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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 ?
He had the humility to kneel before an ordinary priest to confess his sins and seek the mercy of God, to thus demonstrate that he was a mere mortal and a priest despite being the pope.
Aquinas likewise makes the move from the mercy of God to the expression of this mercy in Christ.
Al Bukhari) In these three sayings we find the perfect combination of belief in the mercy of God and moderation and consistency in religious deeds as the best way for a Muslim to achieve his or her goals.
People living with HIV or Aids are normally looked down on by the society while in some cases they have even been ostracised due to low awareness of the disease, virtually leaving them at the mercy of God.
The Finance Minister has been nominated for the post of president and the finance ministry is at the mercy of God," he added.
Crown Prince Nayef who passed to the mercy of God on Saturday outside the kingdom.
There were a few pauses along the way, yet even in the silence he was ever the priest, calling us to contemplate the mercy of God.
By the mercy of God, his life-time friend and priest Jerry Connolly (Pat O'Brien), is desperately tying to get him to "straighten (himself) out with God" before he dies.
This condemnation of religious pride is grounded in an awareness of universal human estrangement from God, together with gratitude for the surprising goodness and mercy of God.
We all belong to a nation that has laws and regulations and it is the tribe that we adhere to under the more comprehensive compassion and mercy of God Almighty
Out of this Moment": Out of the moment you might take/Rubies, saphhire, pearls beyond price,/Just for the miracle of faith,/Pure and undefiled as the hour/When rain slips down the heavens/Like the mercy of God that it is,/Out of this moment you might take/A joy and beauty that only you can make.
So may all the savagery of man disappear by the Mercy of God, working through the pure in heart and the sincere of soul.