Galatians 3:13 and Romans 8:3 Without Penal Substitution?

Mike Bird posted on his blog Euangelion about a couple of my recent posts. Having addressed the first theme, inerrancy, in yesterday’s post, this one turns to the question of penal substitution. Since Mike asked specifically about Galatians 3:13 and Romans 8:3, I will make them the central focus of this post.

Galatians 3:13 is a fascinating text, and commentators have put a lot of effort into trying to make sense of it. Rather than reproduce such discussion in full here, let me skip right to the conclusions, and we can return to the steps that led there later if there is interest.

It seems to be an error to read this text individualistically. If one reads the Torah as though it were pronouncing a curse on every individual who fails to keep every single commandment, without offering the possibility for forgiveness or atonement within the context of that same Law, then one ends up either with a great deal of confusion and/or a view that doesn’t quite fit the texts themselves. And so I am inclined to see in the background (following other scholars, such as in particular N. T. Wright) the fact that the curse which the Torah warned of was a curse on the nation, not each individual, and the fullest culmination of that curse was exile. Many Jews understood themselves to be in an ongoing state of exile in the first century. And what could reflect and express that curse more poignantly than the Messiah, expected to rescue the people from bondage and exile, being crucified by the foreign rulers who were themselves viewed as an expression of that ongoing exilic state? It seems that early Christians viewed Jesus’ death as the Messiah embracing the exile as God’s righteous judgment on his people, and by embracing it and experiencing it, bringing that stage in salvation history to an end.

There definitely is an element of exchange or interchange in the process as Paul and presumably other early Christians understood it. But I don’t think they understood this in terms of penal substitution, where this represented a legal transaction in which the innocent suffers and the guilty goes free. For one thing, the reality was much more complicated, and neither the end of Roman rule nor the final ingathering of the scattered Israelites immediately occured. But more importantly, those who wished to experience the end of exile presumably had to join with Jesus in submitting to it as God’s righteous judgment on his people, and did not simply believe Jesus had ended it and then immediately experience an end to foreign rule or the full dawning of the kingdom of God. The death of Jesus was understood to bring one into eschatological tension, rather than resolving it, in ways that we’ll explore in the next passage.

Regarding Romans 8:3, it is important to get the full sentence at least by reading Romans 8:3-4. Paul uses a shared inherited language of sacrifice as a way of referring to Jesus’ death, but inserting that metaphor simply puzzles those of us who have never slaughtered an animal, much less offered its blood to purify a sanctuary. That metaphor seems to have clarified things for Paul and his readers, but for us it is just another thing that requires explanation.

If we look at the clues Paul gives us of how he spelled out the workings of Jesus’ death as a salvific event, the key element seems to be not substitution, much less penal substitution, but participation. My favorite verse illustrating this is 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. If Paul had thought in terms of substitution, we might have expected him to say “One died for all, because all should have died, but the one who died saved those who live from death.” Instead, Paul says that “one died for all, and therefore all died.” Presumably this is to be interpreted in connection with his language of being crucified with Christ – even going so far as to coin terms, akin to “co-crucified with Christ.” Paul seems to have thought of Jesus’ death and resurrection in terms of his dying and leaving the present age, and by being raised as the firstfruit of the final resurrection, Jesus was believed to have entered and inaugurated the age to come. And so those who are united with him in his death were likewise thought to have been set free from the powers of the present age, and to have begun to participate in anticipatory fashion in the power of the age to come.

Romans 8:3 seems to me to make sense against that background. Paul uses traditional language of sacrifice (the meaning or connotations of which depend on what one thinks sacrifice was for, and if necessary I’ll offer a further post on Leviticus!). But the focus for Paul seems to be the interchange that he spells out in more detail elsewhere. The death of the Son brings those united with him into the realm of the Spirit, so that we can begin already to share, albeit not yet fully, in the life of the age to come that Jesus has begun to live. Flesh and Spirit here seem to be focused less on either an anthropological division of humans into different components, or a vertical contrast between earth and heaven, and more on an eschatological contrast between the life of the present age and that of the age to come.

Obviously much of what I’ve written above could be clarified and spelled out in more detail. And many points connect with the “corrective” view that Mike himself mentions in his post. But I actually think these texts make more sense if one removes penal substitution from the picture altogether. Salvation for Paul is not a transaction, whether the metaphor be legal or commercial. It involves the transfer of believers from one kingdom provisionally into another, in a way that doesn’t simply “wipe the slate clean” or let the guilty go free, but Paul believed offered life-transforming power. And it is the fact that the latter is at best an afterthought in penal substitutionary models of the atonement that places it at odds with not only Paul but the New Testament as a whole.

