You are on page 1of 12

was not the basis upon which people were

justified or their sins forgiven; neither was it

some type of cosmic event that put an end
The same affirmations with which I to the world as it was and ushered in a new
began my book Paul on the Cross age. Our sinful humanity was not
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2006) apply to destroyed, put to death, renewed or
the New Testament as a whole: transformed when Jesus was crucified. In
For Paul, Jesus’ death did not save anyone Paul’s thought, Jesus did not die for the
or reconcile anyone to God; it did not have purpose of setting an example for others to
“redemptive effects.” According to his follow; revealing some truth about God,
letters, while Paul regarded Jesus’ death as humanity, or the world; enabling people to
sacrificial, he did not teach that it expiated participate in his death and resurrection; or
sins, propitiated God, or exhausted God’s providing them with a means of transfer
wrath at sin, or that human sin was judged, from this age into the new one. Believers are
taken away, or atoned for on the cross. Nor not saved by trusting in the efficacy of
did Paul maintain that Jesus’ death Christ’s death for their salvation (p. x).
liberated humanity from sin, death, the
devil, or the power of evil. Paul did not The intention of that passage from my
regard Jesus as a corporate or representative book was to call into question all of the
figure who summed up or included others, traditional readings of the Pauline and New
so that what was true of him was thereby Testament passages that ascribe saving
true of them as well. Nor did he believe that significance to Jesus’ death from the time of
Jesus had died as humanity’s substitute or Irenaeus of Lyons in the second century CE
representative, or in order to make it to the present, including those of the church
possible for God to forgive sins while fathers, Anselm of Canterbury, Peter
remaining righteous. Jesus’ death, for Paul, Abelard, the sixteenth-century Reformers,

the theologians of Protestant orthodoxy, the 1. Forensic/Penal Substitution;
liberal theologians of the nineteenth and 2. Physical/Ontological Participation;
early twentieth centuries, major twentieth-
3. Ethical/Revelational.
century figures such as Albert Schweitzer,
Karl Barth, and Rudolf Bultmann, and Each of these interpretations is based on
contemporary New Testament scholars such certain presuppositions:
as E. P. Sanders, James Dunn, and N. T. 1. Forensic/Penal Substitution: God’s
Wright. I argue that the primary ideas and justice must be satisfied before God can
presuppositions on which all of these remit sins. Only the sacrificial death of Christ
traditional and contemporary readings of could accomplish this satisfaction. Christ had
Paul and the New Testament are based are to be sinless, fully divine yet fully human, in
foreign to the thought world of the authors order to make atonement for human sin. The
of the New Testament writings and have objective of Christ’s coming was his
wrongly been read back into the New sacrificial, substitutionary death. Although
Testament passages that relate Jesus’ death human beings have been saved objectively,
to human salvation. they must still receive that salvation
This work, however, is primarily an subjectively through faith.
attempt to offer an alternative reading of the 2. Physical/Ontological Participation:
New Testament texts. Its purpose is Powers such as sin and death are ontological
constructive rather than deconstructive. It aims in nature and as such can be dealt with in
to offer a credible and convincing historical much the same way that ontological realities
reconstruction of the beliefs of Jesus’ first or substances are dealt with in the physical
followers regarding the salvific significance world (“absorbed,” “neutralized,” or “ex-
of his death as these are reflected in the New hausted” through some type of “mechan-
Testament. ics”). Christ’s death “works” to “effect” a
transformation of sinful humanity or
Chapter 1: Jesus’ Death in Traditional creation by virtue of the mystical or
Christian Thought ontological solidarity between Christ and
The New Testament writings consis- others. Before the ontological transformation
tently refer to Jesus’ death by means of brief, of human beings, human nature, or the
enigmatic formulas (see, for example, Matt. created order could take place, these realities
26:28; Mark 10:45; Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:24-25; first had to be transformed in Christ himself
4:24-25; 5:6-11; 6:1-11; 1 Cor. 15:3; 2 Cor. 5:14- through his incarnation, death, and resur-
15; Gal. 1:4; 2:19-21; 3:13; Eph. 1:7; 2:13-16; rection. These events make it possible for
5:2; Col. 1:13-14, 19-22; 1 Thess. 5:9-10; 1 Tim. human beings and creation as a whole to
2:5-6; Tit. 2:14; Heb. 1:4; 9:11-14, 26-28; 1 Pet. “participate” in the transformation effected
1:18-19; 2:24-25; 1 John 1:7—2:2; 4:10; Rev. first in Christ. While that transformation is
1:5; 5:9). These formulaic allusions have all already an objective reality, it must still be
been interpreted on the basis of ideas that subjectively appropriated. These ideas were
date back to the time of Irenaeus. Three clear and easily comprehensible in the first
categories of interpretations exist: century, but are no longer so today.

