The Dialectic of Easter

I posted a couple of days ago about Passover, and since Easter is probably celebrated by about a thousand times as many people, including, in a superficial chocolate-related way, me, I felt I might as well comment on that too.

In the discussion of Passover, I argued that the God presented is notably un-transcendent: rather than breaking out of the cycle of bloodshed, vengeance, sacrifice, power, powerlessness, etc., He remains within it. The violence of the Egyptians against the Israelites is reflected in God’s violence against them; the oppression of the Israelites by Egyptians is replaced with their oppression by other Israelites; the murderous wrath of God is averted only by the murder of a lamb as substitute.

Now, on one level, the key story of Easter, of the Atonement for humanity’s sins by the sacrifice of Jesus, also works from within this cycle. Jesus is simply a new version of the sacrificial lamb: in order to avert the violence of God’s anger at human sins, a different victim must be found to suffer.

But on the other hand, the outcome is in a sense the ‘short-circuiting’ of that cycle. Afterwards, human crimes don’t need to produce Godly counter-crimes acts of punishment. They can be forgiven, ‘washed away’ by Jesus. A ‘personal relationship’ can reconcile the sinful human with an angry God, without the need for violence. The punishment need not be borne, because God has taken it upon himself.

This is a perfect example of ‘dialectic’ in the sense that Hegel and Marx use. We might say that the power-and-bloodshed cycle is ‘short-circuited’ by the Atonement.

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