Monday, May 21, 2007

Temple Theology III: Atonement

At the Last Supper, the Gospels record Jesus speaking these words:
This is my Body which is given for you.
This Cup is the New Covenant in my Blood, shed for you.

The Last Supper falls on the Feast of Passover, the remembrance of the exodus from Egypt and the freedom from oppression. But the words used in the formula point to a different Jewish sacred feast: Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement).

Why would Christianity equate the meal with Atonement?

Barker here might be at her most brilliant.

She shows how the First Temple in Jerusalem, following the logic of "As Above, So Below" was the re-creation of the universe. The Temple consisted of a series of gateways beyond which certain groups could not enter (Gentiles, Jewish women, non-priestly males) and finally the holiest place the Holy of Holies. The Cherubim, the Throne.

The Holy of Holies was only to be entered on the Holiest Day of the Year (Yom Kippur) by the High Priest. The HH represented heaven. Or rather in this symbolism was heaven. The HH was cordoned off by a veil which was made of four colored fabric to represent the four elements: earth, fire, wind, water.

The veil was temporarily "torn" for the priest to enter heaven. He wore the name of God on his forehead (Tau in Hebrew drawn as a diagonal X of Cross--think Christian baptism, sign of Cross). The veil then is the separation between the time-bound and the Eternal.

The priest on Yom Kippur would sacrifice a goat whose blood substituted for his (the priest's) own. But in the symbolism once entering the sanctuary it is clear that the priest is now God or if you prefer symbolizes God. So the blood is God's blood. And the blood represents not death but life.

You probably already see where this is going.

The Letter to the Hebrews of the NT spells this out most clearly. Jesus is the Great High Priest who once and for all has entered the Holy of Holies (Heaven) and thereby became divine. He shed his blood for the life of all.

Recall that in the priestly worldview, chaos in heaven meant chaos on earth. And vice versa. To atone was to overcome the forces of chaos in creation. This was most clearly connected to the Spring Festivals of Renewal when the Warrior God YHWH overcame the forces of chaos, destruction symbolized by the death/cold of winter, the abyss of the sea (and sea monsters).

The prayer "They kingdom Come" is a call for God to reign. To atone the land, to come to the people.

This Lord is merciful to those who will receive the atonement but is ferocious to the forces in this universe that oppose atonement.

By equating Jesus with Adonai, the second God, the Book of Revelations has Jesus as the Cosmic Judge. Hence the seeming change from the loving, compassionate teacher of the Gospels to the fearsome being with the sword of truth in his mouth, the four horseman of the apocalypse, and the Lord of Life and Death in Revelations.

The veil torn yearly to enter the Holy of Holies was Christ's body, his flesh ripped on the Cross of the Universe. He is the Emissary of God.

Btw. the same basic theology underlies the recent movie The Fountain. First Father (Hugh Jackman) of the Maya is Christ/Adonai. He dies so the world may live. Just as the plants (or bread and grapes) must die to give life.

The Babylonians had an ancient rite where their king (their god-man) would be brought before a representation of the High God and ritually beaten and then spit upon to see if he had done his duty. He was then re-robed and given his crown.

Read the Suffering Servant Songs of Isaiah---"he was bruised for our iniquities", "they plucked my beard and spat upon me." Or the stories of Jesus being beaten by the Roman guards, robed in purple, and spit upon.

First Father.

The next post: how this relates to us--the mystical meaning of this symbolism.


Post a Comment

<< Home