What is wrong with the Substitutionary theory of the Atonement
By Ron CorsonIf Christ died for me then he must be my substitute, right? A law of God was broken, so someone had to pay the penalty for breaking that law, right? Isn't God a God of Justice so He can't just forgive someone He has to play by the rules, right? When it comes right down to it, the law says someone had to die, so it was pretty nice that Jesus Christ died and paid my debt to God. These are just some of the answers or maybe the questions that the typical Christian thinks of when he ponders the idea of the substitution of Christ for us, in theological terms it is called the Substitutionary theory. Christians did not simply arrive at this theory over night; it took about 14 centuries to arrive upon the scene. It was a major outgrowth from Anselm's Satisfaction theory of the atonement. But when it arrived it took off like no other previous theories of the atonement ever did. (See Appendix 1) Accepted by the Roman Catholic and the Protestant alike, yet there are some who, as in the past do not accept the substitutionary theory as accurate.
What does the Substitutionary theory of the atonement say to us about God? To those who object to this theory, the problem is the implications that are drawn about God. These can be drawn into at least 3 broad categories.
So we can begin by acknowledging that God is righteous, certainly from the time of ancient Israel through the New Testament, God is prophetically spoken of as righteous. God by His righteousness provided to mankind principles which would aid man in his own quest to do what is right. So early on in the history of Israel we find the following guide to righteous living.
Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exodus 23:7)
For God sent Christ Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to end all God's anger against us. He used Christ's blood and our faith as the means of saving us from his wrath. In this way he was being entirely fair, even though he did not punish those who sinned in former times. For he was looking forward to the time when Christ would come and take away those sins. (Rom 3:25 TLB)Compared with an actual translation:
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished--(Rom 3:25 NIV)
You came from heaven to earth to show the way From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay (Lord, I lift your name on High words and music by Rick Founds)
It is little wonder with all the many texts in the Bible which deal with God's forgiveness, how He blots out our sins and how He remembers them no more that they would arrive at such a conclusion. However today while the Christian community frequently speaks of God's forgiveness. It is equally insistent upon the concept of Penalty and debt. To most Christians, God forgives but it is because Christ paid the penalty. Yet in most Trinitarian circles they will acknowledge that Christ is indeed God, so that in a real sense God paid the penalty. Using the debtor analogy God paid his own debt. Rather like flogging Himself because His law was broken, so that the ones who broke the law do not have to be punished. Possibly a popular activity for monks in the middle ages but hardly a very sensible activity.
One person once wrote that Christ substitution is like the following illustration:
Imagine that you went to visit a friend who owned a park and it cost 5 dollars to gain admittance. The friend tells you that you don't have to pay that, he the owner of the park will pay for you. So he takes 5 dollars out of his pocket and then puts it in his other pocket.
Now most people if they encountered such an occurrence would probably think that the owner was trying to be funny, and if he was not trying to use humor most would question his intelligence. Of course the illustration would become even more absurd if a death penalty was involved. Looking at it rationally it would be more sensible to forgive the debt, no games, no transfer of debt would be needed.
What about the concept of transference of debt? At what point would the debt owed ever cease? Let us examine this logically. We owe a debt to God because we have all sinned. Jesus Christ then pays our debt to God as our substitute. So now we would owe a debt to Christ for paying our debt to God. But if Christ is also God then God has paid a debt to Himself, and we still owe him the debt because of the debt He paid for us. Confusing isn't it. Unfortunately most people only pay lip service to the idea that Jesus Christ and the Father are One. Their view of the substitutionary theory is that God is owed a debt, God must have that debt paid, Jesus pays the debt for us. Since Jesus is so loving we do not have to fear that He will ask us to repay what we owe Him, and this is the central problem with the substitutionary view of the atonement. The love of God is polluted by our own misrepresentation about God.
"In many of the popular sermons and hymns of the last two centuries Christ is set forth as mediator between an angry God and the condemned sinner, pleading with God for mercy, at the same time receiving the divine wrath into his own bosom and thus averting from the sinner the consequences of his sin." (The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia, vol. 7 page 270)
In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. (John 16:26-27)
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. (Acts 3:13-15)
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. (Isaiah 53:3-10)
"I sent plagues among you as I did to Egypt. I killed your young men with the sword, along with your captured horses. I filled your nostrils with the stench of your camps, yet you have not returned to me," declares the LORD. (Amos 4:10)
The Bible goes so far as to say that He became a curse:
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Gal 3:13)
When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory." "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Gal 3:24-25)
"But as Christians, we believe that even the most vicious of criminals can be forgiven and taken into relationship with God ... and receive His free gift of eternal life. What is just about that? Who avenges the poor and helpless if God does not do so? Who protects the guilty (who have repented) from the just retribution for their criminal acts? Answer .. Jesus does that by his suffering in their place. Thus the innocent are 'avenged' and the guilty may be forgiven without that very forgiveness being a further offense to the innocent victims."
There is a deep problem when one looks at the idea that the innocent victims must be avenged for the things done them by the guilty. Our example and our God told us in living example that we should not hold contempt for those who wrong us. None of us have ever come close to being as wrongly treated as He was. Yet He did offer them forgiveness, and as Christians we are told to do exactly the same thing.
For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matt 6:14)
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. (Matt 18:21-22)
And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins." (Mark 11:25)
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'" (Luke 11:4)
The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Gal 5:14)
Related to the preceding topic is the idea in the Substitutionary theory where God was not able to forgive sins until Christ was punished on the cross, or paid the debt depending on the term one may prefer. The idea being that God could not forgive until someone was punished for the sin. In short they would say the law says sin and you die, so someone has to die. Unfortunately they have little to justify such a concept. If we used an Old Testament verse on the subject it would say:
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son-- both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:4)
He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws. That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 18:9)
But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-- it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-- not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.(2 Corinthians 5:19-21)
and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Ephesians 2:16-18)
When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?" On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." (Matt 9:11-13)
The wages of sin is death the Bible tells us, it is interesting to note that Paul does not say that the punishment for sin is death. The idea as set forth by Paul is that sin results in death unless one accepts the gift of life offered by God.
When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:20-23)
God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power (II Thess. 1:6-9)
It is clear from the Bibles use of the second death as a final destruction of both death and Hades (Rev.20:14) as well as the destruction of Satan (Rev 20:10) that this is only a death at the end of time for those who have made the final choice to reject God (Rev 20:15). This is not a punishment that could ever be transferred, it is not a death that Christ could have paid on the cross. It may help to think of "punishment" in its dictionary definition:" to impose a penalty on for a fault, offense, or violation". The penalty that will result from the rejection of the source of life and the gift of life God offers. It is the eternal end of the sin problem. Just as the world will melt with heat to make way for a new world, so those who reject God must also be destroyed to make way for a new world where God is all in all (1 Corinthians 15:28).
One does not to have delve into the various theories of what will happen after the second coming to understand the reaction of the wicked to the presence of God. The Revelation tells us that they cry for the rocks and mountains to fall on them to hid them from the face of the Savior (Rev 6:16). The concept of God as a consuming fire is found in the Old Testament as well as in the book of Hebrews (Isaiah 33:14 ; Hebrews 12:29). Under such conditions the eternal destruction of the wicked is as much for the wicked as for the righteous. The wicked have chosen against life, they have chosen death and their desire is fulfilled. The righteous have chosen life and their desire is fulfilled. Those who choose God choose life, the right choice, choosing allegiance to God is the process where we are proclaimed righteous.
This is his command: to give our allegiance to his Son Jesus Christ and love one another as he commanded. (1 John 3:23 New English Bible)
Cosmic BookkeepingWhen reading what some authors write about the Atonement it often sounds like some type of cosmic bookkeeping. Numerous examples could be given but take the following from the Adventist Review November 22, 2001 in an article by Clifford Goldstein:
"Isn’t the everlasting gospel the good news that Jesus, the God-man, lived a life of perfect obedience to the law and then died as my substitute in order that I, by faith, can claim His perfect righteousness as my own, a righteousness that comes only by faith in His righteousness--a righteousness credited to me apart from "the works of the law" (Gal. 2:16)?"
Though written in the form of a question this is his view of what the gospel is. That Christ came down to earth, lived a perfect life and then died as my substitute. While apparently this legal fiction is comforting to people what is it saying about God. We already have seen that God knows there is no one righteous but God. According to this legal fiction God can, to use a bookkeeping term "cook the books" so that instead of us appearing on the ledger with negative sums we only appear with positives. Of course that is very appealing but does it result in anything different from forgiveness. There is no cosmic accounting needed to forgive, no accounts to be forged and made to look better then they really are.
What are the implications of Christ dying as my substitute? If my account has been rearranged to say that I am righteous why would I need a substitute to die for me? If Christ lived the perfect life and substituted it for my life record on the supposed heavenly ledger I would not need someone to die for me as a substitute. So again what is this legal fiction trying to say? It is saying that God has a law, that if His law is ever broken then someone must die to pay the penalty for breaking the law. So this legal fiction removes from God His ability to forgive a person in favor of the option of cosmic bookkeeping where, the one righteous one, dies, and his death is substituted for everyone else if they want to accept the substitution. If we used an illustration from the family we could say that the children in the family have disobeyed their father. Let us say the crime was not weeding the garden when that is what they were asked to do. So the father who loves his children instead of punishing them says, "I will go and weed the garden for you" and after weeding the garden he takes a switch and scourges himself to take the punishment that he felt the children originally should have received for their disobedience. Declaring to his children that he has perfectly weeded the garden and accepted the punishment due to his children, that he was their substitute. On his home account books, he writes that they have weeded the garden perfectly.
When we examine the concept of substitution in everyday life we see just how poor a concept it is. If we took it to the criminal justice system we would be horrified at the results. As we watch a serial murderer released and an innocent librarian executed for the crime. Would we proclaim that justice was satisfied? Of course all analogies break down at some point. For instance we would not say that justice was satisfied if the judge released the murderer and said he was forgiven. Even if we thought that the murderer was really sorry for what he did and wanted to change we would not trust that he was changed, we would at least want him locked away for the rest of his life. God on the other hand not only has the power to forgive but the ability to create a new mind in the criminal, one that no longer is in rebellion to God but is willing to trust God. That faith in God is what is counted as righteousness
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.
remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:12-22)
Did Jesus Die The Second DeathWhile it is a common concept in the substitutional theory of the atonement that Christ paid our debt or our penalty for sin, the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) church has carried the idea even farther. As one of the SDA quarterlies recently said: "At the cross, Jesus died the "second death" (Rev. 20:14; 21:8)..." (Nov. 26, 2001 Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide).
Prominent in the SDA church is the concept that Christ died the second death, and God poured out His wrath on Christ on the cross. The book Seventh-day Adventists Believe..A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (The Ministerial Association Review and Herald Pub. Ass. 1988) writes as follows on page 111:
"Christ's self-sacrificing is pleasing to God because this sacrificial offering took away the barrier between God and sinful man in that Christ fully bore God's wrath on man's sin. Through Christ, God's wrath is not turned into love but is turned away from man and borne by Himself." (the book is quoting from Hans K. LaRondell, Christ Our Salvation p. 26,27)
However there is little Biblical basis for such a statement. Certainly, the Bible does not ever speak of God's wrath on Christ. It is most often used of those who reject God, such as:
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (Rom 1:18)
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." (John 3:36)
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- (Romans 3:25)
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:2)
There is another method often used in the SDA church to assert that Christ suffered under the wrath of God. It is developed something like this:
God is revealing His wrath upon the wicked, He gives them over to their sinful desires. Likewise on the cross Christ was delivered over for our sins. Thus God separated Himself from Christ on the cross and Christ died the "second death".
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, (Rom 1:18)
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. (Rom 1:24)
He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. (Rom 4:25)
Who was delivered for our offenses, and was raised again for our justification. (KJV)
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Rom 8:32)
Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. (John 18:36 KJV)
This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. (Acts 2:23)
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.(Acts 3:13)
The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead-- whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree.(Acts 5:30)
Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-- (Acts 7:52)
"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, (Acts10:39)
For you, brothers, became imitators of God's churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own countrymen the same things those churches suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to all men (1 Thes 2:14-15)
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (Matt 16:21)
The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him;(Luke 24:20)
How is it that contrary to the witnesses of the Crucifixion that people assert that, "At the cross, Jesus died the "second death". Unless one has a preconceived concept about Christ death it is fairly obvious that He did not suffer the second death. The verses which mention the second death involves complete destruction from which there is no return. To assert such an idea is to ignore the many Biblical texts which set forth fire as the ultimate destroyer. A concept still easily seen today, few methods of destruction leave so little behind as does fire. In most cases fire leaves nothing but ashes, often nothing is left to even indicate what was destroyed.
Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death.(Rev 20:14)
But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars-- their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." (Rev 21:8)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death. (Rev 2:11)
Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years. (Rev 20:6)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt 10:28)
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"-- which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? (Psalm 22:1)
On the cross Jesus Christ revealed the true nature of God. Divinity did not leave Christ on the cross, God's love was revealed to mankind. Even while being tormented by evil men, Christ forgave them, showing as He had earlier that He was God Himself by His ability to forgive sin (Luke 23:34). Ultimately it was to God that Christ commits His spirit, which is hardly the act of someone suffering under the "second death", or someone suffering the wrath of God.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
How Did Jesus Bear Our SinsWithin the substitutionary theory of the atonement is the underlying belief that sin is so offensive to God that it must be punished, this is an element carried over from the Satisfaction Theory of the Atonement. So those who hold to the substitutional view of the atonement believe that sin was transferred from humans to Christ and then Christ was punished as the one who sinned. Such verses as 1 Peter 2:24 are used to indicate this idea:
"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24)
Of all the assumed transfers of sin in the above scenario only one is indicated in the Bible. The other transfers are reading a clearly substitutional view into the ritual. The only actual occurrence of transference of sin occurs when the Priest confesses the sins of the congregation onto the scapegoat.
He is to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-- all their sins-- and put them on the goat's head. He shall send the goat away into the desert in the care of a man appointed for the task. (Leviticus 16:21)
"...as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Ps 103:12 )
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. (2 Sam 12:13)
"Forgiveness is the covering, the concealment, the blotting out or removal of sins.. "The connection with the O.T. is evident when forgiveness is presented in the language of sacrifice (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:11-28). It is God's gracious pardon to sinful men and is effected through Christ and through faith in him (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18: Eph. 4:32; col. 1:9-14). In divine forgiveness the guilt and debt of sin are canceled, and repentant man is received back into fellowship with the Father". (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible pages 306-7)
While the above Dictionary is most probably in line with others who hold to the Penal theory we must determine how the forgiveness is "effected through Christ and through faith in him". We can see that the numerous Old Testament verses do not indicate that forgiveness is based upon some future activity but is a occurrence concurrent with person's repentance. This should lead us to the conclusion that God freely grants forgiveness to those who seek forgiveness. In fact as we see with Jesus on the cross as well as throughout His life on earth, He was equally free in offering forgiveness. Christ was revealing God to the world the same God of the Old Testament who offered forgiveness and who encouraged people to seek God and trust in Him. What Christ put into effect was the ultimate demonstration of the character of God in human flesh. God in the form of man to reconcile man who was hostile to God, back to God.
