alastair.adversaria » Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers

Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers

The following post is a contribution to an ongoing conversation on the subject of the doctrine of the atonement. The goal of this conversation is not that of arguing for one single doctrine of atonement, but of having the chance to listen to a number of different sources and voices. Lord-willing, participation in this conversation will help us grow in appreciation and understanding of theological positions that we have not previously had the same opportunity to engage with. My role here is that of hosting a conversation. The substance of the posts in this conversation do not necessarily reflect my own convictions (except, of course, when I am the author!). The contributors do not write as my proxies, but as my guests. Discussion in the comments is encouraged. If you strongly disagree or dislike something that has been said, please leave a comment to say why; if you have found something helpful, please give some reasons why you have found it to be so.

The author of the following post is Andrew Wallace. Andrew was born and bred and lives in New Zealand. He was brought up Baptist, but has a general interest in academic theology and thinks that all denominations have something to learn from each other, so he would no longer really identify himself with any particular denomination. For the past year he has been co-authoring a book about the atonement theologies of the New Testament writers and Early Greek Fathers.

St. Athanasius

Introduction
One of the reasons that I as a Protestant see great value in studying Eastern Orthodox thinking and writing is because their tradition has been so isolated from our own heritage due to historical and linguistic reasons. Due to the independence of their tradition from our own they tend to have very different ways of looking at things, and I find these can provide helpful insights which are useful in critically evaluating our own tradition. On the subject of the atonement, the Eastern Orthodox tradition has some quite different ideas to the Protestant tradition, and the whole paradigm of salvation tends to be very different. Many of the essential protestant concepts such as original sin, penal substitutionary atonement, and salvation by faith are not present, and instead other very different ideas tend to be utilized. The Eastern Orthodox church traces its tradition and teachings very strongly to the writings of the church fathers of the first millennia.

These church fathers are worth studying for other reasons. The Church Fathers that the Eastern Orthodox church originated out of were the Greek speaking ones, whereas our Western Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions historically were Latin-speaking. The New Testament was written in Greek and that was the main language spoken within the early Church. The subsequent generations of Greek speaking Christians both read the New Testament in their native language and were taught Christianity by the previous generation. It seems reasonable to think that the people who were in an ideal position to understand the writings of the apostles as clearly as possible were those who spoke the same language and lived around the same time and in the same culture and empire as the writers. Therefore, the early Greek Christians’ comments about New Testament passages and verses are valuable for exegetical reasons. But more than that, learning their theology itself is valuable. It is reasonable to presume that Christianity was not instantaneously forgotten worldwide the moment the New Testament was completed. Rather it seems reasonable to assume that the apostolic generation passed the essential truths of their faith onto the next generation, and that the variety of texts written around the world by different Greek-speaking Christians in the early church ought to contain theology substantially in agreement with apostolic Christianity. Therefore studying the writings of the Greek Christians in the period 100-400AD (these dates are relatively arbitrary, and altering them makes no difference) is worthwhile in order to gain an insight into their theology, given that in all probability their theology is going to be substantially similar to the theology of the apostles.

The Theology of the Greek Fathers 100-400AD
The theology of these Christian writers is substantially different to Protestant thought, so it can require some effort to wrap your head around. The ideas of atonement held by these writers can get complicated, so for simplicity’s sake let us start with the basic idea of salvation that is common to all the Fathers of this period. The basic paradigm of salvation universally held by these writers is as follows:

1. Humans have free will to engage in either vice or virtue, and the ability to become more or less virtuous over time.
2. God is virtuous and desires humans to be also. He is pleased with virtue and displeased by vice.
3. Christ taught virtue to mankind.
4. By following Christ’s teachings, and by the help of the Spirit, we can progress and improve in virtue if we make the effort.
5. All men have the ability to achieve a standard of virtue acceptable to God.
6. The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue.

Each of those points, and the paradigm as a whole, are common to all the Greek writers from the period 100-400AD. In addition to these common points, two main different theories about the work of Christ are reasonably common but not universally held:

1. Ransom From Satan & Christus Victor
Satan was seen as having some form of power over the world, precisely what power varies from writer to writer. In some cases he is seen as attempting to influence men towards vice, just as the serpent in Eden had. In other conceptions he is seen as ruling over the world like a lord, and having a deliberately evil influence on events in the world. Sometimes he is seen as having power in the afterlife over the souls of men, either due to him being the natural lord of sinners or due to him unjustly seizing human souls.

In these models of atonement, Christ is seen as performing some action appropriate to defeat or remove the power of the devil. This can vary depending on how the devil’s power and influence is conceived. Christ can be seen as overthrowing the devil as lord of the world, removing the devil’s power in a real battle in the spiritual realms. He can be seen as entering into Hades and by his spiritual power defeating and vanquishing the powers holding human souls captive. He can be seen as defeating the devil’s influence in this world by virtue of the explusion of evil spirits from people in his own ministry, and the power he gave to Christians to do the same in his name. Sometime he is depicted as offering his own soul to Satan as a ransom payment in return for Satan setting free all the souls of humanity - Satan accepts and takes Jesus’ soul in exchange, and then God resurrects Jesus back to life and Satan is left with nothing. The reasons given about why and how Satan has power over humanity, the world, or the souls of humans vary, as does the methods Jesus uses to defeat, trick or overthrow Satan.

2. Recapitulation
This, rather different, view of the atonement is concerned with the danger of the created order passing into non-existence. God in the act of creation infused his creation with existence. Created beings and substances do not possess self-existence but are dependent upon God for it. Humanity (or Satan and his angels) as rulers of the created order, in sinning broke away from God, and in doing so severed the flow of existence from God. Corruption set in and began to decay toward non-existence. Humans began dying physically, a symptom of the metaphysical decay that was taking place spiritually. The real problem was not that humans were merely dying physically, but rather their actual souls were decaying as well, so God simply creating new human bodies and stuffing the souls back in would not help as the entire creation would eventually decay completely and humanity with it.

The necessary solution was to recreate the connection between God and the created order, restoring the continual flow of existence from God into creation. To do this, the Word through which the creation had been made joined itself to the creation by becoming human. God himself in the person of Jesus Christ by living a fully human life from birth to death reunited God metaphysically with humanity and creation. Jesus’ resurrection appearances were to demonstrate the success of this endevour, showing that metaphysical death had been destroyed and the decay and ultimate annihilation of the created order averted.

Further Reflections
These concepts of the prevention of annihilation and the defeat of Satan vary immensely between authors. They can be both present at once, or neither present, or multiple forms of the defeat of Satan thinking can be present in a given author. What is worth noting is that neither of these ideas relate to whether humans pass the Final Judgment. The prevention of non-existence, and the freeing of souls from the control of Satan both make it possible for there to be an afterlife and a final judgment from God on individual human souls. But neither has any effect whatsoever on the outcome of that final judgment for individual souls. In Protestantism our focus of atonement on how we can achieve a positive final judgment. Noting that, we can make a conceptual distinction between “things Christ did that were worthwhile” and “things that cause us to pass God’s final judgment” and see that the two do not have to overlap. Recapitulation and Defeat-Of-Satan concepts apply only to the first category and not the second, whereas Penal Substitution links both. With that in mind, it can be observed that the connection that Greek Christians of this period make between Christ’s actions and us gaining a positive final judgment on the last day is solely one of Christ teaching virtue and bringing knowledge of holy living to the world and setting an example of holy conduct and a virtuous life pleasing to God. That is the system of salvation that I outlined earlier which is common to all the Greek Christians of this period and which is extremely well-attested in their writings.

So when it comes to answering the question of what the Greek Christians in this period thought about the “atonement”, some reflection is required about what we actually mean by “atonement”. If we are thinking of things that cause indirectly or directly the passing of the Final Judgment of God, then the answer is that they thought human virtue to be the deciding factor and that they saw human virtue as being brought about primarily through the teaching of God to the world, first in the Law, then in the Prophets and most clearly of all through the teachings and example of Jesus’ Christ, and that they believed in the influence and importance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of humans to reveal virtue and knowledge of God and strengthen humans in righteousness. But if the question is about the work of Christ and what they saw Christ as achieving, then the answer is they saw him primarily as a teacher of righteousness, but also had a wide variety of other ideas which tended to center around the ideas of Christ defeating the power of Satan and/or saving the created order from death and destruction.

Penal Substitution
Given where and why I am writing this, I feel I must add some comments on the relationship between Penal Substitution and the theology of these Christians. Penal Substitution as a systematic theological paradigm of salvation is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period. A penal substitutionary paradigm conflicts fundamentally with two of the Greek Christian ideas - their views that (i) our virtue of character is what we are judged on at the final judgment, and (ii) that humans can be virtuous enough to please God. Thus the Greek Christians do not hold the two ideas of (a) human inability and (b) a final judgment based on our belief/acceptance of Christ’s work on our behalf, which are part of the penal substitutionary paradigm as we know it.

However the Greek Christians do occasionally make some usages of some penal substitutionary ideas in ways which do not relate to the deciding criteria for final judgment. For example when trying to answer the question of why Christians no longer perform sacrifices like the Jews did, Eusebius suggests Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice, and hence did away with the need for sacrificial practices. Jesus in this context is treated as a penal substitute, but this is not seen as part of any system of eternal salvation: Sacrifices are assumed by him as having this-worldly purposes; and no belief in or acceptance of Christ’s work is needed to obtain God’s positive verdict, only virtue. In this way, penal and substitutionary ideas can occur on occasion within the Greek Fathers but the paradigm of penal substitutionary atonement as we know it is never present, and is fundamentally inconsistent with their paradigm.

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Andrew, you say- Penal Substitution as a systematic theological paradigm of salvation is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period.

Forgive me for suggesting this but, surely this could be said of almost any doctrine? Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all? The answer to this is surely ‘yes’, or how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?

Extract from said dialogue-
QUOTE
Then Trypho remarked, “Be assured that all our nation waits for Christ;
and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to Him.
Moreover, I do also admit that the name of Jesus, by which the son of
Nave (Nun) was called, has inclined me very strongly to adopt this view.
But whether Christ should be so shamefully crucified, this we are in doubt
about. For whosoever is crucified is said in the law to be accursed, so that I
am exceedingly incredulous on this point. It is quite clear, indeed, that the
Scriptures announce that Christ had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you
can prove it to us whether it was by the suffering cursed in the law.”
UNQUOTE

Trypho obviously had a concern that the Christ should die such a shameful and ‘accursed’ death. It didn’t seem to fit his picture of the Christ. Justin replies very clearly, not only that the Christ had to suffer, but that his suffering was not for his own sin but for that of the people.

QUOTE
I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not
foretold that He would be led to death on account of the sins of the
people, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the
transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the
prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to
wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to
all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most
confidently? And will not as many as have understood the writings of the
prophets, whenever they hear merely that He was crucified, say that this
is He and no other?”
UNQUOTE

Justin makes this point even more clearly a little further on in his dialogue.

QUOTE
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is
written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has
accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and
some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those
who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed
all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be
under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other
crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human
family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been
crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about
Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will,
as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although
His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human
family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of
God.
UNQUOTE

Now, of course, this is not evidence of a systematic theological paradigm but nevertheless we see not only substitution in Justin’s reply, but clearly penal substitution. It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.

You may disagree with what Justin says or with his use of Isa 53, but can it really be said that the language of penal substitution is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period?

Excellent point, Anon. I’m a little skeptical when it comes to saying the Fathers had no concept of substitution in their atonement theology. You almost get the sense from what was posted that there is *NO* atonement at all, but only example (of course I know that’s not what’s being said in reality). I think it’s fair to say that the Greeks don’t have a penal model, per se, but that’s another matter altogether.

Also, when the Western controversy over Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism came to the fore, why wasn’t the East denounced?
Either (i) the West was ignorant of the Eastern writings,
or (ii) they misunderstood the Eastern writers’ use of common biblical terms (like propitiation, expiation, etc)
or (iii) they understood the spirit of the writings to honor the basic tenets of orthodoxy, even if expressed differently.

I tend to go with option 3. Maybe someone else can offer further insights on this complex matter.

I likewise am very wary of any claims that all the Greek Fathers said this, or that none of them said that. That claim cannot be made unless all of their writings have been examined. For example, I don’t think what Athanasius outlines in On the Incarnation can be so neatly fit into the framework outlined above.

Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all?
I think that the function of an idea within a person’s wider theological context is of real importance. Through the course of their writings the early Greek writers manage to quote a large proportion of biblical verses, containing all sorts of ideas, motifs, and language. So the observation that the Greek writers use penal or substitutionary language on some occasions is not overly helpful. It would be clearly wrong to say that since they quote the bible and we believe the bible that therefore they must believe what we believe. What is important is the paradigm within which they locate their ideas.

how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?
It is definitely a usage of curse-substitutionary language. (I am dubious of the value of confusing “curse-substitutionary” and “penal-substitutionary”, since ancient magic systems and modern legal systems aren’t really the same). However, again I would stress that what is important is how these ideas fit into Justin’s wider theological paradigm – what purpose do they serve? The answer seems to be that they do not serve much of one. Justin lays out his theological ideas regularly without any reference to this sort of idea. The idea in question only comes when Justin is giving some ad hoc answers to Trypho’s gripes (it is chapter 95 out of 142). The curses that Christ is described as taking on himself in this passage are not of eternal significance and are this-worldly - there is no hint that eternal salvation is in any way affected (nor could it be, given Justin’s wider theological paradigm).

It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.
Well actually I think this identifies a key point about Penal Substitution as a framework. In Justin’s view the Son suffers to help and rescue humanity and the Father wills it, but the Father is never the direct cause of the suffering as he is in the modern Penal Substitutionary framework.

As for Pelagianism, typically I find that the understanding of it among those using the term to be not historically accurate. Pelagius was condemned for some very specific statements mostly about Adam, whereas “Pelagianism” is normally used as a broad theological term having to do with the relationship of grace and works in salvation. The key answer to your question is that the Greek-Latin language barrier prevented Augustine’s reading of Eastern works and vice-versa. If the Eastern church had known the things Augustine was saying there would have been severe conflict. In rare cases where this barrier was surmounted, conflicts arose. eg Rufinus’ Latin translation of Origen was heavily used by Pelagius against Augustine; John Cassian after migrating from the East to the West criticised Augustine and was attacked himself for Semi-Pelagianism.

I have read and studied Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’ at least half a dozen times over the years. I believe it fits perfectly into the framework I outlined.

Andrew,
Thanks for your reply. You still fail to take account of Justin’s allusion to Isaiah 53. You may not agree with Justin’s use of Isaiah 53 to make his point, but by using it he clearly infers penal substitution. Indeed we can say further, that to deny the use of this passage as referring to Christ (which Justin clearly does) is not only to deny Justin’s use of it, nor indeed its use in the present debate, but also to deny the plain teaching of Acts 8:20 ff. I still contend that although penal substitution may not be the main issue Justin is dealing with (his theological paradigm), it is clearly part of what he taught. This is my simple point.

A further thought- In his dialogue Justin clearly speaks of the curse due to all Jews who do not keep the whole Law (quoting from Paul’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10), and of the curse against the idolatrous nations, BOTH OF WHICH ARE CURSES FROM GOD HIMSELF. He denies that Jesus was cursed for his own sins, but affirms that he took upon himself the curses due to others.

You emphasise that the curses originate with God himself, which is logically correct if we reflect on the facts, yet I note that Justin himself seems keen to avoid that idea. It is “the Law of Moses” and “the Jews” who curse Christ (95) whereas the Jews wrongly “suppose that He was crucified as hostile to and cursed by God, which supposition is the product of your most irrational mind” (93). Justin states that ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree’ is a prophesy of the Jews cursing Christ and not God’s doing so (96).

Also of note is that the Greek fathers regularly engage in extremely creative exegesis, especially where prophecy is concerned. The above quote is an example, though a pretty tame one compared to some of the vivid allegories they invent. You have to keep in mind that just because you, I, or Acts might have thought Isaiah 53 meant one thing, it doesn’t mean Justin thinks it means the same thing.

I totally agree that Justin uses some ideas and language in this passage that are also common with a penal substitutionary setting. However in your eagerness to see Penal Substitution here you seem to be glossing over the vast differences between the things Justin says and Penal Substitution. For example Justin does not think this curse transference achieved reconciliation with God; nor that it achieved forgiveness; nor that it was of eternal significance; nor that our response to it or belief in it affects its efficaciousness for us. Nor is penal substitution and curse substitution the same thing.

If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-
1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.

Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’
to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-

1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURSE LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Again I emphasise, I agree with you that there is no paradigm of penal substitution in the early fathers nevertheless the concept and language is more prevalent than you seem prepared to concede.

(I had a response to point 3 but you may be pleased to hear that I lost it in a typical computer glitch:)

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’
“If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently
?

Such language can be and is often used by people in situations where no thought of ‘substitution’ is present. I’ve seen both the church fathers and people in the present day say this sort of thing without meaning to imply substitution. For example, such language can be used in talking about the Jews killing Jesus – the “sins of the people” that he suffers on account of is precisely the unjust death he dies at their hands, they dishonour and scourged him and he is reckoned by them among the transgressors. Thus Isa 53 in such a reading is quoted simply as a prophecy of how the Jews would mistreat Jesus rather than with the thought of any form of substitution. Alternatively, virtually any of the other models of atonement (Moral Exemplar, Christus Victor, Recapitulation) can say these same words without meaning to imply substitution, because they teach that on account of human sin Christ comes and then he is mistreated by people. This paragraph is not an example of the language of substitution, because the same language can be (and is) said by people who do not intend to imply substitution.

“If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.”
Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation
.

Yes, ‘remission of sins’ likely is a reference to eternal salvation, but the previous sentence on the suffers of Christ is not: In context, Justin has switched topics from discussing the curse-transference to his previous theme of urging Trypho to gain remission of sins by telling him to “repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be the Christ, and observe His commandments”. I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue, and that he also argues that anyone who is virtuous ought to be named a “Christian” even if they lived before Jesus was born, such as some of the Greek philosophers.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…
“For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…

No. Justin is saying, in the context you have cut out, that he reads this OT verse as a prophecy that the Jews would curse Christ not as a prophecy of God cursing Jesus, like Trypho wants to read it, and that therefore it is a true prophecy of Jesus proving he is the prophesied messiah.

The quotes you give attempting to argue that Justin did not teach that final judgment is on the basis of virtue simply do not support your point, and you seem to be blurring final judgment and salvation. Justin primarily thinks that because of human sinfulness that Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds. You seem to be mistakenly saying that since Justin thinks Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.

My sincere apologies for the multiplication of my last response. Computer glitch.

Andrew- many thanks again for your response.

you say- “I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue…”

I am not denying that in the writings of Justin that the idea of virtue is not present nor unimportant. However, in Justin’s writings the dichotomy is not, as you seem to be insisting, one of virtue against faith (that is, faith in Christ the curse bearer [re earlier posts]), but rather faith against mere profession of faith.

For example Justin makes it clear that it is not those who “merely profess” Christ, but those who “do the works” the Saviour commanded that will be saved:

QUOTE- “Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved (cf. Matt. 13:42, 43; 7:15,16,19)” UNQUOTE (Apology).

So for Justin virtue (or as he puts it here ‘works’) is important but not as the ultimate cause of our salvation as you seem to be suggesting (forgive me if I misread you).

Yes, Justin does say “Each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions” (Apology). But again the dichotomy is not works/virtue against faith but rather works/virtue against mere words- “The matters of our religion lie in works, not in words” (Hortatory Address to the Greeks).

Furthermore, Justin, as a philosopher and in particular in his apology where he is interacting with an educated pagan (Roman) public and responding to them in philosophical language that their persecution of the Christians was an injustice, may give the impression of having so rationalized Christianity that he does not give it value as a religion of salvation. However, whilst it may be said that key Christian doctrines fell into the background in Justin’s writings, yet they are evident, especially in his dialogue.

Furthermore, Justin in his dialogue clearly affirms the necessity of faith: QUOTE- “For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith”UNQUOTE. And again- QUOTE- “For it was fitting that the truth should receive testimony from all, and should become [a means of] judgment for the salvation indeed of those who believe, but for the condemnation of those who believe not; that all should be fairly judged, and that the FAITH in the father and the son should be approved by all, that is, that it should be established by all [as the one means of salvation]…” UNQUOTE

Referring to Psalm 96 JM says-
QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the mystery of this salvation, i.e., the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, who effected this salvation in behalf of the human race, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth.UNQUOTE

Note Justin makes clear that men are saved by ‘the sufferings of Christ’ not their own virtue.

It seems to me that in emphasising virtue Justin is merely being a good Biblicist in that, although he does not state it in these words, faith without works is dead. So I think you are overstating your case somewhat when you say- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” And I am indeed suggesting that in Justin’s mind- “Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.” But not to the neglect of our faith evidenced by works.

Andrew, thank you for your input on this. I have enjoyed the exchange of views.

I think you are reading your own views into Justin’s writings, and I don’t think there is much value in continuing this discussion further.

I am sorry that you take it that way. Throughout our exchange of views I have simply allowed Justin to speak for himself. I think you are guilty of the very charge you lay against me viz. you are so keen to fit Justin into your percieved theological paradigm that you do so at the expense of not allowing Justin to be heard fairly. More passages from Justin could be cited but i think that enough have been cited to allow other readers to judge for themselves.

Thank you again for the exchange of views.

As and adherrent of the Christus Victor model and a former one of the Penal model, I don’t think substitution per se is the issue since that view holds that Christ dies for us. He dies for our sins, Is 53, and all of that stuff can be affirmed without implying a penal model. This is so because dying “for” or “on account of” can be read in lots of different ways. One of those ways is that the death he dies on our behalf is a consequence rather than an extrinsic legal relation or necessity. Christ isn’t subordinated to legal principles. This is in part on the CV view because the devil and not God wields death and Christ comes to take that weapon away from him. (Heb 2:15, Rev 1)

I can’t think of any patristic scholar of Justin or the Apologists that reads their works as containing in seminal form or the seeds of a penal model. The philosophical apparatus for the penal model just wasn’t in existence yet via late medieval scholasticism. Nor do I think that there is a clevage in justin between virtue and the work of Christ. For Justin all virtue derives from Christ. Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace, but I don’t think Justin has that idea in mind. This is why in part he thinks of Plato and his crew as being recipients of grace via Christ.

One point of advance on Andrew’s over all worthwhile piece. It is true that Christ for the Orthodox conveys immortality to all men because in some measure qua nature, all men are united to Christ (1 cor 15:19ff) which is why all men are raised (jn 6:39). But it is also true that the discussion of virtue leaves some crucial parts out. The acquasition of virtue is never apart from grace for nature and grace are not opposed given that the imago dei is Christ. We are made in that image but he IS that image. So everyone receives immortality or eternal existence but how they spend it is up to them in part. That is predestination is to nature and not person for the Orthodox. Virtue then is natural to humanity since humans are not strong enough even in their sin to over turn God’s will regarding the imago dei and their nature. The likeness is lost but not the image. Sin is therefore in the use of nature and not in the nature, which is why the Orthodox think of a dying and power deprived nature as inherited and not guilt or sin. Persons sin and natures don’t on pain of Manicheanism or Pelagianism. Pelagianism was in fact not the thesis that salvaton was by works. That was surely a consequence but rather than nature and grace were completely identical so that either it was the case that human nature is fundamentally altered with some form of Manicheanism or humans merely needed to be pointed in the right direction. That is, humans were created intrinsically rightous, is the fundamental tenant of Pelagianism. This fact I think calls for some seriously reflection on the part of the Reformed concerning their close affinities with Pelagius’ pre-lapsarian anthropology.

[...] Not take the question on? This is the sort of topic I live for, especially because it takes me well out of my normal lines of study. The link above is to a category, but the quote comes from a most interesting post, Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers. [...]

Perry,
Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. You say- “Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace…” Actually, no, I am not reading virtue in Justin in the way you suggest but rather I am countering Andrew who does seem to read Justin in the way you suggest. Andrew states very clearly- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” It is Andrew who seems to be reducing the work of Christ in Justin’s understanding to nothing more than a moral teacher or teacher of virtue.

What I have consistently tried to do throughout is to allow Justin to speak for himself. In the quatations in all the posts above I have simply tried to show that for Justin the death of Christ had greater significance than Andrew seems prepared to admit.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not for a moment suggesting that Justin teaches a penal substitutionary model (this is something I have emphasised from my first post) rather, I am simply trying to show, by quoting Justin’s own words, that Justin understood Christ to have suffered God’s curse against sinful man by his death on the cross (see all quotes in above posts).

Although the term ‘penal substitution’ was clearly not used in Justin’s writings yet undeniably the concept exists. This is evident even in Justin’s reference to those who are not saved- QUOTE- “And they, having been shut up in eternal fire, shall suffer their just punishment and penalty.”(2nd Apology 8).UNQUOTE Clearly the unsaved will “suffer their just punishment and penalty” the obvious deduction from this is surely that those who are saved by “the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them” and “saved by repentance” (Ap1 ch 28) will not suffer the penalty, why? Because Christ has suffered that curse and paid that penalty for them.

