Rescuing Sin, Judgment, & Forgiveness from Christianity
- Rescuing Sin from Christianity
- Rescuing Judgment from Christianity
- Rescuing Forgiveness from Christianity
Jesus, in his divinely ordained mission, provides the perfect means for each man to atone for his sins within a simplified yet complete interpretation of the Torah. However, Christianity, under Paul’s guidance provides a savior to rescue all of humanity that was trapped in sin. Utilizing the Pauline epistles christianity openly supersedes the basic principles and belief sets of sin, judgment, and forgiveness as understood and taught by Jesus.
A culture can be measured by the phenomena for which it has a rich vocabulary. Jewish history & tradition has a very intense vocabulary for the complex of ideas: sin-transgression- repentance-forgiveness. Within the era just before, during, and after Jesus walked the dusty roads of Judea, these typologies of sin originated and were what he understood sin to be. Just like Jesus did not create a new religion out of Judaism, nor did he redefine what sin was.
Jesus and Sin
Christianity hangs its hat on the willingness of Jesus to sit with, eat with, and talk to sinners as the ultimate example of supersession, a "new message" to be taught to the nations. Using eisegetical redactions of Paul’s teachings, christians retroactively alter the purpose and message of Jesus and his actions with the sinners of Israel. The ideals preached in christianity regarding these actions of Jesus are transmuted and altered into a message that Jesus did not teach, nor would recognize today.
The image of Jesus dining with or speaking with sinners is looked upon as proof that Jesus would talk to anyone and offer his message of an easier salvation to anyone who was willing to listen, that he harbored no judgment and welcomed anyone from any walk of life into his fold.
However, this is a fundamental contradiction to what Jesus taught, what he actually did, and a complete bastardization of everything Jesus believed in. Jesus was concerned for the fulfillment of the restorative promises of God to Israel the nation & it’s People, and the constitution of a restored relationship between God and his Chosen People. Jesus understood his main task was to be the center of the movement which was a revival. This revival was the realization of the Kingdom of God among mankind on earth. Jesus took his literal message of the imminent end of the Current Age, to Jews who were not faithful. Jesus taught that the 'lost' Jews should return to God's true way. Jesus described Jews who had fallen away from God and did not observe the Mosaic Law (as they should) as "sinners" and "Lost Sheep”.
The sinners Jesus sat with, and dined with, and preached to, were not both Jews and Gentiles, nor just any Tom, Dick, or Harry that walked by. Jesus spoke directly to Jews. To the lost sons and daughters of Israel. Jesus knew that when the Kingdom of God was fulfilled then Israel would be the beacon of light to the world, for the rest of the world to come to. His concern was not bound to converting anyone, his concern was to bring the lost back to the right path.
Sin in the age of Jesus
In Judaism, even prior to the Second Temple Era, sin has been “an act or action” but for Christianity sin has always been “a state, a condition of mankind”; in Judaism man must make his own atonement in a personal relationship with God, whereas atonement is wrought for all of Christianity by an intermediary who’s only purpose is that, of being an intermediary.
There are two types of sin. The first is the differentiation between "sins between persons" and "sins between persons and God." "Sins between persons" include all offenses that people commit against their fellow human beings: depriving them of a living, insult, injury, gossip, and so on. Jewish tradition is very clear that God cannot forgive such a sin: only the offended party can do so. Thus, if I sin against a fellow human being, I am responsible to seek his/her forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness from another is not easy because we are resistant to admitting that we are wrong, even more resistant to apologizing, and still more resistant to asking for outright forgiveness. Yet it must be done, and in some circles it is customary to do this during the period before the Day of Atonement.
"Sins between persons and God" include all those offenses which bring dishonor and shame to his Name: ritual sins, offenses against other human beings insofar as they are also rebellion against God's aspirations for us, sins which no one sees, even sins of the mind and heart. These sins can be atoned for through repentance which includes confession. This confession is normally not a private confession but a liturgical formula recited in the course of communal worship. The formula is in the plural, thus avoiding any emphasis on one's own sinfulness. There is no confession to a rabbi or other figure, and there is no absolution granted by a rabbi or other figure to the individual in the name of God or Judaism. Rather, thoroughgoing contrition for past wrongs and complete resolve not to sin again will arouse God's merciful love and bring atonement for sins against him.
