(Part 1 Schnabel, 1-13) Paul And The Problem Of Repentance

I try to show in my 2 essays critiquing the Penal Substitution interpretation of early Christianity that repentance lies at the core, not Jesus vicariously suffering my punishment to satisfy the holy wrath of God and once and for all pay the sin debt. The penal substitution interpretation of the cross is untenable, and must be replaced with a moral influence model. Here are my 2 essays:

A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ

Jesus Mythicism: Moral Influence vs. Vicarious Atonement—and Other Problems

Although some think repentance isn’t central to Paul, nothing could be further from the truth.

Eckhard J. Schnabel writes

  • “Paul rarely uses the terms µετάνοια / µετανοεῖν (“repentance” / “repent”), but word statistics should not be accorded too much weight. Besides using these terms to describe the process of returning to God by regretting one’s transgressions, Paul uses other terms and phrases in order to express the need to, and the reality of, changing mind and heart, outlook and behavior. It can be demonstrated that Paul knows the Jewish doctrine of repentance, that his missionary preaching calls for repentance, that his theological discourse presupposes repentance, that his rhetorical discourse in his letters includes the discourse of repentance, and that his ethical discourse entails exhortations to repentance.”

So, following Schnabel John the Baptist in Mark 1:4 preaches repentance for the forgiveness of sin, Jesus echoing a similar thought in Luke 5:32. This is also what the 12 did in Mark 6:12.

“Repentance” is linguistically infrequent in Paul, but thematically is right at the forefront of Paul’s thought. The word repentance in its oldest usage by Epicharmus stresses a change of mind, often involving change of feelings. Philo speaks in Spec Leg 4:18 of kidnappers feeling regret, sorrow, and shame at previous attitudes, opinions, and actions. The Hebrew Scriptures often stress the turning away from sin.

Romans 2:3-4 signals Paul’s understanding of the importance of repentance. Repentance is needed because of the coming judgment by God. The Jews are to see the sins of the Greeks, but also the kindness and patience of God and be inspired by it.

In 1 Thessalonians we see the people turning from their old ways and imitating the goodness of God. Romans 3:21-5:21 says it is Christ’s death on the cross that liberates from sin.

Work Cited

Schnabel, Eckhard J. “Repentance in Paul’s Letters.” Novum Testamentum 57.2 (2015): 159-186.