Add new comment

In each category you seem to overlook the points I was making. However, in terms of problems, my overall problem is with penal substitution as it is commonly presented, and with the underlying problem of what it says about God if he has to use violence to achieve his ends. Evidently you don’t think this is a problem, nor, in your version of things that God should punish an innocent human being as a human sacrifice to fulfil his redemptive purposes. At least in the Trinitarian version God is bearing the punishment in himself — not imposing punishment on someone separate from himself, like a human messiah. This “redemptive violence” is the subject of the thread, I thought.

I don’t know if it’s worth it, but just to clarify:

1. You haven’t said how Jesus’s death anticipated the deaths of thousands of Jews later by crucifixion, any more than any other crucified insurrectionist anticipated this slaughter. Maybe they all anticipated it? What was unique, in your view, about Jesus?

2. You have now said that the reason part of Israel was spared in AD 70 was because Jesus’s life was a subsitution — his life for theirs. Now we’re getting somewhere.

3. No — a person who pays a ransom is not penalised for the sake of a captive. He is buying them back. That is not identical to penalisation. It certainly is not what is meant by penal in “penal substitution”, where the idea of judicial punishment is at the fore. In the next paragraph you get more to the heart of the matter by looking at “ransom” in the OT. You miss the most important lutron of all: the ransoming of Israel by God in their release from slavery in Egypt. But no “ransom” was paid by God. He redeemed (ransomed — same word) them out of love by hearing their cries and bringing them out of Egypt. In Isaiah 53 there is no mention of a ransom. The suffering has been interpreted as bearing a judicial penalty for Israel’s sins. However, this suffering, and the “ransom” of Matthew 20:28 could be interpreted differently.

4. I’m not saying there is no connection whatsoever between Isaiah and Matthew’s vineyard. They both speak of Israel as a vineyard! I’m saying Jesus handles things in a very different way. He does not provide the same sort of prophetic allegory as Isaiah. He tells a story more like a folk tale, with a dramatic ending for the wicked tenants. Actually, in this case, the ending for the tenants is: “He will miserably destroy those wicked men”, and he then lets out the vineyard to others. Isaiah’s vineyard is made into a wasteland. In fact, when you look at Isaiah’s allegory, it is point for point quite different from Matthew’s story. Isaiah’s vineyard only yields bad grapes, and had not been worth the effort of cultivating it. Matthew is not making this point at all.

5. The church has not turned a blind eye to violence in the bible. It has condoned it in the Old Testament, either by saying that recipients of violence at God’s hands or the hands of His people were so wicked they deserved nothing else, or saying that God is sovereign and can do what he wants, or even by saying physical suffering and death is far less than suffering in hell (so they should be grateful?). Penal substitution as a way of understanding the atonement enshrines violent judicial punishment at the heart of Jesus’s crucifixion. The word ”atonement” has changed its meaning from when Tyndale coined it as “reconciliation” to become purging through judicial punishment. This why some today, perhaps an increasing number, are questioning this as a way of understanding Jesus’s suffering on the cross.

6. Now you are introducing a new subject altogether: the wrath of God, which is not mentioned in any of the gospel accounts of the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.

Just for the record, the alternative view of the cross, which has sometimes been called “Christus Victor”, and was widely held by the early church, is that Jesus was overcoming evil by his death and resurrection, in which we were both victims and accomplices. The battle was with Satan, whose authority derives from sin and death.  

Jesus’s encounters with Satan are important in the framing of the gospel accounts, and in John’s gospel. shortly before his crucifixion, Jesus declares that “the Prince of the World (Satan) is coming, but he has no part in me”.  The demonic powers recognise Jesus, as Messiah, but also fear of what they know will be their defeat. His death and resurrection made their defeat a universal possiblity . On the other side of the coin, Jesus’s victory is releasing the life of the age to come into the world, and the beginning of the new creation in his own resurrection.

Gustaf Aulen brought the Christus Victor idea to light again in his book on the subject in 1958, and more recently Tom Wright — though each version of it is slightly different. Wright is very coy when associated with it, for similar reasons, I suppose, to you not wishing to be associated with “preterism”. Historical approaches to Jesus prefer not to be branded theologically.

Some of my criticisms have been ignored altogether, but I won’t take that personally. It’s a nice evening and I’m being called to walk the dog, so that must be it for now.

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.