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Full text of "The Old Testament conception of atonement fulfilled by Christ [microform] : with a criticism of Dr. Rashdall's Bampton lectures : a sermon preached before the University of Oxford on June 13, 1920"

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FULFILLED BY CHRIST 

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WITH A CRITICISM OF DR. RASHDALL'S 
BAMPTON LECTURES 



A SERMON PREACHED -BEFORE THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD 
^ ON JUNE 13, 1920 



BY 

THE REV. PROFESSOR C. F. BURNEY, D.Lrrr. 



\ - ^ HUMPHREY MILFORD 

. , OXFORD UNIVERSITY- PRESS 

LONDON EDINBURGH GLASGOW COPENHAGEN ^NEW YORK 
TORONTO MELBOURNE CAPE TOWN BOMBAY 

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, J - s 'Price One Shilling net 



THE OLD TESTAMENT 

CONCEPTION OF ATONEMENT 

FULFILLED BY CHRIST 

St. Luke xxtv. 25-27. 

And He said unto them, O foolish men, and slow of heart to 
believe in all that the prophets have spoken ! Behoved it not the 
Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into His glory? And 
beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, He interpreted to 
them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. 

vv. 44-48. 

And He said unto them, These are My words which I spake unto 
you, while I was yet with you, how that all things must needs be 
fulfilled, which are written in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, 
and the Psalms, concerning Me. Then opened He their mind, that 
they might understand the Scriptures ; and He said unto them, 
Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from 
the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins 
should be preached in His Name unto all the nations, beginning 
from Jerusalem. Ye are witnesses of these things. 

I WANT this morning to plead for a closer synthesis of Old 
Testament learning with the study of the New Testament. 
Looking, as an Old Testament student, at the problems so 
keenly debated among New Testament scholars, many of 
which stand in vital connexion with the fundamental facts 
of our Religion, it is impossible not to feel that on some of 
these at least a clearer light might be thrown if they were 
seriously approached by more scholars possessing a first- 
hand linguistic knowledge of Hebrew and Aramaic, andTof 
the literature to which these languages furnish the key. 

This is a contention so obvious as to amount to a truism. 
Our Lord and His first followers, those whom He taught 
and with whom He reasoned and argued, were Jews ; their 
Bible was the Hebrew Old Testament, their language, to 

A 



2 The Old Testament Conception of 

a large extent, Aramaic. Some part, at any rate, of the 
Gospel-records is based upon an Aramaic original. The 
whole New Testament teems with Old Testament quota- 
tions and allusions some of them drawn directly from the 
Hebrew text, others based upon the Septuagint translation 
of it ; and for explanation of the Septuagint variants a 
first-hand knowledge of Hebrew is essential. The religious 
terminology of the New Testament, when based on the 
Old Testament or on extra-canonical Jewish literature, not 
infrequently turns upon some question of Semitic philology 
or usage. All these facts, and others like them, are among 
the commonplaces of every beginner at New Testament 
study. It may seem superfluous to mention them in this 
place. Yet do they not, when taken as a whole, amount to 
a strong argument upon which to base the plea that we 
need more New Testament scholars who will approach 
their subject with a first-hand Semitic equipment ? 

I trust that I may not be misunderstood. It is far from 
my intention to attempt, in a spirit of arrogance, to teach 
New Testament scholars their business ; still less to 
suggest that the Semitic scholar holds the only clue to 
New Testament interpretation, or that New Testament 
scholars not similarly learned are altogether incapable of 
appreciating the value of this clue when it is placed in 
their hands, or of turning it to great advantage. Indeed, 
it is part of my case that the Old Testament scholar on his 
side most frequently suffers from serious limitations in 
learning which prevent him from making the best use of 
his special knowledge in application to the New Testament. 
At any rate, I am keenly conscious that this is so with 
myself. Yet it is surely a fact that Biblical scholars live too 
much in water-tight compartments. If the New Testament 
scholar, however highly endowed he be with intellectual 
gifts, is obliged to depend upon second-hand information 
in a wide department of learning which has a direct and 
indeed a vital bearing on his subject, he may indeed gain 
much which he is able to turn to good account ; yet surely 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 3 

the result is not likely to equal that which might have 
been attained had he drawn at first-hand from this fount 
of knowledge, and had habitually contemplated his subject 
of study in the light of an original acquaintance with its 
antecedents. If we are to be good stewards of the mysteries 
of God, bringing forth out of our treasury things both new 
and old, there is no department of that treasure-house 
which we can afford to leave unransacked. We shall not 
hand over the examination of its lowest and darkest store- 
houses to dependents, who through indolence, or ignorance\8. 
of our special needs, may overlook the very object which \ 
we require ; but, so far as time and strength allow, we shall 
descend ourselves and bring everything up to the light of 
day, in order that, having so done, we may have an accurate 
first-hand knowledge of our resources. 

This represents the gist of my plea in emphasis of the 
great need for the raising up and encouragement of more 
scholars of the kind that, possessing a thorough equipment 
in Old Testament and Semitic studies, shall devote their 
main energies to investigating the bearing of these studies 
upon the problems of the New Testament. 

When an Old Testament scholar thinks of the kind of 
New Testament problems which might conceivably receive 
fuller elucidation through the more direct application to 
them of Semitic learning, a number seem at once to pass 
before his mind. Can we, in the light of modern critical 
investigation, define with any clearness the sense in which 
Old Testament prophecy pointed forward to our Lord and 
was fulfilled by Him, or are we only warranted in expressing 
ourselves in vague generalities ? Can we distinguish between 
our Lord's claim to fulfil prophecy, and possibly later 
accretions to the Gospel-narrative which depend merely 
upon the conviction of early writers that He had fulfilled 
it ? What is the true relation of Old Testament sacrificial 
conceptions to the New Testament doctrine of Atonement ? 
Is the theory of Hellenistic influence upon the writer of the 
Fourth Gospel justified to the extent to which it is now 

A 2 



4 The Old Testament Conception of 

commonly received ; or does it involve some amount of 
ignorance as to the Hebrew side of the conception of the 
Word or Wisdom of God ? How comes it that a scholar 
like Dr. Moffatt, in the imposing bibliography purporting 
to include all work of any moment on the authorship of the 
Fourth Gospel which he gives us in his Introduction to the 
Literature of the New Testament^ omits all mention of 
a contribution which, from the Semitic scholar's point of 
view, is so extraordinarily weighty as Bishop Lightfoot's 
essays on the internal evidence for authenticity ? If the 
author of the Fourth Gospel was a Hellenistic Jew, why 
does he prefer to quote the Old Testament from the 
Hebrew rather than from the Septuagint, and constantly 
phrase his sentences like a man who is accustomed to think 
and speak in a Semitic language ? If he was a Hellenistic 
Jew. how do we account for his minute and accurate know- 
ledge of Palestinian topography, of Jewish customs, and 
above all of Messianic ideas and expectations in the time of 
our Lord ? Is it altogether beyond the range of possibility 
that in the future a competent Semitic scholar may arise, 
who, examining the Fourth Gospel verse by verse, shall 
prove beyond the range of reasonable doubt that at any 
rate a part of it is actually based upon an Aramaic original ? 

Such are some of the questions which occur to the mind 
in regard to problems which may well be susceptible of 
considerable elucidation through the direct application of 
Semitic learning. It was originally my purpose to survey 
the field of study in a somewhat general way by taking 
a number of these questions and seeking briefly to indicate 
some of the lines along which they might profitably be 
handled from the Semitic standpoint. Circumstances have, 
however, led me to modify my plan, and to confine my 
remarks to a single question which, in view of its vital 
importance to all Christians, causes the other questions 
which I have mentioned to pale to comparative insigni- 
ficance. I refer to our Lord's conviction that He was 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 5 

fulfilling, through His Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection, 
the role of the Suffering Servant as depicted in the latter 
half of the Book of Isaiah, and the conception of Atone- 
ment for sin which is therewith bound up. 

For an adequate study of the sense in which our Lord 
fulfilled Old Testament prophecy there is more than one 
preliminary question which calls for discussion ; though 
I think that for our present purpose these need not detain us 
long. There is, firstly, the question what was the true char- 
acter of the predictive element in prophecy. Owing to the 
flood of light which has been thrown upon the Old Testa- 
ment through critical study, the fact that the prophets had 
primarily a message to their own age, that their warnings 
and promises were dictated by the moral and social condi- 
tions by which they were immediately surrounded, and that 
they were characteristically preachers of righteousness, came 
home to Old Testament scholars almost in the light of a dis- 
covery. The fact is so arresting, it shows Old Testament 
prophecy in so much more real and vital connexion with reli- 
gion than did the older uncritical conception, which viewed 
it mainly as a collection of proof-texts bearing on the New 
Testament, that it has come to be regarded as representing 
the main, if not the sole, function of prophecy. If, as I 
have often done, I set a question to ordination-candidates 
bearing on the character of Old Testament prophecy, the 
great majority of answers begin with some form of the state- 
ment that the prophets were jfor/^-tellers rather faan.fore- 
tellers. This modern view of prophecy does not, it is true, 
deny that our Lord fulfilled the religious ideals which were 
the creation of prophetic thought ; but it does tend to 
ignore if not to deny the theory of an ecstatic and 
mysterious prevision of the future which is outside the range 
of ordinary experience, and the existence of which may 
therefore be called in question. 

Yet the view that the main function or at any rate the 
decisive mark of a genuine prophet is the gift of predicting 
future events is again and again put forward in the Old 

A 3 



6 The Old Testament Conception of 

Testament. It will be sufficient now to refer to the well-known 
passage in Deuteronomy, in which prediction of an event 
which does not come to pass is cited as the mark of 
a prophet who has spoken presumptuously, i. e. not under 
the influence of Divine inspiration ; J and to the trial of 
strength between Yahweh and the heathen gods so vividly 
pictured by Deutero-Isaiah, where ability to forecast 
the future triumphantly proved in the case of the true 
God through the fulfilled prediction of the raising up of 
Cyrus as a conqueror and coming deliverer is made the 
test-question. 2 

It is tempting to pursue this subject further, but time 
would fail me ; and for our present purpose recognition 
of the general fulfilment by our Lord of the prophetic 
ideals is really sufficient. It may be remarked, however, 
that the conscious fulfilment by our Lord of Old Testament 
prophecy, to which I shall presently refer, has a very 
direct bearing on the subject. He being what He was, the 
fact (if it can be proved to be such) that He was vividly con- 
scious of a correspondence between His life and mission and 
the ideals of the prophets which He must so constantly and 
earnestly have studied, is surely the weightiest fact that 
could be advanced in proof that there was something more 
behind these ideals than mere vague generalization. 

Another preliminary question concerns the sifting of the 
Gospel-evidence, with a view to discriminating passages 
which illustrate our Lord's own consciousness that He was 
fulfilling Old Testament prophecy from another and later 
type of passage, in which the conviction of early Judaic 
Christianity that He was the expected Messiah, and had 
fulfilled in the fullest sense the spiritual aspirations of 
the Old Testament, seems to have led to the ascription to 
Him of the fulfilment of particular passages of the Old 
Testament in a sense which, in the light of our modern 
knowledge, appears artificial and inappropriate. The fact 

1 Deut. i8 21 ' 22 . 

2 Isa. 4I 1 - 4 ' 2l ~ 29 3 42 9 , 44 6 - 8 , 45 20< 2 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 7 

is familiar that the most outstanding 1 illustrations of this 
tendency are to be found in the latest editorial stratum of 
the First Gospel ; but it can hardly be doubted that further 
illustrations are to be traced in other parts of the 
Gospel-narratives. This question, however, highly impor- 
tant as it is, does not appear to block the approach to 
our present inquiry. There is more than sufficient evidence 
in the oldest and most authentic Gospel-sources to prove 
that our Lord claimed to fulfil the ideals of Old Testament 
prophecy, and in particular the ideal conception of the 
Suffering Servant with which we are at present con- 
cerned. 

We may pass on, then, to brief consideration of this 
conception, and our Lord's interpretation of it. 

The great conception of the ideal Servant of Yahweh 
belongs to Isa. 40-55, a section of the Book of Isaiah which 
is proved by internal evidence to be not the work of the 
pre-exilic prophet of the eighth century B. C., but of 
a later and still greater prophet whose date can be fixed 
within clearly-defined limits in the later period of the Exile. 
As we are ignorant of his name, it is usual to refer to him 
as Deutero-Isaiah. He pictures his people Israel as the 
Servant of Yahweh, shortly to be released from exile in 
order to perform a mission of evangelization to the world 
at large. He cannot, however, overlook the fact that the 
nation as a whole is morally unfit for so lofty a spiritual 
mission. The Servant is blind and deaf to his vocation. 
4 Seeing many things, he regards not ; his ears are open, 
but he hears not.' Thus the conception comes to be nar- 
rowed down. It is the Israel within Israel who is the 
righteous Servant the spiritually-minded nucleus within 
the nation upon which the religious ideals of the prophet 
depend for realization and this Israel, pictured as an ideal 
personage, has a preliminary mission to his own nation 
prior to his performance of his mission to humanity as 
a whole. The grand culmination is, however, never for 
an instant lost sight of by the prophet. Finally, in his 



8 The Old Testament Conception of 

conviction that God's spiritual purposes for humanity are not 
to be defeated, and that Israel must eventually rise to his high 
vocation, he seems to revert to his original conception, and 
it is once more the nation as a whole which is the ideal 
Servant, carrying out, for the world at large, a great work 
of redemption. 

Let us briefly review the later stages of this wonderful 
conception. The mission entrusted to the Servant can 
only be accomplished through much suffering. His con- 
temporaries fail to understand his steadfast purpose ; he is 
greeted, not with enthusiasm, but with scorn and loathing. 
None like him has ever understood what sorrow means. 
He experiences to the full the sharp pain of isolation, the 
agony caused by the misinterpretation of the active sym- 
pathy which he has to proffer. Yet, in spite of all, he still 
persists. In the teeth of persecution he sets his face like 
a flint, for the Lord Yahweh is his helper, and he knows that 
he shall not be put to shame. Finally, in the pursuit of his 
aims, he voluntarily suffers a cruel death, allowing himself 
to be numbered with transgressors, and undergoing the 
death and burial of the worst of felons. 

But it is through death that the purpose of his life is 
worked out. His death is a guilt-offering : his sufferings 
are vicarious. Yahweh has been pleased to smite him in 
order that his blood may become the seed of a renewed 
community. Thus he is pictured as rising again from the 
dead, and as gazing with satisfaction upon the result of his 
labours, knowing that, through his uttermost surrender, 
God's purpose has been accomplished to the full. 

If it be asked wherein the peculiar virtue of the Servant's 
sufferings is pictured as consisting, there can be no doubt 
as to the answer. His whole career- both the life and the 
death offers a sublime and unique exhibition of the 
bending of a human will to the fulfilment of God's purposes 
for humanity. This voluntary subjection of the will is 
emphasized in every description of the ideal Servant, and 
it explains the fact that he is well-pleasing to God as His 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ' g 

chosen instrument. 1 He possesses both the ear and the 
tongue of a disciple. 2 The extent to which performance 
of his mission will involve him in self-abasement and 
suffering culminating in death seems to be pictured as 
gradually unfolding before him ; yet, as its full meaning 
dawns upon him, he never for an instant wavers in his 
submission to the Divine Will. 3 In the final scene the 
voluntary character of his sufferings is emphasized with 
a force which is not always sufficiently reproduced in our 
English versions. 4 The willing surrender of himself to 
death, which is but the culmination of a lifetime of self- 
sacrifice, is an issue in the full performance of his mission 
involved through the sins of humanity, and inevitable if he 
is to save humanity from the consequences of sin. Thus 
he is truly said to bear the sins of many and to interpose 
on behalf of transgressors. And since his whole life-work 
is but an interpretation and fulfilment of the Divine Will in 
regard to humanity, it is the fact that ' Yahweh caused to 
light upon him the guilt of us all '. That God should will 
to accept such a voluntary sacrifice of the innocent on 
behalf of the guilty does not, however, involve a defect in 
the conception of Divine justice. We do not arraign the 
Divine justice for permitting a soldier to lay down his life 
in regaining a position which has been lost through the 
fault of others ; such an attitude is precluded both by our 
sense of the inherent moral value of the action as an 
offering of supreme heroism, and by our conviction that 
death is not the end, but that such a sacrifice must find its 
recompense in a life to come. This outcome of the ideal 
Servant's sacrifice is fully emphasized by the prophet in 
the closing verses of ch. 53. 

There can be no doubt that the Servant of Yahweh, as 
he figures in the great and familiar passage which runs 

1 Ch. 42 1 , 49 2 . 2 Ch. 50*, 3 Ch. so 5 - 6 . 

4 In ch. S3 7 ' 12 the Niph'al forms '"^.W, n j'?? are undoubted instances 
of Niph'al toleratimun. We should render in z'. 7 , ' He was oppressed, 
yet he let himself be humbled 5 (submitted himself); in v. ia , 'and 
with transgressors he let himself be numbered '. 



io The Old Testament Conception of 

from Isa. 52 to 53 12 , represents primarily Israel as 
a nation, passing through the sufferings and vicissitudes of 
the Exile, and, as it were, emerging from the tomb at the 
restoration from captivity in order to become the instru- 
ment for the redemption of the world. The vivid colouring 
and wealth of details in the prophet's picture have, however, 
impressed Old Testament scholars of all types of opinion ; 
and these characteristics have universally been regarded as 
demanding explanation. One attempt to explain them 
is that the prophet may have drawn his details from the 
actual experiences of a particular righteous sufferer for 
the Faith, such as was Jeremiah. To myself, however, as 
to many others, the boldness of the lines in which the 
^Servant is depicted as an individiial makes the conclusion 
fwellnigh irresistible that it was already revealed to the 
Jprophet in some mysterious way that his conception was 
fto find fulfilment in one great Person, the Redeemer of 
Ithe world. It is indeed Israel who effects the world's 

t 

(redemption, but it is Israel with all his highest spiritual 
possibilities realized and consummated in a single indi- 
vidual. 

^The Jews of our Lord's day do not seem to have 
interpreted the conception of the Servant of Yahweh as 
having reference to a personal Redeemer who was to be 
identified with the Messiah. The Apostles' use, in the 
early chapters of Acts, of the' term 'Servant ' with reference 
to our Lord, in such phrases as ' God hath glorified His 
Servant Jesus', ' God, having raised up His Servant, hath 
sent Him to bless you '/ makes it plain that they, in their 
enlightenment, were dwelling upon the Isaianic conception, 
and suggests the inference that the use of the term 
' Servant ' in a Messianic sense would not be misunderstood 
by their hearers ; and a Messianic interpretation is given, 
from the Christian standpoint, to Isa. 53 by Philip, in 
explaining the chapter to the Ethiopian eunuch. 2 But 
how foreign the idea of a suffering Messiah was ,to the 
1 Acts 3 13 ' 26 ; cp. 4 30 . 2 Acts 8 26 ~ 35 . 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ n 

Jewish thought of the time is evident from the failure 
of our Lord's immediate followers to realize that their 
Master was destined to suffer, and that His crucifixion was 
anything else than the death-blow to their expectations. 
' But we hoped that it was He who should redeem Israel ', 
said Cleophas to the unknown wayfarer, when he had told 
him of the death of the prophet, Jesus of Nazareth ; and 
he needed the reproof, ' Behoved it not the Messiah 
to suffer these things ? ' and the interpretation of Scripture 
which followed, before he was able to grasp the fact that 
this was in truth a great aspect of the Messiah's work, as 
contemplated in the Old Testament. In the same way 
we find St. Paul at Thessalonica ' opening and alleging ' 
to the Jews ' from the Scriptures ' ' that it behoved the 
Messiah to suffer, and to rise again from the dead ', it being 
necessary to make them understand this before he was able 
to continue, ' This Jesus, whom I proclaim unto you, is the 
Messiah'. 1 Thus the evidence indicates that it was our 
Lord Himself who first realized the Messianic import of 
the ' Servant '-conception in Deutero-Isaiah, as destined to 
be fulfilled in Himself, and communicated that interpre- 
tation to His followers. 

That our Lord was conscious, from an early stage in 
His ministry, that He was fulfilling the prophetic ideal of 
the Servant comes out perhaps most notably in the incident 
in the synagogue at Nazareth, recorded in St. Luke 4. It 
will be remembered that He selected and read the passage 
in Isa. 6 1 which begins with the words, f The Spirit of the 
Lord is upon me, because He anointed me to preach good 
tidings to the poor'. This passage occurs in a group of 
chapters which are not the work of Deutero-Isaiah. but 
of a later post-exilic prophet, who is, however, undoubtedly 
taking up and developing the earlier prophet's conception 
of the ideal Servant. 

When our Lord had read the passage, He closed the 
book, and we are told that ' He began to say unto them, 

1 Acts i? 1 " 3 . 



12 The Old Testament Conception of 

To-day hath this scripture been fulfilled in your ears. And 
all bare Him witness, and wondered at the words of grace 
which proceeded out of His mouth.' I do not know how 
this Lucan narrative is understood by those who hold that 
the Synoptic Gospels witness to the fact that our Lord 
concealed Hi's Messianic claims in the earlier stages of His 
ministry, and in fact until just before His Passion ; but it 
certainly appears from it that at a very early stage He was 
ready, before a suitable audience, to proclaim Himself 
Messiah in the sense in which He understood and assumed 
Messiahship, as opposed to the popular conception of a 
king who was to be a political leader and deliverer, which 
He repudiated at all stages of His ministry. 

It is clear, however, from a number of allusions that it 
was not until shortly before His Passion that our Lord 
began to impress upon His disciples the fact that the great , 
ideal which He was fulfilling involved, as its culmination, 
Suffering, Death, and Resurrection a conception which, as 
we have already noticed, they so signally failed to under- 
stand. The most striking passage is one which comes from 
the Marcan source, and is found in St. Matthew's Gospel, 
though not in that of St. Luke. It is the saying which 
stands in connexion with the request of the sons of Zebedee 
for a pre-eminent position in the earthly kingdom which 
they supposed that He was about to found ' The Son of 
man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to 
live His life a ransom for many '.* This is an unquestion- 
able allusion to the words of Isa. 53 'when his soul shall 
make a guilt-offering', and, 'by his knowledge shall my 
righteous Servant make many righteous, and he shall bear 
their iniquities '. 

We come next to an incident in our Lord's life which, 
from the Old Testament point of view, is of peculiar interest. 
I have said that the conception of the ideal Servant was not 
in Jewish circles interpreted Messianically in our Lord's 
time ; yet there is one passage and one only in the Old 
1 St. Mark io 45 = St. Matt. 2O* 28 . 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 13 

Testament in which the attributes of the Servant appear to be 
combined with the figure of the King-Messiah. The passage 
comes in Zech. 9, in the latter half of the book which 
dates probably from the Greek period, i. e. subsequently to 
the overthrow of the Persian Empire by Alexander in 332 
B. c. In this prophecy the Messianic King is pictured as 
returning in triumph to his capital. He appears, not as a 
warlike monarch, but as a Prince of Peace, ' saved ' from his 
external foes, i. e. the recipient of victory at the hands of 
God, and ' lowly ', i. e. humble in relation to God sub- 
mitting himself to Divine guidance, and wholly untouched 
by lust of worldly power. He rides upon an ass, the animal 
of peace, and not upon a horse, which would suggest war 
and worldly aggrandizement. In the attribute of lowliness 
we may trace the combination of the conception of the 
Servant of Yahweh with the older ideal of the Messianic 
King. This no doubt was the reason why our. Lord made 
His triumphal entry into Jerusalem in a manner which was 
calculated to bring the prophecy to the minds of His 
spectators. 1 It was a consciously-enacted fulfilment. The 
time had come for Him to claim His Messianic Kingdom 
a Kingdom not of this world. The crowd at once recog- 
nized the resemblance of the action to the prophecy, and 
hailed its fulfilment. But they totally missed the connexion 
of the prophecy with the conception of the lowly Servant 
of Yahweh. 

One more instance of consciously-enacted fulfilment of 
the Servant-prophecies may be noticed. If the points which 
I have already attempted to make can be accepted, it is 
surely not fanciful to see, in our Lord's trial-scene, when, 
both before the high priest and before Pilate, He maintained 
silence in face of His accusers and in face of the questions 
which were put to Him, a conscious and deliberate fulfilment 
of the passage in Isa. 53 ' He was oppressed, yet he sub- 
mitted himself and opened not his mouth ; as a lamb that 
is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before her 

1 St. Mark ii 1 - 11 , St. Matt. 2L 1 - 11 , St. Luke ig 29 " 40 , St. John I2 12 ~ 19 . 



14 The Old Testament Conception of 

shearers is dumb; yea, he opened not his mouth'. This 
last instance, it will be noted, carries conscious fulfilment of 
the Servant-conception right up to the scene in which the 
ideal figure is depicted as willingly making His life a guilt- 
offering, and bearing the iniquities of many. It is appro- 
priate, therefore, that the whole cycle of conscious fulfilment 
should be crowned and as it were rounded off by our Lord's 
question to the two disciples after His Resurrection : * Be- 
hoved it not the Messiah to suffer these things, and to enter 
into His glory ? ' 

It will already have become apparent to some at least of 
my hearers that I have chosen this subject in view of the 
theory of Atonement put forward by Dr. Rashdall in his 
Bampton Lectures. * Dr. Rashdall will have nothing of any 
objective theory of Atonement. The view, which we find 
throughout the New Testament, that the death of Christ 
effected Atonement for sin is altogether repugnant to him. 
Our Lord's mission, he holds, was simply to preach repen- 
tance, and to proclaim that God is willing to forgive sin. 
' Forgiveness is dependent upon no condition whatever but 
repentance, and the amendment which is the necessary 
consequence of sincere repentance. ' J As proof of this he 
cites the parables of the Prodigal Son, and the Pharisee and 
the Publican. The Publican, who smote upon his breast 
and said, ' God be merciful to me a sinner ', went down to 
his \xsuse.justified rather than the self-complacent Pharisee. 
That, in a few simple words, is the gist of our Lord's teaching, 
and that is all that the sinner requires for salvation. The 
only value which is inherent in our Lord's death is purely 
subjective, consisting in the love and reverence which it 
excites in our minds as a signal spectacle of self-sacrifice. 
Its value was in essence of the same character as the effect 
produced upon us by the sufferings of other righteous men, 
though it is admitted that the death of the Messiah must 
naturally exercise a more powerful subjective influence. 

1 p. 25. ; 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 15 

In maintaining 1 this theory Dr. Rashdall is naturally 
brought face to face with contrary evidence contained in 
the Gospels ; but he limits the relevant passages to two 
the reference to the mission of the Suffering Servant involved 
in the passage which we have already noticed ' The Son 
of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and 
to give His life a ransom for many ' ; and the words of in- 
stitution at the Eucharist, especially at the giving of the 
cup according to St. Mark and St. Matthew, 'This is My 
blood of the covenant which was shed for many' (.St. 
Matthew adds, ' for the remission of sins ') ; according to 
St. Paul and St. Luke, ' This cup is the new covenant in My 
blood ' (St. Luke adds, * which was shed for you '). 1 Both 
these passages, it maybe noted, belong to theMarcan tradi- 
tion ; yet by a process of very special pleading Dr. Rashdall 
argues that the words are later doctrinal accretions, and 
that our Lord never used them. The fact that our Lord 
connected His mission with the Isaianic conception of the 
Servant of Yahweh he cannot well deny ; but he does deny 
that He identified Himself with that ideal figure in any 
exclusive way, or thought of connecting His death with the 
conception of the Suffering Servant's death as a guilt- 
offering ; the only trace of His having done so being-, he 
asserts, the ' solitary sentence of Mark '. 2 The fact that the 
conception of the Servant was not identified with the Messiah 
by the Jews of our Lord's time is treated as an argument 
against our Lord's having so regarded it. Dr. Rashdall 
does not, apparently, allow our Lord any independence of 
thought in interpreting the Old Testament. 

I have thought it best, before alluding to Dr. Rashdall's 
views, to develop the conception of the Suffering Servant 
as we find it in Deutero-Isaiah, and as it is taken up 
by our Lord in the Gospel-records, and I think that I may 
leave it at that. I believe that few will hesitate in deciding 
which view has the greater approximation to truth. 

But why does Dr. Rashdall deny any objective theory of 
1 St. Mark I4 24 , St. Matt. 26 28 , i Cor. ii 25 , St. Luke 22*. 2 p. 36. 



1 6 The Old Testament Conception of 

Atonement, and how does he account for the fact that such 
a theory is held by every New Testament writer who 
touches on the subject ? The reason for his denial seems to 
be the view that no objective theory can be held which is 
not irrational or immoral. In his eyes St. Paul is the arch- 
offender, for he maintains that his theory is one of vicarious 
punishment, the wrath of God against sin being- satisfied 
by the punishment of the innocent in place of the guilty. 
This is based, he maintains, upon the Old Testament 
theory of sacrifice. He is too honest to argue that St. Paul 
invented the idea of objective Atonement, and gives full 
weight to his statement in i Corinthians, ' I delivered unto 
you first of all that which also I received, how that Christ 
died for our sins according to the Scriptures '- 1 ' It was 
already an article of the Church's creed when the Apostle 
of the Gentiles was baptized into it. It was due neither 
to theorizing nor to the visions of St. Paul. It resulted 
from the reflection of the Church in the interval which 
elapsed between the Crucifixion and St. Paul's conversion - 
a period which cannot have been more than a very few 
years ' (I quote the actual words of Dr. Rashdall). 2 

We are to believe, then, that the culminating feature in 
the conception of the Suffering Servant that of a guilt- 
offering for the sins of many was ignored by our Lord in 
His adoption of the rdle of the Servant ; though Dr. Rash- 
dall is not bold enough to assert that He ever actually 
repudiated it, or indeed took any steps to guard His followers 
against falling into a misconception on the subject. Yet, 
almost immediately after the Crucifixion, reflection on the 
meaning of that event led His followers to seize upon the 
salient conception in the Servant's work, and to apply it to 
our Lord's death, thus formulating an objective theory of the 
Atonement which, to a greater or less degree, affected the 
teaching of the majority of the New Testament writers 
and the whole subsequent thought of the Church. This, too, 
in spite of the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. 

1 i Cor. 15 s . 2 pp. 75 f. 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 17 

Dr. Rashdall's view of St. Paul's doctrine is, as we have 
seen, that it is a theory of vicarious or substituted punish- 
ment. Again and again he uses this expression ; though 
in one passage he somewhat naively admits that it is 
' important to note that St. Paul never actually applies the 
word " punishment " to Christ's death. He seems instinc- 
tively to shrink from it.' 1 This doctrine, it is asserted, is 
drawn from the Old Testament conception of sacrifice. It 
only concerns me, as an Old Testament scholar, to point 
out (in a few words, as needs be) that his conception of 
sacrifice is radically incorrect. 

To the important subject of sacrifice he devotes rather less 
than three pages. 2 He rightly recognizes that the earliest 
form of sacrifice took the shape of a communion-feast 
shared by the God and His worshippers ; and also that 
out of the idea of communion the propitiatory idea could 
easily grow. Later forms of sacrifice, which in the Old 
Testament are the whole burnt-offering and its further 
developments, the sin-offering and the guilt-offering, he 
correctly describes as originating in the conception of 
a gift made to the Deity. ; From this he leaps to the con- 
clusion that the innocent victim was thought to be punished 
for the sin of the offerer. 

Is it possible that two conceptions could stand in more 
glaring contrast ? How could it be thought that a victim 
loaded with vicarious sin, and therefore morally and cere- 
monially unclean and unholy, could be an acceptable gift to 
the holy God, whose hatred of and recoil from the pollu- 
tion of sin was the very reason for which the sacrifice was 
offered ? 

We must look elsewhere for the inner meaning of these 
gift-offerings. Let us take the sin- and guilt-offerings as the 
most typical and developed forms. The purpose of both was 
piacular, i. e. they were offered to make atonement for or 
wash away the sin of the guilty community or individual (the 
root-meaning of the word rendered ' atone ' in Hebrew and 

1 p. 98. 2 pp. 66-9. 



1 8 The Old Testament Conception of 

Babylonian is ' wipe off' or * make bright or white '). It is 
important to notice the manner in which this atonement 
was carried into effect. That the animal is not regarded as 
a vicarious sin-bearer, punished by the penalty of death, 
is quite certain. The purpose of the imposition of the 
offerer's hand on its head was not the transference of guilt 
from him to the offering. 1 Rather, since the same cere- 
mony accompanies the other forms of sacrifice the thank- 
offering of the communion-feast and the whole burnt-offering 

1 In the ritual of the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16) the goat 'for 
Azazel ' is (as we are expressly told in vv^' 22 ) regarded as charged 
with sin and as carrying it off. The meaning of the term l Asazel has 
caused much discussion. The rendering of the Authorized Version is 
' scape-goat' ; but this interpretation is now abandoned, as the expression 
is obviously not a description of the animal itself, but is intended to 
indicate its destination. It is therefore generally considered that Azazel 
was the name given to a demon who was supposed to haunt solitary 
places, and who, in this special ritual, is taken as the personification 
of the spirit of evil. The sending away of the goat, charged with 
the sins of Israel, to this demon, meant that the sins were thus 
borne right away from the presence of Yahweh, never more to be 
remembered against His people. 