3. Ethical/revelational: Christ’s death hierarchy. This discussion provides the
was necessary to bring about in human background necessary to consider the
beings the ethical transformation God questions regarding sin, atonement, and
desired to see in them. What was revealed to vicarious death addressed in the following
human beings by Christ’s death could have two chapters.
been revealed by God in no other way.
Chapter 3: Sacrifice and Atonement in
Scholars today generally combine these
Second-Temple Jewish Thought
views when interpreting the New Testament
texts that allude to Jesus’ death, though their Biblical scholars commonly attribute to
thought on these questions often lacks clarity Jews in antiquity the following ideas
and reflects confusions and ambiguities. regarding sacrifice: sacrifices made
atonement for sin; sacrifices “effected”
Chapter 2: expiation and purification from sin; sacrifices
Second-Temple Jewish Soteriology propitiated God’s wrath and were necessary
The objective in this and the following for God to remit sins; the idea central to
two chapters is to reconstruct second-temple Jewish sacrificial thought was that of
Jewish beliefs regarding salvation, substitution, participation, or representa-
atonement, and vicarious death. Questions tion; sacrifice revealed the “scapegoat
regarding the “original meaning” of mechanism” inherent to it (Girard).
passages from the Hebrew Scriptures are not This chapter develops an alternative
relevant to this reconstruction and thus are reconstruction of second-temple Jewish
not discussed. Instead, the focus is on thought regarding sacrifice. Sacrifices were
second-temple Jewish literature and the way viewed essentially as gifts and offerings
in which ideas from the Hebrew Scriptures presented to God that embodied petitions
were being interpreted in the second-temple and prayers to God. What made sacrifices
period. and prayers acceptable to God was the inner
This chapter looks not only at second- disposition and commitment to God’s will of
temple Jewish soteriological beliefs, but those offering them or of those on whose
above all the logic behind those beliefs, as behalf they were offered.
well as the views of Israel’s God found in the When we grasp the logic underlying
Hebrew Scriptures and second-temple ancient Jewish sacrificial beliefs and
Jewish literature. Among the Jewish beliefs practices, as well as the views of Israel’s God
considered are those concerning the election associated with those beliefs and practices,
of Israel; the Mosaic law’s purpose and we see that many of the ideas that scholars
goodness as a means to promote justice and ascribe to first-century Jews are in reality
shalom; the common understandings of foreign to second-temple Jewish thought. For
divine reward and punishment; views on Jewish people in antiquity, it was not
justification and righteousness; eschatolo- sacrifices that made atonement for sin, but
gical hopes and expectations; and Jewish the (re)commitment to God’s will that those
attitudes toward Rome and the Jerusalem sacrifices expressed and embodied; this

alone was thought to obtain God’s both 2 and 4 Maccabees, what turns away
forgiveness and put away God’s wrath. The God’s wrath and obtains divine forgiveness
notion that sacrifices “worked” to make is not the vicarious suffering and death of
expiation or purification is contrary to the the “martyrs” mentioned there, but the
view of God prevalent in second-temple return to God that their faithfulness to the
Judaism, as is the idea that sacrifices were law brings about in others. The notion that
necessary in order to make atonement and suffering and death in themselves could
obtain divine forgiveness. Sacrifice was not atone for sins is absent from ancient rabbinic
believed to revolve around the ideas of thought as well.
substitution or participation, nor was it Throughout all of these writings, then, it
about “scapegoating” or “sacred violence.” is never suffering and death that make
atonement, obtain divine forgiveness, or turn
Chapter 4: Vicarious Suffering and Death
away God’s wrath, but only a (re)commitment to
in Ancient Jewish Thought
living in conformity with God’s will.
Biblical scholars have commonly
claimed that, in ancient Judaism, certain Chapter 5: Jesus’ Death in the Context of
passages from the Hebrew Scriptures and His Ministry
second-temple Jewish literature were
In order to understand the salvific
interpreted in the sense that suffering and
significance ascribed to Jesus’ death by his
death could make atonement for sins. A
first followers, we must begin by examining
close examination of Isaiah 53 reveals
the ministry of Jesus. His life and death were
nothing that would have led first-century
viewed against the background of his
Jews to interpret that passage in terms of
commitment to the well-being of others. This
penal substitution. Instead, they would have
commitment led Jesus to dedicate himself to
understood it in terms of God’s servant
bringing healing to others and instructing
enduring suffering and death as divine
people in God’s will for justice and
chastisement in ways that he did not deserve
wholeness. His proclamation of God’s reign
as a result of his efforts to bring others back
constituted a critique of the social, political,
into conformity with God’s will—a task in
economic, and religious system of his time
which he was successful, at least in part. It
and the God associated with it. Through his
was in this way that the servant would have
teaching regarding the need to trust fully in
been seen as obtaining forgiveness and
the God whom he called “Father,” he sought
healing for the people.
to free others from the fear which that
The idea that suffering and death could system had instilled in people in its attempt
make atonement, obtain divine forgiveness, to keep them in subjection to it.
or propitiate God’s wrath is found neither in
However, Jesus also sought to form
the Hebrew Scriptures nor second-temple
around himself an alternative community of
Jewish literature. While some of these ideas
followers that would manifest his same
are found in Greco-Roman literature, they
commitment to justice and the well-being of
represent a view of God that would have
all, not only by serving others as Jesus did,
been foreign to ancient Jewish thought. In

but also by rejecting and resisting the values, Chapter 6: The Crucified Jesus as
norms, and practices of his day that he Lord and Mediator
considered oppressive, including those In this chapter and the following four, I
associated with many traditional inter- look at the New Testament as a whole to
pretations of the Mosaic law. This involved reconstruct the basic beliefs that appear to be
defining God’s will in ways that set him at common throughout most of these writings.
odds with those who represented the status This involves applying the criterion of
quo. multiple attestation to the New Testament
Jesus’ dedication to this alternative material in general.
system—the “reign of God”—generated Central to New Testament thought is the
such conflict with those in positions of claim that Jesus is Lord. This claim placed
authority that eventually he found himself in Jesus above all other authorities, including
a situation in which he had to choose either those associated with Rome and Jerusalem,
to desist from his work on behalf of others or and posited a unique relationship between
else to continue in it and as a result suffer the Jesus and the God he called “Father.” What
dire consequences, including above all that particularly set Jesus apart from all earthly
of a violent death. Jesus chose the latter, not rulers, however, was the fact that he had
only because he refused to back down from truly sought to serve the interests of others
his activity on behalf of the salvation of in life and death. Ironically, the shameful
others, but also because it was the only way and degrading way in which he had died
in which he could hope to achieve his was thought to make him superior to all
objective of establishing the alternative other rulers and authorities, since it
community that would continue to be demonstrated the extent of his commitment
committed to his same vision of God’s reign. to the well-being and salvation of all.
If Jesus ascribed any salvific significance This interpretation of Jesus’ death led to
to his death, he must have seen it as being a counterimperial and countercultural way
“for others” in the sense that it would enable of understanding Jesus’ lordship and the
and empower those within his community of “slavery” of those who regarded themselves
followers to remain committed to his same as belonging to Jesus. Jesus’ first followers
vision and mission, trusting fully in the God believed that he had died seeking to be
of justice that he had proclaimed—the same exalted by God as Lord of all so that he
God in whose name he had been willing to might continue to serve others from a
give up his life. According to Jesus’ teaching, position of divine authority from heaven.
those who formed part of that community They also proclaimed that, as a result of
could be assured of God’s approval, Jesus’ faithfulness to the task God had given
acceptance, and forgiveness. him of forming a community fully
committed to living in conformity to God’s
will, God had raised Jesus and established
him at his right hand so that he might
consummate his work on behalf of the