All of those Old Testament verses on forgiveness and blotting out of sin should indicate just how Christ bore our sins in his body. Through our sin, man's rebellion, Christ was handed over to wicked men who, in their rebellion against God, killed their own Creator. Even as evil men had tortured and were in the process of killing Christ, Christ offered them love and forgiveness. In short the rebellion of sin was directly and physically directed against Christ, and while under the voluntary domination of evil, Christ said He was willing to forgive them. The nature of forgiveness is that ones guilt is no longer present, it has been removed, carried away. Born away more clearly than the sins confessed on the scapegoat were removed from Israel on the day of Atonement. For the scapegoat was a promise of what God would do to their sins, and Christ on the cross was a dramatic revelation of the character of forgiveness.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21)
1. Treated as if he were a sinner
2. Christ in his incarnation assumed human nature "in the likeness of sinful flesh".
3. In becoming a sacrifice for or because of sin.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. (Hebrews 2:9-10)
For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. (Romans 6:9)
I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. (Revelation 1:18)
But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
What About BloodSo if God is able to freely forgive sins of those who desire His forgiveness . How are we to understand the shedding of blood as mentioned in the Bible?
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. (Hebrews 9:22-23)
"There are some passages in which life and blood are connected, principally in connection with the prohibition of eating meat with blood still in it (Gen 9:4-6;Lev 17:11). This association has led some scholars to conclude that in the offering of sacrifice, the death of the victim is unimportant; sacrificial atonement does not depend on an animal dying in place of the worshiper but rather on life set free from the body and offered to God. Similarly, in the New Testament it is not the death of Jesus that is the atonement, but his life." (page 93)
While the idea of life being set free from the body is not well accepted and such is noted in the next paragraph from The Oxford Companion to the Bible, the idea that blood is a symbol of life is found throughout all ancient religions, as well as in the Jewish religion. As we look at the Atonement simple logic tells us that any one part of Christ's life, death and resurrection taken by itself would not accomplish anything. His death would have been meaningless without his life before his death. The resurrection is meaningless unless there was a death to be resurrected from. Paul noted just how hopeless we would be if Christ had not been raised from the dead.
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
"The common symbolic element in all OT sacrifices is the manipulation of the blood; and since it is universal, it very probably symbolizes the essential note of the sacrificial symbolism. The blood is sprinkled on the altar, or dashed at its base, or smeared on the horns. The altar symbolizes the deity. In the OT thought the blood is the life; and the ritual of the blood is the precise symbolic act of oblation by which the life of the animal is transmitted to the deity. The mere slaughtering of the animal is not a ritually symbolic act. Another common ritual act is the imposition of hands upon the victim; this does not appear to support any theories of the ritual substitution of the victim for the offerer, but rather is an act by which the offerer declares that this is his offering." (Dictionary of the Bible John L. Mckenzie page 755)
"Basic to both animal and human sacrifice is the recognition of blood as the sacred life-force in man and beast".( Encyclopedia Brittanica)
Placing the two ideas together leads to an explanation of Christ's blood as the violent taking of the life of Christ. A life which was dedicated to reconciliation of man back to God through Christ's revelation of the true character of love and forgiveness that is God. The question of Hebrews 9:22 is how does this blood purify the heavenly things? The writer of Hebrews answers this implied question in next verses.
For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence. (Hebrews 9:24)
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (I John 3:2-3)
so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:28)
*All Bible verses quoted are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted. All material written by Ron Corson unless otherwise noted.
Atonement HistoryThe Christian Churches attempts to understand Christ’s Atonement and Sacrifice. The following theories are listed in chronological order. However multiple theories may exist concurrently.
Moral Influence Theory
The Apostolic Fathers About 100-200 AD Vague time frame.
Their chief emphasis is on what Christ imparted to us: new Knowledge, Fresh life, Immortality.
Clement states: Through Him God has called us from darkness to light from ignorance to knowledge of the glory of His name. Clement further says that Christ endured it all on account of us and that His sufferings should bring us to repentance. Hemas adds that Christ reveals to us the true God. Barnabas notes that He came to abolish death and to demonstrate resurrection from the dead.
Reiterated by Abelard in the 1100’s
Apologists also about 100-200 AD
The ideas stayed much the same with the Apologists with the addition of the concept that not only does God impart saving knowledge and bestow illumination, but principalities and powers are destroyed by Him. Justin says that the aim of the incarnation was the conquest of the serpent. Justin further adds that Christ became a man for our sakes, so that participating in our miseries He might heal them. The essence of the Moral Influence theory is that Christ’s Atoning work is directed to leading man to repentance and faith by revealing the true nature of God
Irenaeus about 180 AD
The Theory of Recapitulation (AKA Physical Theory, Mystical Theory)
This idea presupposes some kind of mystical solidarity or identity, between the father of the race and all his descendants. At the time of the fall they somehow already existed in Adam. Thus Irenaeus states that just as Adam contained in himself all his descendants (which is how all have sinned by Adams sin) so Christ recapitulated in Himself all the dispersed peoples dating back to Adam, all tongues and the whole race of mankind, along with Adam himself. His conclusion is that humanity which was seminally present in Adam has been given the opportunity of making a new start in Christ, the second Adam, through incorporation in his mystical body. The original Adam by disobedience introduced the principle of sin and death, but Christ by His obedience has reintroduced the principle of life and immortality. Because He is identified with the human race at every phase of it existence, He restores fellowship with God to all. To Irenaeus it is obedience that God requires, and in order to exhibit such obedience, Christ had to live His life through all its stages, not excluding death itself.
Origen who had one of the greatest influences on Christian thinking incorporated a wide range of reasons for Christ’s sacrifice. His views incorporated elements of knowledge and illumination, mysticism, Jesus as model, Ransom to the Devil, and ideas of substitution. Origen was an extremely creative thinker, however many of his ideas border on the bizarre.
Ransom Theory about 350-400
This theory with elements taken from Origin interprets the death of Christ as a Ransom paid by God to Satan in order to secure the redemption of humanity, which has been brought under his dominion by sin.
Different writers had various options on this theory. Some admitted the possession of his captives, and the death is interpreted as a ransom due to the devil on grounds of justice. Others denied the devil has a right to sinners, but by God’s graciousness in being unwilling to take by force that which was rightfully His. Still others felt that man’s deliverance was secured by deception on God’s part. Satan being deceived by the humble appearance of the Redeemer into supposing that he had to do with a mere man. Finding only too late that the Deity whose presence he had not perceived escaped his clutches through the Resurrection.
Some of the adherents to this view include Augustine, Gregory the Great, Gregory of Nyssa. Amazingly enough this theory lasted for several centuries.
