fellowship may be instituted, without a much closer definition; he clearly relates it to the vicarious principle lying for him in his elect word ‘propitiation,’ whether it be taken as a strictly sacrificial term or not (see, in addition, articlePropitiation).

Denney, who discusses these views at length,†[Note: Death of Christ, 164 ff.]maintains that the righteousness of God has not the same meaning throughout this passage ( Romans 3:21 ff.); it has ‘in one place-say in  Romans 3:22 -the half-technical sense which belongs to it as a summary of St. Paul’s gospel; and in another-say in  Romans 3:26 -the larger and more general sense which might belong to it elsewhere in Scripture as a synonym for God’s character, or at least for one of His essential attributes.’ But these two views are not unrelated; they cannot be discussed apart; we see them harmonized as complements in the true meaning of ‘propitiation.’ Christ is set forth by God as a propitiation to exhibit their unity and consistency with each other. When the Pauline view of ‘propitiation,’ as ‘relative to some problem created by sin for a God who would justify sinners,’ is accepted in a substitutionary sense and the argument of the passage reaches its climax, the two senses of the righteousness of God in it ‘have sifted themselves out, so to speak, and stand distinctly side by side.’‡[Note: ibid 165.]God is the Just in His own character; and at the same time, in providing it righteousness of God through faith, which stands to the good of the believing sinner, He is the Justifier. That both these meanings are present in atonement and are there harmonized with one another, is what St. Paul seeks to bring out.

St. Paul would show God righteous in His forbearance in ‘the passing over of sins done aforetime.’ But, as he defines the effects of the propitiation, he leaves the wrath of God in the background; the forbearance of God becomes the centre of his thought; that is a gracious fact and must be accounted for. Why has God never dealt with sinful men according to their sins? He has always been slow to anger and of great kindness, a gracious God and merciful; sins done aforetime were passed over. Does the doing of this impugn His righteousness? St. Paul finds his apology for, and explanation of, the universal graciousness of God in the propitiation which He has set forth in Christ by His blood. God cannot be charged with moral indifference because He has always been God, the Saviour. Sin has never been a trivial matter; any omission to mark it by inflicting its full penal consequences has been due to forbearance, which now in the propitiation justifies itself to His righteousness. If, apart from this, God had invested with privilege those whose sin deserved the manifestation of His wrath, He would, St. Paul thinks, have suppressed His righteousness. To show the Justifier, whether ‘in respect of sins done aforetime’ or ‘at this present season,’ to be Himself just, St. Paul holds the setting forth of His righteousness by the propitiation in the blood of Christ to be necessary. Christ’s death, therefore, was something more than a great ethical appeal of the love of God in suffering for sin to the heart and conscience of men; it had been rendered necessary by the remission of sins in ages before the Advent, as well as to justify the readiness and desire of God to remit the sins of any man who ‘at this present season’ ‘hath faith in Jesus.’

This exaltation of the forbearance of God as the ultimate explanation of the propitiation is intended to make known the ultimate fact that the wrath of God against sin lies within the supreme constraint of the love of God-‘His own love’ which He commendeth toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us ( Romans 5:6 ff.). Christ was set forth by God Himself; His love provided the propitiation; there was no constraint upon Christ. He gave Himself up for us; there was no conflict between the Divine wrath and the Divine love; they were reconciled in God, and their reconciliation set forth in the propitiation in the blood of Christ. The wrath is the expression and minister of the love; mere self-consideration is unknown in the Divine activity. Moreover, where the love has prevailed, the wrath fails, ‘While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us; much more then being now justified in his blood shall we be saved through him from the wrath. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, shall we be saved by his life’ ( Romans 5:8 ff.). The achievement of redemption in its ethical value proceeds from the death of Christ as the supreme demonstration of the Divine love, by evoking in sinful souls the response of a personal surrender to the newness of life to which it constrains. This may introduce the classical passage in St. Paul’s writings on the doctrine of atonement. ‘All things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses, and having committed unto us the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors therefore on behalf of Christ, as though God were entreating by us; we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God, Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in him’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:18 ff.). The Pauline doctrine receives its most satisfying and probably its most permanent interpretation in the restoration of acceptable personal relations between God and man, and the perfecting of these in a fellowship of holy love.

( c ) Atonement and Personality .-Love, the perfect expression of the Divine Personality, constrained God to identify Himself in Christ with us, and constrains us to identify ourselves in Christ with God. Personality finds its perfection in fellowship; self-identification with others is the ultimate of fellowship. Identification is the principle on which an interpretation of reconciliation most easily proceeds (see Reconciliation). Love is essentially self-impartation. Reconciliation is an exchange, the giving and receiving of love; ‘at-one-ment’ is its issue. This is based in the Pauline thought upon the Divine initiative. God ‘made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf,’ that there might be identification of righteousness as well as of love in the reconciliation, ‘that we might become the righteousness of God in him,’ ‘not reckoning unto men their trespasses.’ These words suggest the idea of such an identification of men ‘in Christ’ that there is on God’s part a general justification of mankind in the form of a non-imputation of sins, on the purely objective ground of God’s satisfaction by self-giving in Him who knowing no sin was made sin on our behalf, Individual identification of man will follow, as, in response to God’s entreating, each man is reconciled to God. ‘For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died; and be died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but to him who for their sakes died and rose again’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:14 f.). As the race died in Christ, His death is a true crisis in every man’s history; there is a new creation, which includes both a new status and a new creature. That all died in Christ is neither wholly subjective nor wholly objective. St. Paul’s full doctrine requires both; their death is died by Him, and His death is died by thorn. But in the order of thought He must first die their death, that they may die His. We never read that God has been reconciled; He reconciled Himself to the world in Christ, but men are reconciled or ‘receive the reconciliation.’ St. Paul’s judgment is that the atonement is a finished work, but that the ‘atonement’ is progressive; reconciliation is first a work wrought on men’s behalf before it is wrought within their hearts; it is a work outside of men, that it may be a work within them; there is objective basis: for the subjective experience.

Some interpreters, e.g. Denney,*[Note: Death of Christ, 145.]would limit the reconciliation to what God in Christ has done outside of up; others, e.g. Kaftan,†[Note: Dogmatik, § 52 ff.]hold that nothing is to be called reconciliation unless men are actually reconciled. St. Paul’s doctrine is consistent with the view that reconciliation is both something which is done and something which is being done. The expression of that which is done and the source of that which is being done are seen in the solemn assertion that God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf. No exegesis is more than a halting interpretation of the profound significance of this saying. At least the words mean that He died for our sin in regard to its consequences. They seem, however, to mean more; but in what sense God’s love in the gift of Christ can be said to be identified with ‘sin on our behalf,’ it is impossible to say. Certain it is that St. Paul had other and more usual ways of saying that the sinless One was a sin-bearer in the sense of an offering for sin. The strength of the saying is that He died to all that sin could mean, and that, in this dying unto sin once for all, the race with which Ho identified Himself in His sufferings and death died with Him; it is a death which contains the death of all, rather than solely a death which would otherwise have been died by all; in it their trespasses are not imputed unto them, and by the constraint of its demonstration of love they live not unto themselves but unto Him who died for them and rose again. The statement that all this was the work of ‘God in Christ’ suffices to refute any reading of the process of reconciliation which suggests a contrast that approaches competition between the righteousness of Cod and the love of Christ. It is identification which is supreme here. For, while it is no doubt true that the conception of Christ as substitute suits the interpretation of His death as sacrificial, the idea of representation best accords with the whole group of passages from which by induction St. Paul’s law of redemption is to be gathered. In these, Christ appears as a central Person, in whom the race is gathered into an ethical unity, having one responsibility and one inheritance. In this identity even those realities usually regarded as inseparable from personality, such as sin and righteousness, are treated as separable entities passing freely from the one participant in the identification to the other-sin to the Sinless One, righteousness to the unrighteous. An objective identity of this order, however, does not permanently satisfy so keen a thinker as St. Paul; he cannot rest short of subjective identity between Redeemer and redeemed. Not only in virtual oneness by Divine appointment, but in actual union by living experience, is identification to be achieved. This provides the basis for St. Paul’s teaching on-

( d ) Atonement and Newness of Life .-The work of redemption was not wholly a matter of juridical substitution and imputation. Another line of thought of great importance is pursued, besides the freeing from the curse and the deliverance from wrath. The relation of men to the salvation of Christ is not purely passive.*[Note: C. McGiffert, Apostolic Age, Edinburgh, 1897, p. 120.]They must enter into intimate union of life with Him. They must die in effect with Christ to sin on His cross, and rise with Him in newness of life. Through their faith they constitute His mystical body; they have corporate identity with Him in ‘the life which is life indeed’; they are saved from the power as well as the guilt of sin; freedom from the law of sin and death completes the release from its condemnation; the release from past sin in the atonement in Christ’s death does not exhaust its aim; it involves the actual renunciation of the selfish life and the realization of the life of holy love.

Although this conception is not wholly out of mind in chs. 3 and 4 of Romans and elsewhere (cf.  Galatians 2:19 f.,  Colossians 2:20;  Colossians 3:3,  Philippians 3:9 f.), in which the juridical view of Christ’s death is developed, it finds its full presentation in reply to an imaginary objection to the juridical view in Romans 6 and the following three chapters. The question, Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? starts St. Paul upon an exposition of the essential relation between the righteousness which is by faith in Christ as ‘propitiation,’ and the righteousness which is personal and real, through vital fellowship with His death and resurrection; ‘crucified with him, buried with him, raised with him,’ believers also walk with Him ‘in newness of life.’ There is something in the experience of Christ which they repeat so far as its ethical implications can be realized in their own experience; for the closest of links exists between the saving deed of Christ and the ethical issues of the salvation it has brought about. Although St. Paul does not make any direct use of the spotless holiness and perfect obedience of Christ save in so far as they issue in His death, still these ethical qualities of the Redeemer become the ethical demand in the redeemed as their union of life with Him is unfolded. The great Pauline conception ‘in Christ’ is required to complete on its ethical side the salvation which is ‘through Christ’ on the legal side.

In recent exposition the relation between these two-the ‘subjective-mystical’ view of salvation and the ‘objective-juridical’-has been much discussed. Is the former an addition, a supplement, a correlative, or a transformation of the latter? ‘Probably a majority of recent scholars hold that the conception of freedom from sin through a new moral life is primary in the thought of the Apostle’;†[Note: g. Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation, 70; W. Beyschlag, NT Theol., Eng. tr., 1895, ii. 198-201; C. v. Weizsäcker, Das apostolische Zeitalter, Freiburg i. B., 1890, p. 139 (Eng. tr., London, 1895, ii. 104 f.).]others reverse this relation.‡[Note: g. O. Pfleiderer, Das Urchristentum, Berlin, 1887, p. 229; E. Ménégoz, Le Péché et la Rédemption d’après St. Paul, 1882, ii. 251 ff.]Denney strongly maintains that Christ’s substitutionary death is primary, and that the ethico-mystical views are directly deduced from it; the latter indicate the inevitable result of a true appropriating faith in the substitutionary death of Christ, the sole object of which was to atone for sin; gratitude to Christ for this redemptive act of love Being sufficient to evoke the whole experience of salvation on its ethical side. St. Paul’s thought has only one focus-Christ’s ‘finished work,’ His ‘atonement outside of us,’*[Note: Death of Christ, [[179-192.]A. B]] Bruce fears that the practical schism between these two experiences of faith in the objective work of Christ and personal union in His death and resurrection is too real for such, a view; he thinks that the doctrine of an objective righteousness wrought out by Christ was first elaborated, that this ‘met the spiritual need of the conversion crisis,’ and that ‘the doctrine of subjective righteousness came in due season to solve problems arising out of Christian experience’; conseque

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

ATONEMENT . The word ‘atonement’ (at-onement), in English, denotes the making to be at one, or reconciling, of persons who have been at variance. In OT usage it signifies that by which sin is ‘covered’ or ‘expiated,’ or the wrath of God averted. Thus, in EV [Note: English Version.] , of the Levitical sacrifices (  Leviticus 1:4;   Leviticus 4:21;   Leviticus 4:26;   Leviticus 4:31;   Leviticus 4:35 etc.), of the half-shekel of ransom-money (  Exodus 30:15-16 ), of the intercession of Moses (  Exodus 32:30 ), of the zeal of Phinehas (  Numbers 25:13 ), etc. In the NT the word occurs once in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] as tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the Gr. word katallagç , ordinarily and in RV [Note: Revised Version.] rendered ‘reconciliation’ (  Romans 5:11 ). The ‘reconciliation’ here intended, however, as the expression ‘received,’ and also   Romans 5:10 (‘reconciled to God through the death of his Son’) show, is that made by the death of Christ on behalf of sinners (cf.   Colossians 1:20 ‘having made peace through the blood of his cross’). In both OT and NT the implication is that the ‘reconciliation’ or ‘making-at-one’ of mankind and God is effected through expiation or propitiation. In its theological use, therefore, the word ‘atonement’ has come to denote, not the actual state of reconciliation into which believers are introduced through Christ, whose work is the means to this end, but the reconciling act itself the work accomplished by Christ in His sufferings and death for the salvation of the world.

i. In the Old Testament. In tracing the Scripture teaching on the subject of atonement, it is desirable to begin with the OT, in which the foundations of the NT doctrine are laid. Here several lines of preparation are to be distinguished, which, as OT revelation draws to its close, tend to unite.

1 . The most general, but indispensable, preparation in the OT lies in its doctrines of the holiness, righteousness, and grace of God  ; also, of the sin and guilt of man . God’s holiness (including in this His ethical purity, His awful elevation above the creature, and His zeal for His own honour) is the background of every doctrine of atonement. As holy, God abhors sin, and cannot but in righteousness eternally react against it. His grace shows itself in forgiveness (  Exodus 34:6-7 ); but even forgiveness must be bestowed in such a way, and on such conditions, that the interest of holiness shall not be compromised, but shall be upheld and magnified. Hence the bestowal of forgiveness in connexion with intercession (Moses, etc.), with sacrificial atonements, with signal vindications of the Divine righteousness (Phinehas). On man’s side sin is viewed as voluntary, as infinitely heinous, as entailing a Divine condemnation that needs to be removed. All the world has gone astray from God, and the connexion in which each individual stands with his family, nation, and race entails on him a corporate as well as an individual responsibility.

2 . A second important line of preparation in the OT is in the doctrine of sacrifice. Whatever the origins or ethnic associations of sacrifice, it is indisputable that sacrifice in the OT has a peculiar meaning, in accordance with the ideas of God and His holiness above indicated. From the beginning, sacrifice was the appointed means of approach to God. Whether, in the earliest narrative, the difference in the sacrifices of Cain and Abel had to do with the fact that the one was bloodless and the other an animal sacrifice (  Genesis 4:3-5 ), or lay solely in the disposition of the offerers (  Genesis 4:7 ), is not clear. Probably, however, from the commencement, a mystic virtue was attached to the shedding and presentation of the sacred element of the blood. Up to the Exodus, we have only the generic type of the burnt-offering; the Exodus itself gave birth to the Passover, in which blood sprinkled gave protection from destruction; at the ratification of the Covenant, peace-offerings appear with burnt-offerings (  Exodus 20:24;   Exodus 24:5 ); finally, the Levitical ritual provided a cultus in which the idea of atonement had a leading place. Critical questions as to the age of this legislation need not detain us, for there is an increasing tendency to recognize that, whatever the date of the final codification of the Levitical laws, the bulk of these laws rest on older usages. That the propitiatory idea in sacrifice goes back to early times may be seen in such pictures of patriarchal piety as   Job 1:5;   Job 42:7-8; while an atoning virtue is expressly assumed as belonging to sacrifice in   1 Samuel 3:14 . Cf. also allusions to sin- and guilt-offerings, and to propitiatory rites in so old a stratum of laws as the ‘Law of Holiness’ (  Leviticus 19:21-22;   Leviticus 23:19 ), and in   Hosea 4:8 ,   Micah 6:6-7 ,   Ezekiel 40:39;   Ezekiel 42:13 etc.

It is in the Levitical system that all the ideas involved in OT sacrifice come to clearest expression. The Epistle to the Hebrews admirably seizes the idea of the system. It has absolutely nothing to do with the ideas that underlay heathen rites, but rests on a basis of its own. It provides a means by which the people, notwithstanding their sin, maintain their fellowship with God, and enjoy His favour. It rests in all its parts on the idea of the holiness of God, and is designed throughout to impress on the mind of the worshipper the sense of the separation which sin has made between him and God. Even with sacrifice the people could not approach God directly, but only through the priesthood. The priests alone could enter the sacred enclosure; into the Most Holy Place even the priests were not permitted to enter, but only the high priest, and he but once a year, and then only with blood of sacrifice, offered first for himself and then for the people; all this signifying that ‘the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest’ ( Hebrews 9:7-8 ).

The details of the sacrificial ritual must be sought elsewhere (see Sacrifice). It is to be noted generally that the animal sacrifices were of four kinds the burnt-offering, the sin-offering, the guilt-offering (a species of sin-offering which included a money-compensation to the person injured), the peace-offering. The victims must be unblemished; the presentation was accompanied by imposition of hands (on meaning, cf.  Leviticus 16:21 ); the blood, after the victim was killed, was sprinkled on and about the altar: on the Day of Atonement it was taken also within the veil. The burnt-offering was wholly consumed; in the case of the peace-offering a feast was held with part of the flesh. No sacrifice was permitted for sins done ‘presumptuously,’ or with ‘a high hand’ (  Numbers 15:30 ).

The design of all these sacrifices (even of the peace-offering, as features of the ritual show) was ‘to make atonement’ for the sin of the offerer, or of the congregation ( Leviticus 1:4;   Leviticus 4:20;   Leviticus 4:26;   Leviticus 4:31;   Leviticus 5:6;   Leviticus 17:11 etc.). The word so translated means primarily ‘to cover,’ then ‘to propitiate’ or ‘expiate.’ The atoning virtue is declared in   Leviticus 17:11 to reside in the blood, as the vehicle of the soul or life. The effect of the offering was to ‘cover’ the person or offence from the eyes of a holy God, i.e. to annul guilt and procure forgiveness. It ‘cleansed’ from moral and ceremonial pollution.

From this point theories take their origin as to the precise signification of sacrificial atonement. (1) Was the act purely symbolical an expression of penitence, confession, prayer, consecration, surrender of one’s life to God? Hardly; for if, in one way, the victim is identified with the offerer, in another it is distinguished from him as a creature through whose blood-shedding expiation is made for his sin. (2) Is the idea, then, as many hold, that the blood represents a pure life put between the sinful soul and God an innocent life covering a polluted one? In this case the death is held to be immaterial, and the manipulation of the blood, regarded as still fresh and living, is the one thing of importance. The theory comes short in not recognizing that, in any case, there is in the act the acknowledgment of God’s righteous sentence upon sin else why bring sacrifice of atonement at all? It is true that the blood represents the life, but it is surely not as life simply, but as life taken life given up in death that the blood is presented on the altar as a covering for sin. It would be hard otherwise to explain how in the NT so much stress is always laid on death , or the shedding of the blood, as the means of redemption. (3) There remains the view that the victim is regarded as expiating the guilt of the offerer by itself dying in his room yielding up its life in his stead in acknowledgment of the judgment of God on his sin. This, which is the older view, is probably still the truer. The theory of Ritschl, that the sacrifices had nothing to do with sin, but were simply a protection against the terrible ‘majesty’ of God, is generally allowed to be untenable.

3 . There is yet a third line of preparation for this doctrine in the OT, viz.: the prophetic . The prophets, at first sight, seem to take up a position altogether antagonistic to sacrifices. Seeing, however, that in many indirect ways they recognize its legitimacy, and even include it in their pictures of a restored theocracy (cf.   Isaiah 56:6-7;   Isaiah 60:7;   Isaiah 66:23 ,   Jeremiah 17:24-27;   Jeremiah 33:17-18 etc.), their polemic must be regarded as against the abuse rather than the use. The proper prophetic preparation, however, lay along a different line from the sacrificial. The basis of it is in the idea of the Righteous Sufferer, which is seen shaping itself in the Prophets and the Psalms (cf.   Psalms 22:1-31 ). The righteous man, both through the persecutions he sustains and the national calamities arising from the people’s sins which he shares, is a living exemplification of the law of the innocent suffering for the guilty. Such suffering, however, while giving weight to intercession, is not in itself atoning. But in the picture of the Servant of Jehovah in Is 53 a new idea emerges. The sufferings arising from the people’s sins have, in this Holy One, become, through the spirit in which they are borne, and the Divine purpose in permitting them, sufferings for sin vicarious, healing, expiatory. Their expiatory character is affirmed in the strongest manner in the successive verses, and sacrificial language is freely taken over upon the sufferer (  Isaiah 53:5-6;   Isaiah 53:8;   Isaiah 53:10-12 ). Here at length the ideas of prophecy and those of sacrificial law coincide, and, though there is no second instance of like clear and detailed portraiture, it is not difficult to recognize the recurrence of the same ideas in later prophecies, e.g. , in   Zechariah 3:9;   Zechariah 12:10;   Zechariah 13:1;   Zechariah 13:7 ,   Daniel 9:24-26 . With such predictions on its lips OT prophecy closes, awaiting the time when, in Malachi’s words, the Lord, whom men sought, would come suddenly to His Temple (  Malachi 3:1 ).

ii. In the New Testament. The period between the OT and the NT affords little for our purpose. It is certain that, in the time of our Lord, even if, as some think, there were partial exceptions, the great mass of the Jewish people had no idea of a suffering Messiah, or thought of any connexion between the Messiah and the sacrifices. If atonement was needed, it was to be sought for, apart from the sacrifices, in almsgiving and other good deeds; and the virtues of the righteous were regarded as in some degree availing for the wicked. It was a new departure when Jesus taught that ‘the Christ should suffer’ (cf.  Mark 9:12 ,   Luke 24:46 ). Yet in His own suffering and death He claimed to be fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (  Luke 22:37;   Luke 24:46 ).

