Archive for the ‘Penal Substitution’ Category

A few years ago, as I was applying to do ordination training and a research degree at Trinity College,  I read Tom Wright’s response to ‘Pierced for our Transgressions’. In this critique, in which he described the book as sub-biblical, he lamented the fact that discussion of the atonement often bypasses the Gospels and heads straight to the Pauline texts. It was this lament which provided a springboard for my own research. On arriving at Trinity, and in discussion with my supervisor, I began to look at Jesus’ death in the gospels. My first paper was an analysis of Mark 10:45 which opened my eyes to how much material I would need to cover. As the years have moved on my focus has moved from the historical Jesus to the Gospel of Mark. with a particular focus on  the death of Jesus in relation to the tribulation, Temple, and exile.   The road is long with many a winding turn….. The following video which I came across by friend and fellow blogger ‘The Bishop’ reminded and encouraged me as to the relevance of my research to the contemporary atonement debate and to the church.


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Here is a review and critique of Brant Pitre’s ‘Jesus, the Tribulation and the End of Exile’

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

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I am currently doing a thorough study of Jesus, The Tribulation and the End of Exile (JTEE)  by Brant Pitre. Here are some reflection on his work on tribulation themes within Second Temple Judaism. Any comments?

(a) Historiography and Second Temple Judaism

Due to a lack of serious scholarship in this area Pitre is to be applauded for offering a serious study which seeks to ‘trace the development and shape of the concept of eschatological tribulation in late Second Temple Judaism.’1 E.P Sanders criticisms against Schweitzer may well have been correct when levelled against his use of sources2, but can no longer, in the light of Pitre, be used to criticise some of his conclusion, as Pitre demonstrates, in the words of one reviewer,

‘successfully that the nexus of tribulation, the end of exile, and the coming of Messiah is present within enough strands of Second Temple Jewish literature to establish the plausibility of Jesus himself merging these themes in his own person and work.3

Pitre studies and examines texts dated from 200BC to 30AD. These dates are not arbitrary but are timebound as the ‘chosen time frame time frame is bound on one end by the earliest Jewish apocalypses and on the other by the lifetime of Jesus himself. ‘4

These texts, those composed between 200BC to 30AD, seventeen in all, are studied to answer the following questions.

      • How is the eschatological tribulation depicted in any given text?

      • What is the precise literary context in which the tribulation is described or referred to?

      • Is the tribulation in question explicitly messianic?

      • What (if any) scriptural basis is provided for the expectation of the tribulation?

      • Is there any connection between the eschatological tribulation and the restoration of Israel and the end of Exile?

These texts include Epistle of Enoch. Testament of Moses and documents from the Dead Sea Scrolls.5 From these texts, usually an analysis of a section from within the document as a whole, Pitre draws the following conclusions.

1.The tribulation is tied to restoration of Israel and the End of Exile.

2.A righteous remnant arises during the tribulation.

3.The righteous suffer and/or die during the tribulation. This sometimes includes the suffering and/or death of a messianic figure.

4.The tribulation is tied to the coming of the Messiah, sometimes referred to as the ‘Son of Man’

5.There is a tribulation precedes the final judgement.

6.The tribulation is depicted as the eschatological climax of Israel’s exilic sufferings, often through the imagery of the Deuteronomic covenant curses.

7.The tribulation has two stages (1) the preliminary stage, and (2) the Great tribulation.

8.The tribulation precedes the coming of the eschatological kingdom

9.An eschatological tyrant, opponent, or Anti-Messiah arises during the tribulation.

10.Typological images from the Old Testament are used to depict the tribulation

11.The tribulation is tied to the ingathering and/or conversion of the Gentiles.

12.The tribulation has some kind of atoning or redemptive function.

13.The Jerusalem Temple is defiled and/or destroyed during the tribulation.

14.The tribulation precedes the resurrection of the dead and/or a new creation6

A number of questions are raised by Pitre’s methodology at this point.

