Blood Is Not An Atonement For Sin
Repentance, not blood
It is an important teaching and a vital principle of the Israelite prophets, that no amount of sacrifice will forgive sin or make atonement for an unrepentant heart. If a person was not sorry for what they had done, then even if all the blood of all the sin offerings was poured out on the altar from now until eternity, then that unrepentant person would still not be forgiven.
In my experience, no amount of definitive, logical or rational proof can convince someone otherwise who believes that black is white and white is black; if someone wants to continue to believe that their god is only capable or willing to forgive sin if blood is shed, then they will continue to believe it.
Examples where blood is not required for atonement
There are a number of examples where blood is not required for atonement. The best example is on the Day of the Atonements, the holiest day of the Israelite year itself, when two goats were selected. All the sins of Israel were placed on one of the goats, which we call the scapegoat. In Torah, we are told to send this goat out ALIVE into the wilderness. The Oral Law insisted that someone be sent out with it to kill it to ensure it did not come back, but the essential thing was, it was to be sent out alive (Lev 16:21-22).
The second instance is of the concession to poor people with regard to the sin offering. If they could not even afford a dove for the sin offering, then they were allowed to simply offer a measure of coarse flour (Lev 5:13). If blood were needed to atone for sin, then poor people would never have their sins forgiven!
And there are other examples:
- The half-shekel offering atoned for the souls of the Israelites (Ex 30:11-16);
- Aaron’s incense atoned for the people, and halted the plague (Numbers 17:11-13);
- The practice of merciful loving-kindness atones for sins (Proverbs 16:6);
- Obedience to YHVH’s teaching is preferable to sacrifices (1Sam 15:22);
- Prayer is an acceptable substitute for the blood sacrifice (Hos 14:3).
I have seen websites devoted to refuting these verses, but they all rely on assuming that those reading their arguments are already Christians, are devoted followers of Paul’s corrupted pagan theology, who know no Hebrew and know nothing of Hebrew culture.
Why shed blood in a sin offering at all?
If blood is not needed for sin to be forgiven, then why shed the blood of animals at all?
When Moses came down from Mt Horeb, he saw how the Israelites were worshipping the golden figure of an Apis Bull – an Egyptian god. He saw how they still understood religion and God in the way that pagan religions understand their gods, who needed blood sacrifices in worship. Abolishing sacrifices was not going to stop the Israelites from offering them – they would simply turn to other gods. So, as a concession to their human weakness, God allowed blood sacrifice, but under the condition that they would only be offered to YHVH (e.g. Lev 17:7).
In time, Israel would be weaned off blood sacrifice, in the meantime, YHVH tolerated blood sacrifice under sufferance:
“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me? says YHVH: I am fed up of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fattened beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. . . . . They have become a burden to Me, I cannot endure them.” (Isa 1:11, 14b).
What does YHVH require to forgive sin?
If YHVH Himself is sick of the blood of sin-offerings, what does He require instead? Well, the answer is given to us, if only people would read whole passages instead of picking out stuff that suits their argument:
“Wash yourselves clean by putting away your evil things from My sight. Cease to do evil; learn to do good; devote yourselves to justice; aid the wronged; uphold the rights of the orphan, and defend the cause of the widow . . . . then be your sins like crimson, they can turn snow white; be they red as dyed wool, they can become like a new fleece.” (Isa 1:16-18)
“If I shut up the heavens and there is no rain; if I command the locusts to ravage the land; or if I let loose pestilence against My people, then when My people, who bear My name, humble themselves, pray, and seek My favour and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear in My heavenly abode and forgive their sins and heal their land.” (II Chronicles 7:13-1).
“It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.” (Jeremiah 36:3)
and most unequivocal of all,
“By mercy and truth iniquity is purged…” (Proverbs 16:6)
The Hebrew scriptures teach that if a person has sinned, then what is acceptable to YHVH is repentance – turning from one’s sinful ways and returning to YHVH’ ways. Repentance of the heart was the way to obtain forgiveness, and atone for sin. Nowhere in these passages is there any prerequisite either for blood to spilled, or for any pagan god-man to be sacrificed.
Even the prophet Yeshua` taught the human responsibilities for salvation, and said that on judgment day the righteous are separated from the wicked, on the basis of who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, healed the sick, etc. (Matt 25:31-46), and not on the basis of who believed in the pagan Christ-god and who didn’t.
The prophet Yeshua` taught that sacrifice was not constructive (Matt 9:13, 12:7), and effort was made throughout the Hebrew Bible to replace the pagan blood ritual of sacrifice with morality: Isaiah 1:11, Jer 7:22, Hosea 6:6, Psalms 40:7, 50:8-15.
Misunderstanding of blood sacrifice
Christians will use the passage that shows how God was pleased with the blood sacrifice of Abel, but displeased with the grain sacrifice of Cain. However, God was not pleased with the grain sacrifice simply because it was half-hearted; the blood-sacrifice was taken from the best of the flock, but the grain offering was taken only from what Cain could spare.
Christians will also use Lev 17:10-11 as proof that the purpose of blood is for atonement:
“And if anyone of the house of Israel, or of the foreigners resident among them consumes any blood, I will set my face against that person who partakes of the blood, and I will cut him off from amongst his kin. For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have assigned it to you for making atonement for your lives upon the altar; it is the blood which effects atonement for one’s life.”
