Category Archives: New Testament

Pauline Theology of Atonement

This was an assignment I wrote in a Pauline Theology class. The class was specifically an introduction to the “New Perspective on Paul”. Unfortunately, I can’t find the syllabus now, so I don’t know what the parameters were for this paper. Reading it though, it obviously was some sort of response to the chapters concerning atonement in the textbooks that we used, James Dunn’s The Theology of Paul the Apostle and the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (The chapter on Atonement was written by James Green).

Chris Evangelista
Dr. Terry Donaldson
14 November 2012


It would seem that whether or not Romans 3:25 can be seen as supporting a “penal substitutionary” view of Jesus Christ’s salvation hinges on whether you translate hilasterion as “propitiation” or “expiation”. According to Dunn, “expiation”, simply meaning the removal of sin, is the correct term while “propitiation”, which carries the connotation of appeasing God, is problematic (Dunn, 213-214). This would seem to place Dunn firmly against penal substitution as the view of salvation.

Dunn makes his argument based on the Septuagint’s use of the word hilasterion, as the lid of the ark (Ibid, 213). He takes this line of argument further by showing the usage of the Hebrew verb. He writes: “In Hebrew usage God is never the object of the key verb (kipper). Properly speaking, in the Israelite cult, God is never ‘propitiated’ or ‘appeased.’ The objective of the atoning act is rather the removal of sin” (Ibid, 214). As such, the issue at hand is whether God is the one acting for the purpose of our salvation or he is acted upon. To be sure, Dunn explains further: “Of course, the atoning act thus removes the sin which provoked God’s wrath, but it does so by acting on the sin rather than on God” (Ibid). Certainly, Dunn’s argument that sin was taken away (expiated) by the blood of Jesus Christ as the semantic meaning of Romans 3:25 is quite convincing. But as per his own admission in that previous quote (though not quite saying it outright), the effect of this taking away of sin is that God is appeased through this action (propitiated).

I believe this reason that Green writes in the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters that “Paul seems never to tire of adding new images to his interpretive vocabulary by way of explicating its significance” (DPL, 203). Most relevant to the argument at hand is that Green adds another category for the effect of Jesus Christ’s salvation, reconciliation, which he actually places against expiation and propitiation as a competing view, relating these terms of the ideas of satisfaction and doctrines of substitution (Ibid). Again, though, Green’s argument is relevant because it acknowledges the plurality with which Paul speaks about effects and benefits of the cross. As Green writes: “it is important that we come to terms with the more fundamental reality that Paul has no one way of explicating the meaning of the cross” (Ibid, 204).

Certainly, when we look at the many ways (several dozen, according to Green) which Paul uses to explain the significance and benefit of the death of Christ, this becomes the case. Dunn’s view of atoning sacrifice in the tradition of the Israelite cult is seen in passages such as Romans 8:3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, and passages that use the phrase “in/through his blood” in addition to Romans 3:25 (Dunn, 216-217). Colossians 2:13-14 gives a great middle point view, without even using the words propitiation or expiation, for the penal substitutionary model and Dunn’s sacrifice model, speaking about God’s work to cancel out the legal demands against us: “ God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.” (NRSV)

In addition to these passages, Green examines two passages which contain layers of imagery used to explicate Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. In these two passages, 2 Corinthians 5:14-6:2 and Galatians 3:10-14, Green finds the categories of vicarious substitution, representation, sacrifice, justification, forgiveness and new creation (DPL, 204). Most appealing about Green’s argument is how he takes into account the context of the passage for explaining why Paul might have used this particular imagery for the cross. For example, while covering reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5, Green writes: “Paul’s choice of terminology and logic of argumentation is tailored to its context, for here Paul not only needs to counter the triumphalistic boasting of his opponents at Corinth but also to overcome the disharmony between himself and his ‘children’ at Corinth. Rooting the message of reconciliation fundamentally in the sacrificial death of Jesus and asserting that reconciliation entails living no longer for oneself but for Christ (and thus for others), he addresses his first aim” (Ibid). It is clear, then, that Paul not only had theological aims in his pursuit of explicating the significance of Christ’s death, but a very real pastoral concern in doing so. Indeed, this could very well be reason why Paul uses such a plurality of imagery, and why it is so difficult to settle on just one.