  1. Pitre, in limiting his study to texts produced between 200BC and 30AD, fails to include an analysis of the Hebrew Bible/Septuagint in his study.7 In one sense we can understand that he wants to look at later texts to show the development of tribulation ideas in second temple Judaism, yet we are faced, on the hand, with limited knowledge of the influence and reception history of texts such as Testament of Moses and the texts uncovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls. To be on more solid ground regarding the beliefs on the tribulation in ‘common’ or ‘mainstream’ Judaism we would be better placed in seeing tribulation themes as being found in the Hebrew Bible/Septuagint. By this I mean that although the canon was not necessarily fixed —there are no hard and fast lines delimiting God’s words.—8 , it is not possible to make a historical reconstruction of ‘tribulation’ beliefs without exploring the rich resources of the law and the prophets.

    Pitre offers an insightful understanding of tribulation themes in the Testament of Moses. This work, undoubtedly, is useful for understanding the mindset/worldview for its author and initial readers. However, we simply do not know how widely read this text was, and whether its opinions were accepted by Judaism at large. Or to look at another text, we may say that the Pitre’s study of the War Scroll found at Qumran, shows us the view of tribulation from this community, but this view cannot then be placed on Common Judaism, for the relationship between a sectarian group and those outside of it is complex, with both similarities and differences.

    However, if tribulation themes, although developed in 2nd temple Judaism, are found in the law and the prophets, we can be more confident that the theme of tribulation may have been common theological currency in the ‘average’ second temple worldview. Pitre impressively has shown us the route which could be followed, but a thorough study of Law, and most definitely the prophets, would be useful.

    In my own study I have found that the curses of Deuteronomy may provide a seedbed from which later apocalyptic and tribulation themes can grow, and that once in the prophets the theme of tribulation, in one guise or another is present. For instance the book of Malachi, dated to the fourth of fifth century BC, which I will return to in discussion of the Lord’s prayer, offers a prophetic look to the arrival of the ‘day of the Lord’. OF interest to us is the fact that this text is post-exilic, perhaps contemporary to Nehemiah, and looks to a day, because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people, of reckoning.

English Translation of MT

“For behold, rthe day is coming, sburning like an oven, when tall the arrogant and tall evildoers uwill be stubble. The day that is coming ushall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.

English Translation of LXX9

For, behold, a day comes burning as an oven, and it shall consume them; and all the aliens, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that is coming shall set them on fire, saith the Lord Almighty, and there shall not be left of them root or branch.


διότι ἰδοὺ ἡμέρα κυρίου ἔρχεται καιομένη ὡς κλίβανος καὶ φλέξει αὐτούς, καὶ ἔσονται πάντες οἱ ἀλλογενεῖς καὶ πάντες οἱ ποιοῦντες ἄνομα καλάμη καὶ ἀνάψει αὐτοὺς ἡ ἡμέρα ἡ ἐρχομένη έγει κύριος παντο κράτωρ καὶ οὐ μὴ ὑπολειφθῇ ἐξ αὐτῶν ῥίζα οὐδὲ κλῆμα 10

In the recently published book by Pate, C. Marvin, and Douglas Welker Kennard. Deliverance Now and Not Yet: The New Testament and the Great Tribulation11 we find an analysis of the book of Isaiah and Zechariah for themes of tribulation. Pate and Kennard in dialogue with Dale Allison state

‘Allison does not take into consideration the Old Testament, especially Isaiah 24-27, Zechariah and Daniel12…In failing to do this, Allison overlooks the key issue regarding the tribulation.’13

It is this criticism of Pate and Kennard which can be levelled against Pitre’s work. 14

Pate and Kennard may offer us a further insight into the concept of tribulation in the first century, but their discussion is brief and they ask different questions of the texts than Pitre. They are concerned to show whether atonement is mimetic or vicarious in the texts, whereas Pitre uses the ‘return from exile’ hermeneutic. To take this discussion further, for those in support of Pitre’s basic thesis, a full analysis the ‘law and the prophets’ for tribulation themes is necessary and urgent. As will be shown in the discussion of the Lord’s prayer this study could enhance our understanding of key gospel texts.