' That this goat, however, was not an offering to Yahweh is proved 
by the distinction drawn in v. 8 ' one lot for Yahweh, and the other 
lot for Azazel ' a distinction which emphasizes the fact that the 
goat for Yahweh's sin-offering was not regarded as charged with 
sin. Though the goat for Azazel was so charged, and, accordin* 
to the Mishna-treatise Yoma, was pushed over a precipice 12 miles 
from Jerusalem and dashed to pieces, it does not seem to have been 
regarded as punished for the sins of the nation, but merely as the 
vehicle by means of which those sins were banished : cf. the ritual 
of the living bird which, when loosed in the open field, symbolically 
carried off the disease of leprosy (Lev. I4 4ff> ); and Zech. 5 Bff -, where 
Wickedness, typified as a woman, is enclosed in an ephah, and 
carried off bodily to the land of Shinar. 

The Fathers often explain the 'scape-goa*' as typical of Christ 
(cf. Ep. Barn. 7 ; Justin Martyr, Dial. 40 ; Tertullian, Adv. Marc. 
iii. 7, Adv. htd. 14 ; as well as later writers) ; but this is of a part 
with the tendency to see foreshadowings of oar Lord everywhere 
in the Old Testament. The sense in which the ideal Servant is said 
to ' bear sin ' (i. e. the penalty of it) has already been noticed (p. 9). 



Atonement fulfilled by Christ 19 

it simply represents the dedication of the animal to God 
upon the part of the offerer. And again, if the sin of the 
offerer were thought to be transferred to the animal, 
it would, as we have seen, of necessity be regarded as 
unclean ; but, on the contrary, it is explicitly stated to be 
most holy. The smoke of its burning is said to form ' an 
odour of satisfaction ' to the Deity an expression which, 
we may note, is taken over by St. Paul, and applied in 
Ephesians to our Lord's atoning death ' Christ . . . gave 
Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for 
an odour of a sweet smell l . 1 

We may surely find the true significance of the sin- 
offering in the fact that the animal was always without 
blemish, the best that could be procured. The offering is 
therefore typical of a perfect sinless life which God consents 
to accept in place of the imperfect life of the worshipper. 
The offering was carried out through the entire dedication 
made by death, i.e. the offering of the life of the victim 
to God through the blood in which that life resided. 

The root-conception of Old Testament sacrifice was 
a striving after communion with God. Polluted with sin, 
and unable to cleanse himself, the worshipper sought for 
something pure and holy outside himself, by identification 
with which his sin might be purged and he might be given 
a new start, strengthened and accepted through union with 
the Divine, which, as in one form of sacrifice it was typified 
by the communion- feast, so in the other is represented 
by the ritual of the atoning blood, applied to the horns 
of the altar. 

This, in spite of some few difficulties of language, is 
surely the doctrine of St. Paul, as it is the doctrine of 
other New Testament writers. God has granted us His 
precious and exceeding great promises, that through these 
we may become partakers of the Divine nature. 2 

One side of St. Paul's Atonement-doctrine is studiously 
kept in the background by Dr. Rashdall. He fails to 
1 Ephes. 5*. 2 2 Pet. i*. 



20 Old Testament Conception of Atonement 

connect it with the conception that we are baptized into 
Christ's death, buried with Him in baptism, that with Him 
we may rise to newness of life. He makes no mention 
at all of the phrase ' a new creation ', or of the conception 
which is expressed by the terms 'in Christ', and 'until 
Christ be formed in you '. Yet this doctrine of a mystical 
union of the believer with the perfect life which has been 
offered on his behalf a doctrine which appears as 
prominently in the Fourth Gospel as it does in the writings 
of St. Paul is the central conception of the sacrificial 
doctrine of Atonement. That sense of release from the 
burden of guilt and of spiritual uplift which we may believe 
that the devout Israelite experienced as he watched the 
smoke of his pure offering ascending to heaven, has 
become, in an immeasurably enhanced degree, a living 
experience of rebirth and imparted spiritual strength for 
every Christian who stakes his hopes upon the finished 
work of his Redeemer ; and not least for the simple and 
unlearned who, though holding no reasoned doctrine of 
Atonement, have yet the conviction that Christ has done 
something for them which of themselves they could not 
accomplish, and prove the fact of their belief by living 
a life conformed, in its measure, to the Christian ideal. 

If this is true, we may continue to ' preach Christ crucified, 
unto Jews a stumbling-block, and unto Gentiles foolishness ; 
but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ 
the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the 
foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness 
of God is stronger than men.' 



Printed in England at the Oxford University Press 
By Frederick Hall 




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UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO