The Bible and Vicarious Atonement

A Response to A Desperate Muslim Dawagandist

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi has come back again (*) with a response to my rebuttal (*) to his arguments regarding the Biblical teaching on salvation. In this recent response he tries to quote specific passages to undermine the fact that sacrifices are necessary for the forgiveness of sins. The aim of this rebuttal is to respond to the assertions he makes regarding this topic and then follow it up with another article where we provide a thorough rebuttal to the rest of his points.

But before we address his arguments against sacrificial atonement we want to first respond to Zawadi’s feeble attempt of trying to answer why God requires repentance if he didn’t demand perfect obedience:

Isn't it obvious that if God wanted perfect obedience then He never would have given us the option to repent and just forced us to completely keep away from sin? The fact that the door of repentance is open is an acknowledgement from God that He doesn't expect us to be perfect and that we will fumble. In Islam we believe that God will reward us for our struggle for perfection. When we commit sin, we get off the straight path. When we repent, we get right back on it. I never said that God doesn't want perfect obedience, but that He doesn't expect it from us since he created us incapable of ever doing so. All we can do is strive for perfection. (Don't Christians believe that we can't be perfect human beings and that Jesus was the only perfect one?) The command to repent presupposes that God wants us to come back and re-strengthen our bond of love with Him even though at the end of the day we will still not be perfect in His sight.

Instead of answering our point he simply repeats his assertion! We need to again repeat: if God didn’t demand perfect obedience then why would he require repentance and confession of sins at all?

The answer is rather obvious, except to Zawadi: He wouldn’t demand repentance if he didn’t expect absolute perfection. God would simply allow us to make mistakes without requiring confession and repentance.

Moreover, God’s acceptance of repentance shows that he realizes that we will fail to live in perfect obedience to his Law and thereby provides a way of forgiveness and reconciliation.

With the foregoing behind us, we can now move to addressing Zawadi’s arguments against the importance of sacrifices for atonement. He quotes (more like distorts) Hosea 6:6 and Psalm 51:16-17 to prove his case against the necessity of vicarious atonement. Yet a careful reading of any of these passages will show that none of these inspired writers denied the importance of blood sacrifices, but were condemning the rather cavalier attitude of the Israelites in offering them with sinful hearts and minds.

For instance, if we take Hosea 6 in context we will discover that the people were offering sacrifices with an unrepentant and wicked heart:

"But at Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me. Gilead is a city of evildoers, tracked with blood. As robbers lie in wait for a man, so the priests are banded together; they murder on the way to Shechem, yea, they commit villainy. In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; E'phraim's harlotry is there, Israel is defiled. For you also, O Judah, a harvest is appointed. When I would restore the fortunes of my people," Hosea 6:7-11

It must be stated that the sacrifices were only efficacious (made effective) for people who offered them in sincere faith and repentance. Otherwise, God would not accept them on behalf of the person making them. An example of this is the offerings made by Cain and Abel and how God accepted the one offering but not the other:

"Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast." Genesis 4:2b-5

Hebrews explains why God accepted the one but not the other:

"By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he received approval as righteous, God bearing witness by accepting his gifts; he died, but through his faith he is still speaking." Hebrews 11:4

Abel's faith made his offering efficacious and acceptable to God. This means that Cain's offering was rejected because he had no faith, a fact supported by the context of Genesis itself:

"Then the LORD said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.’" Genesis 4:6-7

This shows the importance and necessity of faith on the part of the offerer, otherwise his sacrifices will be nothing more than vain ritualism, which does nothing to commend him to an infinitely holy and just God.

In case Zawadi insists that these passages make void all of those passages of the Torah which specifically highlight the necessity of the sacrificial system, he will also have to reject the necessity and importance of prayers and other rituals:

"Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomor'rah! 'What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more VAIN offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow." Isaiah 1:10-17

Using the logic of Zawadi to understand Isaiah, we must conclude that the Israelites didn't need to pray or observe the Sabbaths or any of the other holy days prescribed in the Torah, which is obviously quite nonsensical. The point of Isaiah, as well as the other prophets, is that prayers, sacrifices, Sabbath observances etc. mean nothing to God when done with unrepentant and unbelieving hearts.

