Friday, March 29, 2013

The Biblical teaching on "bearing sin" - More problems with Penal Substitution

Nearly every time I bring up the unbiblical and blasphemous doctrine of Penal Substitution to a Protestant they immediately point to texts that refer to Jesus "bearing our sins" (e.g. 1 Pt 2:24; Is 53:11), thinking this means that Jesus took on the guilt and punishment we deserved. Since I've shown that the Biblical term for "Atonement" never involves transferring a punishment to a substitute, I've argued that references to "bearing sin" likely did not mean this either.

In the Old Testament, the notion of "bearing iniquity" normally refers to the situation of a sinner recognizing he has sinned and thus "bears guilt" before God (e.g. Lev 5:1; 7:18; 24:15). Given that, it's understandable for someone to think Jesus "bearing our sin" refers to bearing our guilt and taking the punishment for it. But there is more evidence to consider which shows conclusively that this is not how we're supposed to understand Our Lord's work.

The first thing to understand is the role of the priesthood in the Old Testament. Whenever an Israelite sinned and had to make atonement they didn't make atonement themseves, but instead had to give their offering (e.g. sacrificial goat) to the priest, and "the priest would make atonement for them" (see Lev 4:20; 4:26; 4:31; 4:35; 5:6; 5:10; 5:13; 5:16; 5:18; 6:7). In other word, God uses holy mediators between Himself and sinners, in this case priests. Some might mistakenly think that the person's guilt was transferred to the sacrificial animal during this process, but that's simply not in the text, and it's erroneous because it would negate the whole purpose of the Priesthood. The lamb was not taking the punishment of the individual because it was only after the Priest had gone through the rituals of the sacrifice after the animal was dead that atonement was made. See Leviticus 4:22-35, where the duties of the sinner (bringing and killing the animal) and the duties of the priest (making atonement) are distinct.

With that in mind, consider Leviticus 10:17,
16 Now Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and behold, it was burned up! And he was angry with Eleazar and Ithamar, the surviving sons of Aaron, saying, 17 “Why have you not eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, since it is a thing most holy and has been given to you that you may bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before the Lord? 
This text is fascinating because it directly links the priest's act of "making atonement for them" with that of "bearing their iniquity." In other words, when a priest is said to "bear iniquity" of a sinner, it means the priest takes on the responsibility to "make atonement" for the sinner. It does not mean the guilt is imputed to the priest so that now the priest himself becomes guilty. (And never does the Bible say the sacrificial animal said to be "bearing the iniquity," and for good reason, because that's not the nature of atonement, as I showed at the start.) 

Now consider two other texts relating to this matter:
Exodus 28: 36 “You [Moses] shall make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, ‘Holy to the Lord.’ 37 And you shall fasten it on the turban by a cord of blue. It shall be on the front of the turban. 38 It shall be on Aaron's forehead, and Aaron shall bear any guilt from the holy things that the people of Israel consecrate as their holy gifts. It shall regularly be on his forehead, that they may be accepted before the Lord.

Numbers 18: 1 So the Lord said to Aaron, “You and your sons and your father's house with you shall bear iniquity connected with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear iniquity connected with your priesthood. ... 8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, “Behold, I have given you charge of the contributions made to me, all the consecrated things of the people of Israel. I have given them to you as a portion and to your sons as a perpetual due. 9 This shall be yours of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every offering of theirs, every grain offering of theirs and every sin offering of theirs and every guilt offering of theirs, which they render to me, shall be most holy to you and to your sons. 10 In a most holy place shall you eat it. Every male may eat it; it is holy to you. ... 21 “To the Levites I have given every tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service that they do, their service in the tent of meeting, 22 so that the people of Israel do not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity. It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations, and among the people of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
The Levites and Aaron and his sons had a pretty sweet deal. They were entitled to the first and best of all animals, grains, and tithes. This was both in exchange for the fact they would not be able to own land, but also because God saw their job as very sacred. But their job also carried with it a lot of responsibility, such as making atonement for any offenses committed against God's honor, especially relating to the consecrated objects of the Temple. The Bible calls this "bearing the iniquity" of others, which for reasons shown above is not to be understood as guilt being transferred to them but rather 'carrying the duty' of having to make atonement. This is clear from texts like Numbers 8:19, but it is especially clear in the instructions given for the Day of Atonement, which will now be looked at.
The Day of Atonement was a very sacred day of the Jewish year. Leviticus 16 is devoted to explaining this solemn day:
2 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. ... 15 “Then he [the high priest] shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses. 
Just as every sin we commit, no matter how secret, harms the entire Body of Christ, a similar 'stain' comes upon God's Holy Dwelling place in the midst of a sinful and unclean Israelite nation. Thus it is the High Priest's duty to perform a most sacred rite, going before the Mercy Seat (the Lid of the Ark of the Covenant) in the Holy of Holies, and thus make atonement for all Israel.

