Atonement


When the Hebrew scriptures around 200 BC were translated into Greek – the difference between, the power of a translator verses an interpreter – the word “hades” (underworld) was substituted for “Sheol,” and this also is reflected now in the New Testament. Here, writes Richard N. Longenecker in The Westminster Theological Wordbook of the Bible, Hades is “both the underworld of the dead and the personification of the evil it represents.” And that translation might have misinterpreted a lot for the evolving Abrahamic religions.

So in the account of the origin of the universe, from where had this concept of Sheol come? Is it heard in the Book of Genesis? “In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the heaven – when the skies had been shapeless and formless, and darkness had been on the face of the deep, and God‘s spirit was hovering on the face of the water…” Without hell, there is a greater need for Atonement. In my life. The theology of Christianity evolves with the matter of the existence of hell, with the story of the Messiah. As one theologian asked: “Who needs a Messiah unless there is a hell?” Sheol, as described by Wikipedia, is “a place of darkness to which all the dead go, both the righteous and the unrighteous, regardless of the moral choices made in life, a place of stillness and darkness cut off from God,” per what David Aune writes in The Westminster Dictionary of the New Testament and Early Christian Literature.

This concept of hell seemed so much like my fear of the unfinished basement in the home I lived at the age of five. Was God just some kind of Bogey Man? So as an adult, is your motivation for God still just a child-like fear, or does you motivation come from out of an authentically developed – have I ever said that while growing up my father had been the director of player development – love?

The doubt in this man-made story. Would it not have been too easy to create both just a heaven and a hell, in a simplistic solution to the cosmogony? Rather the idea of hell as a place seems to be the human concept of a cosmology. A cop out, for thoughtless women and thoughtless men who never distinguished cosmology from cosmogony, and spoke about forgiveness but did nothing?

Was the doubt in the man-made stories about goodness? About crime and punishment? In the need for, if not hell, at least for prisons? And what to do with people who have served time? When mandatory sentences, even for life in prisons sentences now could not exceed thirty years (in Minnesota). And thus, my attorney tells me, the reason for the list of sex offenders who live in the neighborhood. But there is no list for the murders who lived near by? It was the state of the union.

When you had to live door next to murders, without a listing of the offenders. When there was so little Atonement in the world. When your relatives spread through the world had sacrificed money to empower you to have a land of your own. When you identified with the land. When your institutions had an identity. And hell was next door, when it was inhabited by people professing a desire to annihilate you again and again. Like your real living relatives that you had known had once been annihilated not so long ago.

In a world that could no longer judge right from wrong, what happened to goodness? When we were all looking into the abyss, in the age of nuclear proliferation. When nuclear weapons proliferated, so many people no longer procreated. It was the state of the union. When goodness had always been the goal? The moment in the story had been about goodness -not niceness as depicted by some spin doctor. There was in the real world a fear of true goodness by so many nice people who ascribed to a dominant theology of Christianity. Or if you were reading this in Egypt, the theology of Islam.

“God made every kind of wild animal, every kind of tame animal, and every kind of thing that crawls on the ground. God saw that it was good. And then God said: ‘Let US make human beings in OUR image and likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.’ ”

“If guilt is proved, we will welcome it, because it will show that corruption in the public sector does not pay,” a Czech government official said. So would there be punishment? And would banishment simply suffice? Or was there a need for prisons, with systems of justice?

When the issues of guilt or innocence had been decided, then you had to decide on the damages. Not monetary punishment, not banishment. Had that been the focus on Rosh Hashanah, when Abraham took Isaac to the mountaintop seemingly for the last time? In a story about ending, was there doubt in the man-made stories about goodness? About fathers and sons, about crime and punishment? In the need for, if not hell, some kind of ending.

Note the generational purpose, in the stories in the Book of Genesis. Nomads, contending with the outside world contrasted on the issue of power against the role of women. The power of women in the inside world, the power of men in the outside world. The role in the story of so long ago of power. At an age when you did not understand power. Why does it take so long to learn how to use power? If you ever learned how. And what kind of damages would be assessed against the guilty, over man’s inhumanity to man?

Purpose opposed by Obstacle yields Conflict. Like in Russia, whether before or after the fall of communism. Or in my country then with high-flying capitalism, or now with all these currencies on the brink. When there was a need for great change. By everyone. If we were all going to survive. This year.

It was a good weekend for all the believers of Abrahamic religions to think about change and Atonement. To take it all so personally and beg for forgiveness. Over Israel and Palestine; over Germany and Holocausts; over Spain and inquisitions; over famine and gulags, over slavery in Old Worlds and liberty in New ones. Over crimes and punishment, and all the crusades over holy land. On trying to come to grips with the issue of all of the damages. And trying to understand the personal love involved in these relationships. Because to even ask the question “Who needs a Messiah unless there is a hell?” is to miss the love in all of the stories of the Abrahamic religions which began in the Hebrew Bible.

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1 comment so far

  1. paperlessworld on

    William Sherman, Acting Special Agent-In-Charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration in San Diego, said in a statement that he was troubled by the treatment of Daniel Chong and extended his “deepest apologies” to him. This was just another man who confused apologies with what was a need for Atonement. It was time to put in some change. Of the careless personnel, of the standards of enforcement. Or really of a standard of caring for its citizens of the greater San Diego community. And not in released statements but in acting by standing in front of the community, and meaning what you said.


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