Virtuous living, for Justin, is hugely important (indeed in days of easy-believism we could learn much from Justin’s emphasis, but that is another issue) but it is not to be separated (as Andrew seems to do) from Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and personal repentance.

For Justin, virtuous living is not that which saves (as Andrew suggests), but rather Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and individual repentance evidenced by virtuous living. For Justin, it is not a case of setting one of these elements against the others but of holding them all together.

Anonymous,

Thanks for the reply. I don’t think Andrew is reducing Christ in Justin’s writins to a mere moral teacher. What I think he is saying is that Christ via Justin first doesn’t determine our choices and that Justin doesn’t think that Christ suffered a retributive punishment in an exchange of moral credit. And I think he is correct. I can’t find anything in Andrew’s gloss of Justin that would indicate that he thinks that Justin’s view is that we become virtuous apart from divine aid, but only that that divine aid isn’t deterministic. And I think that is quite correct. Justin is no Stoic or Pelagian for that matter. Justin thinks we are responsible for grace given and our final status depends on the judgment of CHrist according to our works under the influence of grace. Did we hide the talent or invest it?

I came to that conclusion years ago after having read Justin’s works cover to cover along with a good number of works in the secondary literature. And I am not sure how we get from greater significance to a penal model of the atonement. In fact, if anything, given that the penal model turns on Nominalist assumptions, it seems to accord less significance to Christ’s death since the change is merely legal, rather than metaphysical and cosmic in its scope.

Justin teaches a substitionary model. Granted but so does just about everyone else. But I don’t think that Justin thinks of the atonement in terms of retributive punishment either. So I don’t read Justin as some precursor or as containing in nascent form the penal model. I suppose in part is that I don’t have the theoretical motivation since I don’t think that doctrine develops in a Newman-esque type way. It seems that you do. So I think you are being a bit anachronistic.

As I outlined above, I don’t see in any of the citations that you provided the concept logically implied by word usage of an exchange of moral credit and *retributive punishment* via extrinsic legal relationships in Justin. To say that the concept of the penal model is present in Justin, that is what you would need to show was logically implied. Good luck. In the history of Christian theology there is more than one notion of punishment so finding the word isn’t sufficient, nor even necessary for that matter, to prove that the concept of penal substitution is implied by the author. The Cappadocians for example talk a fair amount about punishment, but they explicitly deny that it is retributive on God’s part but is in fact consequential and due in fact to the way the recipient experiences divine glory. (2 Thess 1:9 ASV)

One can be saved by suffering in lots of ways. On the CV model, we are saved from annihilation at the least and given immortality and this is true for the wicked as well since they persist forever and receive resurrection. We are “freed up” as it were to please God. (Rev 20, 1 Cor 15:19ff, Rom 5:18). The penal model isn’t the only model that takes Christ to save people by his sufferings. What you need to do then is to show that Justin thinks that it was suffering retributive justice that did it in an exchange of moral credit and detriment via extrinsic legal relationships since that is the idea of the penal model. Again, I don’t think you can do that.



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Andrew, you say- Penal Substitution as a systematic theological paradigm of salvation is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period.

Forgive me for suggesting this but, surely this could be said of almost any doctrine? Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all? The answer to this is surely ‘yes’, or how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?

Extract from said dialogue-
QUOTE
Then Trypho remarked, “Be assured that all our nation waits for Christ;
and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to Him.
Moreover, I do also admit that the name of Jesus, by which the son of
Nave (Nun) was called, has inclined me very strongly to adopt this view.
But whether Christ should be so shamefully crucified, this we are in doubt
about. For whosoever is crucified is said in the law to be accursed, so that I
am exceedingly incredulous on this point. It is quite clear, indeed, that the
Scriptures announce that Christ had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you
can prove it to us whether it was by the suffering cursed in the law.”
UNQUOTE

Trypho obviously had a concern that the Christ should die such a shameful and ‘accursed’ death. It didn’t seem to fit his picture of the Christ. Justin replies very clearly, not only that the Christ had to suffer, but that his suffering was not for his own sin but for that of the people.

QUOTE
I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not
foretold that He would be led to death on account of the sins of the
people, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the
transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the
prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to
wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to
all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most
confidently? And will not as many as have understood the writings of the
prophets, whenever they hear merely that He was crucified, say that this
is He and no other?”
UNQUOTE

Justin makes this point even more clearly a little further on in his dialogue.

QUOTE
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is
written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has
accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and
some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those
who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed
all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be
under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other
crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human
family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been
crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about
Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will,
as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although
His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human
family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of
God.
UNQUOTE

Now, of course, this is not evidence of a systematic theological paradigm but nevertheless we see not only substitution in Justin’s reply, but clearly penal substitution. It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.

You may disagree with what Justin says or with his use of Isa 53, but can it really be said that the language of penal substitution is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period?

Excellent point, Anon. I’m a little skeptical when it comes to saying the Fathers had no concept of substitution in their atonement theology. You almost get the sense from what was posted that there is *NO* atonement at all, but only example (of course I know that’s not what’s being said in reality). I think it’s fair to say that the Greeks don’t have a penal model, per se, but that’s another matter altogether.

Also, when the Western controversy over Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism came to the fore, why wasn’t the East denounced?
Either (i) the West was ignorant of the Eastern writings,
or (ii) they misunderstood the Eastern writers’ use of common biblical terms (like propitiation, expiation, etc)
or (iii) they understood the spirit of the writings to honor the basic tenets of orthodoxy, even if expressed differently.

I tend to go with option 3. Maybe someone else can offer further insights on this complex matter.

I likewise am very wary of any claims that all the Greek Fathers said this, or that none of them said that. That claim cannot be made unless all of their writings have been examined. For example, I don’t think what Athanasius outlines in On the Incarnation can be so neatly fit into the framework outlined above.

Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all?
I think that the function of an idea within a person’s wider theological context is of real importance. Through the course of their writings the early Greek writers manage to quote a large proportion of biblical verses, containing all sorts of ideas, motifs, and language. So the observation that the Greek writers use penal or substitutionary language on some occasions is not overly helpful. It would be clearly wrong to say that since they quote the bible and we believe the bible that therefore they must believe what we believe. What is important is the paradigm within which they locate their ideas.

how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?
It is definitely a usage of curse-substitutionary language. (I am dubious of the value of confusing “curse-substitutionary” and “penal-substitutionary”, since ancient magic systems and modern legal systems aren’t really the same). However, again I would stress that what is important is how these ideas fit into Justin’s wider theological paradigm – what purpose do they serve? The answer seems to be that they do not serve much of one. Justin lays out his theological ideas regularly without any reference to this sort of idea. The idea in question only comes when Justin is giving some ad hoc answers to Trypho’s gripes (it is chapter 95 out of 142). The curses that Christ is described as taking on himself in this passage are not of eternal significance and are this-worldly - there is no hint that eternal salvation is in any way affected (nor could it be, given Justin’s wider theological paradigm).

It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.
Well actually I think this identifies a key point about Penal Substitution as a framework. In Justin’s view the Son suffers to help and rescue humanity and the Father wills it, but the Father is never the direct cause of the suffering as he is in the modern Penal Substitutionary framework.

As for Pelagianism, typically I find that the understanding of it among those using the term to be not historically accurate. Pelagius was condemned for some very specific statements mostly about Adam, whereas “Pelagianism” is normally used as a broad theological term having to do with the relationship of grace and works in salvation. The key answer to your question is that the Greek-Latin language barrier prevented Augustine’s reading of Eastern works and vice-versa. If the Eastern church had known the things Augustine was saying there would have been severe conflict. In rare cases where this barrier was surmounted, conflicts arose. eg Rufinus’ Latin translation of Origen was heavily used by Pelagius against Augustine; John Cassian after migrating from the East to the West criticised Augustine and was attacked himself for Semi-Pelagianism.

I have read and studied Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’ at least half a dozen times over the years. I believe it fits perfectly into the framework I outlined.

Andrew,
Thanks for your reply. You still fail to take account of Justin’s allusion to Isaiah 53. You may not agree with Justin’s use of Isaiah 53 to make his point, but by using it he clearly infers penal substitution. Indeed we can say further, that to deny the use of this passage as referring to Christ (which Justin clearly does) is not only to deny Justin’s use of it, nor indeed its use in the present debate, but also to deny the plain teaching of Acts 8:20 ff. I still contend that although penal substitution may not be the main issue Justin is dealing with (his theological paradigm), it is clearly part of what he taught. This is my simple point.

A further thought- In his dialogue Justin clearly speaks of the curse due to all Jews who do not keep the whole Law (quoting from Paul’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10), and of the curse against the idolatrous nations, BOTH OF WHICH ARE CURSES FROM GOD HIMSELF. He denies that Jesus was cursed for his own sins, but affirms that he took upon himself the curses due to others.

You emphasise that the curses originate with God himself, which is logically correct if we reflect on the facts, yet I note that Justin himself seems keen to avoid that idea. It is “the Law of Moses” and “the Jews” who curse Christ (95) whereas the Jews wrongly “suppose that He was crucified as hostile to and cursed by God, which supposition is the product of your most irrational mind” (93). Justin states that ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree’ is a prophesy of the Jews cursing Christ and not God’s doing so (96).

Also of note is that the Greek fathers regularly engage in extremely creative exegesis, especially where prophecy is concerned. The above quote is an example, though a pretty tame one compared to some of the vivid allegories they invent. You have to keep in mind that just because you, I, or Acts might have thought Isaiah 53 meant one thing, it doesn’t mean Justin thinks it means the same thing.

I totally agree that Justin uses some ideas and language in this passage that are also common with a penal substitutionary setting. However in your eagerness to see Penal Substitution here you seem to be glossing over the vast differences between the things Justin says and Penal Substitution. For example Justin does not think this curse transference achieved reconciliation with God; nor that it achieved forgiveness; nor that it was of eternal significance; nor that our response to it or belief in it affects its efficaciousness for us. Nor is penal substitution and curse substitution the same thing.

If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-
1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.

Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’
to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-

1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURSE LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Again I emphasise, I agree with you that there is no paradigm of penal substitution in the early fathers nevertheless the concept and language is more prevalent than you seem prepared to concede.

(I had a response to point 3 but you may be pleased to hear that I lost it in a typical computer glitch:)

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’
“If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently
?

Such language can be and is often used by people in situations where no thought of ‘substitution’ is present. I’ve seen both the church fathers and people in the present day say this sort of thing without meaning to imply substitution. For example, such language can be used in talking about the Jews killing Jesus – the “sins of the people” that he suffers on account of is precisely the unjust death he dies at their hands, they dishonour and scourged him and he is reckoned by them among the transgressors. Thus Isa 53 in such a reading is quoted simply as a prophecy of how the Jews would mistreat Jesus rather than with the thought of any form of substitution. Alternatively, virtually any of the other models of atonement (Moral Exemplar, Christus Victor, Recapitulation) can say these same words without meaning to imply substitution, because they teach that on account of human sin Christ comes and then he is mistreated by people. This paragraph is not an example of the language of substitution, because the same language can be (and is) said by people who do not intend to imply substitution.

“If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.”
Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation
.

Yes, ‘remission of sins’ likely is a reference to eternal salvation, but the previous sentence on the suffers of Christ is not: In context, Justin has switched topics from discussing the curse-transference to his previous theme of urging Trypho to gain remission of sins by telling him to “repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be the Christ, and observe His commandments”. I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue, and that he also argues that anyone who is virtuous ought to be named a “Christian” even if they lived before Jesus was born, such as some of the Greek philosophers.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…
“For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…

No. Justin is saying, in the context you have cut out, that he reads this OT verse as a prophecy that the Jews would curse Christ not as a prophecy of God cursing Jesus, like Trypho wants to read it, and that therefore it is a true prophecy of Jesus proving he is the prophesied messiah.

The quotes you give attempting to argue that Justin did not teach that final judgment is on the basis of virtue simply do not support your point, and you seem to be blurring final judgment and salvation. Justin primarily thinks that because of human sinfulness that Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds. You seem to be mistakenly saying that since Justin thinks Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.

My sincere apologies for the multiplication of my last response. Computer glitch.

Andrew- many thanks again for your response.

you say- “I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue…”

I am not denying that in the writings of Justin that the idea of virtue is not present nor unimportant. However, in Justin’s writings the dichotomy is not, as you seem to be insisting, one of virtue against faith (that is, faith in Christ the curse bearer [re earlier posts]), but rather faith against mere profession of faith.

For example Justin makes it clear that it is not those who “merely profess” Christ, but those who “do the works” the Saviour commanded that will be saved:

QUOTE- “Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved (cf. Matt. 13:42, 43; 7:15,16,19)” UNQUOTE (Apology).

So for Justin virtue (or as he puts it here ‘works’) is important but not as the ultimate cause of our salvation as you seem to be suggesting (forgive me if I misread you).

Yes, Justin does say “Each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions” (Apology). But again the dichotomy is not works/virtue against faith but rather works/virtue against mere words- “The matters of our religion lie in works, not in words” (Hortatory Address to the Greeks).

Furthermore, Justin, as a philosopher and in particular in his apology where he is interacting with an educated pagan (Roman) public and responding to them in philosophical language that their persecution of the Christians was an injustice, may give the impression of having so rationalized Christianity that he does not give it value as a religion of salvation. However, whilst it may be said that key Christian doctrines fell into the background in Justin’s writings, yet they are evident, especially in his dialogue.

Furthermore, Justin in his dialogue clearly affirms the necessity of faith: QUOTE- “For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith”UNQUOTE. And again- QUOTE- “For it was fitting that the truth should receive testimony from all, and should become [a means of] judgment for the salvation indeed of those who believe, but for the condemnation of those who believe not; that all should be fairly judged, and that the FAITH in the father and the son should be approved by all, that is, that it should be established by all [as the one means of salvation]…” UNQUOTE

Referring to Psalm 96 JM says-
QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the mystery of this salvation, i.e., the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, who effected this salvation in behalf of the human race, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth.UNQUOTE

Note Justin makes clear that men are saved by ‘the sufferings of Christ’ not their own virtue.

It seems to me that in emphasising virtue Justin is merely being a good Biblicist in that, although he does not state it in these words, faith without works is dead. So I think you are overstating your case somewhat when you say- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” And I am indeed suggesting that in Justin’s mind- “Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.” But not to the neglect of our faith evidenced by works.

Andrew, thank you for your input on this. I have enjoyed the exchange of views.

I think you are reading your own views into Justin’s writings, and I don’t think there is much value in continuing this discussion further.

I am sorry that you take it that way. Throughout our exchange of views I have simply allowed Justin to speak for himself. I think you are guilty of the very charge you lay against me viz. you are so keen to fit Justin into your percieved theological paradigm that you do so at the expense of not allowing Justin to be heard fairly. More passages from Justin could be cited but i think that enough have been cited to allow other readers to judge for themselves.

Thank you again for the exchange of views.

As and adherrent of the Christus Victor model and a former one of the Penal model, I don’t think substitution per se is the issue since that view holds that Christ dies for us. He dies for our sins, Is 53, and all of that stuff can be affirmed without implying a penal model. This is so because dying “for” or “on account of” can be read in lots of different ways. One of those ways is that the death he dies on our behalf is a consequence rather than an extrinsic legal relation or necessity. Christ isn’t subordinated to legal principles. This is in part on the CV view because the devil and not God wields death and Christ comes to take that weapon away from him. (Heb 2:15, Rev 1)

I can’t think of any patristic scholar of Justin or the Apologists that reads their works as containing in seminal form or the seeds of a penal model. The philosophical apparatus for the penal model just wasn’t in existence yet via late medieval scholasticism. Nor do I think that there is a clevage in justin between virtue and the work of Christ. For Justin all virtue derives from Christ. Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace, but I don’t think Justin has that idea in mind. This is why in part he thinks of Plato and his crew as being recipients of grace via Christ.

One point of advance on Andrew’s over all worthwhile piece. It is true that Christ for the Orthodox conveys immortality to all men because in some measure qua nature, all men are united to Christ (1 cor 15:19ff) which is why all men are raised (jn 6:39). But it is also true that the discussion of virtue leaves some crucial parts out. The acquasition of virtue is never apart from grace for nature and grace are not opposed given that the imago dei is Christ. We are made in that image but he IS that image. So everyone receives immortality or eternal existence but how they spend it is up to them in part. That is predestination is to nature and not person for the Orthodox. Virtue then is natural to humanity since humans are not strong enough even in their sin to over turn God’s will regarding the imago dei and their nature. The likeness is lost but not the image. Sin is therefore in the use of nature and not in the nature, which is why the Orthodox think of a dying and power deprived nature as inherited and not guilt or sin. Persons sin and natures don’t on pain of Manicheanism or Pelagianism. Pelagianism was in fact not the thesis that salvaton was by works. That was surely a consequence but rather than nature and grace were completely identical so that either it was the case that human nature is fundamentally altered with some form of Manicheanism or humans merely needed to be pointed in the right direction. That is, humans were created intrinsically rightous, is the fundamental tenant of Pelagianism. This fact I think calls for some seriously reflection on the part of the Reformed concerning their close affinities with Pelagius’ pre-lapsarian anthropology.

[...] Not take the question on? This is the sort of topic I live for, especially because it takes me well out of my normal lines of study. The link above is to a category, but the quote comes from a most interesting post, Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers. [...]

Perry,
Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. You say- “Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace…” Actually, no, I am not reading virtue in Justin in the way you suggest but rather I am countering Andrew who does seem to read Justin in the way you suggest. Andrew states very clearly- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” It is Andrew who seems to be reducing the work of Christ in Justin’s understanding to nothing more than a moral teacher or teacher of virtue.

What I have consistently tried to do throughout is to allow Justin to speak for himself. In the quatations in all the posts above I have simply tried to show that for Justin the death of Christ had greater significance than Andrew seems prepared to admit.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not for a moment suggesting that Justin teaches a penal substitutionary model (this is something I have emphasised from my first post) rather, I am simply trying to show, by quoting Justin’s own words, that Justin understood Christ to have suffered God’s curse against sinful man by his death on the cross (see all quotes in above posts).

Although the term ‘penal substitution’ was clearly not used in Justin’s writings yet undeniably the concept exists. This is evident even in Justin’s reference to those who are not saved- QUOTE- “And they, having been shut up in eternal fire, shall suffer their just punishment and penalty.”(2nd Apology 8).UNQUOTE Clearly the unsaved will “suffer their just punishment and penalty” the obvious deduction from this is surely that those who are saved by “the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them” and “saved by repentance” (Ap1 ch 28) will not suffer the penalty, why? Because Christ has suffered that curse and paid that penalty for them.

Virtuous living, for Justin, is hugely important (indeed in days of easy-believism we could learn much from Justin’s emphasis, but that is another issue) but it is not to be separated (as Andrew seems to do) from Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and personal repentance.

For Justin, virtuous living is not that which saves (as Andrew suggests), but rather Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and individual repentance evidenced by virtuous living. For Justin, it is not a case of setting one of these elements against the others but of holding them all together.

Anonymous,

Thanks for the reply. I don’t think Andrew is reducing Christ in Justin’s writins to a mere moral teacher. What I think he is saying is that Christ via Justin first doesn’t determine our choices and that Justin doesn’t think that Christ suffered a retributive punishment in an exchange of moral credit. And I think he is correct. I can’t find anything in Andrew’s gloss of Justin that would indicate that he thinks that Justin’s view is that we become virtuous apart from divine aid, but only that that divine aid isn’t deterministic. And I think that is quite correct. Justin is no Stoic or Pelagian for that matter. Justin thinks we are responsible for grace given and our final status depends on the judgment of CHrist according to our works under the influence of grace. Did we hide the talent or invest it?

I came to that conclusion years ago after having read Justin’s works cover to cover along with a good number of works in the secondary literature. And I am not sure how we get from greater significance to a penal model of the atonement. In fact, if anything, given that the penal model turns on Nominalist assumptions, it seems to accord less significance to Christ’s death since the change is merely legal, rather than metaphysical and cosmic in its scope.

Justin teaches a substitionary model. Granted but so does just about everyone else. But I don’t think that Justin thinks of the atonement in terms of retributive punishment either. So I don’t read Justin as some precursor or as containing in nascent form the penal model. I suppose in part is that I don’t have the theoretical motivation since I don’t think that doctrine develops in a Newman-esque type way. It seems that you do. So I think you are being a bit anachronistic.

As I outlined above, I don’t see in any of the citations that you provided the concept logically implied by word usage of an exchange of moral credit and *retributive punishment* via extrinsic legal relationships in Justin. To say that the concept of the penal model is present in Justin, that is what you would need to show was logically implied. Good luck. In the history of Christian theology there is more than one notion of punishment so finding the word isn’t sufficient, nor even necessary for that matter, to prove that the concept of penal substitution is implied by the author. The Cappadocians for example talk a fair amount about punishment, but they explicitly deny that it is retributive on God’s part but is in fact consequential and due in fact to the way the recipient experiences divine glory. (2 Thess 1:9 ASV)

One can be saved by suffering in lots of ways. On the CV model, we are saved from annihilation at the least and given immortality and this is true for the wicked as well since they persist forever and receive resurrection. We are “freed up” as it were to please God. (Rev 20, 1 Cor 15:19ff, Rom 5:18). The penal model isn’t the only model that takes Christ to save people by his sufferings. What you need to do then is to show that Justin thinks that it was suffering retributive justice that did it in an exchange of moral credit and detriment via extrinsic legal relationships since that is the idea of the penal model. Again, I don’t think you can do that.



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Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers

The following post is a contribution to an ongoing conversation on the subject of the doctrine of the atonement. The goal of this conversation is not that of arguing for one single doctrine of atonement, but of having the chance to listen to a number of different sources and voices. Lord-willing, participation in this conversation will help us grow in appreciation and understanding of theological positions that we have not previously had the same opportunity to engage with. My role here is that of hosting a conversation. The substance of the posts in this conversation do not necessarily reflect my own convictions (except, of course, when I am the author!). The contributors do not write as my proxies, but as my guests. Discussion in the comments is encouraged. If you strongly disagree or dislike something that has been said, please leave a comment to say why; if you have found something helpful, please give some reasons why you have found it to be so.

The author of the following post is Andrew Wallace. Andrew was born and bred and lives in New Zealand. He was brought up Baptist, but has a general interest in academic theology and thinks that all denominations have something to learn from each other, so he would no longer really identify himself with any particular denomination. For the past year he has been co-authoring a book about the atonement theologies of the New Testament writers and Early Greek Fathers.

St. Athanasius

Introduction
One of the reasons that I as a Protestant see great value in studying Eastern Orthodox thinking and writing is because their tradition has been so isolated from our own heritage due to historical and linguistic reasons. Due to the independence of their tradition from our own they tend to have very different ways of looking at things, and I find these can provide helpful insights which are useful in critically evaluating our own tradition. On the subject of the atonement, the Eastern Orthodox tradition has some quite different ideas to the Protestant tradition, and the whole paradigm of salvation tends to be very different. Many of the essential protestant concepts such as original sin, penal substitutionary atonement, and salvation by faith are not present, and instead other very different ideas tend to be utilized. The Eastern Orthodox church traces its tradition and teachings very strongly to the writings of the church fathers of the first millennia.

These church fathers are worth studying for other reasons. The Church Fathers that the Eastern Orthodox church originated out of were the Greek speaking ones, whereas our Western Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions historically were Latin-speaking. The New Testament was written in Greek and that was the main language spoken within the early Church. The subsequent generations of Greek speaking Christians both read the New Testament in their native language and were taught Christianity by the previous generation. It seems reasonable to think that the people who were in an ideal position to understand the writings of the apostles as clearly as possible were those who spoke the same language and lived around the same time and in the same culture and empire as the writers. Therefore, the early Greek Christians’ comments about New Testament passages and verses are valuable for exegetical reasons. But more than that, learning their theology itself is valuable. It is reasonable to presume that Christianity was not instantaneously forgotten worldwide the moment the New Testament was completed. Rather it seems reasonable to assume that the apostolic generation passed the essential truths of their faith onto the next generation, and that the variety of texts written around the world by different Greek-speaking Christians in the early church ought to contain theology substantially in agreement with apostolic Christianity. Therefore studying the writings of the Greek Christians in the period 100-400AD (these dates are relatively arbitrary, and altering them makes no difference) is worthwhile in order to gain an insight into their theology, given that in all probability their theology is going to be substantially similar to the theology of the apostles.