Once one realizes the role of the priest in "bearing the iniquity of the people," carrying this over to the New Testament we see Jesus' role as High Priest in a more mature light. Clearly, when texts like Isaiah 53:11 and 1 Peter 2:24 speak of Jesus "bearing our iniquity," it refers to His role as High Priest taking on the burden of making atonement for other people. Thus, in "bearing sin" Jesus was not "guilty" in our place. This can be seen even in the contexts of Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2:24, which I'll briefly turn to. 
In Isaiah 53:6, it says "the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." It turns out, this same Hebrew word for "laid" is used a few verses down, in verse 12, "he makes intercession for the transgressors." That same Hebrew word is translated to mean "make intercession," showing clearly that "make intercession," and "make atonement for" are synonymous with "bearing sin," which vindicates the Catholic reading of Isaiah 53:11. For more on Isaiah 53, see This Article

When Peter says Jesus "bore our sins" (1 Peter 2:24), the Greek word used here does not so much mean "carrying" something as it means to "go upward." Interestingly, of the 9 times that this word is used in the New Testament, it is never used to mean "carry" something, but rather to "go up a mountain" (Mt 17:1; Mk 9:2), or "ascended up into heaven" (Lk 24:51), or even "offer up a sacrifice" (Heb 7:27; 9:28; 13:15; James 2:21; 1 Pet 2:5). Given that it's used to mean "offer up" a sacrifice most of the time, especially in the context of 1 Peter 2:5, then it can easily be said that's what it refers to in 1 Peter 2:24. (One cool detail I found in the Greek Old Testament was that of over 150 occurrences of this Greek word for "offer up," it referred to a sacrifice about 70% of the time it was used, e.g. Gen 8:20; 22:2; 22:3; Ex 24:5; 29:18; 29:25; Lev 4:31, so this detail would not be lost on the original audience reading Peter's First Epistle.)
As one hopefully was able to realize, the Catholic view of the Atonement is thoroughly Biblical and conforms to the Biblical evidence and can be verified from multiple angles. This means that the Protestant view of Atonement is very deficient and very unbiblical, and thus should be abandoned immediately by anyone who is honest with themselves.


Steve Martin said...

He died for you and forgives all your sin.

Isn't that good enough?

"It is finished", means just that.

That's why it's called "Good News".

If there was still something left for you to could that be Good News?

Nick said...


I'm really sorry if this comes off as harsh, but I've seen you post this kind of stuff numerous times and it just is getting kind of old. Your comments are purely Lutheran in the most pejorative sense, meaning the attitude of Luther where he didn't give a damn what the Bible really said, he just went around pontificating and demanded everyone bow to his whims.

I've tried to engage your points and questions multiple times, but it goes in one ear and out the other since you're so caught up in defending Luther at all costs. Sorry, but that's rank idolatry for you to blindly defend at all costs what is a proven tradition of men.

Your repeated assertions of Catholics not accepting the Cross has gone from naive to just blind pontificating. I'm interested in actual substantive apologetics/debate/dialogue, not half-ass assertions that you're not willing to back up. I try very hard to back up my claims with Scripture and good arguments, so at minimum you should try the same.

If you're going to actually engage in what I've written, then great, otherwise you need to not post here.

Barbara said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Barbara said...

Excelled Post

God Bless

Anonymous said...

What should we make of these passages:
2 Corinthians 5:21—"For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (RSV)

Galatians 3:10, 13—"All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.' ... Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree.'" (RSV)

Can you also give me the official interpretation of your church on these passages? I'd like to see what they say it means.