King David puts this all together; after sinning against God by committing adultery, David (by inspiration) cried out to God in repentance through the following Psalm:

"Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings TO DELIGHT YOU; then bulls will be offered ON YOUR ALTAR." Psalm 51:14-19

In the words of the Lord Jesus:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, WITHOUT NEGLECTING THE OTHERS." Matthew 23:23

Zawadi refers to 1 Samuel 3:11-14 and Leviticus 26:31 and says:

Sometimes we see God saying that He does not even want sacrifices at certain times for it won't help...

1 Samuel 3:11-14

  11 And the LORD said to Samuel: "See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make the ears of everyone who hears of it tingle. 12 At that time I will carry out against Eli everything I spoke against his family?from beginning to end. 13 For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; his sons made themselves contemptible, [b] and he failed to restrain them. 14 Therefore, I swore to the house of Eli, 'The guilt of Eli's house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering.' "

Leviticus 26:31

31 I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings.

In his haste to refute my response Zawadi fails to see how these verses actually prove my case against him. Note carefully that the reason why God will not accept any sacrifices is because he intends to carry out his judgment against these individuals! In other words, since God will no longer accept atonement for the sins of these wicked individuals he must carry out his judgment and destroy them. This proves the point that I have been consistently making, specifically, that God cannot simply forgive sinners without having a basis to do so, without having a way to satisfy his perfect righteousness and justice. And since God rejected atonement on behalf of the sons of Eli and these specific Israelites who persistently rebelled against him he had to wipe them out in order to appease his divine wrath.

Zawadi quotes Mark 12:32-33 to further prove his point against the centrality and necessity of sacrificial atonement.

For there are more important things that sacrifices...

Mark 12:32-33

"Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

Zawadi’s response ignores what I had said in my initial response (*). The commands that the man cited do not say that an individual must try to love God completely or attempt to love one’s neighbor as oneself, but that they MUST love God with his/her entire being and truly love one’s neighbor as oneself. This is something that no human being, apart from the blessed Lord Jesus Christ, can ever say they have done as long as they have a sinful nature.

So then what does the Law prescribe for the individual who fails to actually carry out these ordinances completely? You guessed it, sacrificial atonement:

"For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life." Leviticus 17:11

Zawadi proceeds to quote God’s words to David in 2 Samuel 12:13 to prove that his sins were removed without punishing him or demanding sacrifices even though he alludes to Psalm 51, the very Psalm where David refers to offering sacrifices with a right disposition! Basically, Psalm 51 shows that God could spare David from being put to death on the basis of the sacrifices which he instituted as a means of atonement.

Zawadi tries to also argue that God forgave the Ninevites without demanding sacrificial atonement (cf. Jonah 3:5-10), which again merely exposes his ignorance of Biblical teaching.

Zawadi forgets that one of the purposes of the Temple in Jerusalem was to provide sacrifices for the sins of any Gentile who would turn to God in repentance:

"Then Solomon stood before THE ALTAR of the LORD in front of the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands. Now he had made a bronze platform, five cubits long, five cubits wide and three cubits high, and had placed it in the center of the outer court. He stood on the platform and then knelt down before the whole assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven. He said: ‘O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven or on earth—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today… Yet give attention to your servant's prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence. May your eyes be open toward this temple day and night, this place of which you said you would put your Name there. May you hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplications of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place; and when you hear, forgive… As for the foreigner who does not belong to your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of your great name and your mighty hand and your outstretched arm—when he comes and prays toward this temple, then hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and do whatever the foreigner asks of you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your own people Israel, and may know that this house I have built bears your Name… When they sin against you—for there is no one who does not sin—and you become angry with them and give them over to the enemy, who takes them captive to a land far away or near; and if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive, and repent and plead with you in the land of their captivity and say, "We have sinned, we have done wrong and acted wickedly"; and if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their captivity where they were taken, and pray toward the land you gave their fathers, toward the city you have chosen and toward the temple I have built for your Name; then from heaven, your dwelling place, hear their prayer and their pleas, and uphold their cause. And forgive your people, who have sinned against you. Now, my God, may your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place. Now arise, O LORD God, and come to your resting place, you and the ark of your might. May your priests, O LORD God, be clothed with salvation, may your saints rejoice in your goodness. O LORD God, do not reject your anointed one. Remember the great love promised to David your servant.’" 2 Chronicles 6:12-15, 19-21, 32-33, 36-42

