Matt Kennedy on Article III and the Atonement

For those wanting an antidote of the classic Gospel and a defense of subsitutionary atonement after reading Ed Bacon’s denial of the same earlier today. Here you go. Matt Kennedy has his discussion of Article III posted on Stand Firm, and the section on God’s character and the atonement flashed out at us like a neon sign after we’d been reading so much of the reappraisers’ mush (or worse) on the topic recently as we’ve been working to pull together many of the recent articles which have been raising this question.


And it is true that God is the very origin and measure of love. God is not simply “loving” as if love were some external quality that might be used to describe him, but as John says, “God is Love.” (1st John 4:8)

And yet love is not all that God is. As Dr. RC Sproul points out in his book, “The Holiness of God,” the one attribute of God revealed in the superlative sense is not “love” but “holiness.” In Isaiah 6, for example, God is not just described as “Holy” but as: “Holy, Holy, Holy”. The thrice-repetition of an adjective is the Hebrew equivalent to our superlative: “most”. God is “most” Holy. This is not to say that God is anything less than the perfectly superlative measure of love. It is to say, not to labor the point, that alongside his perfect love, God is also Holy. And elsewhere in the scriptures we learn that he is “just” and “righteous” and that sin provokes his “wrath”. God’s character, then, certainly includes love but love is not his sole attribute.

As we discussed in last week’s article, all of God’s attributes; love, wrath, justice, righteousness, come together perfectly on the cross where God’s just and holy wrath against human wickedness is exhausted or “propitiated” on himself in the person of his Son Jesus Christ. And, in his perfect love, God in Christ willingly bears it.

Through this, his own substitutionary sacrifice to propitiate his own just wrath at human sin, God has made a way for human beings to escape the wrath we all naturally choose and justly deserve. In him, in Christ, those who come to faith do not face the eternal and infinite consequences sin because Christ bears those consequences for us. There is no more wrath for those in Christ Jesus.

But while this eternal blessing and benefit of the cross is commonly acknowledged, what is often forgotten is that the cross stands as a stark and fearful warning that God, in his justice, does not leave sin unpunished. The infinite cup of God’s wrath that the infinite God in Christ willingly drained to the dregs on the cross remains full, it is brimming with judgment, for those who are unwilling to repent, cry out, and seek refuge and salvation in the Son.

Thus, throughout the New Testament, the promise and proclamation salvation in Christ Jesus is accompanied by a warning for those who refuse and reject it.

Matt’s full article is here.

Kennedy v. Bacon. Looks indeed like we have two very different “gospels” being preached. Only one of them can be true.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, - Anglican: Commentary, Atonement, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Conflicts, Theology

92 comments on “Matt Kennedy on Article III and the Atonement

  1. Dale Rye says:

    Yeah, there is the Gospel preached by everyone in the East, everyone in the West until Anselm, and many in the West since… and there is the Calvinist version of penal substitutionary atonement. If only one of them can be true, I’m voting with the majority. Rejecting a narrowly Calvinist theory does not imply rejection of the orthodox belief that Christ saves us by bringing us at-one-ment with God through his incarnation, sacrificial death, and resurrection.

    It is just this sort of narrowing of the definition of “Orthodoxy” to include only a small portion of those who hold genuinely orthodox (if non-Calvinist) Christian views that leads some of us to mistrust adamant reasserters as much as reappraisers. To some folks out there, not only is the Pope not Catholic, but the Orthodox aren’t orthodox, and most Anglicans aren’t really Anglican. Those of us who want to be Anglican without being either Unitarian or Calvinist are being caught in a double squeeze.

  2. The_Elves says:

    Although I personally believe in the doctrine of penal substitution, I’m with Matt that it is not the only aspect of the atonement which I value and proclaim. See for example Phil Synder’s comment on the Bacon thread:

    My two gospels remark is not about penal substitution vs. other doctrines of the atonement but ANY doctrine of the atonement vs. a denial of Christ’s atoning work.

    Bacon does not merely deny the doctrine of penal substitution but also appears to deny ANY doctrine of atonement, ANY idea that we are in need of a savior, that we are unable to save ourselves. Bacon denies Christ’s role as a mediator when he says

    “There is no gulf between God’s creation and God that has to be spanned.”
    “We must put an end to any portrayal of God that says that without Jesus and the crucifixion we are left standing condemned”

    Bacon denies the need for a savior. No separation. No savior.

    Two gospels. The difference is MUCH deeper than say a debate of the merits of penal substitution vs. Christus victor.

  3. Sarah1 says:

    Agree with elfgirl — the two gospels are 1) there is no need for an atonement, and 2) there is a need and here is my model for the atonement [insert different theories of the atonement here].

  4. Revamundo says:

    [i]Kennedy v. Bacon. Looks indeed like we have two very different “gospels” being preached. Only one of them can be true.[/i]
    My comments on Matt’s “gospel.” (btw, I think it is essential to read both articles in full before commenting.)

    Matt says: [i]The infinite cup of God’s wrath that the infinite God in Christ willingly drained to the dregs on the cross remains full, it is brimming with judgment, for those who are unwilling to repent, cry out, and seek refuge and salvation in the Son.[/i]

    And [i]The warning of Hell, then, is a deadly serious one and it must necessarily accompany the proclamation of the gospel because those who are not in Christ and continue to walk the path of rebellion must be made aware not only of the benefits of eternal life in Christ Jesus but the infinite torment toward which their current path(s) inevitably lead.

    Hell is a place of living death; a place where one dies for eternity. Jesus makes this eternality explicit in Matthew 25:45 where he says that hell is a place of “eternal punishment.”[/i]

    The problem w/ Matt’s interpretation is the word rendered “everlasting,” “eternal,” in the New Testament, is some form of aion; that is, “age,” “era,” “epoch,” etc. [b]It never denotes, of itself, endless duration.[/b]

    Philippians 2:9-11 says [b]”Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[/b]

    I believe, according to the Bible, that everyone will be eventually reconciled to God. That is the purpose of the eons (aions, ages), some reconciled now (in this age or eon), some at his coming (in that age or eon), and some at the end (at the consummation of the ages or eons).

    When testing the Spirit of a teaching it is important to apply an understanding of “the fruit” of that Spirit. [b]“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law (Galatians 5:22)”[/b]

    The fruit I feel from Matt’s gospel is fear, judgement, repression & harshness. Of course, YMMV.

  5. Revamundo says:

    I believe the key paragraph to understanding Bacon’s POV is in the last 3 paragraphs where we are challenged to use reason instead of blindly clinging to dogma. Change happens, understandings evolve, faith matures. The ground at the foot of the cross is a hard place to stand at times but it is where we’re called to stand and Bacon doesn’t deny that in the least.

  6. Revamundo says:

    Thanks for the critique Matt. I’m secure in God’s saving grace and I think my koine is at least as good as yours 🙂 If I had all day and it wouldn’t cloud up the issue I’d love to hear your interpretation of Rev. 20 but I don’t and it would.

  7. Jim the Puritan says:

    I was fortunate enough to hear R.C. Sproul preach at a local church just a couple of weeks ago. I’ll stick with Dr. Sproul’s position on the nature of God.

