Monday, October 19, 2009

The Condemned King: Mark 15 and the doctrine of penal substitution


My article "The Condemned King: Mark 15 and the doctrine of penal substitution" is currently posted at Ref 21 and at The Gospel Coalition site. Here's opening paragraph:
In order to establish the doctrine of penal substitution we are not dependent on a few isolated proof-texts here and there in Scripture. The doctrine is woven indelibly into the very fabric of the account of the crucifixion, with numerous threads drawn from the Old Testament. Rather than instinctively looking to the gospels to provide the facts about the crucifixion, and to the letters to supply the meaning of those facts, we must turn to the Old Testament as the vantage point from which we are to survey the cross. Antecedent Scripture provides us with all the categories we need to understand the cross.
You can read the rest here

17 comments:

dave bish said...

Excellent, and ditto the resurrection.

Nick said...

1) He was handed over to the Gentiles. This was done by the Jews, acting sinfully, as a form of humiliation, not by the Father. You were right to quote Mk 10:33f, but that just affirms who is really "executing judgment" (and false judgment at that) on Christ: 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. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.
Note the focus here, NOTHING about the Father's wrath, but instead the indignant and sinful Jews ONCE AGAIN being rebelling against God. The Jews killed and mocked him, not the Father. This is the same thing that the Jews did to the Prophets, they mocked and killed them. There is no mention at all of this being done according to God's wrath, and the evidence actually speaks against it.


2. He was silent before his accusers
He was silent because it was a mock court, false charges. He had nothing to prove because the whole thing was a hoax. When put under the highest oath of the high priest, Christ responded and was condemned. This is a far cry of Jesus being under God's wrath.


3. He was hung on a tree
This goes along with number 2 above, it was a murder, in the body, by sinners. No indication of God's wrath. Deut 21 and Gal 3 indicate this is the most humiliating way to die, which is to go along with the theme of the Jews killing their own God and king. The Gospels paint the whole Crucifixion as a cosmic injustice, not an event where God was focusing His wrath and executing justice. Ironic if that is indeed the message they sought to convey. On top of all this, Christ underwent a physical death only, which is not equivalent to God casting someone in hell (Mat 10:28).

4. He was mocked by his enemies
This goes along with the rest of the mockeries described earlier, esp note 2. The whole point of the Resurrection was to vindicate the fact Jesus was the Messiah and God would indeed deliver Him from his enemies, all of which would be totally eclipsed if this was dying under God's wrath.

5. He died in the darkness
The darkness was for the sake of showing God was not happy at the injustice that took place. Not an indication of His wrath on Christ.


6. He was forsaken by God
From a Trinitarian and Christological perspective, Jesus was not in fact forsaken. So how was he 'forsaken' then? The answer is quite simple and actually sits in a significant bit of information you forgot to include: Jesus is quoting Psalm 22. (and other parts Psalm 22 are actually recalled as well). In Psalm 22 we see the servant is asking why God doesn't deliver him from his enemies, but never is this an issue of wrath, and even then the Psalm speaks of hope about how God never really did abandon him (22:24).

For you to 'read into' the forsaken clause this your comments like these:
"in a way that we cannot comprehend...we believe that the Son of God knew all the torments of a condemned sinner, and all the relational distance that guilty sinners will endure"
This is simply unacceptable exegesis and shows a clear reading into the text something that isnt there. This is especially serious in that you didn't address the fact Psalm 22 is being quoted, and is a very clear answer. No need or excuse for "in a way we cannot comprehend...Jesus knew the torments of a sinner"
You even began this post speaking of how we need to look back to the OT, and yet at this most critical juncture you don't.

A plain look at the facts shows that all of this is explained through the lens of Mark 10:33f and Psalm 22. In those texts we see the crucifixion is a matter of murder of God's messenger, and His subsequent vindication via Resurrection. Your analysis has practically made Christ's attackers mere bystanders, rather than the rebellious men they were.

Martin Downes said...

Nick,

You may think that this is a "plain look at the facts" and "unnacceptable exegesis" but to me your explanations are tendentious and full of special pleading. You have not engaged with the references that I supplied from the Psalms, Deuteronomy, Ezra, Isaiah, Lamentations, or Amos. Nor is your reference to, and use of, Psalm 22 self-evidently correct. Was Jesus forsaken? By whom? For what purpose?

Are you denying that Jesus is the true Israel? That he, by way of representation and substitution, endured the covenant curses? That the cross to him was the exile? Whose curse did he experience?

Nick said...

Sorry for the delayed response.

You say I have not engaged your references to Psalms, Deuteronomy, Ezra, etc, etc. The truth is, I have, but most in regards to saying those texts don't apply - which is a valid criticism. You cannot simply brush off my criticisms, especially when the burden is on you to prove such and such was a sign of God's wrath when no explicit indication of such is given.


I can disprove your overall reasoning of most of your points with a very simple example: Martyrdom. Martyrdom is about God not protecting a believer who was delivered over to enemies and then put to death by them. By your logic, if they martyr was treated that way, God's wrath must have been upon that martyr. This would mean the persecuted Prophets and Apostles must have been under God's wrath - again according to your logic.
This is obviously very wrong, but my point stands: A righteous man undergoing persecution in no way implies God's wrath upon them; quite the opposite in fact.

