Last night I got to have dinner with Rita Nakishima Brock. An interesting part of the conversation was atonement. She talked a bit about Dennis Weaver and his attempt to shift from blood and sacrifice to Christus Victus (or is it Christis Victis). As I recall the conversation, she talked more about how the early church emphasized Paradise and the church as Paradise. (Paradise, she empahized is not free from evil: the serpent was there before Adam and Eve sinned.) She talked a bit about Paul's struggle with the meaning of Jesus death. She sees the Passion stories as lament. She pointed out that crucifixion meant the elimination of the person. After the torture, the body was not buried: it was devoured by vultures and then simply disappeared into the dust. Crucifixion was so shameful that people did not talk about the dead. There was no memorial to the person. It was intended to erase the person from the memory of his friends, family and followers. Jesus overcame that erasure. Death did not win.
In my study group for Mark, I asked people what they thought of the first line of the gospel: the beginning of the evangelion of Jesus [son of God]. I explained evangelion means the good news of a battlefield report. I hope that they will come to a deeper understanding, as I hope that I will. I have seen the good news as the victory of Jesus over evil. Now, I see the victory as Jesus victory over death.
So, what is the meaning of Jesus' death. Or is the important question, what is the resurrection?