The Theology of the Greek Fathers 100-400AD
The theology of these Christian writers is substantially different to Protestant thought, so it can require some effort to wrap your head around. The ideas of atonement held by these writers can get complicated, so for simplicity’s sake let us start with the basic idea of salvation that is common to all the Fathers of this period. The basic paradigm of salvation universally held by these writers is as follows:

1. Humans have free will to engage in either vice or virtue, and the ability to become more or less virtuous over time.
2. God is virtuous and desires humans to be also. He is pleased with virtue and displeased by vice.
3. Christ taught virtue to mankind.
4. By following Christ’s teachings, and by the help of the Spirit, we can progress and improve in virtue if we make the effort.
5. All men have the ability to achieve a standard of virtue acceptable to God.
6. The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue.

Each of those points, and the paradigm as a whole, are common to all the Greek writers from the period 100-400AD. In addition to these common points, two main different theories about the work of Christ are reasonably common but not universally held:

1. Ransom From Satan & Christus Victor
Satan was seen as having some form of power over the world, precisely what power varies from writer to writer. In some cases he is seen as attempting to influence men towards vice, just as the serpent in Eden had. In other conceptions he is seen as ruling over the world like a lord, and having a deliberately evil influence on events in the world. Sometimes he is seen as having power in the afterlife over the souls of men, either due to him being the natural lord of sinners or due to him unjustly seizing human souls.

In these models of atonement, Christ is seen as performing some action appropriate to defeat or remove the power of the devil. This can vary depending on how the devil’s power and influence is conceived. Christ can be seen as overthrowing the devil as lord of the world, removing the devil’s power in a real battle in the spiritual realms. He can be seen as entering into Hades and by his spiritual power defeating and vanquishing the powers holding human souls captive. He can be seen as defeating the devil’s influence in this world by virtue of the explusion of evil spirits from people in his own ministry, and the power he gave to Christians to do the same in his name. Sometime he is depicted as offering his own soul to Satan as a ransom payment in return for Satan setting free all the souls of humanity - Satan accepts and takes Jesus’ soul in exchange, and then God resurrects Jesus back to life and Satan is left with nothing. The reasons given about why and how Satan has power over humanity, the world, or the souls of humans vary, as does the methods Jesus uses to defeat, trick or overthrow Satan.

2. Recapitulation
This, rather different, view of the atonement is concerned with the danger of the created order passing into non-existence. God in the act of creation infused his creation with existence. Created beings and substances do not possess self-existence but are dependent upon God for it. Humanity (or Satan and his angels) as rulers of the created order, in sinning broke away from God, and in doing so severed the flow of existence from God. Corruption set in and began to decay toward non-existence. Humans began dying physically, a symptom of the metaphysical decay that was taking place spiritually. The real problem was not that humans were merely dying physically, but rather their actual souls were decaying as well, so God simply creating new human bodies and stuffing the souls back in would not help as the entire creation would eventually decay completely and humanity with it.

The necessary solution was to recreate the connection between God and the created order, restoring the continual flow of existence from God into creation. To do this, the Word through which the creation had been made joined itself to the creation by becoming human. God himself in the person of Jesus Christ by living a fully human life from birth to death reunited God metaphysically with humanity and creation. Jesus’ resurrection appearances were to demonstrate the success of this endevour, showing that metaphysical death had been destroyed and the decay and ultimate annihilation of the created order averted.

Further Reflections
These concepts of the prevention of annihilation and the defeat of Satan vary immensely between authors. They can be both present at once, or neither present, or multiple forms of the defeat of Satan thinking can be present in a given author. What is worth noting is that neither of these ideas relate to whether humans pass the Final Judgment. The prevention of non-existence, and the freeing of souls from the control of Satan both make it possible for there to be an afterlife and a final judgment from God on individual human souls. But neither has any effect whatsoever on the outcome of that final judgment for individual souls. In Protestantism our focus of atonement on how we can achieve a positive final judgment. Noting that, we can make a conceptual distinction between “things Christ did that were worthwhile” and “things that cause us to pass God’s final judgment” and see that the two do not have to overlap. Recapitulation and Defeat-Of-Satan concepts apply only to the first category and not the second, whereas Penal Substitution links both. With that in mind, it can be observed that the connection that Greek Christians of this period make between Christ’s actions and us gaining a positive final judgment on the last day is solely one of Christ teaching virtue and bringing knowledge of holy living to the world and setting an example of holy conduct and a virtuous life pleasing to God. That is the system of salvation that I outlined earlier which is common to all the Greek Christians of this period and which is extremely well-attested in their writings.

So when it comes to answering the question of what the Greek Christians in this period thought about the “atonement”, some reflection is required about what we actually mean by “atonement”. If we are thinking of things that cause indirectly or directly the passing of the Final Judgment of God, then the answer is that they thought human virtue to be the deciding factor and that they saw human virtue as being brought about primarily through the teaching of God to the world, first in the Law, then in the Prophets and most clearly of all through the teachings and example of Jesus’ Christ, and that they believed in the influence and importance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of humans to reveal virtue and knowledge of God and strengthen humans in righteousness. But if the question is about the work of Christ and what they saw Christ as achieving, then the answer is they saw him primarily as a teacher of righteousness, but also had a wide variety of other ideas which tended to center around the ideas of Christ defeating the power of Satan and/or saving the created order from death and destruction.

Penal Substitution
Given where and why I am writing this, I feel I must add some comments on the relationship between Penal Substitution and the theology of these Christians. Penal Substitution as a systematic theological paradigm of salvation is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period. A penal substitutionary paradigm conflicts fundamentally with two of the Greek Christian ideas - their views that (i) our virtue of character is what we are judged on at the final judgment, and (ii) that humans can be virtuous enough to please God. Thus the Greek Christians do not hold the two ideas of (a) human inability and (b) a final judgment based on our belief/acceptance of Christ’s work on our behalf, which are part of the penal substitutionary paradigm as we know it.

However the Greek Christians do occasionally make some usages of some penal substitutionary ideas in ways which do not relate to the deciding criteria for final judgment. For example when trying to answer the question of why Christians no longer perform sacrifices like the Jews did, Eusebius suggests Christ was a substitutionary sacrifice, and hence did away with the need for sacrificial practices. Jesus in this context is treated as a penal substitute, but this is not seen as part of any system of eternal salvation: Sacrifices are assumed by him as having this-worldly purposes; and no belief in or acceptance of Christ’s work is needed to obtain God’s positive verdict, only virtue. In this way, penal and substitutionary ideas can occur on occasion within the Greek Fathers but the paradigm of penal substitutionary atonement as we know it is never present, and is fundamentally inconsistent with their paradigm.

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Andrew, you say- Penal Substitution as a systematic theological paradigm of salvation is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period.

Forgive me for suggesting this but, surely this could be said of almost any doctrine? Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all? The answer to this is surely ‘yes’, or how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?

Extract from said dialogue-
QUOTE
Then Trypho remarked, “Be assured that all our nation waits for Christ;
and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to Him.
Moreover, I do also admit that the name of Jesus, by which the son of
Nave (Nun) was called, has inclined me very strongly to adopt this view.
But whether Christ should be so shamefully crucified, this we are in doubt
about. For whosoever is crucified is said in the law to be accursed, so that I
am exceedingly incredulous on this point. It is quite clear, indeed, that the
Scriptures announce that Christ had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you
can prove it to us whether it was by the suffering cursed in the law.”
UNQUOTE

Trypho obviously had a concern that the Christ should die such a shameful and ‘accursed’ death. It didn’t seem to fit his picture of the Christ. Justin replies very clearly, not only that the Christ had to suffer, but that his suffering was not for his own sin but for that of the people.

QUOTE
I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not
foretold that He would be led to death on account of the sins of the
people, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the
transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the
prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to
wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to
all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most
confidently? And will not as many as have understood the writings of the
prophets, whenever they hear merely that He was crucified, say that this
is He and no other?”
UNQUOTE

Justin makes this point even more clearly a little further on in his dialogue.

QUOTE
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is
written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has
accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and
some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those
who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed
all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be
under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other
crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human
family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been
crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about
Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will,
as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although
His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human
family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of
God.
UNQUOTE

Now, of course, this is not evidence of a systematic theological paradigm but nevertheless we see not only substitution in Justin’s reply, but clearly penal substitution. It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.

You may disagree with what Justin says or with his use of Isa 53, but can it really be said that the language of penal substitution is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period?

Excellent point, Anon. I’m a little skeptical when it comes to saying the Fathers had no concept of substitution in their atonement theology. You almost get the sense from what was posted that there is *NO* atonement at all, but only example (of course I know that’s not what’s being said in reality). I think it’s fair to say that the Greeks don’t have a penal model, per se, but that’s another matter altogether.

Also, when the Western controversy over Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism came to the fore, why wasn’t the East denounced?
Either (i) the West was ignorant of the Eastern writings,
or (ii) they misunderstood the Eastern writers’ use of common biblical terms (like propitiation, expiation, etc)
or (iii) they understood the spirit of the writings to honor the basic tenets of orthodoxy, even if expressed differently.

I tend to go with option 3. Maybe someone else can offer further insights on this complex matter.

I likewise am very wary of any claims that all the Greek Fathers said this, or that none of them said that. That claim cannot be made unless all of their writings have been examined. For example, I don’t think what Athanasius outlines in On the Incarnation can be so neatly fit into the framework outlined above.

Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all?
I think that the function of an idea within a person’s wider theological context is of real importance. Through the course of their writings the early Greek writers manage to quote a large proportion of biblical verses, containing all sorts of ideas, motifs, and language. So the observation that the Greek writers use penal or substitutionary language on some occasions is not overly helpful. It would be clearly wrong to say that since they quote the bible and we believe the bible that therefore they must believe what we believe. What is important is the paradigm within which they locate their ideas.

how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?
It is definitely a usage of curse-substitutionary language. (I am dubious of the value of confusing “curse-substitutionary” and “penal-substitutionary”, since ancient magic systems and modern legal systems aren’t really the same). However, again I would stress that what is important is how these ideas fit into Justin’s wider theological paradigm – what purpose do they serve? The answer seems to be that they do not serve much of one. Justin lays out his theological ideas regularly without any reference to this sort of idea. The idea in question only comes when Justin is giving some ad hoc answers to Trypho’s gripes (it is chapter 95 out of 142). The curses that Christ is described as taking on himself in this passage are not of eternal significance and are this-worldly - there is no hint that eternal salvation is in any way affected (nor could it be, given Justin’s wider theological paradigm).

It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.
Well actually I think this identifies a key point about Penal Substitution as a framework. In Justin’s view the Son suffers to help and rescue humanity and the Father wills it, but the Father is never the direct cause of the suffering as he is in the modern Penal Substitutionary framework.

As for Pelagianism, typically I find that the understanding of it among those using the term to be not historically accurate. Pelagius was condemned for some very specific statements mostly about Adam, whereas “Pelagianism” is normally used as a broad theological term having to do with the relationship of grace and works in salvation. The key answer to your question is that the Greek-Latin language barrier prevented Augustine’s reading of Eastern works and vice-versa. If the Eastern church had known the things Augustine was saying there would have been severe conflict. In rare cases where this barrier was surmounted, conflicts arose. eg Rufinus’ Latin translation of Origen was heavily used by Pelagius against Augustine; John Cassian after migrating from the East to the West criticised Augustine and was attacked himself for Semi-Pelagianism.

I have read and studied Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’ at least half a dozen times over the years. I believe it fits perfectly into the framework I outlined.

Andrew,
Thanks for your reply. You still fail to take account of Justin’s allusion to Isaiah 53. You may not agree with Justin’s use of Isaiah 53 to make his point, but by using it he clearly infers penal substitution. Indeed we can say further, that to deny the use of this passage as referring to Christ (which Justin clearly does) is not only to deny Justin’s use of it, nor indeed its use in the present debate, but also to deny the plain teaching of Acts 8:20 ff. I still contend that although penal substitution may not be the main issue Justin is dealing with (his theological paradigm), it is clearly part of what he taught. This is my simple point.

A further thought- In his dialogue Justin clearly speaks of the curse due to all Jews who do not keep the whole Law (quoting from Paul’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10), and of the curse against the idolatrous nations, BOTH OF WHICH ARE CURSES FROM GOD HIMSELF. He denies that Jesus was cursed for his own sins, but affirms that he took upon himself the curses due to others.

You emphasise that the curses originate with God himself, which is logically correct if we reflect on the facts, yet I note that Justin himself seems keen to avoid that idea. It is “the Law of Moses” and “the Jews” who curse Christ (95) whereas the Jews wrongly “suppose that He was crucified as hostile to and cursed by God, which supposition is the product of your most irrational mind” (93). Justin states that ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree’ is a prophesy of the Jews cursing Christ and not God’s doing so (96).

