The Prophet’s Perspective
Christian missionaries insist that you need blood for atonement. Not only do the missionaries claim that without blood there is no atonement for sin but they also contend that this doctrine is taught in the Jewish Scriptures.
These assertions are critical components in the ongoing missionary campaign to persuade people to give their hearts to Jesus. According to the missionary; when Jesus came on the scene, everyone already knew that their sins can never be forgiven without the shedding of blood because this is what the prophets of Scripture had proclaimed in the past. The missionary would have you believe that Jesus came to supply mankind with the blood atonement that they so desperately needed.
The problem that the missionary faces is the simple fact that the Jewish Scriptures do NOT say that you NEED blood for atonement. Yes; the prophets taught that blood offerings CAN atone (Leviticus 17:11), but that is not the same thing like saying that without blood there is no atonement. Isn’t that amazing? According to the missionary one of the most important principles that Scripture ought to teach us is that there is no atonement without blood yet there is not one verse in the entire Hebrew Bible that says anything of the sort.
How do the missionaries deal with this challenge to their house of cards?
In order to paint their doctrine into the Jewish Bible the missionaries turn to the book of Leviticus. They point to the many offerings listed in that book and they argue that these offerings were critical and central to the process of atonement. They point to other blood offerings mentioned in the Five Books of Moses in their effort to establish a theory of the “centrality of the sacrifices”. The missionary argument highlights these offerings and contends that the central position that these offerings occupy in the Five Books of Moses should lead one to the conclusion that there is no atonement without blood.
The Jewish response to this argument is that the critical and central component of the atonement process is repentance. While the Temple was standing God commanded us in some instances to express our repentance with a blood offering but the key factor in obtaining God’s forgiveness was always repentance.
The Christian missionaries claim that the Jewish response is not based on Scripture but rather it is built on the Jewish blind refusal to consider the claim of Jesus.
Fortunately we have a passage in the Jewish Bible that could tell us who exactly is reading the Bible with a distorting lens of bias.
In the book of Jonah the prophet witnesses God’s mercy when God forgives the Ninevites on the occasion of their repentance. Jonah then exclaims to God “I knew that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger, abundant in kindness, and relent from doing harm.” The fact that God forgave the people of Nineveh after they repented did not surprise Jonah in the least. In fact this is exactly what Jonah expected.
Why? Did Jonah not study the Five Books and learn the doctrine of the “centrality of the sacrifices”? How could Jonah expect the Ninevites to find atonement without a blood offering?
Jonah supplies us with the answer to this question. Jonah quotes the Five Books of Moses. In so doing Jonah teaches us which passage in the Five Books is the one that identifies the critical factor in the atonement process. It is NOT Leviticus 17:11. In fact it is not any passage that mentions blood. Instead Jonah quotes Exodus 34:6 which describes God as a “God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in kindness”. This is the passage from the Five Books that Jonah the prophet saw as central to the process of achieving forgiveness from sin.
It is clear that Jonah the prophet read the Jewish Bible the way Jews read it today and the missionary teaching that claims to be based on the Five Books of Moses was as foreign to Jonah as it is to Jews today.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal