Monday, April 26, 2010

Substitionary atonement in the early church

“Of particular importance here is the translation of חרם [Herem], for it is rendered as ἀνάθεμα [anathema] in the Greek of Josh 6:17, which is a crucial interpretative move that sets up all sorts of resonances and allusions that are not present in the Hebrew. For example, one might expect the use of ἀνάθεμα in Gal 3:13 (citing Deut 21:23, applied to the crucifixion) to set up a resonance with its use in Joshua in the Greek, which (returning to Hebrew) might serve as the basis for a typology in which חרם could be said to be ‘fulfilled’ in Jesus on the cross, in that he takes the ‘ חרם of the world’ onto himself, perhaps reflecting a ‘substitutionary’ understanding of the crucifixion. But it is interesting that there is no evidence of that sort of move being made in the early Christian tradition, despite the common imaginative use made of similar typology. This observation might suggest that there was little interest in interpreting the crucifixion using the category of ‘substitutionary atonement’ within the early church.”— Earl, pp. 118-119

<idle musing>
Isn't that interesting? And this is especially so in light of the huge battles being waged now on “substitutionary atonement” versus any other understanding of the atonement! If we want to pay more than lip service to the early church, maybe we should learn from them—even if it means we have to acknowledge that some emerging elements of the church might be right, after all. Nah! Never happen; they can't be right, can they?

Watch out for the NIH monster (not invented here) in your theology! God was moving and giving insight long before you or I were born. And, he didn't stop giving wisdom and insight to others once we came along. A bit—ok, a lot—of humility will go a long way! Just an
</idle musing>


Anonymous said...

"It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous." Rom. 2:13
By Jesus' crucifixion a law has been added which is why you don't read anything about SAT in the NT.
Theodore A. Jones

jps said...

Can you expound a bit on what you mean by that? I'm not sure I follow.