Did Peter and the Apostles flee and deny Christ because God's wrath was on them? Not at all, they were terrified of the out of control Jewish persecutors at the scene.

In the same way, the treatment of Jesus was akin to the long history of Jewish treatment of God's Messengers: Persecution, without any indication of being under God's judgment.


What I still find astonishing is that the only direct OT quote in Mark 15 was from Psalm 22 - a key text to consider, and I did - which is a text you never even analyzed.

You say my comments on Psalm 22 were not self evidently correct.
My case: Jesus was 'forsaken' in that the Father did not rescue Him from persecutions, this is precisely how Pslam 22 as a whole describes the situation.
Consider the alternative: Jesus was forsaken in a spiritual sense - as a sinner is forsake, to use your terminology - which is a sense contrary to Psalm 22 as a whole and contrary to Trinitarian theology (for the Father cannot forsake the Son in such a sense).

Martin Downes said...

Nick,

I think you are a little overconfident in your powers of reasoning in that second paragraph. Your comments about martyrdom are irrelevant when it comes to the death of Jesus. Jesus' death was a ransom for many, he was to drink the cup (that powerful OT symbol of God's outpoured anger against sinners) that the Father had given him, and his death tore down the curtain in the Temple. His death is in a totally different category to that of anyone who has died for the sake of his name. But, hey, thanks for your confidence that you can "disprove" my "overall reasoning "with a very simple example."

Now, on this point:

"You cannot simply brush off my criticisms, especially when the burden is on you to prove such and such was a sign of God's wrath when no explicit indication of such is given."

Let me run through my questions again. Are you denying that Jesus is the true Israel? That he, by way of representation and substitution, endured the covenant curses? That the cross to him was the exile? He after all is God's Son called out from Egypt and tested in the wilderness. My arguments about the signs of judgement are directly related to this sub-structure that sees Jesus as the Son, servant, and King.

This is the nub of the issue.

What do you want the text to say, and how do you want it to say it, to prove that there is an "explicit indication" of God's wrath? What would be necessary? Do allusions count? Or must we have a particular form of words?

Take the case of the darkness, one of the six signs. You don't like my interpretation and offer this instead:

"The darkness was for the sake of showing God was not happy at the injustice that took place."

How do you know this? There is no explicit wording in the text that tells you this. Is there something elsewhere in Scripture that you could point us to? Or is this something that you have come up with yourself? Please explain why you have interpreted the text in this way.

Can you show me any good reason why we should not see an allusion to Exodus? Or to Deut. 28? Or to Amos?

Nick said...

MD: I think you are a little overconfident in your powers of reasoning in that second paragraph. Your comments about martyrdom are irrelevant when it comes to the death of Jesus. Jesus' death was a ransom for many, he was to drink the cup (that powerful OT symbol of God's outpoured anger against sinners) that the Father had given him, and his death tore down the curtain in the Temple. His death is in a totally different category to that of anyone who has died for the sake of his name. But, hey, thanks for your confidence that you can "disprove" my "overall reasoning "with a very simple example."

Nick: You appear to have missed my point, which is that a righteous man undergoing persecution does not automatically imply God's wrath is on them, yet this is precisely what you've assumed the whole time. Paul puts Jesus and the Prophets in the same category of being murdered by the disobedient Jews (1 Thes 2:14-15). Acts repeatedly emphasizes the fact Jesus was murdered by the Jews and contrasts it to God raising Him from the dead.
As for Jesus drinking the cup, some argue it is the Cup of God's wrath, but Mk 10:38f clearly states Jesus invites the Apostles to drink of that cup and they accept...this is flatly incompatible with Penal Substitution and taking God's wrath. Thus, the cup is none other than persecutions which God's faithful must endure. The tearing down of the curtain says nothing about God's wrath, only that the Mosaic Covenant is formally abolished.


MD: Let me run through my questions again. Are you denying that Jesus is the true Israel?

Nick: He is "Israel" in the sense he is part of that lineage and He is the King of Israel, and that His life embodies Israel's history.

MD: That he, by way of representation and substitution, endured the covenant curses?

Nick: Not by direct substitution (having their guilt imputed), but for the purpose of freeing others from their curse. His death was a 'ransom' meaning it was a payoff price rather than a penal substitution. His death caused the Old system to be abolished, in turn freeing those under it's jurisdiction (Heb 9:15). In terms such as 'propitiation', His obedience unto death was pleasing in God's sight such that it turned away His wrath on men, in the sense Phinehas turned away God's wrath by upholding God's honor (see Num 25:1-13).

MD: That the cross to him was the exile?

Nick: I'm not sure what you mean by this. If you mean Jesus was somehow 'exiled' as a unregenerate is 'exiled' from God, I would deny that.

MD: He after all is God's Son called out from Egypt and tested in the wilderness. My arguments about the signs of judgement are directly related to this sub-structure that sees Jesus as the Son, servant, and King.