Satisfaction Theory 1100
This theory was first produced in a clear coherent manner by Anselm in his treatise, Cur Deus Homo, which translated means Why a Godman? Anselm finds no reason in justice why God was under any obligation to Satan. Anselm maintains that Christ’s Atonement concerns God and not the devil. Man by his sin has violated the honor of God and defiled His handiwork. It is not consistent with the Divine self-respect that He should permit His purpose to be thwarted. Yet this purpose requires the fulfillment by man of the perfect law of God, which by sin man has transgressed. For this transgression, repentance is no remedy, since penitence, however sincere, cannot atone for the guilt of past sin. Nor can any finite substitute, whether man or angel make reparation. Sin being against the infinite God, is infinitely guilty, and can be atoned for only by an infinite satisfaction. Thus either man must be punished and God’s purpose fail or else man must make an infinite satisfaction, which is impossible. There is only one way of escape, and that is that someone should be found who can unite in his own person the attributes both of humanity and of infinity. This is brought about by the incarnation of Christ. In Christ we have one who is very man, and can therefore make satisfaction to God on behalf of humanity, but who is at the same time very God, and whose person therefore gives infinite worth to the satisfaction which He makes. Christ death which is voluntarily given when it is not due since He was without sin, is the infinite satisfaction which secures the salvation of man.
Substitution Theory 1500’s (AKA Penal Theory)
The Protestant view held many of Anselm’s presuppositions regarding Christ’s Atonement. However it was modified in one very substantial way. The central position of the Atonement was interpreted not as satisfaction, but as punishment, and hence given a substitutionary significance. The infinite guilt of man’s sin which has so utterly alienated mankind from the Kingdom of Heaven that none but a person reaching to God can be the medium of restoring peace. Such an efficient mediator is found in Christ alone. Through whose atoning death the price of man’s forgiveness is paid and a way of salvation made open. Calvin considers the Atonement not as a meritorious satisfaction accepted as a substitute for punishment, but as the vicarious endurance by Christ of that punishment itself. Calvin denies that God was ever hostile to Christ or angry with Him, yet in His Divine providence He suffered His Son to go through the experience of those against whom God is thus hostile. In His own consciousness, Christ bore the weight of the Divine anger, was smitten and afflicted, and experienced all the signs of an angry and avenging God.
The Penal Theory was severally criticized by the Socinians, who attacked the entire concept of substitutionary punishment. They held that punishment and forgiveness are inconsistent ideas. If a man is punished he cannot be forgiven, and vice versa. Under the theory of distributive justice, punishment, being a matter of the relation between individual guilt and its consequences, is strictly untransferable. The Socinians held to the Moral Influence Theory as mentioned by the Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists of the second century church.
Governmental Theory (AKA Rectoral Theory)
In response to the Socinians Hugo Grotius wrote a work entitled The Satisfaction of Christ. Grotius was writing in defense of the Penal/Substitution Theory, however he, perhaps unknowingly modified the theory. In this view God does not deal with men as a judge but as a governor, who unlike a judge may temper justice with mercy, but the motives which lead him so to temperate are never arbitrary. Thus Christ’s death is a substitute for punishment, a suffering inflicted by God and voluntarily accepted by Christ, which works upon men by moral influence in order to conserve the ends of righteousness. Such suffering on Christ’s part is necessary, since forgiveness on the basis of repentance alone might be misinterpreted by men and lead to grave carelessness. Among Arminians it has practically supplanted the older Penal Theory.
These constitute the main Salvation/Atonement theories. However there are several variations on each of the above theories, as well as different combinations of the major theories by other Theologians.
Early Christian Doctrines J.N.D. Kelly Harper & Row, Pub. New York 1960
pp. 163-183, 375-395
Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Vol. 5 pp. 640-650
The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia pp. 349-356
The Robe of Christ’s Righteousness or the Covering of Forgiveness
Footnote 5 refers to Hans K. LaRondelle, Christ Our Salvation Mountain View, CA; Pacific Press, 1980 pp.25, 26)
…We are covered with His garment of righteousness. When God looks at the believing, penitent sinner He sees, not the nakedness or deformity of sin, but the robe of righteousness formed by Christ’s perfect obedience to the law. 12 None can be truly righteous unless covered by this robe. (P.114 footnote 12 refers to White, Christ’s Object Lessons. p.312)
One of the interesting tenets of those who hold to the substitutionary atonement is the idea that Christ’s Righteousness can be imputed into the Christian. One of the methods or illustrations, which is commonly used within the SDA community, is the idea that Christ covers our sinfulness with his righteousness. Using the parable of the wedding feast they determine that the robe the guest puts on is Christ’s Righteousness.
The parable found in Matt 22:1-14
1 Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: "The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come. "Then he sent some more servants and said, 'Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.' "But they paid no attention and went off-- one to his field, another to his business. The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. "Then he said to his servants, 'The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.' So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests. "But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing wedding clothes. 'Friend,' he asked, 'how did you get in here without wedding clothes?' The man was speechless. "Then the king told the attendants, 'Tie him hand and foot, and throw him outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' "For many are invited, but few are chosen." (NIV)
To this the following verse is often related:
I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see. Rev 3:18 (NIV)
And Isaiah 61:10
I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (NIV)
It should be noted that the term Christ’s Righteousness or even the Righteousness of Christ are not terms the Bible ever uses. Is the idea, common among SDA’s that by accepting the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness when God looks at the person, He sees Christ, actually what the Bible teaches?
Some in theology call this a legal fiction; in other words we are not really righteous but God pretends that we are, Christ's righteousness substitutes for our sinfulness. The Bible however gives us a far simpler explanation then what the theologians of the past 500 years have envisioned.
The Bible in several places speaks of those clothed in White, (Rev 3:4-5, 6:11,7:9,7:13-14,) unfortunately many people are missing the clear picture of the Bible in order to create a complex legal fiction.
Let us try for a moment to look at these verses used above in a slightly different light. The light of forgiveness. Isa 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. (NIV)
The following information on Forgiveness is from _The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible_ pages 306-7.It should help us see how these concepts work together. The Strong’s number have been added in front of the words.
"Forgiveness. In the O.T. several Hebrew roots contain the concept of "forgive". The verb 5545 calach (saw-lakh') a primitive root; to forgive: signifies literally "forgive, pardon" (Lev. 4:20, 26: I Kings 8:30, 34: Ps. 86:5: 103:3: Jer. 31:34). The root 3722 kaphar (kaw-far') (cover) which is used to express the idea of atonement or propitiation, in some cases means "forgive" (Ps. 65:3; 78:38;79:9; Isa. 6:7; 22:14; Jer. 18:23; Ezek. 16:63). The root 4229 machah (maw-khaw') signifies that sins may be wiped or blotted out (Neh. 4:5; Ps. 51:1; 109:14; Isa. 43:25; 44:22; Jer. 18:23). The verb 3680 kacah (kaw-saw') suggests that sins may be covered or concealed (Neh. 4:5; Ps. 32:1; 85:3). The root 5375 nasa' (naw-saw')
(lift up, take away) may also mean "forgive" (Gen. 50:17;Ex. 10:17; 32:32; 34:7; Ps. 32:5; 85:3). God forgives sin, but this presupposes repentance and prayer on the part of the sinner (Ps.51:1-17)."
Forgiveness is the covering, the concealment, the blotting out or removal of sins. Think about how well the concept of forgiveness fits with those clothed in White, and those at the wedding feast. "The connection with the O.T. is evident when forgiveness is presented in the language of sacrifice (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:11-28). It is God’s gracious pardon to sinful men and is effected through Christ and through faith in him (Acts 2:38; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 26:18: Eph. 4:32; col. 1:9-14). In divine forgiveness the guilt and debt of sin are canceled, and repentant man is received back into fellowship with the Father. " (The New Westminster Dictionary of the Bible_ pages 306-7)
We who were enemies of God are offered forgiveness and acceptance back into a relationship with God.
"Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation--if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant."( Col 1:21-23 NIV)
Christ who while enduring physical torture on the cross lovingly offered them His forgiveness. Showing all who are willing to see that God is in fact loving, forgiving, and accepting, the return of his prodigal sons. The author of life killed by His creation, though He was rejected He continues to offer reconciliation, and forgiveness.
"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you.
You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see." (Acts 3:14-16 NIV)
It is the Righteousness of God, the grace, the love which offers us the "garments of salvation" the forgiveness which is offered to all who are willing to accept His gift. A gift at present we can only see by faith based upon the evidence which Christ brought to us by His life death and resurrection. A faith in the character of our God.
"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.
But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin." ( I Jn 3:2-5. NIV)
The following quote from a nineteenth century shows how misleading the doctrine of the Robe of Christ’s Righteousness can become.
"The Lord Jesus Christ has prepared a covering, the robe of his own righteousness, that he will put on every repenting, believing soul who by faith will receive it. Said John, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Sin is the transgression of the law; but Christ died to make it possible for every man to have his sins taken away. A fig-leaf apron will never cover our nakedness. Sin must be taken away, the garment of Christ's righteousness must cover the transgressor of God's law. Then when the Lord looks upon the believing sinner, he sees, not the fig-leaves covering him, but his own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah."
The legal fiction of a God who needs to pretend that the Christian is perfectly obedient to the Laws. Instead of a God who sees our imperfections yet offers us forgiveness and reconciliation out of His love.
No games, no legal maneuvers are necessary for God to forgive and accept us back from our wanderings in a far country. Just love.
Can God who is righteous just forgive us sinners? Don't we need some sort of legal action such as Forensic Justification to declare us right with God? The answer is found in the nature of God, He is righteous, everything He does is righteous. God asks us to move beyond the challenges which the nation of Israel dealt with. "And if we are careful to obey all this law before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness."(Deut 6:25 NIV) To a righteousness that is based upon who God is. Jeremiah prophesied of that day; "In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.'" ( Jer 33:16 NIV) And Paul explained it further; "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-- that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."' ( 1 Cor 1:30-31 NIV)
So is forgiveness enough?
"know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." (Gal 2:16 NIV)
"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--" (Eph 2:8 NIV)
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Rom 5:1-2 NIV)
It may very well be that every person is forgiven by God, yet unless that forgiveness is accepted it does little good. Those who accept the forgiveness understand that they are at peace with God. If a person can have the faith or trust in God to believe that God has forgiven them, they would also have the trust in God that is their hope be a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). To accept forgiveness the person must acknowledge that they have been in rebellion against the ways of God, they are sinners. As Paul wrote:
"Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" (Rom 2:4 NIV)
Remember earlier the poetic words of Isaiah 61:10: I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (NIV)
A common practice in the Bible literature is the use of couplets, repeating phrases with slightly different words to emphasize the meaning. Notice how the only instance in the Bible where the phrase Robe of Righteousness is used.
1. delight in the Lord.....soul rejoices in God
2. clothed me in garments of salvation.....arrayed in robe of righteousness
3. bridegroom adorns head......bride adorns with jewels.
Salvation is the robe of righteousness, as we have seen above the covering is in fact forgiveness. See how John emphasizes his point in I John 1:9-10: " If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." (NIV)
He forgives us and purifies us from all unrighteousness. We tend to separate the two phrases instead of noticing how they are both saying the same thing (forgive and purify). It calls our attention back to the many Old Testament references on forgiveness. There is clear correlation between the covering symbolism of the Old Testament with forgiveness, but not a clear connection with the concept of imputed righteousness. Imputed Righteousness may and certainly has been developed from other Bible texts. But it does not have the simple direct connection which is found in the symbols of forgiveness.
Is the forgiven person safe to save (that phrase so many SDA's love), no it is only those who by faith in God accept the forgiveness of God. That is Justification by faith, not a legal maneuver, but a grant of supreme love which removes enmity between us and God. Demonstrated to all by the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. No one who trusts God is ever going to ask is this or that person safe to save. If they have been reconciled with God why would we question their reconciliation.
From the CD The Robe by Wes King (1993):
"Come as you are and He will cleanse you. You are guilty; your pardon is of God" --Charles H. Spurgeon
Anyone whose heart is cold and lonely/ Anyone who can’t believe/ Anyone whose hands are worn and empty/ Come as you are Anyone whose feet are tired of walking/ And even lost their will to run/ There is a place of rest for your aching soul/ Come as you are Chorus: For the robe is of God/ that will clothe your nakedness/ And the robe is His grace/ It’s all you all you need/ Come as you are Anyone who feels that they’re unworthy/ Anyone who’s just afraid/ Come sinner, come and receive His mercy/ Come as you are.
Could The Scapegoat Really Be Christ?The SDA church is rather unique in the Christian community, her view of Azazel the Scapegoat of Lev. 16 is completely opposite that held by most Christians. The SDA church holds that Azazel represent Satan not Christ. Here is what the book Seventh-day Adventists Believe... A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines:
2. Azazel, the scapegoat. "The translation ‘scapegoat’" (escape goat) of the Hebrew azazel comes from the Vulgate caper emissarius, "goat sent away" (Lev. 16:8, RSV, KJV, margin). A careful examination of Leviticus 16 reveals that Azazel represent Satan, not Christ, as some have thought. The arguments supporting this interpretation are: " (1) the scapegoat was not slain as a sacrifice and thus could not be used as a means of bringing forgiveness. For ‘ without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb 9:22); (2) the sanctuary was entirely cleansed by the blood of the Lord’s goat before the scapegoat was introduced into the ritual (Lev 16:20); (3) the passage treats the scapegoat as a personal being who is the opposite of , and opposed to, God (Leviticus 16:8 reads literally, ‘One to Yahweh and the other to Azazel’). Therefore, in the setting of the sanctuary parable, it is more consistent to see the Lord’s goat as a symbol of Christ and the scapegoat Azazel--as a symbol of Satan." (Page 318-319 Chapter 23)
Satan is Bound. The events that take place at this time were foreshadowed in the scapegoat ritual of the Day of Atonement in Israel’s sanctuary service. On the Day of Atonement the high priest cleansed the sanctuary with the atoning blood of the Lord’s goat. Only after this atonement was fully completed did the ritual involving Azazel, the goat that symbolized Satan, begin (see chapter 23). Laying his hands on its head, the high priest confessed ‘"all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions, concerning all their sins, putting them on the head of the goat’" (Lev 16:21). And the scapegoat was sent into the wilderness, ‘"an uninhabited land’" (Lev. 16:22).
Similarly, Christ, in the heavenly sanctuary, has been ministering the benefits of His completed atonement to His people; at His return He will redeem them and give them eterrnal life. When He has completed this work of redemtion and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, He will place the sins of His people upon Satan, the originator and instigator of evil. In no way can it be said that Satan atones for the sins of believers--Christ has fully done that. But Satan must bear the responsibility of all the sin he has caused those who are saved to commit. And as "a fit man" led the scapegoat into an uninhabited land, so God will banish Satan to the desolate and uninhabited earth (see chapter 23 of this book).