Anonymous said...

Here what the word ""bore our sins" in 1 Peter 2:24 means in Greek:

"To take up and bear sins by imputation as typified by the ancient sacrifices, to take away (Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24 [cf. Ex. 29:10; Lev. 1:4; 16:21, 22; Is. 53:6, 12]).
Zodhiates, S. (2000, c1992, c1993). The complete word study dictionary : New Testament (electronic ed.) (G399). Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers.

Nick said...

Hello Anonymous,

I have written about 2 Corinthians 5:21 elsewhere, notably in my post "The third most important passage in Protestantism."
Basically, Paul was a scholar of the Old Testament. He knew the Old Testament spoke of being "made sin" to mean "made a sacrifice for sin" or "made a sin offering."

As for Galatians 3:13, it says Jesus "redeemed us" from the curse of the law. The framework is thus that of a buy-back price. The most humiliating way to die in the ancient world was crucifixion, it was that "curse" that Jesus endured. The Greek term "curse" is not a synonym for the God's wrath.

Lastly, your dictionary definition of "bearing sin" is completely erroneous. None of those texts mention "bear sins by imputation," which is a completely unbiblical concept. No animal sacrifice is ever said to have sin imputed to it. The laying on the hand of the head of the sacrificial animal was to dedicate it to God, which is why the Fellowship Sacrifice which had nothing to do with sin/atonement included the same instructions to lay-hand-on-head-and-slaughter (Lev 3:1-2).

I really cannot believe that dictionary failed to look at texts like Leviticus 10:17, which I did in this post, and that it failed to analyze the Greek word "bore," which as I showed is a sacrificial term meaning "to offer up" and not "to carry".

Anonymous said...

The definition of ""bore our sins" was done by a NT Greek Scholar. It is true that Jesus was made to be a sin offering for us. He took on the wrath of God because God put the sins of men on Him and punished Him for our sins.

How does your church officially interpret 2 Cor 5:21?

Nick said...

I've been doing apologetics long enough to know that most Greek Scholars have never really read and studied the Bible. Instead, they copy and paste from other 'experts' or they have agendas that they fill.

If he was a true Greek scholar, he would know that the phrase "bear sins" is never applied to the sacrificial animal and that no imputing ever takes place anywhere in the Bible. Unless you are not citing the full quote, the scholar should have known that the term "bore" used in 1 Peter 2:24 is a term meaning 'offer up in sacrifice' and not 'carry guilt'.

The biggest failure in Protestant apologetics is that they reduced the faith into following whatever the infallible magisterium of self-ordained scholars and stopped studying God's Word for themselves.

2 Corinthians 5:21 is about Jesus being made a Sin Offering, nothing to do with Penal Substitution or the Father's Wrath. It is complete and utter desperation the way Protestants cling to this verse, showing they have no other place to turn to make their case than special pleading.

ALG Bass said...

Thank you for your blog.

Are there other Catholic sources for this view of the Atonement, such as St. Thomas Aquinas, other saints (especially in the early church, Latin fathers), dogmatic books, concilliar decrees, etc.? Especially for the idea that bearing sin means to make atonement for sin instead of literally bodily bearing sin itself?

Thank You.

Anonymous said...

When are you going to provide the official interpretations for the verses you use? So far you have given just your private interpretations. I'd like to see how Rome interprets these verses.

Barbara said...

Read the CCC, which is the official teaching of the CC and if you don't find imputation doctrine then there you have it

looks like you did not read his post on 2ndCorn.5:21 posted on TUESDAY, AUGUST 14, 2012. in the comment section he shows St. Augustine take on 2ndCorn.5:21 and that represent the official church teaching.
enjoy reading

Anonymous said...

The CCC is not an exegesis of Scripture. The CCC is about codified doctrines in your church. All I see here is Nick's private interpretations.

BTW- to deny penal substitution is to deny the gospel.

Nick said...