1. Life and Teaching of Jesus . The main task of Jesus on earth was to reveal the Father, to disclose the true nature of the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, in opposition to false ideals, to lead men to the recognition of His Messiahship, to recover the lost, to attach a few faithful souls to Himself as the foundation of His new Kingdom, and prepare their minds for His death and resurrection, and for the after duty of spreading His gospel among mankind. The dependence of the Messianic salvation on His Person and activity is everywhere presupposed; but it was only in fragmentary and partial utterances that He was able for a time to speak of its connexion with His death. Alike in the Synoptics and in John we see how this dénouement is gradually led up to. At His birth it is declared of Him that ‘he shall save his people from their sins’ (  Matthew 1:21 ); He is the promised ‘Saviour’ of the house of David (  Luke 1:31-33;   Luke 2:11 ); the Baptist announced Him, with probable reference to   Isaiah 53 , as ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’ (  John 1:29 , cf.   John 1:36 ). From the hour of His definite acceptance of His vocation of Messiahship in His baptism, and at the Temptation, combined as this was with the clear consciousness of a break with the ideals of His nation, Jesus could not but have been aware that His mission would cost Him His life. He who recalled the fate of all past prophets, and sent forth His disciples with predictions of persecutions and death (  Matthew 10:1-42 ), could be under no delusions as to His own fate at the hands of scribes and Pharisees (cf.   Matthew 9:15 ). But it was not simply as a ‘fate’ that Jesus recognized the inevitableness of His death; there is abundant attestation that He saw in it a Divine ordination, the necessary fulfilment of prophecy, and an essential means to the salvation of the world . As early as the Judæan ministry, accordingly, we find Him speaking to Nicodemus of the Son of Man being lifted up, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish (  John 3:14 f.). He sets Himself forth in the discourse at Capernaum as the Bread of Life, in terms which imply the surrender of His body to death for the life of the world (  John 6:32 ff.). Later, He repeatedly speaks of the voluntary surrender of His life for His sheep (  John 10:11;   John 10:15;   John 10:17-18 etc.). After Peter’s great confession, He makes full announcement of His approaching sufferings and death, always coupling this with His after resurrection (  Matthew 16:21;   Matthew 17:22-23;   Matthew 20:18-19 ||). He dwells on the necessity of His death for the fulfilment of the Divine purpose, and is straitened till it is accomplished (  Mark 10:32 ,   Luke 9:51;   Luke 12:50 ). It was the subject of converse at the Transfiguration (  Luke 9:31 ). Yet clearer intimations were given. There is first the well-known announcement to the disciples, called forth by their disputes about pre-eminence: ‘The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many’ (  Matthew 20:28 ||). Here Christ announces that His death was the purpose of His coming, and, further, that it was of the nature of a saving ransom. His life was given to redeem the lives of others. To the same effect are the solemn words at the Last Supper. Here Christ declares that His body, symbolized by the broken bread, and His blood, symbolized by the poured-out wine, are given for His disciples for the remission of sins and the making of a New Covenant, and they are invited to eat and drink of the spiritual food thus provided (  Matthew 26:26 ff. ||,   1 Corinthians 11:23 ff.). It is reasonable to infer from these utterances that Jesus attached a supreme importance and saving efficacy to His death, and that His death was a deliberate and voluntary surrender of Himself for the end of the salvation of the world.

If we inquire, next, as to the nature of this connexion of Christ’s death with human salvation, we can scarcely err if we assume Jesus to have understood it in the light of the great prophecy which we know to have been often in His thoughts (  Isaiah 53 ). Already at the commencement of His Galilæan ministry He publicly identified Himself with the Servant of Jehovah (  Luke 4:13 ff.); the words of   Isaiah 53:12 were present to His mind as the last hour drew near (  Luke 22:37 ). What prophecy of all He studied could be more instructive to Him as to the meaning of His sufferings and death? This yields the key to His utterances quoted above, and confirms the view we have taken of their meaning. Then came the crisis-hour itself. All the Evangelists dwell minutely on the scenes of the betrayal, Gethsemane, the trial, the mocking and scourging, the crucifixion. But how mysterious are many of the elements in these sufferings ( e.g.   Mark 14:33 ff;   Mark 15:34 ,   John 12:27 ); how strange to see them submitted to by the Prince of Life; how awful the horror of great darkness in which the Christ passed away! Can we explain it on the hypothesis of a simple martyrdom? Do we not need the solution which the other passages suggest of a sin-bearing Redeemer? Finally, there is the crowning attestation to His Messiahship, and seal upon His work, in the Resurrection, and the commission given to the disciples to preach remission of sins in His name to all nations a clear proof that through His death and resurrection a fundamental change had been wrought in the relations of God to humanity (  Matthew 28:18-20 ,   Luke 24:47 ,   John 20:21-23 ).

2. The Apostolic teaching . The OT had spoken; the Son of Man had come and yielded up His life a ransom for many. He was now exalted, and had shed forth the Holy Spirit (  Acts 2:32-33 ). There remained the task of putting these things together, and of definitely interpreting the work Christ had accomplished, in the light of the prophecies and symbols of the Old Covenant. This was the task of the Apostles, guided by the same Spirit that had inspired the prophets; and from it arose the Apostolic doctrine of the atonement. Varied in standpoints and in modes of representation, the Apostolic writings are singularly consentient in their testimony to the central fact of the propitiatory and redeeming efficacy of Christ’s death. St. Paul states it as the common doctrine of the Church ‘how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day, according to the Scriptures’ (  1 Corinthians 15:3-4 ). St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, the Book of Revelation, are at one here. The class of expressions in which this idea is set forth is familiar: Christ ‘bore our sins,’ ‘died for our sins,’ ‘suffered for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous,’ ‘was made sin for us,’ was ‘the propitiation for our sins,’ was ‘a sin-offering,’ ‘reconciled us to God in the body of his flesh through death,’ was our ‘ransom,’ procured for us ‘forgiveness of sins through his blood,’ etc. (cf.   1 Peter 1:2;   1 Peter 1:18-19;   1 Peter 2:21; 1Pe 2:24;   1 Peter 3:18 ,   Romans 3:24-25;   Romans 5:8-11;   Romans 8:34 ,   2 Corinthians 5:21 ,   Galatians 1:4;   Galatians 3:13;   Galatians 4:4-5 ,   Ephesians 1:7;   Ephesians 2:13-17;   Ephesians 2:20;   Ephesians 5:2 ,   Colossians 1:14;   Colossians 1:20-22 , 1Ti 2:5;   1 Timothy 2:8 ,   Titus 2:14 ,   Hebrews 1:3;   Hebrews 2:17;   Hebrews 7:26;   Hebrews 9:24-28;   Hebrews 10:10-14 ,   1 John 1:7;   1 John 2:2;   1 John 3:5;   1 John 4:10 ,   Revelation 1:5;   Revelation 5:9 etc.). It is customary to speak of the sacrificial terms employed as ‘figures’ borrowed from the older dispensation. The NT point of view rather is that the sacrifices of the Old Covenant are the figures, and Christ’s perfect offering of Himself to God, once for all, for man’s redemption, is the reality of which the earlier sacrifices were the shadows and types (  Hebrews 10:1 ff.).

Several things stand out clearly in the Apostolic doctrine of the atonement; each of them in harmony with what we have learned from our study of the subject in the OT. The presuppositions are the same “the holiness, righteousness, and grace of God, and the sin and guilt of man, entailing on the individual and the race a Divine condemnation and exposure to wrath which man is unable of himself to remove (wrought out most fully by St. Paul,  Romans 1:17;   Romans 3:9;   Romans 3:19-23 ,   Galatians 2:16 etc.). The atonement itself is represented (1) as the fruit, and not the cause of God’s love (  Romans 5:8 ,   1 John 4:10 etc.); (2) as a necessity for human salvation (  Romans 3:19 ff.,   Hebrews 9:22 ); (3) as realizing perfectly what the ancient sacrifices did imperfectly and typically (  Hebrews 9:10 ); as an expiation, purging from guilt and cancelling condemnation (  Romans 8:1;   Romans 8:32-33 ,   Hebrews 1:3;   Hebrews 9:11-14 ,   1 John 1:7 ,   Revelation 1:5 etc.), and at the same time a ‘propitiation,’ averting wrath, and opening the way for a display of mercy (  Romans 3:25 , Heb 2:17 ,   1 John 2:2;   1 John 4:10 ); (4) as containing in itself the most powerful ethical motive to repentance, a new life, active godliness, Christian service, etc. ( Rom 6:1 ff.,   1 Corinthians 6:20 ,   2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ,   Galatians 2:20;   Galatians 6:14 ,   Ephesians 5:1-2 ,   1 Peter 1:21-22 ,   1 John 4:11 etc.; with this is connected the work of the Holy Spirit, which operates these sanctifying changes in the soul); (5) as, therefore, effecting a true ‘redemption,’ both in respect of the magnitude of the price at which our salvation is bought (  Romans 8:32 ,   1 Timothy 2:6 ,   Hebrews 10:29 ,   1 Peter 1:18-19 etc.), and the completeness of the deliverance accomplished from wrath (  Romans 5:9 ,   1 Thessalonians 1:10 ), from the power of indwelling sin (  Romans 6:6;   Romans 6:12-14;   Romans 8:2 etc.), from bondage to Satan (  Ephesians 2:2-3;   Ephesians 6:12 ,   Hebrews 2:14-15 etc.), from the tyranny of the evil world (  Galatians 1:4;   Galatians 6:14 ,   Titus 2:14 ,   1 Peter 1:18 etc.), finally, from the effects of sin in death and all other evils (  Romans 8:23 ,   1 Corinthians 15:20 ff. etc.).

In the NT teaching, therefore, the sacrifice of Christ fulfils all that was prefigurative in the OT doctrine of atonement; yet, as the true and perfect sacrifice, it infinitely transcends, while it supersedes, all OT pre-figurations. The relation of the Christian atonement to that of the Law is, accordingly, as much one of contrast as of fulfilment. This is the thesis wrought out in the Epistle to the Hebrews, but its truth is recognized in all parts of the NT. The sacrifices of the OT were, in their very nature, incapable of really removing sin ( Hebrews 10:4 ). Their imperfection was shown in the irrational character of the victims, in their frequent repetition, in their multiplication, etc. (  Hebrews 9:10 ). In Jesus, however, every character meets, qualifying Him to make atonement for humanity Himself at once perfect priest and perfect sacrifice: Divine dignity as Son of God (  Romans 1:4;   Romans 8:32 ,   Hebrews 1:2-3 etc.); a perfect participation in human nature (  Romans 1:3;   Romans 8:3 ,   Galatians 4:4 ,   Hebrews 2:14-18 etc.); absolute sinlessness (  2 Corinthians 5:21 , Heb 4:15 ,   1 Peter 1:19;   1 Peter 2:22 ,   1 John 3:5 etc.); entire human sympathy (  Romans 8:34 ,   Hebrews 2:17;   Hebrews 4:14-16 ); as regards God, undeviating obedience and surrender to the will of the Father (  Philippians 2:7-8 ,   Hebrews 4:8-9;   Hebrews 10:8-10 ). He is ‘Jesus Christ the righteous’ (  1 John 2:1 ), and His sacrificial death is the culmination of His obedience (  Romans 5:19 ,   Philippians 2:8 ,   Hebrews 10:9-10 ).

iii. Rationale of the Atonement. The way is now open to our last question How was atonement for sin by Christ possible? And in what did Christ’s atonement consist? The NT does not develop a theology of the atonement; yet a theology would not be possible if the NT did not yield the principles, and lay down the lines, of at least a partial solution of this problem.

A chief clue to an answer to the above questions lies in what is taught (1) of Christ’s original, essential relation to the creation (cf. Joh 1:3-4 ,  1 Corinthians 8:5 ,   Ephesians 1:19 ,   Colossians 1:15-20 ,   Hebrews 1:2 ,   Revelation 1:11;   Revelation 3:14 ); and (2), as arising out of that, of His archetypal, representative relation to the race He came to save (cf.   John 1:4;   John 1:8-14 ,   Romans 5:12 ff.,   1 Corinthians 15:21-22;   1 Corinthians 15:45-47 ). This connects itself with what is said of Christ’s Divine dignity. Deeper even than the value His Divine Sonship gives to His sacrifice is the original relation to humanity of the Creative Word which renders His unique representative relation to the race possible. It is not going beyond the representations of the NT to say, with Maurice and others, that He is the ‘root of humanity.’ In Him it is grounded; by Him it is sustained; from Him it derives all the powers of its development. While He condescends to take on Him the nature of created humanity, His personality is above humanity. Hence His generic relation to the race ‘Son of God’ ‘Son of Man.’ In this ‘mystery of godliness’ (  1 Timothy 3:16 ) lies the possibility of a representative atonement for the race.

For this is the next point in the solution of our problem; Christ’s identification of Himself with the race He came to save is complete. It is not merely ‘federal’ or ‘legal’; it is vital, and this in every respect. His love is unbounded; His sympathy is complete; His purpose and desire to save are unfaltering. He identifies Himself with humanity, with a perfect consciousness (1) of what He is; (2) of what the race He came to save is and needs; (3) of what a perfect atonement involves (cf.  John 8:14 ff.). Himself holy, the well-beloved Son, He knows with unerring clearness what sin is, and what the mind of God is about sin. He does not shrink from anything His identification with a sinful race entails upon Him, but freely accepts its position and responsibilities as His own. He is ‘made under the law’ (  Galatians 4:4 ); a law not merely preceptive, but broken and violated, and entailing ‘curse.’ Identifying Himself thus perfectly with the race of men as under sin on the one hand, and with the mind of God about sin on the other, He is the natural mediator between God and man, and is alone in the position to render to God whatever is necessary as atonement for sin.

But what is necessary, and how did Christ render it? Here come in the ‘theories’ of atonement; most of them ‘broken lights’; all needed to do full justice to the Divine reality. We would dismiss as infra-Scriptural all theories which affirm that atonement reparation to the violated law of righteousness is not necessary. Christ’s work, while bringing forgiveness, conserves holiness, magnifies law, vindicates righteousness ( Romans 3:21-31 ). Also defective are theories which seek the sole explanation of atonement in the ethical motive; purely moral theories. Atonement is taken here in the sense only of ‘reconciliation’ the reconciliation of man to God. Scripture recognizes obstacles to salvation on the side of righteousness in God as well as in man’s unwillingness, and atonement aims at the removal of both. It has the aspect of propitiation, of expiation, of restitutio in integrum , as well as of moral influence. It is an act of reconciliation, embracing God’s relation to the world equally with the world’s relation to God (cf.   Romans 3:25;   Romans 5:11;   Romans 5:10 ,   2 Corinthians 5:18-21 ).

There remain two views, one finding the essence of Christ’s atonement in the surrender of a holy will to God in the obedience of Christ unto death, even the death of the Cross (Maurice and others). This assuredly is a vital element in atonement, but is it the whole? Does Scripture not recognize also the submission of Christ to the endurance of the actual penal evil of sin specially to death as that rests in the judgment of God upon our race? All that has preceded necessitates the answer that it does. The other, the legal or forensic view, accordingly, puts the essence of atonement in this penal endurance  ; in the substitutionary submission of Christ to the penalty due to us for sin. But this also is one-sided and unethical, if divorced from the other, and from the recognition of the fact that not simply endurance of evil, but the spirit in which the evil is endured, and the response made to the Divine mind in it, is the one acceptable thing to God (cf. J. M‘Leod Campbell). It is here, therefore, that we must seek the inmost secret of atonement. The innocent suffering with and for the guilty is a law from which Jesus did not withdraw Himself. In His consciousness of solidarity with mankind, He freely submitted to those evils (shame, ignominy, suffering, temptation, death) which express the judgment of God on the sin of the world, and in the experience of them peculiarly in the yielding up of His life did such honour to all the principles of righteousness involved, rendered so inward and spiritual a response to the whole mind of God in His attitude to the sin of the world, as constituted a perfect atonement for that sin for such as believingly accept it, and make its spirit their own. ‘By the which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all’ (  Hebrews 10:10 ). See Propitiation, Reconciliation, Redemption.

James Orr.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [3]

That the Bible's central message is atonement, that is, that God has provided a way for humankind to come back into harmonious relation with him, is everywhere apparent in Scripture. From the first stories in Genesis to the last visions of Revelation, God seeks to reconcile his people to himself. Atonement, however, cannot be usefully discussed in this way, and translators have settled on it, and its cognate expressions, as a translation for a relatively circumscribed number of nouns and verbs in the Bible.

The Old Testament In the Old Testament atonement, and related phrases, such as sacrifice of atonement, most often translates the Hebrew piel verb kipur [כִּפֻּרִים] and two related nouns, one, kippurim, found always in the plural and signifying the noun equivalent of kipur [כִּפֻּרִים], and the other, kapporeth [כַּפֹּרֶת], meaning the so-called mercy-seat or the place where the sacrifice of atonement happens. These occur with meanings related to atonement around 140 times, almost always in the context of the cults, as a sacrifice for sins and to provide reconciliation to God.

The breadth of the use of the concept in the Old Testament is striking. Atonement is provided for inanimate objects such as a mildewing house, the altar in the temple, the sanctuary (i.e., the Holy of Holies within the Tent of Meeting), the holy place, and the tent of meeting/temple itself. In one place atonement is also provided for an animal, the scapegoat used in the atonement rituals found in  Leviticus 16 . Sacrifice accomplishes atonement "for sins" in many places, though these passages always mean atonement for people "because of" their sins rather than atonement "on behalf of" sins, as if sins were being personified and therefore in need of redemption. Of course, the majority of all the references are to atonement on behalf of people, either individually or as members of the community of Israel.

Atonement for inanimate objects is found twelve places in the Old Testament:  Exodus 29:36-37;  30:10;  Leviticus 8:15;  14:53;  16:10,16 ,  18,20;  Ezekiel 43:20,26;  45:20 . Eleven of these passages refer to cleansing either the tent/temple, one of its rooms, or the altar inside it. The lone exception refers to the cleansing of a contaminated house. In one of the stranger passages of the Law, God instructs Moses and Aaron about the purification rites they are to apply to a house that has "a spreading mildew" and declares that, if a house responds to the treatment, then it can be declared clean ( Leviticus 14:33-53 ). The priest cleanses the house by sacrificing a bird, and dipping cedar wood, hyssop, scarlet yarn, and a live bird in the blood of the dead bird, then sprinkling the blood on the house seven times. He then is to release the live bird into the open fields outside the town. "In this way he will make atonement for the house, and it will be clean" ( Leviticus 14:53 ).

The entire passage significantly echoes the preceding passage in which a human being undergoes the same investigations and purifications for infectious skin diseases, and it anticipates the important regulations of  Leviticus 16 concerning the Day of Atonement, the most important sacrifice of all, when sacrifice is made for the cleansing of the sins of all the people. The point is apparently that the surface of the skin can demonstrate a deeper sickness underneath as can the surface of a house; both need to be cleansed of that deeper sickness as does the human heart of its sin.

Far more important are the references to the atonement of the Tent of Meeting, the temple, the holy place, the sanctuary, and the altar. These take place in the contexts of the ordination of priests ( Exodus 29:35-37;  Leviticus 8:15 ), God's instructions for the building of the eschatological temple in the later chapters of Ezekiel (43:20,26; 45:20), and the Day of Atonement itself ( Leviticus 16:16,18,20 ). The need for cleansing the buildings, the altar and the sanctuaries is due to the fact that these are the meeting places of the divine, Holy One with his people. The holiness and purity of God are so emphasized that not only does he and the one who approaches him have to be pure, but even the means of their communication and relationship must be covered by the blood of an atoning sacrifice because of its contamination by sin.

It is perhaps important that this cleansing of inanimate objects, with the lone exception of the house (which seems to serve as an analog to human cleansing), is limited to the house of God and its parts. There is no sense that the world is God's place of meeting and in need of a cleansing sacrifice of atonement, but rather that the special cultic and covenantal relationship that God has with his people is what is in need of purification. This is not to deny that the world has been infected by sin, just that the particular relationship of redemption that God has with his covenant people is not extended to the whole world, but simply to the people of Israel, and even that is vicarious, that is, through the priests and their cultic duties.