Understanding the above view it would seem appropriate to compare these two diametrically opposing views of Azazel, the scapegoat. As an overview here is what Ungers Bible Dictionary has to say:
The Hebrew term translated in the A.V. "scapegoat." It is a word of doubtful interpretation, and has been variously understood.
1. By some it is thought to be the name of the goat sent into the desert. The objection to this is that in vers. 10, 26 the Azazel clearly seems to be that for or to which the goat is let loose.
2. Others have taken Azazel for the name of the place to which the goat was sent. Some of the Jewish writers consider that it denotes the height from which the goat was thrown; while others regard the word as meaning "desert places"
3. Many believe Azazel to be a personal being, either a spirit, a demon or Satan himself. The cabalists teach that in order to satisfy this evil being and to save Israel from his snares, God sends him the goat burdened with all the "iniquities and transgressions" of his people once a year. But we think it entirely improbable that Moses under divine guidance would cause Israel to recognize a demon whose claims on the people were to be met by the bribe of a sin-laden goat. 4. The most probable rendering of Azazel is "complete sending away," i.e., solitude. The rendering then would be "the one for Jehovah , and the other for the utter removal" (page 111)
The Jews have a rather mixed tradition, some hold it is the name of the place the goat was taken and others that it is an evil spirit, in that vain the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia says: "the name of an evil spirit, represented as dwelling in the wilderness, to which a goat, laden by the high priest with the ritual uncleanness and iniquity of the sanctuary, priesthood and people, was sent out as an important part of the Yom Kippur ritual...that ceremony recorded in the Bible represents the survival and adaptation to Jewish religious practice of an old, pre-Israelite, idolatrous rite, which was apparently so deeply rooted in Jewish folk-practice that it could not be rooted out." (Page 561-2)
The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia finishes the section by saying:
"The etymology of the name Azazel is uncertain, although it may perhaps be correlated with the name of the old Syro-Canannite deity Aziz."(Page 562)
But by far the majority of the Christian church holds to the concept that Christ is represented by the scapegoat. Here are some examples from readily available reference works which see Jesus Christ as the Scapegoat.
Eatons Bible Dictionary, Adam Clarke's Commentaries, Matthew Henry's Concise Whole Bible Commentary, John Wesley's Notes on the Bible 1599 Geneva Bible Notes
Also found in the writings of the early church fathers Justin Martyr and Barnabus . (Origen held the opposite view, but one must remember it was Origen which gave us the idea that Lucifer in Isaiah 14 is the Devil also. He also thought that the Leviathan in Job was also the devil).
But the question must ultimately come down to where does the evidence from the Bible lead us. Which of these two opposing views have the most Biblical support. Since the SDA position has already been stated above it appears to be a good beginning point. The 3 evidences which the SDA’s Believe book mentioned were: (1) the scapegoat was not slain as a sacrifice and thus could not be used as a means of bringing forgiveness. For ‘ without shedding of blood is no remission’ (Heb 9:22); (2) the sanctuary was entirely cleansed by the blood of the Lord’s goat before the scapegoat was introduced into the ritual (Lev 16:20); (3) the passage treats the scapegoat as a personal being who is the opposite of , and opposed to, God (Leviticus 16:8 reads literally, ‘One to Yahweh and the other to Azazel’). Therefore, in the setting of the sanctuary parable, it is more consistent to see the Lord’s goat as a symbol of Christ and the scapegoat Azazel--as a symbol of Satan."
1. "The scapegoat was not slain." This ignores how symbolism is used. The high priest was not slain either yet he served as a model of the mediation which Christ establishes between God and man. And what about the candlesticks, the bread and a host of other things present which symbolize elements of Christ’s ministry. If the scapegoat is viewed as an example of how Christ completely removes from mankind their sins, it becomes an espeacilally meaningful illustration. God removing from His people all their guilt, sin and transgressions. It must be remembered that no symbol used in the sanctuary service could even come close to encompassing all that the Messiah was to do. Therefore many different symbols were used.
For the blood of sheep and goats does nothing. It is symbolic for the gift God gives us through Jesus Christ. Heb 10:4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (NIV)
The atonement was symbolized through the sacrifice of the animal. Just as the scapegoat symbolizes the removal of our sins. As if they were thrown into the sea, or separated by the sky. We are dealing with symbols here. The remains of the goat sacrificed were then taken outside the camp and burned, this does not mean that Christ must be burned, the lesson was taught already, at some point all symbols lose their meaning.
The Bible tells us who it is that takes away the sins of the world, and that person is Jesus Christ.
I Jn 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
John 1:29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world
Isa 53:6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isa 53:11-12 After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
Isa 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted
Heb 9:28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.
Heb 9:26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself
1 Pet 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.
I Jn 3:5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin.
2 Cor 5:21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (All above from NIV)
Christ fulfills the antitypical symbol of the scapegoat. There is no need for Satan to bare anyone's sins. He has his own sins to bare and they will prove to be unbearable. But the evidence that Satan will have sins transferred upon him at the end of time must be considered. Unfortunately for those hold the scapegoat as Satan position no Biblical support is available. They have but one reference which really has little to do with the situation regarding the Day of Atonement. Calling attention to the verses in Rev 20:2-3 they note the banishment of Satan for a 1000 years chained and confined to the bottomless pit, where he can no longer decieve the nations till the thousand years are finished.
(2) the sanctuary was entirely cleansed by the blood of the Lord’s goat before the scapegoat was introduced into the ritual (Lev 16:20)
It is important to note that the above is a false assumption since the atonement is
not completed until after the scapegoat is sent away, and further offerings are made. (atonement is made for Most Holy Place, Tent of Meeting and the Altar, Lev 16:20 "When Aaron has finished making atonement for the Most Holy Place, the Tent of Meeting and the altar, he shall bring forward the live
goat. (NIV) later we see the atonement continues Lev 16:24 He shall bathe himself with water in a holy place and put on his regular garments. Then he shall come out and sacrifice the burnt offering for himself and the burnt offering for the people, to make atonement for himself and for the people. (NIV))
All the symbols on the Day of Atonement should be taken together, it is unfortuant that some feel the need to separate the elements instead of searching for the general meanings which the rituals point toward. The entire day is about the cleansing of the people.
Lev 16:30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. (NIV)
(3) The passage treats the scapegoat as a personal being who is the opposite of , and opposed to, God (Leviticus 16:8 reads literally, ‘One to Yahweh and the other to Azazel’).
If this were really true then Satan would truly be the one who removes sin from Israel. But as was pointed out above there is not one indication in the Bible that Satan in any way carries away any sin.
To stand two things in contradistinction suggests they are both personal beings is an unwarranted suggestion. Consider what Jesus said: Matt 6:24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (KJV) Mammon is money, wealth, riches etc. it is not a personal being.
Instead of opposing positions it could be a form of Parallelism, both are for the Lord, Lev 16:10 But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the LORD to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat. (NIV) the meaning of Lev 16:8 He is to cast lots for the two goats-- one lot for the LORD and the other for the scapegoat. (NIV) indicates two functions, one killed as sacrifice and one to show sins removal. Verse 7 shows us that both goats were presented before the Lord. Thus it is clear that both are used in the Atonement. This atonement is to God not to Satan. Notice verse 5 "From the Israelite community he is to take two male goats for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering." (NIV) Both goats are a sin offering, both are for atonement also (verse 10, 16 respectively refer to the scapegoat, and the goat killed.)