  • http://unsealing-the-seven-seals.blogspot.com/ Michael Cecil

    Not sure that you would be amenable to another understanding of Paul; but here goes:

    Paul was a Pharisee; he believed in the doctrine of a physical raising of a dead body from the grave.

    But the Pharisees opposed Jesus–and needed him DEAD–because he taught the Doctrine of “resurrection” as a Doctrine of ‘Rebirth’.

    So, all of the things that Paul wrote about “salvation” etc. were for the purpose of distracting people from one basic fact: that Jesus was murdered not because of any “vicarious atonement”; but, rather, because the DOCTRINE he taught was a THREAT to both the Sadducees AND the Pharisees.

  • http://unsealing-the-seven-seals.blogspot.com/ Michael Cecil

    Not sure that you would be amenable to another understanding of Paul; but here goes:

    Paul was a Pharisee; he believed in the doctrine of a physical raising of a dead body from the grave.

    But the Pharisees opposed Jesus–and needed him DEAD–because he taught the Doctrine of “resurrection” as a Doctrine of ‘Rebirth’.

    So, all of the things that Paul wrote about “salvation” etc. were for the purpose of distracting people from one basic fact: that Jesus was murdered not because of any “vicarious atonement”; but, rather, because the DOCTRINE he taught was a THREAT to both the Sadducees AND the Pharisees.

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  • http://twitter.com/RodATJr Rodney Thomas

    James, your explanation of Galatians 3 is probably closer to mine. Also, in context to the entire chapter of Galatians 3, rather than Christian tradition, Paul is addressing issues of nationality and ethnicity, thus, his famous ending with the baptismal formula. Your (and Wright’s) approach makes so much sense both in the historical and literary contexts.

  • http://twitter.com/RtRDH RodRogueDemonHunter

    James, your explanation of Galatians 3 is probably closer to mine. Also, in context to the entire chapter of Galatians 3, rather than Christian tradition, Paul is addressing issues of nationality and ethnicity, thus, his famous ending with the baptismal formula. Your (and Wright’s) approach makes so much sense both in the historical and literary contexts.

  • Mike B.

    Some interesting thoughts for sure. I wish I had the patience to sort through the complexities of Paul’s thought on the atonement. My interests usually lie elsewhere, but I would give one caution. You wrote, “If one reads the Torah…” In general, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Paul’s exegesis of the Torah is going to line up with what we think is a good reading of it (in fact I think that his use of scripture in this very passage is a great example of that). Maybe the Torah doesn’t read that way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul wasn’t reading it that way.

    As for PSA, I don’t think that early Christians would have cast the atonement in quite those terms, but I’m not sure how strongly they would have disagreed with it either. The impression that I get from the dizzyingly diverse images used to explain Jesus’ death is that they were more or less making it up as the went along, as is to be expected given their situation. We can see this kind of ad hoc rationalization in the wake of prophetic failure going on in real time with the Harold Camping situation. It takes some time to congeal into something coherent. The followers of Jesus had to do two things if they were to maintain their belief: They had to believe that Jesus had not failed his Messianic to establish the kingdom of God, and they had to explain how his death somehow fit into the plan. This they did by proposing that his death had somehow been for their benefit, that before he could bring the kingdom to Israel, Israel had first to be cleansed from their sins (A just-so story, perhaps, but a plausible one). For this reason, I tend to think that analogies to sacrificial rites are more central to early thought on the atonement than your analysis of Romans 8:3 implies, and laying the paradigm of the sacrificial victim on Christ does imply some level of substitution. My two cents for what it’s worth.

  • Mike_B2

    Some interesting thoughts for sure. I wish I had the patience to sort through the complexities of Paul’s thought on the atonement. My interests usually lie elsewhere, but I would give one caution. You wrote, “If one reads the Torah…” In general, I don’t think it’s fair to assume that Paul’s exegesis of the Torah is going to line up with what we think is a good reading of it (in fact I think that his use of scripture in this very passage is a great example of that). Maybe the Torah doesn’t read that way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Paul wasn’t reading it that way.

    As for PSA, I don’t think that early Christians would have cast the atonement in quite those terms, but I’m not sure how strongly they would have disagreed with it either. The impression that I get from the dizzyingly diverse images used to explain Jesus’ death is that they were more or less making it up as the went along, as is to be expected given their situation. We can see this kind of ad hoc rationalization in the wake of prophetic failure going on in real time with the Harold Camping situation. It takes some time to congeal into something coherent. The followers of Jesus had to do two things if they were to maintain their belief: They had to believe that Jesus had not failed his Messianic to establish the kingdom of God, and they had to explain how his death somehow fit into the plan. This they did by proposing that his death had somehow been for their benefit, that before he could bring the kingdom to Israel, Israel had first to be cleansed from their sins (A just-so story, perhaps, but a plausible one). For this reason, I tend to think that analogies to sacrificial rites are more central to early thought on the atonement than your analysis of Romans 8:3 implies, and laying the paradigm of the sacrificial victim on Christ does imply some level of substitution. My two cents for what it’s worth.

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  • http://unsealing-the-seven-seals.blogspot.com/ Michael Cecil

    My concern is not so much with the “complexities” of Paul’s thoughts, as with the *consequences*.

    Had it been understood that the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was a conflict at the level of Doctrine–that Jesus taught a *Doctrine* which threatened the power and wealth of the Pharisees–there would have been NO anti-Semitic Christian theology resulting in the Holocaust.

    With Paul’s doctrine of “vicarious atonement”, however, “the Jews” then became the personification of *evil* for their ‘rejection’ of Jesus (they had no control over the actions of their religious ‘authorities’); when, in fact, the crucifixion was little more than an attempt by those in positions of power to *retain* their power.

    This had NOTHING to do with “the Jews” being “Christ-killers”.

    This was an attempt by a religious system to preserve its own economic interests irrespective of sacrificing the Truth in the process.

  • http://unsealing-the-seven-seals.blogspot.com/ Michael Cecil

    My concern is not so much with the “complexities” of Paul’s thoughts, as with the *consequences*.

    Had it been understood that the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was a conflict at the level of Doctrine–that Jesus taught a *Doctrine* which threatened the power and wealth of the Pharisees–there would have been NO anti-Semitic Christian theology resulting in the Holocaust.

    With Paul’s doctrine of “vicarious atonement”, however, “the Jews” then became the personification of *evil* for their ‘rejection’ of Jesus (they had no control over the actions of their religious ‘authorities’); when, in fact, the crucifixion was little more than an attempt by those in positions of power to *retain* their power.

    This had NOTHING to do with “the Jews” being “Christ-killers”.

    This was an attempt by a religious system to preserve its own economic interests irrespective of sacrificing the Truth in the process.

  • Geoff Hudson

    The original language of Romans 8.1 was about condemnation of the spirit of a person, and freedom of that person’s spirit if IN the Spirit. They were bound by the spirit of deceit or darkness which led them to disobey the Spirit  They were set free when their spirit of truth or light obeyed the Spirit. The spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit were in everyone.  This was the standard Jewish philosophy of the day, found for example in the Didache and the Scrolls.  A difference between priests and prophets was that the prophets believed their spirits would go straight up for judgement, but the former believed their would be a time of waiting down below in Sheol, followed by judgement to decide where they would to go.In Jewish prophetic philosophy, the Law could not do anything. It had no power. Only spirits had power to animate.             8.1.Therefore, there is now no condemnation for [those] {us} who are IN [Christ Jesus] {the Spirit}. 8.2.because [through Christ Jesus the law of] the Spirit of [life] {God has} set [me] {us} free from the [law] {spirit} of [sin] {deceit} [and death]. 8.3.For what [the law] {our spirit of truth} was powerless to do in that it was [weakened] {polluted} by the [sinful nature] {spirit of deceit}, God did by sending his own [Son] {Spirit}[in the likeness of sinful man] to [be a sin offering] {cleanse}   [And so he condemned sin in sinful man,8.4.in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in]  us, who do not [live according to] {obey} the [sinful nature] {spirit of deceit} but [according to] {obey} the Spirit of God.   8.5.Those who [live according to] {obey} their [sinful nature] {spirit of deceit} [have their minds set on] {do} what that [nature] {spirit} desires; but those who [live in accordance with] {obey} [the Spirit] {their spirit of truth} [have their minds set on] {do} what the Spirit desires.     