Nick: Yes he was 'called out of Egypt and tested in the wilderness', but that wasn't the exile of Babylon, nor does that apply to the Cross. Out of Egypt applies to his infancy (Mt 2:13-15), and wilderness applies to His testing in the desert by Satan (Mt 4:1-11).

Nick said...

MD: What do you want the text to say, and how do you want it to say it, to prove that there is an "explicit indication" of God's wrath? What would be necessary? Do allusions count? Or must we have a particular form of words?

Nick: When God's wrath is upon someone in Scripture, there is often pretty clear information (God's anger burned, God sent a plague, etc, etc). In the case of the murder of His Son, we don't see that.

MD: Take the case of the darkness, one of the six signs. You don't like my interpretation and offer this instead:
"The darkness was for the sake of showing God was not happy at the injustice that took place."
How do you know this? There is no explicit wording in the text that tells you this. Is there something elsewhere in Scripture that you could point us to? Or is this something that you have come up with yourself? Please explain why you have interpreted the text in this way.

Nick: Two things I consider are this takes place as Jesus is quoting Psalm 22, a Psalm in which the saint is not under God's wrath and Mk 15:39 says the centurion saw this and recognized Jesus was the Son of God, an admission that Jesus was in fact innocent and a cosmic injustice took place.


MD: Can you show me any good reason why we should not see an allusion to Exodus? Or to Deut. 28? Or to Amos?

Nick: Only an allusion in that God uses the elements to reveal His displeasure. In all those cases, God is getting people's attention, and that's what happened at the Cross: God is showing sinners the grave injustice that took place. I'm not alone in taking this view on the darkness, many others do, and Calvin even recognizes it:
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/calvin/calcom33.ii.xlii.html

Martin Downes said...

Nick,

In that section of Calvin's commentary that you referred me to he says "And, indeed, it was an astonishing display of the wrath of God that he did not spare even his only begotten Son, and was not appeased in any other way than by that price of expiation."

This, surely, is what you are criticizing me for holding to.

Nick said...

But note that 'detail' is when Calvin goes into his more personal opinion, that was not the general opinion of commentators before him (as he recognizes in his preceding comments).

Augustinian Successor said...

Nick,

Jesus never died a martyr's death. He died a SINNER, transgressor, criminal, a PARIAH, outcast both by God and men.

Augustinian Successor said...

Calvin held to the Anselmic view of the Atonement. That view commits the proponents to recognise the wrath of God in action.

Augustinian Successor said...

Was God's wrath poured on Jesus at the Cross?

Yes. The OT passages allude to this very clearly. For example,

Isaiah 53:

"Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Augustinian Successor said...

NT passage:

1 John 2:

"And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

To propitiate is to satisfy, appease, etc.

I am not too sure but I think you probably have a distorted understanding of the word, "wrath", Nick.

Wrath is not necessarily co-terminous or same equation as hatred.

Wrath is God's JUDGMENT on SINNERS. Thus, wrath is God's way of RELATING to sinners. The communion that was enjoyed before the FALL is now replaced by another type. One which is characterised by the Law as the accusing voice of the conscience and the judgment of death.

Jesus died on the Cross to precisely save sinners from sin, Law and death.

On the Cross, Jesus who was born under the Law entered our condition. To be born under the Law is to be born under the curse of the Law. So, Jesus bore the curse and wrath of God.

Galatians 3:13

"Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree ..."

Augustinian Successor said...

Galatians 4:

"Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.

And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ."

Augustinian Successor said...

Nick,

God did not send His Son to die a martyr's death. He never did.

If He did, then Jesus would be merely an EXAMPLE, a MOSES, another Lawgiver. Can such a Person save us???

Augustinian Successor said...

THE CATECHISM OF TRENT

On the Creed:-

Article IV:

***Reasons Why Christ Suffered***

The reasons why the Saviour suffered are also to be explained, that thus the greatness and intensity of the divine love towards us may the more fully appear. Should anyone inquire why the Son of God underwent His most bitter Passion, he will find that besides the guilt inherited from our first parents the principal causes were the vice's and crimes which have been perpetrated from the beginning of the world to the present day and those which will be committed to the end of time. In His Passion and death the Son of God, our Saviour, intended to atone for and blot out the sins of all ages, to offer for them to his Father a full and abundant satisfaction.

*Besides, to increase the dignity of this mystery, Christ not only suffered for sinners, but even for those who were the very authors and ministers of all the torments He endured. Of this the Apostle reminds us in these words addressed to the Hebrews: Think diligently upon him that endured such opposition from sinners against himself; that you be not wearied, fainting in your minds. In this guilt are involved all those who fall frequently into sin; for, as our sins consigned Christ the Lord to the death of the cross, most certainly those who wallow in sin and iniquity crucify to themselves again the Son of God, as far as in them lies, and make a mockery of Him. This guilt seems more enormous in us than in the Jews, since according to the testimony of the same Apostle: If they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; while we, on the contrary, professing to know Him, yet denying Him by our actions, seem in some sort to lay violent hands on him."*

Augustinian Successor said...

As the Catechism says that it was you and I who nailed Jesus on the Cross. We did it. We killed Him. We killed God. Like the Jews, we crucified Him. So, he did not die for a cause or even for God. He died for you and me.