"As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed THE BURNT OFFERING and THE SACRIFICES, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD's house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ Then the king and all the people OFFERED SACRIFICE before the LORD. King Solomon offered as a sacrifice 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep. So the king and all the people dedicated the house of God. The priests stood at their posts; the Levites also, with the instruments for music to the LORD that King David had made for giving thanks to the LORD--for his steadfast love endures forever--whenever David offered praises by their ministry; opposite them the priests sounded trumpets, and all Israel stood. And Solomon consecrated the middle of the court that was before the house of the LORD, for there he offered THE BURNT OFFERING and the fat of THE PEACE OFFERINGS, because the bronze altar Solomon had made could not hold the burnt offering and the grain offering and the fat… Thus Solomon finished the house of the LORD and the king's house. All that Solomon had planned to do in the house of the LORD and in his own house he successfully accomplished. Then the LORD appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: ‘I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself AS A HOUSE OF SACRIFICE. When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people, if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place. For now I have chosen and consecrated this house that my name may be there forever. My eyes and my heart will be there for all time. And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, "You shall not lack a man to rule Israel."’" 2 Chronicles 7:1-7, 11-17

This explains why God could forgive the Ninevites, since he had set up a sacrificial system in Jerusalem whereby even the sins of Gentiles could be atoned for provided that they turned to God in sincere faith.

If this weren’t enough evidence that Zawadi has no clue what the Holy Bible teaches he comes up with the most desperate attempt of attacking Christ’s vicarious death. He quotes passages where God condemns the concept of human sacrifice (Deuteronomy 12:31, 18:10; 2 Kings 17:17; Jeremiah 7:31), all of which refer to child sacrifices.

Even though it is true that the Holy Bible prohibits the sacrifice of innocent children in connection with the worship of pagan gods, it does not condemn the fact that humans can offer their lives as a means of atonement. Renowned Messianic scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown quotes the views of orthodox Jewish historian Rabbi Berel Wein regarding the sufferings of the Jews being a means of atonement:

Another consideration tinged the Jewish response to the slaughter of its people. It was an old Jewish tradition dating back to Biblical times that the death of the righteous and innocent served as expiation for the sins the nation or the world. The stories of Isaac and of Nadav and Avihu, the prophetic description of Israel as the long-suffering servant of the Lord, the sacrificial service in the Temple - all served to reinforce this basic concept of the death of the righteous as an atonement for the sins of other men.

Jews nurtured this classic idea of the death as an atonement, and this attitude towards their own tragedies was their constant companion throughout their turbulent exile. Therefore, the wholly bleak picture of unreasoning slaughter was somewhat relieved by the fact that the innocent did not die in vain and that the betterment of Israel and humankind somehow was advanced by their "stretching their neck to be slaughtered." What is amazing is that this abstract, sophisticated, theological thought should have become so ingrained in the psyche of the people that even the least educated and most simplistic of Jews understood the lesson and acted upon it, giving up precious life in a soaring act of belief and affirmation of the better tomorrow. This spirit of the Jews is truly reflected in the historical chronicle of the time:

"Would the Holy One, Blessed is he, dispense judgment without justice? But we may say that he whom God loves will be chastised. For since the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, the righteous are seized by death for the iniquities of the generation" (Yeven Metzulah, end of Chapter 15). (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000], Volume Two, pp. 154-155)

The following citations further support Dr. Brown’s claims:

When they saw that he [Eleazar] was so courageous in the face of the afflictions, and that he had not been changed by their compassion, the guards brought him to the fire. There they burned him with maliciously contrived instruments, threw him down, and poured stinking liquids into his nostrils. When he was now burned to his very bones and about to expire, he lifted up his eyes to God and said, "You know, O God, that though I might have saved myself, I am dying in burning torments for the sake of the law. Be merciful to your people, and let our punishment suffice for them. Make my blood their purification, and take my life in exchange for theirs." And after he said this, the holy man died nobly in his tortures, and by reason he resisted even to the very tortures of death for the sake of the law. 4 Maccabees 6:24-30

For just as towers jutting out over harbors hold back the threatening waves and make it calm for those who sail into the inner basin, so the seven-towered right reason of the youths, by fortifying the harbor of religion, conquered the tempest of the emotions. For they constituted a holy chorus of religion and encouraged one another, saying, "Brothers, let us die like brothers for the sake of the law; let us imitate the three youths in Assyria who despised the same ordeal of the furnace. Let us not be cowardly in the demonstration of our piety." While one said, "Courage, brother," another said, "Bear up nobly," and another reminded them, "Remember whence you came, and the father by whose hand Isaac would have submitted to being slain for the sake of religion." Each of them and all of them together looking at one another, cheerful and undaunted, said, "Let us with all our hearts consecrate ourselves to God, who gave us our lives, and let us use our bodies as a bulwark for the law. Let us not fear him who thinks he is killing us, for great is the struggle of the soul and the danger of eternal torment lying before those who transgress the commandment of God. Therefore let us put on the full armor of self-control, which is divine reason. For if we so die, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob will welcome us, and all the fathers will praise us." Those who were left behind said to each of the brothers who were being dragged away, "Do not put us to shame, brother, or betray the brothers who have died before us." 4 Maccabees 13:6-18

"They vindicated their nation, looking to God and enduring torture even to death." Truly the contest in which they were engaged was divine, for on that day virtue gave the awards and tested them for their endurance. The prize was immortality in endless life. Eleazar was the first contestant, the mother of the seven sons entered the competition, and the brothers contended. The tyrant was the antagonist, and the world and the human race were the spectators. Reverence for God was victor and gave the crown to its own athletes. Who did not admire the athletes of the divine legislation? Who were not amazed? The tyrant himself and all his council marveled at their endurance, because of which they now stand before the divine throne and live through blessed eternity. For Moses says, "All who are consecrated are under your hands." These, then, who have been consecrated for the sake of God, are honored, not only with this honor, but also by the fact that because of them our enemies did not rule over our nation, the tyrant was punished, and the homeland purified -- they having become, as it were, a ransom for the sin of our nation. And through the blood of those devout ones and their death as an expiation, divine Providence preserved Israel that previously had been afflicted. For the tyrant Antiochus, when he saw the courage of their virtue and their endurance under the tortures, proclaimed them to his soldiers as an example for their own endurance, and this made them brave and courageous for infantry battle and siege, and he ravaged and conquered all his enemies. 2 Maccabees 17:10-24

These passages show what the Jewish attitude was regarding the death of the righteous. These Jews obviously believed that their deaths did have an effect upon the nation, and even beseeched God to accept their martyrdom as atonement for Israel’s sins!

Now part of what motivated these Jews to die as martyrs was Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac:

Yet the sacred and God-fearing mother did not wail with such a lament for any of them, nor did she dissuade any of them from dying, nor did she grieve as they were dying, but, as though having a mind like adamant and giving rebirth for immortality to the whole number of her sons, she implored them and urged them on to death for the sake of religion. O mother, soldier of God in the cause of religion, elder and woman! By steadfastness you have conquered even a tyrant, and in word and deed you have proved more powerful than a man. For when you and your sons were arrested together, you stood and watched Eleazar being tortured, and said to your sons in the Hebrew language, "My sons, noble is the contest to which you are called to bear witness for the nation. Fight zealously for our ancestral law. For it would be shameful if, while an aged man endures such agonies for the sake of religion, you young men were to be terrified by tortures. Remember that it is through God that you have had a share in the world and have enjoyed life, and therefore you ought to endure any suffering for the sake of God. For his sake also our father Abraham was zealous to sacrifice his son Isaac, the ancestor of our nation; and when Isaac saw his father's hand wielding a sword and descending upon him, he did not cower. And Daniel the righteous was thrown to the lions, and Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael were hurled into the fiery furnace and endured it for the sake of God. You too must have the same faith in God and not be grieved. It is unreasonable for people who have religious knowledge not to withstand pain." By these words the mother of the seven encouraged and persuaded each of her sons to die rather than violate God's commandment. 4 Maccabees 16:12-24