There is no opposition both are used for God to reveal the intended lesson. Both goats were used were the highest quality, why not use a disgusting and deformed goat for Satan. The reason is that both the sacrificed and the goat of removal as well as the other animals and the priest and the water and so much more are symbols for Jesus Christ. The concept of placing Satan in the Day of Atonement ritual is totally out of place with all the other symbols used in the sanctuary and its services.
When considering the limits of the symbols used it makes perfect sense to see each article or symbol as one small phase of the Messiah’s ministry and plan of redemption. All can only vaguely foreshadow but through the light of the New Testament we can clearly see in what direction the rituals were pointing. The many acts and sacrifices on the Day of Atonement all meet their true meaning in Jesus Christ. (The book of Hebrews is the primary source for the interpretations involving the sanctuary)
It may be helpful at this point to show that a lamb used in the Old Testament may mean an animal from sheep or goat species, and even of age over 1 year old. This is somewhat different from the way we view the term lamb today. Speaking of the Passover lamb the Bible says: Exod 12:3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. Exod 12:5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats. (NIV) This makes such verses as John 1:29 far more clear: The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (NIV)
It is not so much to the Bible that people go to find the idea that Satan is the scapegoat. It is interestingly to the pseudoapocryphal book of 1Enoch. The book of Enoch was written not earlier than 300 BC and possibly as late as 100 BC. It is a book which recounts the journeying of Enoch under divine guidance, through the entire earth and through the seven heavens, and all the mysteries of heaven and earth. Widely accepted by Christians till the time of Jerome it is now rejected by the majority of Christianity and also by Jews. But the use of the word Azazel is found in this book. Since many have never actually read the book of Enoch the following is included to give the reader a sense of what this book is about.
Azazel as introduced in 1 Enoch.
1 And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all 2 colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they 3 were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjaza taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, 'Armaros the resolving of enchantments, Baraqijal (taught) astrology, Kokabel the constellations, Ezeqeel the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiel the signs of the earth, Shamsiel the signs of the sun, and Sariel the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven . . .
Sounds quite a bit like many a pagan myths doesn’t it. Now the second mention of Azazel. [Chapter 9]
1 And then Michael, Uriel, Raphael, and Gabriel looked down from heaven and saw much blood being 2 shed upon the earth, and all lawlessness being wrought upon the earth. And they said one to another: 'The earth made without inhabitant cries the voice of their cryingst up to the gates of heaven. 3 And now to you, the holy ones of heaven, the souls of men make their suit, saying, "Bring our cause 4 before the Most High."' And they said to the Lord of the ages: 'Lord of lords, God of gods, King of kings, and God of the ages, the throne of Thy glory (standeth) unto all the generations of the 5 ages, and Thy name holy and glorious and blessed unto all the ages! Thou hast made all things, and power over all things hast Thou: and all things are naked and open in Thy sight, and Thou seest all 6 things, and nothing can hide itself from Thee. Thou seest what Azazel hath done, who hath taught all unrighteousness on earth and revealed the eternal secrets which were (preserved) in heaven, which 7 men were striving to learn: And Semjaza, to whom Thou hast given authority to bear rule over his associates. And they have gone to the daughters of men upon the earth, and have slept with the 9 women, and have defiled themselves, and revealed to them all kinds of sins. And the women have 10 borne giants, and the whole earth has thereby been filled with blood and unrighteousness. And now, behold, the souls of those who have died are crying and making their suit to the gates of heaven, and their lamentations have ascended: and cannot cease because of the lawless deeds which are 11 wrought on the earth. And Thou knowest all things before they come to pass, and Thou seest these things and Thou dost suffer them, and Thou dost not say to us what we are to do to them in regard to these.'
There is nothing inspired about this book, It is replete with mythological names, and that causes people to look at it as some sort of authority to explain Azazel? There is really no reason that Christians should appeal to this book. It is true that Jude makes a reference to one line of the Book, but that is hardly an endorsement. And further not one New Testament author gave any indication of Azazel being Satan.
Even the book of Enoch does not equate Azazel with Satan.
However the Pagan influences seen in the book of Enoch do bring us back to the interesting coincidences which exist in the Bible and other ancient myths. There is evidence which suggests that God took religious practices which the people were familiar with and recast them to better indicate what God had in mind for His plan of redemption of mankind. This is a bit outside the scope of this article but it is an important consideration, that should be kept in mind. The following is from Ugarit and the Bible (http://www.theology.edu/ugarbib.htm):
"Yet another interesting parallel between Israel and Ugarit is the yearly ritual known as the sending out of the 'scapegoats,' one for god and one for a demon. The Biblical text which relates this procedure is Lev. 16:1-34. In this text a goat is sent into the wilderness for Azazel (a demon) and one is sent into the wilderness for Yahweh. This rite is known as a 'eliminatory' rite; that is, a contagion (in this case communal sin) is placed on the head of the goat and it is sent away. In this way it was believed that (magically) the sinful material was removed from the community."
"KTU (Keilalphabetische Texte aus Ugarit), the standard collection of the Ugaritic texts) relates the same procedure at Ugarit' with one notable difference--at Ugarit a woman priest was involved in the rite as well."
(All of these tables were written in the period around 1300-1200 BCE.)Some may feel that it is inappropriate for God to take pagan practices and adopt them for His use. But there is really no reason to object, God meets people where they are and in the case of Israel they were a people coming out of 400 years of slavery in a foreign land. The only problem comes when the previous pagan implications are adopted. God had no intention of having His people sacrifice to devils or goat demons in fact in Lev 17 He forbids such things. Lev 17:7 They must no longer offer any of their sacrifices to the goat idols to whom they prostitute themselves. This is to be a lasting ordinance for them and for the generations to come.' (NIV) (Some versions read demons or saytres instead of goat idols.)
But we move back to the pagan conceptions when we remove Christ from the scapegoat and replace Him with Satan. All other Sanctuary symbols relate to God’s act of forgiveness of His people. In which case Satan has no part at all. Sin is not an entity that can or needs to be transferred about. The scapegoat illustrates God’s removal of sin from our lives. It is blotted out, forgotten. There is no need of it to be placed on Satan at the end of time. To do this is to confuse the symbol used to teach a lesson with what the lesson really is. And finally the Bible never says that sin is transferred to Satan either at the Day of Atonement or at the end of this age.
Psalm on the Cross
By Ron CorsonA song was sang that day, a Psalm of praise was recited by a voice, tired and sore. Presented by a man spread out in pain, rejected by the ones he loved (1) . Crucified for no crime at all (2), Jesus Christ died on a cross raised up outside the city named for peace. There are multitudes of songs written about that love, exhibited on the cross, but what about the song that Jesus sang.
It is thought by many that David first gave us the song that Jesus sang that day. David the poet, David the often tormented soul, But oh how the psalm fits our lives from ages past to ages yet to come. It is a song of triumph moving out from despair, from pain and sorrow to hope and gladness. It is the song of humanity accepting the healing touch of a God of love.
It begins with the words Jesus uttered on the cross, the lines which carried to the listeners the whole Psalm that we find in Psalm 22 today. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?" (3) Like the Psalmist of old Jesus was rejected, hated, despised for crimes not committed. To the average man on the street here was a sad specimen of humanity, a cursed thing, an object of derision (4) . But like the psalmist of old he was not forsaken, for the song continues.
