General Information

The word atonement, constructed from at and one, means "to set at one" or "to reconcile." In Christian Theology, atonement denotes the doctrine of the reconciliation of God and man accomplished by the Crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

There have been three major theories of atonement: the ransom theory, the Anselmian theory, and the Abelardian theory.

Martin Luther, John Calvin, and other Reformers developed the Anselmian theory in the direction of penal substitution. Liberal theologians have reverted to an Abelardian type of explanation. Gustav Aulen and other Swedish theologians have recently advocated a return to the ransom theory conceived in terms of victory over the powers of evil. Since the doctrine of the atonement has never been defined officially, Christian theologians consider themselves free to work out their own theory along lines consonant with the witness of Scripture.

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In Jewish theology, stress is placed on personal acts of atonement; vicarious atonement is given little importance.

Reginald H Fuller

V Taylor, Jesus and His Sacrifice (1937) and The Atonement in New Testament Teaching (1940).


General Information

{ uh - tone' - ment }

Atonement, in Christian theology, is the expiation of sin and the propitiation of God by the incarnation, life, sufferings, and death of Jesus Christ; the obedience and death of Christ on behalf of sinners as the ground of redemption; in the narrow sense, the sacrificial work of Christ for sinners. In the theology of many, including nearly all Universalists and Unitarians, atonement signifies the act of bringing people to God, in contradistinction to the idea of reconciling an offended God to his creation.

The three principal theories by which theologians attempt to explain the atonement are the following: (1) the Anselmian or sacrificial, that the atonement consists fundamentally in Christ's sacrifice for the sins of humanity; (2) the remedial, that God, through the incarnation, entered into humanity so as to eliminate sin by the ethical process of Christ's life and death and make the human race at one with himself; and (3) the Socinian or moral influence, that Christ's work consists in influencing people to lead better lives. The sacrificial theory takes two general forms: (a) the governmental, that Christ's work was intended to meet the demands of the law of God and make such a moral impression upon humans in favor of the divine government as to render their forgiveness safe; and (b) the satisfaction, that it was intended to satisfy divine justice and make the forgiveness of humanity possible and right. Each of these theories has been further developed many times.


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This word does not occur in the Authorized Version of the New Testament except in Rom. 5:11, where in the Revised Version the word "reconciliation" is used. In the Old Testament it is of frequent occurrence. 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 (Ex. 32:30; Lev. 4:26; 5:16; Num. 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; Rom. 3:24, 25; Eph. 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 (Ex. 34:7; Josh. 24:19; Ps. 5:4; 7:11; Nahum 1:2, 6; Rom. 3:5). This is God's plan, clearly revealed; and that is enough for us to know.

(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)


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The expression "to make atonement" is frequent in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, but rare in the rest of the Bible. The basic idea, however, is widespread. The need for it arises from the fact that man is a sinner, a truth made plain throughout Scripture but infrequent outside the Bible.

In the OT sin is dealt with by the offering of sacrifice. Thus the burnt offering will be accepted "to make atonement" (Lev. 1:4), as also the sin offering and the guilt offering (Lev. 4:20; 7:7) and especially the sacrifices on the day of atonement (Lev. 16). Of course, sacrifice is ineffective if offered in the wrong spirit. To sin "with a high hand" (Num. 15:30), i.e., proudly and presumptuously, is to place oneself outside the sphere of God's forgiveness. The prophets have many denunciations of the offering of sacrifice as the expression of a repentant and trustful heart is to find atonement. Atonement is sometimes made by means other than the sacrifices, such as the payment of money (Exod. 30:12-16) or the offering of life (II Sam. 21:3-6). In such cases to make atonement means "to avert punishment, especially the divine anger, by the payment of a koper, a ransom,' which may be of money or which may be of life" (L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 166). Throughout the OT sin is serious; it will be punished unless atonement is sought in the way God has provided.

This truth is repeated and enlarged upon in the NT. There it is made clear that all men are sinners (Rom. 3:23) and that hell awaits them (Mark 9:43; Luke 12:5). But it is just as clear that God wills to bring salvation and that he has brought it in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of his Son. The love of God is the mainspring (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8). We are not to think of a loving Son as wringing salvation from a just but stern Father. It is the will of the Father that men be saved, and salvation is accomplished, not with a wave of the hand, so to speak, but by what God has done in Christ: "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (II Cor. 5:19), a reconciliation brought about by the death of Christ (Rom. 5:10). The NT emphasizes his death, and it is no accident that the cross has come to be accepted as the symbol of the Christian faith or that words like "crux" and "crucial" have come to have the significance that they possess. The cross is absolutely central to salvation as the NT sees it. This is distinctive of Christianity. Other religions have their martyrs, but the death of Jesus was not that of a martyr. It was that of a Savior. His death saves men from their sins. Christ took their place and died their death (Mark 10:45; II Cor. 5:21), the culmination of a ministry in which he consistently made himself one with sinners.

The NT does not put forward a theory of atonement, but there are several indications of the principle on which atonement is effected. Thus sacrifice must be offered, not the sacrifice of animals, which cannot avail for men (Heb. 10:4), but the perfect sacrifice of Christ (Heb. 9:26; 10:5-10). Christ paid sin's due penalty (Rom. 3:25-26; 6:23; Gal. 3:13). He redeemed us (Eph. 1:7), paying the price that sets us free (I Cor. 6:20; Gal. 5:1). He made a new covenant (Heb. 9:15). He won the victory (I Cor. 15:55-57). He effected the propitiation that turns away the warth of God (Rom. 3:25), made the reconciliation that turns enemies into friends (Eph. 2:16). His love and his patient endurance of suffering set an example (I Pet. 2:21); we are to take up our cross (Luke 9:23). Salvation is many-sided. But however it is viewed, Christ has taken our place, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Our part is simply to respond in repentance, faith, and selfless living.

L Morris
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

R. S. Franks, The Work of Christ; L. W. Grensted, A Short History of the Doctrine of the Atonement; G. Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement According to Christ and The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles; V. Taylor, The Atonement in NT Teaching and Forgiveness and Reconciliation; J. Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ; J. Denney, The Death of Christ; A. A. Hodge, The Atonement; J. M. Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; R. Wallace, The Atoning Death of Christ; J. K. Mozley, The Doctrine of the Atonement; C. R. Smith, The Bible Doctrine of Salvation; L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross; P. T. Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross.

Extent of the Atonement, Limited Atonement

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Although there are variations as to the basic ways in which this subject can be addressed, the choices boil down to two: either the death of Jesus was intended to secure salvation for a limited number or the death of Jesus was intended to provide salvation for everyone. The first view is sometimes called "limited atonement" because God limited the effect of Christ's death to a specific number of elect persons, or "particular redemption" because redemption was for a particular group of people. The second view is sometimes referred to as "unlimited atonement" or "general redemption" because God did not limit Christ's redemptive death to the elect, but allowed it to be for mankind in general.

Particular Redemption

The doctrine that Jesus died for the elect in particular, securing their redemption, but not for the world, arose as the implications of the doctrine of election and the satisfaction theory of the atonement were developed immediately following the Reformation. A controversy arose that resulted in the Synod of Dort (1618-19) pronouncing that Christ's death was "sufficient for all but efficient for the elect." This did not satisfy many theologians, even some Calvinists, so the controversy has continued to this day.

There are numerous arguments used to defend the doctrine of limited atonement, but the following represent some of the more frequently found.

General Redemption

The doctrine of general redemption argues that the death of Christ was designed to include all mankind, whether or not all believe. To those who savingly believe it is redemptively applied, and to those who do not believe it provides the benefits of common grace and the removal of any excuse for being lost. God loved them and Christ died for them; they are lost because they refused to accept the salvation that is sincerely offered to them in Christ.


Both points of view are trying to preserve something of theological importance. The defenders of limited atonement are stressing the certainty of God's salvation and the initiative he took in offering it to man. If salvation depended on our work, all would be lost. The defenders of general redemption are attempting to preserve the fairness of God and what to them is the clear teaching of Scripture. Salvation is no less certain because Christ died for all. It is the decision to reject it that brings about condemnation, and faith that puts one in a saving relationship with Christ who died that we might live. E. A. Litton attempts to mediate the two views in this fashion: "And thus the combatants may not be in reality so much at variance as they had supposed. The most extreme Calvinist may grant that there is room for all if they will come in; the most extreme Arminian must grant that redemption, in its full Scriptural meaning, is not the privilege of all men" (Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, p. 236).

W A Elwell
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

W. Rushton, A Defense of Particular Redemption; J. Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ; A. A. Hodge, The Atonement; H. Martin, The Atonement; G. Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Atonement According to the Apostles and The Doctrine of the Atonement According to Christ; J. Davenant, The Death of Christ; N. F. Douty, The Death of Christ; A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology; J. Denney, The Death of Christ; J. M. Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology.

Theories of the Atonement

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Throughout the Bible the central question is, "How can sinful man ever be accepted by a holy God?" The Bible takes sin seriously, much more seriously than do the other literatures that have come down to us from antiquity. It sees sin as a barrier separating man from God (Isa. 59:2), a barrier that man was able to erect but is quite unable to demolish. But the truth on which the Bible insists is that God has dealt with the problem. He has made the way whereby sinners may find pardon, God's enemies may find peace. Salvation is never seen as a human achievement. In the OT sacrifice has a large place, but it avails not because of any merit it has of itself (cf. Heb. 10:4), but because God has given it as the way (Lev. 17:11). In the NT the cross plainly occupies the central place, and it is insisted upon in season and out of season that this is God's way of bringing salvation. There are many ways of bringing this out. The NT writers do not repeat a stereotyped story. Each writes from his own perspective. But each shows that it is the death of Christ and not any human achievement that brings salvation.

But none of them sets out a theory of atonement. There are many references to the effectiveness of Christ's atoning work, and we are not lacking in information about its many - sidedness. Thus Paul gives a good deal of emphasis to the atonement as a process of justification, and he uses such concepts as redemption, propitiation, and reconciliation. Sometimes we read of the cross as a victory or as an example. It is the sacrifice that makes a new covenant, or simply a sacrifice. There are many ways of viewing it. We are left in no doubt about its efficacy and its complexity. View the human spiritual problem as you will, and the cross meets the need. But the NT does not say how it does so.

Through the centuries there have been continuing efforts to work out how this was accomplished. Theories of the atonement are legion as men in different countries and in different ages have tried to bring together the varied strands of scriptural teaching and to work them into a theory that will help others to understand how God has worked to bring us salvation. The way has been open for this kind of venture, in part at least, because the church has never laid down an official, orthodox view. In the early centuries there were great controversies about the person of Christ and about the nature of the Trinity. Heresies appeared, were thoroughly discussed, and were disowned. In the end the church accepted the formula of Chalcedon as the standard expression of the orthodox faith. But there was no equivalent with the atonement. People simply held to the satisfying truth that Christ saved them by way of the cross and did not argue about how this salvation was effected.

Thus there was no standard formula like the Chalcedonian statement, and this left men to pursue their quest for a satisfying theory in their own way. To this day no one theory of the atonement has ever won universal acceptance. This should not lead us to abandon the task. Every theory helps us understand a little more of what the cross means and, in any case, we are bidden to give a reason of the hope that is in us (1 Pet. 3:15). Theories of the atonement attempt to do just that.