In conclusion, I believe that Dunn’s argument that Romans 3:25 supports a sacrificial view of the cross in the same tradition as Old Testament sacrifices is an accurate explanation of the passage. However, I don’t believe that it should be used as evidence that the sacrificial view is the only explanation for the cross. I prefer Green’s treatment of multiple passages in DPL, which allows for multiple views of the cross, as well it should because Paul used multiple images for explicating the cross. I think Paul did so in order to address the pastoral concerns of the congregations he was writing to, concerns which could most effectively addressed by a plurality of implications for Christ’s death on the cross.

1 John 1:5-11

Basic Translation

Verse 5: and / to be (PAI 3sg) / the / message / to be (AAI 3sg) / to hear (PerAI 1pl) / from / him / to announce (PAI 1pl) / to you / for / God / of light / to be (PAI 3sg) / and / darkness / in him / not / to be (PAI 3sg) at all

Verse 6: If / to say (AAS 1pl) that / fellowship / to have (PAI 1pl) / with him / and / in / the darkness /to walk (PAS 1pl) / to lie (PDI 1pl) / and / not / to practice (PAI 1pl) / the truth

Verse 7: If / but / in / the light / to walk (PAS 1pl) / just as / he / to be (PAI 3sg) / in / the light / fellowship / to have (PAU 1pl) / with / each other / and / the blood / of Jesus / the son / of him / to cleanse (PAI 3sg) / us / from / all / sin

Verse 8: If / to say (AAS 1pl) / that / sin / not / to have (PAI 1pl) / ourselves / to lead astray (PAI 1pl) / and / the truth / not / to be (PAI 3sg) / in / us

Verse 9: If / to confess (PAS 1pl) / the sins / of us / faithful / to be (PAI 3sg) / and just /so that / to forgive (AAS 3sg) / us / the sins / and / to cleanse (AAS 3sg) / us / from / all / unrighteousness

Verse 10: If / to say (AAS 1pl) / that / not / to sin (PerAI 1pl) / liar / to make (PAI 1pl) / him / and / the word / of him / not / to be (PAI 3sg) / in / us

Full Translation

So, this is the message which we have heard from him and are announcing to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. If we say that we have fellowship with but we walk in darkness then we are lying and are not practising the truth! But if we walk in the light, just as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of his son, Jesus, cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we do not have sin, then we lead ourselves astray, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just so that he might forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, then we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

Cathy Ramos

1 John 1:1-4 Translation

Basic Translation

Verse 1: What / to be (IAI 3sg) / from / beginmning / what / to hear (PerAI 1pl) / What / to perceive (PerAI 1pl) / the eyes / of us / what / to look at (ADI 1pl) / and / what / hands / of us / to touch (AAI 3pl) / converning / the word / of life

Verse 2: And / the life / to reveal (API 3sg) / and / to see (PerAI 1pl) / and / to bear witness (PAI 1pl) / and / to announce (PAI 1pl) / to you / the life / the eternal / which / to be (IAI 3sg) / with / the father / and / to reveal (API 3sg) / to us

Verse 3: What / to see (PerAI 1pl) / and / to hear (PerAI 1pl) / to proclaim (PAI 1pl) / and to you / so that / and / you / fellowship / to have (PAS 2pl) / with / us / and / the fellowship / but / our / with / the father / and / with / the son / of him / Jesus / Christ

Verse 4: And / this / to write (PAI 1pl) / to you / in order that / grace / of us / to complete (PerAS 3sg)

Full Translation

What was from the beginning: what we have heard, what we our eyes have seen, what we looked at and what our hands touched concerning the Word of Life… Yes! The life was revealed! We have seen it. We bear witness to it. And we are announcing it to you! It is Life Eternal that was with that was with the father. It’s what was revealed to us. What we have seen and what we have heard we are proclaiming also to you so that you may have fellowship with us. Indeed, just as our fellowship is with the father and with his son, Jesus Christ. We are writing this to you so that our joy might be complete.

