The atonement is a doctrine found within both
Christianityand Judaism. It describes how sincan be forgiven by God. In Judaism, Atonement is said to be the process of forgiving or pardoning a transgression. This was originally accomplished through rituals performed by a Leviteon the holiest day of the Jewish year: Yom Kippur(Day of Atonement). In Christian theology the atonement refers to the forgiving or pardoning of sin through the death of Jesus Christby crucifixionwhich made possible the reconciliation between God and creation. Within Christianity there are numerous technical theories for how such atonement might work, including the ransom theory, the Abelardian theory, and the Anselmian satisfaction theory.
The word "atonement" gained widespread use in the sixteenth century after
William Tyndalerecognized that there was not a direct translation of the concept into English. In order to explain the doctrine of Christ's sacrifice, which accomplished both the remission of sin and reconciliation of man to God, Tyndale invented a word that would encompass both actions. He wanted to overcome the inherent limitations of the word "reconciliation" while incorporating the aspects of "propitiation" and forgiveness. It is interesting to note that while Tyndale labored to translate the 1526 English Bible, his proposed word comprises two parts, 'at' and 'onement,' which also means reconciliation, but combines it with something more. Although one thinks of the Jewish Fast of Yom Kippur(Day of Atonement), the Hebrew word is 'kaper' meaning 'a covering', so one can see that 'reconciliation' doesn't precisely contain all the necessary components of the word atonement. Expiation means "to atone for." Reconciliation comes from Latin roots re, meaning "again"; con, meaning "with"; and ultimately, 'sol', a root meaning "seat". Reconciliation, therefore, literally means "to sit again with." While this meaning may appear sufficient, Tyndale thought that if translated as "reconciliation," there would be a pervasive misunderstanding of the word's deeper significance to not just reconcile, but "to cover," so the word was invented. [The Archbishop of Canterbury: William Tyndale; Reformer and Rebel. A Quincentenary Appreciation. Lambeth Palace, 5th October 1994 [http://www.tyndale.org/TSJ/2/carey.html] ] [Online Etymology Dictionary, Yom Kippur, 2001 [http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=Yom+Kippur] ] [David Rolph Seely, PhD. "Words'Fitly Spoken': Tyndale's English Translation of the Bible." [http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/pdf.php?filename=MjQtNi5wZGY=&type=aW5zaWdodHM=] ]
Atonement in Christianity
Christians have used three different metaphors to understand how the atonement might work [Kohler, K. (1997) Atonement from the Jewish Encyclopedia, http://www.mb-soft.com/believe/text/atonemen.htm] . Churches and denominations may vary in which metaphor they consider most accurately fits into their theological perspective, however all Christians emphasise that
Jesusis the Saviour of the world and through his death the sins of mankind have been forgiven. [Ward, K. (2007) Christianity – a guide for the perplexed. SPCK, London, p. 48- 51]
The first metaphor, epitomised by the "ransom to Satan" theory, was used by the fourth-century theologian
Gregory of Nyssabased on verses such as Mark 10:45 – "the Son of Man came … to give his life as a ransom for the many". In this metaphor Jesus liberates mankind from slavery to Satan and thus death by giving his own life as a ransom. Victory over Satan consists of swapping the life of the perfect (Jesus), for the lives of the imperfect (mankind). A variation of this view is known as the " Christus Victor" theory, and sees Jesus not used as a ransom but rather defeating Satan in a spiritual battle and thus freeing enslaved mankind by defeating the captor.
The second metaphor, used by the eleventh century theologian Anselm, is called the "satisfaction" theory. In this picture mankind owes a debt not to Satan, but to sovereign God himself. A sovereign may well be able to forgive an insult or an injury in his private capacity, but because he is a sovereign he cannot if the state has been dishonoured. Anselm argued that the insult given to God is so great that only a perfect sacrifice could satisfy and Jesus, being both God and man, was this perfect sacrifice. A variation on this theory is the commonly held Protestant "
penal substitutiontheory," which instead of considering sin as an affront to God’s honour, sees sin as the breaking of God’s moral law. Placing a particular emphasis on Romans 6:23 (the wages of sin is death), penal substitution sees sinful man as being subject to God’s wrath with the essence of Jesus' saving work being his substitution in the sinner's place, bearing the curse in the place of man (Gal. 3:13). A third variation that also falls within this metaphor is Hugo Grotius’ "governmental theory", which sees Jesus receiving a punishment as a public example of the lengths to which God will go to uphold the moral order.
