• The Episcopal Church of the Atonement
  • Keira Knightley stars in the movie Atonement
  • Keira Knightley stars as Cecilia Tallis in the movie Atonement
  • A scene from the movie Atonement

Atonement: A Novel

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In the priestly laws, the priest who offers the sacrifice as kofer is, as a rule, the one who makes the Atonement (Lev. i.-v., xvi., etc.); only occasionally is it the blood of the sacrifice (Lev. xvii. 11), or the money offering ("kesef kippurim," Ex. xxx. 15, 16; Num. xxxi. 50), that makes Atonement for the soul; while the act of Atonement is intended to cleanse the person from his guilt ("meḥaṭato," Lev. iv. 26, v. 6-10).

The setting at one, or reconciliation, of two estranged parties—translation used in the Authorized Version for "kapparah," "kippurim." The root ("kipper"), to make atonement, is explained by W. Robertson Smith ("Old Testament in the Jewish Church," i. 439), after the Syriac, as meaning "to wipe out." This is also the view taken by Zimmern ("Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Babylonischen Religion," 1899, p. 92), who claims Babylonian origin for both the term and the rite. Wellhausen ("Composition des Hextateuchs," p. 335) translates "kapparah" as if derived from "kapper" (to cover). The verb, however, seems to be a derivative from the noun "kofer" (ransom) and to have meant originally "to atone."

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Why did it need to be a blood atonement?

The provision of the Atonement for sin is for all men everywhere. The doctrine of Election has been misunderstood by some to mean that Christ died for a few elect people who had been given to Him by the Father and who were therefore chosen in eternity past to be His people. It is quite true that the Atonement, having been planned and worked out by God Himself, is His own personal property, and that He is absolutely sovereign in the use He chooses to make of it. Furthermore, we recognize that through the Atonement the way is now open for God to forgive and redeem as many as He chooses to call to Himself. It is His divine prerogative to save few, many, or all of the human race as He deems best. God alone is the Savior of men, and we acknowledge also from the Scripture, and from what we have seen in the world, that He does not save all. But, as relates to the extent of the Atonement, it is incorrect to say that Christ died only for those whom God saw fit to save.