The second type of sin is the distinction between pesha a transgression of the Law, and hatat, a defilement of one's true inner self. Pesha implies a theology of revelation. The sins it includes are all the transgressions of an ethical, as well as a ritual nature. These sins are defined by the tradition and not by social consensus. They are a function of the Law. Hatat, by contrast, implies the theology of goodness, that is, the theological recognition that creation is good, that "nature," including human individual and social existence, is "naturally" righteous. In this understanding, sin defiles, or pollutes creation. Here, sin is more than revelational; it is creational.
In this type, God acts in two ways. He foregoes the accumulated debt which humans build up by transgressing the Law, just as a human creditor may forego a human debt. He does this by an exercise of judgment which is itself composed of the fusion of precise justice with merciful love. This is called mehilah, "the forgiveness of debts." God also acts to rectify our sense of inner defilement. He accomplishes this by purifying our inner spiritual selves through an act of gracious love. This is called raharah (repentance). The Jewish concept of sin-repentance-forgiveness is, then, based on three theological truths: (1) that God has revealed his way to humankind but that he has also granted us the "right' to choose to follow that way in varying degrees or to reject it (2) that when humankind rejects the way of God, there is always a remedy; (3) that the remedy is based upon a tension between human responsibility for redressing wrongs (repentance) and God's grace (forgiveness). Humankind and God share in rectifying wrong. worthless in comparison with God, yet it is also co-responsible for the governance of creation. God is Judge, yet he also acts out of mercy.
There is, therefore, no concept of "original sin" in Judaism or the teachings of Jesus. lt is precluded by the theology of goodness of creation and the co-responsibility in humankind. It is also the case that sex and sexuality are not a sin. On the contrary, sexuality was socialized into Jewish religion as the form of human relatedness. God commanded us to marry and to be and multiply. Hence, sex is within the concept of the goodness There are forms of sexuality which are forbidden, but there is adequate for legitimate sexuality so that none need think of it as sinful.
It is further the case that ego and personal ambition are not a sin in Judaism. On the contrary, personal ambition was socialized in Jewish Torah institutions, to increase moral authority, to work for the greater security of God's people, etc. God commanded us to rule creation (which includes society and history) as long as we do it within the confines of his guidance. Hence, ego is within the concept of human co-responsibility for creation. One may not be vulgar about it, but there is adequate room for legitimate expression of personal ambition so that none need think of it as sinful.
"Evil," as used in biblical and rabbinic tradition, is closely related to sinfulness. It is not inherent in the universe, in humankind, or in society or history. On the contrary, these phenomena fall under the rubric of creation which is tov, good. Evil, in this theological framework, is the result of bad judgment exercised by human beings. It is not a radical force, independent of man and certainly not of God. Evilness can exert a terrible force within the human personality. But that force can, and must, be resisted. It is an intra- human force and, hence, can be controlled by strong moral consciousness and discipline. It is generated by humankind and can, therefore, be managed by it.
The christian devil (Lucifer) does not figure into the Judaism of Jesus and Satan (Job 1) is no excuse for sin. So why do people sin? Because they are created with twin impulses yetzer ha-tov (“the good impulse," i.e., the innate, psychological, tendency to do good) which stands in constant tension with "the evil impulse" yetzer ha-ra (the tendency to do evil -both yetzer and ra' occur in Genesis 6:5). With FREE WILL and through GOD's grace and TORAH, one can overcome the evil impulse. The SAGES did not formulate a doctrine of the yetzer but ex- pressed their understanding in dicta such as the following: "Said RESH LAQISH: A person should always stir up the yetzer ha-tov over the yetzer ha-ra if he overcomes it, well and good; if not let him engage in the study of Torah and thereby defeat it.”
In Second Temple thought, as naturally also in Jesus teachings, the center of these struggles within a man between the good and evil impulses is the heart (levav). Unlike today, when the heart is used as a metaphor of sentimental emotion, in Second Temple times the heart was viewed as the volitional and intellectual center of man. Thus we find Jesus saying in Matthew:
the mouth speaks from the abundance of the heart (12:34)
from the heart come wicked thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and blasphemy. These things are what make a man unclean, but eating with unclean hands doesn't make a man unclean. (15:19-20)
What's important to understand, and what the rabbis also emphasized, is that the “evil” yetzer is not in itself evil. What is evil is man giving in to the impulse. For the yetzer ha-ra amounts to the natural human urge for propagation and preservation. These are part of God's creation and are good. The evil is in turning to these gods almost as idols and so turning away from God who created us. Thus, too, in the thought of the early Jerusalem Jesus Movement, as James pointed out, the desire to do business and make money is not wrong—it is the turning away from God (and the Torah teachings of Jesus) that is sinful.