Also of note is that the Greek fathers regularly engage in extremely creative exegesis, especially where prophecy is concerned. The above quote is an example, though a pretty tame one compared to some of the vivid allegories they invent. You have to keep in mind that just because you, I, or Acts might have thought Isaiah 53 meant one thing, it doesn’t mean Justin thinks it means the same thing.

I totally agree that Justin uses some ideas and language in this passage that are also common with a penal substitutionary setting. However in your eagerness to see Penal Substitution here you seem to be glossing over the vast differences between the things Justin says and Penal Substitution. For example Justin does not think this curse transference achieved reconciliation with God; nor that it achieved forgiveness; nor that it was of eternal significance; nor that our response to it or belief in it affects its efficaciousness for us. Nor is penal substitution and curse substitution the same thing.

If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-
1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.

Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’
to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-

1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURSE LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Again I emphasise, I agree with you that there is no paradigm of penal substitution in the early fathers nevertheless the concept and language is more prevalent than you seem prepared to concede.

(I had a response to point 3 but you may be pleased to hear that I lost it in a typical computer glitch:)

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’
“If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently
?

Such language can be and is often used by people in situations where no thought of ‘substitution’ is present. I’ve seen both the church fathers and people in the present day say this sort of thing without meaning to imply substitution. For example, such language can be used in talking about the Jews killing Jesus – the “sins of the people” that he suffers on account of is precisely the unjust death he dies at their hands, they dishonour and scourged him and he is reckoned by them among the transgressors. Thus Isa 53 in such a reading is quoted simply as a prophecy of how the Jews would mistreat Jesus rather than with the thought of any form of substitution. Alternatively, virtually any of the other models of atonement (Moral Exemplar, Christus Victor, Recapitulation) can say these same words without meaning to imply substitution, because they teach that on account of human sin Christ comes and then he is mistreated by people. This paragraph is not an example of the language of substitution, because the same language can be (and is) said by people who do not intend to imply substitution.

“If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.”
Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation
.

Yes, ‘remission of sins’ likely is a reference to eternal salvation, but the previous sentence on the suffers of Christ is not: In context, Justin has switched topics from discussing the curse-transference to his previous theme of urging Trypho to gain remission of sins by telling him to “repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be the Christ, and observe His commandments”. I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue, and that he also argues that anyone who is virtuous ought to be named a “Christian” even if they lived before Jesus was born, such as some of the Greek philosophers.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…
“For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…

No. Justin is saying, in the context you have cut out, that he reads this OT verse as a prophecy that the Jews would curse Christ not as a prophecy of God cursing Jesus, like Trypho wants to read it, and that therefore it is a true prophecy of Jesus proving he is the prophesied messiah.

The quotes you give attempting to argue that Justin did not teach that final judgment is on the basis of virtue simply do not support your point, and you seem to be blurring final judgment and salvation. Justin primarily thinks that because of human sinfulness that Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds. You seem to be mistakenly saying that since Justin thinks Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.

My sincere apologies for the multiplication of my last response. Computer glitch.

Andrew- many thanks again for your response.

you say- “I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue…”

I am not denying that in the writings of Justin that the idea of virtue is not present nor unimportant. However, in Justin’s writings the dichotomy is not, as you seem to be insisting, one of virtue against faith (that is, faith in Christ the curse bearer [re earlier posts]), but rather faith against mere profession of faith.

For example Justin makes it clear that it is not those who “merely profess” Christ, but those who “do the works” the Saviour commanded that will be saved:

QUOTE- “Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved (cf. Matt. 13:42, 43; 7:15,16,19)” UNQUOTE (Apology).

So for Justin virtue (or as he puts it here ‘works’) is important but not as the ultimate cause of our salvation as you seem to be suggesting (forgive me if I misread you).

Yes, Justin does say “Each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions” (Apology). But again the dichotomy is not works/virtue against faith but rather works/virtue against mere words- “The matters of our religion lie in works, not in words” (Hortatory Address to the Greeks).

Furthermore, Justin, as a philosopher and in particular in his apology where he is interacting with an educated pagan (Roman) public and responding to them in philosophical language that their persecution of the Christians was an injustice, may give the impression of having so rationalized Christianity that he does not give it value as a religion of salvation. However, whilst it may be said that key Christian doctrines fell into the background in Justin’s writings, yet they are evident, especially in his dialogue.

Furthermore, Justin in his dialogue clearly affirms the necessity of faith: QUOTE- “For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith”UNQUOTE. And again- QUOTE- “For it was fitting that the truth should receive testimony from all, and should become [a means of] judgment for the salvation indeed of those who believe, but for the condemnation of those who believe not; that all should be fairly judged, and that the FAITH in the father and the son should be approved by all, that is, that it should be established by all [as the one means of salvation]…” UNQUOTE

Referring to Psalm 96 JM says-
QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the mystery of this salvation, i.e., the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, who effected this salvation in behalf of the human race, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth.UNQUOTE

Note Justin makes clear that men are saved by ‘the sufferings of Christ’ not their own virtue.

It seems to me that in emphasising virtue Justin is merely being a good Biblicist in that, although he does not state it in these words, faith without works is dead. So I think you are overstating your case somewhat when you say- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” And I am indeed suggesting that in Justin’s mind- “Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.” But not to the neglect of our faith evidenced by works.

Andrew, thank you for your input on this. I have enjoyed the exchange of views.

I think you are reading your own views into Justin’s writings, and I don’t think there is much value in continuing this discussion further.

I am sorry that you take it that way. Throughout our exchange of views I have simply allowed Justin to speak for himself. I think you are guilty of the very charge you lay against me viz. you are so keen to fit Justin into your percieved theological paradigm that you do so at the expense of not allowing Justin to be heard fairly. More passages from Justin could be cited but i think that enough have been cited to allow other readers to judge for themselves.

Thank you again for the exchange of views.

As and adherrent of the Christus Victor model and a former one of the Penal model, I don’t think substitution per se is the issue since that view holds that Christ dies for us. He dies for our sins, Is 53, and all of that stuff can be affirmed without implying a penal model. This is so because dying “for” or “on account of” can be read in lots of different ways. One of those ways is that the death he dies on our behalf is a consequence rather than an extrinsic legal relation or necessity. Christ isn’t subordinated to legal principles. This is in part on the CV view because the devil and not God wields death and Christ comes to take that weapon away from him. (Heb 2:15, Rev 1)

I can’t think of any patristic scholar of Justin or the Apologists that reads their works as containing in seminal form or the seeds of a penal model. The philosophical apparatus for the penal model just wasn’t in existence yet via late medieval scholasticism. Nor do I think that there is a clevage in justin between virtue and the work of Christ. For Justin all virtue derives from Christ. Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace, but I don’t think Justin has that idea in mind. This is why in part he thinks of Plato and his crew as being recipients of grace via Christ.

One point of advance on Andrew’s over all worthwhile piece. It is true that Christ for the Orthodox conveys immortality to all men because in some measure qua nature, all men are united to Christ (1 cor 15:19ff) which is why all men are raised (jn 6:39). But it is also true that the discussion of virtue leaves some crucial parts out. The acquasition of virtue is never apart from grace for nature and grace are not opposed given that the imago dei is Christ. We are made in that image but he IS that image. So everyone receives immortality or eternal existence but how they spend it is up to them in part. That is predestination is to nature and not person for the Orthodox. Virtue then is natural to humanity since humans are not strong enough even in their sin to over turn God’s will regarding the imago dei and their nature. The likeness is lost but not the image. Sin is therefore in the use of nature and not in the nature, which is why the Orthodox think of a dying and power deprived nature as inherited and not guilt or sin. Persons sin and natures don’t on pain of Manicheanism or Pelagianism. Pelagianism was in fact not the thesis that salvaton was by works. That was surely a consequence but rather than nature and grace were completely identical so that either it was the case that human nature is fundamentally altered with some form of Manicheanism or humans merely needed to be pointed in the right direction. That is, humans were created intrinsically rightous, is the fundamental tenant of Pelagianism. This fact I think calls for some seriously reflection on the part of the Reformed concerning their close affinities with Pelagius’ pre-lapsarian anthropology.

[...] Not take the question on? This is the sort of topic I live for, especially because it takes me well out of my normal lines of study. The link above is to a category, but the quote comes from a most interesting post, Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers. [...]

Perry,
Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. You say- “Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace…” Actually, no, I am not reading virtue in Justin in the way you suggest but rather I am countering Andrew who does seem to read Justin in the way you suggest. Andrew states very clearly- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” It is Andrew who seems to be reducing the work of Christ in Justin’s understanding to nothing more than a moral teacher or teacher of virtue.

What I have consistently tried to do throughout is to allow Justin to speak for himself. In the quatations in all the posts above I have simply tried to show that for Justin the death of Christ had greater significance than Andrew seems prepared to admit.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not for a moment suggesting that Justin teaches a penal substitutionary model (this is something I have emphasised from my first post) rather, I am simply trying to show, by quoting Justin’s own words, that Justin understood Christ to have suffered God’s curse against sinful man by his death on the cross (see all quotes in above posts).

Although the term ‘penal substitution’ was clearly not used in Justin’s writings yet undeniably the concept exists. This is evident even in Justin’s reference to those who are not saved- QUOTE- “And they, having been shut up in eternal fire, shall suffer their just punishment and penalty.”(2nd Apology 8).UNQUOTE Clearly the unsaved will “suffer their just punishment and penalty” the obvious deduction from this is surely that those who are saved by “the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them” and “saved by repentance” (Ap1 ch 28) will not suffer the penalty, why? Because Christ has suffered that curse and paid that penalty for them.

Virtuous living, for Justin, is hugely important (indeed in days of easy-believism we could learn much from Justin’s emphasis, but that is another issue) but it is not to be separated (as Andrew seems to do) from Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and personal repentance.

For Justin, virtuous living is not that which saves (as Andrew suggests), but rather Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and individual repentance evidenced by virtuous living. For Justin, it is not a case of setting one of these elements against the others but of holding them all together.

Anonymous,

Thanks for the reply. I don’t think Andrew is reducing Christ in Justin’s writins to a mere moral teacher. What I think he is saying is that Christ via Justin first doesn’t determine our choices and that Justin doesn’t think that Christ suffered a retributive punishment in an exchange of moral credit. And I think he is correct. I can’t find anything in Andrew’s gloss of Justin that would indicate that he thinks that Justin’s view is that we become virtuous apart from divine aid, but only that that divine aid isn’t deterministic. And I think that is quite correct. Justin is no Stoic or Pelagian for that matter. Justin thinks we are responsible for grace given and our final status depends on the judgment of CHrist according to our works under the influence of grace. Did we hide the talent or invest it?

I came to that conclusion years ago after having read Justin’s works cover to cover along with a good number of works in the secondary literature. And I am not sure how we get from greater significance to a penal model of the atonement. In fact, if anything, given that the penal model turns on Nominalist assumptions, it seems to accord less significance to Christ’s death since the change is merely legal, rather than metaphysical and cosmic in its scope.

Justin teaches a substitionary model. Granted but so does just about everyone else. But I don’t think that Justin thinks of the atonement in terms of retributive punishment either. So I don’t read Justin as some precursor or as containing in nascent form the penal model. I suppose in part is that I don’t have the theoretical motivation since I don’t think that doctrine develops in a Newman-esque type way. It seems that you do. So I think you are being a bit anachronistic.

As I outlined above, I don’t see in any of the citations that you provided the concept logically implied by word usage of an exchange of moral credit and *retributive punishment* via extrinsic legal relationships in Justin. To say that the concept of the penal model is present in Justin, that is what you would need to show was logically implied. Good luck. In the history of Christian theology there is more than one notion of punishment so finding the word isn’t sufficient, nor even necessary for that matter, to prove that the concept of penal substitution is implied by the author. The Cappadocians for example talk a fair amount about punishment, but they explicitly deny that it is retributive on God’s part but is in fact consequential and due in fact to the way the recipient experiences divine glory. (2 Thess 1:9 ASV)

One can be saved by suffering in lots of ways. On the CV model, we are saved from annihilation at the least and given immortality and this is true for the wicked as well since they persist forever and receive resurrection. We are “freed up” as it were to please God. (Rev 20, 1 Cor 15:19ff, Rom 5:18). The penal model isn’t the only model that takes Christ to save people by his sufferings. What you need to do then is to show that Justin thinks that it was suffering retributive justice that did it in an exchange of moral credit and detriment via extrinsic legal relationships since that is the idea of the penal model. Again, I don’t think you can do that.



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Andrew, you say- Penal Substitution as a systematic theological paradigm of salvation is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period.

