Was Christ's Death Neccessary?
(The "Problems" posed by Leviticus 16:30,
Micah 6:6-8, and Ezekiel 18:20)
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23 August 2004
Updated 05 August 2006
The New Testament declares that for one's sins to be forgiven by God, one must first confess that Christ is the son of God and then be baptized into his death. That is to say, that ONLY the sacrifice of God's first-born and only begotten son, can secure forgiveness of sin.
This notion seems to be contradicted by the prophet Micah. It appears that Micah understands that to be reconciled to God and forgiven for one's sins, the sacrifice of one's firstborn is NOT acceptable, God desires instead from an individual, "justice, loving kindness and to walk humbly with God."
Micah 6:6-8 RSV
"With what shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on HIgh ? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old ? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil ? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?"
Micah goes on to assure Israel that God will forgive them their trespasses against him:
Micah 7: 18-20 RSV
"Who is a God like thee, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger for ever because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion upon us, he will tread our iniquities under foot. Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham as thou hast sworn to our fathers from the days of old."
I find it difficult on the basis of Micah 6:6-8 to "embrace" the Christian notion that Jesus Christ, the firstborn and only begotten son of God _had to die_ inorder for man to be reconciled to God and have his sins forgiven.
Along a similar note is the Jewish concept of God's ANNUAL forgiveness of Israel's sins on Yom Kippur. The following is extracted from a brochure accompanying a Medal issued by the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corporation of Jerusalem explaining Yom Kippur's significance:
"Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the tenth day of the month of Tishri
according to the Jewish claendar, is unique in its holiness ("the Sabbath of
Sabbaths" - a day of solemn rest" as it is called in Leviticus 23:32). The
Jews were granted this holiest of days at Mount Sinai while receiving the
Torah. It was then that they became a people. The significance of Yom
Kippur, as it appears on the medal, is to serve as a vehicle for the group
forgiveness of a holy nation (the Jewish people) on a holy day (the Day of
Atonement). And in fact, to forgive each individual for his sins. This day
is the climax of the ten days of repentance which begins with the Rosh
Hashana holiday (the New Year) and culminates with the Day of Atonement.
The Torah declares that on Yom Kippur all sins will be forgiven: "for on
this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins
shall ye be clean before the Lord" (Leviticus 16:30). But our sages have
interpreted that those sins made by man against the Lord will be pardoned,
while those mades against a fellow man will be forgiven only upon direct
reconciliation between man and his fellow man."
The notion that God graciously forgives the sins of ALL Israel once a year at Yom Kippur, in addition to Micah's statement that God will NOT accept a "first-born" sacrifice of a human-being, seems to me, to effectively _negate_ Christianity's claims that Christ HAD TO DIE in order to obtain forgiveness of sins for mankind from God.
According to Christian claims, the God of the Old Testament is Jesus Christ in the role of The Logos, "The Word." Why would Christ as "The Logos" via Micah, declare to his people that the shed blood of a Human Sacrifice is unacceptable to God in forgiving sins, ONLY righteous behavior is acceptable?
Christianity teaches that with Adam's fall sin entered into the world and that all of Adam's descendants are tainted with this sin and only Christ's sacrifice upon the cross can end the cycle of sin for the generations yet to come. This Christian notion seems to be contradicted by Ezekiel who appears to be of the understanding that God does not charge the sons with the father's sins:
Ezekiel 18:1-20 RSV
"The word of the Lord came to me again: "What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge'? As I live, says the Lord God, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins shall die. If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right- if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman in her time of impurity, does not oppress any one, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, does not lend at interest or take any increase, witholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between man and man, WALKS IN MY STATUTES, AND IS CAREFUL TO OBSERVE MY ORDINANCES- he is righteous, he shall surely live, says the Lord God... THE SON SHALL NOT SUFFER FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE FATHER. NOR THE FATHER SUFFER FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE SON; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself."
Ezekiel suggests that the father's sins do _not_ transfer to the sons, yet Christianity teaches just the opposite: Adam's fall and sin is transferred to all his descendants until Christ appears to end the cycle of sin.
Ezekiel seems to also suggest that the "righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself" that is to say, the father's righteousness _cannot be transferred to his son_, excusing the son of his sins. Yet this is just what Christianty argues! Christ's righteousness _is transferred_ to his sons, the Church. That is to say, Christ's righteousness has "fufilled the Law" and Christians are to no longer attempt their own righteousness by obeying the Law nor the Ordinances! Why did Christ as the Word or Logos via the Holy Spirit have Ezekiel utter these words which _contradict_ Christian teachings?
I am a Secular Humanist, a non-believer. It it seems apparent to me that the New Testament authors have set out a program to nullify, point by point everything held as Holy and binding on man in the Old Testament. That is to say Christianity is refuting, denying and challenging the Old Testaments's portrayal of how man is to honor God.