Primary among the objects of atonement in the Old Testament are the people of God, but the means of atonement can vary. Goats, sheep, and birds are listed among the acceptable animals to be sacrificed, but there were also grain, oil, and drink offerings. Ransom money can provide atonement for the lives of the people; God commands at least one census to be made of the people at which each participant pays the same amount to buy his life and the lives of his family from God, who promises no plague will harm them when they do pay ( Exodus 30:11-16 ). Significantly, the money is to be used to support the services of the Tent of Meeting, hence tying it to the sacrifice of blood for atonement, if only in a tangential way. The other nonanimal sacrifices are often equally tied to atonement by blood.

Certainly the most frequently mentioned means of atonement in the Old Testament were the blood sacrifices, dominating the use of the term by constant reference in the books of Leviticus and Numbers. Atonement needed to be made for everything from heinous crimes like idolatry ( Numbers 16:47 ) to mistakes of intent, when the only sin was ignorance or error, not willful disobedience ( Numbers 15:22-29 ).

Perhaps the heart of the Old Testament teaching on atonement is found in  Leviticus 16 , where the regulations for the Day of Atonement occur. Five characteristics relating to the ritual of the Day of Atonement are worthy of note because they are generally true of atonement as it is found throughout Scripture: (1) the sovereignty of God in atonement; (2) the purpose and result of making atonement; (3) the two goats emphasize two different things, and the burning another, about the removal of sin; (4) that Aaron had to make special sacrifice for himself; (5) the comprehensive quality of the act.

Atonement is clearly the action of God and not of man throughout the Bible, but especially in  Leviticus 16 . Aaron's two sons, Nadab and Abihu, had been recently put to death by the Lord for disobeying his command by offering "unauthorized fire" before the Lord ( Leviticus 10:1-3 ). Here God gives Aaron precise instructions concerning how he wants the sacrifices to be made, down to the clothes Aaron is to wear, the bathing rituals in which he is to engage, and the types of sacrificial animals he is to bring. His sovereignty is further emphasized by the fact that the lot is used to choose which goat will be sacrificed and which goat will serve as the scapegoat.

The purpose for the ritual is made very clear in several places. It is to cleanse you "from all your sins" ( Leviticus 16:30 ). Other passages make it clear that such cleansing results in saving the life of the participant (cf., e.g.,  Leviticus 17:11 ). The restoring of pure relationship is an important result, too, since the atonement is for all "uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been" ( Leviticus 16:16 ). Thus Israel is reunited in purity to its God by the atoning sacrifice for sins.

The symbolic import of the sacrifices is so detailed that three different actions were necessary to display everything that God apparently intended us to understand about the way he was to deal with sin. The sacrificial death of the first goat showed clearly that the offense of sin requires the punishment of death ( Ezekiel 18:4 ). The sending of the second goat into the wilderness with the sins laid on the top of its head emphasizes that sin will be removed from the person and the community "as far as the east is from the west" ( Psalm 103:12 ). The burning of the sacrifice so that it is consumed shows the power of God over sin, completely destroying it so that it can bother the supplicant no more.

Particularly important for the full biblical picture of atonement as it is found in Christ is the sacrifice Aaron makes for himself and his family ( Leviticus 16:11-14 ). Everyone, even the high priest, is guilty and needs atonement that can only be provided by God himself. The author of Hebrews emphasizes this point to make clear his doctrine of the purity of Christ as both the true and perfect sacrifice and the true and perfect priest who performs the ritual of atonement (8:3-6; 9:6-15). The Old Testament sacrifices are shown to be but shadows of the real sacrifice of Christ on the cross by the fact of Aaron's sinfulness; an imperfect high priest cannot offer a true sacrifice, just as the blood of bulls and goats could never truly pay for the offense of human sin or substitute for the shedding of human blood.

Lastly, atonement covers all the sins—intentional, unintentional, heinous, trivialof those for whom it is intended. No one was to enter the Tent of Meeting until the ritual was over because what was taking place there was for the whole of the community of Israel ( Leviticus 16:17 ), presumably because any interference with the sovereign action of God's cleansing might bring an impurity into the equation that would nullify the purificatory act. The comprehensive nature of the sacrifice of atonement prefigures the comprehensiveness of the shedding of Christ's blood on the cross, but it limits its effects in the same way the Old Testament limits the effects of its sacrifice on the day of atonementto the people whom God has elected to call his own and them alone.

The New Testament The so-called ransom saying, found in the Gospel of Mark (10:45; cf. the parallel saying at   Matthew 20:28 ), has been much disputed as to its authenticity, but its theological content is clear. Speaking in the context of the apostles' dispute over which of them is the greatest, Jesus relates his mission to two things: serving all and giving his life as a ransom for many. Like many of the teachings of Jesus, the saying dramatically extends the answer to an immediate question or problem (that of the selfishness and pride of the apostles) to include something that no one would have linked to that problem (the ransom nature of the cross). The saying of course primarily relates the death of Christ to the metaphor of service; giving his life is the greatest example of servanthood that can be imagined. The fact that his death is also a ransom links the idea of atonement to the servant spirit of the Christ, probably in the light of the famous servant song of  Isaiah 53 .

The second Gospel passage relating to atonement appears in the eucharistic words of Jesus recorded in all three Gospels ( Matthew 26:26-29; =  Mark 14:22-25; =  Luke 22:15-20 ). At  Luke 22:19-20 , Jesus asserts that both the bread and the wine symbolize the fact that his death would be "for you" ( huper humon [   Matthew 26:28 ).

To discuss Paul on atonement is, again, to make a choice between a thorough discussion of Paul's soteriology and limiting oneself to a discussion of the meaning of hilasterion [Ἱλαστήριον] in  Romans 3:25 . Space does not even allow for a full evaluation of the latter in this article. The preponderance of the evidence weighs in favor of a translation that recognizes the background of  Leviticus 16 in the crucial passage. Some now argue that Paul intends a quite specific reference to the mercy seat of the Ark of the Covenant and that hilasterion [Ἱλαστήριον] should be translated "mercy seat."

In any case the passage occurs in a clear context of God's righteous, wrathful judgment against the sins of humankind ( Romans 1:18-3:31; cf. esp. 1:18; 2:5) and declares God's merciful action of atonement on behalf of his people. He takes an action that is rightly called "substitutionary, " putting his Son in our place and so remaining just but also demonstrating his mercy (3:25-26). This shuts out any possibility for humankind to boast of its having saved itself (3:27). Thus the themes of sovereignty, mercy, and comprehensiveness that we saw present in  Leviticus 16 are paramount in the mind of Paul too.

The same applies to the rest of the references to hilasterion and its cognates ( hilaskomai [   Hebrews 2:10-17 ). Similarly, in  1 John 2:2 Jesus' sacrifice of atonement ( hilasmos [   1 John 2:1 ) who can accomplish this. God's sovereignty and love in atonement are clearly seen in  1 John 4:10 and cap the New Testament teaching on this essential doctrine: our love for God is not the issue, but rather his for us and it is this love that has both motivated and produced the sacrifice of atonement ( hilasmos [   1 John 4:10 ).

Andrew H. Trotter, Jr.

See also Crucifixion Cross; Death Of Christ

Bibliography . C. Brown, H.-G. Link, and H. Vorlä der, NIDNTT, 3:145-76; W. Elwell, EDT, pp. 98-100; J. B. Green, DPL, pp. 201-9; idem, EDT, pp. 146-63; J. M. Gundry-Volf, DPL, pp. 279-84; M. Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of Doctrine in the New Testament  ; A. McGrath, DPL, pp. 192-97; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross  ; idem, EDT, pp. 97,100-102; S. Page, EDT, pp. 660-62; V. Taylor, The Atonement in New Testament Teaching  ; R. Wallace, The Atoning Death of Christ  ; H.-R. Weber, The Cross: Tradition and Interpretation .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [4]

the satisfaction offered to divine justice by the death of Christ for the sins of mankind, by virtue of which all true penitents who believe in Christ are personally reconciled to God, are freed from the penalty of their sins, and entitled to eternal life. The atonement for sin made by the death of Christ, is represented in the Christian system as the means by which mankind may be delivered from the awful catastrophe of eternal death; from judicial inflictions of the displeasure of a Governor, whose authority has been contemned, and whose will has been resisted, which shall know no mitigation in their degree, nor bound to their duration.

This end it professes to accomplish by means which, with respect to the Supreme Governor himself, preserve his character from mistake, and maintain the authority of his government; and with respect to man, give him the strongest possible reason for hope, and render more favourable the condition of his earthly probation. These are considerations which so manifestly show, from its own internal constitution, the superlative importance and excellence of Christianity, that it would be exceedingly criminal to overlook them.

How sin may be forgiven without leading to such misconceptions of the divine character as would encourage disobedience, and thereby weaken the influence of the divine government, must be considered as a problem of very difficult solution. A government which admitted no forgiveness, would sink the guilty to despair; a government which never punishes offence, is a contradiction,—it cannot exist. Not to punish the guilty, is to dissolve authority; to punish without mercy, is to destroy, and where all are guilty, to make the destruction universal. That we cannot sin with impunity, is a matter determined. The Ruler of the world is not careless of the conduct of his creatures; for that penal consequences are attached to the offence, is not a subject of argument, but is matter of fact evident by daily observation of the events and circumstances of the present life. It is a principle therefore already laid down, that the authority of God must be preserved; but it ought to be remarked, that in that kind of administration which restrains evil by penalty, and encourages obedience by favour and hope, we and all moral creatures are the interested parties, and not the divine Governor himself, whom, because of his independent and all- sufficient nature, our transgressions cannot injure. The reasons, therefore, which compel him to maintain his authority do not terminate in himself. If he treats offenders with severity, it is for our sake, and for the sake of the moral order of the universe, to which sin, if encouraged by a negligent administration, or by an entire or frequent impunity, would be the source of endless disorder and misery; and if the granting of pardon to offence be strongly and even severely guarded, so that no less a satisfaction could be accepted than the death of God's own Son, we are to refer this to the moral necessity of the case as arising out of the general welfare of accountable creatures, liable to the deep evil of sin, and not to any reluctance on the part of our Maker to forgive, much less to any thing vindictive in his nature,—charges which have been most inconsiderately and unfairly said to be implied in the doctrine of Christ's vicarious sufferings. If it then be true, that the release of offending man from future punishment, and his restoration to the divine favour, ought, for the interests of mankind themselves, and for the instruction and caution of other beings, to be so bestowed, that no license shall be given to offence;—

that God himself, whilst he manifests his compassion, should not appear less just, less holy, than he really is;—that his authority should be felt to be as compelling, and that disobedience should as truly, though not unconditionally, subject us to the deserved penalty, as though no hope of forgiveness had been exhibited;—we ask, On what scheme, save that which is developed in the New Testament, are these necessary conditions provided for? Necessary they are, unless we contend for a license and an impunity which shall annul all good government in the universe, a point for which no reasonable man will contend; and if so, then we must allow that there is strong internal evidence of the truth of the doctrine of Scripture, when it makes the offer of pardon consequent only upon the securities we have before mentioned. If it be said, that sin may be pardoned in the exercise of the divine prerogative, the reply is, that if this prerogative were exercised toward a part of mankind only, the passing by of the rest would be with difficulty reconciled to the divine character; and if the benefit were extended to all, government would be at an end. This scheme of bringing men within the exercise of a merciful prerogative, does not therefore meet the obvious difficulty of the case; nor is it improved by confining the act of grace only to repentant criminals. For in the immediate view of danger, what offender, surrounded with the wreck of former enjoyments, feeling the vanity of guilty pleasures, now past for ever, and beholding the approach of the delayed penal visitation, but would repent? Were the principle of granting pardon to repentance to regulate human governments, every criminal would escape, and judicial forms would become a subject for ridicule. Nor is it recognised by the divine Being in his conduct to men in the present state, although in this world punishments are not final and absolute. Repentance does not restore health injured by intemperance; property, wasted by profusion; or character, once stained by dishonourable practices. If repentance alone could secure pardon, then all must be pardoned, and government dissolved, as in the case of forgiveness by the exercise of mere prerogative; but if an arbitrary selection be made, then different and discordant principles of government are introduced into the divine administration, which is a derogatory supposition.

The question proposed abstractedly, How may mercy be extended to offending creatures, the subjects of the divine government, without encouraging vice, by lowering the righteous and holy character of God, and the authority of his government, in the maintenance of which the whole universe of beings are interested? is, therefore, at once one of the most important and one of the most difficult that can employ the human mind. None of the theories which have been opposed, to Christianity affords a satisfactory solution of the problem. They assume principles either destructive of moral government, or which cannot, in the circumstances of man, be acted upon. The only answer is found in the Holy Scriptures. They alone show, and, indeed, they alone profess to show, how God may be "just," and yet the "justifier" of the ungodly. Other schemes show how he may be merciful; but the difficulty does not lie there. The Gospel meets it, by declaring "the righteousness of God," at the same time that it proclaims his mercy. The voluntary sufferings of the Divine Son of God "for us," that is, in our room and stead, magnify the justice of God; display his hatred to sin; proclaim "the exceeding sinfulness" of transgression, by the deep and painful manner in which they were inflicted upon the Substitute; warn the persevering offender of the terribleness, as well as the certainty, of his punishment; and open the gates of salvation to every penitent. It is a part of the same divine plan also to engage the influence of the Holy Spirit, to awaken penitence in man, and to lead the wanderer back to himself; to renew our fallen nature in righteousness, at the moment we are justified through faith, and to place us in circumstances in which we may henceforth "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." All the ends of government are here answered—no license is given to offence,—the moral law is unrepealed,—a day of judgment is still appointed,—future and eternal punishments still display their awful sanctions,—a new and singular display of the awful purity of the divine character is afforded,—yet pardon is offered to all who seek it; and the whole world may be saved.

With such evidence of suitableness to the case of mankind, under such lofty views of connection with the principles and ends of moral government, does the doctrine of the atonement present itself. But other important considerations are not wanting to mark the united wisdom and goodness of that method of extending mercy to the guilty which Christianity teaches us to have been actually and exclusively adopted. It is rendered, indeed, "worthy of all acceptation," by the circumstance of its meeting the difficulties we have just dwelt upon,—difficulties which could not otherwise have failed to make a gloomy impression upon every offender awakened to a sense of his spiritual danger; but it must be very inattentively considered, if it does not farther commend itself to us, by not only removing the apprehensions we might feel as to the severity of the divine Lawgiver, but as exalting him in our esteem as "the righteous Lord, who loveth righteousness," who surrendered his beloved Son to suffering and death, that the influence of moral goodness might not be weakened in the hearts of his creatures; and as a God of love, affording in this instance a view of the tenderness and benignity of his nature infinitely more impressive and affecting than any abstract description could convey, or than any act of creating and providential power and grace could exhibit, and, therefore, most suitable to subdue that enmity which had unnaturally grown up in the hearts of his creatures, and which, when corrupt, they so easily transfer from a law which restrains their inclination to the Lawgiver himself. If it be important to us to know the extent and reality of our danger, by the death of Christ it is displayed, not in description, but in the most impressive action; if it be important that we should have an assurance of the divine placability toward us, it here receives a demonstration incapable of being heightened; if gratitude be the most powerful motive of future obedience, and one which renders command on the one part, and active service on the other, "not grievous but joyous," the recollection of such obligations as those which the "love of Christ" has laid us under, is a perpetual spring to this energetic affection, and will be the means of raising it to higher and more delightful activity for ever. All that can most powerfully illustrate the united tenderness and awful majesty of God, and the odiousness of sin; all that can win back the heart of man to his Maker and Lord, and render future obedience a matter of affection and delight as well as duty; all that can extinguish the angry and malignant passions of man to man; all that can inspire a mutual benevolence, and dispose to a self-denying charity for the benefit of others; all that can arouse by hope, or tranquillize by faith; is to be found in the vicarious death of Christ, and the principles and purposes for which it was endured.

The first declaration, on this subject, after the appearance of Christ, is that of John the Baptist, when he saw Jesus coming unto him, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world;" where it is obvious, that when John called our Lord, "the Lamb of God," he spoke of him under a sacrificial character, and of the effect of that sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of mankind. This was said of our Lord, even before he entered on his public office; but if any doubt should exist respecting the meaning of the Baptist's expression, it is removed by other passages, in which a similar allusion is adopted, and in which it is specifically applied to the death of Christ, as an atonement for sin. In the Acts of the Apostles, the following words of Isaiah are, by Philip the evangelist, distinctly applied to Christ, and to his death: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth. in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth." This particular part of the prophecy being applied to our Lord's death, the whole must relate to the same subject; for it is undoubtedly one entire prophecy, and the other expressions in it are still stronger: "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed: the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." In the First Epistle of Peter, is also a strong and very apposite text, in which the application of the term "lamb" to our Lord, and the sense in which it is applied, can admit of no doubt: "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,"  1 Peter 1:18-19 . It is therefore evident that the Prophet Isaiah, six hundred years before the birth of Jesus; that John the Baptist, on the commencement of his ministry; and that St. Peter, his friend, companion, and Apostle, subsequent to the transaction; speak of Christ's death as an atonement for sin, under the figure of a lamb sacrificed.

The passages that follow, plainly and distinctly declare the atoning efficacy of Christ's death: "Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation."  Hebrews 9:26;  Hebrews 9:28 . "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, for ever sat down on the right hand of God; for by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,"  Hebrews 10:12 . It is observable, that nothing similar is said of the death of any other person, and that no such efficacy is imputed to any other martyrdom. "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us; much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him: for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life,"  Romans 5:8-10 . The words, "reconciled to God by the death of his Son," show that his death had an efficacy in our reconciliation; but reconciliation is only preparatory to salvation. "He has reconciled us to his Father in his cross, and in the body of his flesh through death,"

 Colossians 1:20;  Colossians 1:22 . What is said of reconciliation in these texts, is in some others spoken of sanctification which is also preparatory to salvation. "We are sanctified,"—how? "by the offering of the body of Christ once for all,"  Hebrews 10:10 . In the same epistle, the blood of Jesus is called "the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified." In these and many other passages that occur in different parts of the New Testament, it is therefore asserted that the death of Christ had an efficacy in the procuring of human salvation. Such expressions are used concerning no other person, and the death of no other person; and it is therefore evident that Christ's death included something more than a confirmation of his preaching; something more than a pattern of a holy and patient martyrdom; something more than a necessary antecedent to his resurrection, by which he gave a grand and clear proof of our resurrection from the dead. Christ's death was all these, but it was something more. It was an atonement for the sins of mankind; and in this way only it became the accomplishment of our eternal redemption. See DAY OF Expiation .

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

Old Testament Primarily in the Old Testament, atonement refers to the process God established whereby humans could make an offering to God to restore fellowship with God. Such offerings, including both live and dead animals, incense, and money, were required to remove the bad effects of human sin.

The only fast day stipulated in the Mosaic law was the annual day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), observed on the tenth day of Tishri (September-October) at the conclusion of ten days of penitence. The day of Atonement was the only day of the year that the priest entered the holy of holies to make sin offerings for himself, his family, and the “assembly of Israel.” After making these offerings, the nation's sins were symbolically laid on the scapegoat “Azazel” that was released into the wilderness to die.

While atonement in the Old Testament most frequently refers to humans offering sacrifices to God for their wrongdoing, several references are made to God making atonement. In  Psalm 78:38 , the Hebrew for “atoned for” is used where the KJV translates “forgave” as is also true in  Deuteronomy 21:8 . Because God “atones for” or “covers” human sin, atonement is best understood as expiation, that is removing the barrier that sin creates rather than propitiation or appeasing an angry God, though both views of atonement continue to be taught by Bible students.

New Testament The New Testament rarely uses a word for atonement. The basic Greek word is katallasso , usually translated “to reconcile,” and the corresponding noun, katallage , meaning “reconciliation.” The basic meaning is to establish friendship. This is used in human relationships in  1 Corinthians 7:11 , referring to the restoration of relationship between an estranged husband and wife. Paul used the term in reference to Christ's work of salvation in  Romans 5:10-11;  Romans 11:15;  2 Corinthians 5:18-20 . The Greek term hilaskomai , “to forgive” or “show mercy” along with the nouns hilasmos , “means of forgiveness,” and hilasterion , “means or place of forgiveness” are the important words in the discussion of expiation and propitiation. They occur in  Luke 18:13;  Romans 3:25;  Hebrews 2:17;  Hebrews 9:5;  1 John 2:2;  1 John 4:10 .

Atonement and the Cross The focal point of God's atoning work is Christ's death on the cross. Paul wrote that “when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” ( Romans 5:10 ). These words not only define the meaning of atonement, they reveal the heart of the gospel as well.

The primacy of the cross is emphasized throughout the New Testament. At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus was identified as “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” ( John 1:29 ). The purpose of His coming was “to give his life a ransom for many” ( Mark 10:45 ). He explained His death in terms of the “blood of the new testament, which is shed for many” ( Mark 14:24 ).

The relation of the cross to forgiveness of sins was implicit in the earliest Christian preaching ( Acts 2:21;  Acts 3:6 ,Acts 3:6, 3:19;  Acts 4:13;  Acts 5:31;  Acts 8:35;  Acts 10:43 ). Paul proclaimed that “Christ died for our sins”( 1 Corinthians 15:3 ), that He was a “propitiation” ( Romans 3:25 KJV; “sacrifice of atonement,” Nrsv, Niv; “expiation,” RSV), that He became “a curse for us” (  Galatians 3:13 ), and that those “who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” ( Ephesians 2:13 ). Furthermore, “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” ( Hebrews 9:28 ) and has become “a new and living way” ( Hebrews 10:20 ) into God's presence. He is the one who “bare our sins in his own body on the tree” ( 1 Peter 2:24 ).

