Volume 20, Number 1 (Spring 2009)

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  • by William D. Barrick

    Scholars are still puzzled over the appearance of “Ur of the Chaldeans” in Gen 11:28 and 31. Proposed solutions to the problem have either called it an anachronism or an example of post-Mosaic textual updating, or else they hold that Moses wrote the text just as it stands because he knew about the Chaldeans in his day. This article offers linguistic, genealogical, and historical evidence in supporting the last of these options. Linguistically, “Chaldeans” could be a later spelling of the term Kaśdîm in Gen 11:28, 31, according to this option. This solution is consistent with Moses’ knowing the Aramean origins of Abraham and his family as reflected in Gen 10:22; 31:47; and Deut 26:5, but such origins have been issues that have been open to debate. Genealogically, certain connections raise the possibility that the Chaldeans were relatives of Abraham. Historically, the problem is that extrabiblical references to the Chaldeans do not occur until the times of Ashurnasirpal II or III (883-859 B.C.). Yet such is a problem only if one subjugates the early biblical (i.e., Mosaic) references to later secular texts. Secular sources need not have greater authority than the Bible. Extrabiblical evidence itself has some hints that the Chaldeans’ rise to power may have preceded the time of Moses. Though it is impossible at this point to resolve the problem fully, the option supported by linguistic, genealogical, and historical evidence best accords with one’s adherence to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy.

  • by Robert L. Thomas

    After being criticized for years because of its “do-nothing passivity,” Dispensationalism has most recently received criticism for its undue influence on foreign policies of the United States and England. Timothy P. Weber’s case against Dispensationalism relates mostly to the United States, and Stephen Sizer faults the system’s impact on both Great Britain and the USA. The land-promise aspect of God’s promise to Abraham, a promise repeated frequently throughout the OT, is the crux of the issue for both critics: to whom does the land of Israel belong? Covenant theologians, in line with their view that the church has replaced Israel in the ongoing program of God, deny that the land-promise to Israel is still valid. The approach of New Covenant Theology takes the physical land promise as being fulfilled in the spiritual salvation of God’s people. Kingdom Theology takes an “already/not yet” approach to NT teaching about the kingdom, which essentially denies Israel a central role in the future kingdom. Though Progressive Dispensationalism is more “Israelitish” than Kingdom Theology regarding the future kingdom, that system is quite ambivalent on how it sees a fulfillment of the land promise to Israel. Dispensationalism is the only system that takes the land promise in the way that Abraham understood God when He made the promise. It is no wonder then that the USA and Great Britain have been politically favorable to Israel in light of Dispensationalism’s indirect influence on their foreign policies. Dispensationalism has also evidenced a largely overlooked social impact in the public square.

  • by S. Lewis Johnson, Jr.

    Persistent efforts to explain “the Israel of God” in Gal 6:16 as a reference to the church defy overwhelming grammatical, exegetical, and theological evidence that the expression refers to ethnic Israel. Among contemporary interpreters, three views of the phrase’s meaning emerge: (1) “The Israel of God” is the church; (2) “The Israel of God” is the remnant of Israelites in the church; and (3) “The Israel of God” is the future redeemed nation. View 1 suffers from the grammatical and syntactical weakness of endorsing the meaning of the Greek particle kai as “namely,” a rare usage of that word. Exegetically, View 1 is also weak in choosing to define “Israel” as the church, a usage that appears nowhere else in biblical literature. View 1 also is lacking theologically because the name “Israel” is not applied to the church at any time in history until A.D. 160. Views 2 and 3 coincide grammatically and syntactically, exegetically, and theologically in positive support for those views by taking kai in its frequent continuative or copulative sense and by understanding “Israel” as a reference to ethnic Israel. View 3 shows its exegetical superiority to View 2 through the six points of Peter Richardson, which develop the ethnic nature of “Israel,” and by recalling Paul’s eschatological outlook for ethnic Israel in Rom 11:26. Theologically, View 3 jibes with Paul’s teaching about two kinds of Israelites, the believing ones and the unbelieving ones. Those who persist in advocating View 1 present a classic case in tendentious exegesis.