Hello ALG,

One of the best quotes in this matter is St Thomas' explanation on what it means to make atonement:

(1) "He properly atones for an offense who offers something which the offended one loves equally, or even more than he detested the offense. But by suffering out of love and obedience, Christ gave more to God than was required to compensate for the offense of the whole human race. First of all, because of the exceeding charity from which He suffered; secondly, on account of the dignity of His life which He laid down in atonement, for it was the life of one who was God and man; thirdly, on account of the extent of the Passion, and the greatness of the grief endured, as stated above (46, 6). And therefore Christ's Passion was not only a sufficient but a superabundant atonement for the sins of the human race; according to 1 John 2:2: "He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."
(ST 3:48:2)

(2) "Now it is the proper effect of sacrifice to appease God: just as man likewise overlooks an offense committed against him on account of some pleasing act of homage shown him. Hence it is written (1 Samuel 26:19): "If the Lord stir thee up against me, let Him accept of sacrifice." And in like fashion Christ's voluntary suffering was such a good act that, because of its being found in human nature, God was appeased for every offense of the human race with regard to those who are made one with the crucified Christ in the aforesaid manner
(ST 3:49:4)

I don't know documents that address all these specific details I bring up, but the Church has laid out parameters by which we can know what is or is not an acceptable view of the atonement. For example, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is never understood as God's wrath being dumped on Jesus. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is understood as a propitiatory sacrifice by which God's wrath is appeased. The radically different views of the Cross is why Catholics can meditate before the Crucifix while Protestants don't because they see it as a terrifying act of God's judgment.

Nick said...


I agree with what Barbara has said.

The way Catholics approach Scripture is not how Protestants do. The Church issues dogmas, which are parameters of orthodoxy, and a Catholic is generally free to read and interpret Scripture within those parameters. The Church has commented on individual passages here and there within the context of Councils and Encyclicals, but the point is never to make an 'official interpretation of every verse' since this cannot be done in any reasonable size volume. Other than that, the Church also has told us to look to the commentaries of the Church Fathers, who often shine much light on the Sacred Text.

Anonymous said...

So what you are telling me is that there is no official interpretation of Scripture by your church that will show you are interpreting the Scripture correctly. What do you think if we were to look at 20 different RC commentaries on the passages you use to defend your view of them would they all agree with your private interpretations?

Nick said...

I'm not engaging in Private Interpretation because nothing I've said goes against any dogmas (that I'm aware of). Private Interpretation does not mean no reading the Bible and interpreting it, it means no reading the Bible outside the context of the defined dogmas.

Anonymous said...

You certainly are engaging in private interpretation and you have no way to know if your interpretations are correct.

Where has Rome taught on penal substitution officially?

Nick said...

Look, that's pure desperation to get this thread off topic. There's stuff on the Catholic view of the Atonement in the Catechism, Aquinas (quoted above), the Council of Trent (esp on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass), and never do any of them teach the Protestant view of the Atonement.

If you don't have a defense for my appeals to Scripture, then that doesn't bode well for your position.

Anonymous said...

One of the consequences of penal substitution is that it shows that the mass is not correct. Here is why:
"10 ..By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins;

12 but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,"
Hebrews 10

The one sacrifice of Christ means that it is finished and never needs to be repeated in any form.

Nick said...


You said: "One of the consequences of penal substitution is that it shows that the mass is not correct."

Correct. That's one of the main ways we know PSub is wrong: the analogy of faith shows that the Mass is true, and thus PSub must be false.

That said, I don't think your exegesis of Hebrews 10:10-12 is correct. The Mass doesn't "repeat" the Cross. Rather, in *essence* the Mass is identical to the Cross, just like in Transubstantiation how the Bread does not "repeat" Christ's body, but rather the Bread in *essence* is Christ's Body.

M said...

Ha. I came here looking to see if perhaps this Nick guy could cite any OFFICIAL CATHOLIC TEACHINGS for all this lay Catholic blather against Penal Substitution and I see that he admits it is nothing more than his own PRIVATE INTERPRETATION. Called on that, he claims the thread is going "off topic"!
Sorry but this just too funny.

Nick said...

Here are some good quotes from the catechism:

603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.