  8. Ross says:

    I’ll admit right up front that I haven’t yet read either article (although I plan to when I get a chance) so feel free to discount this comment…

    But one of the things that itches at me about the “atonement” theories is that they seem to put all the emphasis on the Crucifixion as the necessary act of sacrifice, and the Resurrection becomes an afterthought — a happy ending tacked on to make the story come out nicely. Every instinct I have tells me that’s wrong. The Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection of Jesus are all equally necessary — many of my classmates would add the ministry and teaching of Jesus to that list as well — and I just don’t see where atonement theories have that vital dependency on the Resurrection.

  9. Revamundo says:

    1 Corinthians 15:20-28
    20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam [b]all[/b] die, so in Christ [b]all[/b] will be made alive. 23 But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24 Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that [b]”everything”[/b] has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put [b]everything[/b] under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put [b]everything[/b] under him, so that God may be [b]all in all[/b].

    ps to Sarah, feel free to put this in your tutorial 😉

  10. John A. says:

    My hope for the Anglican Communion is that we can define a clear theology that we are able to communicate to our various communities. I have enjoyed the enthusiasm of pentecostal and Bible churches but they do not easily connect with the engineers and programmers that I work with. People are willing to take the time to listen and they can understand intricate details but they want a big picture that makes sense to them before they take the time to dig in.

    The doctrine of atonement is important but technical explanations of atonement evoke an image of a god who demands his pound of flesh who requires his own son to be tortured to death to satisfy his blood lust.

    We must find ways to communicate the essentials of the Gospel that address the distortions that Christians have allowed to accumulate.

  11. Jim the Puritan says:

    People might also want to read this recent article by Anglican theologian J.I. Packer, “Penal Substitution Revisited”:

    [i]Indeed! that’s actually something we elves have got in the queue to post here as we continue to look at the recent “atonement debate” around the Anglican blogosphere and more widely (Southern Baptists, the emerging church, etc. are all getting into this debate too.)[/i]

  12. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “ps to Sarah, feel free to put this in your tutorial”

    No need — I have plenty, thanks — you helped provide that on the last thread we discussed the varying gospels and clergy’s ability to lie to those on search committees.

    Glad to see the comment rankled enough for you to recall it.
    ; >)

  13. Revamundo says:

    Sarah, dear. Not rankled, amused. 😉

  14. Karen B. says:

    Ross, #11:
    Here’s one answer to your question about how the crucifixion and the resurrection are related. From well-known Baptist pastor, author and theologian John Piper. I posted this (with permission) on Lent & Beyond a few years ago. It is one of the chapters in his wonderful devotional book “The Passion of Jesus Christ: 50 Reasons Why He Came to Die”

    [blockquote][b]4. Christ Suffered and Died …
    To Achieve His Own Resurrection from the Dead[/b]

    [i]Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will. Hebrews 13:20-21[/i]

    The death of Christ did not merely precede his resurrection—it was the price that obtained it. That’s why Hebrews 13:20 says that God brought him from the dead “by the blood of the eternal covenant.”

    The “blood of the …covenant” is the blood of Jesus. As he said, “This is my blood of the covenant” (Matthew 26:28). When the Bible speaks of the blood of Jesus, it refers to his death. No salvation would be accomplished by the mere bleeding of Jesus. His bleeding to death is what makes his blood-shedding crucial.

    Now what is the relationship between this shedding of Jesus’ blood and the resurrection? The Bible says he was raised not just after the blood-shedding, but by it. This means that what the death of Christ accomplished was so full and so perfect that the resurrection was the reward and vindication of Christ’s achievement in death.

    The wrath of God was satisfied with the suffering and death of Jesus. The holy curse against sin was fully absorbed. The obedience of Christ was completed to the fullest measure. The price of forgiveness was totally paid. The righteousness of God was completely vindicated. All that was left to accomplish was the public declaration of God’s endorsement. This he gave by raising Jesus from the dead.

    When the Bible says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17), the point is not that the resurrection is the price paid for our sins. The point is that the resurrection proves that the death of Jesus is an all-sufficient price. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, then his death was a failure, God did not vindicate his sin-bearing achievement, and we are still in our sins.

    But in fact “Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father” (Romans 6:4). The success of his suffering and death was vindicated. And if we put our trust in Christ, we are not still in our sins. For “by the blood of the eternal covenant,” the Great Shepherd has been raised and lives forever.[/blockquote]

    This is an excerpt from the Passion of Jesus Christ, Fifty Reasons Why He Came to Die. John Piper, Crossway Books, 2004, pp. 26-27.

    The following excerpt is posted with permission of the publishers from an online promotional excerpt: See also:

  15. Karen B. says:

    For those who might be interested, here are the links to all 5 chapters from John Piper’s book which were posted with permission on Lent & Beyond back in 2004:

  16. Karen B. says:

    For those who want to read the Crossway Books 20 page promotional of John Piper’s book in full here’s the link to the [url=]web archive of that document.[/url]

    Highly highly recommended.

  17. Br. Michael says:

    You cannot separate the crucifixion from the resurrection. It’s a package deal. The resurrection validates the atonement on the cross.

  18. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “Not rankled . . .”

    Why, of course, dear . . .

  19. Revamundo says:

    [i]Glad to see the comment rankled…[/i]
    This says a lot to me about your character. Do you often want or try to bully people who don’t agree with you?

    Anyway, lots of us are getting a real kick out of it, so thanks.

  20. Revamundo says:

    20/20 is all about hell tonight.

  21. Ross says:

    #17 Karen B. and #20 Br. Michael:

    But that reduces the Resurrection to nothing more than “validation” or “endorsement” of the real work which — says the atonement model — was accomplished by the Crucifixion. You’re trying to put on the same level a soldier’s act of astounding courage and the shiny medal he gets in recognition of it. If the Resurrection is nothing more than proof that the Crucifixion “worked,” then it wouldn’t be required at all if we were willing to believe without that proof — and since historical evidence for the Resurrection is circumstantial, we’re all in that boat anyway, taking the work of the Crucifixion on faith.

    So why, if Christ died for atonement, the Resurrection? If Paul believed that salvation was accomplished by the Crucifixion, and the Resurrection was just an “endorsement” of that work, would he not say that all our faith is futile if Christ did not die for our sins?… rather than saying that our faith is futile if Christ is not raised from the dead?

  22. Larry Morse says:

    Matt Kennedy’s piece is rather interesting and may even be true. There are two problems. The first is that his piece is the splitting of the nicest of hairs and we discover how many split hairs can dance on the head of a pin. And I do indeed think of Cotton Mather and his kin. This is TOO nice, too complicated, too subtle, too scholastic (in the middle ages sense of the word).

    Which brings me to my second objection. All this nice distinction: What is it worth when we consider the audience to whom Christ spoke? What did they understand, what could they know? I have said many times that we must remember Christ’s real audience, and we must remember how careful he was in what he said and how he spoke. Do you suppose the Jews who listened to this odd fellow grasped the essential truth that Fr. Kennedy is attempting to elucidate? If they did not, could not, then they have missed comething utterly crucial in Christ’s message and his acts. Would Christ have left them in the dark, so to speak, in so telling a matter? Indeed, I submit He would never have done such a thing. Too much was at stake, and he knew his people too well.