Though atonement is focused in the cross, the New Testament makes clear that Christ's death is the climax of His perfect obedience. He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” ( Philippians 2:8 ). “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which He suffered” ( Hebrews 5:8 ).  Romans 5:12-19 contrasts Christ's obedience with Adam's disobedience. His sinless obedience qualified Him to be the perfect Sacrifice for sin (  Hebrews 6:8-10 ).

Furthermore, the New Testament interprets the cross in light of the resurrection. “At-one-ment” is the achievement of Christ crucified and risen. So important is this emphasis that Paul affirms, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” ( 1 Corinthians 15:17 ).

The Necessity of Atonement The necessity for Christ's atoning work is occasioned by the breach in the relationship between the Creator and the creature. This breach is the result of humanity's sinful rebellion. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear” ( Isaiah 59:2 ). Thus, in their unreconciled state people are God's “enemies” ( Romans 5:10 ), have “enmity against God” ( Romans 8:7 ), and have “no hope” ( Ephesians 2:12 ). There is no difference between Jew and Gentile in this respect, “for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” ( Romans 3:23 ).

The Origin of Atonement The atonement for sin provided by Christ's death had its origin in divine love. No other reason can explain why “God reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 5:18 ). The anthem that continuously peals from the Bible is that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” ( John 3:16; see  1 John 4:9-10 ). This does not mean that God loves us because Christ died for us. Rather, Christ died for us because God loves us. Thus, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” ( Romans 5:8 ). Because atonement issues from love, it is always seen as a divine gift, never as human achievement.

Yet, divine love is not sentimental or merely emotional. It is a righteous love which blazes out against all that opposes God's will. The New Testament affirms that “God is love” ( 1 John 4:8 ); it also affirms that “our God is a consuming fire” ( Hebrews 12:29 ). Thus, the cross is simultaneously a manifestation of God's will to save and of His wrath against sin.

Atonement: Representation and Substitution In His atoning work Christ is both representative and substitute. As representative, Christ acted on behalf of His race. An example of representation is Paul's contrast between Adam and Christ ( Romans 5:12-21;  1 Corinthians 15:45-49 ). Adam and Christ represent two heads of two races of people. Adam is the head of the race of fallen persons. Sin and death came into the world through him. Because of our fallenness, all people belong to Adam's race, the old humanity.

Christ, the last Adam, represents a new race of people. These are the people who have been saved from sin. Where Adam failed, Christ succeeded. Those who belong to Christ through faith belong to the new humanity He created ( 2 Corinthians 5:17;  Ephesians 2:14-22 ).

As substitute, Christ acted in our place . Whereas representation emphasizes Christ's relation to the race, substitution stresses His relation to the individual. He experienced as substitute the suffering and death each person deserved. Substitution is implied in such references as  2 Corinthians 5:21;  Galatians 3:13;  1 Peter 2:24 .

In thinking of Christ as substitute, however, His oneness with the Father must be emphasized. Christ is not a third party who comes between God and humanity to absorb all the punishment God can inflict. Substitution means that in Christ, God Himself bears the consequences of human sin. God reconciles people at great cost to Himself, not at cost to a third party.

Images of Atonement To describe the meaning of atonement New Testament writers used images drawn from different areas of experience. Each image says something important about the cross. No one image, however, is adequate by itself. Each image needs the others to produce the whole picture.

1. Atonement and ransom. Ransom is an image drawn from ancient economic life. The picture is a slave market or prison. People are in bondage and cannot free themselves. Someone comes and pays the price (provides the ransom) to redeem those in captivity.

The New Testament emphasizes both the fact of deliverance and the ransom price. Jesus said that He came “to give his life a ransom for many” ( Mark 10:45 ). Paul wrote, “ye are not your own; For ye are bought with a price” ( 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; compare  1 Corinthians 7:23 ). Peter declared that “ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, But with the precious blood of Christ” ( 1 Peter 1:18-19 ). The main idea in this imagery is rescue from bondage through the costly self-giving of Jesus.

2. Atonement and victory. In this imagery, Satan, the head of evil forces and archenemy of God, has humanity in his power. Christ is the Warrior of God who enters the battle, defeats the devil, and rescues humanity.

This conflict motif pervades the gospels ( Matthew 4:1-11;  Matthew 12:28;  Mark 3:27;  John 12:31 ). The warfare between Jesus and Satan was real. Yet, divine victory was so certain that Jesus could say in anticipation, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven” ( Luke 10:18 ).

Victory imagery is also prominent in the epistles. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” ( 1 John 3:8 ). Christ came so “that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” ( Hebrews 2:14-15 ). That Christ triumphed is clear: “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it” ( Colossians 2:15 ).

3. Atonement and sacrifice. Not surprisingly, the atoning power of Christ's death is often expressed in terms drawn from Old Testament sacrificial practices. Thus, Christ's death is called a “sacrifice for sins” ( Hebrews 10:12 ) and a “sacrifice to God” ( Ephesians 5:2 ). Christ is variously identified with the Passover lamb ( 1 Corinthians 5:7 ), the sacrifice which initiates the new covenant ( Luke 22:20 ), and the sin offering ( Hebrews 9:14 ,Hebrews 9:14, 9:25-28 ).

Sacrificial imagery is another way of expressing the costliness of Christ's atoning work. It is a continual reminder that divine love has assumed the shape of the cross ( Galatians 2:20 ). Furthermore, sacrifice witnesses to the effectiveness of Christ's death. Through it, sin is forgiven ( Ephesians 1:7 ), and the conscience is cleansed ( Hebrews 9:14 ).

4. Atonement and glory. In much of the New Testament the glorification of Jesus is associated with His resurrection and ascension. John's Gospel shifts perspective. The whole life and work of Jesus is a revelation of divine glory. This glorification climaxes in Jesus' death on the cross ( John 12:23-24;  John 13:31-32 ).

Consistent with this theme is the emphasis on the cross as “lifting up.” This verb has the double meaning of “to lift up on a cross” and “to exalt.” The meanings are combined in John's Gospel. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' This he said, signifying what death he should die.” ( John 12:32-33; compare  John 3:14;  John 8:28 ). The meaning is not that Jesus was glorified as a reward for His death. Rather it means that divine glory was revealed in the death He died for sins. See Propitiation; Expiation; Redeem; and the Atonement chart that follows.

Bert Dominy

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

(See Reconciliation .) Literally, the being at one, after having been at variance. Tyndale explains "One Mediator" ( 1 Timothy 2:5): "at one maker between God and man." To made atonement is to give or do that whereby alienation ceases and reconciliation ensues. "Reconciliation" is the equivalent term given for the same Hebrew word, Kopher , in  Daniel 9:24;  Leviticus 8:15;  Ezekiel 45:15. In the New Testament KJV once only "atonement" is used ( Romans 5:11): "by whom (Christ) we have received the atonement" ( Katallage ), where the reconciliation or atonement must be on God's part toward us, for it could not well be said, "We have received the reconciliation on our part toward Him."

Elsewhere the same Greek is translated "reconciliation" ( 2 Corinthians 5:18-19). A kindred term expressing a different aspect of the same truth is "propitiation" ( Hilasmos ) ( 1 John 2:2), the verb of which is in  Hebrews 2:17 translated "to make reconciliation." Also "ransom," or payment for redeeming a captive ( Job 33:24), Kopher , "an atonement,"  Matthew 20:28.  Hebrews 9:12; Christ, "having obtained eternal redemption for us" ( Lutrosis , the deliverance bought for us by His bloodshedding, the price:  1 Peter 1:18).

The verb Kipper 'Al , "to cover upon," expresses the removing utterly out of sight the guilt of person or thing by a ransom, satisfaction, or substituted victim. The use of the word and the noun Kopher , throughout the Old Testament, proves that, as applied to the atonement or reconciliation between God and man, it implies not merely what is man's part in finding acceptance with God, but, in the first instance, what God's justice required on His part, and what His love provided, to justify His entering into reconciliation with man. In  Leviticus 1:4;  Leviticus 4:26;  Leviticus 5:1;  Leviticus 5:16-18;  Leviticus 5:16;  Leviticus 17:11, the truth is established that the guilt is transferred from the sinful upon the innocent substitute, in order to make amends to violated justice, and to cover (atone: Kipper' Al ) or put out of sight the guilt (compare  Micah 7:19 end), and to save the sinner from the wages of sin which is death.

On the great day of atonement the high priest made "atonement for the sanctuary, the tabernacle, and the altar" also, as well as for the priests and all the people; but it was the people's sin that defiled the places so as to make them unfit for the presence of the Holy One. Unless the atonement was made the soul "bore its iniquity," i.e. was under the penalty of death. The exceptions of atonement made with fine flour by one not able to afford the animal sacrifice ( Leviticus 5:11), and by Aaron with incense on a sudden emergency ( Numbers 16:47), confirm the rule. The blood was the medium of atonement, because it had the life or soul ( Nephesh ) in it. The soul of the offered victim atoned for the soul of the sinful offerer.

The guiltless blood was given by God to be shed to atone for the forfeited blood of the guilty. The innocent victim pays the penalty of the offerer's sin, death ( Romans 6:28). This atonement was merely typical in the Old Testament sacrifices; real in the one only New Testament sacrifice, Christ Jesus. Κaphar and Kopher is in  Genesis 6:14, "Thou shalt pitch the ark with pitch," the instrument of covering the saved from the destroying flood outside, as Jesus' blood interposes between believers and the flood of wrath that swallows up the lost. Jacob uses the same verb ( Genesis 32:20), "I will appease Esau with the present," i.e., cover out of sight or turn away his wrath.

The "mercy-seat" whereat God meets man (being reconciled through the blood there sprinkled, and so man can meet God) is called Kapporeth , i.e. flee lid of the ark, covering the law inside, which is fulfilled in Messiah who is called by the corresponding Greek term, Hilasterion , "the propitiatory" or mercy-seat, "whom God hath set forth to be a propitiatory through faith in His blood" ( Romans 3:23). God Himself made a coat (singular in Heb.) of skin, and clothed Adam and his wife ( Genesis 3:21). The animal cannot have been slain for food, for animal food was not permitted to man until after the flood ( Genesis 9:3); nor for clothing, for the fleece would afford that, without the needless killing of the animal. It must have been for sacrifice, the institution of which is presumed in the preference given to Abel's sacrifice, above Cain's offering of firstfruits, in Genesis 4.

Typically; God taught that the clothing for the soul must, be from the Victim whom God's love provided to cover our guilt forever out of sight (Psalms 32:D (not Kaphar , but Kasah ) ( Romans 4:17;  Isaiah 61:10), the same Hebrew ( Labash ) as in  Genesis 3:21, "clothed." The universal prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices over the pagan world implies a primitive revelation of the need of expiatory atonement, and of the inefficacy of repentance alone to remove guilt. This is the more remarkable in Hindostan, where it is considered criminal to take away the life of any animal. God's righteous character and government interposed a barrier to sinful man's pardon and reception into favor. The sinner's mere desire for these blessings does not remove the barrier out of the way. Something needed to be done for him, not by him.

It was for God, against whom man sinned, to appoint the means for removing the barrier. The sinless Jesus' sacrifice for, and instead of, us sinners was the mean so appointed. The sinner has simply by faith to embrace the means. And as the means, the vicarious atonement by Christ, is of God, it must be efficacious for salvation. Not that Jesus' death induced God to love us; but because God loved us He gave Jesus to reconcile the claims of justice and mercy, "that God might be just and at the same time the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" ( Romans 3:26;  2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Jesus is, it is true, not said in Scripture to reconcile God to the sinner, because the reconciliation in the first instance emanated from God Himself. God reconciled us to Himself, i.e. restored us to His favor, by satisfying the claims of justice against us.

Christ's atonement makes a change, not in God's character as if God's love was produced by it, but in our position judicially considered in the eye of the divine law. Christ's sacrifice was the provision of God's love, not its moving cause ( Romans 8:32). Christ's blood was the ransom paid at the expense of God Himself, to reconcile the exercise of mercy and justice, not as separate, but as the eternally harmonious attributes in the same God. God reconciles the world unto Himself, in the first instance, by satisfying His own just enmity against sin ( Psalms 7:11;  Isaiah 12:1, compare  1 Samuel 29:4; "reconcile himself unto his master," not remove his own anger against his master, but his master's anger against him). Men's reconciliation to God by laying aside their enmity is the after consequence of their believing that He has laid aside His judicial enmity against their sin.

Penal and vicarious satisfaction for our guilt to God's law by Christ's sacrificial death is taught  Matthew 20:28; "the Son of man came to give His life a ransom for (anti) many" (anti implies vicarious satisfaction in  Matthew 5:28;  Mark 10:45).  1 Timothy 2:6; "who gave Himself a ransom for ( Antilutron , an equivalent payment in substitution for) all."  Ephesians 5:25;  1 Peter 2:24;  1 Peter 3:15; "the Just for the unjust ... suffered for us."  John 1:29; "the Lamb of God taketh away the sin of the world."  1 Corinthians 5:7;  1 Peter 1:19;  John 10:15;  Romans 4:25; "He was delivered on account of ( Dia ) our offenses, and raised again for the sake of ( Dia ) our justification." ( Revelation 1:5;  Hebrews 9:13-14.) Conscience feels instinctively the penal claims of violated divine justice, and can only find peace when by faith it has realized that those claims have been fully met by our sacrificed substitute ( Hebrews 9:9;  Hebrews 10:1-2;  Hebrews 10:22;  1 Peter 3:21).

The conscience reflects the law and will of God, though that law condemns the man. Opponents of the doctrine of vicarious atonement say, "it exhibits God as less willing to forgive than His creatures are bound to be;" but man's justice, which is the faint reflex of God's, binds the judge, however lamenting the painful duty, to sentence the criminal to death as a satisfaction to outraged law. Also, "as taking delight in executing vengeance on sin, or yielding to the extremity of suffering what He withheld on considerations of mercy." But the claim of God's righteousness is not pressed apart from that of God's love; both move in beautiful unity; the atonement is at once the brightest exhibition of His love and of His justice; it does not render God merciful, but opens a channel whereby love can flow in perfect harmony with His righteous law, yea "magnifying the law and making it honorable" ( Isaiah 42:21).

At the same time it is a true remark of Macdonell (Donellan Lectures): "Christ's work of redemption springs from an intimate relationship to those whom He redeems. It is not only because He suffers what they ought to have suffered that mercy becomes possible; but because He who suffered bore some mysterious relation to the spirits of those for whom He suffered; so that every pang He felt, and every act He did. vibrated to the extremities of that body of which He is the head, and placed not their acts, but the actors. themselves, in a new relation to the divine government and to the fountain of holiness and life." It is only as Representative Head of humanity, that the Son of man, the second Adam, made full and adequate satisfaction for the whole race whose nature He took. He died sufficiently for all men; efficiently for the elect alone ( Hebrews 2:9-15;  1 John 2:2;  Acts 20:28;  2 Peter 2:1;  1 Timothy 4:10).

Anything short of an adequate satisfaction would be so far an abatement; of divine justice; and if part of the sin might be forgiven without the satisfaction, why not all? If God can dispense with the claims of justice in part, He can as well do it altogether. A partial satisfaction would be almost more dishonoring to God's righteousness than a gratuitous forgiveness without any satisfaction whatever. With God alone it rested to determine what is adequate satisfaction, and how it is to become available to each man, without injury to the cause of righteousness.

God has determined it, that in Christ's infinite dignity of person and holiness above that of any creature, there is ensured the adequateness of the satisfaction, made by His obedience and suffering, to meet the claims of justice against those whose nature He voluntarily assumed; nay more, to set forth God's glory more brightly than ever; also God has revealed that by believing the sinner becomes one with the Redeemer, and so rightly shares in the redemption wrought by Him the Head of the redeemed. No motive has ever been found so powerful as the sinner's realization of the atonement, to create love in the human heart, constraining the accepted believer henceforth to shun all sin and press after all holiness in order to please God, who first loved him ( Romans 8:1-3;  2 Corinthians 5:14-15;  1 John 4:19).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

The word 'atonement' occurs but once in the N.T. and there it should be 'reconciliation,' and the verb in the preceding sentence is so translated: "If when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life . . . . through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the reconciliation," καταλλαγή  Romans 5:10,11 . On the other hand, in  Hebrews 2:17 the A.V. has "to make reconciliation for the sins of the people:" here it is propitiation,' ἱλάσκομαι. If the word atonement is not found in the N.T., atonement in its true meaning is spoken of continually, as 'ransom;' 'bearing our sins in his own body on the tree;' 'Christ our passover is sacrificed for us;' 'Christ . . . . being made a curse for us;' 'He suffered for sins, the just for the unjust;' and, to use the language of faith, 'with his stripes we are healed;' 'He was delivered for our offences;' 'He was manifested to take away our sins.'

In the O.T. we have the word 'atonement' continually, but 'propitiation' not at all; 'expiation' twice in the margin,  Numbers 35:33;  Isaiah 47:11 . But the same word, kaphar, though generally translated by 'make atonement,' is employed for 'purging' and occasionally for 'cleansing,' 'reconciling,' 'purifying.' The word kaphar is literally 'to cover,' with various prepositions with it; the ordinary one is 'up' or 'upon.' Hence in 'atoned for him ' or 'his sin:' he or his sin is covered up: atonement is made for him or for his sin. Atonement was made upon the horns of the altar: the force is 'atonement for.' With the altar of incense atonement was not made upon it, but for it; so for the holy place, and for or about Aaron and his house: the preposition is al.

The same is used with the two goats. The sins were seen on the sinless goat, and expiation was made in respect of those sins. The how is not said here, but it is by the two goats making really one, because the object was to show that the sins were really laid upon it (that is, on Christ), and the sins carried away out of sight, and never to be found. If we can get our ideas, as taught of God as to the truth, into the train of Jewish thought, there is no difficulty in the al. In either case the difficulty arises from the fact that in English for presents the interested person to the mind; on is merely the place where it was done, as on an altar; whereas the al refers to the clearing away by the kaphar what was upon the thing al which the atoning rite was performed. Clearly the goat was not the person interested, nor was it merely done upon it as the place. It was that on which the sins lay, and they must be cleared and done away. The expiation referred to them as thus laid on the goat. As has been said, the how is not stated here, but the all-important fact defined that they were all carried away from Israel and from before God. The needed blood or life was presented to God in the other, which did really put them away; but did much more, and that aspect is attached to them there. This double aspect of the atoning work is of the deepest importance and interest, the presenting of the blood to God on the mercy seat, and the bearing away the sins. The word kaphar, to make atonement, occurs in  Exodus 29,30,32;  Leviticus 1,4-10,12,14-17,19,23;  Numbers 5,6,8,15,16,25,28,29,31;  2 Samuel 21:3;  1 Chronicles 6:49;  2 Chronicles 29:24;  Nehemiah 10:33 .

A short notice of some other Hebrew words may help. We have nasa, 'to liftup,' and so to forgive, to lift up the sins away in the mind of the person offended, or to show favour in lifting up the countenance of the favoured person.  Psalm 4:6 . We have also kasah, 'to cover,' as in  Psalm 32 : 1, where sin is 'covered': sometimes used with al, as in  Proverbs 10:12 , "love covereth all sins," forgives: they are out of sight and mind. The person is looked at with love, and not the faults with offence.

But in such words there is not the idea of expiation, the side of the offender is contemplated, and he is looked at in grace, whatever the cause: it may be needed atonement, or simply, as in Proverbs, gracious kindness. We have also salach, 'pardon or forgiveness.' Thus it is used as the effect of kaphar, as in  Leviticus 4:20 . But kaphar has always a distinct and important idea connected with it. It views the sin as toward God, and is ransom, when not used literally for sums of money; and kapporeth is the mercy seat. And though it involves forgiveness, purging from sin, it has always God in view, not merely that the sinner is relieved or forgiven: there is expiation and propitiation in it. And this is involved in the idea of purging sin, or making the purging of sin (ἱλάσκεσθαι, ἐξιλάσκεσθαι, ἱλασμὸν ποιεῖν); itis in God's sight as that by which He is offended, and what He rejects and judges.

There was a piaculum, 'an expiatory sacrifice,' something satisfying for the individual involved in guilt, or what was offensive to God, what He could not tolerate from His very nature. This with the heathen, who attached human passions or demon-revenge to their gods, was of course perverted to meet those ideas. They deprecated the vengeance of a probably angry and self-vengeful being. But God has a nature which is offended by sin. It is a holy, not of course a passionate, one; but the majesty of holiness must be maintained. Sin ought not to be treated with indifference, and God's love provides the ransom. It is God's Lamb who undertakes and accomplishes the work. The perfect love of God and His righteousness, the moral order of the universe and of our souls through faith, is maintained by the work of the cross. Through the perfect love not only of God, the giver, but of Him, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, propitiation is made, expiation for sin, itsaspect being toward God, while the effect applies to us in cleansing and justifying, though it goes much farther.

