Sunday, May 10, 2009

Matthew 8:16-17 and Substitution atonement

I'm currently doing a Bible study where all the discussions of Christ's work [and all the discussions of the Final Judgment] are collected together. I find these aggregations useful because they often reveal patterns not obvious from casual reading. Indeed, my very first blog was on how the evangelism shown in Acts is really not what we would expect given what most people are taught as "the gospel." [that post is here.]

While doing this I ran across Matthew 8:16-17. The interesting thing about this passage is that it puts a completely different frame on the "Suffering servant" prophecy of Isaiah 53.

The standard explanation of the prophesy in Isaiah 53:4-5 is that Christ took our sins upon Himself. Now, there is an immediate problem with this in that Isaiah describes the sacrifice of the suffering servant as a "reparation/guilt sacrifice"in Isaiah 53:10. This sacrifice was not one where the offenses were placed upon the sacrifice (indeed, often the "sacrifice" was not even a living creature.) It was a "paying back" not a "transfer of sin."

Indeed, if you read Isaiah 53 you'll see that Christ appears to be offered up as a "guilt offering" for sickness. The wording closely matches the discussion of how one was supposed to deal with lepers who had been healed in Leviticus 13 and 14. The word used in Isaiah 53:10 is the same as the word in Leviticus 14:13 to describe the offering. This was one of the three offerings made to cleanse a leper, allowing him back into the temple.

But Matthew 8:16-17 gives another reason not to see this prophecy as a defense of Penal substitution because Matthew claims Jesus was fulfilling it prior to His death when He healed those around Him. Hence, the focus is not on the infirmity being "placed on" Jesus statutorily, but rather that Jesus was "taking the sin away."

Now, the point here is not that Isaiah 53 was not also pertinent to Jesus' crucifixion. After all, the quotation in Acts 8:32-33 of verses 7 and 8 appear to refer to his death, and 1st Peter 2:24 could hardly be more clear that Christ's death is in mind.

However, Matthew's version proves that there is no requirement for the healing to be through transfer, and 1st Peter concurs that it is healing that is in mind here, not transfer of wrath. [In other words, the state of sickness people were in rather than future divine punishment.]

Neither does 1st Peter's version suggest transfer of guilt. Rather that passage puts Christ forth as an example [1st Peter 2:21] of enduring the persecution that people of God endure and leaving justice up to God [2:23]. The purpose suggested is not "to save us from God's wrath" but "that we may cease from sinning and live for righteousness."
1st peter 3:18 gives a similar reason for Christ's suffering.

Indeed, if one takes 1st Peter 3:1-2 seriously, we have to accept that Peter was very much putting forward a "salvation by Christ's example turning us back to God." 1st Peter 4:1-2 hits this topic again.

Now, I don't want to indicate that I'm supporting a "Christ as good example" salvation here. Indeed, 1st Peter 3:21 shows that Peter is not going for this interpretation either. Christ as a mere "good example" could not have accomplished the sending of the Spirit. I'm merely pointing out that the passages that quote Isaiah 53 (as well as the typology of Isaiah 53:10 and Leviticus 14) do not suggest Christ's sacrifice as substitutionary.

Finally, it should be noted that Isaiah 53:10 is never quoted by an NT writer, and the Hebrew is rather hard to understand, so the application of that verse [both in ways for and against PSA] have to be taken as circumstantial at best.


Nick said...

I'm glad to see you addressed this Mat 8:16f issue, it is amazing how many people read Penal Substitution into Is 53 (even v4) without knowing this. This verse really got the ball rolling for me when I began to realize that Penal Substitution was flatly unBiblical.

One thing that is interesting is that the "carried" and "bore" terms in 53:4 are used AGAIN in 53:11,12. This means that there is no reason to interpret "carried" and "bore" as a literal transfer of guilt rather than a taking away.

As for the "offering" mentioned in Is 53, the fact is the OT sacrifices did not operate in a Penal Substitution framework. Most people assume they did, but that is wrong. Thus by describing Christ's sacrifce in Is 53 as a sin offering, it greatly undermines Psub, as does the phrase "made intercession for the transgressors" (same term as 53:6), because intercession is an appeasement concept, not a substitutionary punishment one.

I am also very glad you mentioned 1 Peter 2 here, because 1 Pt 2 alludes to or quotes Is 53 more than any NT passage, making 1 Pt 2 very valuable for understanding Is 53. The one thing I think you should have done is not start at 1 Pt 2:21, but rather 1 Pt 2:18ff!! It's funny that I never see advocates of PSA starting the 2:24 quote back at 2:18. It is so clear, and it is in fact Peter's theme throughout his epistle (eg 3:3-4; 3:9-14; 3:17-18; 4:12-16)! What is pleasing in God's sight is not dumping His wrath, but rather good works done to bring God glory. That's 1 Pt 2:18-25 properly understood. And the term "bore" in 2:24 is often used as a sacrificial term (it also occurs in 2:5) and it means "to offer up a sacrifice."

I recently finished a debate on Penal Substitution against a Calvinist, it's linked on my page.

David Rudel said...

Hi Nick, thanks for visiting my blog!
I would say that the scapegoat sacrifice could be considered a substitution sacrifice (of course, Jesus is not once described as a scapegoat sacrifice), and probably the "live bird" sacrifice used as part of the leper-cleansing ritual in Leviticus 14. However, I agree with you that these do little to support PSA, certainly not PSA as the central dogma.

However, I think one could make a case for the passover being a type of substitution sacrifice, but on a national/generational scale. I make a case for that in my book and believe Paul is referring to exactly that in Romans 3:25.

Good stuff, hope to see you back on here sometime.


Nick said...

This is interesting, because I see the Passover as one of the weakest proofs of Psub, while being the clearest reference to Christ (The Lamb of God).

Exodus 11:4-7 explicitly states God's wrath was never on the Israelites, that alone undermines a Psub interpretation. Never is the lamb said to be an object of wrath, nor is such a claim warranted. In Exodus 12 it says if one family is too small for a whole lamb, they are to share with a neighbor, that goes against a life-for-life Psub right there. Second, killing the lamb but not following proper instructions from there makes the slaughter of no value in the end, which means the value is not on the killing itself as Psub would have it.

I cannot think of a worse example for a PSA advocate to appeal to than the Passover.

I'd like to see your thoughts on Rom 3:24-25, because I believe that is another passage strongly against Psub. In this passage Paul uses the terms "redeem" and "propitiate," which both point away from Psub. To redeem is to buy back at a price, not to transfer a punishment. Next, the term "propitiation" by definition means to "turn away wrath" (appease), not to re-direct the wrath on a substitute. Given this, Paul precludes any Psub interpretation.

I don't think I was clear when I said the Sacrificial system in the OT didn't operate on a Psub framework. The sacrifice term used in Is 53:10 is a Hebrew term for a specific type of sacrifice. As you pointed out it appears in Lev 14, but it also appears in Lev 5 as the "sin offering." Upon close examination, Lev 5 is not describing Psub at all, for 5:7 says if a lamb cannot be afforded then doves can be used, but 5:11 says if doves cannot be afforded then a sack of flour can be used. But this makes no sense in a Psub, thus Psub is not what the framework is. Further, sacrifices that did not involve sin but were instead "fellowship offerings" as described in places like LEv 3 talk of killing an animal in almost identical means of "sin offerings" of Lev 5. This doesn't make sense if Psub is true, because Lev 3 is killing animals without it being an offering due to sin.

David Rudel said...

Hi Nick,
I totally understand where you are coming from with regard to the passover not appearing to be Psub because I used to feel the same way. This is particularly important for my paradigm for salvation where salvation is seen as the freedom from bondage to sin. One could hardly find a more clear sign of freedom from bondage than in the passover!

