In recent years I have begun to object to two key doctrines of Christianity:
(1) Original sin – All people everywhere have inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin and therefore we all deserve the wrath of God;
(2) The substitutionary atonement – Jesus died on the cross to offer a perfect sacrifice for our sins so that we could all be forgiven through his blood.
Let’s compare these two doctrines with the Hebrew scriptures:
Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
In those days people will no longer say,
‘The parents have eaten sour grapes,
and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’
Instead, everyone will die for their own sin; whoever eats sour grapes—their own teeth will be set on edge.
The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
It is the consistent teaching of the Hebrew scriptures that one man cannot be punished for the sins of another, which has two immediate implications:
(1) Adam’s children could never inherit either the guilt of Adam’s sin or the punishment for it;
(2) Jesus of Nazareth could never bear either the guilt of humanity’s sins or the punishment for them.
Furthermore, human sacrifice is repugnant to the Lord, according to the Hebrew scriptures:
You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way, for every abominable thing that the Lord hates they have done for their gods, for they even burn their sons and their daughters in the fire to their gods.
There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer.
They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood. Thus they became unclean by their acts, and played the whore in their deeds. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them.
And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.
According to the Hebrew scriptures, the Lord abhors human sacrifice. The notion that he would require the death of his own son to appease his wrath against humanity is contrary to the law and the prophets.
This does not mean that humans cannot receive divine forgiveness:
But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign Lord. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?
The Hebrew scriptures teach that the Lord will readily forgive anyone who sincerely repents of his sins and returns to the path of righteousness. No bloodshed or sacrifice is required for the forgiveness of sins.
This resolves one of the oldest dilemmas of Christianity:
If God is omnipotent (able to do all things), then why couldn’t he just forgive people’s sins without a blood sacrifice?
The answer, according to the Hebrew scriptures, is that he could and does all the time.
Jesus of Nazareth was executed because his message was a threat to the power structure of the Roman Empire and any other worldly dominion. If anything Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice to appease the wrath of humanity, not the wrath of God.
Read Ezekiel 18 carefully and take its message to heart.