In 1525 Englishman William Tyndale (1494-1536) began working on the first English translation of the Bible from the Hebrew and Greek scriptures. John Wycliffe (1328-1384) who lived almost two centuries prior to Tyndale, is often considered the father of the English Bible, but Wycliffe had only translated the Latin Vulgate into English. The Wycliffe Bible was highly Latinized and contained many Roman Catholic superstitions that Tyndale sought to correct. Tyndale took the Hebrew and Greek manuscripts and faithfully translated the Word of God into the common English of his day, avoiding Latin and high church phraseology.
Tyndale, the consumate scholar, worked hard to precisely translate the Bible into English. Hebrew and Greek words are much more precise than their English counterparts. For example, one single Hebrew root word kippur and its Greek equivalents katallagee (katallagh) and hilasteerion (ilasthrion) have been translated in our modern English Bibles as pardon, grace, mercy, reconciliation, satisfaction, propitiation, ransom, etc.... Tyndale wished to be as precise as possible in his translation, so he coined (created) a new English word to translate kippur, katallagee and hilasteerion--the word atonement. Let me say that again: William Tyndale coined the word "atonement." If you ever hear a debate about "the doctrine of the atonement," you need to understand what is being debated; it is pardon, grace, mercy, reconciliation, satisfaction, ransom, propitiation, etc... that is being debated, because everyone of these English words translates the same Hebrew and Greek words for which Tyndale created the word "atonement."
At-one-ment. The last portion of the word, the suffix 'ment,' means "the result of a process." In Tyndale's understanding of the Bible, the result of the process of Christ's death on the cross is God and sinners are at "at-one." Tyndale understood that the words kippur and hilasterion pointed to God’s initiative in reconciling sinners unto Himself. Tyndale believed deeply that holy Scripture was preeminently concerned with how a sinner becomes fully accepted by God and thus becomes one with God. Tyndale saw this atonement process as God's work alone. Tyndale believed the Scriptures to teach, rightfully so, that Christ’s death is the event God has chosen whereby sinners receive full acceptance from Him; it is the at-one-ment. Tyndale has a great deal of company in his orthodox views of the death of Christ. William Romanine puts it like this:
“There is no salvation without righteousness, and it is of the Lord’s free grace that he (the sinner) is received as righteous, through the righteousness of Christ imputed to him by faith. Christ’s righteousness can be made ours only by imputation. As our sins were actually imputed to Christ, so His righteousness is actually imputed to us. The Lord laid upon Him the iniquity of us all, and therefore He was wounded for our transgressions, and was bruised for our iniquities. As He thus took our sins upon Himself, so we by faith take His righteousness upon us, and by it are saved" (The Whole Works of the Late Reverend William Romaine A. M.,
In summary, the cross is God's initiative in bringing sinners into His full acceptance. There is no love of God without the cross of Christ. There is no blessing of God apart from the death of Christ. There is no gospel without the cross. It is in the death of Christ that the mercy and grace of God meet the sin and failure of man and God demonstrates that "He is just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). God makes sinners 'at-one' with Himself in full acceptance of those sinners through the 'ment' of Christ's death. In the next post I will show that Christians can and do disagree over the extent of the atonement. However, it is clear from Scripture that the sinner who denies that reconcilation with God comes through the death of Jesus Christ is spitting in the face of grace and imperiling his or her soul. You may be religious and deny the at-one-ment, but you are without God's favor if you do. Logically you may say God will love me "no matter what," but revelation declares, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry." To the world this gospel is foolish, but for those of us who are being saved it is the power of God to deliver us from our condemned state (Romans 1:16). The cross is the heart of the gospel and the essence of Christian faith, and without it there no reconciliation with God.