It is important to note that this passage from Sirach is clearly paralleled in the Letter of James, which describes man's struggle with the evil impulse while absolving God of instigating evil and preserving man's freedom:
Let no one who is being tempted say,
“I'm being tempted by God,”
for God cannot be tempted by evil,
and He Himself tempts no one.
Each person is tempted when he is lured away
and enticed by his own desires.
Then desire conceives and gives birth to sin,
and when sin becomes full grown it brings forth death. (1:13-15)
James is clearly expressing contemporary Second Temple views of man, who must struggle with the yetzer ha-ra to avoid the spiritual death of those in whom the yetzer ha-ra “becomes full grown.” James goes on to describe the sinful arrogance of those who have allowed the yetzer ha-ra to turn them toward themselves and away from God, forgetting their human frailty:
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we'll go to this or that city and spend a year doing business there and making money.” You don't know what your life will be like tomorrow! You're like a mist that appears for a little while and then disappears! What you should say is, “If the Lord wills it we'll live and we'll do this or that,” but in your arrogance you boast. All such boasting is evil. For whoever knows what he should do and doesn't do it is committing a sin. (4:13-17)
The doctrine of sin, atonement, & forgiveness did not change or transmute with the mission of Jesus, from a Jewish doctrine to a Christian doctrine. In actuality Jesus provided the divinely ordained interpretation of Torah intended to bring Israel (and anyone willing to align themselves with Israel) back onto the righteous path for the coming Kingdom of God.
Great diversity characterizes conceptions of judgment in Second Temple literature. No systematic doctrine of judgment existed in early Judaism. Divine judgment is found wherever God, or a representative appointed by God, is involved in some judging activity. Most commonly, punitive actions against evildoers are prominent, but judgment is not restricted to negative or legal matters, since ruling, deciding, and delivering also qualify as acts of divine judgment.
The language and conceptions of divine judgment in early Jewish literature generally represent developments of the same found in the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew term (usually sapat) covers a wide range of activities, both human and divine. The English translation of the term as “judgment” is unfortunate, since it suggests only legal concepts (deciding a legal case), usually negative (legal guilt or condemnation). Sapat, however, can refer more broadly to various executive functions aimed at maintaining justice or salom. Thus, governing, ruling, restoring, delivering, and punishing are equally valid renderings in various places (Judg. 2:16; 3:10; Psalm 82).
As “judge of all the earth” God rescues Lot and punishes Sodom (Gen. 18:25), decides between the righteous and the wicked (1 Kings 8:32), rescues those who look to him (Lam. 3:58-59), executes punishment upon sinful Israelites (l Sam. 3:13), and rules or establishes justice for the peoples (Isa. 51:5). This divine administration of justice takes place normally in localized earthly events in human history, but in some texts it occurs in the heavens (Ps. 82:1), has a future or eschatological setting (Joel 4:2,12), or is universal (Eccl. 12:14). The phrase “the day of the LORD” makes its appearance especially in the prophets (e.g., Isa. 13:6,9; Amos 5:18). Typically, God judges on the basis of Torah and the covenant with Israel (Deuteronomy 28-31); tensions arise, however, when a good or evil life does not result in the appropriate divine blessing or curse (Job; Ecclesiastes; Psalm 44).
Types of Judgment
Divine judgment takes a variety of forms in Second Temple era. Not infrequently, it takes the form of a military engagement, crushing the opponents of God and bringing deliverance to God’s people. Increasingly, however, legal judgment scenarios appear, as witnessed in the Septuagint translation of sapat by the more legally oriented Greek term krinein. Courtroom scenes, appearing already in the Hebrew Bible, occur repeatedly in early Jewish texts: God sits upon a judgment throne, examines evidence, hears witnesses, and passes sentence (1 Enoch 47:3; 90:20-26; 4 Ezra 7:33; 2 Bar. 83:1-3; Sir. 35:14-15; Testament of Abraham 13-15).
A variety of means are employed in arriving at this judicial sentence. Souls (or deeds) can be weighed in a scale. Betraying possible Egyptian or Greek influence, some writings contain a list of individuals’ good or - evil deeds, or the names of the righteous or wicked (Jub. 30:19-23; 2 Bar. 24:1). Thus, the judgment sentence is “according to deeds” (Sir. 16:12-14). Criteria for this sentence usually relate in some fashion to the Torah and covenant with Israel (Tob. 3:5; 4 Ezra 7:19-25). Rather than flawless obedience, one’s heart and deeds must demonstrate adherence to and love of God’s Torah. In contrast to the wicked, the righteous or elect are typically shown mercy in this judgment (Pss. Sol. 2:33-35). In the Dead Sea Scrolls, one’s adherence to the Torah as expounded by the Teacher of Righteousness is crucial (lQpHab 8:1-3).