Jesus and Judaism: The Essenes

Chris Evangelista
Catherine Sider-Hamilton
30 November 2011

Jesus and Judaism: The Essenes

The Essenes were a Jewish sect that existed for approximately three hundred years between the second century BCE and the end of the first century CE. Little is known about the sect; and in fact, the term “Essene” does not even occur in the New Testament. Nonetheless, important Greek and Latin writers such as Josephus, Philo, and Pliny describe the sect in their writings. Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947 at the Qumran caves on the northwest shores of the Dead Sea, many scholars have tended to associate the community living at Qumran with the Essenes.[1]

The Jewish historian Josephus provides the most extensive descriptions of the Essenes. In his work The Jewish War, Joseph describe the Essenes as a group living out strictly disciplined lives: “These Essenes reject pleasures as an evil, but esteem continence, and the conquest over our passions, to be virtue.”[2] They also seem to prefer solitude and celibacy; so their means of growth is primarily through enlisting “other persons’ children”. They don’t however seem to reject marriage altogether (or at least part of the sect did not).[3] They do reject wealth, choosing to live ascetic lives, and holding their property in common (in fact, this was a law in the community). They seem to also take purity laws seriously, allowing it to affect what substances they come in contact with and how they dress as well. They do not seem to have a centralized location, but are scattered through out various cities, though they do move around from time to time. Continue reading

Exploring the Kerygma, Part 2

Chris Evangelista
Catherine Sider Hamilton
2 November 2011

Exploring the Kerygma: Part 2

Section 1
Four elements of the core kerygma can be clearly seen through a cursory reading of Matthew 27:45-60. Most obviously, Jesus’ death is at the forefront as it is the account of his crucifixion. In addition, there is a statement establishing that Jesus is the Messiah as the centurion utters in amazement: “Truly this was the Son of God!” (27:54, ESV). Also, it is also explicitly stated that several witnesses were “looking from a distance, [witnesses] who had followed Jesus from Galilee” (27:55, ESV). Finally, Jesus’ burial was narrated at the end of the pericope. Of these four elements, Jesus’ death and burial really stand as the main emphases, as this pericope is, after all, an account in which Jesus’ death is central. However, it does seem that the author did take care to mention that certain people were watching from a distance, emphasizing the fact that there are witnesses to this event.

While these four elements can easily be seen, a fifth one may also be discerned through careful reading and reasoning. This element is that these events are accomplished in God’s power. This is evident in the curtain being torn in two, the earth shaking and rocks splitting, and some of the saints coming back to life (27:51-53). Though these events are not explained in the passage, such astonishing events occurring at the moment of Jesus’ death can only suggest that God was supernaturally at work throughout the event.

On the one hand, several elements would seem to be missing from the passage at first reading. Foremost of this is the explanation that all of this had happened for the forgiveness of sin. Any thought of the resurrection is also missing, though to be sure, this will be covered later on in the narrative. Finally, also seemingly absent is any reference to these events fulfilling Old Testament scripture.

On the other hand, we may also see several elements being added in this account. Most curiously, there is the declaration of Jesus as the “Son of God”, which although is one of the elements of the core kerygma, who makes the declaration comes as a surprise. It is a Roman centurion and not one of the disciples, witnesses, or even a Jew who recognizes Jesus as such at the moment of his death. Another added element is in verse 50 where it says that Jesus “yielded up his spirit” at the moment of his death. This seems to suggest that Jesus was in control even of his own death, which shows his willingness to sacrifice himself to death. Finally, as mentioned above, the supernatural events occurring in verses 51-53 are not part of the core kerygma, though it may be seen as an extension of other elements from the core. Continue reading

Exploring the Kerygma, Part 1

My second paper of 2011-2012 … Grade received: A-

Chris Evangelista
Prof. Catherine Hamilton
5 October 2011

Exploring the Kerygma: Part 1

Four constituent parts of the Gospel message can be discerned to have been proclaimed in the early church: (1) Jesus died, (2) he rose from the dead, (3) he physically appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, and (4) all of these occurred in accordance to Jewish scriptures. These elements were drawn out of a process of closely reading and comparing Paul’s exhortation in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, and the context and content of five sermons in Acts found in 2:14-39, 3:12-26, 4:8-12, 5:30-32, and 10:34-43.

That Jesus died and rose again are the two elements of the core Gospel message that are most obvious in the passages listed above. It seems that the disciples intended to be quite clear that this really happened, and that these two elements must be part of the core message. The fact that Jesus rose again from the dead is even proclaimed twice in the Acts 2 (verses 24 and 36) and Acts 3 (verses 15 and 26) sermons. To be sure, variations can be found between each of the passages; however, these variations are somewhat superficial.

Continue reading