The third metaphor is that of healing, associated with
Pierre Abélardin the eleventh century, and Paul Tillichin the twentieth. In this picture Jesus’ death on the cross demonstrates the extent of God’s love for us, and moved by this great act of love mankind responds and is transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit. This view is favoured by most liberal theologians as the moral influence view, and also forms the basis for Rene Girard’s "mimetic desire" theory (not to be confused with meme theory).
Main theories in detail
Ransom & Christus Victor
Origen of Alexandria
Gregory of Nyssa
Irenaeus of Lyons("Recapitulation")
* Divine satisfaction:
Anselm of Canterburyand salvation in Catholicism
* Penalty or punishment satisfaction:
John Calvin, Calvinism, & imputed righteousness
* Vicarious repentance,
John McLeod Campbelland Robert Campbell Moberly
Hugo Grotius, James Arminiusand John Miley
* Jonathan Edwards and
Charles Grandison Finney
William Tyndale(who invented the word from Hebrew and Greek manuscripts), René Girard, James Alison, Mark Heim, Gerhard Fördesee 'In Christianity' in Scapegoat
Other denominational perspectives
Eastern Orthodoxyand Eastern Catholicism have a substantively different soteriology; this is sometimes cited as the core difference between Eastern and Western Christianity. In contrast to other forms of Christianity, the Orthodox tend to use the word "expiation" with regard to what is accomplished in the sacrificial act. In Orthodox theology, expiation is an act of offering that seeks to change the one making the offering. The Greek word that is translated both into propitiation and expiation is "hilasmos" which means "to make acceptable and enable one to draw close to God". Thus the Orthodox emphasis would be that Christ died, not to appease an angry and vindictive Father, or to avert the wrath of God, but to change people so that they may become more like God (see Theosis). [Fr. James Bernstein, author of Surprised by Christ: My journey from Judaism to Orthodox Christianity, The Illumined Heart Podcast, May 22, 2008]
Roman Catholic views on atonement and reparation
As expressed by
Pope Pius XIin his encyclical" Miserentissimus Redemptor", in the Roman Catholictradition the concepts of atonement and redemption are often seen as being inherently related. And atonement is often balanced with specific Acts of Reparationwhich relate the sufferings and death of Christ to the forgiveness of sins. [Ann Ball, 2003 Encyclopedia of Catholic Devotions and Practices ISBN 087973910X]
Moreover, in "
Miserentissimus Redemptor" the Pontif called acts of reparation a "duty" for Roman Catholics:
:"We are holden to the duty of reparation and expiation by a certain more valid title of justice and of love." ... "Moreover this duty of expiation is laid upon the whole race of men" [ [http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xi/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_08051928_miserentissimus-redemptor_en.html Pius XI, Miserentissimus Redemptor (08/05/1928) ] ]
Pope John Paul IIreferred to the concept as:
:"the unceasing effort to stand beside the endless crosses on which the Son of God continues to be crucified". [Vatican archives http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/2000/documents/hf_jp-ii_let_20001021_riparatrici_en.html]
Specific Roman Catholic practices such as the
Rosary of the Holy Wounds(which does not include the usual rosarymysteries) focus on specific redemptive aspects of Christ's suffering in Calvary. [Michael Freze, 1993, "Voices, Visions, and Apparitions", OSV Publishing ISBN 087973454X]
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints( Mormon) expands the doctrine of the atonement complementary to the substitutionary atonement concept, including the following:
* "Suffering in Gethsemane." The Atonement began in
Gethsemaneand ends with Christ's resurrection. (Luke 22:44; Doctrine and Covenants19:16-19; Mosiah 3:7; Alma7:11-13. Christ described this agony in the Doctrine and Covenants as follows: "...how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.... Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit..." (19:15,18).
* "The relationship of justice, mercy, agency, and God's unconditional love." Christ's infinite atonement was required to satisfy the demands of justice based on eternal law, rendering Him Mediator, Redeemer, and Advocate with the Father. Thus, he proffers divine mercy to the truly penitent who voluntarily come unto him, offering them the gift of his grace to "lift them up" and "be perfected in Him" through his merits (2 Nephi 2 and 9; Alma 12, 34, and 42; Moroni 9:25; 10:33; compare Isaiah 55:1-9).