It would be impossible to deal with all the theories of the atonement that have been formulated, but we might well notice that most can be brought under one or the other of three heads: those which see the essence of the matter as the effect of the cross on the believer; those which see it as a victory of some sort; and those which emphasize the Godward aspect. Some prefer a twofold classification, seeing subjective theories as those which emphasize the effect on the believer, in distinction from objective theories which put the stress on what the atonement achieves quite outside the individual.

The Subjective View or Moral Influence Theory

Some form of the subjective or moral view is held widely today, especially among scholars of the liberal school. In all its variations this theory emphasizes the importance of the effect of Christ's cross on the sinner. The view is generally attributed to Abelard, who emphasized the love of God, and is sometimes called the moral influence theory, or exemplarism. When we look at the cross we see the greatness of the divine love. this delivers us from fear and kindles in us an answering love. We respond to love with love and no longer live in selfishness and sin. Other ways of putting it include the view that the sight of the selfless Christ dying for sinners moves us to repentance and faith. If God will do all that for us, we say, then we ought not to continue in sin. So we repent and turn from it and are saved by becoming better people.

The thrust in all this is on personal experience. The atonement, seen in this way, has no effect outside the believer. It is real in the person's experience and nowhere else. This view has been defended in recent times by Hastings Rashdall in The Idea of Atonement (1919).

It should be said in the first instance that there is truth in this theory. Taken by itself it is inadequate, but it is not untrue. It is important that we respond to the love of Christ seen on the cross, that we recognize the compelling force of his example.

Probably the best known and best loved hymn on the passion in modern times is "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross," a hymn that sets forth nothing but the moral view. Every line of it emphasizes the effect on the observer of surveying the wondrous cross. It strikes home with force. What it says is both true and important. It is when it is claimed that this is all that the atonement means that we must reject it. Taken in this way it is open to serious criticism. If Christ was not actually doing something by his death, then we are confronted with a piece of showmanship, nothing more. Someone once said that if he were in a rushing river and someone jumped in to save him, and in the process lost his life, he could recognize the love and sacrifice involved. But if he was sitting safely on the land and someone jumped into the torrent to show his love, he could see no point in it and only lament the senseless act. Unless the death of Christ really does something, it is not in fact a demonstration of love.

The Atonement as Victory

In the early church there seems to have been little attention given to the way atonement works, but when the question was faced, as often as not the answer came in terms of the NT references to redemption. Because of their sin people rightly belong to Satan, the fathers reasoned. But God offered his son as a ransom, a bargain the evil one eagerly accepted. When, however, Satan got Christ down into hell he found that he could not hold him. On the third day Christ rose triumphant and left Satan without either his original prisoners or the ransom he had accepted in their stead. It did not need a profound intellect to see that God must have foreseen this, but the thought that God deceived the devil did not worry the fathers. than Satan as well as stronger. They even worked out illustrations like a fishing trip: The flesh of Jesus was the bait, the deity the fishhook. Satan swallowed the hook along with the bait and was transfixed. This view has been variously called the devil ransom theory, the classical theory, or the fishhook theory of the atonement.

This kind of metaphor delighted some of the fathers, but after Anselm subjected it to criticism it faded from view. It was not until quite recent times that Gustaf Aulen with his Christus Victor showed that behind the grotesque metaphors there is an important truth. In the end Christ's atoning work means victory. The devil and all the hosts of evil are defeated. Sin is conquered. Though this has not always been worked into set theories, it has always been there in our Easter hymns. It forms an important element in Christian devotion and it points to a reality which Christians must not lose.

This view must be treated with some care else we will finish up by saying that God saves simply because he is strong, in other words, in the end might is right. This is an impossible conclusion for anyone who takes the Bible seriously. We are warned that this view, of itself, is not adequate. But combined with other views it must find a place in any finally satisfying theory. It is important that Christ has conquered.

Anselm's Satisfaction Theory

In the eleventh century Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, produced a little book called Cur Deus Homo? ("Why did God become Man?"). In it he subjected the patristic view of a ransom paid to Satan to severe criticism. He saw sin as dishonoring the majesty of God. Now a sovereign may well be ready in his private capacity to forgive an insult or an injury, but because he is a sovereign he cannot. The state has been dishonored in its head. Appropriate satisfaction must be offered. God is the sovereign Ruler of all, and it is not proper for God to remit any irregularity in his kingdom. Anselm argued that the insult sin has given to God is so great that only one who is God can provide satisfaction. But it was done by one who is man, so only man should do so. Thus he concluded that one who is both God and man is needed.

Anselm's treatment of the theme raised the discussion to a much higher plane than it had occupied in previous discussions. Most agree, however, that the demonstration is not conclusive. In the end Anselm makes God too much like a king whose dignity has been affronted. He overlooked the fact that a sovereign may be clement and forgiving without doing harm to his kingdom. A further defect in his view is that Anselm found no necessary connection between Christ's death and the salvation of sinners. Christ merited a great reward because he died when he had no need to (for he had no sin). But he could not receive a reward, for he had everything. To whom then could he more fittingly assign his reward then to those for whom he had died? This makes it more or less a matter of chance that sinners be saved. Not very many these days are prepared to go along with Anselm. But at least he took a very serious view of sin, and it is agreed that without this there will be no satisfactory view.

Penal Substitution

The Reformers agreed with Anselm that sin is a very serious matter, but they saw it as a breaking of God's law rather than as an insult to God's honor. The moral law, they held, is not to be taken lightly. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23), and it is this that is the problem for sinful man. They took seriously the scriptural teachings about the wrath of God and those that referred to the curse under which sinners lay. It seemed clear to them that the essence of Christ's saving work consisted in his taking the sinner's place. In our stead Christ endured the death that is the wages of sin. He bore the curse that we sinners should have borne (Gal. 3:13). The Reformers did not hesitate to speak of Christ as having borne our punishment or as having appeased the wrath of God in our place.

Such views have been widely criticized. In particular it is pointed out that sin is not an external matter to be transferred easily from one person to another and that, while some forms of penalty are transferable (the payment of a fine), others are not (imprisonment, capital punishment). It is urged that this theory sets Christ in opposition to the Father so that it maximizes the love of Christ and minimizes that of the Father. Such criticisms may be valid against some of the ways in which the theory is stated, but they do not shake its essential basis. They overlook the fact that there is a double identification: Christ is one with sinners (the saved are "in" Christ, Rom. 8:1) and he is one with the Father (he and the Father are one, John 10:30; "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself," 2 Cor. 5:19). They also overlook the fact that there is much in the NT that supports the theory. It is special pleading to deny that Paul, for example, puts forward this view. It may need to be carefully stated, but this view still says something important about the way Christ won our salvation.


There is much about sacrifice in the OT and not a little in the NT. Some insist that it is this that gives us the key to understanding the atonement. It is certainly true that the Bible regards Christ's saving act as a sacrifice, and this must enter into any satisfying theory. But unless it is supplemented, it is an explanation that does not explain. The moral view or penal substitution may be right or wrong, but at least they are intelligible. But how does sacrifice save? The answer is not obvious.

Governmental Theory

Hugo Grotius argued that Christ did not bear our punishment but suffered as a penal example whereby the law was honored while sinners were pardoned. His view is called "governmental" because Grotius envisions God as a ruler or a head of government who passed a law, in this instance, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Because God did not want sinners to die, he relaxed that rule and accepted the death of Christ instead. He could have simply forgiven mankind had he wanted to, but that would not have had any value for society. The death of Christ was a public example of the depth of sin and the lengths to which God would go to uphold the moral order of the universe. This view is expounded in great detail in Defensio fidei catholicae de satisfactione Christi adversus F. Socinum (1636).


All the above views, in their own way, recognize that the atonement is vast and deep. There is nothing quite like it, and it must be understood in its own light. The plight of sinful man is disastrous, for the NT sees the sinner as lost, as suffering hell, as perishing, as cast into outer darkness, and more. An atonement that rectifies all this must necessarily be complex. So we need all the vivid concepts: redemption, propitiation, justification, and all the rest. And we need all the theories. Each draws attention to an important aspect of our salvation and we dare not surrender any. But we are small minded sinners and the atonement is great and vast. We should not expect that our theories will ever explain it fully. Even when we put them all together, we will no more than begin to comprehend a little of the vastness of God's saving deed.

L Morris

(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)

D M Baillie, God Was in Christ; K Barth, The Doctrine of Reconciliation; E Brunner, The Mediator; H Bushnell, The Vicarious Sacrifice; J M Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; S Cave, The Doctrine of the Work of Christ; R W Dale, The Atonement; F W Dillistone, The Significance of the Cross; J Denney, The Death of Christ and The Christian Doctrine of Reconciliation; R S Franks, The Work of Christ; P T Forsyth, The Cruciality of the Cross and The work of Christ; L Hodgson, The Doctrine of the Atonement; T H Hughes, The Atonement; J Knox, The Death of Christ; R C Moberly, Atonement and Personality; J Moltmann, The Crucified God; L Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross and The Cross in the NT; R S Paul, The Atonement and the Sacraments; V Taylor, Jesus and His Sacrifice and The Atonement in NT Teaching; L W Grensted, A Short History of the Doctrine of the Atonement; R Wallace, The Atoning Death of Christ.

Doctrine of the Atonement

Catholic Information

The word atonement, which is almost the only theological term of English origin, has a curious history. The verb "atone", from the adverbial phrase "at one" (M.E. at oon), at first meant to reconcile, or make "at one"; from this it came to denote the action by which such reconciliation was effected, e.g. satisfaction for all offense or an injury. Hence, in Catholic theology, the Atonement is the Satisfaction of Christ, whereby God and the world are reconciled or made to be at one. "For God indeed was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). The Catholic doctrine on this subject is set forth in the sixth Session of the Council of Trent, chapter ii. Having shown the insufficiency of Nature, and of Mosaic Law the Council continues:

Whence it came to pass, that the Heavenly Father, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort (2 Corinthians 1, 3), when that blessed fullness of the time was come (Galatians 4:4) sent unto men Jesus Christ, His own Son who had been, both before the Law and during the time of the Law, to many of the holy fathers announced and promised, that He might both redeem the Jews, who were under the Law and that the Gentiles who followed not after justice might attain to justice and that all men might receive the adoption of sons. Him God had proposed as a propitiator, through faith in His blood (Romans 3:25), for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for those of the whole world (I John ii, 2).

More than twelve centuries before this, the same dogma was proclaimed in the words of the Nicene Creed, "who for us men and for our salvation, came down, took flesh, was made man; and suffered. "And all that is thus taught in the decrees of the councils may be read in the pages of the New Testament. For instance, in the words of Our Lord, "even as the Son of man is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a redemption for many" (Matthew 20:28); or of St. Paul, "Because in him, it hath well pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell; and through him to reconcile all things unto himself, making peace through the blood of his cross, both as to the things that are on earth, and the things that are in heaven." (Colossians 1:19-20). The great doctrine thus laid down in the beginning was further unfolded and brought out into clearer light by the work of the Fathers and theologians. And it may be noted that in this instance the development is chiefly due to Catholic speculation on the mystery, and not, as in the case of other doctrines, to controversy with heretics. At first we have the central fact made known in the Apostolic preaching, that mankind was fallen and was raised up and redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ. But it remained for the pious speculation of Fathers and theologians to enter into the meaning of this great truth, to inquire into the state of fallen man, and to ask how Christ accomplished His work of Redemption. By whatever names or figures it may be described, that work is the reversal of the Fall, the blotting out of sin, the deliverance from bondage, the reconciliation of mankind with God. And it is brought to pass by the Incarnation, by the life, the sufferings, and the death of the Divine Redeemer. All this may be summed up in the word Atonement. This, is so to say, the starting point. And herein all are indeed at one. But, when it was attempted to give a more precise account of the nature of the Redemption and the manner of its accomplishment, theological speculation took different courses, some of which were suggested by the various names and figures under which this ineffable mystery is adumbrated in Holy Scripture. Without pretending to give a full history of the discussions, we may briefly indicate some of the main lines on which the doctrine was developed, and touch on the more important theories put forward in explanation of the Atonement.

