Bart Ehrman On Lack Of Vicarious Atonement In Luke-Acts.

see time 24:22 – 33-15

As you might know, I advocate for the Socratic Un-Hiding Moral Influence interpretation of the cross rather than Penal Substitution. It’s the difference between a forgiving God and the un-Jewish idea of a God that can’t forgive. Bart explains how this works in the Gospel of Luke:

  • For proto-orthodox Christians, it was important to emphasize that Christ was a real man of flesh and blood because it was precisely the sacrifice of his flesh and the shedding of his blood that brought salvation – not in appearance but in reality.  Another textual variant in Luke’s account of Jesus’ passion emphasizes precisely this reality.  It occurs during the account of Jesus’ last supper with his disciples.  In one of our oldest Greek manuscripts, along with several Latin witnesses, we are told the following:
  • And taking a cup, giving thanks, he said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves, for I say to you that I will not drink from the fruit of the vine from now on, until the kingdom of God comes.”  And taking bread, giving thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body.  But behold, the hand of the one who betrays me is with me at the table” (Luke 22:17-19).
  • In most of our manuscripts, however, there is an addition to the text, an addition that will sound familiar to many readers of the English Bible, since it has made its way into most modern translations.  Here, after Jesus says “This is my body,” he continues with the words “‘which has been given for you; do this in remembrance of me’; And the cup likewise after supper, saying ‘this cup is the new covenant in my blood which is poured for you.’”
  • These are the familiar words of the “institution” of the Lord’s Supper, known in a very similar form also from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 11:23-25).  Despite the fact they are familiar, there are good reasons for thinking that these verses were not originally in Luke’s Gospel, but were added in order to stress that it was precisely Jesus’ broken body and shed blood that brought salvation “for you.”  For one thing, it is hard to explain why a scribe would have omitted the verses if they were original to Luke (there is no homoeoteleuton, for example, that would explain an omission), especially since they make such clear and smooth sense when they are added.  In fact, when the verses are taken away, doesn’t the text sound a bit truncated?  Precisely the unfamiliarity of the truncated version (without the verses) may have been what led scribes to add the verses.
  • And it is striking to note that the verses, as familiar as they are, do not represent Luke’s own understanding of the death of Jesus.  For it is a striking feature of Luke’s portrayal of Jesus death — this may sound strange at first — that he never, anywhere else, indicates that the death itself is what brings salvation from sin.  Nowhere in Luke’s entire two volume work (Luke and Acts), is Jesus’ death said to be “for you.”  And in fact, on the two occasions in which Luke’s source Mark indicates that it was by Jesus’ death that salvation came (Mark 10:4515:39), Luke changed the wording of the text (or eliminated it).  Luke, in other words, has a different understanding of the way Jesus death leads to salvation from Mark (and from Paul, and other early Christian writers).
  • It is easy to see Luke’s own distinctive view by considering what he has to say in the book of Acts, where the apostles give a number of speeches in order to convert others to the faith.  What is striking is that in none of these instances (look, e.g., in chapters 3, 4, 13), do the apostles indicate that Jesus’ death brings atonement for sins.  It is not that Jesus’ death is unimportant.  It’s extremely important for Luke.  But not as an atonement.  Instead, Jesus death is what makes people realize their guilt before God (since he died even though he was innocent).  Once people recognize their guilt, they turn to God in repentance, and then he forgives their sins.
  • Jesus’ death for Luke, in other words, drives people to repentance, and it is this repentance that brings salvation.  But not according to these disputed verses which are missing from some of our early witnesses: here Jesus’ death is portrayed as an atonement “for you.”

The Last Supper formulation in Luke is an ongoing debate among textual critics, although I actually have no problem including in Luke the last supper variant as Jesus’ body and blood being given “for you,” because there is a needed ambiguity between what Jesus does for us as the ultimate 2 Yom Kippur goats and what we do to Jesus – his disciples denying him, abandoning him, and failing him by getting violent at the arrest, along with the Jewish elite conspiring against him, Pilate denying him Justice, and the crowd turning on him. So, Jesus does need to die to fully make our hidden sin nature conspicuous so we can work on it and really repent. We can read Mark and Paul in the same way, and so “Christ died for our sins” means to deal with our sins by making hidden sins conspicuous (a-letheia). Hence, psalm 19:12 says:

But who can detect one’s own errors?
Clear me from hidden faults.
(Psalm 19:12)”

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