salvation of all those who would form part idea that Jesus mediates access to God
of that community. His death was thus derives from the belief that it is Jesus who
viewed in the context of all that he had reveals and defines God’s will fully and
sought for others in his ministry and in his definitively as God’s Son.
last days in Jerusalem. In New Testament thought, the basis for
Because Jesus’ lordship was diametrical- Jesus’ mediatorial activity for others is his
ly opposed to the type of lordship that had God-given task of bringing others into
and has prevailed throughout human conformity with God’s will as members of
history, it was not understood merely in the alternative community that lives under
terms of the replacement of one Lord or his lordship. Jesus’ followers would have
“kyriarchy” by another. The fact that both understood his death as an implicit petition
Jesus and the God he proclaimed were fully to God on behalf of the salvation of others,
and truly committed to justice, equity, and would have seen his death as salvific in
wholeness, and well-being for all meant that that, by giving up his life seeking that
to submit to God and Jesus was to submit to salvation, he had obtained it, since it was
true love, justice, and righteousness as God certain to come through him now that God
had redefined these things through Jesus. had responded to his faithfulness unto death
Among the members of Jesus’ by exalting him as Lord and servant over all.
community of followers, no person or group
Chapter 7: Jesus, God’s Will, and the Law
had the right to define unilaterally the will of
God for others and on that basis to define The conviction that the crucified Jesus
how love, justice, and righteousness were to had been exalted as Lord and that salvation
be understood and the form they were to depended on living out of faith in him as the
take in each particular context; this could be one who defined God’s will led to tensions
done only through dialogue with others both and conflicts in the early communities of
within and outside of the community. Thus Jesus’ followers and in the Jewish com-
living under Jesus’ lordship and identifying munities where Jesus’ followers were active.
with the reign of God he proclaimed was According to Jesus’ followers, one’s life and
paradoxically understood as a form of slavery conduct were now to revolve around Jesus
that brought true liberation, since assuming as Lord. This involved relegating the Mosaic
the same commitment to living for others law to a position of secondary importance.
that Jesus had manifested in life and death The obedience God now demanded was no
freed one from other enslaving powers and longer simply to the law per se but to Jesus
beings in the world. as the one who represented God as God’s
Jesus’ first followers also understood Son.
Jesus as the unique mediator between God In this way, the law was displaced from
and others. This set him above others who its central position in the life of those Jews
were regarded as God’s agents or represen- who confessed Jesus as Lord, though it
tatives on earth, including the Roman continued to be of great importance for
emperor and the Jewish high priests. The them. Throughout the New Testament,

God’s will is no longer defined by looking define God’s will or alternatively to Jesus as
directly to the Mosaic law, but by looking to the one whom God had designated Messiah,
Jesus and his interpretation of the law. This Lord, and eschatological judge of all. The
redefinition of God’s will also led to a distinction was therefore not between faith
different understanding regarding what was and works, but rather between following and
necessary in order to be judged righteous by obeying Jesus and following and obeying the
God. The conflicts over justification and Mosaic law alone, independently of faith in
righteousness we find in the New Testament Jesus as Lord.
had nothing to do with whether obedience to These beliefs regarding Jesus and the
God and good works done in accordance law raised numerous questions and
with justice, love, and mercy were necessary problems to which Jesus’ first followers had
in order to be declared righteous and to respond. What role was the law now to
accepted by God. On that point, Jesus’ play in the life of believers? Why should they
followers were in full agreement with other continue to observe the Mosaic law if what
Jews, maintaining together with them that really mattered was living according to
only God by pure grace could bring about such God’s will as defined by Jesus? If one could
a life in those who believed in him. set aside literal observance of certain
Instead, the question that was at the commandments, why had God given those
heart of the debates and conflicts among commandments in the first place? For Jesus’
Jesus’ first followers as well as other Jews followers, offering convincing answers to
with whom they were in dialogue had to do these questions was an extremely difficult
with precisely how obedience to God’s will was to task.
be defined and understood. Traditional Jewish Once righteousness was redefined in
thought equated obedience to God’s will terms of living under Jesus’ lordship rather
with a commitment to living in conformity than under the Mosaic law independently of
with the Mosaic law as it had commonly Jesus, the door was opened for the inclusion
come to be interpreted. However, Jesus’ first of uncircumcised non-Jews in the
followers came to define God’s will in terms community of Jesus’ followers. This led to
of submitting to Jesus as Lord and placed further tensions and conflicts. Inevitably,
him above the law so that full obedience to there would be distinctions among those in
God and that law was inseparable from the community of believers in Christ who
obeying and following Jesus. continued to observe the law in a traditional
Faith and works were never put in sense and those who did not. Each group
opposition to one another in the way that would need to make concessions to the
this has happened in discussions among other. Jesus’ first followers offered a variety
Christians since the time of the Protestant of responses to the question of why God had
Reformation. What was at the center of the given the law and how it was now to be
debate among Jesus’ first followers and other observed in order to respond to Jewish
Jews was the question of whether people objections to their understanding of Jesus
were to look primarily to the Mosaic law to and the gospel.

