Refutation: Reading Deuteronomy 24:16 and Ezekiel 18:20 in context.
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
Samuel Green has sought to defend the Christian position of salvation by substitutional sacrifice. That being that sin can be dispensed of through the death of another human being (Christ as the sacrificial lamb). At first, he references the two verses which negate such a teaching:
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin. (Deuteronomy 24:16, NIV)
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. (Ezekiel 18:20, NIV)
At this point, before I dissect the eisegesis of Samuel, we need to properly lay a foundation of the views which some of the more notable and erudite Christian exegetes themselves have taken, we read from Adam Clarke’s Exegesis the follow excerpt:
“None shall die for another’s crimes, none shall be saved by another’srighteousness. Here is the general judgment relative to the righteousness andunrighteousness of men, and the influence of one man’s state on that of another; particularly in respect to their moral conduct.”
We also read from Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Entire Bible that the persons who are punished are due to their own sinning brought about by themselves:
“But this people that bore the iniquity of their fathers had not done that which is lawful and right, and therefore justly suffered for their own sin and had no reason to complain of God’s proceedings against them as at all unjust, though they had reason to complain of the bad example their fathers had left them as very unkind. “
Seeing as the Torah (Old Testament) is primarily the book of the Jews, it would be inappropriate to leave off their understanding of the verses referenced, we read from Rabbi Rashi’s commentary, the following excerpts from his exegesis of Devarim (Deuteronomy):
“Fathers shall not be put to death because of sons: [I.e.,] by the testimony of [their] sons. But, if you say [that it means that fathers shall not be put to death] because of the sins of their sons, it has already been stated, “each man shall be put to death for his own transgression.”
With these statements in mind, we now have a proper understanding from traditional Christian sources and Judaic sources as to the proper meaning of these verses. Samuel however, sought to circumvent the orthodox interpretations of these verses by claiming that he himself had a proper understanding based on Judaic principles:
“This, however, is not the case because both of these verses are referring to a person living under the covenant of the Torah (the Law of Moses). Deuteronomy 24:16 is part of the Torah itself and Ezekiel 18:20 is addressing the Israelites who were living under the Torah.”
Take note, that he’s claiming that he is representing the orthodox Judaic understanding/ context of the verses, yet nowhere, does he cite, reference or quote a single Rabbinic Judaic source to qualify his statements. It should be understood, that if he is attempting to represent the views of the people who lived under and held to the practise of the Torah, that he should atleast present one authoritative source from among these people to make extant their views. Instead, what he does is continue to quote verses, without referencing the Judaic interpretations. This therefore is a case of intentional decontextualization of a scripture by referencing a group of persons with specific beliefs, yet alienating their positions by transposing his own mendacious ideas about their belief on said scripture. He references the following verses as being representative of his position:
“(H)e must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect. He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the burnt offering. Then the priest is to take some of the blood with his finger and put it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering and pour out the rest of the blood at the base of the altar. He shall remove all the fat, just as the fat is removed from the fellowship offering, and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:28-31, NIV)
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, NIV)”
He then interprets this in the following manner:
“This is why a lot of the Torah teaches about priests, sacrifices and the tabernacle/temple where the sacrifices were offered. The Torah teaches individual responsibility and forgiveness through a substitute sacrifice that bears our sin…..hese verses are not saying there is no sacrifice that can bear our sin. Instead they are saying that we are individually responsible for our sins and need to seek forgiveness through God’s provision of a substitute sacrifice that can bear our sin.”
Let’s examine his statements. To begin with, Samuel has mistakenly supposed that the animals bare the sin of the one who is doing the sacrifice or of the one for whom the sacrifice is done. Recall, that nowhere is this stated in the verses he referenced. Note that the quotes he references makes it quite explicitly known that these sacrifices are an atonement. This is where his first problem begins, his understanding of what an atonement is, has been severely perverted. For example, if we follow through on his logic, then an act of atonement is one in which something bares the sin on behalf of the sinner:
“Make an atonement cover of pure gold—two and a half cubits long and a cubit and a half wide.” – Exodus 25:17.
In this scenario, we have a cloth, a cover becoming a source of atonement for the Jewish peoples. Nothing is being sacrificed, nor is anything perishing, suffering, or being tortured to bear the sin of a sinner. Rather a piece of cloth has become a means through which sins can be forgiven. Don’t take my word on it, Adam Clarke, the Christian exegete confirms this, he says:
“This propitiatory covering, as it might well be translated, was a type of Christ, the great propitiation, whose satisfaction fully answers the demands of the law, covers our transgressions, and comes between us and the curse we deserve. “
Note the conditions that are laid forth. The cloth has to accede to the demands of God’s law (that is, it has to be tailored, or exacted by those who are executing the criteria [law] as commanded by God), when that is done, those acts which fulfill the criteria as sent by God, then covers or atones for the sins of those who carry out the commands of God. From this we then see that the act of properly abiding by God’s command as an act of atonement, delivers us from His divine punishment. If we continue onwards, we read from Exodus (Shemot) 30:11-15, the following:
“Then the LORD said to Moses, “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the LORD a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the LORD. All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the LORD. The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the LORD to atone for your lives.”
In this case, Samuel’s God, is taking money as a form of expiation for sin. Note, no one is suffering, no one is being tortured, no one is being killed for sin. Money is being used as a form of expiation and as it is, in this case, just like the piece of cloth aforementioned, money is like a Christ here as well, being waged for the gift of life.
Where does this therefore leave us? What it does is indicate that Samuel’s understanding of what atonement is defined as, is incorrect. Atonement is not substitutional sacrifices, rather as I have demonstrated, atonement entails enacting certain criteria as set out by God in a way which sanctifies His divine commands. In the first scenario I presented, we see the stringent conditions for the cover, with God specifying what dimensions the cloth and gold have to be. In the second scenario we see that the certain condition to be undertaken is the amount of money to be collected and from whom, that is, if they wished for their lives to be preserved.
Note, that nothing has to suffer or die, ergo, no blood is spilled, therefore nothing has died for the sins of anyone. Rather atonement as we can see, is not that something has bared the sin of another, but that atonement is a means through which one gains God’s forgiveness and mercy. Just like prayer, or fasting, these are also means of atonement, where we hold true to God’s divine commands, with whichever criteria He denotes as being the measuring stick to qualify our acts of repentance.
In conclusion, Samuel has not provided a strong argument to demonstrate that one object or person, or for the sake of argument, an animal can bear the sin of another. Rather what he has allowed us to demonstrate is that the sacrifices we make, whether with blood or gold, money or otherwise, are means of atonement because God has dictated them and they fulfil His criteria for forgiving us of our acts of inequity (sins). In order for his point to be valid, he has to demonstrate that the proprietary cloth or the shekels collected by Moses had to suffer and die, blood had to magically spew from them, so that a price of sin was paid, as he clearly alludes to this in his referencing of the commands in Leviticus and with his mentioning of the alleged death of Christ.
wa Allaahu Alam.
[and God knows best.]