  • Geoff Hudson

    The original language of Romans 8.1 was about condemnation of the spirit of a person, and freedom of that person’s spirit if IN the Spirit. They were bound by the spirit of deceit or darkness which led them to disobey the Spirit  They were set free when their spirit of truth or light obeyed the Spirit. The spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit were in everyone.  This was the standard Jewish philosophy of the day, found for example in the Didache and the Scrolls.  A difference between priests and prophets was that the prophets believed their spirits would go straight up for judgement, but the former believed their would be a time of waiting down below in Sheol, followed by judgement to decide where they would to go.In Jewish prophetic philosophy, the Law could not do anything. It had no power. Only spirits had power to animate.             8.1.Therefore, there is now no condemnation for [those] {us} who are IN [Christ Jesus] {the Spirit}. 8.2.because [through Christ Jesus the law of] the Spirit of [life] {God has} set [me] {us} free from the [law] {spirit} of [sin] {deceit} [and death]. 8.3.For what [the law] {our spirit of truth} was powerless to do in that it was [weakened] {polluted} by the [sinful nature] {spirit of deceit}, God did by sending his own [Son] {Spirit}[in the likeness of sinful man] to [be a sin offering] {cleanse}   [And so he condemned sin in sinful man,8.4.in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in]  us, who do not [live according to] {obey} the [sinful nature] {spirit of deceit} but [according to] {obey} the Spirit of God.   8.5.Those who [live according to] {obey} their [sinful nature] {spirit of deceit} [have their minds set on] {do} what that [nature] {spirit} desires; but those who [live in accordance with] {obey} [the Spirit] {their spirit of truth} [have their minds set on] {do} what the Spirit desires.     

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07674489078935633842 Random Arrow

    “It seems to be an error to read this text individualistically. If one reads the Torah as though it were pronouncing a curse on every individual who fails to keep every single commandment, without offering the possibility for forgiveness or atonement within the context of that same Law, then one ends up either with a great deal of confusion and/or a view that doesn’t quite fit the texts …”Count the scientific James McGrath the theo-biological proponent of group selection teaching David Sloan Wilson and Elliot Sober that God is the Great Natural Group Selector? Oh wait, for science, do we need some measurable ‘national’ (group-select) meaning? Okay not science, just a song, “‘Mostly say, ‘Hooray for our side.’”Closer to home (in biblical studies), that silly Albrecht Alt making the mistake of thinking biblical-textual interpretation has anything to do with casuistry dispensing judicial blessings and curses (or both blessings/curses in mixed degrees of forgiveness/judgment) on silly individuals in silly individual cases, or worse, that Toulmin and Johnson (“The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning”) perpetuated Alt’s silly little mistake and so abused casuistry and its historical deposits in texts on their misguided theory that individual cases of casuistry really did exist in history, and worse, that casuistry has something to do with real, discrete, individual case judgments. Silly anyone – to think that the all-vaunted apodictic social (tribal, familial, national, blah, blah, blah) value of textual expressions of individual case judgments across history and across all religious traditions (including Buddha as a judge of practical disputes, not as a hip-chic metaphysician for BMW driving coolsters) – silly of anyone not to see that the all-vaunted apodictic social/national value of texts is so overwhelmingly great as to make real life, concrete, casuistic, individual judgments mere artifacts. Silly individual readers for getting so individually confused. Alert the ABA – pamphleteers immediately tell all attorneys to begin advising all clients that billions of pages of casuistic history are now reducible to mere national policy discussions, never to be taken seriously in individual client cases. Street advice: “don’t take it personally!” Ethology and neuroscience are still too much in their adolescence to pronounce on these matters (nor am I making a Lewontin-like normative argument that these sciences should have the final say), but the global history and persistence of both penal (perhaps substitutionary?) sensibilities across legal systems and their texts and mythos motivates spinning testable inferences about hard-wired features and modules of such a common, penal, drive. It’s one thing to place texts in ANET contexts and histories, and now argue wanna-be/should-be theological reception. It’s another thing to see a larger biological history depositing a biological drive that just won’t go away, making its delicate and too-belabored circumcision from ancient texts look sort of like the texts themselves, instead of ancient and incongruent judges who made judgments which made law, or with incongruent ancient judges having nothing more to do, of course, than teach grand Holmesian, hifalutin, and always-of-course congruent social-theological lessons (on incongruence especially in religion, I’m thinking of Mark Chaves, SSR Presidential Address: “Overcoming the Religious Congruence Fallacy”). It’s not the text you’re fighting. But if you insist, to steal a phrase from Roland Boer, oh, “The Unbearable Idealism of Biblical Scholarship.”Cheers,Jim

    Count the scientific James McGrath the theo-biological proponent of group selection teaching David Sloan Wilson and Elliot Sober that God is the Great Natural Group Selector? Oh wait, for science, do we need some measurable ‘national’ (group-select) meaning?

    Okay not science, just a song, “‘Mostly say, ‘Hooray for our side.’”