    Mind you, I do not object to speaking of what happens when sin takes your life and then God weighs it in His scales. No one can know with certainty what Hell or Heaven is like because human words can not frame concepts without boundaries. We may assume however, that if we come up an ounce or two short, the consequences are unpleasant, and Americans, soaked in immediate gratification and the belief that entertainment is a civil right, need to be reminded that they are living in the kind of luxury that destroyed Rome, the results of which are a visit from the Magyars and Islam, who will pay another visit with the customary civilities.

    Nor am I defending Bacon, who is clearly a fool, weak eyed and weak spined, pablum offered where steak is required, a flavored antacid, a grower of violets where once the white oak cast its vast shade. Larry

  23. John316 says:

    I wonder what Dr. Harmon says about this subject. Dr. Harmon?

    [i]Please do recall that although Kendall has posted a few entries most days this week, he is on vacation with his family. I don’t think he’s been online more than an hour or so a day, and doubt he is reading all the comments. Just FYI. elfgirl[/i]

  24. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “This says a lot to me about your character.”

    I am, of course, deeply concerned about what you think of my character. Since I admire so much the character of progressive Episcopalians, I had always hoped to emulate them — is all hope lost for me?? [hand to brow, staggers onto couch] ; > )

    RE: “Do you often want or try to bully people who don’t agree with you?”

    Bully people to do what? I’ve no idea — I certainly have no interest in attempting to get you to believe what I do. Merely stand up for my beliefs — which of course, is what progressive Episcopalians call “bullying” I suppose. No surprise there, that’s for sure.

    RE: “Anyway, lots of us are getting a real kick out of it, so thanks.”

    And to think — you feel the need to call in reinforcements by referring to “lots of us”. . . tsk, tsk . . . don’t you think that *one* reappraiser who is amused is enough for me to feel utterly shattered and heartbroken??? And you have to pour on to me “lots of us”???

    Have you no pity, sir!!!!??? NONE????
    [quavering voice here, hand to head, collapses yet again]
    ; > )



  25. Revamundo says:

    Yes, all hope is lost for you.

  26. Eugene says:

    Matt says: “The infinite cup of God’s wrath that the infinite God in Christ willingly drained to the dregs on the cross remains full, it is brimming with judgment, for those who are unwilling to repent…”
    So did Christ drain the cup of wrath or not? Why is it still brimming? I thought the penalty for our sins has been paid (to use the courtroom terminology) Why is there still wrath? Did Christ not “do enough?” Must we add to the atonement?

  27. Br. Michael says:

    24, it’s a package. Without the resurrection Jesus is just another failed messiah and, you are right, in that case nothing is accomplished on the cross.

  28. Sarah1 says:

    RE: “Yes, all hope is lost for you.”

    ; > )

    Even loving, affirming reappraisers . . . have their limit, I see.

    At least Matt has a word of comfort for me: “There is no more wrath or condemnation for those in Christ.”

  29. Larry Morse says:

    I gotta admit, Sarah, you are funny. (stamps foot, chokes on laughter, becomes speechless) LM

  30. Sarah1 says:

    On another note entirely, and keeping half an eye on the atonement conversation, I do wonder if sometimes we humans get overly worked up and thus “in denial” about the wrath of God.

    Wrath — at least Good Wrath — seems to me to be the proper response to great wickedness.

    Were we to be invisible “flies on the wall” at some great scene of human injustice and evil — say a dog being tortured by some teenagers, or cruelty to an elderly woman, or a beating being administered to a Russian dissident — we would feel great wrath.

    And yet we wish to deny God the ability to feel or respond in any way, keeping Him flat and passive and expressionless.

    But He is a “fly on the wall” for all human cruelty to one another — and He understandably experiences wrath.

    Maybe it is because we are nervous if an all-powerful God expresses wrath — but God is also able to respond with acts of mercy even when wrathful — something that often humans are unable to do.

    And He provided the ultimate act of mercy in Himself as a gift to humans who did the things that would produce wrath in anyone of justice and good will and kindness.

    So I wonder if we as humans are not “just” with God, even, as we demand that He not express wrath over the terrible wickedness and cruelty of human beings.

  31. Sarah1 says:

    LM, I had way too much fun on a slow Friday night and I am much more sober-minded this morning. ; > )

  32. Larry Morse says:

    Re the splitting of hairs: The distinctions made between Hell, Hades, Gehenna and Sheol are precisely the kind of precious distinctions that have driven congregations nutty since who knows when, for the speaker starts with his conclusion and then searches to find some kind of evidence that will support it, in this case, a distiction between hell and limbo or a kind of bank vault for the dead who are not in hell and not in heaven and which explains, most fortunately, where Christ went at first when he died and where he DIDN’T go because it would be theologically inconvenient. Perhaps i should not have said hairsplitting which suggest too fine distinctions of no consequence. Perhaps I should have called these “labored and precious.”

    And it is precisely this distinction, if true, that Christ’s listeners would never have understood, for He certainly never spoke to them about this matter which is, after all, if true, of vital importance, for many a virtuous Jew will have said to himself, “Hey, what about me, for crying out loud?”

    Part of the trouble here rests on the notion of Original Sin, permanent damage done by A and E such that we are all damned without God’s grace. But, you know, when one reads Genesis, there is no evidence of such intent on His part, no evidence at all. I have no idea where this interpolation came from. New Jersey, probably, which is where Hell is, right near Hackensack. My point is that what God punished AandE with was life’s miseries and permanent death. Nothing about permanent damnation. I conclude that Christ’s crucifixion had nothing to do with this traditional Original Sin but that He died to return us to life; that is, He had to do what we all do so that the paradigm (pardon the word) could be altered. God chose this method because there was no other that mankind could see and believe. The miracles were so that doubting man would believe, and this was the miracle deluxe, on the cross and in public, because men are so hard to convince.

    (And I must add that I suspect one great lesson here, not commonly addressed, is that this is a voluntary death; he chose to let it happen. Mary Reneault somewhere remarked of one of her characters,that a king who does not go voluntarily to his death is no king. This is free will, and the crucifixion is a powerful lesson in the freedom of the will to do what must be done. You can be dragged to the guillotine or you can go willingly, and many a vital spiritual tale hangs thereon. Thus is the law fulfilled.

    All told, an interesting essay and worth extensive reflection. On willingness and the necessary, on the free will and predestination, See Robert Frost’s “Trial by Existence” where we see exemplified Christ’s two distinguishing strengths, the exercise of His free will and His courage. Larry

  33. Larry Morse says:

    Sarah says, “maybe we are nervous if an all-powerful God expresses wrath.” There we have the matter in a nutshell. We are nervous because having a Father who will not hesitate to spank the naughty is tough on the nerves. We check our own behavior and hope He doesn’t find out about….
    AS you all know, Americans don’t believe in spankings, see all punishment as violence, see all violence as the Great Evil. So we hope that God, rather than punishing, will put us in the Time Out Chair, and let us up after He has discussed our wrongdoing, finally giving us a nice hug and saying,” Go and sin no more.” Guess what America; God is not Mummy, he is Daddy who makes the laws and brings the heat. Or so Matt says; and I want him to be right. LM

  34. Br. Michael says:

    Larry, and we don’t want justice, we want to get off. One of my favorite stories was told by Shelby Foot about Gen R. E. Lee. A yung soldier was brought before Lee for some infraction. Lee looked at the man and said, “Don’t worry son, you’ll get justice here.” At that point the man started to shake even more and said, “That’s just what I am afraid of General.”