(a) In any view, the Atonement is founded on the Divine Incarnation. By this great mystery, the Eternal Word took to Himself the nature of man and, being both God and man, became the Mediator between God and men. From this, we have one of the first and most profound forms of theological speculation on the Atonement, the theory which is sometimes described as Mystical Redemption. Instead of seeking a solution in legal figures, some of the great Greek Fathers were content to dwell on the fundamental fact of the Divine Incarnation. By the union of the Eternal Word with the nature of man all mankind was lifted up and, so to say, deified. "He was made man", says St. Athanasius, "that we might be made gods" (De Incarnatione Verbi, 54). "His flesh was saved, and made free the first of all, being made the body of the Word, then we, being concorporeal therewith, are saved by the same (Orat., II, Contra Arianos, lxi). And again, "For the presence of the Saviour in the flesh was the price of death and the saving of the whole creation (Ep. ad Adelphium, vi). In like manner St. Gregory of Nazianzus proves the integrity of the Sacred Humanity by the argument, "That which was not assumed is not healed; but that which is united to God is saved" (to gar aproslepton, atherapeuton ho de henotai to theu, touto kai sozetai). This speculation of the Greek Fathers undoubtedly contains a profound truth which is sometimes forgotten by later authors who are more intent on framing juridical theories of ransom and satisfaction. But it is obvious that this account of the matter is imperfect, and leaves much to be explained. It must be remembered, moreover, that the Fathers themselves do not put this forward as a full explanation. For while many of their utterances might seem to imply that the Redemption was actually accomplished by the union of a Divine Person with the human nature, it is clear from other passages that they do not lose sight of the atoning sacrifice. The Incarnation is, indeed, the source and the foundation of the Atonement, and these profound thinkers have, so to say, grasped the cause and its effects as one vast whole. Hence they look on to the result before staying to consider the means by which it was accomplished.

(b) But something more on this matter had already been taught in the preaching of the Apostles and in the pages of the New Testament. The restoration of fallen man was the work of the Incarnate Word. "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19). But the peace of that reconciliation was accomplished by the death of the Divine Redeemer, "making peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20). This redemption by death is another mystery, and some of the Fathers in the first ages are led to speculate on its meaning, and to construct a theory in explanation. Here the words and figures used in Holy Scripture help to guide the current of theological thought. Sin is represented as a state of bondage or servitude, and fallen man is delivered by being redeemed, or bought with a price. "For you are bought with a great price" (1 Corinthians 6:20). "Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed to God, in thy blood" (Revelation 5:9). Looked at in this light, the Atonement appears as the deliverance from captivity by the payment of a ransom. This view is already developed in the second century. "The mighty Word and true Man reasonably redeeming us by His blood, gave Himself a ransom for those who had been brought into bondage. And since the Apostasy unjustly ruled over us, and, whereas we belonged by nature to God Almighty, alienated us against nature and made us his own disciples, the Word of God, being mighty in all things, and failing not in His justice, dealt justly even with the Apostasy itself, buying back from it the things which were His own" (Irenaeus Aversus Haereses V, i). And St. Augustine says in well-known words: "Men were held captive under the devil and served the demons, but they were redeemed from captivity. For they could sell themselves. The Redeemer came, and gave the price; He poured forth his blood and bought the whole world. Do you ask what He bought? See what He gave, and find what He bought. The blood of Christ is the price. How much is it worth? What but the whole world? What but all nations?" (Enarratio in Psalm xcv, n. 5).

It cannot be questioned that this theory also contains a true principle. For it is founded on the express words of Scripture, and is supported by many of the greatest of the early Fathers and later theologians. But unfortunately, at first, and for a long period of theological history, this truth was somewhat obscured by a strange confusion, which would seem to have arisen from the natural tendency to take a figure too literally, and to apply it in details which were not contemplated by those who first made use of it. It must not be forgotten that the account of our deliverance from sin is set forth in figures. Conquest, captivity, and ransom are familiar facts of human history. Man, having yielded to the temptations of Satan, was like to one overcome in battle. Sin, again, is fitly likened to a state of slavery. And when man was set free by the shedding of Christ's precious Blood, this deliverance would naturally recall (even if it had not been so described in Scripture) the redemption of a captive by the payment of a ransom.

But however useful and illuminating in their proper place, figures of this kind are perilous in the hands of those who press them too far, and forget that they are figures. This is what happened here. When a captive is ransomed the price is naturally paid to the conqueror by whom he is held in bondage. Hence, if this figure were taken and interpreted literally in all its details, it would seem that the price of man's ransom must be paid to Satan. The notion is certainly startling, if not revolting. Even if brave reasons pointed in this direction, we might well shrink from drawing the concluslon. And this is in fact so far from being the case that it seems hard to find any rational explanation of such a payment, or any right on which it could be founded. Yet, strange to say, the bold flight of theological speculation was not checked by these misgivings. In the above-cited passage of St. Irenæus, we read that the Word of God "dealt justly even with the Apostasy itself [i.e. Satan], buying back from it the things which were His own." This curious notion, apparently first mooted by St. Irenæus, was taken up by Origen in the next century, and for about a thousand years it played a conspicuous part in the history of theology. In the hands of some of the later Fathers and medieval writers, it takes various forms, and some of its more repulsive features are softened or modified. But the strange notion of some right, or claim, on the part of Satan is still present. A protest was raised by St. Gregory of Nazianzus in the fourth century, as might be expected from that most accurate of the patristic theologians. But it was not till St. Anselm and Abelard had met it with unanswerable arguments that its power was finally broken. It makes a belated appearance in the pages of Peter Lombard. (c) But it is not only in connection with the theory of ransom that we meet with this notion of "rights" on the part of Satan. Some of the Fathers set the matter in a different aspect. Fallen man, it was said, was justly under the dominion of the devil, in punishment for sin. But when Satan brought suffering and death on the sinless Saviour, he abused his power and exceeded his right, so that he was now justly deprived of his dominion over the captives. This explanation is found especially in the sermons of St. Leo and the "Morals" of St. Gregory the Great. Closely allied to this explanation is the singular "mouse-trap" metaphor of St. Augustine. In this daring figure of speech, the Cross is regarded as the trap in which the bait is set and the enemy is caught. "The Redeemer came and the deceiver was overcome. What did our Redeemer do to our Captor? In payment for us He set the trap, His Cross, with His blood for bait. He [Satan] could indeed shed that blood; but he deserved not to drink it. By shedding the blood of One who was not his debtor, he was forced to release his debtors" (Serm. cxxx, part 2).

(d) These ideas retained their force well into the Middle Ages. But the appearance of St. Anselm's "Cur Deus Homo?" made a new epoch in the theology of the Atonement. It may be said, indeed, that this book marks an epoch in theological literature and doctrinal development. There are not many works, even among those of the greatest teachers, that can compare in this respect with the treatise of St. Anselm. And, with few exceptions, the books that have done as much to influence and guide the growth of theology are the outcome of some great struggle with heresy; while others, again, only summarize the theological learning of the age. But this little book is at once purely pacific and eminently original. Nor could any dogmatic treatise well be more simple and unpretending than this luminous dialogue between the great archbishop and his disciple Boso. There is no parade of learning, and but little in the way of appeal to authorities. The disciple asks and the master answers; and both alike face the great problem before them fearlessly, but at the same time with all due reverence and modesty. Anselm says at the outset that he will not so much show his disciple the truth he needs, as seek it along with him; and that when he says anything that is not confirmed by higher authority, it must be taken as tentative, and provisional. He adds that, though he may in some measure meet the question, one who is wiser could do it better; and that, whatever man may know or say on this subject, there will always remain deeper reasons that are beyond him. In the same spirit he concludes the whole treatise by submitting it to reasonable correction at the hands of others.

It may be safely said that this is precisely what has come to pass. For the theory put forward by Anselm has been modified by the work of later theologians, and confirmed by the testimony of truth. In contrast to some of the other views already noticed, this theory is remarkably clear and symmetrical. And it is certainly more agreeable to reason than the "mouse-trap" metaphor, or the notion of purchase money paid to Satan. Anselm's answer to the question is simply the need of satisfaction of sin. No sin, as he views the matter, can be forgiven without satisfaction. A debt to Divine justice has been incurred; and that debt must needs be paid. But man could not make this satisfaction for himself; the debt is something far greater than he can pay; and, moreover, all the service that he can offer to God is already due on other titles. The suggestion that some innocent man, or angel, might possibly pay the debt incurred by sinners is rejected, on the ground that in any case this would put the sinner under obligation to his deliverer, and he would thus become the servant of a mere creature. The only way in which the satisfaction could be made, and men could be set free from sin, was by the coming of a Redeemer who is both God and man. His death makes full satisfaction to the Divine Justice, for it is something greater than all the sins of all mankind. Many side questions are incidentally treated in the dialogue between Anselm and Boso. But this is the substance of the answer given to the great question, "Cur Deus Homo?". Some modern writers have suggested that this notion of deliverance by means of satisfaction may have a German origin. For in old Teutonic laws a criminal might pay the wergild instead of undergoing punishment. But this custom was not peculiar or to the Germans, as we may see from the Celtic eirig, and, as Riviere has pointed out, there is no need to have recourse to this explanation. For the notion of satisfaction for sin was already present in the whole system of ecclesiastical penance, though it had been left for Anselm to use it in illustration of the doctrine of the Atonement. It may be added that the same idea underlies the old Jewish "sin-offerings" as well as the similar rites that are found in many ancient religions. It is specially prominent in the rites and prayers used on the Day of Atonement. And this, it may be added, is now the ordinary acceptance of the word; to "atone" is to give satisfaction, or make amends, for an offense or an injury.

(e) Whatever may be the reason, it is clear that this doctrine was attracting special attention in the age of St. Anselm. His own work bears witness that it was undertaken at the urgent request of others who wished to have some new light on this mystery. To some extent, the solution offered by Anselm seems to have satisfied these desires, though, in the course of further discussion, an important part of his theory, the absolute necessity of Redemption and of satisfaction for sin, was discarded by later theologians, and found few defenders. But meanwhile, within a few years of the appearance of the "Cur Deus Homo?" another theory on the subject had been advanced by Abelard. In common with St. Anselm, Abelard utterly rejected the old and then still prevailing, notion that the devil had some sort of right over fallen man, who could only be justly delivered by means of a ransom paid to his captor. Against this he very rightly urges, with Anselm, that Satan was clearly guilty of injustice in the matter and could have no right to anything but punishment. But, on the other hand, Abelard was unable to accept Anselm's view that an equivalent satisfaction for sin was necessary, and that this debt could only be paid by the death of the Divine Redeemer. He insists that God could have pardoned us without requiring satisfaction. And, in his view, the reason for the Incarnation and the death of Christ was the pure love of God. By no other means could men be so effectually turned from sin and moved to love God. Abelard's teaching on this point, as on others, was vehemently attacked by St. Bernard. But it should be borne in mind that some of the arguments urged in condemnation of Abelard would affect the position of St. Anselm also, not to speak of later Catholic theology.