Strictly speaking, these court scenes do not determine the guilt or innocence of the accused, since the parties typically enter already with labels such as “sinners,” “righteous,” “elect,” or “enemies.” Such a forensic determination of a status heretofore unclear does not appear in early Jewish texts until the late first or early second century C.E. (Testament of Abraham; b. Berakot 28b). Instead, legal judgment publicly reveals and confirms the status of groups and individuals.
Earthly or Heavenly Judgment
Divine judgment can still take place within human history and on earth, through illness, death, warfare, or catastrophe. However, descriptions of the place of judgment grow increasingly transcendent (e.g., 4 Ezra 7). Suggested reasons include the loss of earthly hope among Jewish groups along with the influence of Hellenistic dualism and apocalypticism. Earlier attempts to tie this earthly/heavenly distinction to differences of apocalyptic versus rabbinic, or Palestinian versus Diaspora, perspectives have been largely abandoned. For most scholars these increasingly heavenly and transcendent scenes of judgment indicate belief in a supra- mundane, wholly discontinuous new age or reality. A minority of scholars, however, take the language of transcendence as metaphorical for a strictly this- worldly expectation: salvation is essentially conceived as here, as earthly, with no suggestion of anything like transcendence.
Agents of Judgment
God is normally the judge (1 Enoch 47; T. Mos. 10:7). In numerous texts, however, other figures are listed as judging, though their authorization by the divine judge is nearly always assumed: angels generally (CD 2:5-6); the Watchers in 1 Enoch; named angels (“Michael” in lQM 17:7-8); messiah(s) [Pss. Sol. 17-18; 1 Enoch 37-71; 4Ezra 12:31-35); Melchizedek (nQMeich; in this text, Melchizedek may be another name for Michael); Abel [T. Abr. 13:3); and the elect (lQpHab 5:4-5). In some cases, these other figures are agents of God’s judgment who execute the penalty rather than pronounce the sentence.
Individual or Collective Judgment
Judgment upon groups (nations, kingdoms) predominates in the Hebrew Bible, which often envisions the destruction of Israel’s enemies. Such collective judgment is also envisioned in Second Temple literature, in both military and forensic scenes. However, an increasing interest in the postmortem judgment of individuals emerges, especially in apocalypses (1 Enoch 1-36; 3 Baruch; 2 Enoch; Testament of Abraham). Yet the collective viewpoint is seldom absent, since the judged individuals are often members of groups: the wicked, the righteous, Gentiles, and Israel (Apocalypse of Abraham).
Objects of Judgment
The most common objects of judgment are those receiving punishment, such as wicked individuals, the enemies of God or of Israel, or even inhabitants of cosmic realms (Belial, apostate angels). Earlier scholarship asserted an exemption from such judgment for Israel and Israelites (Wis. 15:2a, "For even if we sin we are yours”). However, it is increasingly recognized that punitive judgment not only divides Israel from the nations but can also fall upon Israel and her leaders (Wis. 6:4-8; 1 Enoch 62-63) and can separate righteous from unrighteous individuals within Israel. Judgment upon the righteous normally results in some form of reward, but this is less frequently mentioned than punishment of the unrighteous. In some texts this judgment is universal (1 Enoch 1; Si-, Jubilees 5; T. Benj. 10:8-9) and can include the living as well as the dead (1 Enoch 51; 4 Ezra 7:32-44).
Time of Judgment
The older view in pre-exilic Israelite religion that divine judgments are experienced in this life is still attested in early Jewish literature (Wisdom 12; Tob. 1:18; CD 1), though the emphasis shifts decidedly from the past or present to the future. The precise timing of such future judgment yields an almost bewilderingvariety, including at or near the moment of death (4 Macc. 17:12; 18:23), some unspecified time after death [4 Ezra 14:34-35), during an intermediate period between death and the eschaton, at some point near entry to the age to come, or following a messianic interim period (4 Ezra 7:26-44) and/or a general resurrection (2 Bar. 50:1-4). In numerous texts this last conception is referred to as the “great” or “eternal” judgment (1 Enoch 25:4; 91:9; Jub. 5:10). Most texts show little concern to harmonize such variations in timing. An exception is the Testament of Abraham, which envisions three separate judgment events: immediately after death, later judgment of nations, and universal judgment (chap. 13). In some texts the transition from one’s status in this age to that in the next occurs without any explicit judgment scene, particularly in the case of righteous martyrs (4 Maccabees 14).
