Thursday, September 15, 2005

Satisfaction theory: Jesus appeases God via a ritual human sacrifice


The satisfaction theory is related to the ancient Hebrew ritual sacrifice of animals at the altar of the Jerusalem Temple. Such sacrifices were made in the centuries before Yeshua's (a.k.a. Jesus Christ's) birth, during his lifetime, and only ended with the destruction of the temple and much of the rest of Jerusalem by the Roman Army in 70 CE. By allowing himself to be ritually sacrificed, Yeshua's death replicated in many ways the ritual sacrifice of animals were slaughtered in the Temple.

The satisfaction theory is similar to the earlier ransom theory, in that a type of ransom was given. However, it was paid to God rather than to Satan. Theologians in the Middle Ages believed that there was no way that the deaths of one or more humans could satisfy God's requirements. The theory suggests that God's honor would only be satisfied by a ritual sacrifice of a god-man -- his own son. Michael Martin writes: "Only the God-Man is able, by his divinity, to offer something that is worthy of God and, by his humanity, to represent mankind." 1 Thus the incarnation was necessary: God coming to earth in the form of a man.


The satisfaction theory is generally attributed to Archbishop Anselem of Canterbury, (1033 to 1109 CE). It is contained in his book Cur Deus Homo ("Why God became man"), which was written circa 1098 CE.

Criticisms: Here is only one. There are several on the linked website

The belief that God's pride is so wounded that he would demand as satisfaction the death of an innocent person "assumes a view of God's moral nature that many modern readers would reject." Being omnipotent, God could simply forgive humans, or find some other way for humanity to attain atonement.

My thoughts: It is interesting when we go to theories of atonement, the role of Satan, doctrine of the trinity, ... we find that it becomes difficult to prove the theory with Scripture. Scripture it seems was not designed to support single theories very well. Brant had said, "I'm having trouble backing up my thoughts with Scripture." He is not alone.

Also, I'm beginning to wonder if the answer to "blanket forgiveness" is more likely to be found in McLaren's study of hell found in his fictional account, "The Last Word and the Word after That."

But for my own sake, I will continue along the theories of atonement first. I'm not great at finishing things.

No comments: