Pun-al Substitution

Pun-al Substitution June 24, 2015

Andrew Perriman blogged about the interaction between myself and Michael Bird about the penal substitution theory of the atonement. His reckoning suggests that the biggest difference between conservatives and liberals/progressives might be the willingness of the latter to make puns and other jokes about “penile substitution.”

He may or may not be right. But in order to provide more data on the basis of which to determine whether Andrew is right, rather than write more on the subject, here are a couple of cartoons!



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  • Andrew Schefe

    On the topic of penile substitution, what would’ve happened to Jesus’ fore skin at the resurrection?

    • Matthew Funke

      Evidently, the resurrection wasn’t enough to remove the wounds from his hands and side. Maybe some things are permanent.

      *Love* the question, though. 🙂

  • Andrew Dowling

    Perriman seems to be suggesting, although it’s not exactly clear from his post, that a 1st century “Jewish-apocalyptic” view of the atoning act of Jesus’s death would’ve been something like PSA. Which I think is TOTALLY wrong and has been soundly refuted by a number of scholars.

    • Andrew Perriman

      If Israel faced “punishment” from God but at the hand of Rome in the form of a war in which thousands of Jews were crucified, is it so remarkable that Jewish believers in Jesus believed that in some sense he had suffered Israel’s punishment for the sake of Israel’s future?

      • Andrew Dowling

        ? I’m not exactly sure what you’re inferring; I don’t think any Jesus-followers believed a Roman massacre of Jerusalem post-rebellion was going to constitute “punishment” for Jesus’s death until AFTER the war occurred (post-diction), and that was a belief held primarily by Gentile Christians, not Jewish Christians.

        And in any case, such a belief among Gentile Christians in no way constituted some legal transaction or something that “had” to happen.

        • Andrew Perriman

          Jesus’ parable of the wicked tenants suggests that the tenants would be punished (“He will come and destroy the tenants…”) not simply for having killed Jesus but for a history of “fruitlessness” and rebellion against God, culminating in the killing of Jesus. I don’t see any reason why Jesus himself shouldn’t have said this. I would argue that “penal substitution” along the lines of Isaiah 53 makes sense in the context of the Jewish narrative, but works less well as an account of how Gentiles were reconciled to Israel’s God. Either way, I agree that it is wrong to construe the thought as a metaphysically necessary legal transaction.

          • Andrew Dowling

            I suggest you read Levine’s book on Jesus’s parables . . not only on the use of allegory by the evangelists but how we presuppose later ideas onto them. Parable of the Tenants has nothing to do with the Jewish Rebellion.

          • Andrew Perriman

            I didn’t say the parable had anything to do with the Jewish Rebellion. I’m also surprised that you think the “judgment” interpretation is a modern imposition on the parable. In his sympathetic review of Levine’s book Loren Rosson seems to think it’s more likely the other way round:

            “Amy-Jill Levine’s new book will be welcomed by liberal religious thinkers who think the sun shines on everyone with minimal judgment. Through her lens, Jesus’ parables show us people torn apart and reconciled, benefiting from each other for all their differences; a divided world made whole through responsible human effort. If you embrace that kind of wisdom as I do, then Short Stories by Jesus will be the next-best thing to the bible itself. The question is whether or not this wisdom can really be derived from the historical Jesus.”

            But I’m curious now. I’ll get hold of a copy of her book.

          • Andrew Perriman

            Well, that was a disappointment. I read what Levine has to say about the parable of the tenants. It’s hardly an “interpretation”, or even a critique of traditional interpretations, just an expression of liberal unease about violence, loosely related to the storyline of the parable but in complete disregard of the apocalyptic frame of the synoptic Gospels.

  • John MacDonald

    I just finished Paula Fredriksen’s book on Paul (Paul: The Pagan’s Apostle 2017). She has such an interesting take on the atonement question. Fredriksen writes, for instance, “[Some argue], for Paul, Jerusalem’s temple has been superseded by this new ‘temple’ of the Christian community. I argue the opposite (154).” See also esp. chapter 4, “Paul and the Law.” Next I’m going to read the “Darth Plagueis” Star Wars novel!