Date of Award

Spring 2017

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Religious Studies

First Advisor

Long, D. Stephen

Second Advisor

Nussberger, Danielle

Third Advisor

Burns, Joshua

Abstract

This dissertation draws on recent historical-critical research into ancient Jewish temple theology, the priestly book of Leviticus, and especially the Yom Kippur liturgy of Leviticus 16, to develop a more paradoxical interpretation of Christ’s saving work for modern Christian systematic theology. Prompted by the pioneering research of Jacob Milgrom, there has been a surge in sympathetic interpretations of the priestly theological tradition, which has inspired fresh interpretations of the Levitical Day of Atonement. I argue that an adequate Christian theory of atonement must be attentive to both the overall “landscape” of Jewish biblical thought, and to the specific rhythm of the Yom Kippur liturgy, which clearly distinguishes the “work” of two goats—one elected to be a spotless sacrifice, the other called to bear the sins of Israel into the wilderness. Christian theology should observe this distinction within the united saving work of Jesus Christ. Yet modern interpretations of the cross often implicitly emphasize one “goat” or the other. For example, we find a “goat for the Lord” soteriology in the Anselmian satisfaction tradition, which has been beautifully rearticulated by David Bentley Hart; here Christ’s spotless sacrificial obedience recapitulates creation done well. In the controversial “descent to hell” theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, on the other hand, there is a “goat for Azazel” soteriology; here Christ as the sin-bearing goat removes impurity to the furthest possible distance from the Father through his saving descent. By seeing Christ as fulfilling the work of both goats in his single act of cruciform love, the Catholic tradition can better draw on the ancient Jewish insight that atonement requires a unifying movement toward the center, to the holy of holies, as well as a removal of sin to the far periphery, the godforsaken exilic wilderness. This work is rooted in the conviction that, first, Christian theology should always honor, and remain in deep conversation with, its Jewish roots, and second, that advances in historical-critical research should be utilized to cultivate a modern theological interpretation of scripture, all in the service of a richer, more ecumenical understanding of the basic paradoxes of Catholic soteriology.

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