What makes this rather interesting is that many Jewish sources went so far as to suggest that Isaac actually died, and by his death made atonement for Israel. Even those who didn’t believe that Isaac actually died still appealed to God to recall the binding of Isaac as a means of atonement:

MY BELOVED IS UNTO ME AS A CLUSTER OF HENNA. CLUSTER refers to Isaac, who was bound on the altar like A CLUSTER OF HENNA (KOFER): because he atones (mekapper) for the iniquities of Israel. (Song of Songs Rabbah 1:14:1 — Soncino Midrash Rabbah, volume 9, second part, p. 81)

When the children of Isaac give way to transgressions and evil deeds, do Thou recollect for them the binding of their father Isaac and rise from the Throne of Judgment and betake Thee to the Throne of Mercy, and being filled with compassion for them have mercy upon them and change for them the Attribute of Justice into the Attribute of Mercy! (Leviticus Rabbah 29:9 — Soncino Midrash Rabbah, volume 4, p. 376)

In the course of time ever greater importance was attributed to the 'Akedah. The haggadistic literature is full of allusions to it; the claim to forgiveness on its account was inserted in the daily morning prayer ...

... even in the Talmud voices are raised in condemnation of its conception as a claim to atonement ... These protests were silenced by the persecutions in which Jewish fathers and mothers were so often driven to slaughter their own children in order to save them from baptism. This sacrifice is regarded as a parallel to that of Abraham ... The influence of the Christian dogma of atonement by vicarious suffering and death, it has been suggested, induced the Jews to regard the willingness of Isaac also to be sacrificed in the light of a voluntary offering of his life for the atonement of his descendants. (Rabbi Max Landsberg (1845-1928), "'Akedah," The Jewish Encyclopedia)

There was ... a remarkable tradition that insisted that Abraham completed the sacrifice and that afterward Isaac was miraculously revived… According to this haggadah, Abraham slew his son, burnt his victim, and the ashes remain as a stored-up merit and atonement for Israel in all generations. (Rabbi W. Gunther Plaut, The Torah: A Modern Commentary [New York: Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981], p. 151 n. 5)

{The preceding quotes were taken and adapted from the Jews for Jesus website:}

The NET Bible translators write:

Gen 22:8 is an important passage in the background of the title Lamb of God as applied to Jesus. In Jewish thought this was held to be a supremely important sacrifice. G. Vermès stated: "For the Palestinian Jew, all lamb sacrifice, and especially the Passover lamb and the Tamid offering, was a memorial of the AKEDAH with its effects of deliverance, forgiveness of sin and messianic salvation" (Scripture and Tradition in Judaism, 225). (Source)

The story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son, foreshadows God’s willingness to sacrifice his own Beloved Son, the Lord Jesus.

Thus, we find in the story of Abraham and Isaac a deliberate foreshadowing of what God and his Messiah would eventually do on behalf of sinners.

The Quran also refers to this story and even speaks of Isaac being ransomed from death!

Then We gave him the good tidings of a prudent boy; and when he had reached the age of running with him, he said, 'My son, I see in a dream that I shall sacrifice thee; consider, what thinkest thou?' He said, 'My father, do as thou art bidden; thou shalt find me, God willing, one of the steadfast.' When they had surrendered, and he flung him upon his brow, We called unto him, 'Abraham, thou hast confirmed the vision; even so We recompense the good-doers. This is indeed the manifest trial.' And We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice, S. 37:101-107 Arberry

This indicates that Muhammad himself accepted the principle of blood ransom and substitutionary atonement.