  • by Michael J. Vlach

    Some replacement theologians prefer the title “fulfillment theology” in describing their view of Israel’s current and future role in relation to the church. Since “supersessionism” is a term that describes both “replacement theology” and “fulfillment theology,” that term can be used interchangeably with “replacement” and “fulfillment” terminology in describing various forms which the two theologies may take. Supersessionism is the view that the NT church is the new and/or true Israel that has forever superseded the nation Israel as the people of God. It may take the form of “punitive supersessionism,” i.e., God is punishing Israel for her rejection of Christ. Or it may be in the form of “economic supersessionism,” i.e., it was God’s plan for Israel’s role as the people of God to expire with the coming of Christ and be replaced by the church. The final form of supersessionism is “structural supersessionism,” i.e., the OT Scriptures are largely indecisive in formulation of Christian conviction about God’s work as consummator and redeemer. Strong supersessionists hold that Israel has no future in the plan of God, but moderate supersessionists see a divine plan for the future salvation of the Jews as a group, but not their national restoration to the promised land. This last view holds that Israel is the object of God’s irrevocable gift of grace and calling, but that such a role guarantees them no national blessing as the OT promised. It assures them only of becoming part of the church as the people of God.

  • by Aaron Tresham

    For decades scholarly consensus has held that Jesus usually spoke the Aramaic language. To evaluate the accuracy of this assumption, one must investigate to learn which language(s) was(were) spoken in Israel during the first century A.D., and whether the sayings of Jesus in the Gospels record the spoken Greek of Jesus or are translations of what He said in Hebrew or Aramaic. Evidence for the use of Aramaic in the areas where Jesus lived and taught is strong, but not necessarily strong enough to exclude His use of other languages. Hebrew was not a dead language after the Babylonian Exile as some have assumed. Documents, inscriptions, and coins have shown the continued use of Hebrew during the time that Jesus was in Israel, particularly in the area of Judea. The fact that the Gospels as well as the rest of the NT were originally written in Greek bolsters the case for a widespread use of Greek in Jesus’ time. Specific instances of internal evidence in the NT itself, along with widespread use of the Septuagint in the NT, indicate the trilingual nature of first-century Israel. Indications that are external to the NT also show the use of Greek in Jesus’ first-century surroundings. Yet impressive voices question the case for Greek as the language Jesus used. A weighing of the evidence on both sides seems to indicate that Jesus spoke and taught in both Greek and Aramaic, with the degree to which He used each one yet to be clarified by further research on this important subject.

  • Book Reviews for 20:1   (95-127)

Volume 20, Number 2 (Fall 2009)

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An Issue Devoted to the Doctrine of Penal Substitution

  • by Richard L. Mayhue

    This introductory essay overviews the indispensable theme of Christ’s penal substitution on Golgotha’s cross. The subject unfolds in two parts; the first section provides background and context for this essential theological truth. The second section reasons that three compelling biblical necessities require a true believer in Jesus Christ to understand scripturally and accept the Savior’s penal substitution on behalf of redeemed sinners, especially oneself. The landscape/backdrop for this article provides (1) a definition of “Christ’s penal substitution,” (2) statements by representative defenders and objectors to this doctrine, and (3) an introduction to subsequent and more focused writings in this issue of TMSJ. Then follows the proposition that Scripture must necessarily be understood as consistently (in both OT and NT) teaching Christ’s penal substitution, which rests on three convincing biblical lines of thinking: (1) revelational evidence, (2) lexical evidence, and (3) theological evidence. The writer thus concludes that this teaching is clear, not obscure, thoroughly biblical, not humanly contrived, and essential to personal salvation, not optional.

  • by William D. Barrick

    Theologically and biblically speaking, penal substitution refers to God’s gift of His Son to undergo the penalty of death as a substitute for fallen humanity, recent efforts to deny that teaching notwithstanding. The OT offers many examples of cases in which divine judicial action resulted in the deaths of offenders who violated God’s standards of righteousness. No clear evidence in the OT that each individual sin required its own sacrifice. In addition, the Levitical system of animal sacrifices required the death of an animal for sin. The Hebrew and the LXX supported by NT citations back up this concept of judicial punishment for sin. Twelve principles governed the offering of OT sacrifices that pertained to the corporate worship of Israel. Several OT texts illustrate penal substitutionary sacrifices in the OT. The first is the Passover of Exodus 12 in which God graciously spared guilty Israelites through the deaths of animals substituted for the firstborn in each household. Another OT text to illustrate penal substitution is Leviticus 16, the institution of the Day of Atonement. The scapegoat symbolized the removal of Israel’s sin to allow people to enter the presence of a holy God. The Day of Atonement expiated the nation’s sins, cleansed the sanctuary from sin’s pollution, and removed sins from the community. Isaiah 52:13–53:12 is a third text to illustrate penal substitution. The suffering servant of the LORD in this section clearly anticipates the Messiah’s coming substitutionary death as penalty for His people’s sins. The OT sacrificial system clearly laid the basis for penal substitution in awaiting Israel’s coming Messiah.