    Closer to home (in biblical studies), that silly Albrecht Alt making the mistake of thinking biblical-textual interpretation has anything to do with casuistry dispensing judicial blessings and curses (or both blessings/curses in mixed degrees of forgiveness/judgment) on silly individuals in silly individual cases, or worse, that Toulmin and Johnson (“The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning”) perpetuated Alt’s silly little mistake and so abused casuistry and its historical deposits in texts on their misguided theory that individual cases of casuistry really did exist in history, and worse, that casuistry has something to do with real, discrete, individual case judgments. Silly anyone – to think that the all-vaunted apodictic social (tribal, familial, national, blah, blah, blah) value of textual expressions of individual case judgments across history and across all religious traditions (including Buddha as a judge of practical disputes, not as a hip-chic metaphysician for BMW driving coolsters) – silly of anyone not to see that the all-vaunted apodictic social/national value of texts is so overwhelmingly great as to make real life, concrete, casuistic, individual judgments mere artifacts.

    Silly individual readers for getting so individually confused.

    Alert the ABA – pamphleteers immediately tell all attorneys to begin advising all clients that billions of pages of casuistic history are now reducible to mere national policy discussions, never to be taken seriously in individual client cases.

    Street advice: “don’t take it personally!”

    Ethology and neuroscience are still too much in their adolescence to pronounce on these matters (nor am I making a Lewontin-like normative argument that these sciences should have the final say), but the global history and persistence of both penal (perhaps substitutionary?) sensibilities across legal systems and their texts and mythos motivates spinning testable inferences about hard-wired features and modules of such a common, penal, drive. It’s one thing to place texts in ANET contexts and histories, and now argue wanna-be/should-be theological reception. It’s another thing to see a larger biological history depositing a biological drive that just won’t go away, making its delicate and too-belabored circumcision from ancient texts look sort of like the texts themselves, instead of ancient and incongruent judges who made judgments which made law, or with incongruent ancient judges having nothing more to do, of course, than teach grand Holmesian, hifalutin, and always-of-course congruent social-theological lessons (on incongruence especially in religion, I’m thinking of Mark Chaves, SSR Presidential Address: “Overcoming the Religious Congruence Fallacy”).

    It’s not the text you’re fighting.

    But if you insist, to steal a phrase from Roland Boer, oh, “The Unbearable Idealism of Biblical Scholarship.”

    Cheers,

    Jim

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07674489078935633842 Random Arrow

    “It seems to be an error to read this text individualistically. If one reads the Torah as though it were pronouncing a curse on every individual who fails to keep every single commandment, without offering the possibility for forgiveness or atonement within the context of that same Law, then one ends up either with a great deal of confusion and/or a view that doesn’t quite fit the texts …”Count the scientific James McGrath the theo-biological proponent of group selection teaching David Sloan Wilson and Elliot Sober that God is the Great Natural Group Selector? Oh wait, for science, do we need some measurable ‘national’ (group-select) meaning? Okay not science, just a song, “‘Mostly say, ‘Hooray for our side.’”Closer to home (in biblical studies), that silly Albrecht Alt making the mistake of thinking biblical-textual interpretation has anything to do with casuistry dispensing judicial blessings and curses (or both blessings/curses in mixed degrees of forgiveness/judgment) on silly individuals in silly individual cases, or worse, that Toulmin and Johnson (“The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning”) perpetuated Alt’s silly little mistake and so abused casuistry and its historical deposits in texts on their misguided theory that individual cases of casuistry really did exist in history, and worse, that casuistry has something to do with real, discrete, individual case judgments. Silly anyone – to think that the all-vaunted apodictic social (tribal, familial, national, blah, blah, blah) value of textual expressions of individual case judgments across history and across all religious traditions (including Buddha as a judge of practical disputes, not as a hip-chic metaphysician for BMW driving coolsters) – silly of anyone not to see that the all-vaunted apodictic social/national value of texts is so overwhelmingly great as to make real life, concrete, casuistic, individual judgments mere artifacts. Silly individual readers for getting so individually confused. Alert the ABA – pamphleteers immediately tell all attorneys to begin advising all clients that billions of pages of casuistic history are now reducible to mere national policy discussions, never to be taken seriously in individual client cases. Street advice: “don’t take it personally!” Ethology and neuroscience are still too much in their adolescence to pronounce on these matters (nor am I making a Lewontin-like normative argument that these sciences should have the final say), but the global history and persistence of both penal (perhaps substitutionary?) sensibilities across legal systems and their texts and mythos motivates spinning testable inferences about hard-wired features and modules of such a common, penal, drive. It’s one thing to place texts in ANET contexts and histories, and now argue wanna-be/should-be theological reception. It’s another thing to see a larger biological history depositing a biological drive that just won’t go away, making its delicate and too-belabored circumcision from ancient texts look sort of like the texts themselves, instead of ancient and incongruent judges who made judgments which made law, or with incongruent ancient judges having nothing more to do, of course, than teach grand Holmesian, hifalutin, and always-of-course congruent social-theological lessons (on incongruence especially in religion, I’m thinking of Mark Chaves, SSR Presidential Address: “Overcoming the Religious Congruence Fallacy”). It’s not the text you’re fighting. But if you insist, to steal a phrase from Roland Boer, oh, “The Unbearable Idealism of Biblical Scholarship.”Cheers,Jim

    Count the scientific James McGrath the theo-biological proponent of group selection teaching David Sloan Wilson and Elliot Sober that God is the Great Natural Group Selector? Oh wait, for science, do we need some measurable ‘national’ (group-select) meaning?