"In you our fathers put their trust; they trusted and you delivered them. They cried to you and were saved; in you they trusted and were not disappointed." (5) We are not alone; the God of the Universe does not leave and turn his back on us. While it may seem to those on the outside that we are abandoned by God, rejected or even cursed by God, we know in whom we trust. Even as the psalmist sang so we hear Jesus Christ commit his spirit to God, trusting the God of the Universe, even when Jesus Christ was besieged by the pain of torture inflicted by those who he created. (6)
Today we sing of "Love that will not let me go", and so did the psalmist of old. (7) "For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help." We don't know what is good for us, like the psalmist we cry for help, (8) not even knowing what help we may need. But with the psalmist we can trust in the God who will not leave us. As the psalmist concludes, as Jesus Christ concluded, "They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-- for he has done it." (9) "It is finished"; God in the form of a man demonstrated the love, which makes him God. "Forgive them for they don't know what they are doing". Such great lengths to reconcile us back to God. A God not of punishment and retribution, but of love and forgiveness, a God who will never leave you or forsake you.
The very God, who sings your own song, touched by the cruelty that finds us all. Always offering us the same gift of forgiveness and reconciliation, "That sweet sweet song of Salvation", (10) a healed relationship with our Creator.
1 Matt. 21:42, Mrk 9:12 1 Peter. 2:4 6 Acts 3:15 2 Mrk 15:14, Acts 8:33 7 "Love that will not let me go" by Steve Camp and Rob Frazier 3 Ps. 22:1, Mrk. 15:34 8 Psalms 22:24 4 Deut. 21:23, Gal 3:13 9 Psalms 22:31 5 Ps. 22:4-5 10 Larry Norman "Sweet song of salvation"
The FloggingMany people do not realize just how brutal the beating of Christ prior to the Crucifixion was, they therefore assume that there was some other cause by which Christ died. The following information will show how it was indeed possible for Christ to have died within such a short period of time. However we must not discount Christ's own words that no man could take his life from him. Thus is is highly possible that His death occurred when He decided it would.
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (John 10: 18)
From the Expositior's Bible Commentary
Pilate saw that he could not change the mind of the mob. He would have to go through with Jesus' crucifixion. His previous handling of matters relating to the Jews' religion had not endeared him to the people. To risk alienating them in this crisis would be too dangerous for him politically. His wife's message had made him think more deeply about Jesus than he might otherwise had done (cf. v. 12). Yet he was a Roman career politician, and a great deal was at stake for him. An official complaint to Rome by the Jewish authorities might well result in his recall. So to protect his own interests and placate the priests and the people, he released the insurrectionist and murderer Barabbas and ordered Jesus flogged.
Since flogging did not necessarily precede crucifixion, Pilate was still hoping he could dissuade the crowd from their demand for Jesus' crucifixion (cf. John 19:1-7, where after the flogging Pilate tried to persuade them against crucifixion) by administering a severe flogging instead. In any case, flogging was no light punishment. The Romans first stripped the victim and tied his hands to a post above his head. The whip (flagellum) was made of several pieces of leather with pieces of bone and lead embedded near the ends. Two men, one on each side of the victim, usually did the flogging. The Jews mercifully limited flogging to a maximum of forty stripes; the Romans had no such limitation. The following is a medical doctor's description of the physical effects of flogging.
The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again across Jesus' shoulders, back and legs. At first the heavy thongs cut through the skin only. Then, as the blows continue, they cut deeper into the subcutaneous tissues, producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries and veins of the skin, and finally spurting arterial bleeding from vessels in the underlying muscles.... Finally the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is an unrecognizable mass of torn, bleeding tissue. (C. Truman Davis, "The Crucifixion of Jesus. The Passion of Christ from a Medical Point of View," Arizona Medicine 22, no. 3 [March 1965]: 185)
It is not surprising that victims of Roman floggings seldom survived.
After going through this terrible ordeal, Jesus was handed over by Pilate to be crucified. The use of the phrase "handed over" may be a deliberate attempt to identify Jesus with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:6, 12, since these words are used there (LXX) of the Servant.
A Flogging of a Roman Prisoner. The floggers in Roman times were called "Lictors".... hence the usage: "...getting a licking...". At any rate, the lictors were reportedly trained in physiology to the extent that they would monitor the victim's pulse and breathing so that they could take a beaten person to the brink of death.... When one more stroke would kill... and if they miscalculated.... alas, they would endeavor to be more careful next time... In fact, this punishment was referred to as "The Near Death". I have written in the drawings inserted caption "...39 strokes..." In truth, the 39 lashes limit was a biblical limit set in Hebrew Law. The Romans had no such inclination on setting an upper limit to the number of lashes to be inflicted. (The Romans would administer as many lashes as the victim could take. If the victim fainted, they would throw cold water in his face. A victim might faint several times and the whipping would continue. If the half-conscious victim had his eyes closed, the Lictor would open his eyes with his thumb and forefinger... if the victim's eyes were "rolled back" so that only the whites of his eyes showed, he was one lash away from death and the whipping was stopped. If the victim had his pupils facing forward, and could see (even a little) or focus his eyes on the Lictor, the whipping would continue) The preceeding from an article found at: http://www.geocities.com/TimesSquare/Dungeon/1461/rome28.htm
see also http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Lake/3894/easter/cruscourg.html
An excellent article on Crucifixion is found at http://www.uncc.edu/jdtabor/crucifixion.html by Joe Zias was the Curator of Archaeology/Anthropology for the Israel Antiquities Authority from 1972 to 1997. He is now retired. He is available for public lectures throughout the world.
"Crucifixion: important method of capital punishment, particularly among the Persians, Seleucids, Jews, Carthaginians, and Romans from about the 6th century BC to the 4th century AD. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, abolished it in the Roman Empire in AD 337, out of veneration for Jesus Christ, the most famous victim of crucifixion. Punishment: There were
various methods of performing the execution. Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or "scourged," dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing either then or earlier at his scourging, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft and made fast to it about 9 to 12 feet (approximately 3 metres) from the ground. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body; evidence for a similar ledge for the feet is rare and late. Over the criminal's head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death, apparently caused by exhaustion or by heart failure, could be hastened by shattering the legs (crurifragium) with an iron club, so that shock and asphyxiation soon ended his life. Crucifixion was most frequently used to punish political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves, or those who had no civil rights. In 519 BC Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon; in 88 BC Alexander Jannaeus, the Judaean king and high priest, crucified 800 Pharisaic opponents; and in about AD 32 Pontius Pilate had Jesus of Nazareth put to death by crucifixion.
The account of Jesus Christ's Crucifixion in the Gospels begins with his scourging. The Roman soldiers then mocked him as the "King of the Jews" by clothing him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns and led him slowly to Mount Calvary, or Golgotha; one Simon of Cyrene was allowed to aid him in carrying the cross. At the place of execution he was stripped and then nailed to the cross, at least nailed by his hands; and above him at the top of the cross was placed the condemnatory inscription stating his crime of professing to be King of the Jews. (The Gospels differ slightly in the wording but agree that the inscription was in "Hebrew," or Aramaic, as well as Latin and Greek.) On the cross Jesus hung for three hours of agony. The soldiers divided his garments and cast lots for his seamless robe; various onlookers taunted him. Crucified on either side of Jesus were two convicted thieves, whom the soldiers dispatched at eventide by breaking their legs. The soldiers found Jesus already dead; but, to be certain, one of them drove a spear into his side, from which poured blood and water. He was taken down before sunset (in deference to Jewish custom) and buried in a rock-hewn tomb." ( Philip W. Goetz, "Crucifixion" Encyclopaedia Britannica: Chicago, 1988 ed. Vol. 3, p. 762)