Expiation is more the satisfaction itself which is made, the piaculum, what takes the wrath, and is devoted, made the curse, and so substituted for the offender, so that he goes free. And here the noun kopher comes to let light in on the inquiry. It is translated 'ransom, satisfaction, ' and in  1 Samuel 12:3 a 'bribe.' So in   Exodus 21:30 a kopher (translated 'sum of money') is laid upon a man to save his life where his ox had killed his neighbour; but in  Numbers 35:31 no kopher was to be taken for the life of a murderer; for (ver. 33) the land cannot be cleansed, kaphar, but by the blood of the man that shed blood as a murderer. This clearly shows what the force of kopher and of kaphar is. A satisfaction is offered suited to the eye and mind of him who is displeased and who judges; and through this there is purgation of the offence, cleansing, forgiveness, and favour, according to him who takes cognisance of the evil.

A word may be added as to the comparison made between the two birds,  Leviticus 14:4-7 , and the two goats,  Leviticus 16:7-10 . The object of the birds was the cleansing of the leper; it was application to the defiled man, not the kopher, ransom, presented to God. It could not have been done but on the ground of the blood-shedding and satisfaction, but the immediate action was the purifying: hence there was water as well as blood. One bird was slain over running water in an earthen vessel, and the live bird and other objects dipped in it, and the man was then sprinkled, and the living bird let loose far from death, though once identified with it, and was free. The Spirit, in the power of the word, makes the death of Christ available in the power of His resurrection. There was no laying sins on the bird let free, as on the goat: it was identified with the slain one, and then let go. The living water in the earthen vessel is doubtless the power of the Spirit and word in human nature, characterising the form of the truth, though death and the blood must come in, and all nature, its pomp and vanity, be merged in it. The leper is cleansed and then can worship. This is not the atonement itself towards God, though founded on it, as marked by the death of the bird. It is the cleansing of man in death to the flesh, but in the power of resurrection known in Christ who once died to sin.

So also the Red Heifer,  Numbers 19:1-22 , was not initself an act of atonement, but of purification. The ground was there laid in the slayingand burning of the heifer. Sin was, so to speak, consumed in it, and the blood was sprinkled seven times before the tabernacle of the congregation. When Christ died sin was, as it were, all consumed for His people by the fire of judgement, and all the value of the blood was before God where He communicated with the people. All that was settled, but man had defiled himself in his journey through the wilderness, and must be cleansed. The witness that sin had been put away long ago by Christ undergoing what was the fruit of sin was brought by the living power of the Holy Spirit and the word, and so he was purified. But the act of purifying is not in itself atonement; for atonement the offering is presented to God. It is a kopher a ransom, a satisfaction, to meet the infinite, absolute perfection of God's nature and character, which indeed is there alone brought out. Thereby atonement is made and the very Day of Atonement is called kippurim. The priest made an atonement in respect of the sins; and it had the double aspect of presenting the blood before God within as meeting what He was, and bearing His people's sins and carrying them away never to be found. We must make the difference of an un-rent veil and repeated sacrifices, and a rent veil and a sacrifice offered once for all. This is taught in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

There is still one case to be noticed, but it was merely a principle confirming the real character of the kaphar, making atonement. In  Exodus 30:11-16 it was ordered that when the people were numbered, each, rich or poor, should give half a shekel as a kopher ransom, for his soul or life. This had nothing to do with sin, but with ransom, that there might be no plague — a recognition that they belonged to God all alike, and could have no human boast in numbers, as David afterwards brought the plague on Israel. This was offered to God as a sign of this, and shows what the force of kaphar, making atonement, is.

We have no atonement in connection with the meat offering: we get the perfectness of Christ's person, and all the elements that constituted it so as man, and there tested by the fire of God, which was even to death, the death of the cross, and all a perfect sweet savour, and perfect in presenting it to God a sweet savour, but no kopher, ransom: for that we must have blood-shedding.

The essence then of atonement is, firstly, a work or satisfaction presented to God according to, and perfectly glorifying, His nature and character about sin by sacrifice; and secondly, the bearing our sins; glorifying God even where sin was and in respect of sin (and thus His love is free to go out to all sinners); and giving the believer, him that comes to God by that blood-shedding, the certainty that his sins are all gone, and that God will remember them no more.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [8]

Is the satisfying Divine Justice by Jesus Christ giving himself a ransom for us, undergoing the penalty due to our sins, and thereby releasing us from that punishment which God might justly inflict upon us,  Romans 5:11 . The Hebrew word signifies covering, and intimates that our offences are, by a proper atonement, covered from the avenging justice of God.

In order to understand the manner wherein Christ becomes an atonement, "we should, " says Dr. Watts, "consider the following propositions,

1. The great God having made man, appointed to govern him by a wise and righteous law, wherein glory and honour, life and immortality, are the designed rewards for perfect obedience; but tribulation and wrath, pain and death, are the appointed recompense to those who violate this law,  Genesis 3:1-24 :   Romans 2:6;  Romans 2:16 .  Romans 1:32 .

2. All mankind have broken this law,  Romans 3:23 .  Romans 5:12 .

3. God, in his infinite wisdom, did not think fit to pardon sinful man, without some compensation for his broken law; for, 1. If the great Ruler of the world had pardoned the sins of men without any satisfaction, then his laws might have seemed not worth the vindicating.-2. Men would have been tempted to persist in the rebellion, and to repeat their old offences. -3. His forms of government among his creatures might have appeared as a matter of small importance.

4. God had a mind to make a very illustrious display both of his justice and of his grace among mankind; on these accounts he would not pardon sin without a satisfaction.

5. Man, sinful man, is not able to make any satisfaction to God for his own sins, neither by his labours, nor by his sufferings,  Ephesians 2:1;  Ephesians 2:8-9 .

6. Though man be incapable to satisfy for his own violation of the law, yet God would not suffer all mankind to perish.

7. Because God intended to make a full display of the terrors of his justice, and his divine resentment for the violation of his law, therefore he appointed his own Son to satisfy for the breach of it, by becoming a proper sacrifice of expiation or atonement,  Galatians 3:10;  Galatians 3:13

8. The Son of God being immortal, could not sustain all these penalties of the law which man had broken, without taking the mortal nature of man upon him, without assuming flesh and blood.  Hebrews 2:13-14 .

9. The Divine Being having received such ample satisfaction for sin by the sufferings of his own Son, can honourably forgive his creature man, who was the transgressor,  Romans 3:25-26 .

Now that this doctrine is true, will appear, if we consider,

1. That an atonement for sin, or an effectual method to answer the demands of an offended God, is the first great blessing guilty man stood in need of,  Micah 6:6;  Micah 7:1-20 :

2. The very first discoveries of grace which were made to man after his fall implied in them something of an atonement for sin, and pointed to the propitiation Christ has now made,  Genesis 3:15 .

3. The train of ceremonies which were appointed by God in the Jewish church are plain signification of such an atonement,  2 Corinthians 3:1-18 :   Colossians 2:7-9 .  Hebrews 10:1-39 :

4. Some of the prophesies confirm and explain the first promise, and show that Christ was to die as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of men,  Daniel 9:24-26 . Is. 53:

5. Our Saviour himself taught us the doctrine of the atonement for sin by his death,  Matthew 20:28 .  John 6:51 .  Luke 22:19 .

6. The terrors of soul, the consternation and inward agonies which our blessed Lord sustained a little before his death, were a sufficient proof that he endured punishment in his soul which were due to sin,  Mark 14:33 .  Hebrews 5:7 .

7. This doctrine is declared, and confirmed, and explained at large, by the apostles in their writings,  1 Corinthians 15:3 .  Ephesians 1:7 .  1 John 2:2 , &c.&c.

8. This was the doctrine that was witnessed to the world by the amazing gifts of the Holy Ghost, which attended the Gospel.(

9. See the Acts of the Apostles.)

The inferences and uses to be derived from this doctrine are these:

1. How vain are all the labours and pretences of mankind to seek or hope for any better religion than that which is contained in the Gospel of Christ. It is here alone that we can find the solid and rational principle of reconciliation to an offended God,  Hebrews 4:14 .

2. How strange and unreasonable is the doctrine of the Popish church, who, while they profess to believe the religion of Christ, yet introduce many other methods of atonement for sin, besides the sufferings of the Son of God. (

3. See above.)

4. Here is a solid foundation, on which the greatest of sinners may hope for acceptance with God.  1 Timothy 1:1-20

5. This doctrine should be used as a powerful motive to excite repentance,  Acts 5:31 .

6. We should use this atonement of Christ as our constant way of access to God in all our prayers,  Hebrews 10:19;  Hebrews 10:22 .

7. Also as a divine guard against sin,  Romans 6:1-2 .  1 Peter 1:15;  1 Peter 1:19 .

8. As an argument of prevailing force to be used in prayer,  Romans 8:32 .

9. As a spring of love to God, and to his Son Jesus Christ.  1 John 4:10 .

10. As a strong persuasive to that love and pity which we should show on all occasions to our fellow creatures,  1 John 4:11 .

11. It should excite patience and holy joy under afflictions and earthly sorrows,  Romans 5:1-3 .

12. We should consider it as an invitation to the Lord's supper, where Christ is set forth to us in the memorials of his propitiation.

13. As a most effectual defense against the terrors of dying, and as our joyful hope of a blessed resurrection,  1 Corinthians 15:50 .

14. Lastly, as a divine allurement to the upper world."

See Watt's Sermons, ser. 34, 35, 36, 37; Evans on the Atonement; Dr Owen on the Satisfaction of Christ; West's Scripture Doctrine of the Atonement; Hervey's Theron and Apasio, dialogue 3; Dr. Magee's Discourses on the Atonement; Jerram's Letters on ditto.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Atonement. (literally, a setting At One.) Satisfaction or reparation made for an injury, by doing or suffering that which will be received in satisfaction for an offence or injury. Specifically, in the Bible: The expiation of sin made by the obedience, personal sufferings, and death of Christ. Human language is imperfect, and human conceptions are often defective, when applied to the Most High. He is not touched with anger, resentment, etc., in the gross sense in which we commonly use the terms. We have, therefore, to take care that we do not represent him as hard to be mollified, with a thirst of vengeance to be slaked by the suffering of a victim. Nowhere does Scripture assert that the Father had a purpose of burning wrath against the world, which was changed by the interposition of the Son, on whom it lighted, so that, satiated by his punishment, he spared mankind. The Scripture rather teaches that "God so loved the world, that he gave Ms only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life."  John 3:16. "God is love."  1 John 4:16. But God cannot "behold evil" with complacency.  Habakkuk 1:13. It is consequently Impossible that he can pass over it. Hence he threatens to visit it with a penalty: "the soul that sinneth it shall die."  Ezekiel 18:4.

His infinite holiness and justice, and the intrinsic demerit of sin, require this. The proper idea of an atonement is that which brings the forgiveness of transgressors into harmony with all the perfections of the Godhead. One of these perfections must not be exalted to the depression of another: all must be equally and fully honored. Redemption, devised in the counsels of the eternal Three, was carried forward by the Son of God, who became man, that in the nature that had sinned he might make satisfaction for sin. He made this satisfaction by his obedience unto death, perfectly fulfilling the divine law, for he "did no sin;" and enduring the penalty of it, for "his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree."  1 Peter 2:22;  1 Peter 2:24. In such a sacrifice, God's judgment against the evil and desert of sin was most illustriously displayed. As no other sacrifice of like value could be found, proof was given to the universe that sin was the most disastrous evil, and that its "punishment was not the arbitrary act of an inexorable judge, but the unavoidable result of perfect holiness and justice, even in a Being of infinite mercy." The objections urged against the doctrine of the atonement, as if a vicarious sacrifice for sin were irrational, or placed the character of the Deity in an unamiable light, are not, when sifted, found to be very cogent It must always be remembered that Christ's atonement was not to induce God to show mercy, but to make the exercise of his love to sinners consistent with the honor of his law and the pure glory of his name. Sin is therein especially branded; and God's wisdom, righteousness, holiness, faithfulness, and mercy, are most eminently displayed. And, whereas it is said that he must forgive freely without requiring satisfaction, because he commands his creatures freely to forgive, it is forgotten that the cases are not parallel. Private offences are to be forgiven freely. But a ruler must execute his just laws. And so God is a great King, and as a king he administers public justice and will not arbitrarily clear the guilty. Doubtless there is much in his purposes and plans which we are incapable of rightly estimating. Enough is revealed to show us that "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them."  2 Corinthians 5:19. But we should recollect that. "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are" his "ways higher than" our "ways and" his "thoughts than" our "thoughts."  Isaiah 55:9.

The Day Of Expiation, or atonement, was a yearly solemnity, observed with rest and fasting on the tenth day of Tishri, five days before the Feast of Tabernacles.  Leviticus 23:27;  Leviticus 25:9;  Numbers 29:7. This would now be in the early part of October. The ceremonies of this day are described in  Leviticus 16:1-34. On this day alone the high priest entered the Most Holy Place.  Hebrews 9:7. The various rites required him to enter several times on this day robed in white: first with a golden censer and a vessel filled with incense; then with the blood of the bullock, which he had offered for his own sins and those of all the priests. The third time he entered with the blood of the ram which he had offered for the sins of the nation. The fourth time he entered to bring out the censer and vessel of Incense; and having returned, he washed his hands and performed the other services of the day. The ceremony of the scapegoat also took place on this day. Two goats were set apart, one of which was sacrificed to the Lord, while the other, the goat for complete separation, was chosen by lot to be set at liberty.  Leviticus 16:20-22. These solemn rites pointed to Christ.  Hebrews 9:11-15. As this day of expiation was the great fast-day of the Jewish church, so godly Borrow for sin characterizes the Christian's looking unto the Lamb of God, and "the rapture of pardon" is mingled with "penitent tears."

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

 Romans 5:11

The meaning of the word is simply at-one-ment, i.e., the state of being at one or being reconciled, so that atonement is reconciliation. Thus it is used to denote the effect which flows from the death of Christ.

But the word is also used to denote that by which this reconciliation is brought about, viz., the death of Christ itself; and when so used it means satisfaction, and in this sense to make an atonement for one is to make satisfaction for his offences ( Exodus 32:30;  Leviticus 4:26;  5:16;  Numbers 6:11 ), and, as regards the person, to reconcile, to propitiate God in his behalf.

By the atonement of Christ we generally mean his work by which he expiated our sins. But in Scripture usage the word denotes the reconciliation itself, and not the means by which it is effected. When speaking of Christ's saving work, the word "satisfaction," the word used by the theologians of the Reformation, is to be preferred to the word "atonement." Christ's satisfaction is all he did in the room and in behalf of sinners to satisfy the demands of the law and justice of God. Christ's work consisted of suffering and obedience, and these were vicarious, i.e., were not merely for our benefit, but were in our stead, as the suffering and obedience of our vicar, or substitute. Our guilt is expiated by the punishment which our vicar bore, and thus God is rendered propitious, i.e., it is now consistent with his justice to manifest his love to transgressors. Expiation has been made for sin, i.e., it is covered. The means by which it is covered is vicarious satisfaction, and the result of its being covered is atonement or reconciliation. To make atonement is to do that by virtue of which alienation ceases and reconciliation is brought about. Christ's mediatorial work and sufferings are the ground or efficient cause of reconciliation with God. They rectify the disturbed relations between God and man, taking away the obstacles interposed by sin to their fellowship and concord. The reconciliation is mutual, i.e., it is not only that of sinners toward God, but also and pre-eminently that of God toward sinners, effected by the sin-offering he himself provided, so that consistently with the other attributes of his character his love might flow forth in all its fulness of blessing to men. The primary idea presented to us in different forms throughout the Scripture is that the death of Christ is a satisfaction of infinite worth rendered to the law and justice of God (q.v.), and accepted by him in room of the very penalty man had incurred. It must also be constantly kept in mind that the atonement is not the cause but the consequence of God's love to guilty men ( John 3:16;  Romans 3:24,25;  Ephesians 1:7;  1 John 1:9;  4:9 ). The atonement may also be regarded as necessary, not in an absolute but in a relative sense, i.e., if man is to be saved, there is no other way than this which God has devised and carried out ( Exodus 34:7;  Joshua 24:19;  Psalm 5:4;  7:11;  Nahum 1:2,6;  Romans 3:5 ). This is God's plan, clearly revealed; and that is enough for us to know.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [11]

Atonement may be defined as that act of dealing with sin whereby sin’s penalty is paid and sinners are brought into a right relation with God. In the Old Testament the word is used mainly in connection with the offering of sacrifices for sin. The word does not occur in most versions of the New Testament, but it is used broadly in the language of theology in relation to the sacrificial death of Christ.

One result of universal human sin is that all people are under God’s judgment. They are guilty, the penalty is death, and they cannot, by their own efforts, escape this penalty. They are cut off from God and there is no way they can bring themselves back to God ( Psalms 14:3;  Isaiah 59:2;  Romans 1:18;  Romans 3:20;  Romans 3:23;  Romans 6:23; see Sin ). God, however, gives them a way by which they may obtain forgiveness and be brought back to God. This is through the blood of a sacrifice, where blood is symbolic of the life of the innocent victim laid down as substitute for the guilty sinner ( Leviticus 17:11;  Hebrews 9:22;  1 John 4:10; see Blood ).

Atonement is therefore not something that people can achieve by their own efforts, but something that God provides. Whether in Old or New Testament times, forgiveness is solely by God’s grace and sinners receive it by faith ( Psalms 32:5;  Psalms 51:17;  Micah 7:18;  Ephesians 2:8). The Old Testament sacrifices were not a way of salvation. They were a means by which repentant sinners could demonstrate their faith in God and at the same time see what their atonement involved. The sacrifices showed them how it was possible for God to act rightly in punishing sin while forgiving repentant sinners. (See Justification; Propitiation; Reconciliation; Redemption; Sacrifice; Sanctification )

The sacrifices of the Old Testament pointed to the one great sacrifice that is the only basis on which God can forgive a person’s sins, the death of Christ. Through that death God is able justly to forgive the sins of all who turn to him in faith, no matter what era they might have lived in ( Matthew 26:28;  Romans 3:25-26;  Romans 4:25;  Hebrews 9:15;  1 Peter 2:24). (See also Day Of Atonement .)

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [12]

1: Καταλλαγή (Strong'S #2643 — Noun Feminine — katallage — kat-al-lag-ay' )

translated "atonement" in the AV of  Romans 5:11 , signifies, not "atonement," but "reconciliation," as in the RV. See also  Romans 11:15;  2—Corinthians 5:18,19 . So with the corresponding verb katallasso, see under Reconcile. "Atonement" (the explanation of this English word as being "at-one-ment" is entirely fanciful) is frequently found in the OT. See, for instance, Leviticus, chapters 16 and 17. The corresponding NT words are hilasmos, "propitiation,"   1—John 2:2;  4:10 , and hilasterion,  Romans 3:25;  Hebrews 9:5 , "mercy-seat," the covering of the ark of the covenant. These describe the means (in and through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, in His death on the cross by the shedding of His blood in His vicarious sacrifice for sin) by which God shows mercy to sinners. See Propitiation.

King James Dictionary [13]


1. Agreement concord reconciliation, after enmity or controversy.  Romans 5 .

Between the Duke of Glo'ster and your brothers.

2. Expiation satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing or suffering that which is received in satisfaction for an offense or injury with for.

And Moses said to Aaron, go to the altar, and offer thy sin-offering, and thy burnt-offering, and make an atonement for thyself and for the people.  Leviticus 9 .

When a man has been guilty of any vice, the best atonement he can make for it is, to warn others not to fall into the like.

The Phocians behaved with so much gallantry, that they were thought to have made a sufficient atonement for their former offense.

3. In theology, the expiation of sin made by the obedience and personal sufferings of Christ.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [14]

The satisfaction offered to divine justice for the sins of mankind by the death of Jesus Christ; by virtue of which all true penitents believing in Christ are reconciled to God, are freed from the penalty of their sins, and entitled to eternal life. The atonement by Jesus Christ is the great distinguishing peculiarity of the gospel, and is presented in a great variety of terms and illustrations in both the Old Testament and the New. See Redemption, Sacrifices

The English word atonement originally denoted the reconciliation of parties previously at variance. It is used in the Old Testament to translate a Hebrew word which means a covering; implying that by a Divine propitiation the sinner is covered from the just anger of God. This is actually effected by the death of Christ; while the ceremonial offerings of the Jewish church only secured from impending temporal judgments, and typified the blood of Jesus Christ which "cleanseth us from all sin."

Webster's Dictionary [15]

(1): (n.) Satisfaction or reparation made by giving an equivalent for an injury, or by doing of suffering that which will be received in satisfaction for an offense or injury; expiation; amends; - with for. Specifically, in theology: The expiation of sin made by the obedience, personal suffering, and death of Christ.

(2): (n.) Reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; agreement; concord.

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [16]

 Exodus 29:36 (b) The word literally means "to cover up." The blood of the sacrifices in the Old Testament did cover up the sins of the believers, but not until Christ shed His Blood were the sins blotted out. (See also  Romans 3:25).