In St. Bernard's eyes it seemed that Abelard, in denying the rights of Satan, denied the "Sacrament of Redemption" and regarded the teaching and example of Christ as the sole benefit of the Incarnation. "But", as Mr. Oxenham observes,

he had not said so, and he distinctly asserts in his "Apology" that "the Son of God was incarnate to deliver us from the bondage of sin and yoke of the Devil and to open to us by His death the gate of eternal life." And St. Bernard himself, in this very Epistle, distinctly denies any absolute necessity for the method of redemption chosen, and suggests a reason for it not so very unlike Abelard's. "Perhaps that method is the best, whereby in a land of forgetfulness and sloth we might be more powerfully as vividly reminded of our fall, through the so great and so manifold sufferings of Him who repaired it." Elsewhere when not speaking controversially, he says still more plainly: "Could not the Creator have restored His work without that difficulty? He could, but He preferred to do it at his own cost, lest any further occasion should be given for that worst and most odious vice of ingratitude in man" (Bern., Serm. xi, in Cant.). What is this but to say, with Abelard that "He chose the Incarnation as the most effectual method for eliciting His creature's love?" (The Catholic Doctrine of the Atonement, 85, 86).

(f) Although the high authority of St. Bernard was thus against them, the views of St. Anselm and Abelard, the two men who in different ways were the fathers of Scholasticism, shaped the course of later medieval theology. The strange notion of the rights of Satan, against which they had both protested, now disappears from the pages of our theologians. For the rest, the view which ultimately prevailed may be regarded as a combination of the opinions of Anselm and Abelard. In spite of the objections urged by the latter writer, Anselm's doctrine of Satisfaction was adopted as the basis. But St. Thomas and the other medieval masters agree with Abelard in rejecting the notion that this full Satisfaction for sin was absolutely necessary. At the most, they are willing to admit a hypothetical or conditional necessity for the Redemption by the death of Christ. The restoration of fallen man was a work of God's free mercy and benevolence. And, even on the hypothesis that the loss was to be repaired, this might have been brought about in many and various ways. The sin might have been remitted freely, without any satisfaction at all, or some lesser satisfaction, however imperfect in itself, might have been accepted as sufficient. But on the hypothesis that God as chosen to restore mankind, and at the same time, to require full satisfaction as a condition of pardon and deliverance, nothing less than the Atonement made by one who was God as well as man could suffice as satisfaction for the offense against the Divine Majesty. And in this case Anselm's argument will hold good. Mankind cannot be restored unless God becomes man to save them.

In reference to many points of detail the Schoolmen, here as elsewhere, adopted divergent views. One of the chief questions at issue was the intrinsic adequacy of the satisfaction offered by Christ. On this point the majority, with St. Thomas at their head, maintained that, by reason of the infinite dignity of the Divine Person, the least action or suffering of Christ had an infinite value, so that in itself it would suffice as an adequate satisfaction for the sins of the whole world. Scotus and his school, on the other hand, disputed this intrinsic infinitude, and ascribed the all-sufficiency of the satisfaction to the Divine acceptation. As this acceptation was grounded on the infinite dignity of the Divine Person, the difference was not so great as might appear at first sight. But, on this point at any rate the simpler teaching of St. Thomas is more generally accepted by later theologians. Apart from this question, the divergent views of the two schools on the primary motive of the Incarnation naturally have some effect on the Thomist and Scotist theology of the Atonement. On looking back at the various theories noticed so far, it will be seen that they are not, for the most part, mutually exclusive, but may be combined and harmonized. It may be said, indeed, that they all help to bring out different aspects of that great doctrine which cannot find adequate expression in any human theory. And in point of fact it will generally be found that the chief Fathers and Schoolmen, though they may at times lay more stress on some favourite theory of their own, do not lose sight of the other explanations.

Thus the Greek Fathers, who delight in speculating on the Mystical Redemption by the Incarnation, do not omit to speak also of our salvation by the shedding of blood. Origen, who lays most stress on the deliverance by payment of a ransom, does not forget to dwell on the need of a sacrifice for sin. St. Anselm again, in his "Meditations", supplements the teaching set forth in his "Cur Deus Homo?" Abelard, who might seem to make the Atonement consist in nothing more than the constraining example of Divine Love has spoken also of our salvation by the Sacrifice of the Cross, in passages to which his critics do not attach sufficient importance. And, as we have seen his great opponent, St. Bernard, teaches all that is really true and valuable in the theory which he condemned. Most, if not all, of these theories had perils of their own, if they were isolated and exaggerated. But in the Catholic Church there was ever a safeguard against these dangers of distortion. As Mr. Oxenham says very finely,

The perpetual priesthood of Christ in heaven, which occupies a prominent place in nearly all the writings we have examined, is even more emphatically insisted upon by Origen. And this deserves to be remembered, because it is a part of the doctrine which has been almost or altogether dropped out of many Protestant expositions of the Atonement, whereas those most inclining among Catholics to a merely juridical view of the subject have never been able to forget the present and living reality of a sacrifice constantly kept before their eyes, as it were, in the worship which reflects on earth the unfailing liturgy of heaven. (p. 38)

The reality of these dangers and the importance of this safeguard may be seen in the history of this doctrine since the age of Reformation. As we have seen, its earlier development owed comparatively little to the stress of controversy with the heretics. And the revolution of the sixteenth century was no exception to the rule. For the atonement was not one of the subjects directly disputed between the Reformers and their Catholic opponents. But from its close connection with the cardinal question of Justification, this doctrine assumed a very special prominence and importance in Protestant theology and practical preaching. Mark Pattison tells us in his "Memoirs" that he came to Oxford with his "home Puritan religion almost narrowed to two points, fear of God's wrath and faith in the doctrine of the Atonement". And his case was possibly no exception among Protestant religionists. In their general conception on the atonement the Reformers and their followers happily preserved the Catholic doctrine, at least in its main lines. And in their explanation of the merit of Christ's sufferings and death we may see the influence of St. Thomas and the other great Schoolmen. But, as might be expected from the isolation of the doctrine and the loss of other portions of Catholic teaching, the truth thus preserved was sometimes insensibly obscured or distorted. It will be enough to note here the presence of two mistaken tendencies.

The first is indicated in the above words of Pattison in which the Atonement is specially connected with the thought of the wrath of God. It is true of course that sin incurs the anger of the Just Judge, and that this is averted when the debt due to Divine Justice is paid by satisfaction. But it must not be thought that God is only moved to mercy and reconciled to us as a result of this satisfaction. This false conception of the Reconciliation is expressly rejected by St. Augustine (In Joannem, Tract. cx, section 6). God's merciful love is the cause, not the result of that satisfaction.

The second mistake is the tendency to treat the Passion of Christ as being literally a case of vicarious punishment. This is at best a distorted view of the truth that His Atoning Sacrifice took the place of our punishment, and that He took upon Himself the sufferings and death that were due to our sins.

This view of the Atonement naturally provoked a reaction. Thus the Socinians were led to reject the notion of vicarious suffering and satisfaction as inconsistent with God's justice and mercy. And in their eyes the work of Christ consisted simply in His teaching by word and example. Similar objections to the juridical conception of the Atonement led to like results in the later system of Swedenborg. More recently Albrecht Ritschl, who has paid special attention to this subject, has formulated a new theory on somewhat similar lines. His conception of the Atonement is moral and spiritual, rather than juridical and his system is distinguished by the fact that he lays stress on the relation of Christ to the whole Christian community. We cannot stay to examine these new systems in detail. But it may be observed that the truth which they contain is already found in the Catholic theology of the Atonement. That great doctrine has been faintly set forth in figures taken from man's laws and customs. It is represented as the payment of a price, or a ransom, or as the offering of satisfaction for a debt. But we can never rest in these material figures as though they were literal and adequate. As both Abelard and Bernard remind us, the Atonement is the work of love. It is essentially a sacrifice, the one supreme sacrifice of which the rest were but types and figures. And, as St. Augustine teaches us, the outward rite of Sacrifice is the sacrament, or sacred sign, of the invisible sacrifice of the heart. It was by this inward sacrifice of obedience unto death, by this perfect love with which He laid down his life for His friends, that Christ paid the debt to justice, and taught us by His example, and drew all things to Himself; it was by this that He wrought our Atonement and Reconciliation with God, "making peace through the blood of His Cross".

Publication information Written by W.H. Kent. Transcribed by Joseph P. Thomas. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. Published 1907. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York


Jewish Viewpoint Information

The setting at one, or reconciliation, of two estranged parties-translation used in the Authorized Version for "kapparah," "kippurim." The root ("kipper"), to make atonement, is explained by W. Robertson Smith ("Old Testament in the Jewish Church," i. 439), after the Syriac, as meaning "to wipe out." This is also the view taken by Zimmern ("Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Babylonischen Religion," 1899, p. 92), who claims Babylonian origin for both the term and the rite. Wellhausen ("Composition des Hextateuchs," p. 335) translates "kapparah" as if derived from "kapper" (to cover). The verb, however, seems to be a derivative from the noun "kofer" (ransom) and to have meant originally "to atone."

Original Meaning.

Just as by old Teutonic custom the owner of a man or beast that had been killed was to be pacified by the covering up of the corpse with grain or gold ("Wergeld") by the offender (Grimm, "Deutsche Rechts-Alterthümer," p. 740), so Abimelech gives to Abraham a thousand pieces of silver as a "covering of the eyes," in order that his wrongdoing may be over-looked (Gen. xx. 16, R. V.; A. V., incorrectly "he" for "it"). "Of whose hand have I received any [kofer] bribe [A. V., "taken a ransom"] to blind my eyes therewith?" says Samuel (I Sam. xii. 3).

"Kofer" was the legal term for the propitiatory gift or ransom in case a man was killed by a goring ox: "If there be laid on him a [kofer] ransom [A. V., inaccurately, "a sum of money"] (Ex. xxi. 30); but this "kofer nefesh" (ransom for the life) was not accepted in the case of murder (Num. xxxv. 31, 32). The dishonored husband "will not regard any ransom" ("kofer"; Prov. vi. 35). No man can give a kofer for his brother to ransom him from impending death (Ps. xlix. 8, Hebr.; A. V. 7). At the taking of the census "they shall give every man a ransom for his soul unto the Lord . . . half a shekel" (Ex. xxx. 12, Hebr.). Similarly, Jacob, in order to make his peace with his brother Esau, says, "I will appease ["akapperah"] his [angry] face with the present" (Gen. xxxii. 21, Hebr. [A. V. 20]); that is, "I will offer a kofer." When the blood of the murdered Gibeonites cries to heaven for vengeance, David says: "Wherewith shall I make atonement ["bammah akapper"]?" that is, "With what kind of kofer shall I make atonement?" (II Sam. xxi. 3). "The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will [by some propitiatory offering or kofer] pacify it" (Prov. xvi. 14). Every sacrifice may be considered thus as a kofer, in the original sense a propitiatory gift; and its purpose is to "make atonement ["le kapper"] for the people" (Lev. ix. 7, x. 17).

Connection with Sacrifice.

In the priestly laws, the priest who offers the sacrifice as kofer is, as a rule, the one who makes the Atonement (Lev. i.-v., xvi., etc.); only occasionally is it the blood of the sacrifice (Lev. xvii. 11), or the money offering ("kesef kippurim," Ex. xxx. 15, 16; Num. xxxi. 50), that makes Atonement for the soul; while the act of Atonement is intended to cleanse the person from his guilt ("meḥaṭato," Lev. iv. 26, v. 6-10).