605 He affirms that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many"; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us.411 The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: "There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer."412

614 This sacrifice of Christ is unique; it completes and surpasses all other sacrifices.441 First, it is a gift from God the Father himself, for the Father handed his Son over to sinners in order to reconcile us with himself. At the same time it is the offering of the Son of God made man, who in freedom and love offered his life to his Father through the Holy Spirit in reparation for our disobedience.442

616 It is love "to the end"446 that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction. He knew and loved us all when he offered his life.447

617 The Council of Trent emphasizes the unique character of Christ's sacrifice as "the source of eternal salvation"449 and teaches that "his most holy Passion on the wood of the cross merited justification for us."450 And the Church venerates his cross as she sings: "Hail, O Cross, our only hope."451

618 He calls his disciples to "take up [their] cross and follow [him]",454 for "Christ also suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example so that [we] should follow in his steps."455 In fact Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries.456 This is achieved supremely in the case of his mother, who was associated more intimately than any other person in the mystery of his redemptive suffering.457

622 The redemption won by Christ consists in this, that he came "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28), that is, he "loved [his own] to the end" (Jn 13:1), so that they might be "ransomed from the futile ways inherited from [their] fathers" (I Pt 1:18).

623 By his loving obedience to the Father, "unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8), Jesus fulfills the atoning mission (cf. Is 53:10) of the suffering Servant, who will "make many righteous; and he shall bear their iniquities" (Is 53:11; cf. Rom 5:19).


Those quotes vindicate everything I've said. NO MENTION of the Father's wrath being dumped on Jesus, and this is precluded by other language here as well. Christ's atonement is clearly defined in terms of his love and obedience, not taking the divine punishments we deserved.

M said...

The Catechism appears to say things that support, or are compatible, with both satisfaction and penal substitution.
Where is the official teaching otherwise?

603 Jesus did not experience reprobation as if he himself had sinned.

Indicating that he indeed suffered reprobation, but only vicariously.

605... a ransom for many...the whole of humanity

That's not contrary to penal substitution.

614... sacrifice of Christ is unique... surpasses all other sacrifices. First, it is a gift from God ... At the same time it is the offering of the Son reparation for our disobedience.

That's not contrary to penal substitution.

616 It is love ... that confers on Christ's sacrifice its value as redemption and reparation, as atonement and satisfaction....

Teaches multiple facets; nothing inconsistent with penal substitution being one level of significance.

617... the cross merited justification for us."...the Church venerates his cross ... our only hope."

That doesn't define penal substitution as an error either.

618 ... Jesus desires to associate with his redeeming sacrifice those who were to be its first beneficiaries .... the mystery of his redemptive suffering.


622 The redemption won by Christ ... he came "to give his life as a ransom for many" ... he "loved [his own] to the end... that they might be "ransomed from the futile ways ....

Is "ransom" the official position?

623 ... Jesus fulfills the atoning mission ...he shall bear their iniquities

That sounds like penal.

I'm simply looking for the "official position" that matches your adamant claim that penal substitution is incorrect.

If you can't find it, then why are you dogmaticly attacking something that the Curia hasn't? Care to explain?

Nick said...


I deleted your second to last comment because it appears you inadvertently publicly posted some personal information about your log in account. I don't know who else has seen it, so you might want to change your password.

As for your comments, the Catechism view of the Atonement is incompatible with PSub and you're fudging the doctrine of PSub to make it fit.

(1) The Catechism says nothing about the Father's wrath on Jesus.

(2) The Catechism says Jesus did not experience reprobation "as if he had sinnned," and yet PSub teaches this very thing, that Jesus experienced reprobation due to our guilt imputed to him 'as if he had sinned'.

(3) The Catechism says Jesus died for "all men without exception" where as PSub (rightly/logically) teaches Limited Atonement.

(4) The Catechism uses terms like "reparation" and "satisfaction," which *properly understood* are anti-PSub concepts since they entail not the transferring of punishment but doing good works to offset the ugliness and damage of the sin.

(5) The Catechism says the value of Christ's work consisted in his "love to the end," not taking our punishment. The Catechism (and Scripture) says we still have to carry our cross and follow his example, which is *absurd* if the cross and his example are that of Psub, since we would be called to model PSub in our own lives.

I don't know how much more I can say, but I do know that if you're not interested in the Biblical case I've put forward, then that speaks volumes about the real problem, which is Protestants desperately trying to dodge and downplay the Biblical evidence at all costs.