    Okay not science, just a song, “‘Mostly say, ‘Hooray for our side.’”

    Closer to home (in biblical studies), that silly Albrecht Alt making the mistake of thinking biblical-textual interpretation has anything to do with casuistry dispensing judicial blessings and curses (or both blessings/curses in mixed degrees of forgiveness/judgment) on silly individuals in silly individual cases, or worse, that Toulmin and Johnson (“The Abuse of Casuistry: A History of Moral Reasoning”) perpetuated Alt’s silly little mistake and so abused casuistry and its historical deposits in texts on their misguided theory that individual cases of casuistry really did exist in history, and worse, that casuistry has something to do with real, discrete, individual case judgments. Silly anyone – to think that the all-vaunted apodictic social (tribal, familial, national, blah, blah, blah) value of textual expressions of individual case judgments across history and across all religious traditions (including Buddha as a judge of practical disputes, not as a hip-chic metaphysician for BMW driving coolsters) – silly of anyone not to see that the all-vaunted apodictic social/national value of texts is so overwhelmingly great as to make real life, concrete, casuistic, individual judgments mere artifacts.

    Silly individual readers for getting so individually confused.

    Alert the ABA – pamphleteers immediately tell all attorneys to begin advising all clients that billions of pages of casuistic history are now reducible to mere national policy discussions, never to be taken seriously in individual client cases.

    Street advice: “don’t take it personally!”

    Ethology and neuroscience are still too much in their adolescence to pronounce on these matters (nor am I making a Lewontin-like normative argument that these sciences should have the final say), but the global history and persistence of both penal (perhaps substitutionary?) sensibilities across legal systems and their texts and mythos motivates spinning testable inferences about hard-wired features and modules of such a common, penal, drive. It’s one thing to place texts in ANET contexts and histories, and now argue wanna-be/should-be theological reception. It’s another thing to see a larger biological history depositing a biological drive that just won’t go away, making its delicate and too-belabored circumcision from ancient texts look sort of like the texts themselves, instead of ancient and incongruent judges who made judgments which made law, or with incongruent ancient judges having nothing more to do, of course, than teach grand Holmesian, hifalutin, and always-of-course congruent social-theological lessons (on incongruence especially in religion, I’m thinking of Mark Chaves, SSR Presidential Address: “Overcoming the Religious Congruence Fallacy”).

    It’s not the text you’re fighting.

    But if you insist, to steal a phrase from Roland Boer, oh, “The Unbearable Idealism of Biblical Scholarship.”

    Cheers,

    Jim

  • Chris

    I don’t mean to sound simple…but death is the punishment for sin.  
    When God made animal hides for Adam and Eve, after their sin, the animals bore their punishment and thus merited death.  The animals’ death shows that they bore Adam and Eve’s sins.
    Also, in the Passover, as you say, “the innocent suffers (and dies) and the guilty goes free”. The passover lamb is slain, an unblemished lamb, innocent, but it bears on the blemishes of Israel.  Its blood is placed on the door posts, and thus Israel’s unholiness is passed-over, freeing them.  The entire Levitical system of sacrifice is another example. Exodus 28:30, “Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people on his heart…”Ex. 28:38, Aaron bears the guilt of the people Ex. 28:43, If Aaron and his sons were to bear this guilt before God they would die–the punishment for the guilt.Leviticus 16:22 says, “The goat shall bear all of their iniquities on itself…”Finally, Lev. 22:9, “They shall therefore keep my charge lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the Lord who sanctifies them.”In Ezekiel 4:4, Ezekiel “bears the sins of Israel” by his actions.  He  takes upon himself their penalty, and is a substitution for them.In summary- Christ must bear our guilt upon himself, which deserves punishment (death), or else he is not a substitute.  If there is no bearing of guilt, no payment, laid upon the substitution, then the shedding of blood is useless, and the Messiah died for nothing.  As it is, the shedding of Jesus’ blood is the forgiveness of our sins, our justification, because he bears our sins upon himself.I suppose this still leaves us with the issue of how the God-Man, Christ can bear our sins and be Holy simultaneously, but I think that is answerable.  