In the prophetic language, however, the original idea of the kofer offering had become lost, and, instead of the offended person (God), the offense or guilt became the object of the Atonement (compare Isa. vi. 7, Hebr.: "Thy sin ["tekuppar"] is atoned for [A. V., "purged"]"; Isa. xxvii. 9, Hebr.: "By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be atoned for [A. V., "purged"]"; I Sam. iii. 14: "The iniquity of Eli's house shall not be atoned for [A. V., "purged"] with sacrifice nor offering for ever"; Prov. xvi. 6: "By mercy and truth iniquity is atoned for [A. V., "purged"]"); and, consequently, instead of the priest as the offerer of the ransom, God Himself became the one who atoned (Deut. xxi. 8, "Kapper le'amka Israel," "Atone thou for thy people Israel" [Driver, Commentary, "Clear thou thy people"; A. V., "Be merciful, O Lord"]; compare Deut. xxxii. 43, "And he will atone for the land of his people [Driver, Commentary, "Clear from guilt"; A. V., "will be merciful unto his land, and to his people"]; see also Jer. xviii. 23; Ezek. xvi. 63; Ps. lxv. 4, lxxviii. 38, lxxix. 9; II Chron. xxx. 18).

Atonement Idea Spiritualized.

Thus there is in Scripture a successive spiritualization of the idea of Atonement. Following the common view, David says (I Sam. xxvi. 19): "If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering [to appease the anger of God]." But while this cruder view of sacrifice underlies the form of worship among all Semites (see Robertson Smith, "Religion of the Semites," pp. 378-388), the idea of Atonement in the priestly Torah is based upon a realizing sense of sin as a breaking-away from God, and of the need of reconciliation with Him of the soul that has sinned. Every sin-whether it be "ḥeṭ." a straying away from the path of right, or "'avon," crookedness of conduct, or "pesha',"-rebellious transgression-is aseverance of the bond of life which unites the soul with its Maker. "The soul that sinneth, it shall die," says Ezek. xviii. 20 (compare Deut. xxx. 15-19; Ps. i. 6; Jer. ii. 13). It is the feeling of estrangement from God that prompts the sinner to offer expiatory sacrifices-not only to appease God's anger by a propitiatory gift, but also to place his soul in a different relation to Him. For this reason the blood, which to the ancients was the life-power or soul, forms the essential part of the sacrificial Atonement (see Lev. xvii. 11). This is the interpretation given by all the Jewish commentators, ancient and modern, on the passage; compare also Yoma 5a; Zeb. 6a, = "There is no Atonement except with blood," with the identical words in Heb. ix. 22, R. V.: "Apart from shedding of blood there is no remission [of sins]." The life of the victim was offered, not, as has been said, as a penalty in a juridical sense to avert Heaven's punishment, not to have man's sins laid upon it as upon the scapegoat of the Day of Atonement, and thus to have the animal die in his place, as Ewald thinks ("Alterthümer," p. 68), but as a typical ransom of "life by life"; the blood sprinkled by the priest upon the altar serving as the means of a renewal of man's covenant of life with God (see Trumbull, "The Blood Covenant," p. 247). In Mosaic ritualism the atoning blood thus actually meant the bringing about of a reunion with God, the restoration of peace between the soul and its Maker. Therefore, the expiatory sacrifice was accompanied by a confession of the sins for which it was designed to make Atonement (see Lev. v. 5, xvi. 21; Num. v. 7; compare Maimonides, "Yad," Teshubah, i. 1): "no atonement without confession of sin as the act of repentance," or as Philo ("De Victimis," xi.) says, "not without the sincerity of his repentance, not by words merely, but by works, the conviction of his soul which healed him from disease and restores him to good health."

Atonement for the Whole People.

The sacrificial Atonement, based as it was on the symbolic offering of life for life, assumed a more awful or somber character when a whole community was concerned in the blood-guiltiness to be atoned for. While, in the time of David, people in their terror had recourse to the pagan rite of human sacrifice (II Sam. xxi. 1-9), the Deuteronomic law prescribed in such a case a mild and yet rather uncommon form of expiation of the murder; namely, the breaking of the neck of a heifer as a substitute for the unknown murderer (Deut. xxi.1-9). To the same class belongs the goat in the annual Atonement ritual (Lev. xvi. 7-22), which was to carry away all the sins of the children of Israel into an uninhabited land and was sent out to Azazel in the wilderness, while another goat was killed as usual, and its blood sprinkled to make Atonement for the sanctuary, cleansing it of the uncleanness of all the transgressions of the children of Israel. In the case of the one goat, the doom emanating from unknown and therefore unexpiated sins of the people was to be averted; in the other case the wrath of God at the defilement of His sanctuary -which often implied the penalty of death (Num. i. 53)-was to be pacified. The very idea of God's holiness, which made either the approach to Mt. Sinai, the seat of God (Ex. xix. 12), the Ark (II Sam. vi. 7), or even the mere sight of God (Isa. vi. 5; Judges xiii. 22), bring death, rendered the ritual of the Day of Atonement the necessary culmination of the whole priestly system of expiation of sin.

Repentance and Atonement.

Yet, while the sacrificial rites were the only means of impressing upon the people God's holiness and the dreadful consequence of man's sinfulness, the idea of the Atonement assumed a far deeper and more spiritual aspect in the lives and teachings of the Prophets. Neither Hosea, Amos, and Micah, nor Isaiah recognizes the need of any means of reconciliation with God after estrangement by sin, other than repentance. "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity and receive us graciously: so will we render as bullocks the offerings of our lips" (Hosea xiv. 2, Hebr.; compare Amos v. 22-24; Isa. i. 13-17, and the well-known passage, Micah vi. 6-8): "Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? . . . Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?").


But the prophet Ezekiel-a priest and therefore more deeply penetrated with the sense of sin and purity than other prophets-is not satisfied with the mere negation of ritualism. Repudiating, like Jeremiah, the idea held by his contemporaries that men undergo punishment on account of their fathers' sins, he lays the greater stress on the fact that the fruit of sin is death, and exhorts the people to cast away their sin and, returning to God, to live (Ezek. xviii. 4-32). For him Atonement is wrought by acquiring "a new heart and a new spirit" (ib. 31). In striking contrast with the other prophets, Ezekiel combines the belief in a complicated atoning ritual (as mapped out in Ezek. xl.-xlvi.) with the prophetic, hope in the redeeming power of God's spirit which shall cleanse the people from their impurities and endow them with "a new heart and a new spirit" (xxxvi. 26).


In no one, however, does the most elaborate ritualism of the Atonement sacrifice appear so closely intertwined with the profoundest spiritual conception of God's atoning powers as in Moses the lawgiver himself. When the worship of the Golden Calf had provoked God's wrath to such a degree that He said to Moses, "Let me alone. . . . that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation" (Ex. xxxii. 10), the latter, desirous of making an Atonement for their transgression, asked the Lord to forgive the people's sin, or else to blot Moses' own name out of His book (the book of life); and he persisted in imploring God's pardon even after He had said, "Whosoever hath sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book," until finally, in answer to Moses' entreaty, the full glory of God, His compassionate mercy, His long-suffering and forgiving love, were revealed and Moses' prayer for the people's pardon was granted (Ex. xxxiv. 1-9;Num. xiv. 17-20). There Moses' own self-abnegating love, which willingly offered up his life for his people, disclosed the very qualities of God as far as they touch both the mystery of sin and the divine forgiveness, and this became the key to the comprehension of the Biblical idea of Atonement. The existence of sin would be incompatible with a good and holy God, but for His long-suffering, which waits for the sinner's return, and His condoning love, which turns man's failings into endeavors toward a better life. Each atoning sacrifice, therefore, must be understood both as an appeal to God's forgiving mercy, and as a monition to the sinner to repentance. "Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. lv. 7).

Substitutes for Sacrifice.

It was quite natural that, during the Exile, when no sacrifice could be offered, other means of obtaining forgiveness and peace should be resorted to. First of all, prayer rose in value and prominence. As Moses interceded for his people, praying and fasting for forty days and forty nights in order to obtain God's pardon (Ex. xxxii. 30; Deut. ix. 18, 25), so did every prophet possess the power of obtaining God's pardon by his prayer. Abraham, as a prophet, prayed for the life of Abimelech (Gen. xx. 7); Pharaoh, after a confession of his sin, asked Moses and Aaron to pray to God for the withdrawal of the plague of hail (Ex. ix. 27, 28); acknowledging their sin, the people ask Samuel to intercede for them (I Sam. xii. 19); and Jeremiah is expressly warned: "Pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them" (Jer. xi. 14; compare ib. xv. 1). See Prayer.

Fasting, Almsgiving, Suffering.

The great dedication prayer of King Solomon requires on the part of the sinner only a turning of the face in prayer in the direction of the Temple in order to meet with a response from heaven and with forgiveness of his sin (I Kings viii. 30, 33, 35, 48-50). The very idea of sacrifice is spurned by the Psalmist (Ps. l. 8-14, li. 12-20 [A. V. 11-19]): "Sacrifice and offering thou dost not desire" (xl. 7 [A. V. 6]); "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit" (li. 18 [A. V. 17]). Throughout the Psalms sincere repentance and prayer form the essentials to Atonement. Prayer is "as incense" and "the evening sacrifice" (Ps. cxli. 2); with the Lord is forgiveness, "He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities" (Ps. cxxx. 4-8). Fasting especially appears to have taken the place of sacrifice (Isa. lviii. 1-3; Zach. vii. 5). Another means of Atonement in place of sacrifice is offered to King Nebuchadnezzar by Daniel: "Break off thy sins by almsgiving ["ẓedakah" (A. V., "righteousness")], and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor" (Dan. iv. 24, Hebr. [A. V. 27]). Most efficacious seemed to be the atoning power of suffering experienced by the righteous during the Exile. This is the idea underlying the description of the suffering servant of God in Isa. liii. 4, 12, Hebr.:

"The man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. . . he hath borne our pains [A. V., "griefs"], and carried our sorrows. . . . But he was wounded for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities . . ." "The chastisement for [A. V., "of"] our peace was upon him; and with his stripes were we [A. V., "we are"] healed." "All we like sheep had [A. V., "have"] gone astray; we had [A. V., "have"] turned every one to his own way."

"And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

"He was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken." "He bare the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors."

Post-Biblical Atonement.

