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'Blood Atonement' in the Rabbinic Tradition


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There are sins that men commit for which they cannot receive forgiveness in this world, or in that which is to come, and if they had their eyes open to see their true condition, they would be perfectly willing to have their blood spilt upon the ground, that the smoke thereof might ascend to heaven as an offering for their sins; and the smoking incense would atone for their sins, whereas, if such is not the case, they will stick to them and remain upon them in the spirit world.

I know, when you hear my brethren telling about cutting people off from the earth, that you consider it is strong doctrine; but it is to save them, not to destroy them. * * *

I do know that there are sins committed of such a nature that if the people did understand the doctrine of salvation, they would tremble because of their situation. And furthermore, I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood, that the smoke thereof might ascend to God as an offering to appease the wrath that is kindled against them, and that the law might have its course. I will say further; I have had men come to me and offer their lives to atone for their sins. It is true that the blood of the Son of God was shed for sins through the fall, and those committed by men, yet men can commit sins which it can never remit.

-Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. IV p. 53.

One of Brigham Young's most controversial teachings is beyond doubt that of blood atonement. Joseph Smith also appears to have taught something similar, as shown by the following statement.

In debate, George A. Smith said imprisonment was better than hanging. I replied I was opposed to hanging, even if a man kill another, I will shoot him, [this does not mean that he would do so personally; see context of speech], or cut off his head, spill his blood on the ground, and let the smoke thereof ascend up to God; and if ever I have the privilege of making a law on that subject, I will have it so." (History of the Church, Period I, vol. v, p. 296).

-History of the Church, Period I, vol. V, p. 296.

A decent overview is found in B. H. Roberts's Comprehensive History of the Church. http://www.angelfire.com/sk2/ldsdefense/blood.html

This concept of blood atonement is fairly similar to an ancinet Jewish teaching.

The Babylonian Talmud contains a tractate dealing with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and related matters such as sin and repentance.

In a discussion on the efficacy of the Day of Atonement in regards to various categories of sin, a teaching attributed to r. Ishmael is included. This Ishmael was a contemporary of r. Akiva, both were martyred during the Bar Kokhba Revolt, around AD 130.

From the Soncino Talmud.

R. Matthia b. Heresh asked R. Eleazar b. Azariah in Rome: have you heard about the four kinds of

sins, concerning which R. Ishmael has lectured? He answered: They are three, and with each is

repentance connected

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  • 4 weeks later...

As for differences between the Mormon doctrine and the rabbinic one, the biggest is that blood doesn't have to be shed, as long as there is a death.

I answer that:

Hebrews 9:

[22] And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.

[23] It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

[24] For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us:

[25] Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others;

[26] For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

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What does that have to do with the difference between Jewish and LDS concepts of blood atonement?

I should hope that the LDS concept of blood atonement aligns with the Christian view that blood atonement has been completely abrogated by Calvary. Otherwise there's a much bigger problem than whether my post addresses the topic.

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