Christ Bore The Sins Of Many: Substitution And The Atonement In Hebrews -- By: Barry Clyde Joslin

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 011:2 (Summer 2007)
Article: Christ Bore The Sins Of Many: Substitution And The Atonement In Hebrews
Author: Barry Clyde Joslin

Christ Bore The Sins Of Many: Substitution And The Atonement In Hebrews

Barry C. Joslin


In recent decades there has been a significant reassessment of the atonement within the theological guild, and long-held views such as substitutionary atonement have especially become out of step with many in current scholarship. Accompanying such a reassessment have been a bevy of charges, such as substitutionary atonement is little more than divine child abuse, or that it leads to the oppression of the poor and weak, or that it paints a picture of God as being vindictive and blood thirsty.1 Further, within evangelicalism itself there is a significant difference of opinion over the very nature of the atonement.2 Given this, it should come as little surprise that this topic is garnering more interest and reevaluation.3 We should welcome such reassessment, especially when the topic is as essential to the Christian faith as the death of Christ. It is incumbent on every generation to return to the Scriptures so as to test the veracity of the claims of its theological forebears.

There are many voices within the chorus of New Testament writers, and there is a need for each voice to be heard in its own right. This is never more true than when the issue is the NT writers’ interpretations of the death of Christ. Yet quite often in such discussions, Paul’s epistles receive star treatment and the spotlight while other writings such as Hebrews are relegated to a “junior varsity” or “special teams” status.

What follows is an assessment of the doctrine of the atonement in the epistle to the Hebrews, with specific attention given to the question of substitution. Does Hebrews affirm this doctrine? What does the author say about the work of Christ with regards to his death as it relates to human sin? If it is true that “atonement through the death of Christ is a more obvious and pervasive theme in Hebrews than in any other New Testament book,”4 then such a study is more than warranted.

My purpose in the following pages is specifically to focus on the question of substitutionary atonement in Hebrews and to demonstrate that the idea of substitution lies at the heart of the writer’s theology of Christ’s death. To be sure, substitution is not the only thing that could be said concerning Hebrews and the atonement, but I hope to persuade the reader that substitution is of central importance for the writer of Hebrews. The discussion will proceed in the following manner: First, I will exegete the two primary OT ...

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