Is the Atonement a truth that belongs only to the Old Testament?

THE ATONEMENT
It has been stated that Atonement is an Old Testament truth, which has no place in the New Testament, Is this so?


I am surprised that any Christian “apt to teach,” should make such a statement. Perhaps it is owing to the fact that in the one place in our King James Version, where the word “atonement” occurs, it ought to be “reconciliation”: “By Whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:11). This however, does not prove that the truth of atonement is not expressed in other passages of the New Testament, under a different form of words, for which “atone” or “atonement” might be correctly substituted.

The fact is that the atonement of the Old Testament is only a shadow of the truth, and that if we had not the substantial, divine thing in the New Testament, we could not have the shadow in the Old. The Hebrew word for atonement constantly occurring in the Old Testament, especially in Leviticus is the root, “Kaphar,” which primarily means “to cover,” then by a simple transition, it gets to mean that by which alone God can righteously cover sin—namely by full satisfaction being offered to His holy claims, or in other words, by atonement. The word, “atone,” has long since lost its philological, or derived, meaning of “at-one,” for that by which God and the sinner can be “at-one”—the atoning work of Calvary.


This root,”Kaphar,” also occurs in the substantival form,”Kapporeth” (mercy-seat)—the place where the blood of atonement was sprinkled, therefore, one would suggest, better translated the “atonement-seat.” The verb is sometimes translated in our version—”make reconciliation” (e.g. Ezekiel 45: 15, 17; Daniel 9: 24), “purge” (Psalm  79:9), “pacify” (Proverbs 16: 14), “appease”—”I will appease him (Esau) with the present” (Genesis 32:20), but in the vast majority of occurrences “atone” or “make atonement.” What then, we may enquire, is the Hellenistic Greek equivalent used in the Septuagint? In nearly every case, “exilaskomai,” or in a few cases simply, “hilaskomai”—which is, we see, the same verb without the preposition “ek”—denoting here “entirely,” “perfectly”—though we need not press this, as “hilaskomai” means practically the same thing, for atonement, if of any value, must be complete. Turning to the New Testament, we find this same root (hilaskomai) employed (and N.T. Greek is much the same as found in the Septuagint) in six passages: In the publican’s prayer we read, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18: 13, lit, be propitiated). As the publican was standing in the temple area—”afar off,” i.e., probably outside and in full view of the altar of burnt offering, we can see no reason to assert, as Alford does, that the publican could not have had any idea of the ground of his acceptance—though he would naturally not know what the lamb prefigured.

Then in Romans 3: 25 and Hebrews 9: 5 there occurs the substantival form—”mercy-seat.” In Hebrews 2: 17 we have, “A merciful and faithful high priest.. . to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”; and finally in 1 John 2: 2 and 1 John 4:10  the translation is, “propitiation for our sins.” I think it is clear and reasonable that we have in these passages the sense of atonement, applied, except in the case of Hebrews 9: 5 and Luke 18: 13, directly to the work of Christ, as the ground on which God can come out to man in grace and the gospel be preached to every creature.

W.H.