Forgive me for suggesting this but, surely this could be said of almost any doctrine? Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all? The answer to this is surely ‘yes’, or how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?

Extract from said dialogue-
QUOTE
Then Trypho remarked, “Be assured that all our nation waits for Christ;
and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to Him.
Moreover, I do also admit that the name of Jesus, by which the son of
Nave (Nun) was called, has inclined me very strongly to adopt this view.
But whether Christ should be so shamefully crucified, this we are in doubt
about. For whosoever is crucified is said in the law to be accursed, so that I
am exceedingly incredulous on this point. It is quite clear, indeed, that the
Scriptures announce that Christ had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you
can prove it to us whether it was by the suffering cursed in the law.”
UNQUOTE

Trypho obviously had a concern that the Christ should die such a shameful and ‘accursed’ death. It didn’t seem to fit his picture of the Christ. Justin replies very clearly, not only that the Christ had to suffer, but that his suffering was not for his own sin but for that of the people.

QUOTE
I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not
foretold that He would be led to death on account of the sins of the
people, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the
transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the
prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to
wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to
all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most
confidently? And will not as many as have understood the writings of the
prophets, whenever they hear merely that He was crucified, say that this
is He and no other?”
UNQUOTE

Justin makes this point even more clearly a little further on in his dialogue.

QUOTE
“For the whole human race will be found to be under a curse. For it is
written in the law of Moses, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all
things that are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And no one has
accurately done all, nor will you venture to deny this; but some more and
some less than others have observed the ordinances enjoined. But if those
who are under this law appear to be under a curse for not having observed
all the requirements, how much more shall all the nations appear to be
under a curse who practice idolatry, who seduce youths, and commit other
crimes? If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human
family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been
crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about
Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will,
as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although
His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human
family, yet you did not commit the deed as in obedience to the will of
God.
UNQUOTE

Now, of course, this is not evidence of a systematic theological paradigm but nevertheless we see not only substitution in Justin’s reply, but clearly penal substitution. It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.

You may disagree with what Justin says or with his use of Isa 53, but can it really be said that the language of penal substitution is not present in the writings of the Greek Christians of this period?

Excellent point, Anon. I’m a little skeptical when it comes to saying the Fathers had no concept of substitution in their atonement theology. You almost get the sense from what was posted that there is *NO* atonement at all, but only example (of course I know that’s not what’s being said in reality). I think it’s fair to say that the Greeks don’t have a penal model, per se, but that’s another matter altogether.

Also, when the Western controversy over Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism came to the fore, why wasn’t the East denounced?
Either (i) the West was ignorant of the Eastern writings,
or (ii) they misunderstood the Eastern writers’ use of common biblical terms (like propitiation, expiation, etc)
or (iii) they understood the spirit of the writings to honor the basic tenets of orthodoxy, even if expressed differently.

I tend to go with option 3. Maybe someone else can offer further insights on this complex matter.

I likewise am very wary of any claims that all the Greek Fathers said this, or that none of them said that. That claim cannot be made unless all of their writings have been examined. For example, I don’t think what Athanasius outlines in On the Incarnation can be so neatly fit into the framework outlined above.

Is it not more accurate simply to ask if the concept is present at all?
I think that the function of an idea within a person’s wider theological context is of real importance. Through the course of their writings the early Greek writers manage to quote a large proportion of biblical verses, containing all sorts of ideas, motifs, and language. So the observation that the Greek writers use penal or substitutionary language on some occasions is not overly helpful. It would be clearly wrong to say that since they quote the bible and we believe the bible that therefore they must believe what we believe. What is important is the paradigm within which they locate their ideas.

how would you understand Justin’s (c. 100-165) dialogue with Trypho on Christ the curse bearer?
It is definitely a usage of curse-substitutionary language. (I am dubious of the value of confusing “curse-substitutionary” and “penal-substitutionary”, since ancient magic systems and modern legal systems aren’t really the same). However, again I would stress that what is important is how these ideas fit into Justin’s wider theological paradigm – what purpose do they serve? The answer seems to be that they do not serve much of one. Justin lays out his theological ideas regularly without any reference to this sort of idea. The idea in question only comes when Justin is giving some ad hoc answers to Trypho’s gripes (it is chapter 95 out of 142). The curses that Christ is described as taking on himself in this passage are not of eternal significance and are this-worldly - there is no hint that eternal salvation is in any way affected (nor could it be, given Justin’s wider theological paradigm).

It may not state clearly here that the Father punished the Son, but clearly in Justin’s mind the Father wished it.
Well actually I think this identifies a key point about Penal Substitution as a framework. In Justin’s view the Son suffers to help and rescue humanity and the Father wills it, but the Father is never the direct cause of the suffering as he is in the modern Penal Substitutionary framework.

As for Pelagianism, typically I find that the understanding of it among those using the term to be not historically accurate. Pelagius was condemned for some very specific statements mostly about Adam, whereas “Pelagianism” is normally used as a broad theological term having to do with the relationship of grace and works in salvation. The key answer to your question is that the Greek-Latin language barrier prevented Augustine’s reading of Eastern works and vice-versa. If the Eastern church had known the things Augustine was saying there would have been severe conflict. In rare cases where this barrier was surmounted, conflicts arose. eg Rufinus’ Latin translation of Origen was heavily used by Pelagius against Augustine; John Cassian after migrating from the East to the West criticised Augustine and was attacked himself for Semi-Pelagianism.

I have read and studied Athanasius’ ‘On the Incarnation’ at least half a dozen times over the years. I believe it fits perfectly into the framework I outlined.

Andrew,
Thanks for your reply. You still fail to take account of Justin’s allusion to Isaiah 53. You may not agree with Justin’s use of Isaiah 53 to make his point, but by using it he clearly infers penal substitution. Indeed we can say further, that to deny the use of this passage as referring to Christ (which Justin clearly does) is not only to deny Justin’s use of it, nor indeed its use in the present debate, but also to deny the plain teaching of Acts 8:20 ff. I still contend that although penal substitution may not be the main issue Justin is dealing with (his theological paradigm), it is clearly part of what he taught. This is my simple point.

A further thought- In his dialogue Justin clearly speaks of the curse due to all Jews who do not keep the whole Law (quoting from Paul’s paraphrase of Deuteronomy 27:26 in Galatians 3:10), and of the curse against the idolatrous nations, BOTH OF WHICH ARE CURSES FROM GOD HIMSELF. He denies that Jesus was cursed for his own sins, but affirms that he took upon himself the curses due to others.

You emphasise that the curses originate with God himself, which is logically correct if we reflect on the facts, yet I note that Justin himself seems keen to avoid that idea. It is “the Law of Moses” and “the Jews” who curse Christ (95) whereas the Jews wrongly “suppose that He was crucified as hostile to and cursed by God, which supposition is the product of your most irrational mind” (93). Justin states that ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree’ is a prophesy of the Jews cursing Christ and not God’s doing so (96).

Also of note is that the Greek fathers regularly engage in extremely creative exegesis, especially where prophecy is concerned. The above quote is an example, though a pretty tame one compared to some of the vivid allegories they invent. You have to keep in mind that just because you, I, or Acts might have thought Isaiah 53 meant one thing, it doesn’t mean Justin thinks it means the same thing.

I totally agree that Justin uses some ideas and language in this passage that are also common with a penal substitutionary setting. However in your eagerness to see Penal Substitution here you seem to be glossing over the vast differences between the things Justin says and Penal Substitution. For example Justin does not think this curse transference achieved reconciliation with God; nor that it achieved forgiveness; nor that it was of eternal significance; nor that our response to it or belief in it affects its efficaciousness for us. Nor is penal substitution and curse substitution the same thing.

If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-
1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.

Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’
to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

3 Justin does not simply talk of our eternal hope as something that is decided on the basis of our virtue as you suggest (you say- The Final Judgment will be decided based on our level of virtue).

QUOTE- If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.UNQUOTE

According to Justin, it is by his stripes that we are healed/saved (I doubt if Justin had in mind the concept of charismatic healings). 2ndly- Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…

QUOTE- “For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…UNQUOTE

What ‘hope’ is Justin referring to here if it is not the hope of eternal salvation?

Furthermore, Justin clearly states that the ultimate Christian hope is to be had after death of the body and is based on the good which God promised through Christ, not personal virtue…

QUOTE- You are our brethren; rather recognize the truth of God. And while neither they nor you are persuaded by us, but strive earnestly to cause us to deny the name of Christ, we choose rather and submit to death, in the full assurance that all the good which God has promised through Christ He will reward us with. UNQUOTE

Again, on salvation through Christ’s death and not simply by their own virtue (you lay great stress on the individual’s ‘virtue’ throughout your post). However, Justin’s idea of salvation has to do with much more than the individual’s virtue. Justin referring to Ps 96 says-

QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the MYSTERY OF THIS SALVATION, I.E., THE SUFFERING OF CHRIST, BY WHICH HE SAVED THEM, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, WHO EFFECTED THIS SALVATION ON BEHALF OF THE HUMAN RACE, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth. UNQUOTE

Salvation in Justin’s mind is clearly effected by Christ and not by our virtue.
Furthermore it is Salvation through faith in the blood of Christ…

QUOTE- And as the blood of the passover saved those who were in Egypt, so also THE BLOOD OF CHRIST WILL DELIVER FROM DEATH THOSE WHO HAVE BELIEVED. Would God, then, have been deceived if this sign had not been above the doors? I do not say that; but I affirm that He announced beforehand the future salvation for the human race through the blood of Christ. UNQUOTE

Again, I am not arguing that a ‘penal substitutionary paradigm’ exists in the teaching of the early church fathers but I think as a concept it is more apparent than you are willing to admit.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”
I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts- 1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”) 2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?) 3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURST LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Andrew, thank you again for your thoughtful response. Let’s press this a little further.

You say-
“If, hypothetically we were to pose the question to Justin “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf and thereby procure eternal salvation for us?”, Justin would clearly answer “no”. Therefore I regard it as more accurate and less misleading to say that Justin does not teach Penal Substitution than to say that he does.”

I’m not so sure that he would say ‘no’ to such a direct question. Your statement raises several important concepts-

1 substitution (you write- “did Christ die to take on God’s punishment on our behalf”)

2 Curse/punishment (is not curse equivalent to punishment?)

3 eternal salvation (which, you say in your original post, the fathers teach is dependent on our virtue)

To these I simply respond, that while I am not advocating that the fathers had a developed paradigm of penal substitution yet the concept was present in their writings.

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’

QUOTE I [Justin Martyr] replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? UNQUOTE

2 Justin does use the language of ‘God’s curse’ in that Christ who was no curse took God’s curse against us on the cross. Justin is by no means eager to avoid the language of curse in relation to Jesus as you suggest in your reply, but rather he rightly makes clear that although Jesus bore the curse he was himself blameless and not deserving of the curse. Your reference to ch93 is taken out of context. Justin is here correcting the wrong thinking Jews who suggest that Christ was himself cursed on account of his own sin/wrong doing. He says,

QUOTE “Just as God commanded the sign to be made by the brazen serpent, and yet He is blameless; even so, though a curse lies in the law against persons who are crucified, YET NO CURSE LIES ON THE CHRIST of God, by whom all that have committed things worthy of a curse are saved. UNQUOTE

And yet he goes on to point out that Christ bore the curse of others-

QUOTE “If, then, the Father of all wished His Christ for the whole human family to take upon Him the curses of all, knowing that, after He had been crucified and was dead, He would raise Him up, why do you argue about Him, who submitted to suffer these things according to the Father’s will, as if He were accursed, and do not rather bewail yourselves? For although His Father caused Him to suffer these things in behalf of the human family. UNQUOTE

Justin clearly sees Christ as bearing the curse, but not because he was deserving of a curse, rather he bore the curse that others deserved. This is Justin’s point to Trypho. i.e. he took their just deserved curse/punishment. Put in todays language (not that Justin would have used this terminology) penal substitution.

Again I emphasise, I agree with you that there is no paradigm of penal substitution in the early fathers nevertheless the concept and language is more prevalent than you seem prepared to concede.

(I had a response to point 3 but you may be pleased to hear that I lost it in a typical computer glitch:)

1 Justin does use the language of ‘substitution’
“If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death ON ACCOUNT OF THE SINS OF THE PEOPLE, and be dishonored and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder. But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently
?

