Response to The Line of Fire 5
On the May 19 2011 edition of his radio show: “The Line of Fire” http://lineoffireradio.askdrbrown.org/ , Dr. Brown takes issue with a presentation I had made on the Christian interpretation of Leviticus 17:11.
Christians point to Leviticus 17:11 as a support for the doctrine of “no atonement without blood”.
The salient points of my presentation were:
- The verse is not placed in a context that would indicate that a teaching on atonement is about to be presented.
- Even according to the Christian interpretation, the verse only supports one fragment of the Christian doctrine on atonement. The verse speaks of blood on the altar and not about a human sacrifice that was in no way connected to the altar in the Temple.
- The verse does not say that there is no atonement without blood. Saying that blood provides atonement is not the same as saying that there is no atonement without blood.
It is obvious that of these three points, it is the third point that is the most important. The verse does not say what the Christian claims that it says. Dr. Brown did not respond to my third point. There is not one verse in the Jewish Scriptures that comes close to saying – “there is no atonement without blood”.
Why? According to Christian theology this is one of the most foundational principles, yet the Scriptures never mention it. Even Dr. Brown will admit that there is no EXPLICIT statement in the Jewish Scripture that states “there is no atonement without blood”. Why did God see no need to mention this “foundational” principle? God did say that no one born of a woman can be righteous. He actually wrote that twice (Job 15:14, 25:4) directly contradicting the Christian doctrine of a sinless Messiah – a doctrine that has not a shred of Scripture to hang on to (see also Ezekiel 45:22). Yet the doctrine that is most “critical for the salvation of mankind” – according to Dr. Brown – is not mentioned once!
Dr. Brown’s response to my first point is that by placing the text in the book of Leviticus, this teaching is placed in an “atonement” context.
It is not necessary to point out that the majority of the book of Leviticus does not have to do with atonement. This is especially true when we take Dr. Brown’s own argument into consideration. On page 182 of volume 2 of his “Answering Jewish Objections” series, Dr. Brown argues that when Isaiah speaks of burnt offerings and “zevachim” (-sacrifices), he is not necessarily referring to atoning sacrifices. If this is true, then the majority of the sacrifices mentioned in the book of Leviticus were not necessarily atoning sacrifices.
Dr. Brown did not really respond to my argument. The point I was making in my presentation was that in the case of repentance, the Divine Author introduces the passage with a sentence that makes abundantly clear that a teaching on the subject of forgiveness from sin is about to be presented (Ezekiel 33:10). Why did God not do the same for Leviticus 17:11?
The second point in my presentation contends that even according to the Christian interpretation, Leviticus 17:11 only supports a fragment of the Christian doctrine on atonement. The verse speaks of atonement on the altar. How do they get from the altar in the Temple, to Jesus.
Dr. Brown attempts to counter this argument by pointing to Isaiah 53:10 where he sees justification for the doctrine of a human substitutionary offering.
I will again refer the reader to my article: https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/isaiah-53-teaches-that-jesus-is-not-the-messiah/ and to Contra Brown where I demonstrate how Dr. Brown’s interpretation of Isaiah 53 is unfounded.
But even according to Dr. Brown’s interpretation, the Jewish Scriptures still do not support the complete doctrine of Christianity on the subject of atonement. Scripture never speaks of faith in an individual as a prerequisite to atonement. Even according to Dr. Brown’s understanding of Scripture there is no justification for the Christian doctrine that outside of faith in Jesus there is no atonement for sin. Christian theology actually takes this concept one step further. Not only today, when there is no Temple, is there no atonement outside of Jesus, but according to Hebrews 10:4 – even the offerings of the Temple did not really atone. On this same radio program, Dr. Brown discusses this concept and he presents the position that the Temple sacrifices did not provide a complete atonement.
Let us recap. According to Dr. Brown Leviticus 17:11 tells us that there is no atonement without blood. We are supposed to then understand that this concept is not limited to the animal sacrifices that the passage in Leviticus 17:11 is actually speaking about, but applies to a sacrifice that is not mentioned in the book of Leviticus altogether. Then we are supposed to go back to Leviticus 17:11, and realize that the sacrifices that the verse speaks of, namely the animal sacrifices, didn’t really provide a full atonement to begin with.
This is the “Scriptural support” for one of the central doctrines of Christianity.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal