Functionalism In Atonement

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The ancient Hebrew Scriptures describe His functionalities as Ruach Hakodesh (Holy Spirit) and Ha-Mashiach (Messiah). We know nothing about God except what are in these manifestations. We are in error when we give these functionalities distinctive independent personality and individuality as hypostases or as parts of a trinity, each with total independence. They are not three different Gods, but very simply and neatly Elohim’s functions in Creation and Redemption. In Creation the Word said, “Let there be Light.” And the Spirit “moved upon the waters.” And creation was accomplished. But then the great disobedience supervened and we needed to be redeemed. In redemption the Holy Spirit provides the gift of repentance and the Word provides atonement.…show more content…
The Epistle to the Hebrews written by an unknown Hebrew writer celebrates this messianic atonement in the meaning of the Temple service. (For a discussion of the Atonement see Reign of God: An Introduction to Christian Theology, second edition, by Richard Rice, pp. 191-197, Andrews University Press, 1997; see also Christus Victor: An Historical Study of the Three Main Types of the Idea of Atonement by G. Aulen, Macmillan, New York, 1969).

Our life on the planet is so short when compared to God’s eternity. His plans are lengthy. Creation occurred millions of years ago and human life has suffered regressions and progressions in the fallen state. In our terrestrial history the coming of Messiah seems greatly delayed. Our impatience seems to have no impression on the eternity of God to whom a thousand years are like but an evening gone. We long for redemption. The Tanak is preoccupied with the nation of Israel. The Pentateuch, the five books attributed to Moses, has a complicated background. Although traditionally credited to Moses there is evidence of many authors and interpolations and editing. The priestly scribes were responsible for this plethora of authors. I credit Moses with the basic creation story of Eden and messianic redemption in the Temple service. Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. After Moses the priestly scribes manufactured a plethora of laws, moral and ceremonial. This has
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Goldberg’s essay Judaism as a Religious System in The Cambridge Guide, p. 301).

Goldberg, like most Jewish scholars, omits a discussion of blood and atonement in the sacrificial system. He omits a discussion of the cruelty contained in the above-mentioned genres. This is the subject of this book. As a celebrated commentator Goldberg deserves praise. But he ignores or sidesteps discussing topics, which might expose very controversial opinions, where he might have to take a stand. The entire sacrificial system where blood is shed to atone, where messianic atonement is embedded in rich meaning, he ignores or dismisses by calling it cultic.

Israel’s history was plagued by idolatry especially with the monarchs after the reign of King David. The prophets arrived to rescue Israel and point to messianic redemption: “Every prophet only prophesied for the days of the Messiah and the penitent” (Ber.34b). Note the Rabbinic implication of repentance and atonement in this wonderful statement. Prophetic writings ended with Malachi who ushered in the Messiah and His
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