The Backstory to Jesus’s Atonement While the New Testament can be gleaned (and ought to) for the basis of Jesus’s atonement, the theme itself, from the Early Jewish (were they Christian yet?) in the New Testament (hereafter NT) comes from their scriptures, the Old Testament (hereafter OT). Unfortunately there is no systematic presentation of atonement in Jewish scriptures, and much that has been left out, or outright changed for theologically biased reasons, both ancient and modern. We have some ideas though about how it worked, even though, we need to be alert that there is more than just one interpretation, and no single interpretation can possibly be labeled as “the correct one.” Leon Morris noted the many views and scriptures interpreted which have interpreted animal sacrifice as the blood meaning “the life” which is supposedly the emphasis. After careful examination he concludes, properly so, that this is just incorrect, interesting though that is. Sacrifice is not about “offering up life,” it is not about “the bestowal of life,” it is in the whole offering, rather than just a blood offering that is involved. It is “dam [blood] in the OT indicates that it signifies life violently taken rather than the continued presence of life available...in short, death rather than life.” The various animal sacrifices in Leviticus were for various kinds of issues of crime and guilt, one of which, the passover lamb was involved. This could have been the basis of symbolism which attached to Jesus as the lamb, but perhaps not. The problem here is it was never used in the manner of expiation of anything. On closer exegesis, Morris noted that, while true the Passover was never used to take away sin, “there is evidence that all sacrifice was held to be expiatory, and this includes the Passover.” The πασχα, the Passover, is “an exemption, immunity,” for the Jews remembrance of delivery from the Egyptians. This was the meal Jesus held with his disciples “... the conception of Jesus’ Last Supper as the Passover meal goes back to the theology of the three Evangelists and that of the Christian groups behind them.” “From the beginning the Lord’s Supper served to make present the salvation that came in Jesus in which the community symbolically shared in the celebration of this meal.” The αιμα μου της διαθηκης - “my blood of the covenant,” of Matthew 26:28 compares with Luke 22:20 - η καινη διαθηκη εν τω αιματι μου, “the new covenant in my blood.” The predicate nominative of a verbless clause, and the syntax here is the preposition phrase actually points to the means by which the covenant is initiated. It can mean “sealed” or “ratified.” This is a continuation of “important Passover allusions” such as - וַיִּקַּ֤ח משֶׁה֙ אֶת־הַדָּ֔ם וַיִּזְרֹ֖ק עַל־הָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֤ה דַם־הַבְּרִית֙ אֲשֶׁ֨ר כָּרַ֤ת יְהֹוָה֙ עִמָּכֶ֔ם עַ֥ל כָּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה - And Moses took the blood and sprinkled [it] on the people, and he said, "Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has formed with you concerning these words." (Exo. 24:8). This supper also may well be alluding to the “New Covenant” of Jeremiah - הִנֵּ֛ה יָמִ֥ים בָּאִ֖ים נְאֻם־יְהֹוָ֑ה וְכָֽרַתִּ֗י אֶת־בֵּ֧ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאֶת־בֵּ֥ית יְהוּדָ֖ה בְּרִ֥ית חֲדָשָֽׁה: לֹ֣א כַבְּרִ֗ית אֲשֶׁ֚ר כָּרַ֙תִּי֙ אֶת־אֲבוֹתָ֔ם בְּיוֹם֙ הֶֽחֱזִיקִ֣י בְיָדָ֔ם לְהֽוֹצִיאָ֖ם מֵאֶ֖רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם - “The time is coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt…” Interestingly, we may very well have two more generative texts behind this Last Supper at Isaiah 53:11-12, and Jeremiah 3:31-34. Zechariah 9:11 also refers to “the blood of my covenant with you.” “The actual Passover service revolved around the four promises of Exodus 6:6-7, each one coming to be associated with the drinking of one of the four cups of wine. The cup of Matt 26:27 appears to have been the third one, the one drunk just after the supper in conjunction with God’s promise to redeem His people.” “The paschal lamb, a year-old lamb or kid, slain as a sacrifice (Exo. 12:27). According to Josephus, the number of lambs sacrificed at Jerusalem in his time was 256,500. They were slain between the ninth and eleventh hour, which is from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. Metaphorically used of Christ at 1 Corinthians 5:7. The whole Passover is sometimes called the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the paschal festival.” Paul explicitly calls Christ “our paschal lamb, has been slain,” at 1 Cor. 5:7. Again it has been noted that “the Paschal victim was not a sin-offering or regarded as a means of expiating or removing sins.” And developing this further, we note that “the Passover is already associated with atonement in Ezek. 45:18-22.” Note however, this is the blood of the young bull and the atonement was for the spreading of blood all over the temple door, posts, etc., to cleanse the building of sin, פַּר־בֶּן־בָּקָ֖ר תָּמִ֑ים וְחִטֵּאתָ֖ אֶת־הַמִּקְדָּֽשׁ. In verse 15 we find they are to take the lamb for the banquet meal - וְשֶׂה־אַחַ֨ת מִן־הַצֹּ֚אן מִן־הַמָּאתַ֙יִם֙ מִמַּשְׁקֵ֣ה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל, and this specifically for atonement וְכִפַּרְתֶּ֖ם from the verb, kaphar - to cover over, pacify, from a primitive root to placate, translated in the majority of cases as “to make atonement.” Dunn, whose analysis I am using here, says the link was probably already forged by Jesus’ time with “the double association of the Last Supper with the Passover and with Jesus’ blood poured out for many (Mark 14:24). There the language is unavoidably sacrificial and signifies atonement.” Dunn further notes, in Paul, the several places of his using the phrase “in/through his blood,” cannot be adequately understood except as a reference to Christ’s death as a sacrifice.” “Rev 1:5 calls Jesus the One who has redeemed, i.e. ransomed (λυσαντι) us from our sins by His blood. One cannot be more precise about Rev 1:5. Endnotes 1. Margaret Barker, “The Great High Priest,” T&T Clark, 2003: Ch. 3. 2. Leon Morris, “The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross,” Eerdman, 3rd ed, 1965, p. 112, 114, 119, 121. 3. Morris, p. 131. 4. Spiros Zodhiates, “The Complete Word Study Dictionary, New Testament,” World Bible, 1992, p. 1126. 5. Gunther Bornkamm, “Jesus von Nazareth,” translated by Irene, Fraser McLuskey, Harper & Row, 1959: 162. 6. Jens Schrӧter, “Von Jesus Zum Neuen Testament,” translated by Wayne Coppins, Baylor Univ. Press, 2013: 68. 7. Martin M. Cult, Mikeal C. Parsons, Joshua J. Stigall, “Luke A Handbook on the Greek Text,” Baylor Univ. Press, 2010: 671; Robert Hanna, “A Grammatical Aid to the Greek New Testament,” Baker Book, 1983: 140. 8. G. K. Beale, D. A. Carson, “Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” Baker Academic, 2nd print, 2008: 90-91. 9. Zodhiates, “Ibid,” p. 1127. 10. James D. G. Dunn, “The Theology of Paul the Apostle,” Eerdmans, paperback, 2006: 216-217. 11. Dunn, “Ibid,” p. 217. 12. “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” Eerdmans, reprint 1985: 4: 336.