Purposes and Outcomes of Judgment
Both warnings of punishment and promises of reward are frequent in early udaism. Even the warnings, however, generally serve a positive purpose for the hearers. Since outsiders would not normally be expected to hear these words, the threats of judgment upon them serve to strengthen Jewish listeners. Likewise, the warnings of potential negative judgment addressed to Jews can serve to lead such sinners in Israel to repent as well as to strengthen the obedient to stand firm in the face of suffering and temptation. Thus, divine judgment is of more interest as a motivational tool than as an object of doctrinal reflection per se.
The punishment of the wicked applies in some texts to the enemies of Israel, in others to sinners within Israel, and in others to humanity without such clear distinctions. The forms of such punishment vary widely, including everlasting imprisonment (1 Enoch 69:28), destruction by sword or fire (Jub. 9:15; 36:10; T. Zeb. 10:3), eternal torment (Jdt. 16:17), and annihilation (lQS 4:12-14; 5:13).
The reward of the righteous is likewise described in quite varied ways, including lasting memory among the living, (eternal) life, happiness, deliverance from oppression, enjoyment of earthly or heavenly goods, and immortality or resurrection. This last item, resurrection of the body, becomes increasingly important in postmortem judgment scenes . In some texts human beings are raised for judgment, while in others resurrection is the result of the judgment.
John the Baptist and Judgment
John the Baptizer proclaims to Israel God’s immediately approaching and wrathful judgment. In light of this judgment he calls the people to repentance and acceptance of his baptism, so that, like the marked people in Ezekiel 9, they may escape destruction at the eschatological judgment. It is not sufficient to belong to Abraham’s descendants. What matters is that the people should prove themselves worthy descendants of Abraham through repentance and its fruits: that is, through a right obedience to the Torah. “Repentance and good deeds are as a shield against punishment (m. Abot 4.11)”.
Israel appears in the two similitudes of the Baptizer that have been retained in Q: once in the image of the planting that God has prepared for the divine glorification, and once in the image of the threshed grain that lies on the threshing floor, ready for winnowing. The Baptizer could have taken both images from the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 21:10; 60:21; 61:3). In both similitudes God, appearing once in the image of a woodcutter and once in that of a winnower, carries out a separation and purification: the blighted trees are cut down, and only the good remain standing; the straw is burned, and the grain gathered together.
The saying about the “Stronger One,” in whom the Baptizer also sees God, is to be interpreted in corresponding fashion: Those who do not receive John’s baptism of water as a sign of repentance will have to undergo God’s baptism of fire, the eschatological judgment of divine punishment. The expressions about the “coming” of the “Stronger One” are a clear pointer to the well-attested tradition of God’s plans for the end-times judgment. With this conception, the Baptizer stands entirely within the tradition of early Jewish end-times beliefs that takes its starting point from the prophets’ preaching of the day of YHWH. This is shown by the motifs of “wrath” and “fire” and their eschatological context. More narrowly, he stands within that tradition that starts from the perspective, not of a contrast between Israel and the Gentiles, but of a division between sinners and righteous within Israel. This conception of a historical eschatology that proclaims punishing judgment on Israel’s sinners is attested in many places, beginning with Isaiah 65-66 and Malachi, by way of the various parts of the Book of Enoch, the writings of Qumran, the Psalms of Solomon, and the Book of Wisdom, to Pseudo-Philo and 4 Ezra. In the Mishnah (m. Sank. 10.1) it is said: “All Israelites have a share in the world to come, for it is written, ‘Thy people also shall all be righteous, they shall inherit the land for ever’ (Isa. 60:21).” But even this passage is followed immediately by a series of exceptions.
Thus, it is clear that the Baptizer does not regard Israel as a mass of damnation. In his preaching, the anticipation of salvation is by no means to be found only “indirectly and in a concealed manner.” In that case, what would be the purpose of the call for repentance and baptism? On the contrary: as in the whole early Jewish tradition before him, so also for the Baptizer judgment falls only on sinners; only the blighted trees that bear no fruit will be cut down, and only the straw will be burned, while the grain will be gathered into the granary. Therefore, Adolf Schlatter was correct when he wrote: “The positive statement of the Baptizer, not the negative, constitutes the principal content of his message, and it says that God is now creating the perfected community that is truly hallowed for God. The Christ’s work with the axe is not his highest calling; he comes for the sake of the fruitful trees. The gathering of the wheat into the barns is the purpose of all his work.”