M said...


(Thanks for deleting the first comment.)

To me the official teachings sound, at best, ambiguous.

Are these "properly understood" anti-PS concepts you allude to stated directly anywhere in official teachings?

Because you call it a "blasphemy" - isn't it an obligation of the magisterium to warn about it? are you indicting the magisterium?

I understand lay apologists have some leeway, but might it be a bit presumptuous for you to think that you are the new Thomas Aquinas and spread all this confusion when you don't have anything official to directly back you up?

If there aren't official teachings that directly condemn belief in Penal Substitution, then that should at least be acknowledged.

Nick said...


It's only ambiguous if you don't understand Catholic theological concepts and terminology. For example, to make satisfaction has never ever meant in Catholic theology to transfer punishment to another. So what the Protestant is mistakenly doing is projecting their own definitions onto Catholic teaching and not seeing what they're supposed to see.

Two good quotes I managed to dig up were as follows:

(1) The (Old) Catholic Encyclopedia says this on Atonement:
"The second mistake is the tendency to treat the Passion of Christ as being literally a case of vicarious [i.e. substitutionary] punishment."

(2) The Catechism of Trent says:
"The pastor should teach that all these inestimable and divine blessings flow to us from the Passion of Christ. First, indeed, because the satisfaction which Jesus Christ has in an admirable manner made to God the Father for our sins is full and complete. The price which He paid for our ransom was not only adequate and equal to our debts, but far exceeded them. Again, it (the Passion of Christ) was a sacrifice most acceptable to God, for when offered by His Son on the altar of the cross, it entirely appeased the wrath and indignation of the Father.

...Satisfaction is the full payment of a debt; for that is sufficient or satisfactory to which nothing is wanting. Hence, when we speak of reconciliation to favour, to satisfy means to do what is sufficient to atone to the angered mind for an injury offered; and in this sense satisfaction is nothing more than compensation for an injury done to another."

The first quote says Vicarious/Substitutionary Atonement is an error, and the Catechism of Trent says Jesus made Satisfacttion, which was (a) a payment price that *exceeded* the cost of our sins (which doesn't make sense in PSub), and (b) was an appeasement, better explained as "nothing more than compensation for an injury done". This is where the notion of Penance derives from and precisely why Protestants reject the notion of Penance. In no Catholic writing will you find any reference to Jesus taking the Father's wrath.

And as I've said, just in terms of systematic theology, doctrines like Universal Atonement, Sacrifice of the Mass, Possibility of Losing Salvation, etc, are all flatly incompatible with PSub - which is precisely why advocates of PSub have long recognized that Limited Atonement, No Mass, and Eternal Security must be true since PSub is true.

M. said...

Oh dear Nick,

Perhaps due to my alleged inability to "understand Catholic theological concepts and terminology" I'm still unable to read anything that says, "Penal Substitution is a blasphemous heresy." Please help, Where exactly does it say precisely that?

#1 A criticism of a "tendency" to be overly literal - probably referring to a ransom paid to the devil, or Christ suffering eternally in hell; but next says "But it must not be thought that God is only moved to mercy and reconciled to us as a result of this satisfaction." He's saying it is false to trust just this one aspect of atonement.

#2 Again, the wording is such that penal substitution is not explicitly excluded as being at least one basis of a multifaceted satisfaction that has many aspects of worth, and therefore in total greatly exceeds the debt.

Can we assume you have completed your search and that these are the more relevant quotes to support your position that the Catholic Church teaches that penal substitution is an error?

If PS is indeed a "blasphemy," the lack of any direct statements to that effect calls into question the effectiveness of the teaching authority of the magisterium because as you rightly indicate the entire Catholic system is logically incompatible with PS.

Nick said...

This post got caught in the spam filter. Luckily I checked it, though I haven't checked it in a few months.

There is no basis whatsoever to read the Father's wrath was dumped on Jesus. No key Catholic Saint nor any Church document ever says this. So it's not a valid option from just that standpoint. This is even why the Apostle's Creed mentioning Jesus "descending into hell" has always included clarifications that this wasn't related to the hellfire of the damned but rather Abraham's Bosom.