  35. Larry Morse says:

    Br. M.:
    More than anything else, I want justice, justice before love, justice before mercy. It’s not that I do not want the latter, but they are meaningless if they are not preceded by justice.
    So Paul and I disagree about what’s most important. Is it possible to be just if you do not first love (in the divine sense of this unfortunate word)? Surely one cannot hate and be just? Do you not too steel your heart, find a stickingplace for your courage, to face the perfect justice, for it is not the judgment one fears, but the sentence. And do you not wish to go willing to face that sentence, so you can say, whatever happens, nothing has happened to me but what I somehow willed? Larry

  36. Br. Michael says:

    Larry, you misunderstand. Of course God is a God of justice. However, due to sin we don’t want God’s justice, we want to get off. We don’t want to face God’s justice because we cannot bear the judgment. We are truly deserving of judgement, and that is what so truly wonderful and awsome of God’s love. He Himself pays the price of our rebellion and sin in the atonment. If mercy is to have any value it must be given in the place of truly deserved justice and judgment.

  37. Ross says:

    #31 Br. Michael says:

    24, it’s a package. Without the resurrection Jesus is just another failed messiah and, you are right, in that case nothing is accomplished on the cross.

    I’m sorry to keep harping on this, but I honestly don’t understand the point you’re making, and just reiterating “it’s a package” doesn’t make it clear.

    If it was Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross that accomplished the work of atonement — as atonement theory would have it — then what did the Resurrection accomplish? You can’t just say “well, it’s a package,” because none of the other thousands of cattle or birds or whatnot that were offered up as sin offerings over the years ever got a resurrection; so clearly that was not part of the sacrifice-as-atonement-for-sins gig. The Resurrection of Christ was something unique to this particular sacrifice. But if the sacrifice was the perfect once-for-all atonement because it was God-and-Man dying, sinless but taking on himself the sins of all, then again — why the Resurrection?

    And “Resurrection as proof of the atoning death” doesn’t work either, firstly because it makes the Resurrection trivial in comparison with the Crucifixion, and secondly because aside from a relative handful of people who were privileged to see Jesus after his death, the Resurrection itself begs for proof.

  38. libraryjim says:

    The Resurrection was final proof of all that Jesus claimed and stated about Who He was/is, and what He was doing. It was the final stage of the Atonement, it sealed it, so to speak, because without the Resurrection there would be nothing to say that Jesus was not just another prophet who went to His death for His message. But by rising from the dead, God said “Look, here is proof! Death and sin are conquered! Restoration of relationship LIFE has begun. There is no need for any blood-sacrifice ever again because sin has been forgiven in Jesus’ Blood. Let all who hear — come to receive this life!”

  39. Ross says:


    But if the necessary thing was for something to “say” that Jesus was not just another martyred prophet — something to convince the skeptical — then that information could have been communicated by visions, dreams, angels, or any other mode of revelation that God was known to use. The Resurrection becomes just the means that God happened to choose to convey a bit of news, not a fundamentally necessary, creation-altering miracle.

  40. Larry Morse says:

    Br. M: You said that the mercy is put in place of the judgment. BUt I wonder if th mercy is not a replacement for the sentence, but a part of the sentence itself. The sentence is read and the mercy modifies the penalty. All, all together is justice done, And the sentence is one seamless ruling. Yes?

  41. libraryjim says:

    [i]”God Happened”[/i] is not the way it works. [b]”God chose”[/b] is more accurate. Happens implies chance. God PLANNED it all carefully, NOTHING was left to chance. The Resurrection was a [b]central[/b] part of that plan, as Jesus’ words all through the Gospel shows us. It was not enough to [i]say[/i] Jesus was more than a martyred prophet. It had to be presented in such a way that He could NOT be mistaken as anything other than what He was — and that way was the physical resurrection of the crucified Jesus in a glorified bodily state.

  42. Larry Morse says:

    But, #42, sin ISN’T conquered. That’s the whole problem. It isn’t. We as prone to sin as ever. I repeat what I suggested before, the crucifixion exists so that eternal life can restored, which is what God took from us is Adam’s say. That is, Christ has to do what all others mortals do, that is, die, so that he can change the pattern. But why so dramatically? Why didn’t he just get old and die in his bed from cardio-pulmonary failure? Because, alas, that would have convinced no one. His death had to be dramatic or, with human beings, it wouldn’t have counted for much. We had to see him go to his death of his own free will; knowing that and seeing the bodies on the crosses, our will is freed and we can believe (as Thomas had to touch the wounds to believe). Men need miracles; alas that it is so. The more is at stake, the bigger the miracle must be. The issue thereis not sin, it is the restoration of eternal life, and he had to die to do it.
    To be sure, God could have done the same by fiat, but then there would be nothing to believe. We need to see a human, a real live one, do the real and irreversible deed. Isn’t that so? Larry

  43. Ross says:


    We seem to have reached an impasse. I still think that atonement theology trivializes the Resurrection by making it unnecessary, and you obviously do not.

    Matt’s article seems to say that you can’t be a Christian unless you believe that the purpose of the Crucifixion was atonement. I have to ask: why? The Nicene Creed says that “For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven,” and “For our sake he was crucified.” Do we need more than agreement that the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection were “for our sake” and accomplished our salvation? Do we have to agree on what we were saved from and how that salvation was accomplished?

  44. John Wilkins says:

    #45 – does it matter of God happened or God Planned? Not sure why that matters.

    I think that there is room for some atonement theory, but I don’t think it is always comprehensible or necessary for the orthodox. Still, there has to be some way to explain the cross. What I think we should disagree about is what it made room for. I think we do have different cosmologies, as I don’t personally believe in a physical location of hell after death, something that was a part of some of the traditional Jewish religions.

    Although I don’t mind a little S&M in my religion personally. I wear a collar, after all.

  45. Pb says:

    #41 “The resurrection begs for proof.” Is not the source the same for the crucifiction?

  46. Ross says:


    The difference is that the Crucifixion is an entirely likely and reasonable outcome, in the ordinary course of human events, to someone like Jesus who went around preaching the things that the Gospels say that he preached. It would actually be more surprising if something like that had not happened to him. The Gospels by themselves, read as ordinary historical documents, supply all the evidence that an unbiased historian would require to accept that the Crucifixion happened.

    The Resurrection, on the other hand, is both unlikely and unreasonable, and definitely is not the kind of thing that occurs in the normal course of human events. Being a more extraordinary claim, it requires a higher standard of proof. We don’t have that proof. All we have is some suggestive hints — the historical record makes it obvious enough that something happened shortly after Jesus died to get his followers extremely excited, and the story they were telling was obviously convincing to lots of people, many of whom would quite likely have been in Jerusalem for that Passover and have witnessed the Crucifixion itself. Nobody contemporary appears to have disputed that the tomb was in fact empty, although Matthew’s gospel suggests that there was a story circulating that the disciples had stolen the body themselves.