As the call to repentance of a Zephaniah or Joel was sustained by the hope for a “remnant of Israel” that would withstand the day of YHWH and afterward live in righteousness and peace, so also the Baptizer’s call to repentance. “Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Mai. 3:7; Zech. 1:3). The Baptist made this word of the prophet Malachi his own, and therefore the saying about the burning of the stubble on the day of YHWH, the “day of his coming” (Mai. 3:2), is followed by the saying about the “sun of righteousness” (Mai. 4:2). It is, in particular, the book of this prophet that seems to have played a major part in the Baptizer s preaching and self- interpretation. The salvation of the righteous (or of Israel) is the purpose of judgment. This statement is true of the whole of early Jewish eschatology, and it is true also for the Baptizer. Therefore, Matthew and Luke were not entirely incorrect in saying that the Baptizer preached “good news” and the approach of the reign of God (Luke 3:18; Matt. 3:2), even though judgment stood in the forefront of his preaching, and in fact the whole of his preaching can be called “preaching of judgment” The judge has already laid on the axe, and has the winnowing shovel in hand. The day of the Lord is near. Repent and be baptized by me, so that you may escape the punishing judgment! That is the message of the Baptizer.
Jesus and Judgment
The Jewish character of the early Jesus movement is clearly seen in its large-scale continuity with Jewish views of divine judgment. Nevertheless, certain crucial differences also become apparent. The agents and recipients of judgment are largely the same, though Jesus the “son of Man” now appears more centrally as judge alongside God, and the resurrection of the dead becomes more central (Revelation 20). Most of the same means, outcomes, and scenes occur, including the relationship between judgment and human deeds (Matt. 5:31-46; James. 2:14-26). However, the standard is now more often expressed in terms of relationship to Jesus’ teachings than to the Jewish teachings accepted at that time (Matt. 5:17-20). The major shift involves the inaugurated or “realized” end-times beliefs of the Jesus’ message, whereby divine judgment has in one sense already occurred, but in another sense is yet to come.
So, we have a clear and consistent picture of Jesus’ preaching of judgment. It is directed both to individuals and to the nation of Israel as a whole. The role of individuals in Jesus’ preaching is, in the context of early Judaism, nothing new, and it should by no means be overemphasized; the individual is not the proper addressee of Jesus’ end-times preaching. But even though the addressees change, what Jesus announces is always the same event, and the decision he demands in light of that event is always the same. Since all are threatened by destruction, he calls for all to repent. This repentance is nothing other than the acceptance of his message and the willingness to do what he says, and it is urgently demanded, because the End-of-theAge, which brings salvation and destruction with it, is imminent: in fact, it has already begun in his work. The situation of Israel and of every individual is comparable to that of a debtor who is already on the way with the creditor to appear before the judge, or of a manager whose swindles have been discovered and who has only a short time before the final accounting.
Jesus uses biblical motifs and traditions that were alive in early Judaism and among the rabbis in his saying about the table companions of the ancestors in the reign of God, but in a way that at first was seemingly not only offensive, but insupportable to his contemporaries. While the rabbis took the motif of the end-times meal from Ps. 23:5 and Isa. 65:13, Jesus takes up Isa. 25:6, where the meal is promised not to Israel alone, but to “all nations.” Such an idea did not fit within any of the end-times conceptions of early Judaism, in which end-times salvation is reserved either for Israel or for the holy remnant of the nation. However, Jesus’ message included the Gentiles, once they had joined in his originalist Judaism ascribed by God through Jesus.
The idea that Gentiles would recline at table with the ancestors at the end-times banquet, and that the “children of the kingdom” could be cast out, was unheard of. But its enormity is only grasped when we understand the allusion to Isa. 66:2. “Being thrust outside” in the original Jesus saying is only comprehensible as an allusion to the Isaiah verse, out of which the idea of Gehenna as the place of eternal punishment for the damned had developed. Jesus dares to give voice to the notion that Israel could fall into Gehenna. Of course, he only expressed the idea in order that it might not come true. It was easy for Jesus’ teachings to be misrepresented and misconstrued by those who did not follow him, therefore, his inclusion of the Gentiles could easily be seen as something else.
