Atonement in Scripture: Circumcision and Passover

Steve Jeffery, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach, in their book Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution, argue that ‘the Passover lamb functioned as a penal substitute, dying in the place of the firstborn sons of the Israelites, in order that they might escape the wrath of God.’[1]  They argue that the…

Atonement in Scripture: Circumcision

Circumcision marked the entrance of a man into Judaism.  Circumcision also became a primary language of salvation and image for it.  Moses used ‘circumcision’ to express the internal change that God would bring about in His people after Israel went into exile:  ‘Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of…

Atonement in Scripture: Temple Sacrifices and a Bloodthirsty God? Part 4

In the Harry Potter story, J.K. Rowling uses the symbolism of blood in remarkably consistent ways.  Unicorn blood provides life.  Professor Quirrell drank unicorn blood to sustain Lord Voldemort’s parasitic presence in his body.  Dragon blood is a cleansing and healing agent.  Of the twelve uses of dragon’s blood which Albus Dumbledore discovered, we get glimpses…

Atonement in Scripture: Temple Sacrifices and a Bloodthirsty God? Part 3

In this series of posts, I’ve been exploring why God, in Israel’s sacrificial system, was not being bloodthirsty, but rather a blood donor.  He was acting like what we understand to be a dialysis machine.   The Israelites passed their impurities to God through the mechanism of the animal sacrifices (specifically the sin and guilt offerings)…

Atonement in Scripture: Temple Sacrifices and a Bloodthirsty God? Part 2

As I noted in Part 1 of this series, in Scripture, God wants to meet with human beings, but the human beings want to avoid the encounter because of the purification and cleansing it would entail. Strangely, penal substitution advocates maintain the very opposite.  For example, Jeffery, Ovey, and Sach read in a permanent reluctance on God’s part…

Atonement in Scripture: Temple Sacrifices and a Bloodthirsty God? Part 1

In a previous post about atonement in Isaiah 53, I argued that God, in the sacrificial system of Israel, was acting like a dialysis machine.  He received the people’s impurity, and gave back purity.  He was not being bloodthirsty.  He was being a blood donor.  This clears up a major misconception about the character of God.  And it…

Atonement in Scripture: Isaiah 53, Part 6: Sermon

  The King Who Entered Our Sin and Suffering Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12   Introduction:  Can We Be Healed? In 1960, Israeli undercover agents pulled off one of the greatest kidnappings in history.  They discovered the South American hideaway of one of the masterminds of the Nazi Holocaust, a man by the name of Adolf…

Atonement in Scripture: Isaiah 53, Part 5: Atonement and Social Justice Are One

Tentative Conclusion #3:  Atonement and Restorative Social Justice Here is one application of Incarnational, ontological atonement to Christian ethics.  In Isaiah 58, Isaiah gives his rousing sermon about the lack of social justice with regards to fair wages, debt-enslavement and debt-forgiveness, hospitality and economic sharing, and Sabbath rest (Isa.58:1 – 14).  All of these issues…

Atonement in Scripture: Isaiah 53, Part 4

A Response to J. Alan Groves’ Essay on Isaiah 53 In The Glory of the Atonement, a book dedicated to theologian Dr. Roger Nicole and the doctrine of penal substitution, Dr. J. Alan Groves contributed an essay on Isaiah 53.   In the bulk of his essay, Groves makes a persuasive case that the sin-bearing language of…

Atonement in Scripture: Isaiah 53, Part 3

Isaiah’s Understanding of Israel’s Sacrificial Animals   52:15 Thus he will sprinkle many nations… 53:10 But the LORD was pleased to crush him, putting him to grief; if he would render himself as a guilt offering,   Reference to sprinkling and sacrificial animals like a lamb or sheep (Isa.53:7) takes us deep into the heart of Israel’s…

Atonement in Scripture: Isaiah 53, Part 2

Matthew’s Quotation of Isaiah 53:4 How did the New Testament understand Isaiah 53?  I will explore Matthew’s use of Isaiah 53:4 in one specific place where he quotes it (Mt.8:17).  Did Matthew understand Isaiah in a way that aligns with penal substitution?  I would argue not.   As Isaiah connected the suffering of the Suffering…

Atonement in Scripture: Isaiah 53, Part 1

What Did the Suffering Servant Suffer?  Part 1 Introduction ‘But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed.’  (Isaiah 53:5) Penal substitutionary atonement means that Jesus takes a punishment from God onto himself that no…