I began seeing the Passover as a kind of propitiation atonement after studying more of the prophets and how Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:15 relate to the discussion of Israel/Judah in the prophets.

In my provisional framework for this, both Egypt and the sons of Jacob were guilty before God. The Sons of Jacob were guilty of idolatry (not clearly discussed in Exodus, but references later [Joshua 24:14 and once in the Later prophets] confirm this. Egypt was guilty for oppressing the Sons of Jacob (Genesis 15:13).

This is exactly the situation confronting the world when Jesus shows up. Israel is guilty of idolatry and the other nations are guilty of oppressing them. This causes God to prophesy global, physical destruction on all creation.

And so I see the passover sacrifice as "absorbing" the wrath on Israel in Exodus (while Pharaoh and company had no such protection). And that assuaging of wrath allowed the beginning of a new era in Salvation history.

One could make a point that the passover lamb could not be even a propitiation in that regard because, obviously, it was not God who killed the lambs but rather the Israelites. In that case, the lamb still becomes a guilt offering.

Similarly for Christ, who became a sacrifice for the early sins, the "sins done previously" (Romans 3:25) and the "violations done under the first covenant" (Hebrews 9:15) so that God could "remove the iniquity of that land in a single day" [Zechariah 3:9]

This is, of course, very much different from the type of Psub generally described.
It was global, assuaging physical wrath.
There was no transfer of guilt but merely the transfer of wrath (which is what i think you are getting at with your remarks about propitiation. In that case, this is merely a semantic difference.

And that propitiation, like that of exodus, allowed the beginning of a new stage in salvation history. It not only allowed the sending of the Spirit, but opened all people to God's Kingdom instead of merely the Jews (Galatians 3:13-14).

You might be interested in the "1-page description of Salvation" and the "3-page version of the Gospel" I have on my Excerpts Page.

One note on Romans 3:25, the word for "propitiation" is not there at all. The word Paul uses (as I'm sure you have found in your own studies) is "the place where sacrificial blood is placed."

Now, most of the time this referred to "the Mercy Seat," and many have used that as the translation. But the term was used to refer to other locations as well, including the lintels where Passover blood was swathed. This, along with the very pointed use of the Greek for "pass over" in Romans 3:25 lead me to the conclusion that he is portraying Christ as a passover sacrifice.

Nick said...

Hmm, this is interesting...are you telling me the Greek in Romans 3:25 is the same term for "passover" in the LXX? I don't know Greek, but looking it up in a lexicon doesn't seem to be there. It would be really cool if it was though.

Also, I can't tell if you are saying this, but you appear to be saying the Passover was an example of Psub?

I agree that salvation is about redemption from bondage to sin, but I don't believe Psub is required (especially because "redeem" is an anti-Psub concept).

As for your comment about "proptiation atonement," do you believe such atonement can be made without the use of Psub? I do, and I know of explicit proof of such atonement made without Psub. Phinehas in Numbers 25:1-13 (Ps 106:30f) we see turning away of wrath, atonement, and intercession. This is the perfect foreshadowing of Christ. There are other times where "atonement" is used where Psub is explicitly not required. I don't know of a single passage which would demand atonement be by means of Psub.

You said "propitiation" is not in Rom 3:25 and that it is the same Heb 9:15 term as "mercy seat." That is true, but I don't think there is a serious divide here, the "mercy seat" in the OT maps directly to "atonement." The Greek root "hilas-" appears in about 6 verses in the NT (including Rom 3:25 and Heb 9:15), though nothing indicates it means "absorb wrath." In fact Lk 18:13 the man repenting says "God be *propitiated* to me a sinner." This certainly must mean turn away wrath (with no indication it's turned on a substitute).

It is very interesting to see they were to some extent idolatrous (via Josh 24:14), but I don't see this playing a role (at least not explicitly) in Ex 11-12. That said, I do see a link to it via 1 Peter 1:
"18For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."

So the price to be removed from bondage was the cost of the Life of Christ, but I deny the 'price' or means was in a Psub framework.

You say this was "absorbing" God's wrath, but I can affirm your main premise without requiring Psub. The Passover Lamb was not an object of wrath nor was God's wrath ever on Israel in this instance.

I read this as similar to the Sodom and Gomorrah situation where God's wrath was not on Lot and his family, but it was on the cities. God gave instructions to avoid being swept away with sinners, and if those instructions were disobeyed they would be (and Lot's wife was). In a similar sense, God's wrath was not on Israel, but disobedience to Passover instructions would cause them to get swept away as well.

What's funny, or at least troubling to me, is that I like what you are saying but I don't believe Psub is required nor Scripturally warranted.
The notion God poured out His wrath on His Beloved Son is blasphemy to my ears.

I will take a look at your 1 and 3 page papers and comment upon them next.

Nick said...

I found your articles, here are my thoughts.

3 Page Gospel:

1) I agree with most of what you say, and I'm glad you don't phrase salvation in that typical Lutheran-Calvinist forensic construction (ie with imputation of sin and such). Justification (salvation) is first and foremost an act of receiving the Holy Spirit of Adoption in your soul (this is Catholic Dogma but anathema to traditional Protestant ears).

2) You said Christ drank the cup of God's wrath, including the spiritual wrath. I dont believe Scripture teaches this, especially the latter part and I believe it causes a division in the Godhead between Father and Son. Matthew 20:22f has Christ inviting the Apostles to drink of his cup, and they say yes and Christ says they will. This is impossible if cup meant undergoing God's wrath. This is one of the key points I made in my Penal Substitution debate.

3) You said: "The Bible portrays this judgment dozens of times, and not once is forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ mentioned as a factor, let alone the prevailing one."

I give this a huge amen, but you've got to realize you just anathematized yourself from classical Protestantism. That said, it fits quite nicely in the Catholic view. More and more I'm coming across Calvinist blogs and books that say at the final judgment Christians are judged according to Christ's works while sinners are judged according to their own works. That's some of the worst twisting of Scripture I've ever seen...all to get out of the fact it's our individual works that are judged (contra Sola Fide).

4) You said: "Eternal life is the freedom and strength to do God’s will and love as Jesus loved as a member in the new covenant mediated by Christ."

I totally agree. "Eternal life" has been misunderstood by Protestants as a legal decree giving rights to Heaven. That is wrong. Eternal Life is received now in our souls, and more perfectly in Heaven. 1 John 3:15 says if a Christian commits grave sin they "do not have eternal life abiding in them." This term for "abide" is the same as in John 15:6 where you abide in Christ the Vine and literally have His eternal-life-force flowing into you the branch (and can be cut off through grave sin).

Salvation in 1 Page:

Overall I largely agree. I'm surprised you didn't include Rom 2:4 in your talk on repentance always available, in fact I'm surprised you didn't make more of Rom 2 as a whole. It's a passage that Protestants don't understand because it doesn't fit the "courtroom" scene where Paul is said to be building a case against man in Rom 1-3 and giving a "solution" in Rom 4. Rom 2 (2:1-3:8) throws a huge wrench in all this.

Seriously, have you ever looked into the Catholic Church? So much of what you say fits with Catholic dogma, but is flatly incompatible with "Sola Fide."

David Rudel said...

Sorry for giving you false hope. The word translated "pass over" in Romans 3:25 does not occur anywhere in LXX, nor does it occur anywhere else in the NT. However, I'm not sure that is as big a blow against my view as it might seem, for we are talking about the verb phrase "pass over" not the noun "Passover." It does appear that "paresis" has this as its literal meaning.

Also, I think there is indeed a divide here on the word translated "propitiation." This word shows up 21 times in LXX and it always refers to a place. If Paul meant "atonement" he could easily have used the actual word consistently used for that.

Your example of Phinehas is an interesting one, but I do not see how such a thing could work for Christ's sacrifice.