In the promise to the Twelve there is a reference to the throne scene in Dan. 7:9. We can no longer be certain whether Jesus was here also referring antithetically to the midrash on this passage, which applied the judgment in Dan. 7:9-10 to the eschatological judgment of the Gentiles and saw those associated with the judge as the “great ones of Israel.”
We have already pointed to the motif of the harvest and its application. Thus, the very way in which Jesus uses Scripture reveals his closeness to the tradition and his independence in dealing with it. But that Jesus could also use the events of the present as illustrations, in place of Old Testament examples, is also evident. Jesus’ preaching of judgment, no matter how well rooted in end-times beliefs, had its own characteristic uniqueness.
The depictions of judgment in early Jewish writings are quite often dictated by an unconcealed hatred and thirst for revenge: the hatred of the pious against the godless, of the righteous against the wicked, of the tortured against their torturers. In these texts, the eschatological judgment brings not only righteous punishment for sinners, but also serves for the final satisfaction of those who, against all obstacles, remained true to God and God’s law. Therefore, at the end of the Book of Isaiah, the redeemed go “out” to the valley of Hinnom to feast their eyes on the corpses of those who have fallen away from YHWH (Isa. 66:24); and therefore, according to 1 Enoch 27, the judgment of condemnation falls on the “accursed” before the eyes of the righteous, and they rejoice when God’s sword is bathed in the blood of the oppressors, or they take vengeance into their own hands. The “prophets” who speak in texts of that kind reveal such a desire for revenge that they entirely forget the call to repentance; in fact, one has the impression that they are not at all interested in the repentance of sinners.
Nothing of that can be found in the preaching of Jesus. His words about judgment are not inspired by hatred of sinners, but solely by love for them. In fact, he has come especially to call them to the eschatological banquet. Of course, a rejection of the invitation would mean nothing other than self- imposed judgment. Hence the call to repentance, which is equally valid for the righteous and for sinners, plays a central role in Jesus’ preaching. The danger that is anticipated can still be averted. Jesus proclaims judgment to “this generation,” because he wants to preserve them from it. Only in light of that purpose can we understand his preaching of judgment.
Jesus stands within the tradition of early Jewish end-times beliefs; he has much in common with John the Baptizer; and the rejection of his message undoubtedly led him to emphasize the idea of judgment more strongly. Thus, the sayings about the Queen of the South and the Ninevites (Matt. 12:41-42 // Luke 11:31-32) and the parable of the futile invitation to the banquet (Luke 14:16-24) were apparently spoken at a time when it seemed his message might be rejected, while the woes over the Galilean towns (Matt. 11:21-24 // Luke 10:13-15) presuppose that the rejection has already happened. This is clear from the seriousness with which Jesus preached judgment, the originality of his judgment preaching that is evident in so many ways, but primarily from the goal his preaching is intended to achieve: the repentance of individuals and of the whole nation, consisting in turning to him and the resolute performance of his words. For only through that repentance is it possible to avoid the inexorably approaching judgment.
Aggregated from G.W. Lorein & L.J. Peerbolte
The Biblical concept of Divine Forgiveness reveals the view of a compassionate Deity who responds accordingly to human contrition and moral rehabilitation. In the context of the Second Temple era that Jesus lived and preached, he accordingly forgave sins in the sense of mediating God’s forgiveness. Jesus acknowledged that God was the ultimate source of forgiveness and that his own role was that of a chosen agent of God, not simply an intercessor.
Jesus’ announcement of forgiveness is appropriate given the first century Jewish context of his mission and the expression of his identity as the adopted son of God having been anointed and imbued with the Will of God. Through Jesus, God was healing those who suffered from illness, communicating the Good News to the poor, and forgiving those who had strayed from God, his Commandments, and the Temple, thereby restoring the people of Israel in preparation for the reestablishment of God’s Kingdom in the Age-to-come.
Forgiveness in Early Judaism
From the beginning, the Hebrew Bible documents man’s recurring disobedience to the commands of God and the punishments meted out to him as a result of his disobedience. It is true that Judaism does not interpret the sin of Adam to mean that every subsequent human being starts his career with the verdict of guilty entered against him. Nevertheless, the Bible, as well as subsequent Jewish history, shows that sin is an ever-present human temptation to which we succumb far too often. The prophets of Israel interpret the various calamities that befall the people of Israel as the result of the people’s sin. Similarly, the rabbis interpreted the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E. as resulting from Israel’s sin.
Jewish thought and scripture prescribe a process of repentance, and by following this process, sinners can earn God's forgiveness. During one's life, it is never too late to repent.