  1. Pitre has correctly brought out themes of tribulation in second temple literature but we may note, although this does not undermine his approach, that some texts which may refer to the tribulation have not been included in his study. For instance Wisdom of Solomon 3:5-6 and 19:22 have been read, by Pate and Kennard, as ‘reorientating of the eschatological idea that the godly will undergo the Messianic Woes at the end of time to a Hellenistic setting.15 Pitre does not discuss them, they read as follows,

          1. But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

And no torment shall touch them.

2 In the eyes of fools they seemed to die;

And their departure was accounted to be their hurt,

3 And their going from us to be their ruin:

But they are in peace.

4 For though in the sight of men they be punished,

Their hope is full of immortality;

5 And having borne a little chastening, they shall receive great good;

Because God tested them, and found them worthy of himself.

6 As gold in the furnace he proved them,

And as a whole burnt offering he accepted them.

7 And in the time of their visitation they shall shine forth,

And like sparks among stubble they shall run to and fro.

8 They shall judge nations, and have dominion over peoples;

And the Lord shall reign over them for evermore.

9 They that trust on him shall understand truth,

And the faithful shall abide with him in love;

Because grace and mercy are to his chosen,

And he will graciously visit his holy ones. (Wisdom 3 1-9)16

    3) Pitre has demonstrated that an ‘expectation of messianic tribulation can be found in a diverse range of various genres of Jewish literature from the period.’17 Yet, we must be careful, as Pitre is, not to overstate our case. Although Pitre has found tribulation themes across a range of literature we are not in the position to state whether this was a theme with ‘normative’,’mainstream’ Judaism, or if it is a theme how prominent was it? Did the average Jew await/worry about/pray about the tribulation? Did Jesus wait the tribulation? Such a question cannot be easily answered, although we may, on the basis of Pitre’s work, say that it is appropriate to construct a ‘tribulation’ hypothesis, which seeks verification from the gospel data.

1JTEE 2 On reading Chapter 2 JTEE one is reminded of the the survey which was conducted by Sanders, E. P. Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1977, A previous attempt at clarifying 2nd temple Judaic views on the tribulation was recently put forward by Dale Allison who, prior to Pitre, offered the most systematic and well argued treatment of eschatological tribulation devoting a chapter to the ‘Great Tribulation in Jewish Literature’. See Allison, Dale C. End of the Ages Has Come: Early Interpretation of the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. Fortress P.,U.S, 1985.   Chapter 2

2‘What is wrong with Schweitzer’s reconstruction is immediately clear:….his hypothesis does not arise naturally from the study of the texts but seems to be imposed upon them, and the dogma which he ascribes to Jesus may not even in fact even be thoroughly grounded in the contemporary Jewish expectation. The expectation of sufferings before the Messiah comes, for example, which is absolutely critical to Schweitzer’s hypothesis, may not precede the two wars with Rome, and numerous other elements of his eschatological scheme may be queried.’ Sanders, E. P. Jesus and Judaism. London: SCM Press, 1985, 23,

3Page 5 review of Pitre by Matthew S. Harmon Grace Theological Seminary Winona Lake, Indiana, “Review of Biblical Literature.” http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5514&CodePage=3825,5514.

4Pitre JTEE 23

5The full list is 1 Enoch 93:1-10;91:11-17, 1 Enoch 91-107, The Book of Daniel, The Book of Dreams , The book of Jubilees, The Third Sibylline Oracle, the Psalms of Solomen, The Testament of Moses, 1QH, 4Q171, 4Q174 & 4Q177, 1QS, CD, 1 QM, 4Q246, 1 Enoch 37-71

6Pitre JTEE 127-129

7Ibid 41 fn. 1 this hold true for his overview of second temple themes but in his interaction with the Jesus Traditon he makes links and notices allusions/echoes with the Old Testament.