Chapter 8: Jesus’ Death and the New Chapter 9: The Fulfillment of the Scriptures
Covenant Community and the Divine Plan
While originally Jesus’ first followers In part as a response to the scandal of
believed themselves to be living under the the cross, yet also due to messianic beliefs
same covenant God had made with Israel in held by many Jews, Jesus’ first followers
antiquity, eventually they came to speak of a began to affirm that the Scriptures had
new covenant. They also saw themselves as pointed to Jesus and found their fulfillment
constituting a new temple and at some point in him. Certain texts such as Isaiah 53 and
as a new community that was distinguish- many of the Psalms (2, 22, 110, 118) played
able from the Jewish community as a whole. an especially important role in the
Discussions arose as to who constituted the development of this claim. Paul’s letters
true Israel and who was actually living in demonstrate that typological interpretations
conformity with God’s law. From their of the Scriptures arose fairly soon after Jesus’
perspective, their experience of the Holy death (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 5:7; 10:1-11; Gal.
Spirit and their practice of baptism set Jesus’ 4:21-31). Other beliefs and practices of Jesus’
followers apart from those Jews who did not followers were also seen as fulfilling
believe in Jesus as the Messiah. typologically ideas and commandments
Jesus’ first followers therefore affirmed found in the Hebrew Scriptures, such as the
that Jesus had lived and died in order to commandment regarding circumcision.
establish a new basis upon which the Rather than merely pointing to isolated
members of God’s people might relate to texts as finding their fulfillment in Jesus and
God and one another. Nevertheless, the the new reality that had come to exist
condition upon which people were believed through him, Jesus’ first followers claimed
to be forgiven and accepted by God was not that the Scriptures as a whole spoke of a
Jesus’ suffering, death, or blood per se, but divine plan that had existed even before
their commitment to living according to creation. This plan contemplated the history
God’s will as defined through Jesus and his of Israel before Jesus’ time, as well as Jesus’
cross. When the first believers in Jesus coming, ministry, suffering, death, resurrec-
claimed that he had died for them and that tion, and exaltation as Lord. This plan was
they had attained redemption, salvation, and also thought to include the sending out of
forgiveness through his blood, they meant apostles such as Paul and the proclamation
that Jesus’ faithfulness unto death to the task of the gospel to the nations throughout the
given him had led to the new reality they world. The rejection of Jesus and his
now experienced as members of his com- followers by many within Israel had also
munity of followers and had laid the basis been foretold in the Scriptures, yet ironically
for the new relationship to God and others in this rejection was seen as making it possible
which they now lived. Through Jesus, they for people from among the nations to be
now had access to God and God’s forgive- incorporated into the community of God’s
ness in a way in which they had previously people. The end result would be the
not had.

salvation of “all Israel.” This was the Chapter 10: Jesus’ Death for Others:
“mystery” that Paul and others proclaimed. The Story and the Formulas
When the New Testament speaks of Initially, the story told by Jesus’
Jesus’ death as “necessary,” this necessity followers built on the same foundational
has to do with the fulfillment of the divine story of Israel that appears in the Hebrew
plan as a whole. However, Jesus’ death was Scriptures, according to which God’s people
regarded as necessary not merely because it needed to be saved from their sinful ways.
formed part of a divine plan conceived before the The belief in Jesus as God’s Son and Lord,
world’s creation and foretold in the Scriptures, however, led Jesus’ followers to affirm that
but also because only through Jesus’ total this salvation was to come through Jesus
commitment to God’s will had it been possible to rather than through a stricter observance of
create a community of people who would share the Mosaic law.
that same commitment in the same way. This
Jesus’ death was originally seen against
was thought to occur by faith, as people came
the background of his ministry and his aim
to acknowledge Jesus as their Lord and live
of forming an alternative community that
under him in the alternative community
might come to participate in God’s reign. As
established through his death. The fact that
the Scriptures had foretold, the powers of the
the one they followed and trusted in as Lord
present age had rejected Jesus and all that he
had been fully committed to loving and
represented, since he constituted a threat to
serving others in the way God desired meant
their own pretensions. While initially Jesus’
that no one could truly form part of his
followers saw Jesus’ death as comparable to
community of followers unless they loved
the death of other prophetic figures, their
and served God and others in the same way.
belief in his resurrection and exaltation led
The christological claims that developed them to the conviction that accepting him as
among Jesus’ first followers in the years Lord required that they be willing to
immediately following his death arose out of dedicate their lives to doing God’s will as it
their conviction that God had exalted him as had been defined through Jesus and his life
Lord for all, as well as their interpretation of and death.
the Scriptures. They believed that the divine
Against the background of these ideas,
plan that God had conceived of before
Jesus’ death came to be seen as salvific
creation had revolved around Jesus as God’s
because it was believed that only by giving up
Son from the very beginning. These
his life could Jesus establish a community in
christological claims enabled them to stress
which all would be fully committed to doing
Jesus’ authority over other human
God’s will in the way defined by him through his
authorities and over the Mosaic law.
ministry, sufferings, and death. He could not
However, those claims also provided a basis
have expected others to be fully committed
for proclaiming that the God of Jesus was
to God’s will if he himself had not shown
distinct from the God associated with the
himself to be fully committed to that will to
oppressive political, economic, and religious
the very end. Nor could he have expected to
system imposed by Rome and Jerusalem.
bring into a existence a community of