  • Chris

    I don’t mean to sound simple…but death is the punishment for sin.  
    When God made animal hides for Adam and Eve, after their sin, the animals bore their punishment and thus merited death.  The animals’ death shows that they bore Adam and Eve’s sins.
    Also, in the Passover, as you say, “the innocent suffers (and dies) and the guilty goes free”. The passover lamb is slain, an unblemished lamb, innocent, but it bears on the blemishes of Israel.  Its blood is placed on the door posts, and thus Israel’s unholiness is passed-over, freeing them.  The entire Levitical system of sacrifice is another example. Exodus 28:30, “Thus Aaron shall bear the judgment of the people on his heart…”Ex. 28:38, Aaron bears the guilt of the people Ex. 28:43, If Aaron and his sons were to bear this guilt before God they would die–the punishment for the guilt.Leviticus 16:22 says, “The goat shall bear all of their iniquities on itself…”Finally, Lev. 22:9, “They shall therefore keep my charge lest they bear sin for it and die thereby when they profane it: I am the Lord who sanctifies them.”In Ezekiel 4:4, Ezekiel “bears the sins of Israel” by his actions.  He  takes upon himself their penalty, and is a substitution for them.In summary- Christ must bear our guilt upon himself, which deserves punishment (death), or else he is not a substitute.  If there is no bearing of guilt, no payment, laid upon the substitution, then the shedding of blood is useless, and the Messiah died for nothing.  As it is, the shedding of Jesus’ blood is the forgiveness of our sins, our justification, because he bears our sins upon himself.I suppose this still leaves us with the issue of how the God-Man, Christ can bear our sins and be Holy simultaneously, but I think that is answerable.  

  • Luke

    ‘…(the meaning or connotations of which depend on what one thinks
    sacrifice was for, and if necessary I’ll offer a further post on
    Leviticus!)…’
    Yes, please! (I should’ve posted my comment about Wenham’s commentry here.)

  • Luke

    ‘…(the meaning or connotations of which depend on what one thinks
    sacrifice was for, and if necessary I’ll offer a further post on
    Leviticus!)…’
    Yes, please! (I should’ve posted my comment about Wenham’s commentry here.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Luke, if you have read Wenham’s commentary on Leviticus, I don’t have anything to add! :-)

    • Luke

      Still, if you get chance… ;)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Luke, if you have read Wenham’s commentary on Leviticus, I don’t have anything to add! :-)

    • Luke

      Still, if you get chance… ;)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @c73cdbf9ea5c764edd1be5c54a407c71:disqus , in the original Passover ritual, it was the marking of the door with blood that was key, not substitution. I think that you’ll find that is the case with many other sacrifices in ancient Israel, such as the “sin offering” (Wenham suggests it might be better translated “de-sinning offering”) and the Day of Atonement ritual.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @c73cdbf9ea5c764edd1be5c54a407c71:disqus , in the original Passover ritual, it was the marking of the door with blood that was key, not substitution. I think that you’ll find that is the case with many other sacrifices in ancient Israel, such as the “sin offering” (Wenham suggests it might be better translated “de-sinning offering”) and the Day of Atonement ritual.

  • Gary

    “When God made animal hides for Adam and Eve, after their sin, the animals bore their punishment and thus merited death. The animals’ death shows that they bore Adam and Eve’s sins”…Why I am not a fundamentalist. What a guilt trip – If I changed the names, I think I might be reading about a vodoo tribe ritual 200 years ago. Oops, must be Leviticus. Nothing holy there.

  • Gary

    “When God made animal hides for Adam and Eve, after their sin, the animals bore their punishment and thus merited death. The animals’ death shows that they bore Adam and Eve’s sins”…Why I am not a fundamentalist. What a guilt trip – If I changed the names, I think I might be reading about a vodoo tribe ritual 200 years ago. Oops, must be Leviticus. Nothing holy there.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Chris, it is not that you sound simple, it is that you are reading things into the story in Genesis 3 that aren’t there. Presumably you have worn clothing made with animal products, and just as in what Genesis explicitly said, it was to cover your nakedness, not as a sacrifice.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Chris, it is not that you sound simple, it is that you are reading things into the story in Genesis 3 that aren’t there. Presumably you have worn clothing made with animal products, and just as in what Genesis explicitly said, it was to cover your nakedness, not as a sacrifice.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @0007472e9e0c9af7fffb677adf19d98d:disqus , I’ll try to get to it later, if not sooner. I see some really interesting connections between Wenham’s understanding of the Day of Atonement ritual as understood in Leviticus, and the view of the atonement in Hebrews.