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

(expressed in Hebrews by כָּפִר , Kaphar', to Cover over sin, hence to Forgive; Gr. Καταλλαγή , reconciliation, as usually rendered), the satisfaction offered to divine justice for the sins of mankind by the death of Jesus Christ, by virtue of which all penitent believers in Christ are reconciled to God, and freed from the penalties of sin.

I. Scripture Doctrine.

1. The Words Used To Describe Christ'S Work. The redeeming work of Christ, in its several aspects, is denoted in Scripture by various terms, namely, reconciliation, propitiation, expiation, atonement, redemption, satisfaction, substitution, and salvation. The following summary of the uses and meanings of these terms is taken, with slight modifications, from Angus, Bible Hand-Book, § 329.

(a.) Looking into the English N.T., we find "reconciliation" and "reconcile" in several passages, in all of which (except one) the Greek word is some form of Ἀλλάσσω , "to produce a change between parties" (when, for example, they have been at variance); in turning to the Sept. we find this word never used in this sense at all, nor have the many passages in the O.T., which speak of "making reconciliation," any verbal reference to these passages in the N.T. The Idea is involved in several passages, but it is never expressed by this word, nor by any single word. "To turn away anger," "to restore to favor," "to accept," are the common expressions, generally forms of רָצָה and Δεκτός ( Isaiah 56:7;  Isaiah 60:7;  Jeremiah 6:20;  Leviticus 19:7). Hence the conclusion, that in the word of the N.T. translated "reconcile" there is reference only to the change or effect produced by some measure of mercy, and not to the nature of that measure itself: it describes merely the change produced in our relation to God; his moral sentiment of displeasure against sin (called his "wrath") is appeased, and the sinner's enmity and misgivings are removed. That there is this Double change may be gathered from the following passages:  Hebrews 10:26-27;  Romans 5:9;  Hebrews 9:26;  Hebrews 9:28;  2 Corinthians 5:18-20;  Ephesians 2:16;  1 Corinthians 7:11;  Colossians 1:20-21.

(b.) In one passage, however ( Hebrews 2:17), we have in Greek another word, Ἱλάσκομαι , translated also "make reconciliation." Its meaning may be gathered from the passages in the O.T. in which it occurs. It is, in fact, the constant rendering of a word translated in the English version "to make reconciliation" or "to atone for" ( Leviticus 6:30;  Leviticus 8:15;  Ezekiel 45:20;  Daniel 9:24, etc.).

(c.) But it would excite surprise if this were the only passage in the N.T. where this phrase is found. It occurs again, in fact, in  Romans 3:25;  1 John 2:2;  1 John 4:10; but in each of these passages it is translated PROPITIATION, a word which does not occur in the O.T. Expiation again, does not occur in the N.T., and but once in the O.T. ( Numbers 35:33, marg.); it is the same word, however, as is translated elsewhere "to make reconciliation" or "to atone for." ATONEMENT itself does not occur in the N.T., except in  Romans 5:2, and there it has no connection with the O.T. phrase, but is the same word as is translated "reconciliation" in the first sense above indicated; a change, that is, of state between parties previously at variance.

(d.) Thus far, therefore, the result is clear. Reconciliation and atonement are, In All The N.T., except  Hebrews 2:17, translations of the same word, and mean the state of friendship and acceptance into which the Gospel introduces us. "Reconciliation" in the sense in which it is used in  Hebrews 2:17, and "atonement" in the uniform sense of the Old Testament, "propitiation" in the New Testament, and "expiation" in the Old, are all different renderings of one and the same Hebrew and Greek words כָּפִר , Kaphar (in the Piel form כַּפֵּר ) and Ἐξιλάσκομαι , in some of their forms. These words, which may be regarded as one, have two senses, each involving the other. They mean to appease, pacify, or propitiate ( Genesis 33:20;  Proverbs 16:14;  Ezekiel 16:63); and also to clear from guilt ( 1 Samuel 3:14;  Psalms 65:3;  Proverbs 16:6;  Isaiah 6:7, etc.). In Propitiation, we have prominence given to the first idea; in Expiation, to the second; in Atonement, we have a distinct reference to both.

(e.) The thing which atones, propitiates, or expiates is called in Greek Ὶλασμός , Ἐξιλασμός , and Λύτρον , all translations of two derivatives of the Hebrew word כָּפִר ( כְּפֻרַים and כֹּפֶר ), i.e. price or covering.

(f.) The use of Λύτρον for כֹּפֶר introduces another form of expression, "redemption." This word, as a noun, always represents in the N.T. Λύτρωσις or Ἀπολύτρωσις . Both are descriptive of the Act of procuring the liberation of another by paying some Λύτρον or Ἄποινα , i.e. "ransom" or "forfeit," and hence always in the N.T. of the State of being ransomed in this way. These words mean (1) to buy back, by paying the price, what has been sold ( Leviticus 25:25), and (2) to redeem what has been devoted by substituting something else in its place ( Leviticus 27:27;  Exodus 13:13;  Psalms 72:14;  Psalms 130:8;  Isaiah 63:9). The price paid is called Λύτρον

( Matthew 20:28;  Mark 10:45), Ἀντίλυτρον ( 1 Timothy 2:6), the Hebrew terms being גְּאֻלָּה and פַּדְיוֹן , answering precisely to

Λύτρον , and כֹּפֶר , which again answers to Ἱλασμός . In  1 Timothy 2:6, this ransom is said to be Christ himself. "Redemption," therefore, is generally a state of deliverance by means of ransom. Hence it is used to indicate deliverance from punishment or guilt ( Ephesians 1:7;  Colossians 1:14); Sanctification, which is deliverance from the Dominion of sin ( 1 Peter 1:18); the Resurrection, which is the actual deliverance of the body from the Grave, the consequence of sin ( Romans 8:23); Completed Salvation, which is actual deliverance from all evil ( Ephesians 1:14;  Ephesians 4:30;  1 Corinthians 1:30;  Titus 2:14). Once it is used without reference to sin (Hebrews). 11:35), and perhaps in  Luke 21:28.

(g.) Another word, translated "redemption" ( Ἀγοράζω ,  Galatians 3:13;  Galatians 4:5;  Revelation 5:9;  Revelation 14:3-4), means, as it is everywhere else translated, to buy, referring to a purchase made in the Market. What is paid in this case is called Τηεή (price), and this price is said to he Christ ( Galatians 3:13), or his blood ( Romans 5:9). In  Acts 20:28, the word rendered "purchase" ( Περιποιεῖσθαι ) has no reference to redemption or to price, but means simply "acquired for himself:" the following words, however, indicate that the sense is not materially different from purchasing, as that term is used elsewhere.

(h.) The word "Satisfaction" is not found in the N.T., but it occurs twice in the Old ( Numbers 35:31-32). It is there a translation of כֹּפֶר or Λύτρον , "that which expiates" or "ransoms." The use of these terms, in reference to the N.T. doctrine, implies that what was done and paid in the death of our Lord satisfied the claims of justice, and answered all the moral purposes which God deemed necessary, under a system of holy law.. (i.) The word "Substitution" is not to be found in either Testament, but the idea is frequently expressed in both: "it shall be accepted FOR him" ( Leviticus 1:4;  Leviticus 7:18) is the O.T. phrase, and the New corresponds. There we find in frequent use Ὑπέρ and Ἀντί , the former meaning "on behalf of," "for," and "instead," and the latter meaning undoubtedly "instead of." Much stress ought not to be laid upon the first of these terms, as it is frequently used where it may mean "for the advantage of" ( Romans 8:26;  Romans 8:31;  2 Corinthians 1:2); yet in  John 15:13, and  1 John 3:16, it seems to mean "instead of;" and this is certainly the meaning of Ἀντί ( Matthew 20:28;  Mark 10:45; see  Matthew 2:22, "in the room of"). Apart, however, from particular prepositions, three sets of phrases clearly teach this doctrine. (1) Christ was made a curse for us ( Galatians 3:13); so a similar phrase ( 2 Corinthians 5:21). (2)He gave himself as a sacrifice for our sins (1 Corinthians 15;  Ephesians 5:2;  Galatians 1:4;  1 Timothy 2:6;  1 Timothy 2:14;  Hebrews 7:27;  Hebrews 5:1;  Hebrews 5:3;  Hebrews 10:12;  Romans 5:6-8;  1 Corinthians 1:13;  1 Corinthians 5:7;  1 Corinthians 11:24;  1 Peter 3:18;  1 Peter 4:1). (3) Christ Gave His Life For our life, or we live by his death ( Galatians 2:20;  Romans 14:15;  2 Corinthians 5:15. Compare  Romans 16:4; Isaiah 53:45). The idea of Substitution is in all these passages, and the phrase, though not scriptural, is a convenient summary of them all.

(j.) " Salvation" is everywhere in the N.T. the representative of Σωτηρία or Σωτήριον ; Σωτηρία is always translated "salvation" except in three passages ( Acts 7:25;  Acts 27:34, and  Hebrews 11:7, where it refers to temporal deliverance), and the idea included in the term is whatever blessings redemption includes, but without any reference to Λύτρον , or anything else as the ground of them. It includes Present deliverance ( Luke 19:9) Or Future ( Philippians 1:19;  Romans 13:11). "Salvation," therefore, is the State into which the Gospel introduces all who believe, and without reference to the means used. On turning to the Sept., however, we find that the idea of propitiation is involved even here; Σωτήριον is very frequently the translation of שֶׁלֶם ( זֶבֻח ), peace-offering, Θυσία Σωτηρίου ( Leviticus 3:1-3;  Leviticus 4:10;  Leviticus 7:20;  Leviticus 11:4;  Judges 20:26;  Judges 21:4). שֶׁלֶם is the sacrifice or retribution restoring peace, and thus the meaning of Σωτήριον touches upon the meaning of propitiation. "From this comparison, therefore, of the N.T.. the Sept., and the Hebrew, we gather the following conclusions: Propitiation, giving prominence to the secondary meaning of כָּפִר , Kaphar, and the primary meaning of Ἐξιλάσκομαι , is an act prompting to the exercise of mercy, and providing for its exercise in a way consistent with justice; Expiation, giving prominence to the primary meaning of כָּפִר and the secondary meaning of Ἐξιλάσκομαι , is an act which provides for the removal of sin, and cancels the obligation to punishment; Atonement, giving prominence to both, and meaning expiation and propitiation combined. Christ's atonement is said to be by Substitution, for he suffered In Our Stead, and he Bears Our Sin; and it is by Satisfaction, for the broken law is vindicated, all the purposes of punishment are answered with honor to the Lawgiver, and eventual holiness to the Christian. Its result is reconciliation ( Καταλλαγή ) ; the moral sentiment of justice in God is reconciled to the sinner, and provision is made for the removal of our enmity; and it is Redemption, or actual deliverance for a price from sin in its guilt and dominion, from all misery and from death. Salvation is also actual deliverance, but without a discinct reference to a price paid. Atonement, therefore, is something offered to God; Redemption or Salvation is something bestowed upon man; Atonement is the ground of Redemption, and Redemption is the result of Atonement ( Isaiah 53:4-10;  Isaiah 53:12). The design of the first is to satisfy God's justice, the design of the second to make man blessed; the first was finished upon the cross, the second is in daily operation, and will not be completed in the case of the whole church till the consummation of all things ( Daniel 9:24;  Ephesians 4:30)."

2. The Scripture Doctrine of the vicarious sacrifice of Christ is taught in the passages above cited, and indeed seems to underlie the whole "gospel" of salvation contained in the teaching of Christ and his apostles. It may be stated further

(1) that the sacrifices of the O.T. were (at least many of them) expiatory [see this shown under EXPIATION (See Expiation) ], and the terms used by Christ and his apostles (ransom, sacrifice, offering, etc.) were necessarily understood by their hearers in the sense which they had been accustomed for ages to attach to them.

(2) If this be so, then nothing could "be more misleading, and even absurd, than to employ those terms which, both among Jews and .Gentiles, were in use to express the various processes and means of atonement and piacular propitiation, if the apostles and Christ himself did not intend to represent his death strictly as an expiation for sin; misleading, because such would be the natural and necessary inference from the terms themselves, which had acquired this as their established meaning; and absurd, because if, as Socinians say, they used them metaphorically, there was not even an ideal resemblance between the figures and that which it was intended to illustrate. So totally irrelevant, indeed, will those terms appear to any notion entertained of the death of Christ which excludes its expiatory character, that to assume that our Lord and his apostles used them as metaphors is profanely to assume them to be such writers as would not in any other case be tolerated; writers wholly unacquainted with the commonest rules of language, and, therefore, wholly unfit to be teachers of others, and that not only in religion, but in things of inferior importance" (Watson, Dict. s.v. Expiation).

Immediately upon the first public manifestation of Christ, John the Baptist declares, when he sees Jesus coming to him, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" ( John 1:29); where it is obvious that, when John called our Lord "the Lamb of God," he spoke of him under a sacrificial character, and of the effect of that sacrifice as an atonement for the sins of mankind. This was said of our Lord even before he entered on his public office; but if any doubt should exist respecting the meaning of the Baptist's expression, it is removed by other passages, in which a similar allusion is adopted, and in which it is specifically applied to the death of Christ as an atonement for sin. In the Acts ( Acts 8:32) the following words of Isaiah ( Isaiah 53:7) are by Philip the Evangelist distinctly applied to Christ and to his death: "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth." This particular part of the prophecy being applied to our Lord's death, the whole must relate to the same subject, for it is undoubtedly one entire prophecy; and the other expressions in it are still stronger: "He was wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed: the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." In the First Epistle of Peter is also a strong and very apposite text, in which the application of the term "lamb" to our Lord, and the sense in which it Is applied, can admit of no doubt:

"Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" ( 1 Peter 1:18-19). It is therefore evident that the prophet Isaiah, seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus; that John the Baptist, at the commencement of Christ's ministry; and that Peter, his companion and apostle, subsequent to the transaction, speak of Christ's death as an atonement for sin under the figure of a lamb sacrificed. The passages that follow plainly and distinctly declare the atoning efficacy of Christ's death: "Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself." "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" ( Hebrews 9:26;  Hebrews 9:28). "This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sin, forever sat down on the right hand of God; for by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" ( Hebrews 10:12). It is observable that nothing similar is said of the death of any other person, and that no such efficacy is imputed to any other martyrdom. "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us; much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him; for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" ( Romans 5:8-10). The words "reconciled to God by the death of his Son" show that his death had an efficacy in our reconciliation; but reconciliation is only preparatory to salvation. "He has reconciled us to his Father in his cross, and in the body of his flesh through death" ( Colossians 1:20;  Colossians 1:22). What is said of reconciliation in these texts is in some others spoken of sanctification, which is also preparatory to salvation. " We are sanctified" how? "by the offering of the body of Christ once for all" ( Hebrews 10:10). In the same epistle ( Hebrews 10:29), the blood of Jesus is called "the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified." In these and many other passages that occur in different parts of the New Testament, it is therefore asserted that the death of Christ was efficacious in the procuring of human salvation. Such expressions are used concerning no other person, and the death of no other person; and it is therefore evident that Christ's death included something more than a confirmation of his preaching; something more than a pattern of a holy and patient martyrdom; something more than a necessary antecedent to his resurrection, by which he gave a grand and clear proof of our resurrection from the dead. Christ's death was all these, but it was much more. It was an atonenment for the sins of mankind, and in this way only it became the accomplishment of our eternal redemption. The teaching of the New Testament, and the agreement of the statements of Christ with those of his apostles on this subject, are thus set forth (without regard to theological distinctions) by Dr. Thomson, bishop of Gloucester: "God sent his Son into the world to redeem lost and ruined man from sin and death, and the Son willingly took upon him the form of a servant for this purpose; and thus the Father and the Son manifested their love for us. God the Father laid upon his Son the weight of the sins of the whole world, so that he bare in his own body the wrath which men must else have borne, because there was no other way of escape for them; and thus the atonement was a manifestation of divine justice. The effect of the atonement thus wrought is that man is placed in a new position, freed from the dominion of sin, and able to follow holiness, and thus the doctrine of the atonement ought to work in all the hearers a sense of love, of obedience, and of self-sacrifice. In shorter words, the sacrifice of the death of Christ is a proof of divine love and of divine justice, and is for us a document of obedience. Of the four great writers of the New Testament, Peter, Paul, and John set forth every one of these points.

Peter, the witness of the sufferings of Christ,' tells us that we were redeemed with the blood of Jesus, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot;' says that Christ bare our sins in his own body on the tree.' If we have tasted that the Lord is gracious,' we must not rest satisfied with a contemplation of our redeemed state, but must live a life worthy of it. No one can well doubt, who reads the two epistles, that the love of God and Christ, and the justice of God, and the duties thereby laid on us, all have their value in them; but the love is less dwelt on than the justice, while the most prominent idea of all is the moral and practical working of the cross of Christ upon the lives of men. With St. John, again, all three points find place: that Jesus willingly laid down his life for us, and is an advocate with the Father; that He is also the propitiation, the suffering sacrifice for our sins; and that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth us from all sin, for that whoever is born of God doth not commit sin: all are put forward. The death of Christ is both justice and love both a propitiation and an act of loving self-surrender; but the moral effect upon us is more prominent even than these. In the epistles of Paul the three elements are all present: in such expressions as a ransom, a propitiation who was made sin-for us,' the wrath of God against sin, and the mode in which it was turned away, are presented to us. Yet not wrath alone: The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead; and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them and rose again.' Love in him begets love in us; and, in our reconciled state, the holiness which we could not practice before becomes easy. Now in which of these points is there the semblance of contradiction between the apostles and their Master? In none of them. In the gospels, as in the epistles, Jesus is held up as the sacrifice and victim, quaffing a cup from which his human nature shrank, feeling in him a sense of desolation such as we fail utterly to comprehend on a theory of human-motives. Yet no one takes from him his precious redeeming life; he lays it down of-himself out of his great love for men; but men are to deny themselves, and take up their cross, and tread in his steps. They are his friends only if they keep his commands and follow his footsteps" (Aids to Faith, p. 337. See also Starr and Flatt, Biblical Theology, § 65-70).

II. History Of The Doctrine.

1. The Fathers. In the early ages of the church the atoning work of Christ was spoken of generally in the words of Scripture. The value of the sufferings and death of Christ, in the work of redemption, was from the beginning both held in Christian faith, and also plainly set forth, but the doctrine was not Scientifically developed by the primitive fathers. But it is one thing to admit that the atonement was not Scientifically apprehended, and quite another thing to assert that it was not really held at all in the sense of vicarious sacrifice. The relation between the death of Christ and the remission of sins was not a matter of much dispute in that early period. The person of Christ was the great topic of metaphysico-theological inquiry, and it was not until after this was settled by the general prevalence of the Nicene Creed that anthropological and soteriological questions come up into decided prominence. Baur (in whose Versohnungslehre this subject is treated with ample learning, though often with dogmatic assertion of conclusions arrived at hastily and without just ground) admits that in the writings of the apostolical fathers there is abundant recognition of the sacrificial and redemptive death of Christ. Thus Barnabas: "The Lord condescended to deliver his body to death, that, by remission of our sins, we might be sanctified, and this is effected by the shedding of his blood" (c. v). So also Clement quotes Isaiah 53 and  Psalms 22:7;  Psalms 22:9, adding,

