Dear Auto Surf ~
Once upon a time I took the coolest Biblical Hebrew class. It was taught by Donald Parry, and was one of those courses with the R after the number so that they can teach whatever they want without having to repeat it every semester. (And so you can keep retaking it with different content.) It was a class dedicated to the Atonement.
First, let me pause to explain a major difference between Hebrew and English. English is a very precise language. You could tell me the difference between joy, excitement, happy, and content. They are similar words with similar meanings, but actually mean different parts of a whole. Hebrew, on the other hand, is a very descriptive language. One word is more of an idea. It encompasses much more than a single English word could. Looking up a word in a Hebrew dictionary means you usually get several definitions, not always obviously related.
Second, the word "atonement" didn't exist in the English language until William Tyndall was translating the Bible into English and realized there wasn't an English word to describe the Hebrew word. So he made one up. Have you heard people say that Atonement means at-one-ment and kind of wanted to punch them in the face, because that's not how etymology works? Well guess what? You're the one who is wrong. That is actually exactly what Atonement means. Sorry. All those Facebook memes were actually right this time.
Ok. Let's resume. So there are actually 3 words in Hebrew that translate to Atonement. This class spent the summer translating all of the instances of those words in the Hebrew Bible, so that we could have a more broad understanding of what those three words actually mean. Unfortunately, I have lost my notes from that class, and can only remember one. Cafar. I specifically remember once instance of that word, one that doesn't really make any sense at first.
Genesis 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.
I taught this to my young women and had them read this scripture. They were all so confused. "But this isn't the kind of scripture we read at church..." It was fantastic.
Cafar is in this scripture twice. Both as the noun and the verb "pitch." Why would the word "pitch" be later translated as "atonement?" It's an interesting thought to ponder.
Go ahead. Ponder it. I'll wait. (Also, I'd love to hear your conclusions. dragonladyofjapan at gmail)
Here is my conclusion: Noah built the ark out of gopher wood. Inasmuch as was possible, the wood was perfect. It built the absolute best boat it could. Could it float? Maybe temporarily. But pretty quickly it would sink, because there are gaps between the wood. Those gaps had to be sealed in order to make the ark waterproof. By its very design, the wood could not float by itself. It needed pitch to seal it and waterproof it so that it could float and fulfill its mission of saving Noah and his family, as well as all of those animals.
I am the ark. I try my very best to be perfect. Despite my best efforts, I cannot be perfected. I cannot make it back to the Celestial Kingdom. I can survive now on my own, but only temporarily, and not very well. Why? Because I have gaps. By design, I cannot be exalted by myself. My gaps have to be sealed. I need the atonement in order to perfect me so I can fulfill my earthly mission and be saved.
I have always wondered when people say things like, "The Atonement pulled me through a significant heartbreak" or "Thanks to the Atonement, I feel peace even though my mom has cancer." In my head, the Atonement filled the gap between justice and mercy. It was there because I sin, and I needed the Atonement to cover for my sins. But this theory lets me understand the atonement so much more.
Warning: Gospel according to Dragon Lady commencing.
If the Atonement can cover my gaps, perhaps that is more than just sin. Perhaps it also covers my natural man, the wounds other people inflict, and things I simply have no control over. So when I am suffering a heartbreak, perhaps that is a gap, and when I pray for comfort, maybe, just maybe, it's the Atonement that comes and fills that gap to give me the comfort I need. When I am feeling like a completely imperfect parent and pray for help, could it be possible that the inspiration I receive is given via the Atonement.
This theory has holes (I can poke them myself), but it is a very interesting train of thought for me. I have spent months now working it in to pretty much every gospel topic I talk about. I'm excited to keep learning more and more about the Atonement as I refine this and research it more. I've already requested the list of scripture references again, so I can pick up my Hebrew again and re-translate all of those verses.
I have other Hebrew words I'd love to teach you, but Alumni Week is nearing an end, and I still have many answers to finish. Ask again next year, perhaps? I could teach you about the word Repent!
~ Dragon Lady