The Church doesn't have to come out and condemn every individual error out there, but errors can be easily discerned by whether or not they upset defined dogmas. As I indicated, PSub undermines various dogmas. And when Reformed folks like Pastor Thabiti are saying "the ancient fellowship was broken" between the Father and Son, that's naked Arianism/Nestorianism and anyone can see it.

I came across another Catholic source that reaffirms what I'm saying, in the Catechism of St Pius X:

12 Q. Was it necessary for Jesus Christ to suffer as much as He actually did?
A. No, it was not absolutely necessary for Jesus Christ to suffer as much as He did, because each of His acts being of infinite value, the least of His sufferings would have sufficed for our redemption.

No mention of the Father dumping his wrath on Jesus. This teaching that Jesus didn't have to suffer all that he suffered, but instead could have suffered in the least manner, is taught by others such as Aquinas. It flows from the notion that satisfaction isn't about taking punishment but rather making reparation, and thus the slightest act making reparation would have carried infinite value. This again goes completely against the thesis that the Father had to vent His full wrath against sin on Jesus, since this naturally requires maximal suffering as the only option.

Anonymous said...

It is incorrect to say-"There is no basis whatsoever to read the Father's wrath was dumped on Jesus."

Romans 5:9 refutes this:" Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." Jesus took the wrath of God for our sins.

Anonymous said...

It is also an incorrect answer to the question:
"12 Q. Was it necessary for Jesus Christ to suffer as much as He actually did?
A. No, it was not absolutely necessary for Jesus Christ to suffer as much as He did, because each of His acts being of infinite value, the least of His sufferings would have sufficed for our redemption."

Jesus prayed to His Father to let this cup (suffering and death) to pass from Him. The answer was no, it must be done otherwise the cup would have passed.

Nick said...

It is reading too much into the text to think that Romans 5:9 is saying Jesus took the Father's wrath. Unfortunately, Protestants have had to turn in desperation to such texts because there is no text that comes anywhere close to suggesting such.

And for the cup that Jesus took that was not the Father's wrath either, for in Mk 10:38-39 Jesus says the Apostles will have to endure this cup as well. It's referring to martyrdom.

Anonymous said...

What does Romans 5:9 mean when it says we are saved from the wrath of God through Christ?

Nick said...

It means through the merits of Jesus, we are taken out of harm's way. For example, in Exodus 11-12, the Passover instructions say the Angel of Death is going to sweep over Egypt, but anyone who puts the Lamb's Blood on their door then God's Wrath will "Pass-over" the house. The Lamb did not take the wrath in place of the people.

Anonymous said...

Exodus 11-12 is a foreshadowing of what Christ would do for His people on the cross. God's wrath was on the Egyptians who refused to put the blood on the doorposts. They lost their first-born.

Why would the wrath of God be poured out on Christ on the cross (where it is manifested in the scourging, the lack of support of His followers, the false charges, the scourging, being nailed to the cross, the forsaking of the Father of Christ on the cross and the darkness)?

Why would Jesus have to go through all of this?


Nick said...


Nothing you just said shows, prefigures, or any way suggests Jesus underwent the Father's wrath. The blood on the doorpost suggests nothing about the Lamb taking the hit.

Jesus endured men beating Him, men mocking Him, men piercing Him, and men killing Him, all out of love for us. But Jesus said don't fear those who can kill the body but not the soul.

Christie said...


Does Reformed theology teach that sins were imputed to Jesus or that just our guilt and punishment?


Nick said...

The terms are used interchangeably, but more accurately it means guilt (and thus punishment) for our sin was imputed. Texts like 2 Cor 5:21 say Jesus 'became sin', which they interpret as 'our guilt was imputed' to him.

Christie said...


If you go to the most recent comments on called to communion article Reformed Imputation and the Lord's Prayer, I was asking Bryan Cross about imputation. I was confused because if our sins really were imputed onto Christ on the cross, as R.C. Sproul and John Piper both claim, (as well as guilt and punishment), then the only reason we would need passive obedience/righteousness is to cover one's original sin. If one's sins were imputed away from one's account, how could they still be inside you and need extrinsic covering?


Nick said...

Your comment would need some slight modification in terminology, but the main idea of what you're saying really gets at the heart of some serious problems in Reformed theology.