    So, we have circumstantial evidence which suggests the possibility that the Resurrection may have happened as the apostles said it did. But that’s all; we don’t have proof. A historian would never be convinced of it on historical grounds; there are too many possible mundane explanations. If we do believe in the Resurrection — and I do — it’s because of gut instinct and faith, not historical documentation.

  47. Br. Michael says:

    Ross, without the resurrection, Christianity fails. Jesus is nothing more than a long list of failed messiahs crucified by Pilate and other Roman governors. Without the resurrection the Cross has no meaning. The resurrection says that something happened on the Cross of Jesus that was something more than the cross of Judas of Galilee who was executed for claiming to be the messiah in 6 AD. Without the resurrection you have no basis for claiming that anything happened on the Cross.

  48. Ross says:



  49. libraryjim says:

    Ross, we answered that already. You just don’t want to accept our answer (which is based on the Scriptures and 2000 years of Church teaching).

  50. Ross says:

    No, you didn’t answer it; you simply repeated your assertion again. Asserting something doesn’t make it so.

  51. Br. Michael says:

    If there is no resurrection then Jesus and the Gospels are liars and frauds. Ross, you tell us what validity there is if there was no resurrection. I sincerely hope you are not seeking holy orders.

  52. Ross says:


    I’m not saying there was no Resurrection. If you’ll look up above at #50, you’ll see that I do believe in the Resurrection.

    What I am saying is that — so far as I can see — the theology of penal substitutionary atonement is flawed because it does not depend on the Resurrection. According to this theology, the Incarnation was necessary so that Jesus would be God and Man at once, and the Crucifixion was necessary as the once-for-all sacrificial sin offering to propitiate God’s wrath against sinful humanity; but the Resurrection becomes nothing more than an anemic “endorsement” of the work on the cross.

    The discussion above was about whether or not the Resurrection is truly necessary according to the theology of penal substitutionary atonement. Various commenters say that it is, but proffer no suggestions for why it is necessary beyond the weak suggestion that without the Resurrection, nobody would believe in the atonement accomplished on the cross. I find this insufficiently compelling.

    As I see it, a theology of Christ that pretends to play in the orthodox camp has to answer (at least) these questions:

    – Why was the miracle of the Incarnation necessary?
    – Why was it necessary that Jesus die painfully and young?
    – Why was the miracle of the Resurrection necessary?

    I content that penal substitutionary atonement fails to answer the final question, and therefore I reject it.

  53. Unsubscribe says:

    I suspect that Revamundo has an worked-out – and scripturally based – theory of the atonement and I’d be very interested to learn more. If he would either present a précis here, or a link to a fuller account, I would be grateful.

    I’m in agreement with Ross in much of what he has posted above. (Where I differ is that I don’t think the fuller account of the atonement that he seeks need entail rejecting the substitutionary theory. I think we can accept that the substitutionary theory is true within its frame of reference, but that perhaps that isn’t the best (or least inadequate) frame of reference that we can come up with.)

    A less inadequate theory has to make sense of the incarnation, the ministry, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the founding of the eucharistic Church as intrinsic parts of the plan of salvation, not as encrustations upon it.

    I find myself wondering, though, whether if one accepts the Lutheran idea of salvation as legalistic (declarative) justification, then the penal substitution theory is wholly adequate and the resurrection is indeed a kind of gratuitous “extra”.

  54. Larry Morse says:

    Ah, #49, did you misspell the C word deliberately?LM

  55. Larry Morse says:

    Ross, see mine #46. Christ had to die young and publically so that we would believe what we saw (or were told). The Resurrection is necessary because Christ died to show that eternal life was at last available to us as it had been closed by Adam and Eve. Now, I don’t for one minute suppose that A and E are historical, but it is a powerful statement of man’s complex nature and the consequences thereof.

    You all have turned Jesus into a Judas goat which really misses the point. God had a peculiar problem: He had to say something divine, eternal,unbounded, infinite to minds that cannot grasp such a language. What then? He tried a new tack. He sent a teacher who spoke human language and divine language, because he knew that there wer e people who would believe what a human said and did. And He made the relationship something we all understood, Father, mother, son. He wished to show that we could indeed eat of the Tree of Life, and He sought to show what the price was. The price is suffering, because this is the way the world is made. This is the test we must pass; in short, we must choose what we want, and if we want it badly enough, we must answer the question,”What am I willing to pay for it?” If we are excluded, it is because we excluded ourselves. We chose it thus, one way or another. And it all has to be human to be creditable. Buddha told us how to get off the Wheel, but his solution wasn’t genuinely good news. Christ’s solution is good news. Rough, but good news. Must we all face the hostile world and choosing to do right, accept the consequences? God has said, “My son have shown you the Way. The rest is your choice.” Isn’t this the case? Larry

  56. Br. Michael says:

    Ross, without the resurrection, Jesus is simply a mortal human being who died. If Jesus is only a mortal human being being then there is no atonment.

  57. Unsubscribe says:

    To clarify: I agree with Matt that PS is true and compatible with other atonement theories. If I implied something else, then I expressed myself badly. What I wanted to imply was that an account of the atonement that doesn’t do justice to the atoning force of the resurrection isn’t an adequate account. (Indeed, there probably is no such thing as an adequate account, but some accounts are more adequate than others.)

  58. John A. says:

    [i]One[/i] way of looking at the crucifixion (C) and resurrection (R) is in terms of atonement. In Lev. and Num. Moses defines the exchange rate betweens sins and sacrifices. In this sense God says “Enough of this. I will implement a new system and we will settle accounts by my making the ultimate sacrifice. To participate in the new system you must accept Jesus as Lord and then you can stop sacrificing animals.” I agree with Ross, that in this sense the R is unnecessary. I would also agree that the R adds credibility but this is a minor point. Actually it is important but it is minor to everything else that the R represents.

    Jesus not not come simply to settle accounts he exploded our understanding of God. He came to give us life abundantly and to show us how much more God wants to offer. In the sermon on the mount Jesus says that simply obeying the law misses the point. He says to the Old Testament community that their understanding of God is way too small. God is much more Holy, much more [i]wrathful[/i] than they have dared to guess. Better to tear out an eye or chop off a limb than to compromise with sin. But God is also far more loving and forgiving than we had dared to imagine. How many times are we to forgive our neighbor? (As many times as it takes) Who are we suppose to love? (Everybody, no exceptions!) This is the same deal he offers us.

    This is what God told the ancient community but to the modern community it is nonsense. If God is so loving how can he be filled with the wrath and vengeance of the Old Testament? This is the stumbling block that trips people up and it is our job as Christians to deal with this because “communication is 100% the responsibility of the speaker”. To get through this takes multiple conversations between friends but the main idea is that God’s wrath is directed at sin not people. Even the OT talks about God’s love and he forgave the Israelites over and over again.

    The colorful descriptions of God’s wrath are not helpful. It makes more sense to people to explore how it is impossible for the perfect, Holy God to tolerate even a little selfishness or hatred. His wrath is an anthropomorphic description of the status of sin with respect to God’s holiness. The torment and agony of hell is the [b]consequence[/b] of unresolved sin expanded over eternity. It is not the result of a vindictive God with anger issues. But descriptions of fire and torment are accurate indications of the cost to us if we continue to live with our sin.

