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the reconciliation, or "at-one-ment," of sinful humanity with God. In Judaism both the Bible and rabbinical thought reflect the belief that God's chosen people must be pure to remain in communion with God. The Bible prescribed Temple sacrifice for the removal of sin and uncleanliness. The prophets taught that outward sacrifice must be accompanied by interior purification to be complete. With the destruction of the Temple and the consequent cessation of the sacrifice focus came to be placed on the religious life of the individual who sought to be reconciled with God through prayer, repentance, charity, and suffering. In the Jewish calendar, atonement for all but very serious sins came on the Day of Atonement (see Yom KippurYom Kippur
[Heb.,=day of atonement], in Judaism, the most sacred holy day, falling on the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tishri (usually late September or early October). It is a day of fasting and prayer for forgiveness for sins committed during the year.
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). In Christian theology, various doctrines of atonement have been advanced in history, all of which give central place to the life and death of Jesus. The classical theory of atonement, widely accepted in the early Church, depicted Jesus as the divine victor in a cosmic struggle with the devil for rights over the human soul. In medieval Latin theology emphasis shifted from the divine to the human side of Jesus. The most widely held theory at this time, often called vicarious atonement, was first stated by St. AnselmAnselm, Saint
, 1033?–1109, prelate in Normandy and England, archbishop of Canterbury, Doctor of the Church (1720), b. Aosta, Piedmont. After a carefree youth of travel and schooling in Burgundy he became a disciple and companion of Lanfranc, the famed theologian and prior
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 in Why God Became Human (1197–98): only human beings can rightfully repay the debt which was incurred through their willful disobedience to God, although only God can make the infinite satisfaction necessary to repay it; therefore God must send the God-man, Jesus Christ, to satisfy both these conditions. Anselm's doctrine, slightly altered or elaborated, has become part of Roman Catholic theology and of that of many Protestant churches. In another theory of atonement emphasis is placed on God's unconditional mercy and on the gradual growth toward union with God as inspired by Christ's selfless example. This theory was given its standard form by Peter AbelardAbelard, Peter
, Fr. Pierre Abélard , 1079–1142, French philosopher and teacher, b. Le Pallet, near Nantes. Life

Abelard went (c.1100) to Paris to study under William of Champeaux at the school of Notre Dame and soon attacked the ultrarealist
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 in the 12th cent. Here the juridical concept is replaced by an organic and social concept. The tendency today in the Church is not to regard any single interpretation of atonement as all-embracing but to view Christ's atoning work from a variety of vantage points.


See G. Aulén, Christus Victor (tr. 1931); F. W. Dillistone, The Christian Understanding of Atonement (1968).


Murgatroyd, Sir Despard
atones for each of his daily crimes by performing a good deed every afternoon. [Br. Opera: Gilbert and Sullivan Ruddigore]


1. Christian theol
a. the reconciliation of man with God through the life, sufferings, and sacrificial death of Christ
b. the sufferings and death of Christ
2. Christian Science the state in which the attributes of God are exemplified in man
References in periodicals archive ?
Share with me in trusting in the mercy of God, shown in a unique way in this event and its consequences.
Properly understood," the Pennsylvania pastor argued in a January 1999 article, "it displays the wisdom and mercy of God in restraining wickedness so that the righteous might flourish in peace.
And that in our world, power- secular or spiritual-can be a substitute for intimacy and the acceptance, love, and mercy of God that should come to you through me.
Through the use of stories that range from the biblical narrative of Noah to more modern stories by Graham Greene, Alan Paton, and Carlos Fuentes, she invites the reader to imagine a community in which the members are confident and competent decision makers, trusting in the Holy Spirit and the wisdom and mercy of God.
Jews celebrate the mercy of God for saving the lives of the firstborn Israelites, and they remember that mercy during Passover, according to Jacobs.
Francis opens his letter to Archbishop Rino Fisichella by saying that he wants the holy year to be "for all believers a true moment of encounter with the mercy of God.
We'll see if, in the mercy of God, that happens with us.
Valjean, on the other hand, offers us a model of repentance and conversion from within the heart of the Church, that is, the heart of Christ, in which we must stare into the empty void--the "whirlpool of our sin"--and from that place of humble misery allow ourselves to experience the mercy of God.
She loved to describe the immense tenderness and mercy of God at a time when the divine was usually viewed as something to be feared.
Elisabeth's mother Michelene Joassaint, who had given her baby daughter up for dead after the earthquake destroyed their house, said: "It was the mercy of God.
Call everyone together--the whole community--that they may be received by the mercy of God.