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Yom Kippur, the holiest day in modern Judaism, and Christianity’s Easter

Written By | Oct 3, 2019
Yom Kippur, Christ, Easter, Christianity, Judaism

Lewisville, Texas: Judaism celebrates Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on October 9, 2019 as the holiest day of the year. Christians celebrate Christ’s plan of atonement on Easter as their solemn holy day. The relationship of Yom Kippur and Easter has much in common and yet are very different theologically.

One is a temporary solution and the other is permanent.

The Bible is the source for Israel’s Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:1-34, 23:26-32; Numbers 29:7-11). The Torah (first five books of the Bible) required every male to attend Yom Kippur. It provides an annual opportunity to cleanse themselves and the Tabernacle. It reminds Israel of their national standing before Yahweh.

Individuals repent and a national atonement satisfies God for another year.

The atonement (Hebrew “covering”) was applied nationally although the sacrifices were also individual. The national atonement was to cover all sins not covered by personal sacrifices—it depended on personal belief.

The Significance of atonement is clear in the Scriptures

“It is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.” (Leviticus 17:11)
Yom Kippur, Christ, Easter, Christianity, Judaism

Image by Todd Bolen

The Holy of Holies was the sacred dwelling place of the Most High. No one could enter this sacred space except as God directed. On the day of Yom Kippur, the High Priest could enter for the purpose of national cleansing of sin.

The solemn ritual included the High Priest’s sacrifice for his own sins. He began with a ritual bath and then dressed in specified holy white linen garments before entering the Holy of Holies with the blood of atonement. The Law requires the High Priest to pay for his family’s personal sacrifice from his own coffers.

For the animal sacrifice of the nation, lots were cast. One lot said “For Yahweh” the other “for Azazel.” The offering to Yahweh was the shedding of goat’s blood for the sin offering and for Azazel the goat’s blood (escape goat) for sin was symbolically carried away into the wilderness.

From the novel, They Called Him Yeshua:

Joseph explained before one of the boys could ask: “‘For Azazel’ is named for the rocky precipice in the Judean wilderness where the goat will be sent.” A collective sigh of relief swept through the crowd when the high priest drew the lot. The goat had been chosen to pay the price for their sins for another year. As the high priest placed the designated lot on the head of each animal, with a united voice the people spoke: “Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom, forever and ever.” The priest tied pieces of dyed crimson wool between the horns, then left the animals to attend to the rest of the ceremony. He returned later to the goats, continuing to offer the bullock as a confession for the priests. He slaughtered the bullock himself, collecting the blood in a mizrak vessel. Then he handed the vessel to another priest, who swirled it to prevent the blood from coagulating. The high priest then returned to the court.
“At one time a series of booths were built along the way to provide food and drink in case the scapegoat’s warden got tired or couldn’t make the journey to the goat’s predetermined location in the wilderness,” he explained. “A man from each booth will accompany the priest to the next station and so on until a warden reaches his final destination with the scapegoat.”
Yom Kippur, Christ, Easter, Christianity, Judaism

Image by Todd Bolen


Modern Judaism’s celebration represents a departure from biblical practice.

But the moving away from the Bible’s system of Jewish worship began long before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. The Bible originally insisted that all worship be centralized around the Tabernacle and then in the Temple in Jerusalem.

By the time of the “Second Temple period” (516 BC and AD 70), Judaism had already begun to adapt to new situations. The Jews in the Babylonian Captivity era made no attempt to offer animal sacrifices. They were worshiping in the newly formed concept of the Synagogue.

Only a group lining in northern Israel called “Samaritans” still sacrificed—still today.

In AD 70 the Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem.

The destruction of the Temple profoundly redirected Jewish worship. They were faced with a religion without centralized worship and sacrificial atonement.

A Pharisee, Yohanan ben Zakkai, was appointed the Patriarch and he reestablished the Sanhedrin at Jamnai (town on the coast of Israel) under Pharisee control. Instead of giving tithes to the priests and sacrificing offerings at the Temple, the rabbis began to codify the Law to emphasize good works. The biblical concept of obedience instead of sacrifice gained momentum.

After the Bar Kochba revolt in AD 135 was crushed, the Romans barred Jews from Jerusalem. The vast majority of Jews were sent into exile and soon after the birth of the Mishnah code of oral laws (the Talmud refers to the Mishnah and Gemera).

Pharisaic Judaism became Rabbinic Judaism.

Today Judaism has many theological divisions, but the observance of Yom Kippur is normally observed by all. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year when Jews feel closest to God and to the core of their being. On Yon Kippur God will forgive sins, purify the soul and the observer will be cleansed from all sins.

The activities include prayer, asking forgiveness, giving to charity and festive meals and lighting candles.

Yom Kippur, Christ, Easter, Christianity, Judaism

The Wailing Wall – Image by Todd Bolen


Christians, however, do not embrace the theology of modern Judaism and cannot observe it as Jews do. It can certainly remind Christians of the work of Christ as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law. But it has departed from the Hebrew Scriptures and has not found a permanent solution to the sin problem. The New Testament warns that salvation and forgiveness is not the result of good works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Christians find the “good news” in the New Testament that fulfills Biblical Judaism in the person of Jesus Christ who made “atonement” for all sin through His death and resurrection.  He paid for sin in full once and for all—no annual sacrifices are necessary (Hebrews 9:1-28).

It is applied through faith in His finished work of Christ (Messiah).


By The Author:


Images by agreement by Todd Bolen from Jeruselum Perspective

Lead Image: Original artwork by Ron Waalkes (view his watercolors)


Donald Brake

Donald L Brake, PhD is Dean Emeritus of Multnomah Biblical Seminary, past president of Jerusalem University College; and is author of: They Called Him Yeshua, How 30 Missing Years Changed Human History, a novel coming in 2018 (with Shelly Beach) Jesus, A Visual History, Zondervan 2014 (with Todd Bolen) A Monarch’s Majestic Translation: The King James Bible, Christian Faith Pub, 2017 A Visual History of the English Bible, Baker Books 2008 A Visual History of the King James Bible, Baker Books 2011 (with Shelly Beach) A Royal Monument of English Literature 2011 (Leaf 1611 KJV) Wycliffe New Testament (facsimile) 1986, IBP