"His blood was shed for our salvation; by the will of God he has given his body for our body, his soul for our soul." Similar passages exist in Ignatius and Polycarp, and stronger still in the Epist. ad Diognet. ch. 9. (See citations in Shedd, History of Doctrines, bk. 5, ch. 1; Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, § 68; Thomson, Bampton Lectures, 1853, Lect. 6). In the second century Justin Martyr (A.D. 147) says that "the Father willed that his Christ should take upon himself the curses of all for the whole race of man" (Dial. c. Tryph. 95). "In Justin may be found the idea of satisfaction rendered by Christ through suffering, at least lying at the bottom, if not clearly grasped in the form of conscious thought" (Dial. c. Tryph. c. 30; Neander, Ch. History, 1, 642). The victory of the death of Christ over the power of the devil begins now to play a prominent part in the idea of the atonement. Baur maintains that this was really due to Gnostic ideas taken up into the line of Christian thought; "that as the relation between the Demiurge and Redeemer was, in the Marcionite and Ophitic systems, essentially hostile, so the death of Jesus was a contrivance of the Demiurge, which failed of its purpose and disappointed him." Baur asserts that Irenaeus (A.D. 180) borrowed this idea from Gnosticism, only substituting Satan for the Demiurge. But Dorner shows clearly that Irenseus, with entire knowledge of Gnosticism, repelled all its ideas, and that Baur's charge rests upon a misinterpretation of a passage (adv. Hoer. v. 1, 1) in which, although the Satanic idea is prominent, it is far removed from Gnosticism (Dorner, Person of Christ, 1, 463; see also Shedd, Hist. of Doctrines, 2, 213). Baur's theory that the foundations of the doctrine of vicarious satisfaction were laid in the notion that it was the claims of Satan, and not of God, that were satisfied, falls to the ground; for "if this theory can be found in any of the fathers, it is in Irenaeus" (Shedd, 1. c.). Nevertheless, it is true (though not in the Gnostic spirit) that Irenaeus represents the sufferings of Christ as made necessary by the hold of Satan on man, and in order to a rightful deliverance from that bondage. Tertullian (A.D. 200) uses the word satisfactio, but not with reference to the vicarious sufferings of Christ, yet in several of his writings he assumes the efficacious work of Christ's sufferings for salvation. In the Alexandrian fathers we find, as might be expected, the Gnostic influence more obvious, and the idea of ransom paid to the devil comes out fully in Origen (A.D. 230). Yet it is going quite too far to say that Origen does not recognize the vicarious suffering of Christ; so (Hom. 24 on Numbers) he says that "the entrance of sin into the world made a propitiation necessary, and there can be no propitiation without a sacrificial offering." Dr. Shedd finds the general doctrine of the Alexandrian school inconsistent with vicarious atonement, and interprets the special passages which imply it accordingly; but in this he differs from Thomasius (Origenes, Nurnb. 1837) and Thomson (Bampton Lectures). Origen doubtless held the vicarious atonement, though it was mixed up with speculations as to the value of the blood of the martyrs, and debased by his fanciful views of the relation of Christ's work to the devil. This was carried to a greater extent by later fathers, e.g. Gregory of Nyssa (A.D. 370), who says in substance that the devil was cheated in the transaction by a just retaliation for his deception of men: "Men have come under the dominion of the devil by sin. Jesus offered himself to the devil as the ransom for which he should release all others. The crafty devil assented, because he cared more for the one Jesus, who was so much superior to him, than for all the rest. But, notwithstanding his craft, he was deceived, since he could not retain Jesus in his power. It was, as it were, a deception on the part of God ( Ἀπάτη Τίς Ἐστι Τρόπον Τινά ) , that Jesus veiled his divine nature, which the devil would have feared, by means of his humanity, and thus deceived the devil by the appearance of flesh" (Orat. Catech. 22-26). Athanasius (A.D. 370), on the other hand, not only maintained the expiation of Christ, but rejected the fanciful Satan theory (De Incarn. Erbi, 6, et al.). Cyril of Jerusalem (A.D. 350) (Catech. 12, § 33) enters more deeply into this doctrine, developing a theory to show why it was necessary that Jesus should die for man. Similar views were expressed by Eusebius of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzen, Cyril of Alexandria, and Chrysostom (see Giescler, Dogmengeschichte, p. 383). Several of these fathers also maintain that Christ, by his death, did more than would have been necessary for the redemption of men. They undertook to show that Christ alone was able to achieve redemption, and discussed the qualities which were necessary for his redemptive character. These discussions are especially met with in the writings against the Arians and the Nestorians. Augustine (A.D. 398) was occupied more, in all his controversies, with anthropology than with soteriology, but the vicarious atonement is clearly taught or implied in his De Peccat. Meritis, 1, 56, and in other places; but he called those dolts (stuli) who maintained that God could provide no other means of redemption (De Agone Christ. c. 10). Gregory the Great (A.D. 590) taught the doctrine with great clearness, and approached the scientific precision of a later age (Moralia, 17, 46). Little is to be added to these statements up to the time of Anselm. Enough has been said to show that, although the earlier view may have been incomplete and mingled with error, it is wrong to assert, as Baur and his English followers (Jowett, Garden, etc.) do, that the "doctrine of substitution is not in the fathers, and lay dormant till the voice of Anselm woke it; or that Anselm was the inventor of the doctrine." (Comp. Brit. and For Ex. Review, Jani. 1861, p. 48.)

2. The Scholastic Period. Nevertheless, Anselm (T 1109) undoubtedly gave the doctrine a more scientific form th Y giving the central position to the idea of satisfaction to the divine justice (Cur Dens Homo? transl. in Bibliotheca Sacra, vols. 11, 12). Nicholas of Methone (11th or 12th century?), in the Greek Church, developed the necessity of vicarious satisfaction from the nature of God and his relations to man, but it is not certain that he had not seen Anselm's writings. Anselm's view is, in substance, as follows: " The infinite guilt which man had contracted by the dishonor of his sin against the infinitely great God could be atoned for by no mere creature; only the God-man Christ Jesus could render to God the infinite satisfaction required. God only can satisfy himself. The human nature of Christ enables him to incur, the infinity of his divine nature to pay this debt. But it was incumbent upon Christ as a man to order his life according to the law of God; the obedience of his life, therefore, was not able to render satisfaction for our guilt. But, although he was under obligation to live in obedience to the law, as the Holy One he was under no obligation to die. Seeing, then, that he nevertheless voluntarily surrendered his infinitely precious life to the honor of God, a recompense from God became his due, and his recompense consists in the forgiveness of the sins of his brethren" (Chambers, Encycl. s.v.; Neander, Hist. of Dogmas, Bohn's ed. 2:517). Anselm rejects entirely the claims of Satan, and places the necessity of atonement entirely in the justice of God. His theory is defective with regard to the appropriation of the merits of Christ by the believer; but, on the whole, it is substantially that in which the Christian Church has rested from that time forward. His doctrine was opposed by Abelard, who treated the atonement in its relation to the love of God, and not to his justice, giving it moral rather than legal significance. Peter Lombard seems confusedly to blend Abelard's views and Anselm's. Thomas Aquinas developed Anselm's theory, and brought out also the superabundant merit of his death, while he does not clearly affirm the absolute necessity of the death of Christ (Hagenbach, Hist. of Doctrines, § 181). (See Aquinas).

Bernard of Clairvaux, in opposition to Abelard, brought up again the idea of the claims of Satan. Duns Scotus, in opposition to Anselm, denied the Necessity of Christ's death, and denied also that the satisfaction rendered was an equivalent for the claims of justice, holding that God Accepted Christ's sacrifice as sufficient. (See Acceptilatio). On the whole, the scholastic period left two streams of thought closely allied, yet with an element of difference afterward fully developed, viz. the Anselmic, of the satisfaction of divine justice, absolutely considered; and that of Aquinas, that this satisfaction was relative, and also superabundant. The Romish doctrine of supererogation and indulgence doubtless grew out of this.

3. From The Reformation All the great confessions Greek, Roman, Lutheran, Reformed, and Methodist agree in placing the salvation of the sinner in the mediatorial work of Christ. But there are various modes of apprehending the doctrine in this period (see Winer, Comparat. Darstellung, ch. 7). The Council of Trent confounds justification with sanctification, and hence denies that the satisfaction of Christ is the Sole ground of the remission of sin (Canones, De Justificatione, 7, 8). The Romanist writers generally adopt the "acceptilation" theory of Scotus rather than that of Anselm, and hold that the death of Christ made satisfaction only for sins before baptism, while as to sins after baptism only the eternal punishment due to them is remitted; so that, for the temporal punishment due to them, satisfaction is still required by penance and purgatory. Luther does not treat of satisfaction in any special treatise; he was occupied rather with the appropriation of salvation by faith alone, though he held fast the doctrine of expiation through Christ. So, in Melancthon's Loci, and in the Augsburg Confession (A.D. 1530), the atoning work of Christ is fully stated, but under the head of justifying faith. "Men are justified gratuitously for Christ's sake through faith when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are remitted on account of Christ, who made satisfaction for our transgressions by his death. This faith God imputes to us as righteousness" (Augsburg Confession, art. 4). The distinction between the active and passive obedience of Christ came later; its first clear statement in the Lutheran Church is in the Formula of Concord (1576): "That righteousness which is imputed to the believer simply by the grace of God is the obedience, the suffering, and the resurrection of Christ, by which he has satisfied the claims of the law and atoned for our sins. For as Christ is not merely man, but God and man in one person, he was, as Lord of the law, no more subject to it than he was subject to suffering death; hence not only his obedience to God the Father, as exhibited in his sufferings and death, but also by his righteous fulfillment of the law on our behalf, is imputed to us, and God acquits us of our sins, and regards us as just in view of his complete obedience in what he did and suffered, in life and in death" (Francke, Lib. Symb. 685). Nor did this distinction appear early among the Calvinists any more than among the Lutherans. Calvin joins them together (Institutes, bk. 2, § 16, 5). None of the reformed confessions distinguish between the active and passive obedience before the Formula Consensus Helvetica (1675; comp. Guericke, Symbolik, § 47).

The Socinians deny the vicarious atonement entirely. They assert that satisfaction and forgiveness are incompatible ideas; that the work of atonement is subjective, i.e. the repentance and moral renovation of the sinner; that God needs no reconciliation with man. Christ suffered, not to satisfy the divine justice, but as a martyr to his truth and an example to his followers. Socinus did, however, admit that the death of Christ affords a pledge of divine forgiveness, and of man's resurrection as following Christ's (see Winer, Comp. Darstellung, 7, 1; and comp. Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, § 268; Shedd, Hist. of Doctrines, bk. 5).

In opposition to Socinus, Grotius wrote his Defensio fidei Cathol. de Satisfactione (1617), which forms an epoch in the history of the doctrine. He deduced the necessity of satisfaction from the administrative or rectoral justice of God, and not from his retributive justice. He taught that the prerogative of punishing is to be ascribed to God, not as an injured party, but as moral governor of the world. So the prerogative of substitution, in place of punishment, belongs to God as moral governor. If, by any other means than punishment, he can vindicate the claims of justice, he is at liberty, as moral governor, to use those means. The atonement does thus satisfy justice; and through Christ's voluntary offering, the sinner can be pardoned and the law vindicated. The defect of this theory lies in its not referring the work of Christ sufficiently to the nature of God, contemplating it rather in its moral aspects as an exhibition of the evil of sin. The Dutch Arminian divines bring out more prominently the idea of sacrifice in the death of Christ. The Methodist theology asserts the doctrine of satisfaction strongly, e.g. Watson: Satisfaction [by the death of Christ] by Christ is not to be regarded as a merely fit and wise expedient of government (to which Grotius leans too much), for this may imply that it was one of many other possible expedients, though the best; whereas we have seen that it is everywhere in Scripture represented as necessary to human salvation, and that it is to be concluded that no alternative existed but that of exchanging a righteous government for one careless and relaxed, to the dishonor of the divine attributes, and the sanctioning of moral disorder, or the upholding of such government by the personal and extreme punishment of every offender, or else the acceptance of the vicarious death of an infinitely dignified and glorious being, through whom pardon should be offered, and in whose hands a process for the moral restoration of the lapsed should be placed. The humiliation, sufferings, and death of such a being did most obviously demonstrate the righteous character and administration of God; and if the greatest means we can conceive was employed for this end, then we may safely conclude that the righteousness of God in the forgiveness of sin could not have been demonstrated by inferior means; and as God cannot cease to be a righteous governor, man in that case could have had no hope" (Watson, Theol. Institutes, vol. 2, pt. 2, ch. 20). The Arminian theology did nevertheless maintain that God is free, not necessitated as moral governor, and that the satisfaction of Christ has reference to the general justice of God, and not to his distributive justice. The Methodist theology also brings out prominently the love of God, which is organic and eternal in him his essential nature as the source of redemption, and holds that the free manifestation of the divine love is under no law of necessity. Even Ebrard, one of the most eminent modern writers of the Reformed Church, sets this forth as a great service rendered to theology by the Arminians (Ebrard, Lehre der stellvero tretenden Genugthuung, Konigsb. 1857, p. 25; compare also Warren, in Methodist Quarterly, July, 1866, 390 sq.; and, on the other side, Shedd, History of Doctrines, bk. 5, ch. 5; and his Discourses and Essays, 294). Hill (Calvinist), in his Lectures on Divinity (bk. 4, ch. 3), appears to adopt the Grotian theory.

Extent of the Atonement. One of the most important questions in the modern Church with regard to the atonement is that of its extent, viz. whether the benefits of Christ's death were intended by God to extend to the whole human race, or only to a part. The former view is called universal or general atonement; the latter, particular, or limited. What is called the strict school of Calvinists holds the latter doctrine, as stated in the Westminster Confession. "As God hath appointed the elect unto glory, so hath he, by the eternal and most free purpose of his will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ; are effectually called unto faith in Christ by his Spirit working in due season; are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by his power through faith unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only" (ch. 3, § 6; comp. also ch. 8, §§ 5 and 8). The so-called moderate (or modern) Calvinists, the Arminians, the Church of England, and the Methodist Episcopal Church, adopt the doctrine of general or universal atonement. (See Calvinism).

The advocates of a Limited atonement maintain that the atonement cannot properly be considered apart from its actual application, or from the intention of the author in regard to its application; that in strictness of speech, the death of Christ is not an atonement to any until it be applied; that the sufferings of the Lamb of God are therefore truly vicarious, or, in other words, that Christ, in suffering, became a real substitute for his people, was charged with their sins, and bore the punishment of them, and thus has made a full and complete satisfaction to divine justice in behalf of all who shall ever believe on him; that this atonement will eventually be applied to all for whom in the divine intention it was made, or to all to whom God in his sovereignty has been pleased to decree its application. But they believe that although the atonement is to be properly considered as exactly commensurate with its intended application, yet that the Lord Jesus Christ did offer a sacrifice sufficient in its intrinsic value to expiate the sins of the whole world, and that, if it had been the pleasure of God to apply it to every individual, the whole human race would have been saved by its immeasurable worth. They hold, therefore, that, on the ground of the infinite value of the atonement, the offer of salvation can be consistently and sincerely made to all who hear the Gospel, assuring them that if they will believe they shall be saved; whereas, if they willfully reject the overtures of mercy, they will increase their guilt and aggravate their damnation. At the same time, as they believe, the Scriptures plainly teach that the will and disposition to comply with this condition depends upon the sovereign gift of God, and that the actual compliance is secured to those only for whom, in the divine counsels, the atonement was specifically intended. The doctrine, on the other hand, that Christ died for all men, so as to make salvation attainable by all men, is maintained, first and chiefly, on scriptural ground, viz. that, according to the whole tenor of Scripture, the atonenment of Christ was made for all men. The advocates of this view adduce,

(1.) Passages which Expressly Declare the doctrine.

[a] Those which say that Christ died "for all men," and speak of his death as an atonement for the sins of the whole world.

[b] Those which attribute an equal extent to the death of Christ as to the effects of the fall.

(2.) Passages which Necessarily Imply the doctrine, viz. [a] Those which declare that Christ died not only for those that are saved, but for those who do or may perish.

[b] Those which make it the duty of men to believe the Gospel, and place them under guilt and the penalty of death for rejecting it.

[c] Those in which men's failure to obtain salvation is placed to the account of their own opposing wills, and made wholly their own fault. (See the argument in full on the Arminian side, in Watson, Theol. Institutes, 2, 284 sq.; Storr and Flatt, Bibl. Theology, bk. 4, pt. 2; Fletcher, Works, 2, 63 et al.)

The Arminian doctrine is summed up in the declaration that Christ "obtained (impetravit) for all men by his death reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins, but upon this condition, that none actually possess and enjoy this forgiveness of sins except believers" (Acta Synod. Remonst. pt. ii, p. 280; Nicholls, Arminianism and Calvinism, p. 114 sq.). It has been asserted (e.g. by Amyraut, q.v.) that Calvin himself held to general redemption; and certainly his language in his Comm. in  Job 3:15-16, and in  1 Timothy 2:5, seems fairly to assert the doctrine. Comp. Fletcher, Works (N. Y. ed. 2:71); but see also Cunningham, The Reformers (Essay 7). As to the variations of the Calvinistic confessions, see Hagenbach, History of Doctrines, § 249. In the French Reformed Church, the divines of Saumur, Camero, Amyraldus, and Placaeus maintained universal grace (see the articles on these names). The English divines who attended the Synod of Dort (Hall, Hales, Davenant) all advocated general atonement, in which they were followed by Baxter (Universal Redemption; Methodus Theologias; Orme, Life of Baxter, 2, 64). The most able advocate of universal grace in the 17th century was John Goodwin, Redemption Redeemed, 1650 (see Jackson, Life of Goodwin, 1828).

On the other hand, Owen, the so-called strict Calvinists of England, and the Old-School Presbyterian Church in America, adhere to the Westminster Confession, interpreting it as maintaining limited atonement. Their doctrine on the whole subject in substance is, that the atonement was made and intended only for the elect; and that its necessity with respect to them arose out of the eternal justice of God, which required that every individual should receive his due desert; and, consequently, that the sufferings of Christ were the endurance of punishment equivalent in amount of suffering, if not identical in nature (as Owen maintains) with that to which the elect were exposed; and, moreover, that the Meritorious obedience of Christ in fulfilling the law imputes a righteousness to those for whom the atonement secures salvation, which gives them a claim to the reward of righteousness in everlasting life. The differences of view in the two divisions of the Presbyterian Church in America are thus stated by Dr. Duffield: "Old- School Presbyterians regard the satisfaction rendered to the justice of God by the obedience and death of Christ as explicable upon principles of justice recognized among men in strict judiciary procedures. While they concede that there is grace on the part of God in its application to the believer, inasmuch as he has provided in Christ a substitute for him, they nevertheless insist that he is pardoned and justified of God as judge, and as matter of right and strict justice in the eye of the law, inasmuch as his claims against him have all been met and satisfied by his surety. The obligations in the bond having been discharged by. his security, the judge, according to this view, is bound to give sentence of release and acquittal to the original failing party, the grace shown being in the acceptance of the substitute. Their ideas of the nature of the divine justice, exercised in the pardon and justification of the sinner because of the righteousness of Christ, are all taken from the transactions of a court of law. New-School Presbyterians, equally with the Old, concede the grace of God in the substitution of Christ, the whole work of his redemption to be the development of the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Jesus Christ;' but they prefer to regard and speak of the atonement of Christ, his obedience and death, by which he satisfied the justice of God for our sins, as the great expedient and governmental procedure adopted by the great God of heaven and of earth in his character of chief executive, the governor of the universe, in order to magnify his law and make it honorable, rather than as a juridical plea to obtain a sentence in court for discharging an accused party on trial" (Bibliotheca Sacra, 20, 618).

The doctrine of Payne, Wardlaw, Pye Smith, and other so-called moderate Calvinists in England, and of many in America, is in substance that the atonement consists in "that satisfaction for sin which was rendered to God as moral governor of the world by the obedience unto death of his son Jesus Christ. This satisfaction preserves the authority of the moral government of God, and yet enables him to forgive sinners. That this forgiveness could not be given by God without atonement constitutes its necessity. The whole contents of Christ's earthly existence, embracing both his active and passive obedience-a distinction which is unsupported by the Word of God-must be regarded as contributing to the atonement which he made. As to the extent' of the atonement, there is a broad distinction to be made between the sufficiency of the atonement and its efficiency. It may be true that Jehovah did not intend to exercise that influence of the Holy Spirit upon all which is necessary to secure the salvation of any one; but as the atonement was to become the basis of moral government, it was necessary that it should be one of infinite worth, and so in itself adequate to the salvation of all." In New England the younger Edwards ( 1801) modified the Calvinistic doctrine of the atonement, representing it, as the Arminians do, as a satisfaction to the general justice, and not to the distributive justice of God. Among American Calvinistic divines Dr. E. D. Griffin holds a very high place. His "Humble Attempt to reconcile the Differences of Christians" was republished by Dr. E. A. Park in 1859. in a volume of essays on the atonement by eminent New England divines. A summary of it is given in the Bibliotheca Sacra for Jan. 1858, and is noticed in the Methodist Quarterly, April, 1858, p. 311. "Dr. Griffin held that the atonement was not a literal suffering of the penalty, nor a literal satisfaction of the distributive justice of God, nor a literal removal of our desert of eternal death, nor a literal surplusage of Christ's meritorious personal obedience becoming our imputed obedience. On the other hand, the atonement was a divine method by which the literal suffering of the penalty might be dispensed with, by which government could be sustained and honored without inflicting distributive justice, by which the acceptors of the work might be saved, without the removal of their intrinsic desert of hell; and all this without imputing Christ's personal obedience as our personal obedience, but by Christ obtaini

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [18]

a - tōn´ment  : Translates כּפר , kāphar  ; חטא , ḥāṭā'  ; רצה , rācāh , the last employed only of human relations ( 1 Samuel 29:4 ); translates the following Greek stems hilas -, simple and compounded with various prepositions; allag - in composition only, but with numerous prepositions and even two at a time, e.g.  Matthew 5:24; lip - rarely ( Daniel 9:24 ).

I. Terms Employed

1. Hebrew and Greek Words

The root meanings of the Hebrew words, taking them in the order cited above, are, to "cover," hence expiate, condone, cancel, placate; to "offer," or "receive a sin offering," hence, make atonement, appease, propitiate; "effect reconciliation," i.e. by some conduct, or course of action. Of the Greek words the meanings, in order, are "to be," or "cause to be, friendly"; "to render other," hence to restore; "to leave" and with preposition to leave off, i.e. enmity, or evil, etc.; "to render holy," "to set apart for"; hence, of the Deity, to appropriate or accept for Himself.

2. The English Word

It is obvious that the English word "atonement" does not correspond etymologically with any Hebrew or Greek word which it translates. Furthermore, the Greek words in both Septuagint and New Testament do not correspond exactly to the Hebrew words; especially is it true that the root idea of the most frequently employed Hebrew word, " cover ," is not found in any of the Greek words employed. These remarks apply to both verbs and substantives The English word is derived from the phrase "at one," and signifies, etymologically, harmony of relationship or unity of life, etc. It is a rare instance of an As theological term; and, like all purely English terms employed in theology, takes its meaning, not from its origin, but from theological content of the thinking of the Continental and Latin-speaking Schoolmen who employed such English terms as seemed most nearly to convey to the hearers and readers their ideas. Not only was no effort made to convey the original Hebrew and Greek meanings by means of English words, but no effort was made toward uniformity in translating of Hebrew and Greek words by their English equivalents.