followers who would serve as his instrument efforts to bring others to live in accordance
for bringing one another and others outside with God’s will might continue and bear
of the community into accordance with that fruit. This would take place once Jesus had
will as they lived under Jesus’ lordship. risen and the community of followers he had
For such a community to exist, it was sought to establish had become a reality. His
necessary that it live under a Lord who had blood—that is, his faithfulness unto death to
shown himself to be fully committed to the task given him by God—would lead to
serving God by serving others. The only way the purification of others in that it would
that Jesus could be such a Lord was by serve as the means by which others would be
giving up his life as a consequence of his brought into conformity with God’s will as
dedication to doing God’s will and for the they lived under Jesus’ lordship, and on that
purpose of bringing about a community of basis obtain divine forgiveness.
people who would also be dedicated to Contrary to what many scholars have
doing God’s will as defined through him and affirmed, it is not likely that the story of the
the love he had shown in life and death. And binding of Isaac in Genesis 22 played a role
the only way Jesus could become such a Lord in the development of the early beliefs
so as to create such a community was for God regarding the salvific significance of Jesus’
to hand him over to a violent death, rather death. There is also no convincing evidence
than intervening to spare him from such a that Jesus’ followers believed that he had
death, and then to raise and exalt him. saved others by undergoing in their stead
When Jesus’ death was interpreted on the “messianic tribulation” that some Jews
the basis of Isaiah 53, the idea that Jesus bore were expecting before the end of the present
the iniquities of others would be interpreted age. Such an idea merely represents a
in the sense that he had been willing to historicized version of the doctrine of penal
endure sufferings and a violent death in substitution.
order for others to be delivered from their The basic ideas mentioned above enable
persistent sinfulness and the divine us to understand the formulas that were
condemnation that resulted from that commonly used to allude to Jesus’ death. His
sinfulness. This deliverance would take place death was “for others” and “for their sins” in
as people were incorporated into the the sense that it brought to fruition every-
community of those living under Jesus’ thing that he had sought in his ministry,
lordship. bringing about in others the same
It is questionable whether 2 and 4 commitment to God’s will manifested in
Maccabees played any role in the develop- him, and enabling them to obtain through
ment of the beliefs of Jesus’ followers him God’s forgiveness on that basis. The
regarding the salvific significance of his allusions to Jesus’ blood and the association
death. If so, Jesus’ death would have been of ideas such as redemption, justification,
seen as similar to the deaths of the and reconciliation with God through his
Maccabean “martyrs” in the sense that he death or blood would also have been
had gone to his death asking God that his understood on the basis of the same ideas.