8‘Many Jews and not a few early Christians percieved God’s word in the words of the Apocrypha. During the time of Jesus, there was no closed and clearly defined canon of sacred writings.’ James Charlesworth in the Forward to Desilva, David Arthur. Introducing the Apocrypha: Message, Context, and Significance. Baker Academic, 2002.

9English Translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible The Translation of the Greek Old Testament Scriptures, Including the Apocrypha. Compiled from the Translation by Sir Lancelot C. L. Brenton 1851

10Septuaginta : With morphology. Stuttgart : Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996, c1979, S. Mal 3:19-20

11Pate, C. Marvin, and Douglas Welker Kennard. Deliverance Now and Not Yet: The New Testament and the Great Tribulation. Peter Lang Pub Inc, 2003.

12Pitre does offer some discussion of the book of Daniel but only because he assigns it a late date

13Pate, C. Marvin, and Douglas Welker Kennard. Deliverance Now and Not Yet: The New Testament and the Great Tribulation, 33-34 with pages 34-37 looking at Isaiah, 37-39 Zechariah, 39-41 at Daniel

14Also of inetrest to us from Pate and kennard is their discussion of 2 and 4 Maccabees, books which Pitre fails to include in his study, which can be read successfully, in my opinion, against a tribulation backdrop. See 42-51

15Pate, C. Marvin, and Douglas Welker Kennard. Deliverance Now and Not Yet: The New Testament and the Great Tribulation 56-57

16Charles, Robert Henry (Hrsg.): Apocrypha of the Old Testament. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004, S. 1:538-539

17 JTEE 128

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In this post I will look at Jesus’ prediction of future death and ressurection found in Mark 9:30. This verse mentions the ‘son of man’. What does this mean?

Jesus uses the phrase ‘son of man’ as a self designation in all four gospels. In Mark’s gospel it appears in 13 different verses.

Mark 2:10 (ESV)
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—

Mark 2:28 (ESV)
28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Mark 8:31 (ESV)
31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.

Mark 8:38 (ESV)
38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 9:9 (ESV)
9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

Mark 9:12 (ESV)
12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

Mark 9:31 (ESV)
31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”

Mark 10:33 (ESV)
33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles.

Mark 10:45 (ESV)
45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 13:26 (ESV)
26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.

Mark 14:21 (ESV)
21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Mark 14:41 (ESV)
41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Mark 14:62 (ESV)
62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”


He uses the phrase to speak of his own authority (Mark 2:10, Mark 2:28) , about this own death and resurrection. (8:31, 9:9,12,31; 10:33,45,14:21, 14:41), and his future coming (Mk 8:38,13:26,14:62).

There is little doubt that Daniel 7 is in mind. In Daniel the son of man is a representative of Israel (sons of the most high) who suffer defeat at the hands of their enemies (Dan 7:21,25). This ‘son of man’ is brought before the LORD and is vindicating receiving dominion, glory and a kingdom. (Dan 7:13)


Bearing this in mind we can look at Mark 9:31 and postulate that Jesus saw his future death and vindication as part of the story of Israel. He represents Israel and will suffer for them. In his death and resurrection he brings to fulfilment the promises of old. God will act in Jesus to being about what he always said he would. Through the son of man, and those he represents, vindication will occur. We may also say that in his death Jesus takes on the suffering which was due to Israel. He takes on the curse of exile and exhausts it, thus allowing the arrival of the eschaton and vindication for the covenant people.



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A few months ago as part of my research I looked at the interpretation of Mark 10:45. The full document is available here in PDF format mark-10-45-swales. The study seeks to interact with the classic work by Morna Hooker Jesus and the Servant,  Scott McKnight Jesus and his Death and it of interest to those who are interested with the Steve Chalke, NT Wright, Pierced for our Transgressions  ‘Penal Substitution’ debate.  It also looks at the idea of Jesus being understood as the suffering servant of Is 53.

Here is the introduction:


Mark 10:45: How Did Jesus understand his death?


γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου ουκ ηλθεν διακονηθηναι

αλλα διακονησαι και δουναι την ψυχην αυτου

λυτρον αντι πολλων1

The church, in understanding the crucifixion of Jesus soteriologically, has frequently made a link between the suffering of the servant in Deutero-Isaiah (DI) and the passion of Jesus—Jesus, like the servant of DI, vicariously suffers the punishment that is due for others. This point, however, is contentious within scholarship, as for some scholars the servant-Jesus motif is the theological development of the later Christian church, whereas for others the servant-Jesus motif can be traced back to Jesus himself.2


This debate takes places at both macro and micro levels. By macro I mean those who seek to offer full face portraits of the historical Jesus such as Wright3, Dunn4, Meier5 and Crossan, whereas by micro I refer to those who, through monographs and scholarly articles, offer detailed exegesis of particular gospel passages6. At a micro level Mark 10:45 is possibly the most debated verse within the gospels. For some this offers a full blown theory of the atonement coming from the lips of Jesus, whereas others debate its authenticity, whilst still others although not disputing its authenticity do not see substitutionary/servant theology within it. For any involved in historical Jesus research, whether it be at a macro or micro level, it is a fruitful endeavor to engage with Hooker’s challenging thesis Jesus and the Servant (1959),7 This book advocates the view that we do not find any correlation, within the gospels, between the death/suffering of Jesus and the suffering of the servant.


In this paper I intend to summarize and critique Hooker’s position whilst keeping a close eye on issues relating to ‘Historical Jesus’ methodology and Jesus’ self understanding regarding his death. I will limit my micro exploration of Jesus and the Servant to issues pertaining to Mark 10:45, and seek to draw out conclusions that show the interplay between macro and micro.


Following the flow of Jesus and the Servant we shall look at8:


The Servant Passages: Their meaning and Background9

Jewish Interpretations of the Servant10

Mark 10:45 and the Servant 11

1 Mk 10:45

2 For popular and influential popular writings see the recently published Pierced for Our Transgressions 52-67 and the classic work by John Stott Cross of Christ 133-163 ‘It seems to be definite beyond doubt, then, that Jesus applied Isaiah 53 to himself and that he understood his death in the light of it as a sin bearing death’ 147. Numerous monographs and journals attacks and defend the authenticity of Mark 10:45. Rainer Riesner presents a scholarly and novel approach to its authenticity Back To the Historical Jesus Through Paul and His School (Ransom Logion—Mark 10.45; Matthew 20.28) in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 2003; 1; 171

3 N.T. Wright Jesus and the Victory of God: ‘I propose then, that we can credibly reconstruct a mindset in which a first-century Jew could come to believe that YHWH would act through the suffering of a particular individual in whom Israel’s sufferings were focused; hat this suffering would carry redemptive significance; and that this individual would be himself. And I propose that we can plausible suggest that this was the mindset of Jesus himself.” 593

4 James D.G. Dunn Jesus Remembered pp 809-818“The upshot [after looking at Luke 22:37, Mark 10:45, 14:24] is that a convincing case cannot be made that Jesus saw himself as the suffering servant.”

5 J.P Meier A Marginal Jew The final, as yet unpublished, volume will look Jesus death and self understanding.

6 Such as McKnight, Hooker and a host of others.

7 Also C.K Barrett ‘The Background of Mark 10:45’ ‘[It] appears that the connection between Mark 10:45 and Isa 53 is much less definite and more tenuous that is often supposed.’

8 For the purpose of this study we will not be looking at Hooker’s survey of scholarship (Ch 1), linguistic parallels outside of Mark 10:45, or at the development of the servant concept within the early church.(Chapters 5-7)

9 Jesus and the Servant Ch. 2

10 ibid. Chapter 3

11 ibid. Chapter 4

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