3. Not to Be Settled by Lexicon Merely

It is at once clear that no mere word-study can determine the Bible teaching concerning atonement. Even when first employed for expressing Hebrew and Christian thought, these terms, like all other religious terms, already had a content that had grown up with their use, and it is by no means easy to tell how far heathen conceptions might be imported into our theology by a rigidly etymological study of terms employed. In any case such a study could only yield a dictionary of terms, whereas what we seek is a body of teaching, a circle of ideas, whatever words and phrases, or combinations of words and phrases, have been employed to express the teaching.

4. Not Chiefly a Study in Theology

There is even greater danger of making the study of the Atonement a study in dogmatic theology. The frequent employment of the expression " the Atonement" shows this tendency. The work of Christ in reconciling the world to God has occupied so central a place in Christian dogmatics that the very term atonement has come to have a theological rather than a practical atmosphere, and it is by no means easy for the student, or even for the seeker after the saving relation with God, to pass beyond the accumulated interpretation of the Atonement and learn of atonement.

5. Notes on Use of Terms

The history of the explanation of the Atonement and the terms of preaching atonement cannot, of course, be ignored. Nor can the original meaning of the terms employed and the manner of their use be neglected. There are significant features in the use of terms, and we have to take account of the history of interpretation. Only we must not bind ourselves nor the word of God in such forms.

(1) The most frequently employed Hebrew word, kāphar , is found in the Prophets only in the priestly section ( Ezekiel 45:15 ,  Ezekiel 45:20;  Daniel 9:24 ) where English Versions of the Bible have "make reconciliation," margin, "purge away." Furthermore, it is not found in Deuteronomy, which is the prophetic book of the Pentateuch (Hexateuch). This indicates that it is an essentially priestly conception. The same term is frequently translated by "reconcile," construed as equivalent to "make atonement" ( Leviticus 6:30;  Leviticus 8:15;  Leviticus 16:20;  1 Samuel 29:4;  Ezekiel 45:15 ,  Ezekiel 45:20;  Daniel 9:24 ). In this latter sense it connects itself with ḥāṭā' ̌ . In  2 Chronicles 29:24 both words are used: the priests make a sin offering ḥāṭā' to effect an atonement kāphar ̌ . But the first word is frequently used by metonymy to include, at least suggestively, the end in view, the reconciliation; and, on the other hand, the latter word is so used as to involve, also, doing that by which atonement is realized.

(2) Of the Greek words employed hiláskesthai means "to make propitious" ( Hebrews 2:17;  Leviticus 6:30;  Leviticus 16:20;  Ezekiel 45:20 ); alláttein , used however only in composition with preposition, means "to render other," "to restore" to another (former?) condition of harmony (compare  Matthew 5:24 = "to be reconciled" to a fellow-man as a condition of making an acceptable sacrifice to God).

(3) In the English New Testament the word "atonement" is found only at  Romans 5:11 and the American Standard Revised Version changes this to "reconciliation." While in strict etymology this word need signify only the active or conscious exercise of unity of life or harmony of relations, the causative idea probably belongs to the original use of the term, as it certainly is present in all current Christian use of the term. As employed in Christian theology, both practical and technical, the term includes with more or less distinctness: (a) The fact of union with God, and this always looked upon as (b) a broken union to be restored or an ideal union to be realized, (c) The procuring cause of atonement, variously defined, (d) the crucial act wherein the union is effected, the work of God and the response of the soul in which the union becomes actual. Inasmuch as the reconciliation between man and God is always conceived of as effected through Jesus Christ (  2 Corinthians 5:18-21 ) the expression, "the Atonement of Christ," is one of the most frequent in Christian theology. Questions and controversies have turned mainly on the procuring cause of atonement, (c) above, and at this point have arisen the various "theories of the Atonement."

II. Bible Teaching Concerning Atonement in General

The Atonement of Christ must be interpreted in connection with the conception of atonement in general in the Scriptures. This idea of atonement is, moreover, part of the general circle of fundamental ideas of the religion of Yahweh and Jesus. Theories of the Atonement root themselves in conceptions of the nature and character of God, His holiness, love, grace, mercy, etc.; of man, his nature, disposition and capacities; of sin and guilt.

1. Primary Assumption of Unity of God and Man

The basal conception for the Bible doctrine of atonement is the assumption that God and man are ideally one in life and interests, so far as man's true life and interest may be conceived as corresponding with those of God. Hence, it is everywhere assumed that God and man should be in all respects in harmonious relations, "at-one." Such is the ideal picture of Adam and Eve in Eden. Such is the assumption in the parable of the Prodigal Son; man ought to be at home with God, at peace in the Father's house (Lk 15). Such also is the ideal of Jesus as seen especially in Jn 14 through 17; compare particularly  John 17:21; compare also  Ephesians 2:11-22;  1 Corinthians 15:28 . This is quite possibly the underlying idea of all those offerings in which the priests - G od's representatives - and the people joined in eating at a common meal parts of what had been presented to God. The prohibition of the use of blood in food or drink is grounded on the statement that the life is in the blood ( Leviticus 17:10 f) or is the blood (  Genesis 9:4;  Deuteronomy 12:23 ). Blood was used in the consecration of tabernacle, temple, vessels, altars, priests; all things and persons set apart for Yahweh. Then blood was required in offerings made to atone for sin and uncleanness. The reason for all this is not easy to see; but if we seek an explanation that will account for all the facts on a single principle, shall we not find it in the idea that in the life-principle of the blood God's own life was present? Through this life from God all living beings shared God's life. The blood passing out of any living being must therefore return to God and not be consumed. In sprinkling blood, the life-element, or certainly the life-symbol, over persons and things set apart for God they were, so to say, visibly taken up into the life of God, and His life extending over them made them essentially of His own person. Finally the blood of sacrifices was the returning to God of the life of the man for whom the beasts stood. And this blood was not burned with the dead sacrifice but poured out beside the holy altar. The now dead sin offering was burned, but the blood, the life, returned to God. In peace-offerings of various sorts there was the common meal in which the common life was typified.

In the claim of the first-fruits of all crops, of all flocks and of all increase, God emphasized the common life in production; asserted His claim to the total life of His people and their products. God claimed the lives of all as belonging essentially to Himself and a man must recognize this by paying a ransom price ( Exodus 30:12 ). This did not purchase for the man a right to his own life in separation from God, for it was in no sense an equivalent in value to the man's time. It the rather committed the man to living the common life with God, without which recognition the man was not fit to live at all. And the use of this recognition-money by the priests in the temple was regarded as placing the man who paid his money in a sort of continuous worshipful service in the tabernacle (or temple) itself (Ech 30:11-16).

2. The Breach in the Unity

In both Old Testament and New Testament the assumption of unity between God and man stands over against the contrasted fact that there is a radical breach in this unity. This breach is recognized in all God's relations to men; and even when healed it is always subject to new failures which must be provided for, by the daily oblations in the Old Testament, by the continuous intercession of the Christ ( Hebrews 7:25;  Hebrews 9:24 ) in the New Testament. Even when there is no conscious breach, man is taught to recognize that it may exist and he must avail himself of the appointed means for its healing, e.g. daily sacrifices. This breach is universally attributed to some behavior on man's part. This may be moral or ceremonial uncleanness on man's part. He may have broken with God fundamentally in character or conduct and so by committing sin have incurred guilt; or he may have neglected the fitting recognition that his life is in common with God and so by his disregard have incurred uncleanness. After the first breach between God and man it is always necessary that man shall approach God on the assumption that this breach needs healing, and so always come with an offering. In human nature the sin breach is rooted and universal ( Romans 3:9-19;  Romans 5:12-14 ).

3. Means for Expressing, Restoring and Maintaining

Numerous and various means were employed for expressing this essential unity of life, for restoring it since it was broken off in sin, and for maintaining it. These means were primarily spiritual and ethical but made extensive use of material substances, physical acts and symbolical ceremonials; and these tended always to obscure and supplant the spiritual and ethical qualities which it was their function to exhibit. The prophet came to the rescue of the spiritual and ethical and reached his highest insight and function in the doctrine of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh through whom God was to be united with a redeemed race (compare among many passages,  Isaiah 49:1-7;  Isaiah 66:18; Y 22:27ff).

Atonement is conceived in both Old Testament and New Testament as partly personal and partly social, extending to the universal conception. The acts and attitudes by which it is procured, restored and maintained are partly those of the individual alone (Y 51), partly those in which the individual secures the assistance of the priest or the priestly body, and partly such as the priest performs for the whole people on his own account. This involves the distinction that in Israel atonement was both personal and social, as also were both sin and uncleanness. Atonement was made for the group by the priest without specific participation by the people although they were, originally at least, to take cognizance of the fact and at the time. At all the great feasts, especially upon the Day Of Atonement (which see) the whole group was receptively to take conscious part in the work of atonement ( Numbers 29:7-11 ).

The various sacrifices and offerings by means of which atonement was effected in the life and worship of Israel will be found to be discussed under the proper words and are to be spoken of here only summarily. The series of offerings, guilt-offerings, burnt-offerings, sin-offerings, peace-offerings, reveal a sense of the breach with God, a conviction of the sin making the breach and an ethical appreciation of the holiness of God entirely unique among religions of ancient or modern times, and this fact must never be overlooked in interpreting the New Testament Christian doctrine of the Atonement. In the Old Testament there are sins and sinful circumstances for which no atonement is possible. Many passages, indeed, almost seem to provide against atonement for any voluntary wrongdoing (e.g.  Leviticus 4:2 ,  Leviticus 4:13 ,  Leviticus 4:22 ,  Leviticus 4:27;  Leviticus 5:14 ). This is, no doubt, an extreme interpretation, out of harmony with the general spirit of the Old Testament, but it does show how seriously sin ought to be taken under the Old Testament régime. No atonement for murder could make possible the residence of the murderer again in that section of the land where the murder was done ( Numbers 35:33 ), although the land was not by the murder rendered unfit for occupation by others. When Israel sinned in making the golden calf, God refused to accept any atonement ( Exodus 32:20 ) until there had been a great loss of life from among the sinners. No repentance could find atonement for the refusal to follow Yahweh's lead at Kadesh-barnea ( Numbers 14:20-25 ), and complete atonement was effected only when all the unbelieving generation had died in the wilderness ( Numbers 26:65;  Numbers 32:10 ); i.e. no atonement was possible, but the people died in that sin, outside the Land of Promise, although the sin was not allowed to cut off finally from Yahweh ( Numbers 14:29 f).

Permanent uncleanness or confirmed disease of an unclean sort caused permanent separation from the temple and the people of Yahweh (e.g.  Leviticus 7:20 f), and every uncleanness must be properly removed (  Leviticus 5:2;  Leviticus 17:15;  Leviticus 22:2-8;  Deuteronomy 23:10 f). A house in which an unclean disease was found must be cleansed - have atonement made for it (  Leviticus 14:53 ), and in extreme cases must be utterly destroyed ( Leviticus 14:43 ).

After childbirth ( Leviticus 12:7 f) and in all cases of hemorrhage (compare   Leviticus 15:30 ) atonement must be effected by prescribed offerings, a loss, diminution, or pollution of blood, wherein is the life, having been suffered. All this elaborate application of the principle of atonement shows the comprehensiveness with which it was sought by the religious teachers to impress the people with the unity of all life in the perfectly holy and majestic God whom they were called upon to serve. Not only must the priests be clean who bear the vessels of the Lord ( Isaiah 52:11 ), but all the people must be clean also from all defilement of flesh and spirit, seeking perfect holiness in the fear of their God (compare  2 Corinthians 7:1 ).

III. The Atonement of Jesus Christ

1. Preparation for New Testament Doctrine

All the symbols, doctrine and examples of atonement in the Old Testament among the Hebrews find their counterpart, fulfillment and complete explanation in the new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ ( Matthew 26:28;  Hebrews 12:24 ). By interpreting the inner spirit of the sacrificial system, by insisting on the unity and holiness of God, by passionate pleas for purity in the people, and especially by teaching the principle of vicarious suffering for sin, the Prophets laid the foundation in thought-forms and in religious atmosphere for such a doctrine of atonement as is presented in the life and teaching of Jesus and as is unfolded in the teaching of His apostles.

The personal, parabolic sufferings of Hosea, the remarkable elaboration of the redemption of spiritual Israel through a Suffering Servant of Yahweh and the extension of that redemption to all mankind as presented in Isa 40 through 66, and the same element in such psalms as Ps 22, constitute a key to the understanding of the work of the Christ that unifies the entire revelation of God's righteousness in passing over human sins ( Romans 3:24 f). Yet it is remarkable that such a conception of the way of atonement was as far as possible from the general and average Jewish mind when Jesus came. In no sense can the New Testament doctrine of the Atonement be said to be the product of the thought and spirit of the times.

2. The One Clear Fact

However much theologians may disagree as to the rationale of the Atonement, there is, as there can be, no question that Jesus and all His interpreters in the New Testament represent the Atonement between God and men as somehow accomplished through Jesus Christ. It is also an agreed fact in exegesis that Jesus and His apostles understood His death to be radically connected with this Atonement.

(1) Jesus Himself teaches that He has come to reveal the Father ( John 14:9 ), to recover the lost ( Luke 19:10 ), to give life to men ( John 6:33;  John 10:10 ), to disclose and establish the kingdom of heaven (or of God), gathering a few faithful followers through whom His work will be perpetuated ( John 17:2;  Matthew 16:13 ); that salvation, personal and social, is dependent upon His person ( John 6:53;  John 14:6 ). He cannot give full teaching concerning His death but He does clearly connect His sufferings with the salvation He seeks to give. He shows in  Luke 4:16 and   Luke 22:37 that He understands Isa 52 through 53 as realized in Himself; He is giving Himself (and His blood) a ransom for men (  Matthew 20:28;  Matthew 26:26; compare  1 Corinthians 11:23 ). He was not a mere martyr but gave Himself up willingly, and voluntarily ( John 10:17 f;   Galatians 2:20 ), in accordance with the purpose of God ( Acts 2:23 ), as the Redeemer of the world, and expected that by His lifting up all men would be drawn to Him ( John 12:31-33 ). It is possible to explain the attention which the Evangelists give to the death of Jesus only by supposing that they are reflecting the importance which they recall Jesus Himself to have attached to His death.

(2) All the New Testament writers agree in making Jesus the center of their idea of the way of salvation and that His death is an essential element in His saving power. This they do by combining Old Testament teaching with the facts of the life and death of the Lord, confirming their conclusion by appeal to the Resurrection. Paul represents himself as holding the common doctrine of Christianity at the time, and from the beginning, when in  1 Corinthians 15:3 he sums up his teaching that salvation is secured through the death and resurrection of Jesus according to the Scriptures. Elsewhere (  Ephesians 2:16 ,  Ephesians 2:18;  1 Timothy 2:5; compare  Acts 4:12 ) in all his writings he emfasizes his belief that Jesus Christ is the one Mediator between God and man, by the blood of His cross ( Colossians 1:20;  1 Corinthians 2:2 ), removing the sin barrier between God and men. Peter, during the life of Jesus so full of the current Jewish notion that God accepted the Jews de facto , in his later ministry makes Jesus in His death the one way to God ( Acts 4:12;  1 Peter 1:2 ,  1 Peter 1:18 ,  1 Peter 1:19;  1 Peter 2:21 ,  1 Peter 2:24;  1 Peter 3:18 ).

John has this element so prominent in his Gospel that radical critical opinion questions its authorship partly on that account, while the epistles of John and the Revelation are, on the same ground, attributed to later Greek thought (compare  1 John 1:7;  1 John 2:2;  1 John 3:5;  1 John 4:10;  Revelation 1:5;  Revelation 5:9 ). The Epistle to the Hebrews finds in Jesus the fulfillment and extension of all the sacrificial system of Judaism and holds that the shedding of blood seems essential to the very idea of remission of sins ( Hebrews 9:22; compare  Hebrews 2:17;  Hebrews 7:26 f;   Hebrews 9:24-28 ).

3. How Shall We Understand the Atonement?

When we come to systematize the teaching concerning the Atonement we find, as in all doctrine, that definite system is not offered us in the New Testament, but all system, if it is to have any value for Christianity, must find its materials and principles in the New Testament. Proceeding in this way some features may be stated positively and finally, while others must be presented interrogatively, recognizing that interpretations may differ.

(1) An initial consideration is that the Atonement originates with God who "was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself" ( 2 Corinthians 5:19 ), and whose love gave Jesus to redeem sinful men ( John 3:16;  Romans 5:8 , etc.). In all atonement in Old Testament and New Testament the initiative is of God who not only devises and reveals the way to reconciliation, but by means of angels, Prophets, priests and ultimately His only begotten Son applies the means of atonement and persuades men to accept the proffered reconciliation. Nothing in the speculation concerning the Atonement can be more false to its true nature than making a breach between God and His Christ in their attitude toward sinful men.

(2) It follows that atonement is fundamental in the nature of God in His relations to men, and that redemption is in the heart of God's dealing in history. The "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" ( Revelation 13:8 the King James Version and the English Revised Version; compare   Revelation 5:5-7 ) is the interpreter of the seven-sealed book of God's providence in history. In Jesus we behold the Lamb of God taking away the sin of the world ( John 1:29 ).

(3) The question will arise in the analysis of the doctrine: How does the death of Christ save us? No specific answer has ever been generally satisfactory. We have numerous theories of the Atonement. We have already intimated that the answer to this question will depend upon our idea of the nature of God, the nature of sin, the content of salvation, the nature of man, and our idea of Satan and evil spirits. We ought at once to dismiss all merely quantitative and commercial conceptions of exchange of merit. There is no longer any question that the doctrines of imputation, both of Adam's sin and of Christ's righteousness, were overwrought and applied by the early theologians with a fatal exclusiveness, without warrant in the Word of God. On the other hand no theory can hold much weight that presupposes that sin is a thing of light consequence in the nature of man and in the economy of God. Unless one is prepared to resist unto blood striving against sin ( Hebrews 12:2-4 ), he cannot know the meaning of the Christ. Again, it may be said that the notion that the death of Christ is to be considered apart from His life, eternal and incarnate life, as the atoning work, is far too narrow to express the teaching of the Bible and far too shallow to meet the demands of an ethical conscience.

It would serve clearness if we reminded ourselves that the question of how in the Atonement may involve various elements. We may inquire: (a) for the ground on which God may righteously receive the sinner; (b) for the means by which God places the restoration within the reach of the sinner; (c) for the influence by which the sinner is persuaded to accept the reconciliation; (d) for the attitude or exercise of the sinner toward God in Christ wherein he actually enters the state of restored union with God. The various theories have seemed to be exclusive, or at least mutually antagonistic, largely because they have taken partial views of the whole subject and have emphasized some one feature of the whole content. All serious theories partly express the truth and all together are inadequate fully to declare how the Daystar from on high doth guide our feet into the way of peace ( Luke 1:79 ).

(4) Another question over which theologians have sorely vexed themselves and each other concerns the extent of the Atonement, whether it is available for all men or only for certain particular, elect ones. That controversy may now be passed by. It is no longer possible to read the Bible and suppose that God relates himself sympathetically with only a part of the race. All segregated passages of Scripture formerly employed in support of such a view have now taken their place in the progressive self-interpretation of God to men through Christ who is the propitiation for the sins of the whole world ( 1 John 2:2 ). No man cometh unto the Father but by Him ( John 14:6 ): but whosoever does thus call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved ( Joel 2:32;  Acts 2:21 ). See also Atonement , Day Of; Propitiation; Reconciliation; Sacrifice .


In the vast literature on this subject the following is suggested: Articles by Orr in Hdb; by Mackenzie in Standard Bible Dictionary; in the Catholic Encyclopedia; in Jewish Encyclopedia; by Simyon in Hastings, Dcg; J. McLeod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; John Champion, The Living Atonement; W. M. Clow, The Cross in Christian Experience; T. J. Crawford, The Doctrine of Holy Scripture Respecting the Atonement; R. W. Dale, The Atonement; J. Denney, The Death of Christ: Its Place and Interpretation in the New Testament, and The Atonement and the Modern Mind; W. P. DuBose, The Soteriology of the New Testament; P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross; J. Scott Lidgett, The Spiritual Principle of the Atonement; Ochenham, The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement; A. Ritschl, The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation, I, II; Riviere, Le dogme de la r é demption; D. W. Simon, Reconciliation by Incarnation; W. L. Walker, The Cross and the Kingdom; various writers, The Atonement and Modern Religious Thought.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [19]

Atonement (see  Romans 11:15;  2 Corinthians 5:18-19). In ecclesiastical writers, and in the canons of Councils, the word rendered atonement is employed to signify the reconciliation of offenders to the Church after a due course of penitence. Of this there are said to have been two kinds: the one consisting merely in the remission of punishment; the other, in the restoration of the penitent to all the rights and privileges of communion. For the doctrine of Atonement, see articles Sacrifices.