The following chapters examine the
specific allusions to Jesus’ death in the
Chapter 11: Justification, Salvation, and the context of the arguments in which they
Work of Christ in Paul’s Thought appear throughout the New Testament and
This chapter questions the traditional in each case inquire as to the author’s
distinction between Paul’s “juristic” soterio- purpose in referring to Jesus’ death in the
logy and his “participatory” soteriology. way in which that author does:
Jesus’ death was not seen as enabling God to
Chapter 12: The Allusions to Jesus’ Death
forgive sins or providing the basis upon
in Paul’s Epistles
which believers could be declared right-
eous. The idea of “participation” as it has Chapter 13: Jesus’ Death in the Disputed
commonly been understood among Pauline Pauline Letters and 1 Peter
scholars is foreign to Paul. He did not teach Chapter 14: Jesus’ Death in the
that believers or human beings in general Synoptic Gospels and Acts
“participate” in Jesus or his faithfulness,
Chapter 15: Jesus’ Death in the
sufferings, death, and resurrection, although
Epistle to the Hebrews
he did maintain that believers in Jesus suffer
and die with him in the sense of enduring Chapter 16: Jesus’ Death in the
hardships and persecution as a result of their Gospel of John, 1 John, and Revelation
living in love under his lordship. On this * * *
basis, they will also be raised and glorified as
The final two chapters of the work
he was alongside of him.
compare New Testament thought regarding
For Paul, like the authors of the other the salvific significance of Jesus’ death with
New Testament writings, the basis upon the thought of the Apostolic Fathers, Justin
which believers are forgiven is the Martyr, Melito of Sardis, and Irenaeus of
commitment to God’s will that God Lyons on that subject. Their purpose is to
graciously brings about in them through demonstrate that the ideas upon which the
faith in Jesus and all that he represents—that interpretations of Jesus’ death examined in
is, “Jesus-faith” or “Christ-faith”—, since one Chapter 1 are based are not found in
cannot truly believe in the God Jesus Christian thought until the latter half of the
proclaimed without seeking to live in the second century CE, when Christ’s saving
way that Jesus taught and embodied as work began to be understood in ways that
God’s Son. In Paul’s thought, believers suffer were alien to New Testament thought.
and are crucified with Jesus in the sense that
they identify with all that Jesus stood for and Chapter 17: Jesus’ Death in the Thought of
reject the values and norms of the systems of the Apostolic Fathers and Justin Martyr
this world as Jesus did. As a result, they face Chapter 18: The Work of Christ in the
the same type of opposition and violence Thought of Melito of Sardis
that he endured at the hands of that system. and Irenaeus of Lyons

* * * * * *

In the Conclusion, I simply offer a brief This understanding of the salvific
summary of the main arguments of the significance of Jesus’ death leads to an
work: that the traditional interpretations of understanding of justification and salvation
the New Testament allusions to the salvific that is essentially in continuity with ancient
significance of Jesus’ death that have Jewish thought. In both cases, God saves
prevailed since the time of Irenaeus are no people by graciously communicating his will
longer tenable and that those allusions to them and then bringing about in them
should instead be interpreted on the basis of through faith the way of life that he desires
the constructive proposal I have offered and commands for the good of all. What
here. Above all, the idea that is stressed is distinguishes early Christian belief from
that in New Testament thought, neither Jesus’ ancient Jewish thought is not the idea that
sufferings nor his death were believed to make justification is by grace through faith, but
atonement for sins or effect human salvation. The that to do God’s will involves following
idea that suffering and death could atone for sins, Jesus as one’s Lord.
obtain divine forgiveness, or appease God’s wrath The final part of the Conclusion
is entirely foreign to the New Testament, just as examines the implications of the argument of
that idea is entirely foreign to second-temple this work for believers today. Only by
grasping and articulating properly the New
Equally foreign to New Testament Testament understanding of the way in
thought—especially that of Paul—is the which people are saved through Jesus’ death
notion that believers are saved through can the proclamation of the gospel transform
“participation” in Christ and his death. people’s lives and impact the world in the
Instead, what the New Testament consis- way that it did originally. For this reason, the
tently affirms is that believers have attained traditional interpretations of Jesus’ death
salvation by means of Jesus’ faithfulness to his considered in Chapter 1 of this work must be
God-given task of forming an alternative rejected and repudiated as contrary to the
community committed to living in conformity Christian Scriptures.
with God’s will as that will has now been defined
Of course, the work includes a full
through Jesus. Believers are forgiven and
Bibliography, as well as an Index of Ancient
accepted by God, not on the basis of Jesus’
Sources, an Index of Authors, and an Index
sufferings and death, but because they have come
of Subjects.
to form part of the alternative community that
God brought into existence by means of Jesus’ David A. Brondos
sufferings and death—the community that Jesus Mexico City, Mexico
gave up his life to establish and consolidate. Published on on July 16, 2018