For more details please read the following articles:

Here are some additional passages which demonstrate that Christ’s vicarious atonement is thoroughly consistent with the Hebrew Bible:

"While Israel was staying in Shittim, the men began to indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women, who invited them to the sacrifices to their gods. The people ate and bowed down before these gods. So Israel joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor. And the LORD's anger burned against them. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of these people, kill them and expose them in broad daylight before the LORD, so that the LORD's fierce anger may turn away from Israel.’ So Moses said to Israel's judges, ‘Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor.’ So Moses said to Israel's judges, ‘Each of you must put to death those of your men who have joined in worshiping the Baal of Peor.’ Then an Israelite man brought to his family a Midianite woman right before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly of Israel while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. When Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, saw this, he left the assembly, took a spear in his hand and followed the Israelite into the tent. He drove the spear through both of them-through the Israelite and into the woman's body. Then the plague against the Israelites was stopped; but those who died in the plague numbered 24,000. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made ATONEMENT for the Israelites.’" Numbers 25:1-13

Phinehas puts to death two wicked sinners and in so doing appeases God’s wrath, making atonement, resulting in God stopping the plague that had fallen upon Israel as a consequence of their sin. The NET translators state:

25sn The atonement that he made in this passage refers to the killing of the two obviously blatant sinners. By doing this he dispensed with any animal sacrifice, for the sinners themselves died. In Leviticus it was the life of the substitutionary animal that was taken in place of the sinners that made atonement. The point is that sin was punished by death, and so God was free to end the plague and pardon the people. God’s holiness and righteousness have always been every bit as important as God’s mercy and compassion, for without righteousness and holiness mercy and compassion mean nothing. (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Phinehas’ act of atonement was commemorated in extra-biblical Jewish writings, such as the apocryphal book of Sirach (written about 132 B.C.):

PHINEHAS too, the son of Eleazar, was the courageous third of his line When, zealous for the God of all, he met the crisis of his people And, at the prompting of his noble heart, ATONED FOR THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. Therefore on him again God conferred the right, in a covenant of friendship, to provide for the sanctuary, So that he and his descendants should possess the high priesthood forever. Sirach 45:23-25

Phinehas’ act was even reckoned to him as righteousness:

"But Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was checked. This was credited to him as righteousness for endless generations to come." Psalm 106:30-31

And, now, another example of humans dying to make satisfaction for others:

"During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, ‘It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death.’ The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to spare them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) David asked the Gibeonites, ‘What shall I do for you? How shall I make amends so that you will bless the LORD's inheritance?’ The Gibeonites answered him, ‘We have no right to demand silver or gold from Saul or his family, nor do we have the right to put anyone in Israel to death.’ ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ David asked. They answered the king, ‘As for the man who destroyed us and plotted against us so that we have been decimated and have no place anywhere in Israel, let seven of his male descendants be given to us to be killed and exposed before the LORD at Gibeah of Saul - the Lord 's chosen one.’ So the king said, ‘I will give them to you.’ The king spared Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the oath before the LORD between David and Jonathan son of Saul. But the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Aiah's daughter Rizpah, whom she had borne to Saul, together with the five sons of Saul's daughter Merab, whom she had borne to Adriel son of Barzillai the Meholathite. He handed them over to the Gibeonites, who killed and exposed them on a hill before the LORD. All seven of them fell together; they were put to death during the first days of the harvest, just as the barley harvest was beginning. Rizpah daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out for herself on a rock. From the beginning of the harvest till the rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies, she did not let the birds of the air touch them by day or the wild animals by night. When David was told what Aiah's daughter Rizpah, Saul's concubine, had done, he went and took the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the citizens of Jabesh Gilead. (They had taken them secretly from the public square at Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them after they struck Saul down on Gilboa.) David brought the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from there, and the bones of those who had been killed and exposed were gathered up. They buried the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan in the tomb of Saul's father Kish, at Zela in Benjamin, and did everything the king commanded. After that, God answered prayer in behalf of the land." 2 Samuel 21:1-14

The above passage shows David desiring to make atonement for the sins committed against the Gibeonites. Here, again, is verse 3 in two different translations to highlight this point:

and David said unto the Gibeonites: ‘What shall I do for you? and wherewith shall I make atonement, that ye may bless the inheritance of HaShem?’ Jewish Publication Society (JPS)

