Talk:Jesus Research and Christian Faith

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What did the first century writers say that Jesus had done for us?

I really like the set of metaphors you have put forward. Apart from an explicit political liberation, I have a set of metaphors for the at-one-ment which you mention only around the cult of sacrifice. I think this limits the coinage of atonement too much. Here are some other ideas adapted from an essay on atonement which I have written:

  1. Unity but not without struggle. Atonement means unity. Struggle confirms the participational aspect emphasized by Crossan.
  2. Cost through sacrifice. Jacob Milgrom, in his three volume commentary on Leviticus explains how the sacrifice cleanses the altar. It is not just the people who are cleansed but the things that were set aside as holy and which are polluted by the sins of the people. So Hebrews 1:3 speaks of the Son purging our sins. Christ's death cleanses heaven by his blood.
  3. The courtroom drama provides us with an accuser, an advocate, a judge, and the plaintiff (you / me / us).
  4. Fourth is the new creation in the new Adam. This too is participational atonement. As we are unified in Adam, the one from the dust, and so, by faith, we are at-one with Christ, the one from heaven. (Romans 5:12 ff, 1 Corinthians 15:21 ff).
  5. Circumcision of the heart. This is both participational and sacrificial, encompassing the covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:3 ff), the work of Zippora in protecting Moses (Exodus 4:24 ff), several ancient writers in the Torah (Leviticus 26.41, Deuteronomy 10:16) and the Prophets (Jeremiah 4:4, 9:27, Ezekiel 44:7), Paul (Romans 2:29), Luke (Acts 7:51), and perhaps even more fully, the circumcision of the cross as noted in Colossians 2:11 and hinted at in other places like Philippians 3:3 ff. So circumcision is an image of the death of Jesus.
  6. Writing the law on the heart. This is the new covenant of Jeremiah cited in Hebrews 8:8, the longest direct citation of the Law and the Prophets in the New Testament. You could say that writing on the heart is a bloody process. Like participation in Christ, it too requires death and resurrection of the subject. Although Mark Nanos in his response to Richard Hays (Hebrews-2006) asks why it is not evident in Christendom that God has written his law on any Christian hearts, perhaps it is not evident because writing on the heart is process rather than instantaneous action.
  7. Seventh is 'reframing error'. We are so quick to know what is right and wrong and we really want to be right, but it is the mercy of God that continues forever, not our notions of justice. God is merciful. We know that of course. God is forgiving, but by no means clearing the guilty (Numbers 14:18). It is God who makes us at one with him. We participate by accepting that gift. There are some really strange images that could be included in this reframing. For example, the smoke of the torment of the damned (Revelation 14.10) and the delight which the saints seem to take in it. One can hardly imagine the perfect taking delight in the failings of others, but one can see the smoke as the struggle or work of sacrifice transforming imperfection into perfection.
  8. The marriage image. We have died to the Law that we might be married to another, even the one who was raised from the dead (Romans 7.4). The king has brought me into his chambers (Song 1.4). The reality of the loving kindness of God is reported by many Psalms, showing, I think, that the grace of the former writings is not without content.
  9. The idiom of redemption: We are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:12-20). We don't buy pleasure since we have been bought for the Lord. Redemption is related to cost and also to marriage and some of the legal code around inheritance.
  10. The word of salvation. Salvation from what to what? Out of slavery into captivity to Christ. Salvation is noted as a fulfillment of the word in Hebrews 2:1-3.
  11. The work of the Spirit in sanctification (Romans 8). The sanctified and the sanctifier are one (Hebrews 2:11). This unity in Christ is related to the new and living way of Hebrews 10.20. Here we are invited “to enter into the holy place through the veil, that is to say, his flesh”. We enter through the death of Jesus into the presence of God. Sanctification is linked to both sacrifice and marriage. (The Rabbinic words for sanctification and marriage are the same.)
  12. And can I include the Aqedah, the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22)? This is clearly substitutional sacrifice (the ram is substituted for Isaac) but it is not a legal metaphor. This one act epitomizes Abraham's faith, the same confidence that we are called to exercise.