If Christ is a propitiation, how could it be anything other than a substitutionary one? He certainly did not bear wrath for His own sins.

So is your argument simply an "expiation/reparation" one? That Christ's sacrifice paid for our sins but that He was not being punished by God?

In my framework, it is rather irrelevant whether Christ was an expiation or propitiation (though I certainly see your point that seeing Christ as a propitiation has some rather severe ramifications). My point is really answering the why rather than the how. And I think we are agreeing on the why.

The purpose of Christ's sacrifice was to:
i) Remove the physical wrath that had been slated for creation.
ii) Remove the spiritual wrath that formed an obstacle to repentance by Judaism
iii) Sanctify/consecrate the temple of the New Covenant
iv) Make "ritually clean" all people, allowing Gentiles to enter that temple.
v) And therefore allow for
the receipt of the Holy Spirit in all who believe.

Nick said...


I've actually not been able to get this out of my head all afternoon.
One thing I've been thinking of is that the term "mercy seat" doesn't seem to fit gramatically in Rom 3:25 as it does in Heb 9:15. In Heb 9:15 the context is ceremonial objects, where as in 3:25 it's something like "God set forth Christ as a mercy seat through faith in his blood," it doesn't sound right. That said, I think the real issue is what is understood by "hilasterion" and "mercy seat."
I also realized something even more critical, the mercy seat and Passover are not the same sacrifice. At the same time, the "redemption" of 3:24 fits a Passover theme more than Day of Atonement.

Also, what are your views on the "hilas-" word group?

As for the term "pass over" in 3:25, I've been thinking about this a lot this afternoon as well. The issue I see is that "pass over" is used two different ways. The Exodus Pass-Over was literally the Angel of Death passing over and that was that. The "pass over" in 3:25 is described as "forbearance" which means holding off a punishment so that a reconciliation can hopefully take place before hand (it's used like that in Rom 2:4; cf Acts 17:30).

You said: "Also, I think there is indeed a divide here on the word translated "propitiation." This word shows up 21 times in LXX and it always refers to a place. If Paul meant "atonement" he could easily have used the actual word consistently used for that."

Nick: I wish I had a Lexicon which searched the LXX, but the Hebrew one I'm using does say it appears 27 times in the OT, all referring to the Mercy Seat. Though only in Lev 16 is any details given about what happens, the rest are Exodus building instruction type passages. I see what you mean that Paul could easily have used the word, but at the same time Paul never uses the term "atonement" in any of its "hilas-" forms as far as I can tell, thus this "hilasterion" in rom 3:25 is a very unique occurrence.

What I think is extremely important here is to look beyond the term "mercy seat" to understand what happened at it, and especially how the term is derived. The Lexicon I'm using says the root word here is the popular Hebrew word for "atonement." Lev 16 uses the term "atonement" right along side "mercy seat" anyway.

You said: "Your example of Phinehas is an interesting one, but I do not see how such a thing could work for Christ's sacrifice. If Christ is a propitiation, how could it be anything other than a substitutionary one? He certainly did not bear wrath for His own sins."

Nick: We might be talking past eachother. Propitiation to me, and I believe the proper Lexical usage, means to "turn away wrath," not re-direct it on a substitute.
When I say "substitutionary" I'm specifically against Psub. Christ was a "substitute" in that He stepped in and took the burden of making atonement upon himself. Phinehas (and Moses elsewhere) turned away God's wrath (propitiation), they made atonement, yet they were never objects of wrath. See my point?
This all flows into clear NT examples like 1 Pt 2:18-25, where the "value" of Christ's work was nothing to do with taking the electric chair in place of the guilty, but rather exceedingly pleasing God by a life of perfect obedience and love. This is precisely Paul's point in Phil 2:5-8, what pleased God was perfect obedience, a sweet smelling aroma (Eph 5:1-2).

You said: "So is your argument simply an "expiation/reparation" one? That Christ's sacrifice paid for our sins but that He was not being punished by God?"

Nick: Yes, that is basically my understanding, though I see propitiation/expiation/reparation as very closely related, none of them are exclusive. Penal Substitution states man deserves temporal and eternal death as a punishment, so the judge transferred this punishment to Christ who stepped into the electric chair in their place. That's the classical Protestant understanding, including and most especially the notion Jesus was effectively damned to hell in our place. I gave quotes from many respected Protestants in my debate on this latter point.

You said: "My point is really answering the why rather than the how. And I think we are agreeing on the why."

Nick: I think they go hand in hand, why and how must be answered somewhat simultaneously. Sine we largely agree on the why, I suspect the how is actually going to be pretty close.

You said: "The purpose of Christ's sacrifice was to:
i) Remove the physical wrath that had been slated for creation.
ii) Remove the spiritual wrath that formed an obstacle to repentance by Judaism
iii) Sanctify/consecrate the temple of the New Covenant
iv) Make "ritually clean" all people, allowing Gentiles to enter that temple.
v) And therefore allow for
the receipt of the Holy Spirit in all who believe."

Nick: I would strongly agree with this. My take on "remove" is simply that it wasn't by means of Penal Substitution. It wouldn't make sense not only Biblically, but systematically. If you deserve physical death as an example of temporal punishment, and Jesus took that punishment, then God could not legally allow you to die. That's a problem Psub advocates miss. Psub also forces this into a Legal context rather than the true Gospel message of Adoption (Eph 2 is really about adoption, as is Paul's general message, eg Eph 3:6)

Also, the Psub advocate often launches into Rom 3:26 "just and justifier" as understanding that "justice was served" in a legal sense. That's way too narrow of an understanding. The more full understanding of "demonstration of His righteousness" in 3:26 and elsewhere is God's faithfulness in sending a Messiah to correct the problem as a whole. That's what "righteousness of God" is in Rom 3:1-8 (Rom 10:2-4), working through their sin to still accomplish his Grand Plan.

Mofi said...

David, you seem like someone who just wants to go where the evidence leads you. Not so concerned about churches and doctrines and loyalty to men but to the truth of Scripture. I'd be very interested in hearing your view on hell as a place of eternal torment.

My views on it can be seen in the following web pages:

What Does the Bible Teach About Hell?http://www.helltruth.comMost interesting here are the two lectures about hell under free video library.

30 questionsThe Biblical truth about hellHope you have time to look at this.

Best regards,

Dan Martin said...

Very interesting, Dave, but I've got a couple of questions/concerns with what you're saying here (and you already know I'm a Christus Victor proponent, so I'm not defending PSA in any shape or form).

You seem to be painting an equivalence, both in Isaiah and in Jesus' healings, between sin and illness/infirmity. Is this intended? Wouldn't you think that Luke 13:4 suggests Jesus felt otherwise? It seems to me that to look at the way Jesus healed, or the way it was prophesied he would (not to mention the cleansing of various uncleanness/illness in Torah), and in any way to equate these with sin and whatever means are necessary to deal with sin, is to draw a specious link.

Secondly, you seem to imply that Israel's captivity in Egypt is in some way a penalty for the sins of the sons of Jacob. I don't think you can make a solid case for that. Jacob's family went to Egypt for salvation from famine. It was only when another pharaoh arose "who knew not Joseph" that the oppression began.

So I humbly submit that you're linking dissimilar concepts here. . .

David Rudel said...

I just wanted to answer one part of your comment. It's true (of course) that the Mercy seat is not part of the passover, but remember that my point (and hence why I think it is important to separate the various hilas- words) is that the word is not just used for the Mercy seat. It was used for other places as well.

For example, in Ezekiel it referred not to the mercy seat but to the ledges, and I've mentioned already that the term was also used to refer to the lintels where the passover blood was swathed. [Unfortunately, I cannot right now find my source for that.]