  • by Paul W. Felix

    A focused look at 1 Peter regarding the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, taking into account 1 Pet 1:2, 18-19; 2:24; 3:18; and 4:1, typifies many NT references to that important teaching. Though 1 Pet 1:2 does not speak of penal atonement, the passage does speak of the death of Christ in language that recalls the language of sacrifice and substitution in the OT. The language of redemption in 1 Pet 1:18-19 includes substitution since the redeeming of one life requires the giving of another life. That passage also includes in its background a penal aspect since the blood of the victim clearly entailed His dying a painful death as a penalty for the sins of others. First Peter 2:24 does provide readers with an example to follow in Christ’s suffering, but it does far more. In line with the influence of Isaiah 53 on the passage, it views Christ as a sin bearer and substitute for those whose place He took. It also presents Him as the curse-bearer in bearing punishment for the sins of the people He came to save. In mentioning the sufferings of Christ and the death of the just one for the unjust ones, 1 Pet 3:18 confirms what 1 Peter teaches elsewhere, i.e., the penal substitution of the cross of Christ. Without adding further details but summarizing what Peter has already written, 1 Pet 4:1 adds an explicit reference to the death of Christ. The epistle clearly supports the penal substitutionary nature of the atonement.

  • by Michael J. Vlach

    Recently, at least since the eighteenth-century liberalism gained a place in Protestantism, the penal-substitution view of Christ’s atonement has come under attack. The claim that the doctrine was unknown in the ancient church has emerged along with the idea that such a teaching was invented by the Reformers. The fact that the first thousand years of ancient Christianity frequently espoused the teaching that Jesus suffered death, punishment, and a curse for fallen humanity as the penalty for human sin shows the falsity of such a claim. The fact that early Christians supported other views of the atonement did not exclude the possibility of their supporting penal substitution also. Other views of the atonement include the classic/ransom, the satisfaction, the moral influence, and the governmental theories. Without discussing penal substitution thoroughly, the following church fathers and writings expressed their support for the theory: Ignatius, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr, Eusebius of Caesarea, Eusebius of Emesa, Hilary of Poitiers, Athanasius, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nazianzus, Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, Cyril of Alexandria, Severus of Antioch, and Oecumenius. Martin Luther wrote during the second Christian millennium, but he too endorsed penal substitution. Available writings show clearly that the early church supported a penal-substitution view of Christ’s death.

  • by Andrew Snider

    By labeling penal substitution as “redemptive violence,” some have rejected the biblical view of the cross of Jesus as substitutionary and penal by claiming that His death was the ultimate example of pacifism. Others want to relegate penal substitution to the category of being only a metaphor of Scripture. Such distortions of the Bible have adverse effects on true Christian worship as a close survey of ritual offerings under the Mosaic Covenant reflect when carried forward into what the NT says about worship. Sacrifice has always been fundamental as a basis for true worship. The OT book of Leviticus devotes itself to explaining how sinful Israelites through sacrifices could make themselves pure in approaching a holy God in their worship. Four of the five offerings described there—the whole burnt offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, and the sin offering—had the purpose of dealing with sin and with guilt. Holiness achieved through sacrifice was paramount in having one’s sacrifice acceptable by God and effective in worship. The effective offering was costly to the worshiper and brought him into covenant fellowship with God. In the NT Christ came to be the ultimate sacrifice in fulfillment of all the OT offerings. Beginning with John 1:29, the NT uses sacrificial imagery in a number of places in anticipation of His work on the cross, particularly in His institution of the Lord’s Supper. The author of Hebrews in particular portrays Jesus as the perfect atoning sacrifice in fulfillment of the OT system of sacrificial worship. Christian worship without the doctrine of penal substitution is impossible.

  • by Dennis M. Swanson

    The 2009 Faculty Chapel Lecture Series at The Master’s Seminary was on the subject of “The Doctrine of Penal Substitution.” The bibliography below is a compilation of the contributors’ research as well as additional material. This bibliography is not designed to be exhaustive, but rather to lead the reader to sources that represent the varied viewpoints on this subject, with a strong foundation of materials supporting the biblical and historical position delineated in the articles. The reader is also encouraged to examine the “Bibliography on The New Perspective on Paul” (MSJ 16/2 [Fall 2005]:317-24) for additional materials related to the error of NPP in the key areas of justification by faith and penal substitution. The bibliography has five sections: (1) Reference Works; (2) Monographs and Multi-Author Works; (3) Journal and Periodical Literature; (4) Unpublished and Online Resources; and (5) Classical and Patristic Resources.

  • Book Reviews for 20:2   (241-293)