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1. I don’t see the problem. He looked like just another Jewish troublemaker executed by Rome. I rather think this is what Paul meant when he said that Jesus was sent “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). His experience was exactly that of the people who would later revolt against Rome, except that he was innocent.

2. Again I’m struggling to see what your problem is. There’s no syllogism. The point was simply that there was a substitutionary element to the narrative. Two things happened. Jesus was destroyed by Rome. Part of Israel was not destroyed by Rome and entered the life of the age to come. That could be interpreted as a substitution—his life for theirs.

3. If a person pays a ransom, he or she is penalised for the sake of the captive. The captive is not penalised but liberated. By their disobedience the Jews were getting themselves into a mess with Rome. Jesus’ paid the penalty for this with his own life.

In Jewish Law a ransom is paid for a life in the case of culpability (cf. Ex. 21:30; 30:12; Num. 35:31) or to redeem something which is possessed by someone else (cf. Lev. 19:20; 25:24; 25:26). The Levites are taken by God in the place of (anti) every firstborn of Israel; they are a ransom for the sons of Israel (Num. 3:12). If Isaiah 53:12 is relevant for the interpretation of Jesus’ saying, there are good grounds for thinking that there is a “penal” aspect to the metaphor as Jesus uses it: “because his soul was given over to death, and he was reckoned among the lawless, and he bore the sins of many, and because of their sins he was given over” (Is. 53:12 LXX). This does not mean that God deliberately punished Jesus, but if the Jews’ suffering was punishment for their sin, Jesus’ suffering was punishment for their sin.

4. How is Jesus’ parable of the vineyard different in literary form from Isaiah’s parable of the vineyard? You’ve ignored the central argument—the relationship to Isaiah’s parable and the reason that Jesus’ gives for speaking in parables, which directly evokes the sending of Isaiah to warn a stiff-necked people that the land will be left desolate (Is. 6:9-13). Luke also has Jesus reference Isaiah 8:11-15, which reinforces the narrative-historical orientation of the parable (Lk. 20:18):

For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

5. I am simply pointing out that the violence is part of the story—both in the Old Testament and in the New. Israel experienced YHWH as a God of history, and history is bloody. The church has turned a blind eye to it. My argument is that if we are going to claim to be a biblical people, heirs to the story about Jesus, we have to take this aspect into account. I don’t think the solution is to allegorise it or pretend it isn’t there.

6. It seems to me that Jesus, who in Luke 13:33-35 calls himself a prophet, who tells parables like a prophet, lamented the fate of Jerusalem in exactly the same way that the prophets lamented the fate of Jerusalem. The prophet attributes the coming disaster to the folly of the people, who will bring war down on their own heads, but also regards it as the wrath of God. The historical and theological explanations are two sides of the same coin.

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