    The tragedy today is that people want to water down the standards even below the OT standards by denying the the significance of sin rather than emphasizing God’s desire for our holiness.

    (Of course, atonement takes on more significance with the NT idea of us being in a [i]state[/i] of Sin or separation from God. The C and R are God’s way of closing the gap and it seems to me that so vast a separation would require Resurrection but this is more of a feeling than a theological explanation.)

  59. libraryjim says:

    [i]Of course, atonement takes on more significance with the NT idea of us being in a state of Sin or separation from God. The C and R are God’s way of closing the gap and it seems to me that so vast a separation would require Resurrection but this is more of a feeling than a theological explanation.) [/i]

    Actually, I think it a perfectly valid theological explanation. The PS view of the C and R with the view of C and R as ‘opening heaven’ for everyone who comes can be merged very well. In fact, although I don’t have the time right now (getting ready for church) to look them up, BOTH are mentioned in Scripture. C & R were necessary for a perfect atonement (If Jesus stayed dead, see the arguments above by me, Br. M. and MK), AND now that the effects of sin were taken care of by our REDEEMER, then the Holy Spirit given at Penetecost could work on us to restore the image of God through sanctification.

  60. Unsubscribe says:

    It’s impossible to give a “more adequate” theory of the atonement within the scope of a blog comment, but I might have a stab at sketching something out, and perhaps others will find it helpful (or at any rate interesting). A more adequate theory would start from the principle that the atonement is not only a historical particularity, but also an eternal action of the undivided Trinity. This eternal atoning action of God is focused and centered upon the cross; less precisely, on the passion and resurrection; still less precisely, upon the ministry and the ascension; and finally, upon the sacramental mission of the Church and the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit. It is within this atoning context that the Church discerns that at the crucifixion, Jesus not only took upon himself all the sin and evil of the world, but that in so doing he triumphed over sin and death, making it possible for sinful mankind, by somehow participating in Christ’s sin and death, also to participate in his resurrection. As the Angelus prayer puts it:
    [blockquote]Gratiam tuam, quaesumus Domine, mentibus nostris infude ut, qui, angelo nuntiante, Christi filii tui incarnationem cognovimus, per passionem eius et crucem, ad resurrectionis gloriam perducamur. “Pour fourth, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy grace into our hearts, so that we, to whom the incarnation of Christ thy son was made known by the message of the angel, may, by his passion and cross, be brought to the glory of his resurrection.”[/blockquote]
    It may well be that by looking upon the cross and resurrection as the sacrament par excellence – and indeed, the person of Jesus Christ (cf. Schillebeecx, Christ the Sacrament), we may find a way to a more systematic understanding of the atonement as the very central mystery of Christianity, from which all else follows.

  61. Fred says:

    Ed Bacon preaches and teaches the true gospel message for the 21st century……..God is love. To argue that this message- God is love – isn’t Christian or isn’t gospel is the most ludracrious thing I have ever heard or seen. Obviously, there is no “love” for that message here. Sad. No wonder people are running out the doors of your churches and flocking to All Saints Pasadena in droves.

  62. Br. Michael says:

    The resurrection is a necessary component as to who Jesus is. It show us that He is who He claimed to be. And because He is who He claimed to be, then atonment on the Cross works. In addition it allows for the necessary human respnse to this great act of love.

    And Fred this is indeed true love, not a false love that says stay where you are and make yourself happy if you can.

  63. John A. says:

    Fred, I am not sure who you are responding to when you imply that someone is arguing that God is not love. “God is love” comes from 1st John 4:8,16 so even fundamentalists would have to agree that God is love.

    I looked up something Ed Bacon wrote which included the following quotes: “There is no gulf between God’s creation and God that has to be spanned.” and “We must put an end to any portrayal of God that says that without Jesus and the crucifixion we are left standing condemned.” This appears to be the nub of the theological disagreement.

    There is another statement which I actually agree with, that I believe is the heart of the emotional stumbling block which must be addressed. Bacon writes: “That God usually is depicted in art and in our imagination as so angry at the human race for its sin that the only way forgiveness can come our way is to have the perfect sacrifice of Jesus crucified paid as our penalty.” It is this picture of God demanding the punishment of crucifixion to satisfy his need for revenge which makes nonsense of his command to us to forgive. It is also inconsistent with Jesus demonstration of God’s love. In this sense I disagree with Matt’s [i]description[/i] of God’s wrath. (But I wouldn’t take my disagreement too far because I agree with the theology.)

    Wrath is an unavoidable part of Jewish/Christian theology but it is never about God having tantrums. It is his nature with respect to hatred and selfishness. God loves people but if we refuse to love each other or to try and get everlasting peace from something less than God we will ultimately be filled with despair.

    I would love to ask Bacon a few questions. If he believes that there is no great separation with God does this mean that he believes we are God-like now or have no need to change? I agree that a simplistic picture of an angry God is incomplete but doesn’t God have to reject selfishness and hatred? Doesn’t a God who is love have to ‘hate’ anti-Love?

  64. john scholasticus says:

    ‘Thus, throughout the New Testament, the promise and proclamation salvation in Christ Jesus is accompanied by a warning for those who refuse and reject it.’

    Never thought I would agree with anything that MK ever wrote but I do agree with this. I’d add that in some cases – the Gospels and Acts – all of which are post 70 AD – that warning is reinforced by readers’ knowledge that a very relevant category of those who ‘rejected’ Jesus is the Jews en masse, whose Temple was destroyed – and never rebuilt – by the Romans. So they got punished. There of course the agreement ends. I don’t believe it is possible to believe in a God who thinks in these crudely vengeful terms and I think interpretation of the Gospels and Acts has to take account of Christian chagrin/disappointment/vengefulness? because they failed – at they manifestly did – to carry most of their fellow-Jews with them. So right from the beginning one is forced into a ‘reappraiser’ mode of interpretation.

  65. libraryjim says:

    There is actually ample evidence that the synoptic Gospels and Acts were completed [i]before[/i] AD 70. In fact many Biblical Historians believe Luke wrote Acts while St. Paul was still alive, around 68 AD.

  66. Ross says:

    #62 Br. Michael says:

    Ross, without the resurrection, Jesus is simply a mortal human being who died. If Jesus is only a mortal human being being then there is no atonment.

    I don’t see how that follows. Surely it would be that without the Incarnation, Jesus is simply a mortal human being who died?

  67. libraryjim says:

    Romans 10:9-10: “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. ”

    Ross, the early Church put a great deal of stock in the resurrection as a primary sign of the lordship and diety of Jesus, even to the point of a requirement of salvation.

  68. Br. Michael says:

    Ross, can God die? Who is Jesus? He asks, “Who do you say that I am?” This is the critical question. Is He the incarnate God who dies on the Cross to atone for our sins and was then resurrected to the Glory of God? Or was He something else. Hint, the Nicene Creed gives the answer.

    You must be a lawyer, because you know the answer to the question yet you cannot give a straight answer and play word games.

    Jesus was resurrected because He was God incarnate and paid the price for our sins on the Cross.

  69. Br. Michael says:

    And because He was fully human we will be resurrected as well. And we will never be separated from Him even in death.