And David said to the Gibeonites, "What shall I do for you? And how shall I make atonement, that you may bless the heritage of the LORD?" English Standard Version (ESV)

Notice that the seven sons from the family of Saul are put to death for the sins of committed by Saul’s household. Their death resulted in God answering prayers to relieve the land of Israel from famine, implying that their death made atonement for the land. Therefore, this demonstrates that a person can suffer as a result of the sins of another, and that others can benefit as a result of someone else’s sufferings. In a similar manner, the Lord Jesus suffered as a result of our sins, and believers benefit from his sufferings.

The preceding Jewish sources make it quite evident that Zawadi hasn’t understood nor studied the Hebrew Bible or Jewish tradition carefully. If he had taken the time to do so he would have seen that the Hebrew Scriptures affirm that in certain instances human death can atone for others.

Zawadi may contest our appeal to these OT texts, specifically Numbers 25 and the example of Phinehas, arguing that those who were put to death were wicked individuals who deserved to die. Yet the Lord Jesus was sinless and, therefore, did not deserve to die according to the Hebrew Bible. Zawadi may then contend that there is no parallel with the death of Christ and Phinehas’ act.

This argument fails to take into account the Biblical teaching that Christ died on behalf of our sins. According to the testimony of Holy Scripture, the Lord Jesus had our sins imputed to him and was therefore guilty from a judicial perspective. Christ was viewed as the one who had actually committed these crimes, even though he was absolutely sinless and pure, and was then punished accordingly. Since the Scriptures teach that those who sin are deserving of death, and because Christ was reckoned a sinner, although actually sinless, he suffered death as a result of it.

Likewise, Christ’s perfect obedience and sinlessness is imputed to the believer by faith, whereby the believer is then reckoned as perfectly righteous and receives the benefits which result from it.

This is the glorious truth of the Good News, the Gospel, that Christ died because of our sins and we live because of his perfect righteousness which we receive by faith alone:

"But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law." Romans 3:21-28

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ… But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation." Romans 5:1, 8-11

"Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous." Romans 5:16-19

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." 2 Corinthians 5:21

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." 1 Peter 2:24

As a last act of desperation, Zawadi links to Abdullah Smith’s (of all people!) article (*) which rehashes some of the outdated arguments made by liberals and anti-Christians to refute the fact that Isaiah 53 is a Messianic prophecy. For the thorough refutation of these pathetic arguments please consult the following links:

Although not related to the Bible’s teaching on atonement, we do want to address Zawadi’s claims that Islam doesn’t contradict itself regarding the doctrine of salvation:

There is no contradiction at all. This can so easily be reconciled. The hadith are basically saying that your deeds on their own will not get you into paradise UNLESS AND UNTIL Allah bestows his Mercy upon you and then will judge you taking them into account. What this means is that we need Allah to be merciful enough to take our faith and actions into consideration in the first place. We can't just go demanding that our actions be put on the scales of justice as we please.

That IS NOT what the sources we quoted stated. Muhammad clearly said that a person will be saved by his/her profession of faith in Allah and Muhammad irrespective of his/her deeds, even if s/he has committed gross wicked acts like sexual immorality. This clearly contradicts those statements of the Quran which say that a person will enter paradise by faith and good deeds. The contradiction remains.

Zawadi again says I am repeating old arguments which he imagines that he has refuted. He provides certain links which he thinks address my points regarding the issue of Jews and Christians being sent to hell in place of Muslims. To see if Zawadi has actually responded to my arguments we encourage the readers to read my papers:

And when Zawadi bothers to actually refute something or learn how to respond to objections we will then cease from raising the same points over and over again.

In conclusion I would like to point out that Zawadi has once again failed to refute our Biblical exegesis and fallen short of defending his false prophet Muhammad. He gave a rather desperate and weak response to the fact that Muhammad contradicted himself regarding the doctrine of salvation.

Lord Jesus willing, the second part of our rebuttal to follow shortly.

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