Wednesday, May 02, 2007


I haven’t really written anything recently, so I gotta warm myself up and get those brain cells pumping (or whatever brain cells do) again. I want to write about the Atonement, but it’s such a large subject and there’s so much to explain and go over I don’t know where to begin. So to get myself going, I think I’m just going to rewrite, reorganize so old stuff. I think my best stuff so far has been the posts re Achan. So I think that’s where I will begin.

Achan and Atonement

The story of Achan in Joshua 7 is an atonement ritual. Caiaphas explained the basis of all atonement rituals in John 11:49-50, “…that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”

The Achan story is about a crisis, all scapegoating rituals arise from tumult and societal disintegration. Achan in this story is a scapegoat. Achan is an atonement sacrifice, given by Joshua to the people, or a better description would be the rapidly forming mob.

As I’m reading commentaries on this story, I sense this, I don’t know, dichotomy, between the Law and what Jesus and the New Testament are trying to explain. The Deuteronomists want us to believe it is the Law that holds things together. That by obeying the Law, following the dictates of the Law, our group, culture, tribe, society or whatever community will not collapse in a spiral of jealousy, rivalry and ultimately uncontrollable violence and retributive murder. The Law formed the bonds of society. It’s what kept everybody together. It was Yahweh’s Law that kept society together, not Yahweh himself, thus the idea that if you transgress the Law you would be offending Yahweh. Violations of the Law would bring divine punishment. You get the idea of the wrath of God falling upon the sinner. Transgressions and trangressors of the Law must be expelled. Law-breakers must pay. Atonement becomes the removal of sin.

In Numbers 27:15-21 Moses asks God for a man to lead Israel,

17Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.

And God says, his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.

In this story Joshua, who also can be called Jesus, is not a Good Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus states that He is the Good Shepherd. In John 10 Jesus begins discussing the Sheep Gate. The Sheep Gate was what the sacrificial sheep passed through on their way to the altar. Like Joshua in this story, Jesus says that some sacrifice the sheep without entering through the gate. Unlike Joshua, Jesus will lay down his life for his sheep, and not only that, but the sheep themselves will be given the courage to follow him into the sacrificial machinery and be led to and from pasture. I definitely haven’t made it clear yet, and probably won’t for a long time, Jesus will say that He is the bond of creation, not the Law. It is not the Law that will draw all men together, but Jesus when He enters the sacrificial machinery of society and is lifted up.

1 comment:

SaintSimon said...

This is good - a logical thought process. i particularly like the idea of Jesus drawing all men together rather than the law, and the stuff about the sheep gate - but i need to think about that more.

I am a little concerned about nuances of Gnosticism in some of your thought - that the law was bad - but i don't think that is what you really mean.

I also don't see Achan as an Atonement sacrifice. He died for his own sin, not that of the people. In fact Achan's case is diametrically opposite to Christ - the innocent people suffered because of his guilt, whereas the Innocent Christ suffers becasue of our guilt. if Christ is atonement, then Achan is a sort of anti-atonement.