Since Paul is talking about God presenting Jesus (who was crucified on the passover), uses a term that was used in Second Temple Judiasm to refer to lintels where passover blood was swathed, and then used the Greek for "pass over" immediately afterward, I think there are many things pointing to "Jesus as Passover" here.

Also note that the Ark of the Covenant was not in the Second Temple, so it's understandable that the term had come to mean other things since the "Mercy Seat" no longer existed.

Finally, regarding the notion of "pass over."The Word in Romans 3:25 is not the same as the word in 2:4 or Acts 17:30. And while the Angel of Destruction did "pass over," the pertinent question is "why?" Was it because the blood marked Israel or was it because reparation/expiation/propitiation/whatever-you-want-to-call-it had already been done for that household?

One could take this in a whole different direction (though I'm not sure that I want to) and focus on the "demonstration" part here. In that view the point is not that Jesus is a sacrifice to "deal with" the sins of the past, but rather Jesus is a sign that God has decided to put those sins away and start afresh. In that case God would be "passing over" those sins just as God "passed over" the idolatry the Israelites did [while still punishing the Egyptians who were oppressing them.]
The truth is, we do not really know exactly what "paresis" means, and therein lies just part of the mystery of this enigmatic verse.

Dan Martin said...

And while the Angel of Destruction did "pass over," the pertinent question is "why?" Was it because the blood marked Israel or was it because reparation/expiation/propitiation/whatever-you-want-to-call-it had already been done for that household?But Dave, you are making the presupposition here that the Passover had anything to do with sin at all. If it did, it was the sin of Egypt, not of the Israelites. The blood was a sign of identity (Exodus 12:13), not a payment for sin.

1Cor 5:7 certainly associates Christ as a passover lamb who has been sacrificed. The context of clearing out the leaven (something we are told to do, not something the Lamb's blood does for us) is certainly one of purification, but it's a command, not a result of the passover sacrifice.

The passover motif is a powerful one, but it is not biblical to associate it with forgiveness of or atonement for sin.

David Rudel said...

Dan, I totally agree that there is nothing in the Torah description of the Passover to suggest it is a payment for sin.

However, there are many things in the OT whose full understanding were not made clear until later.

We read in the Prophets that a great deal of wrath is prophesied against the entire Creation. Everyone. Jew and Gentile. The situation at that time does bear an eerie resemblance to the situation in Egypt.

Somehow that wrath gets mitigated. Somehow those sins are dealt with and the world is not destroyed, or at least the destruction is commuted. Also, somehow there has been a "reset" done. When Paul speaks to the Athenians he says "in the past God has overlooked Gentile idolatry, but now all are called to repent" Hebrews says that Jesus died to free us from "violations done under the Old Covenant," and Paul says that God has "paresis" sins done previously.

And what we are discussing here is typology that best fits that.

P.S. I'm still going to answer your earlier comment...just don't have time atm.

Dan Martin said...

And what we are discussing here is typology that best fits that.Maybe. I'm not trying to be combative here, though I fear that may be how I'm coming across. You're right, there is lots of discussion throughout the scriptures about ways that humanity has rightly earned a whole lot of wrath and destruction. . .as well, as I suggested in my Warfare World View post, as a great deal of corruption introduced into creation by the Powers. This is not in dispute (with me at least).

But there are substantial gaps between acknowledging these facts, and tying together the passover accounts as part of it. The only thing the two have in common is blood, which for too many Evangelicals automatically leads to atonement. Blood in the bible is a lot more complex than that. And this particular blood (that of the Passover lamb) is a completely different story.

It goes back to my contention in a variety of other places, but probably best summarized here: in essence, I am suggesting that any link of passover to sin and its remedy, is extrabiblical conjecture.

David Rudel said...

I think "Extrabiblical Conjecture" is a fair word for it. :)

But I would say there is a great deal more that tie together the dealing with this wrath [which I assume you would agree was done through Christ] and the passover.

Christ, and in particular His death, is clearly linked to the passover (Agree?)
His death is clearly linked to the assuaging of this wrath (Agree?)

Therefore, it does not seem too strange to see if there is a link between these two things that explains how Christ's death dealt with this wrath.

[And you are certainly not coming across as combative. No worries there. Thanks for posting on my blog!]

Dan Martin said...

Well, how's 50% (maybe 65%) for agreement? ;{)

That Christ and his death are linked to Passover--this is unambiguous, straight-from-the-text biblical. Completely agree.

That Christ's death dealt with wrath, qualified agreement. "Assuaged," I'm not so sure, but the vital question is, WHOSE WRATH? I deal with this in the Warfare World View post I referenced above.

That God is, in some sense, wrathful over the fallen state of this world is biblical. That God's response to individual humans' (or even collective humanity's) sinfulness, is wrath AGAINST THEM, not quite so clear. That blood sacrifice (OT animals or NT Jesus) was the means to assuage God's wrath against humanity, tenuous to wrong.

That Jesus suffered the consequences of sin and wrath on the cross, is biblical. That Jesus received the force of his Father's wrath, not so. The source of many of those consequences--death itself as a consequence of sin--may, as I have suggested, be actually the choice of "the Powers," not of God. To the extent that the wrath Jesus dealt with was not God's (as I suggest), I would say rather that he vanquished it, not assuaged it.

I realize there's a lot behind these qualifications. My position is a synthesis of thoughts relating to an Open View of God, a Christus Victor view of Jesus' death and resurrection, and a growing conviction that the Pharisees in Jesus' time, and modern-day Pharisees (aka Evangelicals) have an unhealthy obsession with sin and death and blood. So I realize there are plenty of places to confront my position. . .but as I see it right now, they are generally extrabiblical.

David Rudel said...

Hi Dan,
I'd be interested in what you thought of my 1-page version of salvation or my 3-page version of the Gospel [or my book as a whole ;)].

Sounds like we have plenty to talk about. Unfortunately I should get back to work for the nonce.

Dan Martin said...

I fully intend to read your summaries, and would love to engage you on them, Dave. However, as you correctly point out, work beckons. I've had way too much fun with you today while I was supposed to be working. . .LOL

I'm gonna keep following your blog, though. There's lots more for us to tackle! Pax Christi vobiscum, brother!

Nick said...


That is a fair point regarding "mercy seat" being expanded to mean door posts, though in my Hebrew Lexicon it does not appear in places like Amos 9:1, it is a very similar Hebrew word though. What I am mostly concerned about is the root of the word, because if "mercy" or "atone" is the root word, then I wouldn't want to forget that as I read "mercy seat" or "door post." That's why I'm cautious of moving away from the hilas- root.

Even if the ark was lost for a long time, including in the Apostolic age, a central part of the Torah, the Day of Atonement, still was the key focus of "mercy seat," BUT at the same time this could mean drop the "mercy seat," "mercy seat ledge," and even "door post" definitions in favor of a regular rendering about propitiation.
That said, I'm comfortable having an 'elastic' definition for 'hilasterion' and don't seriously object to door post, I'm not not convinced there is enough evidence.

The real problem here (at least for me) is that Rom 3:25 uses a lot of terms which don't appear much elsewhere in Scripture, so a lot of our conclusions require some "reading into" the text.

I think you mistook my reference to Rom 2:4 and Acts 17:30. I was talking about the term "forbearance" in Rom 3:25, which means to hold off a punishment or payment so that a solution can be reached. My point was the "pass over" in Exodus was a judgment wholly avoided, where as the "pass over" in Rom 3:25 seems to be about not dealing with sin immediately so that a solution could be found before any judgment came. So for example, when Adam sinned, God could have struck him dead instantly, but as an act of mercy (forbearance), God allowed Adam to live and made a Salvation Plan (Gen 3:15) to fix the problem. Here "passing over" Adam's sin is not identical to dodging an executioner's bullet in Exodus.

Also, as I said earlier, I'm not convinced that the Passover had anything to do with Israel's sins, while it is explicitly stated as the purpose of God to keep his promises to the Patriarchs and "make a distinction between Egypt and Israel."

What I frequently mention about Christ's blood is that the NT says it "purifies us of all unrighteousness," contrary to the popular Protestant notion that we are "covered by the blood of the lamb" (something the NT never mentions).

I'm really glad we are having this conversation in the first place, it is very refreshing to get away from the typical rigid Penal Substitutionary readings of these passages.

David Rudel said...

Nick, one of the things I was trying to get across with the alternative version I mentioned at the end of my last comment is that it is not altogether clear that Paul is saying that God is saying the sins of the past were being "dealt with" in Christ.

He could be saying that God is demonstrating righteousness not in "commuting" the punishment for those sins until the time of Christ but rather that God even though people sinned in the past is still keeping the promise made to Abraham. The "righteousness" here is not a "justice" type of righteousness but a "keeping of the covenant" type of righteousness. Several modern theologians see it this way.

This makes a great deal of sense with Paul's general writings (after all, as you pointed out, Paul never uses the word for atonement anyway!). It comes across most clearly in Galatians, the idea of Jesus being a fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham, and hence neither keeping nor not keeping the Law of Moses could have anything to do with salvation.

Same idea here: God shows grace by keeping the promise made to Abraham regardless of the failings of the Jewish nation he has just gotten through detailing in Romans 3:10-19.

NOTE: I am essentially talking out of both sides of my mouth here, this understanding of Romans 3:25 is totally different from the other one I was mentioned earlier.

By the way, as a nitpick, I would really suggest not quoting Genesis 3:15 as a proto-evangel. That is a common thing in evangelical thought, but every indication from Scripture is that Jesus is a fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, not the curse upon the serpent. No NT writer (Jews who knew the OT backwards and forwards) cite this as a prophecy of Christ, and salvation is always described as being due to someone being a son of Abraham (either through blood or through faith).

It makes far more sense to see Gen.3:15 as a description of "how snakes lost their legs" than as a promise of a future salvation over Satan. The Jews certainly did not see it that way. Once you investigate this, the evidence in the NT is overwhelming.

Nick said...

I think we might be talking past each other, because I largely agree with your comments.

I would just make some clarifications:

It is hard to deny God was dealing with sin in a true sense with Christ. The problem is "dealt with" comes off as Psub, which is not what I intend.

The "righteousness" mentioned here is a justice type BUT it is much more than that, it is a wider meaning which does especially include his "faithfulness." What is astonishing is how Protestants "exegeting" Romans 1-4 virtually ignore 2:1-3:8. In Rom 3:1-8 and 10:1-4 we see that "righteousness of God" is his faithfulness to Promises even working through sinful men (esp Israel). 3:1-8 is actually a very beautiful passage in this regard. Protestants read "just and justifier" in Rom 3:26 as "law keeping judge who balances the books so he can declare you've been obedient to the law." That's wrong, it's too narrow. Rather it means He was faithful to send a Savior and will declare you righteous (faithfulness) if you acknowledge Him.

You said: "It comes across most clearly in Galatians, the idea of Jesus being a fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham, and hence neither keeping nor not keeping the Law of Moses could have anything to do with salvation."

Nick: You are simply reading my thoughts. Galatians 3:15-18 demolishes Sola Fide. The issue never was "faith" versus "works," because God's promise to Abraham INCLUDED keeping His decrees, laws, and commandments: Gen 26:4f.
The "Law" Paul was fighting against was the Mosaic Law only, and Gal 3B (esp v21) shows it never was intended to save, it was a "school master" to keep us in line until Christ the End of the Law arrived.

About Gen 3:15, I will have to disagree with you here, the Seed here is in reference to Christ, and just because the NT doesn't explicitly say it, almost everything in the OT points to Christ in some fashion. When Jesus was resurrected He opened the minds of the Apostles to the OT to see all that prefigured Him. Joseph in Genesis is not really mentioned in the NT, but Joseph's life is undeniably a foreshadowing of Christ (favored son, abused by peers, 'murdered,' 'rose to greatness', saved many, etc, etc). Revelations talks about the "serpent" and identifies it with Satan, which is a clear allusion back to Genesis 3, as does Jesus when he says "now is the time for the prince of this world to be cast out" starting a formal reversal of Gen 3's curses. There is no power struggle between the prophecy in Gen 3 and Gen 12 with Abraham, they are all true.

Salvation history didn't start with Abraham, I simply cannot accept that. That said, this is a minor issue in this discussion at hand.

David Rudel said...

Hi Mofi,
Sorry for taking so long to get back to you, I wanted to read through the pages you mention.

I do make some mention in my book about the nature of hell, etc., but that is not a major theme.

I saw several things on those websites I would comment on. Some things I agree with, some things I disagree with (and several things that look like bad theology). Could you pick one of those four sites, and I'll discuss more my thoughts on it?

I think the Bible says very little about the nature of hell, but I also don't know that we have to know much about it to know that we should try to avoid it.

David Rudel said...

Hi Dan,
Now I can finally answer some of your questions in the first comment you made here.
I definitely claim a linkage between sin an infirmity. I'm not sure how 1st Peter 2:24 can be taken in any other way. I would claim something similar in Hebrews 12:13. Indeed, I see rebellion as having caused spiritual infirmity, and this spiritual infirmity is perhaps the most important issue Christ is addressing. This spiritual infirmity is what Paul describes in Romans 6:6 and 7:13-25.
I'm not sure what Luke 13:4 has to do with this. Maybe you have returned my earlier error about citing the wrong verse in Numbers?

I did not mean to imply that Israel's captivity was due to their idolatry. The reason for their captivity (or at least the length of it) is given in Genesis 15:16. In any event, my point was simply that it is certainly reasonable to say Israel had some wrath coming to it due to falling into idolatry.

Mofi said...

David, no problem; I knew you needed time to look over the web pages I gave you.

I am interested in knowing what you thought was bad theology.

If I'd pick one of them out I'd choose; best to watch the two lectures to get a good idea about this but topic but I know you are busy.

Dan Martin said...

I must admit to a little confusion, Dave, in your citing of 1 Pet. 2:24. "By his wounds you have been healed" doesn't imply in the slightest (to my reading) link anybody's sin with infirmity. I don't how you can read that into the passage. Likewise Hebrews 12:13, which strikes me as a metaphorical (even poetic) encouragement to live well, but certainly doesn't draw a line between sin and the existence of pain. I'm sorry, but I don't see that reading in either passage.

I don't dispute that the overall Biblical perspective tells us sin led to death and suffering entering the world (though I disagree with the usual mechanism by which it's taught to have happened). What I was disputing was the notion that particular infirmity or suffering is due to a particular person's or group's sin. That is what Jesus was saying, I believe, in Luke 13:1-5, when he corrected the mistaken notion that somehow people who had suffered various disasters had brought them on themselves. It's also implicit in his correction of the query regarding the cause of the man born blind in John 9:2-3.

Finally your statement regarding Israel--definitely true later (not that much later, in fact, cf. golden calf). But your earlier comment seemed to imply that the passover sacrifice was--at least in part--to cleanse from or atone for some sin Israel had committed up to that point. While it's a no-brainer that they certainly HAD sinned--they were, after all, human--tying the passover lamb to anything at all related to Israel's sin is a link not even implied in the text, and that was my objection from the start. I don't see how a presumption (however reasonable) of their sinfulness changes this.

David Rudel said...

I think here there was some imprecise language going on.

You earlier said "a linkage between sin and infirmity." I did not realize you were referring to that linkage being causation.

The verses I cited were meant to show the linkage of analogy. [sin causes spiritual infirmity in that we are unable to overcome our own selfishness.]