    • Luke

      Thanks. :)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @0007472e9e0c9af7fffb677adf19d98d:disqus , I’ll try to get to it later, if not sooner. I see some really interesting connections between Wenham’s understanding of the Day of Atonement ritual as understood in Leviticus, and the view of the atonement in Hebrews.

  • Chris

    Hm.  As the first death/sacrifice recorded, I’d say the animal-skin clothing and event is a bit different than me buying textile clothing from a store. Also-I’m not a fundamentalist.

    Aside from that issue, what of Exodus 28:30, 43; Leviticus 16:22; Leviticus 22:9; and Ezekiel 4:4?  These verses all speak of “bearing the sin” of another.  I’d like to hear your opinion on that if you don’t mind sharing

  • Chris

    Hm.  As the first death/sacrifice recorded, I’d say the animal-skin clothing and event is a bit different than me buying textile clothing from a store. Also-I’m not a fundamentalist.

    Aside from that issue, what of Exodus 28:30, 43; Leviticus 16:22; Leviticus 22:9; and Ezekiel 4:4?  These verses all speak of “bearing the sin” of another.  I’d like to hear your opinion on that if you don’t mind sharing

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Chris, I understand that the scapegoat bore sin, and precisely for that reason was not sacrificed. By the way, do you think that sin is in reality a problem that can be dealt with by transferring it to an animal, as though it were an object that can be moved around?

    I do not get what you had in mind from the other passages.

    I do not disagree at all that the story in Genesis 3 is different than shopping for clothes in the present. I meant that it is a story about the origin of clothing, not the origin of sacrifice.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Chris, I understand that the scapegoat bore sin, and precisely for that reason was not sacrificed. By the way, do you think that sin is in reality a problem that can be dealt with by transferring it to an animal, as though it were an object that can be moved around?

    I do not get what you had in mind from the other passages.

    I do not disagree at all that the story in Genesis 3 is different than shopping for clothes in the present. I meant that it is a story about the origin of clothing, not the origin of sacrifice.

  • Chris

    “Do you think that sin is in reality a problem that can be dealt with by transferring it to an animal”…well…what of the scapegoat?  

    Leviticus 16:21, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins.  And he shall put them on the head of the goat…The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself…”

    1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed.”  
    That is what I had in mind when I used the other passages–specifically, the bearing of other people’s sins.

    I do not know if sin is literally transferred from me, or metaphorically, but I know that some kind of a substitution, and bearing, of my sin takes place, as stated in these verses.

  • Chris

    “Do you think that sin is in reality a problem that can be dealt with by transferring it to an animal”…well…what of the scapegoat?  

    Leviticus 16:21, “And Aaron shall lay both his hands on the head of the live goat, and confess over it all the iniquities of the people of Israel, and all their transgressions, all their sins.  And he shall put them on the head of the goat…The goat shall bear all their iniquities on itself…”

    1 Peter 2:24 says, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds we have been healed.”  
    That is what I had in mind when I used the other passages–specifically, the bearing of other people’s sins.

    I do not know if sin is literally transferred from me, or metaphorically, but I know that some kind of a substitution, and bearing, of my sin takes place, as stated in these verses.

  • newenglandsun

    In regard to Romans 8:3, most penal substitution adherents are referring to Romans 8:1 to establish their point. But this means they ignore verse 2 which expounds on what Paul is getting at.

    Romans 8:2 – For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

    Note that what Paul is trying to grasp when he argues that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus is built up here in verse 2 which is arguing that the law of the Spirit has set one free from the law of sin and death. We aren’t grasping at a theology from Paul that is saying now we don’t have to follow the law, what we are getting at is that we are freed from the Jewish civil law when we follow the law of the Spirit (the two greatest commandments). Whatever sin was previously preventing us from doing this was condemned and defeated. There is no penal substitution here, what I see is what the Catholics and Eastern Orthodox call Christus Victor.

    Galatians 3:10-13 is not freeing us from the law of the Spirit, it is freeing us from the curse of the Jewish law. Further, the law was preventing Gentiles from coming to the faith and so Christ suffered a curse of the law to free the Gentiles. Again, that is the defeat of sin and death on the cross not the penalty taken for sin and death.

    http://catholicnick.blogspot.com/2013/06/in-what-way-did-jesus-become-curse-for.html

    This link has a wealth of info on Gal. 3:13 and showcases how Israel’s unfaithfulness distorted their laws into preventing Gentiles from coming in. The civil law was in error, not the law of the Spirit. Penal substitution adherents do not understand that they do have to follow the law of the Spirit.