* "No need for infant baptism." Christ's atonement completely resolved the consequence from the fall of Adam of
spiritual deathfor infants, young children and those of innocent mental capacity who die before an age of self-accountability, hence all these are resurrected to eternal life in the resurrection. However, baptism is required of those who are deemed by God to be accountable for their actions.
* "Empathetic purpose." Christ suffered pain and agony not only for the sins of all men, but also to experience their physical pains, illnesses, anguish from addictions, emotional turmoil and depression, "that His bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12; compare Isaiah 53:4).
"The word (atonement) describes the setting 'at one' of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement, and therefore the purpose of the atonement is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin." (Bible Dictionary in the LDS version of the King James Bible.)
New Agewriter JJ Deweysynthesizes Western and Eastern religion to contend that "true atonement is a revelation of the truth so illusion passes away and guilt is lifted". [ [http://www.freeread.com/archives/1540.php "The Atonement Writings"] , JJ Dewey]
* [http://clarionjournal.typepad.com/clarion_journal_of_spirit/2007/07/stricken-by-god.html Nonviolent Atonement and the Victory of Christ]
* [http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/christiantheology-philosophy Atonement Theories in Current Philosophical Theology] from "Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy"
* [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=2092&letter=A&search=atonement "Atonement"] in the "
* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02055a.htm "The Doctrine of Atonement"] from the "
* [http://www.lcms.org/ca/www/cyclopedia/02/display.asp?t1=a&word=ATONEMENT "Atonement"] from the "Christian Cyclopedia" (Lutheran)
* [http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/topic/atonement.html Articles on the Atonement] (Calvinist/Reformed)
* [http://twtministries.com/articles/8_mgt/hisatone.html Historical Opinions as to the Nature of Christ's Atoning Death] (Arminian/Wesleyan)
* [http://www.lightplanet.com/mormons/basic/christ/atonement.html The Atonement of Christ] (Latter-day Saint)
* [http://www.apollos.ws/atonement/ Online academic articles on atonement]
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Look at other dictionaries:
ATONEMENT — (Heb. כִּפִֻּרים, kippurim, from the verb כפר). The English word atonement ( at one ment ) significantly conveys the underlying Judaic concept of atonement, i.e., reconciliation with God. Both the Bible and rabbinical theology reflect the belief… … Encyclopedia of Judaism
Atonement — A*tone ment, n. 1. (Literally, a setting at one.) Reconciliation; restoration of friendly relations; agreement; concord. [Archaic] [1913 Webster] By whom we have now received the atonement. Rom. v. 11. [1913 Webster] He desires to make atonement… … The Collaborative International Dictionary of English
atonement — ► NOUN 1) amends for a wrong or injury. 2) (the Atonement) Christian Theology the reconciliation of God and mankind through the death of Jesus Christ … English terms dictionary
atonement — [ə tōn′mənt] n. 1. the act of atoning 2. satisfaction given for wrongdoing, injury, etc.; amends; expiation 3. Obs. agreement or reconciliation the Atonement Christian Theol. the redeeming of humanity and its reconciliation with God through the… … English World dictionary
atonement — index compensation, expiation, reparation (indemnification), restitution, retribution, trover Burton s Legal Thesaurus … Law dictionary
atonement — Satisfaction or reparation of a wrong or injury; to make up for errors or deficiencies. (Dictionary of Canadian Bankruptcy Terms) United Glossary of Bankruptcy Terms 2012 … Glossary of Bankruptcy
atonement — 1510s, condition of being at one (with others), from ATONE (Cf. atone) + MENT (Cf. ment). Meaning reconciliation (especially of sinners with God) is from 1520s; that of propitiation of an offended party is from 1610s … Etymology dictionary
atonement — expiation (see under EXPIATE) Analogous words: compensating or compensation, offsetting (see corresponding verbs at COMPENSATE): conciliation, propitiation, appeasement (see corresponding verbs at PACIFY): *reparation, amends … New Dictionary of Synonyms
atonement — [n] compensation amends, expiation, indemnification, payment, penance, propitiation, recompense, redemption, redress, reparation, restitution, satisfaction; concepts 126,337 … New thesaurus
atonement — /euh tohn meuhnt/, n. 1. satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; amends. 2. (sometimes cap.) Theol. the doctrine concerning the reconciliation of God and humankind, esp. as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Christ.… … Universalium