I just found out that an important religious studies scholar is publishing a major work on the notion of sacrifice in ancient Judaism and Christianity. In it he is arguing against the penal substitution interpretation of sacrifice. Penal Substitution is basically the idea that because of sin we deserve to die, but what luck Christ paid the penalty! This new study is exactly the sort of thing I look at in my 2 penal substitution critique essays:
The new book will be available in Canada on November 23, so I’m very excited:
That I May Dwell among Them: Incarnation and Atonement in the Tabernacle Narrative
by Gary A. Anderson (Author)
What does Israel’s tabernacle mean for Christians today?
The Tabernacle Narrative comprises passages in Exodus and Leviticus that detail the construction, furnishing, and liturgical use of the tabernacle. Given its genre and style, the narrative is often passed over by those reading Scripture for theological insight.
But what can these complex passages reveal about Christ? Gary Anderson shows how these passages shed light on incarnation and atonement both in ancient Israel’s theology and in Christian theology. Anderson explains how the chronology of the narrative reflects sacred time, how the Israelites saw divine features in the physical aspects of the tabernacle, and how Isaac’s sacrifice foreshadowed the sacrificial rite revealed to Moses at Mt. Sinai.
Ultimately, Anderson shows how the Old Testament can deepen our understanding of the gospel. For Athanasius and many church fathers, God’s “indwelling” in the tabernacle offers a unique witness to the nature of incarnation, supplementing the story told in the gospels. Likewise, careful analysis of the purpose of sacrifice at the tabernacle clarifies the purpose of Christ’s passion. Far from connoting penal substitution, sacrifice in the Old Testament demonstrates self-emptying as an antidote to sin. Theologians, pastors, and serious readers of the Bible will appreciate how Anderson’s canonical and literary analysis of the Tabernacle Narrative illuminates Christian theology.