That being said, there are certainly verses that do link sin to poor health. James 5:15 and John 9:2-3 both appear to assume that sins can cause infirmity (while in the same breath indicating that not all infirmities are due to sin.

The fact that physical infirmity can be due to sin seems practically indisputable. I'll try to find a more direct reference than the ones given above. If nothing else, the curses given in Deuteronomy 28:15ff specifically give sickness as one of the penalties for sin.

With regard to the latter point. You originally asked whether I said "Israel's oppression by Egypt" was due to Israel's idolatry. I say no to that. However, the question as to whether Israel needed expiation/atonement for its idolatry so that a fresh start could be made is very different. While I agree there is nothing specifically indicating the passover sacrifice was to atone for the sins of Israel during that time, the similarity between the situation then and the situation of Israel upon Christ's coming is too similar and with multiple points of contact in scripture to abandon as a possibility.

David Rudel said...

The linkage between sin and infirmity appears pretty clear in Matthew 9:2-5 and Mark 2:5-9. [Hmm...that's odd, the same story ends up with a permutation of the numbers of the chapter and verses.]

There is also Isaiah 33:24, Micah 6:13, 2nd Chronicles 30:20, and the story of Abimelech and Sarah, where God had closed all the wombs of the house of Abimelech until Abimelech made reparation for the sin (Genesis 20:16), Abraham prayed to God and God healed them (Genesis 20:18).

Dan Martin said...

OK, now we're getting somewhere. . .you are right that I read into your statements a meaning I see you did not intend. My apologies.

That sin CAN be the cause of infirmity, I agree. To assume the converse, that infirmity is necessarily caused by sin, no. I believe you just said the same thing.

That Israel, at any given point in their history, had sin issues that needed dealing with, is indisputable. They were, as previously observed, human.

But this whole rabbit trail is working on a theory/doctrine/understanding of atonement. If I correctly understand you, you are suggesting that since Israel indisputably had sin that needed to be dealt with, the passover sacrifice must have in some way been intended (at least in part) to deal with that sin. That is an assumption, pure and simple. Reasonable, perhaps, but not textually supported.

You are then drawing a line from that assumption, to the contention central to PSA, that blood is a necessary element of the atonement for sin. This is where I think you're off base, in that Passover, pregnant as it is with powerful symbolism and lessons (many of which are biblically transferred to Jesus), is not linked to atonement within the Biblical text. That it has been so linked by later generations of systematic theologians, is merely a testament to what happens when one starts with a premise and then looks for proof texts to back it up.

Other texts require different interactions to determine whether or not there needed to be a blood element to atonement. I maintain, however, that Passover texts are irrelevant to this discussion, as sin and its atonement aren't the Passover story.

David Rudel said...

I think you have my rabbit trail wrong.

My rabbit trails starts in the Later Prophets, which describe why a savior is needed and what the savior would do. These later prophets are (I would contend) the least appreciated books in the Old Testament (much like Acts and the epistles of Jesus are the most under-appreciated books of the New Testament).

I think a great deal of wrong-headed theology would be averted throughout history if every Christian had to diligently read the prophets and come to grips with the salvation history presented there. Unfortunately, modern Christians rather plunder these books for the scraps that identify Jesus as the Christ without appearing to care for the purpose and reason for the Christ described there.

Keep in mind there is a significant difference between the sins for which the sacrifices in the Torah were prescribed and the sins done by Israel and the nations documents in the Later Prophets. The cultic sacrifices were designed to deal with uncleanliness and to preserve the sanctity of the Temple.

However, what we see in the prophets is not merely a need to cleanse defilement (expiation), but actual prophesied wrath against not individual sinners but all of creation for the generational sin of both God's people and those who oppressed them.

And that, as my friend Patrick likes to say, is another kettle of fish.

Nick said...


That is very interesting. It does show how sloppy things have become. While Jesus DOES in fact represent all the sacrifices in Himself, not all sacrifices were the same. Thank you for pointing this out to me, the Passover is not linked to atonement. Why did I not see this earlier? The Passover is associated with ransom, while the Day of Atonement is associated with "sprinkled with blood" for cleansing. From what I can see just at a glance, the Gospels and Paul focus really on the Passover, while Hebrews focuses on Levitical sacrifices. We obviously believe Jesus takes on all roles, but the concepts are still distinct.

Why did I not see this earlier? It just goes to show what can be invented and then read into the text for generations. You hit a home run on this point.

Dan Martin said...

I think a great deal of wrong-headed theology would be averted throughout history if every Christian had to diligently read the prophets and come to grips with the salvation history presented there.

And here, my friend, you could not have me in fuller agreement if you tried. Interestingly, though, most of what the prophets have to say about sacrifice is how much God hates sacrifices (and rituals in general) in the absence of true repentance and justice. So while I agree that the prophets have a great deal to teach us about what God desires (and what pisses him off), they are a lousy place to build a penal-substitutionary, sacrifice-requiring understanding of sin and redemption. In fact, I am often stunned to discover how much of what I thought was "only" New Testament theology is not only foreshadowed, it's stated outright, in the prophets.

David Rudel said...

Actually, the passover is also associated with cleansing through sprinkling [albeit rather indirectly]. Hebrews 11:28 is interesting in its choice of wording.

The passover marks being freed from physical and spiritual bondage. But the way that freedom occurs [as Hebrews, particularly 9:14, makes very clear] is through the consecration of the Heavenly temple.

I think I might have confused you a bit by responding partially to Nick's question while answering your comment. My point was that the prophets teach of the prophesied wrath that must be engaged, not that they necessarily teach of substitutionary atonement.

Dan Martin said...

My point was that the prophets teach of the prophesied wrath that must be engaged, not that they necessarily teach of substitutionary atonement.

Fair enough, Dave. But I would argue most of the wrath the prophets prophesied was in fact fulfilled in the exile. That would certainly be the plain reading of it, not so?

David Rudel said...

I would disagree with that. Firstly, there appears to be no lessening of the wrath even after getting into post-exile books. Secondly, a great deal of the wrath is specifically prophesied on other nations after the exile for how the sons of Jacob were treated.

Thirdly, the type of imagery used in much of the prophets just seems a bit too fantastic not to be something much greater. Indeed, often it is the land and creation itself that wrath is prophesied against.

David Rudel said...

Hey Nick and Dan,
Would either of you be interested in a review copy of "The Gospel You've Never Heard"?

[Full title:
Who Really Goes to Hell? --- The Gospel You've Never Heard: What a Protestant Bible Written by Jews says about God's work through Christ]

Of course, if you have sufficient means, you can just buy it from Amazon [I don't sign or personalize that particular book], but I do think you'd be interested in I'd like to hear your voices on the forum that is specifically for those who have read the book.

Email me [] if you are interested.

Dan Martin said...

I agree there was plenty of wrath against other than Israel, and I think a fair case can be made that those other targets suffered contemporary defeat and destruction as well. I didn't mean that Israel took the brunt of everybody's sin, just their own.

But don't forget that along with the wrath, the prophets are also full of redemption. . .and while a great deal of it is unquestionably Messianic, there's also plenty of room for plain-old repentance.

I certainly understand your feeling that there's a lot in the prophets that's a whole lot more cosmic than any one country or region. I agree, though I think that people draw the lines in odd places.

But if I see where you are going with this (and I may well be wrongly reading a lot into your comment), I still think that the degree to which Evangelicals tie Jesus' death & resurrection to some reserve of stored-up wrath against humanity, is a stretch at best and unbiblical at worst. Fundamentally, I believe that the notion that Jesus died to satisfy his Father's wrath is at odds with the N.T. testimony.

Nick said...