I have always viewed the problem in this way: If faith is seen as a sort of umbrella with the words "Jesus" painted at the top of it, and as long as we're holding up the umbrella (believing), then God looking down on us doesn't really see us but rather "Jesus" instead. If our guilt was already dealt with, then one could technically stop believing and they'd still be saved, since justification is a one time event. In fact, if Justification is a one time event, then it would be a contradiction to suggest one must continue believing, since that would indicate the judge is not finished with you but in fact is perpetually keeping you on trial and only saying you're righteous *as long as* the umbrella is held up. But it certainly makes no sense to suggest a person could ever stop believing and be saved, so the Reformed are stuck in a quagmire because they insist on this perpetual extrinsic covering when the case has already been settled.

A variation of this dilemma caused a few Reformed theologians to come to conclude the elect are "Eternally Justified" since if Jesus truly took the punishment they deserved, there is not a single moment when they could have been under God's displeasure. The guilt was dealt with before they were even born, so they must have been born justified. The idea that an elect person sits under God's wrath until they come to believe, despite the fact Jesus has already dealt with that wrath, is a standing contradiction. So some Reformed tried to get around this by saying we're born justified and the time we come to faith is merely the 'recognizing' that we (already) were forgiven. The problem with that, as the majority of Reformed have realized, is that it goes against the Scriptural claim that man starts off unsaved.

Christie said...


When it says, "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed." (1 Peter 2:24), do you think this means that in His body, which is the sacrifice because His blood is the ransom price, He offers priestly intercession and makes atonement (aka bore our sins)? So he is both priest and victim, making sacrifice for our sins with His body?


Nick said...

Hello Christie,

If I understand you correctly, I would say that what you said makes the most sense and thus is the correct understanding.

Jonathan said...

Nick, you wrote:

"No animal sacrifice is ever said to have sin imputed to it. The laying on the hand of the head of the sacrificial animal was to dedicate it to God, which is why the Fellowship Sacrifice which had nothing to do with sin/atonement included the same instructions to lay-hand-on-head-and-slaughter (Lev 3:1-2)."

However, can one say that the guilt of sin was imputed to Jesus? Is this compatible with what happened to the scapegoat in Lev. 16:20-22?

Nick said...


That's a good question. I deal with the issue of Jesus and the Scapegoat in its own article Article (HERE).

Steve Finnell said...


What are the things that do not make you a member of the body of Christ?

What are the requirements for membership in the Lord's church?


1. Simply believing that Jesus is the Son of God does not grant you membership in the Lord's church.

Mark 5:1-12 .....7..."What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?....12 The demons implored Him....

Demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, however, that does not give them membership in the Lord's church. Legion was not part of the body of Christ.

2. Sprinkling infants with water does not make them part of the body of Christ. Sprinkling unbelieving babies is not an act that adds them to the Lord's church.

Mark 16:16 He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved....

Only believers who have been baptized are added to the Lord's church. Babies are not capable of believing.

3. Joining denominations, such as the Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, the Lutheran Church, the Methodist Church, etc. does not grant you membership into the Lord's church. Joining a denomination cannot save anyone. You cannot join the Lord's church.

Acts 2:47...And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

The requirement for being added to the Lord's church is not joining a denomination. The Lord only adds the saved to the church. The church is the body of Christ.


The apostle Peter said, on the Day of Pentecost, " Be saved from this perverse generation!" (Acts 2:40)

Who was saved? Acts 2:41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day were added about three thousand souls.

Three thousands souls were added to the Lord's church on the Day of Pentecost. Why were they added to the body of Christ?
They received Peter's message and were immersed in water.(baptized).

Peter's message: (Acts 2:22-38) They were taught that Jesus was the Christ. That Jesus was Lord. That God raised Jesus from the dead. They were told to repent and be baptized so their sins could be forgiven and that they would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those who believed Peter's message, and repented and were baptized, were added to the body of Christ by the Lord Himself. (Acts 2:47 ...And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.



1. FAITH: John 3:16, Mark 16:16
2. CONFESSION: Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:37
3. REPENTANCE: Acts 2:38, Acts 3:19
4. BAPTISM: Acts 2:38, Mark 16:16, 1 Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:27.