Specific conditions distinguish the Jewish conception of forgiveness for the person who seeks it. To be taken seriously, any request for forgiveness requires the person’s acknowledgment of responsibility for the wrongful act; making good or providing compensation —insofar as that is possible—for the harm or damage caused; assurance of change in the future (the literal meaning of the Hebrew term for repentance, t’shuvah, is “turning”); and a request for forgiveness itself. These requirements preclude the possibility of forgiveness when the person responsible does not recognize what he has done as wrong—forgiveness requires both consciousness of the wrong committed, accepting responsibility for it, and assurance of the effort to avoid repeating it.
A second set of conditions for forgiveness in Judaism addresses the question of who is empowered to grant it—the conditions are both unequivocal and at odds with certain views in other traditions. Where the wrongdoing has occurred between man and his fellow man, only the person who has suffered injury can grant forgiveness—it is also this person who decides whether the conditions for granting forgiveness have been met. On these terms, no third party or surrogate—whether a cleric or a representative of the person harmed—can extend forgiveness.
The Torah also prescribes a method of praying for repentance. After confessing a sin to God, an individual must also promise to never again transgress against God in the same way. If possible, she should also pay restitution to the wronged party, or if that person has passed away, his heir. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Torah also advises an individual to perform an animal sacrifice, though modern followers of Judaism no longer observe this practice, since the destruction of the second temple in 70ad.
Another method of earning forgiveness from God is by counterbalancing one's sins with good deeds. Charitable acts like alms-giving and acting benevolently toward strangers allows individuals to express their shame over their sins and compensate for them. These acts alone are not sufficient to earn forgiveness, but, coupled with penance and prayer, charitable acts help redeem sinners. This behavior over a sustained period of time also shows God that a person no longer clings to his sinful ways.
Repentance should be a spiritual process, as the Jewish prophets disparage physical acts of remorse such as fasting or self-affliction. The ultimate goal of all repentance is to change one's spiritual and mental outlook, rather than simply punishing oneself. Since a sinner has opposed God's will, he must submit to God's authority and lead new moral life following the precepts of Judaism. Only then can the sinner earn God's forgiveness.
Forgiveness in the Mission of Jesus
The practice of announcing forgiveness is coherent with Jesus’ identity as a prophet (of sorts) and being the adopted son of God imbued with the spirit of God’s Will. In Jesus’ preaching, forgiveness is analogous to healing in the sense that both are dependent on faith. Since Jesus interpreted his faith healing in the light of Isaiah’s prophecies about the end-times restoration, which include the promise of end-times forgiveness, Jesus’ announcement of forgiveness coheres with his understanding of his healings as end-times & messianic events.
Jesus was God’s anointed agent for attaining forgiveness, his teachings, his whole mission, with his death as a final example regarding that forgiveness. While Paul’s teachings were used to twist the meaning of Jesus’ crucifixion into a human atonement for all sins past & present, the real purpose of Jesus' crucifixion remains the same as the original purpose of his earthly ministry—to bring man into the saving covenant with God (Jer 31:31) which is where true forgiveness lies.
Jesus saw his death as not only his: it was a completely representative death. Jesus understood his death was going to be substitutionary and protecting. In stating that the bread represented his body and the wine represented his blood of the covenant, Jesus was teaching that his very existence was comprised of obeying God’s Word, obeying Torah completely, and following the covenantal agreement between Israel and God.
Jesus understood that his death could be relatable as the symbolic Passover victim whose blood would protect his followers from the imminent judgement of God against Israel, Jerusalem, the world, and its corrupt leadership. He was showing his followers that following his teachings of the Way of God: returning to Torah, returning to God, and turning back from sin against God would usher them into the restored kingdom.
The covenantal relationship with God is the same as that envisaged by Jesus in his lament in Luke 13:34 & Matt 23:37: "How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it." Because of Jesus' rejection his death is seen by him as a requirement for the means or reestablishing and restoring the original covenant God had made with the people. As table fellowship with Jesus gave sinners (violators of Torah) a preview of God's saving grace, and as obedient disciples coalesced with advancing Jesus' preaching and healing ministry, so now identification with Jesus' death brings Jesus' disciples the hope of fellowship with God at the end-time banquet through the forgiveness of sins.
The purpose of the forgiveness of sins is the exact same as the purpose of Jesus' entire ministry—to defeat the adversary (Satan) and to enable the unfortunate, the poor, the sick, and the violators of Torah, to align themselves with the end-times saving sovereignty of God and to share in the feast Jesus envisions in Mark 14:25 “I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God."