What is immediately obvious is that these verses are concerned first and foremost with the prohibition against consuming blood. The subject of atonement here is secondary. We are told that the reason for this prohibition is that the blood contains the life of the animal. Another reason is that consuming blood was a very important part of the idolatrous pagan practices of the people surrounding Israel. Israel was clearly instructed by YHVH through Moses not to imitate this abhorrent pagan practice – not to be like the other nations or religions. The verses imply that, since blood symbolises the very life of the animal, it may be used as one way of atoning for our lives.
However, Christianity forces the belief that only blood can atone for sin. Now, there was no Temple between 586 BCE, and when the Jews returned and Zerubavel rebuilt the Temple in 516 BCE. No blood sacrifices were offered to atone for sin during that period of 70 years. Does that mean that the Israelites could not be forgiven of their sins during that period? The firm answer is no; YHVH is not weak or incapable, unlike pagan god-men who are so weak and impotent that they can only forgive sin if blood is shed. There is no pagan god like YHVH, the one, true, living God of Israel. The prophets taught us that prayer and faithfulness to God’s ways atoned for sin, and that God forgave the truly penitent.
A pagan god-man’s blood sacrifice is not acceptable under YHVH’s laws
Notice the instructions set forth in the Torah concerning sacrifices:
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement upon the altar for your souls…” (Lev. 17:11)
Only blood spilled on the altar is acceptable, and the blood of the pagan Christ-god was not spilled on the altar in the Temple.
According to the Hebrew Bible, blood sacrifices held only limited atonement capabilities. Foremost among its limitations was that blood sacrifices were only brought for unintentional sins. If a person committed some sin out of ignorance, then atonement could be made through a sacrificial sin offering. Sacrifices did not effect atonement for sins that were done intentionally (Leviticus 4:1-7); only repentance could atone for such sins. Most Christians don’t know this.
There are many other factors that would render the crucifixion of ‘J-s-s’ an unacceptable sacrifice according to Hebrew Scripture. According to the Biblical rules in the whole of Leviticus, all sacrifices had to be offered by a Levite Priest, i.e. a direct male descendant of Aaron (if you are ‘supposedly’ a direct male descendent of David – a Judahite – you cannot at the same time be a direct male descendent of Levi). According to the NT accounts, ‘J-s-s’ was killed by pagan, Gentile Roman soldiers.
Biblical law also prohibited any sacrifice that was blemished or maimed: (Leviticus 22:19-21). The NT clearly states that ‘J-s-s’ was beaten and whipped, which would have made him blemished and maimed, and therefore an unfit sacrifice.
When confronted with the clear Biblical instructions on how acceptable sacrifices were to be offered, however, Christians will complain that this is just legalistic nit-picking. But this is the pot calling the kettle black. Paul’s Believers nit-pick when it suits them; if anyone else does it, it is dismissed as legalistic.
In any case, the death of one man cannot pay for the sins of many (Deut 24:16, Jer 31:30, and most of all, Ezek 18:20). Even Ps 49:8 (Christian bibles 49:7) says,
“No man can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him.”
In addition, the pagan Christ-god is supposedly portrayed as a Passover sacrifice for the remission of sins; this shows Christian ignorance of what the Passover was for – not a sin offering, but a remembrance of the Exodus, a sacrifice which was supposed to warn off the plague (of the death of the firstborn).
The Christian claim that only through bloodshed can atonement be made shows that Christians are unfamiliar with how wondrously compassionate and merciful YHVH our God really is. Sometimes, He forgives us for no other reason that He loves us – simply because He is infinitely kind, loving, compassionate and merciful. Even when we don’t seek our Heavenly Father in quite the right way, He always knows the true intentions of our hearts, and has the ability to reach out to us with abiding love and forgive us:
“Who is the god like you, who is able to pardon sin, and remit transgression; He has not maintained His anger for ever, because He delights in mercy.” (Micah 7:18)
There is no God like YHVH!
To emphasise that false pagan gods, and YHVH the true God, forgive sin in two completely different ways, I want to end with a parable:
“There were two moneylenders, a Roman moneylender, and a Jewish moneylender. Now, the Roman moneylender was the most notorious throughout all the Mediterranean. One day, one of his debtors came to him and said, ‘The debt that I owe you can never be paid off in my lifetime; I beg of you, please have pity on me.’
So the Roman moneylender said to him, ‘I will forgive your debt, even though you are unworthy and don’t deserve it, but only if the debt is paid in blood, and the price exacted in someone’s death.’
The debtor was incredulous, but the Roman moneylender said further, ‘Yes, and I am sending my henchman to make sure that you wash yourself in that person’s blood. That’s the only way I am able to forgive your debt – my rules; I am after all the son of an Empire built on blood and death.’
Now that same day, a debtor came to see the Jewish moneylender. In great distress he said, ‘The debt that I owe you can never be paid off in my lifetime. Please, I beg of you, help me – I don’t know what to do.’
Seeing the depth of his anguish, and the gravity of his need, the Jewish moneylender had great pity on him, so he took the bill of debt, and tore it up.
Surprised, the debtor said, ‘But what about my debt?’
The moneylender replied, ‘I will remember your debt no more. Now go; your debts are forgiven.’
There is no God like YHVH!”