That passage from Heb 11:28 is pretty neat, though as you said it's indirect evidence at best. It appears this term only appears once in the NT, which doesn't help build a case to Levitical sprinkling. As it stands, I can only see it talking of putting the blood on the door posts.

I totally agree that it marks freedom of physical and spiritual bondage. But now I have to rethink things a bit because I'm now seeing the Passover was not directly tied to sins and atonement.

In the past I've always associated blood with sanctifying, and as you know the OT and NT make this clear, but now I think that "redemption" and "cleansing" are two distinct (though not totally unrelated) concepts. Hebrews seems especially focused on the Levitical angle.

What is interesting now though is that John says Jesus is the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" and Jesus died on the Passover...yet I just said "taking away sin" was not directly associated with Passover, unless it refers to redemption from spiritual bondage (though "taking away sin" still sounds like cleansing). Also interesting is that 1 Jn 1:7-9 says the blood of Christ cleanses us from sin, which again I just said was not Passover specifically.

Then again, I very easily could be improperly imposing ONLY the Passover onto John's writing.

David Rudel said...

There very well may be "room" for repentance... but the indication is that that repentance never really came [and perhaps could not have come.]

It seems hard to get around Ezekiel 45, which obviously refers to the coming Messianic age. We read that the "Prince will provide for himself and all the people of the land a bull for a sin offering."

And note where the blood of the offering in Ezekiel 45:19 will be placed: The door posts, the "ledge" of the altar (these "ledges" the LXX translated with the word generally used for "Mercy Seat") and on the gate of the inner court. That certainly appears to be a combining of the "Day of Atonement" sacrifice and the Passover sacrifice [in no other sacrifice is blood put on the door posts.]

Compare this with Hebrews which pictures Christ sacrifice as standing in lieu of repeated sacrifices. These sacrifices were offerings made for sin, to cleanse the people and the temple from sin.

In particular Hebrews 9:11-15 is hard to read as not indicating Jesus' death was for the "redemption of transgressions"

Note that Hebrews 9:14 says Christ "offered Himself without blemish to God"

Maybe I'm misreading your point, but I don't think you can get away from Jesus as sacrifice for transgressions.

Hebrews 9:22-26 appears similarly to paint a clear picture of Jesus "suffering" as a sacrifice to cleanse the temple of our transgressions.

Now, none of this puts a focus on God's wrath, but it certainly indicates that expiation was (at the minimum) required and accomplished through Jesus blood. [Hebrews 9:22]

David Rudel said...

The question is, how does Christ 'make an end to sin' and 'take away the sin of the world'?

Drawing on the work in the Later Prophets, I'm led to say that John and the other NT writers are not referring to a "scapegoat" type removal of sin (after all...they would have said "the goat that takes away the sin from the world" if this were in view.)

I claim the "making an end to sin" refers to allowing and encouraging repentance (Note the super-critical verse Acts 3:26 which defines not only Jesus' role but the blessing of Abraham as "God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one from your wicked ways."

with regard to "cleansing" from sin, this should be read as both a reference to "everyone" being given the opportunity to become "ritually clean" and join the temple of the New Covenant (Acts 10:15) [as opposed to just the Jews] and the "cleansing of our conscience" described in Hebrews.

Neither one of them is a "removal of sin from the accounting books." They refer to the state of a person. Those who are "Unclean" are not allowed in the Temple and have not had their souls sanctified to do good works [Hebrews 9:15]. Those who are clean are both ritually allowed in this heaven temple and internally cleansed.

Dan Martin said...

But remember that the "cleansing" that was associated with Passover was clearing the leaven out of the house. Leaven, of course, is all over both OT and NT as a type or symbol of earthly (or Gentile, or sinful) corruption of the faithful. The removal of leaven was done by the householders themselves, in preparation.

While sprinkling of blood has definite cleansing purposes in some sacrifices--as Dave correctly pointed out that's key to temple cleansing--the blood on the doorposts of the homes at Passover was a sign of identity, an indicator to the angel of destruction to pass over the house. I suspect (though this is conjecture w/o a reference I can come up with at this moment) that the Holy Spirit sealing the believer may be more analogous to the passover blood, than any sacrificial cleansing. In any case, it's erroneous to assume that, because blood is used in cleansing in other rituals, that this was its purpose at Passover.

Unless you are claiming that, because Jesus in some way fulfilled all these dissimilar symbols, that they must have been linked beforehand. I think that's also erroneous--in him all things come together, but that doesn't mean they were previously related.

And Dave, your Ezekiel reference is clearly about cleansing. But the fact that "doors" and "blood" occur in both rituals is not enough to tie them together. That sort of logic could have all kinds of weird ramifications.

Interestingly, Ezekiel 45:20, just a couple verses down, says this is (in addition to addressing unintentional sin of the people) making "atonement for the temple." Huh. . .you think the temple sinned and was also a target of wrath?

Dan Martin said...

The question is, how does Christ 'make an end to sin' and 'take away the sin of the world'?

And maybe this is what really bugs me the most about all the various atonement fights (and fights they often are) out there. While this may in fact be an interesting question, in the final analysis WHY DOES IT MATTER???We are told that Christ took care of sin and calls us to follow him. The mechanism, however interesting it may be to the inquiring mind, is not even peripherally key to faithful following of Jesus, or gratefully accepting the incredible gift of grace he offers.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the debate as much as (or more than) the next guy. But I do think at some point we have to face up to the fact that Jesus called us to discipleship, not to theory.

My biggest objection to PSA is that the purveyors of it seem to think it's such a bloody big deal (pun intended) to think the right thoughts about it. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that those "right thoughts"--if right they are--don't predicate much that God defines (throughout the Law, the Prophets, the Gospels, and the Epistles) as holiness. Holier-than-thouness, yes. . .

Not accusing you guys personally. Just suggesting that a little perspective may need to be reasserted. . .

David Rudel said...

Sorry, Dan. I was not trying to link together Christ's sacrifice with God's wrath [I think I mention later that I'm just showing that expiation was definitely involved here.]

I was under the impression that you were against Christ as any type of sacrifice [expiatory or propitiatory]...that you were against the idea that a sacrifice was needed at all.

So the verses I had cited were meant to support Christ as a sacrifice for transgressions and the effects thereof.

[I do agree that people spend too much effort on the method or mechanism. The notion that somehow the precise mechanism of Christ's atonement is absolutely central to Christianity is on the same level as the notion that hell is part of the gospel.]

Dan Martin said...

I was under the impression that you were against Christ as any type of sacrifice [expiatory or propitiatory]...that you were against the idea that a sacrifice was needed at all.No, Paul clearly links Jesus' death to having fulfilled a variety of sacrifices. To divorce the concepts entirely would be unbiblical, and I am not advocating that.

I do question whether sacrifice was "needed," at least as the concept is usually explained. Not long ago I read the entire compendium of Paul's epistles in the space of only a couple of days, and it jumped out at me that Paul's letter-wide context, even from one letter to the next, seemed to be around defending the nascent Christian faith against the Judaizers who were trying to re-assert circumcision in particular, as well as other aspects of Jewish practice like dietary laws and (I presume) the sacrifices. To this assault, Paul answers that whatever elements of the old system existed, they were fulfilled and completed in Jesus.

My point is this: many of the passages that theologians parse ad nauseum for clues to systematic theology, may really have been Paul in exasperation trying to drag the church away from the clutches of those who didn't want to let go the rituals of the temple. Paul's explanation of how Jesus fulfilled all these things does not NECESSARILY mean that they carry the freight with which the Judaizers then, and Evangelicals now, have laden them.

The notion that somehow the precise mechanism of Christ's atonement is absolutely central to Christianity is on the same level as the notion that hell is part of the gospel.Yeah. What you said. Exactly.

David Rudel said...