Whoever may have formed the subject of this tragic song-whether Zerubbabel or some other martyr of the Babylonian Exile-the seer, in embodying it in his message of comfort to his people, desired to assure them that of greater atoning power than all the Temple sacrifices was the suffering of the elect ones who were to be servants and witnesses of the Lord (Isa. xlii. 1-4, xlix. 1-7, l. 6). This idea of the atoning power of the suffering and death of the righteous finds expression also in IV Macc. vi. 27, xvii. 21-23; M. Ḳ. 28a; Pesiḳ. xxvii. 174b; Lev. R. xx.; and formed the basis of Paul's doctrine of the atoning blood of Christ (Rom. iii. 25). It was the inspiration of the heroic martyrdom of the Ḥasidim or Essenes (Ps. xxix. 2, cxvi. 15; Philo, "Quod Omnis Probus Liber," § xiii.). The principle of Atonement by sacrificial blood was, on the whole, adhered to during the second Temple. Job's intercession on behalf of his friends is accompanied by their burnt offering, which is to atone for their sins (Job xlii. 8; compare i. 5). In the Book of Jubilees Noah and Abraham make Atonement for the earth and for man by means of sacrificial blood (vi. 2, vii. 3, xvi. 22). In Sibyllines iii. 626 et seq., the heathen are told to offer hecatombs of bulls and rams to obtain God's pardon for their sins (compare Ps. lxxvi. 12; Isa. lvi. 7); but in Sibyllines iv. 29, 161, the Essene view, deprecating sacrifice, seems to be expressed. Nevertheless, the conception of Atonement underwent a great change. The men of the Great Synagogue-disciples of the Prophets and imbued with the spirit of the Psalms-had made prayer an essential element of the Temple service; and whereas the Ḥasidean liturgy, accentuating divine forgiveness and human repentance, took little notice of sacrifice, the Levites' song and the prayers introduced as parts of the worship lent to the whole sacrificial service a more symbolic character. Accordingly, each of the two lambs ("kebasim") offered every morning and evening as a burnt-offering (Num. xxviii. 3, 4) was declared by the school of Shammai to be "kobesh," intended "to subdue" the sins of Israel (see Micah vii. 19: "Yikbosh 'avonotenu" = "He will subdue our iniquities," A. V.) during the year until the Day of Atonement should do its atoning work. By the school of Hillel the lamb was to be "kobes," "to wash Israel clean" from sin; see Isa. i. 18; Jer. ii. 22; Pesiḳ. vi. 61b; Pesiḳ. R. 16 (ed. Friedmann, p. 84) and 81, p. 195; and more especially the notes by Buber and Friedmann, ad loc. Compare also the expression "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John i. 29). "The morning sacrifice atoned for the sins committed during the previous night, the afternoon sacrifice for the sins committed in the daytime" (Tan., Pinḥas, 12).

The whole idea of sin was, in fact, deepened. It was regarded rather as a breaking-away from theoriginal sinless state of man as the child of God-which state must be restored-than as a wrong committed against God needing covering up. The expressions "temimim" (spotless) and "ben shanah" (of the first year) (Num. xxviii. 3), suggested the thought that sin-laden man should become "spotless like a child of one year" (Pesiḳ. R. l.c.; compare Shab. 89b). Of course, as a symbolic rite, this mode of cleansing oneself from sin could be, and actually was, replaced by daily baptism and fasting such as were practised by the Ḥasidim-those heroes of prayer who in time of national distress made intercession for the people far more effectively than did the priests in the Temple (Josephus, "Ant." xiv. 2, § 1; xviii. 8, § 4; compare Ta'anit 19a, 20a, 23a). Still the words of Simon the Just, "The world rests on the Law, worship, and works of benevolence" (Ab. i. 2), retained their validity likewise for the Ḥasidim, who felt the need of an atoning sacrifice (Ned. 10a; Ker. vi. 3). It was especially owing to the assistance offered by the "ma'amadot," the chosen representatives of the people, with their fasts and prayers, that the daily sacrifice assumed a more spiritual character, so that to it was applied the passage (Jer. xxxiii. 25): "If my covenant be not maintained day and night [by the service] I would not have made the ordinances of heaven and earth" (Meg. 31b; Ta'anit 27b).

After the Fall of the Temple.

The cessation of sacrifice, in consequence of the destruction of the Temple, came, therefore, as a shock to the people. It seemed to deprive them of the divine Atonement. Hence many turned ascetics, abstaining from meat and wine (Tosef., Soṭah, xv. 11; Ab. R. N. iv.); and Joshua ben Hananiah, who cried out in despair, "Wo unto us! What shall atone for us?" only expressed the sentiment of all his contemporaries (IV Esd. ix. 36: "We are lost on account of our sins"). It was then that Johanan b. Zakkai, pointing to Hosea vi. 6 (R. V.), "I desire mercy and not sacrifice," to Prov. xvi. 6, "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged [atoned for]," and to Ps. lxxxix. 3 (A. V. 2), "The world is built upon mercy," declared works of benevolence to have atoning powers as great as those of sacrifice.

Christian Idea of Atonement.

This view, however, did not solve satisfactorily for all the problem of sin-the evil rooted in man from the very beginning, from the fall of Adam (IV Esd. iii. 20, viii. 118). Hence a large number of Jews accepted the Christian faith in the Atonement by the blood "shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. xxvi. 28; Heb. x. 12; Col. i. 20) or in Jesus as "the Lamb of God" (John i. 29; Apoc. of John vii. 14, and elsewhere). It was perhaps in opposition to this movement that the Jewish teachers, after the hope for the rebuilding of the Temple in the second century had ended in failure and wo, strove to develop and deepen the Atonement idea. R. Akiba, in direct opposition to the Christian Atonement by the blood of Jesus, addressed his brethren thus: "Happy are ye, Israelites. Before whom do you cleanse yourselves, and who cleanses you? Your Father in heaven; for it is said: 'I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness . . . will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you'" (Ezek. xxxvi. 26); and again it is said that the Lord, "the hope of Israel" (Jer. xiv. 8), is also a "fountain of water" (a play on the Hebrew word "miḳweh"). "As the fountain of water purifies the unclean, so does God purify Israel" (Yoma viii. 9). This doctrine, which does away with all mediatorship of either saint, high priest, or savior, became the leading idea of the Jewish Atonement.

Elements of Atonement.

Accordingly, Atonement in Jewish theology as developed by the Rabbis of the Talmud, has for its constituent elements: (a) on the part of God, fatherly love and forgiving mercy; (b) on the part of man, repentance and reparation of wrong. The following exposition will serve to enlighten the reader on these elements:

(a) While God's quality of justice ("middat hadin"), which punishes the wrong-doing, would leave no hope for man, since "there is not a righteous man upon earth that doeth good and sinneth not" (Eccl. vii. 20, R. V.), God's quality of mercy ("middat haraḥamin") has from the very beginning provided repentance as the means of salvation (Gen. R. i, xii.; Pesiḳ. xxv. 158b; Pesiḳ. R. 44; Pes. 54a.) "Thou hast mercy upon all; thou condonest the sins of men in order that they should amend" (Wisdom xi. 23). "Wherever there are sins and righteous deeds set against each other in the scale of justice, God inclines it toward mercy"(Pesiḳ. xxvi. 167a).

Divine Mercy.

Far from being merely judicial compensation for an outward act, as Weber ("System der Alt-Synagogalen Theologie," pp. 252, 300-304) asserts, the divine mercy is expressly represented by Hillel as working in favor of pardoning those who have no merit: "He who is plenteous in mercy turns the scale of judgment toward mercy" (Tosef., Sanh. xiii. 3; R. H. 17a). This quality of mercy is sure to prevail as soon as it is appealed to by the mention of the thirteen attributes with which the Lord appeared to Moses in response to his prayer for forgiveness after the sin of the Golden Calf (R. H. 17b). No matter how vile the sinner-be he as wicked as Manasseh or as Ahab-the gate of repentance is open to him (Pesiḳ. xxv. 160b, 162a).(Pesiḳ. xxv. 158b; Yer. Mak. ii. 31d).

"Human Wisdom, when asked, 'What shall be done with the sinner?' replieth, 'Evil pursueth sinners' (Prov. xiii. 21). Prophecy, when asked, 'What shall be done with the sinner?' replieth, 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die' (Ezek. xviii. 4). The Law, when asked, 'What shall be done with the sinner?' replieth, 'Let him bring a guilt-offering and the priest shall atone for him' (Lev. i. 4 [Hebr.]). God himself, when asked, 'What shall be done with the sinner?' replieth, 'Let him repent, and he will be atoned for; was it not said: "Good and upright is the Lord: therefore will he teach sinners in the way of repentance" (Psalms xxv. 8). For, my children, what do I require of you? "Seek me and live"'"

Upon these ideas, which can be traced through the entire Apocryphal literature, was based the liturgy of the fast-days, and that of the Day of Atonement in particular; they are probably best expressed in the Ne'ilah prayer of the latter, which, going much further back than the second century (seeYoma 87b, where Rab of Babylonia and R. Johanan of Palestine refer to some portions of it), contains such sentences as the following:

"Thou offerest thy hand to transgressors, and Thy right hand is stretched out to receive the repentant" (Pes. 119a). "Not in reliance upon our merits do we lay our supplications before Thee, O Lord of all the world, but trusting in Thy great mercy. Thou dost not find delight in the perdition of the world, but Thou hast pleasure in the return of the wicked that they may live."

The saying of the Rabbis, "Higher is the station of the sinner who repenteth than that of him who has never sinned" (Ber. 34b; see Pes. 119a; Luke xv. 10), emanates from the same principle of God's redeeming grace:(Pesiḳ. ib. 162b).

"God says, 'Open for me a gate no wider than a needle's eye, and I will open for you a gate through which camps and fortifications can pass'" (Pesiḳ. xxv. 163b). "When the angels wanted to shut the windows of heaven against the prayer of Menasseh, saying, 'Can a man who set an idol in the Temple repent?' God said, 'If I receive him not in his repentance, I shut the door upon all penitents'; and He bored a hole under His throne of Glory to hear his supplication"


(b) On the part of man Atonement is obtained in the first place by repentance, which consists of an outward Confession Of Sins ("widdui," Lev. v. 5; xvi. 21) prescribed for the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Yoma 36b), and for the criminal before his execution, to expiate his sins (Sanh. vi. 2); and recited on penitential and fast days and by proselytes at the time of their admission into the Jewish fold (see "Prayers of Asenath," xiii.-xiv.) also by the dying ("Ebel Zuṭṭarti," in Brüll's "Jahrb." i. 11). This is to be the expression of self-reproach, shame, and contrition. "They must feel shame throughout their whole soul and change their ways; reproaching themselves for their errors and openly confessing all their sins with purified souls and minds, so as to exhibit sincerity of conscience, and having also their tongues purified so as to produce improvement in their hearers" (Philo, "De Execratione," viii.). The verse, "He who sacrifices thank-offerings [A. V., "praise"] glorifies me" (Ps. 1. 23), is taken by the Rabbis as signifying, "He who sacrifices his evil desire while offering his confession of sin ["zobeaḥ todah"] honors God more than if he were praising Him in the world that now is and in the world to come" (Sanh. 43b). "He who feels bitter shame and compunction over his sins is sure of obtaining pardon" (Ber. 12b; Hag. 5a).

Reparation of Wrong.

But the main stress is laid upon the undoing of the wrong done. "No sin that still cleaves to the hand of the sinner can be atoned for; it is as if a man would cleanse himself in the water while holding the contaminating object in his hand; therefore it is said, 'He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy" (Prov. xxviii. 13; Ta'anit 16a). If a man steal a beam and use it in building, he must tear down the building in order to return the stolen thing to its owner: thus of the men of Nineveh it is said, "Let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in [cleaves to] their hands" (Jonah iii. 8; Yer. Ta'anit ii. 65b; Bab. B. Ḳ. 66b). Further, repentance consists in abandoning the old ways, and in a change of heart; for it is said "Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God" (Joel ii. 13); that is to say, "If you tear your heart, you need not tear your garments over a loss of sons and daughters" (Pesiḳ. xxv. 161b; Yer. Ta'anit, l.c.). "They poured out their hearts like water before God" (Yer. Ta'anit ii. 65d). "He who says, 'I will sin and repent; I will sin again and repent again,' will never be allowed time to repent" (Yoma viii. 9). Repentance rests on selfhumiliation. "Adam was too proud to humiliate himself, and was therefore driven from Paradise" (Num. R. xiii. 3). "Cain who humbled himself was pardoned" (Pesiḳ. xxv. 160ab; Gen. R. xi., xxii.). "Great is the power of repentance; for it reaches up to the throne of God; it brings healing (Hosea xiv. 5 [A. V. 4]); it turns sins resulting from ill-will into mere errors (according to Hosea xiv, 2 [A. V. 1]); nay, into incentives to meritorious conduct" (Yoma 86ab). "He who sincerely repents is doing as much as he who builds temple and altar and brings all the sacrifices" (Lev. R. vii.; Sanh. 43b).

Prayer, Fasting, and Charity.

Hand in hand with repentance goes prayer. "It takes the place of sacrifice" (Pesiḳ. xxv. 165b, according to Hosea xiv. 3 [A. V. 2]). When God appeared to Moses after the sin of the Golden Calf, He taught him how to offer prayer on behalf of the sinladen community (R. H. 17b). That prayer is the true service ('Abodah) is learned from Dan. iv. 24, there having been no other service in Babylonia (Pirḳe R. El. xvi.; Ab. R. N. iv.). "As the gates of repentance are always open like the sea, so are [holds R. 'Anan] the gates of prayer" (Pesiḳ. xxv. 157b).

But repentance and prayer are as a rule combined with fasting as a token of contrition, as is learned from the action of King Ahab recounted in I Kings xxi. 27, of the men of Nineveh referred to in Jonah iii. 7, and of Adam in Vita Adæ et Evæ, 6; Pirḳe R. El. xx.; 'Er. 18b. Fasting was regarded like "offering up the blood and fat of the animal life upon the altar of God" (Ber. 17a; compare Pesiḳ., ed. Buber, p. 165b, note). With these is, as a rule, connected charity, which is "more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice" (Prov. xxi. 3). On every fastday charity was given to the poor (Sanh. 35a; Ber. 6b). "Prayer, charity, and repentance, these three together, avert the impending doom" (Yer. Ta'anit ii. 65b). "Repentance and works of benevolence are together the paracletes [pleaders] for man before God's throne (Shab. 32a), and a shield against punishment" (Abot iv. 11).

Suffering as Means of Atonement.

Another thing considered by the Rabbis as a means of Atonement is suffering. Suffering is more apt than sacrifice to win God's favor and to atone for man (Mek., Yitro, 10; Sifre, Deut. 32; Ber. 5a). Poverty also, in so far as it reduces man's physical strength, has atoning power (Pesiḳ. xxv. 165a). Similar power was ascribed to exile (Sanh. 37b); also to the destruction of the Temple, which was held as a security-a play on the word -for Israel's life (Gen. R. xlii.; Ex. R. xxxi.; Lev. R. xi.). Above all, death atones for sin (Sifre, Num. 112; Mek., Yitro, 7). "Let my death make atonement for all my sins," say men when dying or in peril (Ber. 60a; Sanh. vi. 2). Particularly the deathof the righteous atones for the sins of the people. "Like the sanctuary, he is taken as security ["mashkon"] for the life of the community" (Tan., Wayaḳhel 9; Ex. R. xxxv. 4; Lev. R. ii.).

Suffering or Death of the Righteous.

That the death of the righteous atones is learned from II Sam. xxi. 14, which says that after the burial of Saul and Jonathan "God was entreated for the land" (Pesiḳ. xxvii. 174b). "Where there are no righteous men in a generation to atone for the people, innocent school-children are taken away" (Shab. 33b). So also does the suffering of the righteous atone; as in the case of Ezekiel (Sanh. 39a) and Job (Ex. R. xxi.). R. Judah haNasi's suffering saved his contemporaries from calamities (Gen. R. 96). God is the King whose wrath is, in Prov. xvi. 14, referred to "as messengers of death," and the wise man who makes Atonement for it is Moses, who pacifies Him by prayer (Ex. R. xliii.). The death of Israel at the hands of his persecutors is an atoning sacrifice (Sifre, Deut. 333).

Study of the Torah.

Atoning powers are ascribed also to the study of the Law, which is more effective than sacrifice, especially when combined with good works (R. H. 18a; Yeb. 105a; Lev. R. xxv.). The table from which the poor received their share atones for man's sins in place of the altar (see Altar); the wife being the priestess who makes Atonement for the house (Ber. 55a; Tan., Wayishlaḥ, vi.). The meritorious lives of the Patriarchs especially possess a great atoning power (Ex. R. xlix.). The Holy Land itself has atoning qualities for those who inhabit it or are buried in its soil, as is learned from Deut. xxxii. 43, which verse is interpreted "He will make His land an Atonement for His people" (see Sifre, Deut. 333; Gen. R. xcvi.; Ket. 111a; Yer. Kil. ix. 32c). On the other hand, the descent of the wicked (heathen) into Gehenna for eternal doom is, according to Isa. xliii. (A. V.), an atoning sacrifice for the people of Israel (compare Prov. xxi. 18). "I gave Egypt for thy ransom [kofer], Ethiopia and Seba for thee" (Sifre, Deut. 333; Ex. R. xi.).

Atonement Is Regeneration.

The whole idea underlying Atonement, according to the rabbinical view, is regeneration-restoration of the original state of man in his relation to God, called "teḳanah" (R. H. 17a; 'Ar. 15b). "As vessels of gold or of glass, when broken, can be restored by undergoing the process of melting, thus does the disciple of the law, after having sinned, find the way of recovering his state of purity by repentance" (R. Akiba in Ḥag. 15a). Therefore he who assumes a high public office after the confession of his sins in the past is "made a new creature, free from sin like a child" (Sanh. 14a; compare Midr. Sam. xvii., "Saul was as one year old"; I Sam. xiii. 1, A. V. "reigned one year'" R. V. "was thirty years old"). In fact, the Rabbis declare that the scholar, the bridegroom, and the Nasi, as well as the proselyte, on entering their new station in life, are freed from all their sins, because, having by confession of sins, fasting, and prayer prepared themselves for the new state, they are, as it were, born anew (Yer. Bik. iii. 65c, d; Midr. Sam. l.c.). This is the case also with the change of name or locality when combined with change of heart (Pesiḳ. xxx. 191a; R. H. 16b). The following classical passage elucidates the rabbinical view as taught by R. Ishmael (of the second century; Yoma, 86a):(compare Mishnah Shebu. i. 1-6).

"There are four different modes of Atonement. If a man fails to fulfil the duty incumbent upon him in case of a sin of omission, for him repentance suffices, as Jeremiah (iii. 22) says, 'Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backsliding.' If he has transgressed a prohibitory law-a sin of commission-the Day of Atonement atones: of him the Löw says, 'On this day He shall atone for your sins to cleanse you' (Lev. xvi. 30). If he be guilty of crimes such as entail the death penalty and the like, repentance and the Day of Atone ment can not expiate them unless suffering works as a purifying factor: to this the Psalmist refers when he says, 'I will visit their transgressions with the rod and their iniquities with stripes' (Ps. lxxxix. 33 [A. V. 32]). And if the crime amount to a desecration of the name of God and the doing of great harm to the people at large, nothing but death can be the penalty; as Isaiah (xxii. 14) says, 'Surely this iniquity shall not be atoned for you [A. V. "purged from you"] till ye die, saith the Lord God of Hosts'" Whether the Day of Atonement atoned only for sins committed in error and ignorance or involuntarily (Heb. ix. 7), or also for those committed wilfully with a high hand (Num. xv. 26, 30), whether only after due repentance or without it, is discussed by the Rabbis (Shebu. 13a; Yoma 85b); and the resulting opinion is that just as the scapegoat atoned for all the sins of the nation, whether committed involuntarily or wilfully (Shebu. i. 6), so also does the Day of Atonement, true repentance having the power of turning all sins into mere errors, such as are forgiven to the whole congregation according to Num. xv. 26. All the greater emphasis is laid on sincere repentance, without which the Day of Atonement is inefficient (Maimonides, "Yad," Teshubah, i. 3).

Annual Redintegration of Man.

All the various elements effecting Atonement are in a marked degree combined in the Day of Atonement, to make it the occasion of the great annual redintegration of man. It is called "Shabbat Shabbaton," the holiest of rest-days as the Shabbath of the Sabbatical month (Lev. xxiii. 32), because it was to prepare the people for the festival of harvest joy, the Succoth feast at the close of the agricultural season (Ex. xxiii. 16, xxxiv. 22; Lev. xxiii. 34, xxv. 9, 10; Ezek. xl. 1). Whereas Ezekiel (xlv. 18-20) intended to have the first and the seventh day of the first month rendered days of Atonement for the year, the Mosaic law ordained that the new moon of the seventh month should be a Sabbath (Lev. xxiii. 24), heralding forth with the trumpet in more solemn sounds than on other new-moon days (Num. x. 10) the holy month; and this was to be followed by the day which was to consecrate both the nation and the sanctuary by imposing atoning rites. These rites were of a two-fold character.

Day of Atonement.

Atonement for the people was made in a form without any parallel in the entire sacrificial system, Lev. xvi. 7-22, or Deut. xxi. 4, perhaps excepted. A scapegoat, upon which the high priest laid the sins of the people, was sent forth into the wilderness to Azazel (a demon,according to Ibn Ezra on Lev. xvi. 10, related to the goatlike demons, or satyrs, referred to in Lev. xvii. 7; compare Yoma 67b); and its arrival at the rock of Ḥadudo,where it was cast down the precipice, was signalized as the moment of the granting of pardon to the people by the waving of a wisp of snow-white wool in place of one of scarlet, over the Temple gate, crowds of young people waiting on the hills of Jerusalem to celebrate the event by dancing (Yoma iv. 1-8; Ta'anit iv. 8).

Obviously this primitive rite was not of late origin, as is alleged by modern critics, but was a concession rather to ancient Semitic practise, and its great popularity is shown by the men of rank accompanying it, by the cries with which the crowd followed it, and by tales of a miraculous character related in the Mishnah and the Gemara (Yoma 66a, 67a, 68b). On the other hand, the sprinkling by the high priest of the blood of the bullock, the ram, and the second goat, consecrated to the Lord, was in full keeping with the usual Temple ritual, and distinguished itself from the sacrificial worship of other days only by the ministrations of the high priest, who, clad in his fine linen garb, offered the incense and sprinkled blood of each sin-offering upon the Holy of Holies and the veil of the Holy Place for the purification of the whole sanctuary as well as of his own household and the nation. The impressiveness of these functions, minutely described in Mishnah (Yoma ii.-vii.), has been vividly pictured by Ben Sira, whose words in Ecclus. (Sirach) 1. were embodied in the synagogue liturgy at the close of the 'Abodah. But while, according to Scripture, the high priest made Atonement (Lev. xvi. 30), tradition transferred the atoning power to God, as was expressed in the high priest's prayer commencing, "Kapper na" (O Lord, atone Thou for the iniquities, the sins, and the transgressions," Yoma iii. 8, iv. 2, vi. 2); interpreting the verse (Lev. xvi. 30): "Through that day He, the Lord, shall atone for you" (Yoma iii. 8; Sifra, Aḥare Mot, viii.).

Great stress was laid on the cloud of incense in which the high priest was enveloped when entering the Holy of Holies; and many mystic or divinatory powers were ascribed to him as he stood there alone in the darkness, as also to the prayer he offered, to the Foundation Stone ("Eben Shetiyah"), on which he placed the censer, and to the smoke of the sacrifice (Yoma, 53a, b et seq.; Tan., Aḥare 3; Lev. R. xx., xxi.; compare Book of Jubilees xii. 16). The prayer offered by the high priest (according to Yer. Yoma v. 2; Tan., 'Aḥare 4; Lev. R. xx.) was that the year might be blessed with rain, heat, and dew, and might yield plenty, prosperity, independence, and comfort to the inhabitants of the land.

In the course of time the whole Temple ritual was taken symbolically, and more stress was laid on the fasting, the prayers, and the supplications, to which the people devoted the whole day, entreating pardon for their sins, and imploring God's mercy. This at least is the view expressed by Philo ("De Septenario," 23), even if it was not yet shared by the people in general, when the Epistle to the Hebrews (ix.) and that of Barnabas (vii.) were written. It was after the destruction of the Temple, and through the synagogue, that the Day of Atonement assumed its high spiritual character as the great annual regenerator of Jewish life in connection with New-Year's Day.

Day of Sealing God's Decree.

Down to the first century, in Apocalyptical as well as in New Testament writings, the idea of the divine judgment was mainly eschatological in character, as deciding the destiny of the soul after death rather than of men on earth. But under the influence of Babylonian mythology, which spoke of the beginning of the year-"zagmuk"-on the first day of Nisan, as the time when the gods decided the destiny of life (Jensen, "Kosmologie," pp. 84-86, 238), the idea developed also in Jewish circles that on the first of Tishri, the sacred New-Year's Day and the anniversary of Creation, man's doings were judged and his destiny was decided; and that on the tenth of Tishri the decree of heaven was sealed (Tosef., R. H. i. 13; R. H. 11a, 16a), a view still unknown to Philo ("De Septenario," 22) and disputed by some rabbis (R. H. 16a). Thus, the first ten days of Tishri grew to be the Ten Penitential Days of the year, intended to bring about a perfect change of heart, and to make Israel like new-born creatures (Pesiḳ. xxiii., xxiv.; Lev. R. xxix.), the culmination being reached on the Day of Atonement, when religion's greatest gift, God's condoning mercy, was to be offered to man. It was on this day that Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the Tables of the Law received in token of God's pardon of the sin of the golden calf, while the whole congregation fasted and prayed. The Day of Atonement was thenceforth made the annual day of divine forgiveness of sin, when Satan, the accuser, failed to find blame in the people of Israel, who on that day appeared pure from sin like the angels (see Seder 'Olam R. vi.; Tan., Ki Tissa, 4; Pirḳe R. El. xlvi.). According to Pirḳe R. El. xxix., the circumcision of Abraham took place on the Day of Atonement, and the blood which dropped down on the very spot where the altar afterward stood in the temple on Moriah is still before the eyes of God to serve as means of Atonement.

A Day of Confiding Joy.

Far from being the means of "pacifying an angry God," as suggested by Cheyne ("Encyc. Bibl." s.v.), or from leaving a feeling of uncertainty and dread of suspense concerning God's pardoning love in the heart, as Weber ("Altsynagogale Theologie," p. 321) maintains, these ten days are the days of special grace when the Shekinah is nigh, and God longs to grant pardon to His people (Pesiḳ. xxiv.). The Day of Atonement is the "one day" prepared from the beginning to unite the world divided between the light of goodness and the darkness of sin (Gen. R. ii., iii.), "a day of great joy to God" (Tanna debe Eliyahu R.i.). "Not depressed and in somber garments as the suppliant appears before the earthly judge and ruler should Israel on New-Year's Day and on the Day of Atonement stand before the Ruler and the Judge on high, but with joy and in white garments betokening a cheerful and confiding spirit" (Yer. R. H. i. 57b). Only later generations regarded these white garments, the Sargenes-in which also the dead were dressed in order to appear before the Judge of all flesh full of gladsome hope-as shrouds, and considered them as reminders of death (Yer. R. H. l.c.; Eccl. R. ix. 7; Gen. R. l.c.; Brueck, "Pharisäische Volkssitten," 1368). "The firstday of Succoth is called the first day [Lev. xxiii. 35] because on it a new record begins, the sins of the year having been wiped off on Atonement Day" (Tan., Emor., 22). The sins of the preceding year therefore, unless they have been repeated, should not be confessed anew (Tosef., Yoma, v. 15; Yoma 86b; Ex. R. lii.).(Yoma viii. 9).

"He who says, 'I will sin, and the Day of Atonement shall make atonement for me,' for him the Day of Atonement is of no avail. Only such sins as concern man's relation to God will be pardoned. Sins committed by man against his fellow man are pardoned only after his fellow man's pardon has been obtained; for it is said: 'From all your sins before the Lord ye shall be cleansed' (Lev. xvi. 30), thus excluding sins before man"

Both Fast-Day and Festal Day.

The Day of Atonement has thus a double character; it is both a fast-day and a festal day. It comprises the elements of the great fast-day of the year, on which are prohibited all those things from which the people abstained on any other public fast-day, such as eating and drinking, bathing and anointing, the wearing of sandals or shoes, etc. (Yoma 76b and 77a). Another mode of affliction or penitence, however, is prohibited (Yoma 74b; Sifra, Aḥare, vii.). There were likewise embodied in the liturgy of the Day of Atonement all those forms of supplications and portions of the liturgy used on public fast-days (Ta'anit iv. 1), including the most characteristic portion recited at sunset, Ne'ilah ("the closing of the gates of the sun"). Of these the confession of sins forms the oldest and most prominent part of each portion of the day's liturgy, the alphabetical order in the catalogue of sins having originated in Ḥasidic circles (Rom. i. 29 et seq.; Didache v.; Shab. 54a) rather than in the Temple liturgy (Sifra i.; Yoma iii. 8). This is to be followed by the "Seliḥot," the appeals to God's forgiveness as expressed in the thirteen Attributes of God as He appeared to Moses on Sinai, promising "Salaḥti," "I have forgiven" (Num. xiv. 18-20). The reading from the Law of the chapter on the Atonement sacrifice in Lev. xvi., in the morning portion, is followed by the reading from the prophet Isaiah (lvii. 15-lviii. 14) as Hafṭarah, which has been significantly chosen to impress the worshipers with the lesson that the external rite of fasting is valueless without the works of righteousness and beneficence.

Differing in this respect from any other fast-day, and resembling all Sabbath and festival days, the celebration of the Day of Atonement begins in the synagogue on the preceding evening, in conformity with Lev. xxiii. 32 (Yoma 81b). It probably did so during the time of the Temple (Yoma 19b), but not in the Temple itself (Yoma i. 2). This evening service-called Kol-Nidre from its opening formula, which canceled rash vows-with its strongly marked melodies and songs, assumed in the course of time a very impressive character. On the Day of Atonement itself, the noon or "musaf" (additional) service-presenting as its chief feature the 'Abodah, a graphic description of the whole Atonement service of the Temple-is followed by the afternoon or "Minḥah" service, which begins with the reading from the Law of the chapter on incestuous marriages, with a side-reference, as it were, to Azazel, the seducer to lewdness (Meg. 31a; Tos. ad loc.; Yoma 67b), and as Hafṭarah, the Book of Jonah, containing the great lesson of God's forgiving love extended to Gentiles as well as to Jews. This is followed by the Ne'ilah service, in which the main ideas of the day are especially emphasized-repentance conditioning forgiveness, and God's sealing the decree of man for the ensuing year. The service ends with a solemn invocation of God's name, the Shema', and the sevenfold exclamation, "The Lord, He is God" (compare I Kings xviii. 39), forming the climax of the continuous devotions of the day. As a signal of the close of the sacred day, so that the people may know that they can work or eat (Tos. to Shab. 114b), or for other reasons (see Kol Bo, lxx.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 623, 6; Ṭur Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 624), the trumpet is blown once, or, as in Palestine, four times-"Teḳi'ah, Shebarim, Teru'ah, Teḳi'ah" (see Maḥzor Vitry, pp. 345, 356; Abudrahim, "Seder Tef. Yom Kippurim."). Either in the Kol-Nidre service, as in Jerusalem, before the main prayers (Schwartz, "Das Heilige Land," p. 336), or after the morning service (Maḥzor Vitry, p. 353; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 621, 6), the dead are commemorated, and gifts are offered for their salvation (see Tan., Haazinu, i. ed. Vienna, 1853, p. 28; Pesiḳ. xxvii. 174b, and Roḳeaḥ, quoted in Beth Joseph to Ṭur Oraḥ Ḥayyim, l.c.)-a custom which in the Reform liturgy has been made a more prominent part of the service. In preparation for the Day of Atonement it is usual to offer gifts of charity, according to Prov. x. 2, "Righteousness [charity] delivereth from death," and to go to the cemetery to visit the graves of the dead, a practise taken over from the fast-days (Ta'anit 16a; Yer. Ta'anit ii. 65a).

The custom of bringing candles to burn in the synagogue the whole day, in memory of the dead, may have originated in the desire to light up the otherwise dark synagogue for the recital of prayers and psalms by the pious during the entire night. This is the one view expressed in Kol Bo lxviii.; but other reasons of a mystic nature are given for it there as well as in Maḥzor Vitry, p. 340; Abudrahim, l.c.; and Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 610.

Very significant, as showing a deep-rooted desire for some form of atoning sacrifice, is the custom-known already in the time of the Geonim, and found in Asia and Africa (see Benjamin II., "Acht Yahre in Asien und Africa," 1858, p. 273), as well as in Europe (Asheri Yoma viii. 23; Maḥzor Vitry, p. 339; Kol Bo lxviii.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 605), though disapproved by Naḥmanides, Solomon ben Adret, and Joseph Caro (Ṭur Oraḥ Ḥayyim, l.c.)-of swinging over one's head, on or before the eve of Atonement Day, a fowl, usually a rooster or hen; solemnly pronouncing the same to be a vicarious sacrifice to be killed in place of the Jew or Jewess who might be guilty of death by his or her sin. Fishes and plants, also (see Rashi, Shab. 81b), perhaps originally only these, were used in the gaonic time. The slaughtered animal or its equivalent was then given to the poor (see Kapparot). Another custom of similar character is the receiving on the eve of Atonement Day, either in the synagogue or at home-the latter is usually the place in Jerusalem (see Schwartz, l.c.)-of thirty-nine stripes at the hand of a neighboras penalty for one's sins, according to Deut. xxv. 3, while reciting the Confession of Sins. (See Maḥzor Vitry, p. 344; Kol Bo, lxviii.; Shulḥan 'Aruk, Oraḥ Ḥayyim, 607.) According to Benjamin II., l.c., people in Persia strip themselves to the loins in order to receive these stripes on the naked body (see Malḳut Schlagen). This is followed by bathing, so that man may appear pure in both body and soul before God on "the great day."

The Karaite Day of Atonement with its liturgy is to a great extent similar to that of the Rabbinite Jews. It also begins half an hour before sunset of the preceding day, and lasts until half an hour after sunset of the day itself (see Karaites). The Samaritans, also, adopted the custom of preparing for the day by a purificative bath and of spending the night and the day in the synagogue with prayer and fasting, singing hymns, and reading from the Law (See Samaritans).

Kaufmann Kohler
Jewish Encyclopedia, published between 1901-1906.

Hamburger, R. B. T. i., under Versöhnung und Versöhnungstag; Zunz, S. P. pp. 76-80; Sachs, Die Religiöse Poesic der Juden in Spanien, 1845, pp. 172 et seq.; Brueck, Pharisäische Volkssitten, 1855, pp. 135-146.K.

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