Such language can be and is often used by people in situations where no thought of ‘substitution’ is present. I’ve seen both the church fathers and people in the present day say this sort of thing without meaning to imply substitution. For example, such language can be used in talking about the Jews killing Jesus – the “sins of the people” that he suffers on account of is precisely the unjust death he dies at their hands, they dishonour and scourged him and he is reckoned by them among the transgressors. Thus Isa 53 in such a reading is quoted simply as a prophecy of how the Jews would mistreat Jesus rather than with the thought of any form of substitution. Alternatively, virtually any of the other models of atonement (Moral Exemplar, Christus Victor, Recapitulation) can say these same words without meaning to imply substitution, because they teach that on account of human sin Christ comes and then he is mistreated by people. This paragraph is not an example of the language of substitution, because the same language can be (and is) said by people who do not intend to imply substitution.

“If His Father wished Him to suffer this, in order that by His stripes the human race might be healed, we have done no wrong. If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours.”
Surely ‘remission of sins’ is a reference to salvation
.

Yes, ‘remission of sins’ likely is a reference to eternal salvation, but the previous sentence on the suffers of Christ is not: In context, Justin has switched topics from discussing the curse-transference to his previous theme of urging Trypho to gain remission of sins by telling him to “repent of your sins, and recognize Him to be the Christ, and observe His commandments”. I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue, and that he also argues that anyone who is virtuous ought to be named a “Christian” even if they lived before Jesus was born, such as some of the Greek philosophers.

According to Justin our hope rests not in our virtue but in the curse bearer’s death…
“For the statement in the law, ‘Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree,’ confirms our hope which depends on the crucified Christ…

No. Justin is saying, in the context you have cut out, that he reads this OT verse as a prophecy that the Jews would curse Christ not as a prophecy of God cursing Jesus, like Trypho wants to read it, and that therefore it is a true prophecy of Jesus proving he is the prophesied messiah.

The quotes you give attempting to argue that Justin did not teach that final judgment is on the basis of virtue simply do not support your point, and you seem to be blurring final judgment and salvation. Justin primarily thinks that because of human sinfulness that Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds. You seem to be mistakenly saying that since Justin thinks Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.

My sincere apologies for the multiplication of my last response. Computer glitch.

Andrew- many thanks again for your response.

you say- “I note the presence of the phrase “observe His commandments” in that phrase – looks like virtue is required after all. If you read Justin’s two apologies you will find he clearly states several times over that what is necessary for eternal life is virtue…”

I am not denying that in the writings of Justin that the idea of virtue is not present nor unimportant. However, in Justin’s writings the dichotomy is not, as you seem to be insisting, one of virtue against faith (that is, faith in Christ the curse bearer [re earlier posts]), but rather faith against mere profession of faith.

For example Justin makes it clear that it is not those who “merely profess” Christ, but those who “do the works” the Saviour commanded that will be saved:

QUOTE- “Those who are found not living as he taught should know that they are not really Christians, even if his teachings are on their lips, for he said that not those who merely profess but those who also do the works will be saved (cf. Matt. 13:42, 43; 7:15,16,19)” UNQUOTE (Apology).

So for Justin virtue (or as he puts it here ‘works’) is important but not as the ultimate cause of our salvation as you seem to be suggesting (forgive me if I misread you).

Yes, Justin does say “Each man goes to everlasting punishment or salvation according to the value of his actions” (Apology). But again the dichotomy is not works/virtue against faith but rather works/virtue against mere words- “The matters of our religion lie in works, not in words” (Hortatory Address to the Greeks).

Furthermore, Justin, as a philosopher and in particular in his apology where he is interacting with an educated pagan (Roman) public and responding to them in philosophical language that their persecution of the Christians was an injustice, may give the impression of having so rationalized Christianity that he does not give it value as a religion of salvation. However, whilst it may be said that key Christian doctrines fell into the background in Justin’s writings, yet they are evident, especially in his dialogue.

Furthermore, Justin in his dialogue clearly affirms the necessity of faith: QUOTE- “For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith”UNQUOTE. And again- QUOTE- “For it was fitting that the truth should receive testimony from all, and should become [a means of] judgment for the salvation indeed of those who believe, but for the condemnation of those who believe not; that all should be fairly judged, and that the FAITH in the father and the son should be approved by all, that is, that it should be established by all [as the one means of salvation]…” UNQUOTE

Referring to Psalm 96 JM says-
QUOTE- He bids the inhabitants of all the earth, who have known the mystery of this salvation, i.e., the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them, sing and give praises to God the Father of all things, and recognize that He is to be praised and feared, and that He is the Maker of heaven and earth, who effected this salvation in behalf of the human race, who also was crucified and was dead, and who was deemed worthy by Him(God) to reign over all the earth.UNQUOTE

Note Justin makes clear that men are saved by ‘the sufferings of Christ’ not their own virtue.

It seems to me that in emphasising virtue Justin is merely being a good Biblicist in that, although he does not state it in these words, faith without works is dead. So I think you are overstating your case somewhat when you say- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” And I am indeed suggesting that in Justin’s mind- “Christ effected salvation for us that therefore our final judgment depends on Christ’s deeds not ours.” But not to the neglect of our faith evidenced by works.

Andrew, thank you for your input on this. I have enjoyed the exchange of views.

I think you are reading your own views into Justin’s writings, and I don’t think there is much value in continuing this discussion further.

I am sorry that you take it that way. Throughout our exchange of views I have simply allowed Justin to speak for himself. I think you are guilty of the very charge you lay against me viz. you are so keen to fit Justin into your percieved theological paradigm that you do so at the expense of not allowing Justin to be heard fairly. More passages from Justin could be cited but i think that enough have been cited to allow other readers to judge for themselves.

Thank you again for the exchange of views.

As and adherrent of the Christus Victor model and a former one of the Penal model, I don’t think substitution per se is the issue since that view holds that Christ dies for us. He dies for our sins, Is 53, and all of that stuff can be affirmed without implying a penal model. This is so because dying “for” or “on account of” can be read in lots of different ways. One of those ways is that the death he dies on our behalf is a consequence rather than an extrinsic legal relation or necessity. Christ isn’t subordinated to legal principles. This is in part on the CV view because the devil and not God wields death and Christ comes to take that weapon away from him. (Heb 2:15, Rev 1)

I can’t think of any patristic scholar of Justin or the Apologists that reads their works as containing in seminal form or the seeds of a penal model. The philosophical apparatus for the penal model just wasn’t in existence yet via late medieval scholasticism. Nor do I think that there is a clevage in justin between virtue and the work of Christ. For Justin all virtue derives from Christ. Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace, but I don’t think Justin has that idea in mind. This is why in part he thinks of Plato and his crew as being recipients of grace via Christ.

One point of advance on Andrew’s over all worthwhile piece. It is true that Christ for the Orthodox conveys immortality to all men because in some measure qua nature, all men are united to Christ (1 cor 15:19ff) which is why all men are raised (jn 6:39). But it is also true that the discussion of virtue leaves some crucial parts out. The acquasition of virtue is never apart from grace for nature and grace are not opposed given that the imago dei is Christ. We are made in that image but he IS that image. So everyone receives immortality or eternal existence but how they spend it is up to them in part. That is predestination is to nature and not person for the Orthodox. Virtue then is natural to humanity since humans are not strong enough even in their sin to over turn God’s will regarding the imago dei and their nature. The likeness is lost but not the image. Sin is therefore in the use of nature and not in the nature, which is why the Orthodox think of a dying and power deprived nature as inherited and not guilt or sin. Persons sin and natures don’t on pain of Manicheanism or Pelagianism. Pelagianism was in fact not the thesis that salvaton was by works. That was surely a consequence but rather than nature and grace were completely identical so that either it was the case that human nature is fundamentally altered with some form of Manicheanism or humans merely needed to be pointed in the right direction. That is, humans were created intrinsically rightous, is the fundamental tenant of Pelagianism. This fact I think calls for some seriously reflection on the part of the Reformed concerning their close affinities with Pelagius’ pre-lapsarian anthropology.

[...] Not take the question on? This is the sort of topic I live for, especially because it takes me well out of my normal lines of study. The link above is to a category, but the quote comes from a most interesting post, Guest Post: The Doctrine of the Atonement in the Early Greek Fathers. [...]

Perry,
Thank you for your contribution to the discussion. You say- “Anonymous above seems to be reading virtue as something like clean moral living apart from grace…” Actually, no, I am not reading virtue in Justin in the way you suggest but rather I am countering Andrew who does seem to read Justin in the way you suggest. Andrew states very clearly- “Christ came to effect salvation for us by teaching us virtue and thus causing us to pass the final judgment according to deeds.” It is Andrew who seems to be reducing the work of Christ in Justin’s understanding to nothing more than a moral teacher or teacher of virtue.

What I have consistently tried to do throughout is to allow Justin to speak for himself. In the quatations in all the posts above I have simply tried to show that for Justin the death of Christ had greater significance than Andrew seems prepared to admit.

Please do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not for a moment suggesting that Justin teaches a penal substitutionary model (this is something I have emphasised from my first post) rather, I am simply trying to show, by quoting Justin’s own words, that Justin understood Christ to have suffered God’s curse against sinful man by his death on the cross (see all quotes in above posts).

Although the term ‘penal substitution’ was clearly not used in Justin’s writings yet undeniably the concept exists. This is evident even in Justin’s reference to those who are not saved- QUOTE- “And they, having been shut up in eternal fire, shall suffer their just punishment and penalty.”(2nd Apology 8).UNQUOTE Clearly the unsaved will “suffer their just punishment and penalty” the obvious deduction from this is surely that those who are saved by “the suffering of Christ, by which He saved them” and “saved by repentance” (Ap1 ch 28) will not suffer the penalty, why? Because Christ has suffered that curse and paid that penalty for them.

Virtuous living, for Justin, is hugely important (indeed in days of easy-believism we could learn much from Justin’s emphasis, but that is another issue) but it is not to be separated (as Andrew seems to do) from Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and personal repentance.

For Justin, virtuous living is not that which saves (as Andrew suggests), but rather Christ’s curse bearing, penalty paying death and individual repentance evidenced by virtuous living. For Justin, it is not a case of setting one of these elements against the others but of holding them all together.

Anonymous,

Thanks for the reply. I don’t think Andrew is reducing Christ in Justin’s writins to a mere moral teacher. What I think he is saying is that Christ via Justin first doesn’t determine our choices and that Justin doesn’t think that Christ suffered a retributive punishment in an exchange of moral credit. And I think he is correct. I can’t find anything in Andrew’s gloss of Justin that would indicate that he thinks that Justin’s view is that we become virtuous apart from divine aid, but only that that divine aid isn’t deterministic. And I think that is quite correct. Justin is no Stoic or Pelagian for that matter. Justin thinks we are responsible for grace given and our final status depends on the judgment of CHrist according to our works under the influence of grace. Did we hide the talent or invest it?

I came to that conclusion years ago after having read Justin’s works cover to cover along with a good number of works in the secondary literature. And I am not sure how we get from greater significance to a penal model of the atonement. In fact, if anything, given that the penal model turns on Nominalist assumptions, it seems to accord less significance to Christ’s death since the change is merely legal, rather than metaphysical and cosmic in its scope.

Justin teaches a substitionary model. Granted but so does just about everyone else. But I don’t think that Justin thinks of the atonement in terms of retributive punishment either. So I don’t read Justin as some precursor or as containing in nascent form the penal model. I suppose in part is that I don’t have the theoretical motivation since I don’t think that doctrine develops in a Newman-esque type way. It seems that you do. So I think you are being a bit anachronistic.

As I outlined above, I don’t see in any of the citations that you provided the concept logically implied by word usage of an exchange of moral credit and *retributive punishment* via extrinsic legal relationships in Justin. To say that the concept of the penal model is present in Justin, that is what you would need to show was logically implied. Good luck. In the history of Christian theology there is more than one notion of punishment so finding the word isn’t sufficient, nor even necessary for that matter, to prove that the concept of penal substitution is implied by the author. The Cappadocians for example talk a fair amount about punishment, but they explicitly deny that it is retributive on God’s part but is in fact consequential and due in fact to the way the recipient experiences divine glory. (2 Thess 1:9 ASV)

One can be saved by suffering in lots of ways. On the CV model, we are saved from annihilation at the least and given immortality and this is true for the wicked as well since they persist forever and receive resurrection. We are “freed up” as it were to please God. (Rev 20, 1 Cor 15:19ff, Rom 5:18). The penal model isn’t the only model that takes Christ to save people by his sufferings. What you need to do then is to show that Justin thinks that it was suffering retributive justice that did it in an exchange of moral credit and detriment via extrinsic legal relationships since that is the idea of the penal model. Again, I don’t think you can do that.



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