My point is this: many of the passages that theologians parse ad nauseum for clues to systematic theology, may really have been Paul in exasperation trying to drag the church away from the clutches of those who didn't want to let go the rituals of the temple.I think you will enjoy my chapter on Paul.

When reading Paul, we must keep in constant focus that Paul wrote to Gentiles about Gentiles in a world where Gentile believers had been influenced by Jewish believers.

Paul himself kept the Mosaic Law until the day he died, as did all the Jewish Christians. Paul's contention is that there is no reason for Jews to impress those laws on non-Jewish Christians (and he gives several different reasons for this).

David Rudel said...

Guys, I think we have to consider the passover as substitutionary and redemptive [though perhaps not atoning for sin].

Here's the issue. Reading the discussion of the passover requirements in the Torah, I think we do in fact have to think of the lamb as a substitute for the death of the first born. The passover can hardly be separated from the redemption of the first born of every womb. Numbers 3:13 and 8:14 [among others] indicates that all the first born were made God's beginning the night of the passover. Those first born that were not redeemed by the killing of a lamb were dead.
Indeed, it appears that the redemption of the first born is seen as a continuation of the passover sacrifice ad infinitum. [Note where it falls in the instructions each time it is brought up. Exodus 13:12, 34:20 and the two Numbers references above]

This redemption of the first son is quite clearly a substitutionary one, one where death is absolutely demanded by God. This goes for all animals. Each one had to either die or be redeemed by the sacrifice of another.

Now, the above does not specify on what ground this payment is made. We are only told that the firstborn are God's, and they became God's before Israel was ever brought out of Egypt.

Dan Martin said...

Re: Passover as redemption, OK, yes, as long as you don't confuse the old notion of redemption (buying back from slavery, death, whatever) with the modern misuse of the word, as a synonym for "saved from sin/hell." Not saying you do confuse the two, but the words have been so confounded in modern English.

But, though redeeming all firstborn with sacrifice in subsequent years is taught in several of the places you cited as referring back to Passover, the two are still different (witness, the Passover lamb continues to be slaughtered every year in remembrance, even if there are no more firstborn to redeem).

Further, the Numbers passages you cite also refer to God reserving to himself the Levites--not bought with a similar sacrifice, but described as "mine" in the same verbiage as the firstborn.

Can you infer a substitutionary death of the lamb for the firstborn from the events of the first passover? Sure, it's not illogical. But it is not the only explanation--the blood as a seal of identity being another (and note it's not the existence of a dead lamb, but blood on the door, that was the sign to the destroyer).

The OTHER substitutionary death to which you refer--that of the firstborn of animals, without whose redemption they die--that really IS substitutionary. But I don't think we want to extend Jesus' death to saving the necks of our livestock. . .or else Exodus 13:13 gives a whole new meaning to "saving your ass."

Dan Martin said...

My take-home point being, there is a lot that may be logical, that still is not textually-supported. It may not be textually-contradicted, but the absence of contradiction is not enough upon which to hang a doctrine or dogma.

David Rudel said...

Dan, but the redemption of the first born extended to humans. (Exodus 13:2)
At first God demanded the first born of all Israelites, and then in Numbers that was switched to the Levites...and then evidently there was some confusion because in Numbers 18:15 we are back to both man and beast.

And I do think this consecration goes back to the original because we are told that the consecration took place on the day that the first born were killed [even before the Israelites were drawn out] (Numbers 3:13 8:17).

I think it is impossible to untangle the redemption of the first born from the passover.

Dan Martin said...

I think it is impossible to untangle the redemption of the first born from the passover.

With all due respect, Dave, that's only true if you don't let the original Passover narrative speak for itself. As I said above:

(1) The sons were to be spared at passover, not just if a lamb was killed, but if the blood was marked on the doorway. Sacrifice was a necessary, but not sufficient part of this process.

(2) The redemption sacrifices described later were to be offered to God as burnt offerings, not eaten as the Passover lamb (and, for that matter, some other sacrifices such as "fellowship offerings" were).

(3) Most importantly, the redemptive aspect of the lamb's slaughter is simply not part of the Passover account. The focus of Passover, like the focus of so many things throughout the Bible, is on the work God is doing (in this case rescuing his people from bondage), and when we turn our focus to something that's dying in the process, we are cheapening God's actual work.

The events are only "tangled" because centuries of systematic theologians have tangled them.

Nick said...

LOL, I'm falling behind in my reading!

David: "Guys, I think we have to consider the passover as substitutionary and redemptive"

There is no argument from me here, because the escape from Egypt is clearly called a redemption. A redemption requires not so much a substitution but an exchange of valuables (a 'buy out' price). That's why in just using the terms "ransom," and "redeem," and "purchased," and "bought with a price," all through the NT I see as a huge blow to Psub, because these "commercial" terms contradict the notion of a judicial transfer of punishment.

I'd be careful about making a direct link between lamb and death of the first born because one of the arguments I made in my debate was that if a family was too small then they would share a lamb with the neighbor (Ex 12:4). This doesn't make sense if it is life-for-life substitution. I think it is very important to keep in mind that Ex 11:4-7 is clear that this is to teach Egypt a lesson for mocking God 9 previous times.

As for the connection between the Passover and redemption of the sons, I did find clear evidence of this, Ex 13:11-15...however, it does not appear that this redeeming is on par with the Passover Lamb itself. In Ex 13:2 it seems that redemption is equivalent to "consecrate to me every first born son," so this isn't a matter of transferring punishment as it is God setting apart certain classes. The fact first born animals had to be redeemed goes against the notion of transfer of punishment as well (an animal doesn't have sins to transfer). Further, it does not appear to be a life-for-life redemption either, because Numbers 18:15f explicitly uses a coin value for redemption price (impossible if punishment is being transferred).

One final note, the whole nation of Israel is said to be redeemed from Egypt, so we must not loose sight of this and focus on first born only.

David Rudel said...

You raise valid points regarding the difference between the redemptive sacrifice and the passover one, but it is going to far to say that they are only entangled due to centuries of systematic theology.

Centuries of systematic theology did not write Exodus 13:15, Numbers 3:13, and Numbers 8:17.

All 3 specify that the consecration took place on the night of the passover.

Thinking about this more, I would say that two things are going on:
i) God has a right to the first born because they were those that were not killed.
ii) The mechanism by which this right plays out involves substitution offerings.

With this reasoning, the passover itself was not a substitution, but did confer to God special rights over that which was spared. The substitution offerings show up only in the outworking of that consecration. [And, as Nick has pointed out, those are merely "sub" not "Psub"]

[Note I don't think the part about their being a burnt sacrifice really holds. After all, that only went for certain animals that were not redeemed.]

I think all of us have learned a lot from this! Great dialogue.

Nick said...

I think you mixed me up with Dan on the entanglement thing, but no big deal.

Yes, I think you zoomed into what I was thinking, God gained "special rights" to these men which is a different concept than simply transferring punishment.

Now that I think about it, I think I see something here. In Jewish (or all OT) culture, the male (esp first born son) was an extremely important figure. He held birthrights as well as maybe the only son the family had (to continue the lineage). God putting "special rights" on them was a way of showing the Jews just how much they owed Him their worship and honor for redeeming them. Because when you read the instructions they plainly say do this so you will remember you were redeemed from Egypt.

Ex 13: 14 "In days to come, when your son asks you, 'What does this mean?' say to him, 'With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 15 When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed every firstborn in Egypt, both man and animal. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.' 16 And it will be like a sign on your hand and a symbol on your forehead that the LORD brought us out of Egypt with his mighty hand."

Their life, their lineage, hung on God's gracious act in Egypt, the future generations would not be there today without this freedom of 450 years of bondage. God HATES when people forget his good works, and these regular feasts and instructions were wake up calls.