  70. Ross says:

    Br. Michael:

    I’m not a lawyer, and I’m not trying to play word games. You seem to be persistently reading my comments as trying to deny the Resurrection or the divinity of Jesus, which is not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying that because I believe in the Resurrection and the divinity of Jesus, I reject the theory of penal substitutionary atonement.

    “Can God die?” The entire body of Christian doctrine is of course based on the idea that the answer to that question is: Yes, God can die, and did. The creeds stress it very strongly, against the gnostic heresy.

    If what you’re saying is that God, being God, cannot stay dead for long, then I’ll admit that I have heard people suggest that before. It does turn the Resurrection into merely an inevitable side-effect of the essential miracle, which in this model would be the Incarnation; but you could go there if you wanted to.

    My point — I repeat it again, one more time before I give up — is that the according to the theology of penal substitutionary atonement, all that is necessary is that (a) Jesus be born as both God and Man, fully human and fully divine, two natures in one person (a.k.a. the miracle of the Incarnation) and that (b) Jesus die a sacrificial death. Period. Atonement is accomplished on the cross when the one who is both God and Man dies and God’s wrath is propitiated by the death of his Son. Nothing more is required.

    I find this model deeply unsatisfying in many ways, not least among them that it fails to account for the necessity of the Resurrection. Other reasons include the dependency on the “wrath” of God, about which Fr. Matt wrote eloquently but — to me, at at any rate — unconvincingly.

  71. Larry Morse says:

    Yes. Well. I am lost in this argument, and my suggestions above apparently mean little in this debate. Still, the crucifixion business continues to make little sense. E.g., #76, can God die? Yes, He can, you say. But this has to be nonsense; death for God can have no meaning. Jesus died, but this was his mortal flesh. Of course that died. But his divine nature did not die. How could it? This is a patent contradiction.

    Moreover, exactly which sins did Christ take on his shoulders and eradicate? Not yours and mine, because we have a full complement, and I keep building my resume here, blast it. Was Jesus just a Judas goat? The only thing that changed between pre-death and post-death was evidence that Christ would live forever and so can we if we choose, and to tell us this is why he came. He had to die because there was no other way to give evidence that he could reach immortality. His job was to teach, and dying was part of the curriculum.

    I do wish people would stop saying God is love. This come as close to a meaningless expression as I know. Neither you nor I have any idea what this means. Was it love that sent Jesus to his death? If so (and it may be so) then there is a definition here that defies all standard definitions of love. His love becomes so impersonal,so cosmological, so utterly without emotion, it can match nothing in our experience. LM

  72. libraryjim says:

    “Behold – the Lamb of God who takes the sin of the world!”
    –John the Baptizer, c. AD 30

  73. Ross says:


    E.g., #76, can God die? Yes, He can, you say. But this has to be nonsense; death for God can have no meaning. Jesus died, but this was his mortal flesh. Of course that died. But his divine nature did not die. How could it? This is a patent contradiction.

    I could be wrong, but I believe this is one of the classic Christological heresies. Possibly a variation of the Gnostic heresy, but I’m not sure about that. Fr. Matt would probably know — he seems to have the catalog of heresies at his fingertips.

    Not that I’m criticizing, mind you. I’m not in a position to throw stones about heresy 🙂 I’m just pointing it out, in case it matters to you.

    However, I do think that the “patent contradiction” you talk about is precisely the fundamental miracle of the Incarnation — that God really, truly, lived a mortal life and really, truly, died a mortal death in the full and complete sense of that word. If it’s a patent contradiction, well, that’s why it took a miracle to make it happen.

  74. Larry Morse says:

    #79. I would be glad to here from Father Matt.
    As to your criticizing me, don’t worry about it. My hide is very tough. I can even stand being razzed from dumb remarks. I am no theologian, obviously; I am just a strutfurrow in the plowed field. But, you know, when I plunge my hand into a mellow soil, one that I helped make, a soil warm and rich and ready to grow, I am not sorry God sent Adam out into this world to farm by the sweat of his brow. I would rather this than Eden, where everything came to fruition easily and painlessly. Last night, the veery’s and the wood thrushes sang in the evening woods, the whip-poor-will’s contested in the far fields, the fire flies flashed, the mosquitoes sniped at my tender flesh, and the fragrance of the blossoming milkweed filled the air. Life does not get better than this. Said Ben Johnson,” In small proportions, life may perfect be.”

    As to your last paragraph, we are in complete agreement. But how is this contradicton of divine and human to be made sense of? Is it a miracle? Maybe, but that isn’t necessary. Think for a minute of the contradictions that make you up. How is it possible that such powerful, contending forces can become one identity? But that’s just what happens, doesn’t it? So with Christ, impossible contradictions are fused in the heat of the maturing personality; we can see him grow more unified as he matures, can’t we? Is this a miracle? If it is, then the fusing of our own warring contradictions is a miracle too, but I don’t see it that way. This is who we are and what we do, and this is why God choose a man to speak for Him. Larry

  75. Larry Morse says:

    Sorry. Misquotation. Shows you how old I am getting.
    Ben said (It is not growing like a tree…) “In small proportions we just beauties see,/ and in small measure life may perfect be.” I think that’s right.L

  76. Br. Michael says:

    Ross, you may not like penal substitution, but it’s supported by a lot of Biblical Theology.

  77. john scholasticus says:

    This is desperate stuff, Jim. Paul’s death is repeatedly prefigured in ‘Acts’. And Paul didn’t die in 68 (the year of Nero’s death) – he died in 64-ish.

  78. libraryjim says:

    ok, so I got the date a bit wrong. But the scholarship is there for the assertion that they synoptics and Acts were completed pre-70 AD. Nothing desparate there, no apologies.

    For example, the Magdalene papyrus fragments of the Gospel of Matthew date to around AD 65. A fragment of Mark’s Gospel found in cave 7 in Qumran (7Q5) has to have been written pre-68, since all evidence points to this date as the sealing of the cave.

    John A. T. Robinson (hardly a conservative Biblical Scholar) also came to the conclusion that the majority of the New Testament was written pre-70 AD.

    The NIV Study Bible gives these dates for the Gospels:

    Mark: c. 50s to early or late 60s
    Matthew: c. 50 to 70s
    Luke: c. 59 to 63
    John: c. 85 to near 100

    So, you see, no “desperate stuff”. ‘just need to rely on the proper Scholarship. 😉

  79. Larry Morse says:

    Libraryjim: I appreciate those dates, for I didn’t know this (among all the things I didn’t know). Do you remember a couple of months ago, someone wrote a book arguing that there is no Q text but rather that the gospels are the result of oral tradition being written down, oral traditions that were in themselves similar. Do you remember the author and the name of the book? I take it you’re a librarian so I thought you might remember. I do want that book. The thesis made immediate sense to me. Larry

  80. libraryjim says:

    I’ll check on it when I get to work and can access the libraries computers on book searches.

    Jim Elliott <><

  81. libraryjim says:

    libraries = library’s. Sorry, it’s early, coffee hasn’t kicked in yet.


  82. libraryjim says:

    Larry, the closest I can find is:
    Eta Linnemann, “The lost Gospel of Q: Fact or fantasy?” written in 1996. The reviewers seem to praise it.

