I have just returned from the a stimulating symposium in St Andrews on the Atonement in biblical texts and traditions. I heard expertly carried out key papers by Deborah Rooke, David Moffitt, David Wright, Martha Himmelfarb, Carol Newsom and Catrin Williams and quite a few quick papers with the most up-to-date study on every thing from the precise which means of Pentateuchal sacrificial terminology to the temple imagery in Revelation.
In my personal presentation I argued that the Wisdom of Ben Sira (early second cent. B.C.E.) has a distinctive understanding of atonement, or at-a single-ment, in which the higher priest is an incorporative and cosmic messiah. In Ben Sira 50 all of heaven and earth, and all of humanity, are united, and obtain their appropriate spot, in joyous, ecstatic, worship of God in the Jerusalem temple and its liturgy. The chapter is very carefully crafted to sum up every thing that has been mentioned about Wisdom and its presence in the globe in the foregoing chapters (chs. 1–49).
Most remarkably of all, by dense poetic allusion and an intricate literary structure, the higher priest is portrayed as a single who in whom there is present every single sphere of reality in the liturgical enactment of creation and human history. For Ben Sira the temple is a microcosm (in which the roofed sanctuary equates to heaven and the altar in the forecourt is earth) and the higher priest is—or plays the component of—the principal actors in the drama of creation and history. On the divine side, he is God, the Creator, Lady Wisdom, and the visible glory of God (cf. Ezek 1:28). He is also a new and glorious Adam (fulfilling God’s vision for humanity in Genesis 1–2 and Psalm eight). He is Israel—the nation of the pious and glorious. And he is, or he has, the pied beauty of the heavens and the arboreal abundance of the earth. He is each the image of the invisible God, and the a single in or by way of whom all of creation is sacramentally recreated and held with each other. In him there is at-a single-ment.
The argument was properly received and, all becoming properly, a version will no doubt seem someplace in print in due course. In the meantime right here is a copy of my annotated translation of Ben Sira 50. Any who are prepared to give the time to cautious study of the text and its scriptural language will, I’m positive, figure out for themselves the key points of my argument.