Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Ultimate Day of Atonement

In some recent research to learn about Yom Kippur, I came across an absolutely astounding writing from the Jewish tradition that if you blink you might miss it (It might take a little bit for me to get to my main point so make sure you read to the end). Yoma is a Jewish rabbinical text from the Babylonian Talmud written around 200 AD/CE.. Read what it says in its section on Yom Kippur:

“Our Rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot [‘For the Lord’] did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-coloured strap become white; nor did the westernmost light shine; and the doors of the Hekal would open by themselves, until R. Johanan b. Zakkai rebuked them, saying: ‘Hekal, Hekal, why wilt thou be the alarmer thyself? I know about thee that thou wilt be destroyed, for Zechariah ben Ido has already prophesied concerning thee: Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars’ (Yoma 39b).”

OK so let’s talk about what’s happening here, in order.

So first, author states that the “lot did not come up in the right hand”; this refers to the lottery selecting which of two goats would be sacrificed ‘for the Lord’ and which one would be driven off into the wilderness ‘for Azazel’. Essentially, having the bad lot ‘for Azazel’ come up first each time for forty years straight was seen as a very bad omen by the author of Yoma (and statistically nearly impossible). It gets worse though.

           The crimson strap becoming white refers to the rope that would be tied to the scapegoat. This was the goat chosen ‘for Azazel’ and thrown off the cliff of Mount Azazel into the wilderness to take away the sins of the people. Many times, Yoma states before the passage I quoted, this scarlet cord would become white as snow once the goat was thrown off, signifying the forgiveness of sins for the people (Isaiah 1:18- “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”). But in Yoma 39b, we see that for the forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple, the scarlet cord never turned white; driving the scapegoat off into the wilderness apparently did not accomplish the forgiveness of sins.

            The “westernmost light” also stopped shining. This refers to the lamp that supernaturally, continuously burned to signify God’s presence and blessing. Now, for some reason the supernatural ceased to burn of its own accord.

            Finally, the passage states the doors of the Hekal would open on their own. The Jewish H]historian Josephus from the first century tells something similar: "At the same festival (Passover)... the Eastern gate of the inner court of the Temple, which was of brass, and vastly heavy, and had been with difficulty shut by twenty men, and rested upon a base armered with iron, and had bolts fastened very deep into the firm floor, which was there made of one entire stone, was seen to be opened of it's own accord about the sixth our of the night" (The Wars of the Jews, 6.5.3). Thus what we see in both these passages is that the doors to the Temple would open on their own for the forty years prior to the destruction of the Temple.

Why were all these things occurring at the same time? What can possibly explain all these coincidences as reported by the Jewish Talmud? Well, the destruction of the Temple occurred in 70 AD/CE. Forty years prior to that, 30 AD/CE, happens to be exactly when historians believe the rabbi Yeshua (Jesus) was crucified by the Romans.

So in conclusion, after Yeshua was crucified, the lot started coming up in the wrong hand. The scapegoat no longer signified the forgiveness of sins. God’s presence was no longer symbolized by the ever-shining light in the Temple. And the doors blocking access to the Temple would swing open of their own accord, as if now God was henceforth permanently open to all.

Maybe after 30 AD Jesus’ death forever replaced animal sacrifice as the means to forgiveness. Maybe it also signified that’s God’s presence no longer resided in just a building. Maybe the doors to the Temple would swing open to show that God had burst out of his enclosure; a building could no longer contain his glory. Maybe He was now unleashed into the world.

Maybe the Day of Atonement was accomplished once and for all, one dark and glorious day in 30 AD. At least, that’s what Yoma 39b seems say. I’ll let you make your own opinion.


No comments:

Post a Comment