    There is an extensive article on line at “answers dot org” called[url=]The Mysterious Case of the Missing Q[/url] by Bob and Gretchen Passantino hat addresses the issues around the [i]Quelle[/i] document and the problems that arise since no copies have ever been proven to exist.

    I hope this helps.

    Jim Elliott

  83. libraryjim says:

    Here’s another book reference, to 2002:

    [u]The Case Against Q: Studies in Markan Priority and Synoptic Problem[/u] by Mark Goodacre
    Publisher: Trinity Press International
    ISBN-10: 1563383349
    ISBN-13: 978-1563383342

    Amazon says:
    (In) The Case Against Q, Goodacre offers a careful and detailed critique of the Q hypothesis, examining the most important arguments of Q’s proponents. He then offers new arguments and fresh reflections reaffirming Markan Priority as the key to successful Synoptic scholarship. With this book, Goodacre provides a more plausible picture of Synoptic relationships than has previously been available, as he reconstructs Synoptic interrelationships and Christian origins.

    About the Author
    Mark Goodacre is Lecturer in New Testament in the Department of Theology at the University of Birmingham (England) and the author of The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze.

  84. libraryjim says:

    Man, the more I look the more I find:
    Questioning Q : A Multidimensional Critique
    by N. T. Wright (Foreword), Mark S. Goodacre (Editor), Nicholas Perrin (Editor)
    Publisher: InterVarsity Press (January 2005)
    ISBN-10: 0830827692
    ISBN-13: 978-0830827695

    Again, from Amazon:
    In “Questioning Q” editors Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin introduce a diverse network of scholars who examine the Q hypothesis from a variety of perspectives–historical, literary, source-critical and redactional–and ask ultimately, Can we dispense with Q? and What would a world without Q look like? Even the most ardent and articulate defenders of Q will benefit from this well-reasoned, respectful challenge to an oft-unexamined assumption.

  85. Larry Morse says:

    Wow! Thanks, Jim. I will print out what you have entered here. The name Goodacre sounds right. I just wish I could remember the discussion here a couple of months ago. Oh elves, do you recall this?

  86. john scholasticus says:

    I have to tell you the dates you give for the Gospels are very, very early on almost all views. As for ‘Q’, Q scares people (a) because it seems to be something that existed before the Gospels (though round about contemporary with Paul); (b) because different people put different things in it (or exclude other things). For example, quite a lot of the Jesus Seminar people say Q has no divine claims about Jesus (actually, they’re wrong). If you ask most NT scholars if they believe in Q (I’ve actually asked this question to his face of Tom Wright), they’ll say yes, but they – some of them – get itsy if you ask what exactly it contained. I’ll add that I’ve personally done some NT scholarship – published in respectable contexts – and I believe in Q. Of course, some very good NT scholars don’t believe in it – but they’re very much in the minority.

    As for post-70 Gospels, the only Gospel main-line NT scholarship allows MIGHT be pre-70 is Mark. Even then, it’s put pretty late – post 66.

    As for Mark in Q’umran: that’s Carsten Peter Thiede, brilliant but erratic scholar, whom very few believe on this particular issue (I’ve actually asked papyrological specialists in Durham and Oxford about this).

  87. libraryjim says:

    Sorry, but you are on flimsy ground. Just because YOU think they are late in origin doesn’t mean that there isn’t evidence for earlier authorship.

    As for “Q”, please show me a copy of the document or proof (not conjecture) that it existed anywhere other than in liberal scholarship’s imagination.

  88. libraryjim says:

    That seems to be your answer for everything “Some crackpots believe this but they are not worthy of attention.” Nonsense. Very few archaeologists believed in a literal Troy before H. Schlieman (sp?) went on his spree to prove them wrong. So that argument doesn’t hold water. And I’ve read a lot of books that claim early dates for the Gospels. You don’t believe it, so it’s your scholars against theirs. But I think the majority of EVIDENCE is with the early authorship came.

    As for Carsten Peter Thiede, I’ve only read one of his books, on the fragments of MATTHEW (not Mark) in Magdeline College (pretty convincing arguments, by the way), but have not heard him on 7Q5/Mark. But if the cave was sealed in 68 AD, how could that fragment been written later?

  89. libraryjim says:

    By the way, the dates come from the NIV Study Bible, but Josh McDowell gives a similar timeline in “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” as do many other apologists, including the IVP Commentary.
    [url=] James P. Holding[/url] writes “There is no reason to date ANY of the Gospels later than 70 AD, although such dating may be permissible in the case of John”.
    He goes on to state:
    [i]At the beginning of the second century, there would have been first-generation Christians alive who recalled the apostles and their teaching, and many more second-generation Christians who would have had information passed directly to them. We have early witnesses to the authorship of some of the Gospels. Papias wrote around 110-130, and he surely did not design the authorship of Matthew and Mark on the spur of the moment. That being so, how could anyone have dared to attribute the Gospels to anyone other than the genuine authors with these first- and second-generation witnesses still alive? Believers in the 70s-90s, when critics suppose that the Gospels were authored anonymously, would have known of no works of Matthew and the others; believers after the 90s who descended from this generation and lived into the lifetime of Papias would have had no tradition of such documents. [/i]

    And I could quote quite a few more. So you see, it’s not a small a camp as you would have us believe. 🙂

  90. john scholasticus says:


    It’s a pretty small camp, I can assure you. And the reason I can assure you of this is that I am a professional academic and questions of scholarly accuracy and integrity greatly concern me. Immediately you say ‘the genuine authors’, you’re committing a circular argument. No one actually KNOWS who any of the Evangelists was. All this is endlessly debated. Myself, I think the claim that ‘John’ derives substantially from the ‘beloved disciple’ is good but no one knows who that ‘beloved disciple’ was and over ‘substantially’ there is endless debate. No one knows who
    ‘Mark’ or ‘Matthew’ is. As for Luke, the arguments for ‘disciple of Paul’ are fairly good, but not decisive, and the argument that ‘Luke’ and ‘Acts’ are post-70 is very strong – and very widely accepted (including by practising Jesuits and Catholic priests who happen also to be NT scholars).

  91. libraryjim says:


    You are welcome to your opinion, no matter how wrong it is.

    When I worked at FSU’s library, I met quite a few ‘academics’ who were very closed minded to any theories except the ones they favored. I assume that you are the same.

    I studied quite a few Biblical origin theories after I had my ‘conversion experience’ in the 70’s. In fact, I read almost anything I could put my hands on. I have not stopped studying apologetics issues. And frankly, the early authorship camp has the most going for them in terms of evidence. In fact, it takes quite a stretch with all the evidence from the Early Church Fathers, lectionaries, etc. to continue to hold to the ‘late authorship theory’.

    Jim Elliott <><

  92. libraryjim says:

    Maybe I should give an example:
    one of the NT professors at FSU is a fairly confirmed Jewish agnostic. In his teaching of the NT, he tells his students that any attempt to ‘evangelise’ in their papers (e.g., making a claim that Jesus is either the Son of God or the Messiah) will generate an automatic “F” in the class. Now that’s open minded academia in action!
    By the way, majority rules does not = determination of the truth. Even if the “Early Authorship scholarship camp” was small is not a guarantee that it is wrong.

    Jim Elliott <><