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Saturday, June 22, 2013

In what way did Jesus become "a curse" for us? (More problems with Penal Substitution)

Frequent readers of this blog know that there isn't any good Biblical evidence for the Protestant heresy of Penal Substitution. And because of that, they're forced to desperately cling to whatever they can to attempt to justify their error. One of the few primary texts they appeal to is Galatians 3:13, which speaks of Jesus being made "a curse" for us.

Everyone can agree that it's not enough to just make an assertion, especially on a disputed text. Instead, some actual exegesis must be done and an actual argument must be made. I'll say right off the bat that Protestantism doesn't have a leg to stand on with this verse, so all they can do is desperately assert that "curse" here means something along the lines of Jesus being eternally cut off from the Father and suffering the Father's Wrath. But if that kind of exegesis was valid, then the Arians would win the day when Jesus said "The Father is greater than I," since the Arians can simply insist this can only mean Jesus is inferior to the Father in every way. 

So with the Protestant desperation is clearly established I can go onto show how real exegesis is done. 

First consider the passage in question:
12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” - 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The context is that of justification, particularly noting that the Mosaic Law is not what saves, and that in fact Jesus save us from it. Before saying any more, let's look at Paul's quote from Deuteronomy 21:
22 And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
At first glance this can seem pretty harsh, since the text comes off as implying that Jesus was indeed cursed by God. But the catch is that we cannot just make up our definitions of what "cursed by God" here means. So unless there's a compelling reason to think this curse refers to suffering eternal wrath, then one is not free to simply assert this as fact. 

The Church Fathers, from what I could find, didn't comment on this text in detail, but they were clear that this did not mean Jesus was in any sense spiritually cursed by God nor that Jesus endured the Father's wrath. Instead, the Church Fathers maintained that the 'curse' here was the curse of a humiliating death, and that's where the Biblical data points to also. This is plainly what Deuteronomy 21:22-23 is talking about, a capital punishment for grave sinners. And this makes perfect sense in light of the fact this style of execution took place a few times in the OT (Josh 8:28-29; 10:26-27), and the lesson is that crucifixion is a humiliating way to die. The implication is that anyone who suffers that way must be under God's displeasure. Thus, in short, Jesus 'became a curse' in that He endured a humiliating death by crucifixion. But there's more.

Now we can turn back to Galatians 3:13-14 and draw out a few key details. First note that Paul says Jesus "redeemed" us from the curse of the Law, meaning His work functioned as a redemption, a pay-off price, and not a transfer of punishment. This is crucial and not an irrelevant detail. So, reading the grammar properly, Jesus endured the curse of crucifixion, and this functioned as a redemption price that offset/paid the price of another curse, the curse of the Law.

Next notice why Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law: so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles. This indicates that the real problem at hand was that the Law was preventing salvation from reaching the Gentiles, and thus the Law had to be addressed. And thus Christ's death functioned as a way of breaking down the Mosaic Law, and not about some generic taking of the Father's Wrath for mankind's sins. Consider the following paralle texts: 
Hebrews 9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Notice the three-fold theme in each text: redemption, the Mosaic Law being removed, so that adoption can result. Basically, the Mosaic Law (Covenant) was violated by Israel's unfaithfulness, and as a result this was stalling God's plan to fulfill His promise to Abraham, namely that he would be spiritual father of the Jews and Gentiles. Since the Law was violated, it had to be atoned for, and that's what Christ's death accomplished as far as being "under the Law" was concerned. 

Now consider the anti-type motif, where Jesus is prefigured in the OT stories but in the opposite way you'd expect. For example, John 3:14 says: “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” This recalls Numbers 21:4-9. Clearly, Jesus doesn’t correspond directly to a serpent (of all possible animals, since the serpent corresponds to Satan!). So this means Jesus can be prefigured in a way contrary to how Jesus should be seen. Now consider Deuteronomy 21:22, which says: “if a man has committed a crime punishable by death,” yet clearly Jesus didn’t commit a civil crime punishable by death, so the full horror of this statute wouldn’t even technically hold it’s force (an innocent man being unjustly killed undermines the statute). Not to mention, the statute is not saying that a person hung on a tree has the Father pouring out His wrath on their soul, suffering hellfire at that moment. And surely this law was not originally written and understood to mean some day the Messiah would be murdered by Crucifixion by a foreign army. Thus, there is good reason to see Jesus being 'cursed' as sort of unjust curse or anti-curse, since the whole point of this penalty was for the State to condemn truly guilty people, and Jesus should never have had to endure this. And this anti-type lens is further proven by the fact that every time the Apostles publicly preached on the subject of the Crucifixion in Acts, they always made a sharp distinction between Jesus being unjustly killed and hung on a tree by the Jews, versus God's vindication in rescuing and resurrecting Jesus for the injustice (Acts 2:23-24; 3:15; 3:10; 5:30-31; 10:39-40; 13:28-30).

I think this just about covers the main bases. I believe this approach I've taken completely invalidates the desperate claim that the term "curse" necessitates that Jesus was spiritually cursed and cut off from the Father. If Protestants want to push that error, they'll have to address these points I made, and I don't think they can.

27 comments:

James Jordan said...

"Next notice why Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law: so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles. This indicates that the real problem at hand was that the Law was preventing salvation from reaching the Gentiles, and thus the Law had to be addressed."

This is undoubtedly Paul's meaning: yet there is no reason to believe it is the truth. Why would the Law prevent Gentile salvation? How could the Law prevent Gentile salvation? How is it that it didn't prevent Gentile salvation in Ninevah in the book of Jonah, yet all of the sudden it prevents it? What Paul is arguing (as usual) makes no sense. Its just Gnosticism, again.

Nick said...

The Covenant was violated, severely. The Jews were no longer on course to be a light to the nations.

James Jordan said...

"The Covenant was violated, severely. The Jews were no longer on course to be a light to the nations."

That's why Judaism had amassed so many God-fearers from among the Gentiles? Christianity piggy-backed on the fact that the Jews WERE a light to the nations, with Paul going and taking advantage of the numbers of Gentiles who were semi-joined to the Synagogues.

James Jordan said...

Also, one could ask very simply: In what way was the covenant violated? Idolatry of course. And how does the doctrine of the Trinity and the deification of a man get rid of idolatry precisely? Especially when that man's mother is made into "mother of God"? The solution is worse than the original problem. This is like if a man had a cold and to solve it you cut off his nose.

Nick said...

The Jewish leadership was definitely not on course to be a light to the nations. They were self righteous and had their Messiah put to death. The Old Testament has prophecies on this.

There were righteous Jews (e.g. Elizabeth and Zechariah) and that along with other signs (the brilliance of the Scriptures, Temple, etc) would be appealing to the Gentiles, so it's not odd that Gentiles would be attracted in some way.

James Jordan said...

By "the Jewish leadership" you mean the guys in JUDEA, in JERUSALEM, who were unlikely to encounter many Gentiles anyway. Do you really think these guys were that important in the Diaspora? Of course not. Their importance was very local. The Jews in the sense of the Diaspora Jews were being a light to the Gentiles -- the Jews in the sense of Judeans were doing their own thing. There is a double meaning of "Jew" in Greek because the word is Judaeos which can mean a follower of Judaism or a Judean or both.

Nick said...

The Diaspora was fundamentally a bad thing, a result of punishment for national unfaithfulness. It's not as if the Diaspora was ideal Judaism. Jerusalem was the hub and the leaders were really the leaders (Mt 23:2).

Judaism was based upon the Sacrificial System, and this was properly located at the Temple.

So I'm not sure if you're saying this or not, but if you're suggesting the diaspora synagogues were akin to non-denominational churches preaching the Gospel to local areas, then that's wrong.

James Jordan said...

"The Diaspora was fundamentally a bad thing, a result of punishment for national unfaithfulness. It's not as if the Diaspora was ideal Judaism."

But how else would one be a light to the nations but by being amongst them? The prophecy that 10 Gentiles will take hold on one Jew by the coat and say "Teach us, for we know God is with you" -- could that be fulfilled without the Diaspora?

James Jordan said...

"So I'm not sure if you're saying this or not, but if you're suggesting the diaspora synagogues were akin to non-denominational churches preaching the Gospel to local areas, then that's wrong."

Do you really think the diaspora synagogue down in Spain concerned itself much with the sacrifices all the way in Jerualem?

Nick said...

The Jews prayed daily, even today, that the diaspora would end. If you aren't partaking in the Sacrifices, then the Book of Leviticus is basically being ignored. Sacrifice is at the heart of God-instituted worship, and the problem with the diaspora is that it basically resulted in a non-denominational approach to Judaism, which is not good. Judaism without the Priesthood is not Biblical Judaism but Rabbinical Judaism, which basically took over once the Temple was destroyed for good in 70AD.

James Jordan said...

"Judaism without the Priesthood is not Biblical Judaism but Rabbinical Judaism,"

What about the Babylonian captivity?

Nick said...

The priesthood was not stamped out nor was there any sense that sacrifices were no longer to be offered. Consider the fact that even during captivity God was still with His people through Prophets. For almost 2000 years now, there has been no Sacrifices, no Priesthood, no lineages, and no Prophets and no Temple. God is definitely saying something here.

James Jordan said...

There is a priesthood now as much as there was in the Babylonian captivity. Certain men know they are descended from Levites. They have no sacrificial function now, just as in the Babylonian captivity, but they still know they are of the priestly line. Its even possible to DNA test for the priestly line now.

Joey Henry said...

Nick,

1. In verse 10, Paul said that those who are "of the works of the law" are "under a curse".

2. This is so because the Scripture declares that "Cursed is everyone who does not continue all things which have been written in the book of the law - to do them". The assumption here is that no one continues to do all things written in the law. Therefore, all are under a "curse".

3. But Christ having no sin redeemed us from this curse by becoming a curse for us. The context is so clear where the sinner who should be cursed was not cursed because Christ ransomed them by assuming their curse although he kept all of the Law.

4. The proof that Christ took the place of sinners was the cross. Because the Scripture says that anyone who hangs on a tree is cursed.

Even without a technical exegesis, the strength of the four points above points to the reality that the "curse" which is a penalty for lawbreakers was borne by the innocent Christ who has no sin in order to ransom those who should have been "cursed".

Now, anyone who wishes to know the real Roman Catholic Teaching would go to the Catholic Catechism and Apostolic letters of the Pope.

1. In 597 and 598, the CCC declares that we could put the blame to the Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus. Who killed Jesus? The answer of the catechism is that sinners killed the Lord Jesus. All of us killed the Lord Jesus.

2. In 599 to 601, the CCC declares that although all sinners killed the Lord, it is within the plan of God all along. God "predistined" the event to happen.

3. In 602, the CCC declares that "Man's sins, following on original sin, are punishable by death. By sending his own Son in the form of a slave, in the form of a fallen humanity, on account of sin, God "made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.""

4. In 603, it explained how God made Christ sin stating that, "he assumed us in the state of our waywardness of sin, to the point that he could say in our name from the cross: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Having thus established him in solidarity with us sinners, God "did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all", so that we might be "reconciled to God by the death of his Son".

- Note that Man's sin is punishable by death but God sends His own Son on account of sin and made him sin although he has no sin.

- Note further that the CCC declares that Christ assumed our state of waywardness of sin so that he cried in OUR NAME, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?"

Further, one should read the Apostolic Letter Novo Millenio Inuente. In this letter the Pope says, "He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him, can understand completely what it means to resist the Father's love by sin. More than an experience of physical pain, his Passion is an agonizing suffering of the soul. Theological tradition has not failed to ask how Jesus could possibly experience at one and the same time his profound unity with the Father, by its very nature a source of joy and happiness, and an agony that goes all the way to his final cry of abandonment. The simultaneous presence of these two seemingly irreconcilable aspects is rooted in the fathomless depths of the hypostatic union."

In this commentary, we know that Christ's passion is not just physical but an agony of the soul. An agony the Pope calls as the "final cry of abandonment". This we know is the cry of guilty sinners but not the sinless Christ. But the Pope explains clearly, "Jesus not only had to take on the face of man, but he had to burden himself with the "face" of sin. "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21).""

Regards,
Joey

James Jordan said...

Joey Henry, you obviously accept Paul's weirdo interpretation hook line and sinker. But tell, what was the curse? All who don't keep the Law are under a curse, eh? what curse? HELL? HELL NO! Read Deuteronomy 26-28. The "curse" is the diaspora!!!!! If Jesus became a curse to take away this curse, then why are the Jews still scattered among the nations??????????? Paul's "logic" is totally illogical and is an absolute failure.

Nick said...

Joey,

I think the key problem with your analysis is in your admitted "assumption" in your point #2.

You said:
"The assumption here is that no one continues to do all things written in the law."

That assumption is wrong. The point isn't that nobody keeps the Law (perfectly), the point is that in living according to the Torah is to simultaneously live as if Jesus never came. The Torah had it's fulfillment in Christ, so to continue to live under the law is to (at least implicitly) deny Jesus came, died, and Resurrected. This precisely is what Galatians 5:2-3 is saying.

As for your #4, it's a logical fallacy to say: "The proof that Christ took the place of sinners was the cross."
Undergoing Curse2 so that someone doesn't have to undergo Curse1 doesn't logically suggest Christ "took their place."

Your remarks also cannot address the two texts I mentioned, Galatians 4:4-5 and Hebrews 9:15.

JoeyHenry said...

Nick,

I hope I could agree with you. However, the assumption I've made is not a bare assumption but derived from the text. The text says,"Cursed is everyone who does not continue all things which have been written in the book of the law - to do them". We can derive thus that the curse comes about by not doing "all things which have been written in the book of the law". That said, all peoples are under a curse since it is true that no one met that standard. Paul discussed this thoroughly in Romans 3. If there is one person who met that standard then there is exist a person who is not included in curse-redemption of Christ since that person is curse free. But such idea is not biblical.

Secondly, it should be noted that the curse is a punishment for transgressing the law of the Holy God.

Thirdly, it should be noted Christ who should not experience the curse since he is immaculate, experienced the curse as he was hanged on the tree per Paul's portrayal. This was done by the righteous Christ to ransom those who are cursed so that they would be free from the curse.

It is not far fetch to imagine that Christ took the punishment of the cursed sinner in his behalf. Aside from the CCC and Apostolic letter listed above, Thomas Aquinas in exegeting the text at issue commented: "For Christ freed us from punishment by enduring our punishment and our death which came upon us from the very curse of sin. Therefore, inasmuch as He endured this curse of sin by dying for us, He is said to have been made a curse for us." Clearly then there is a penal substitutionary nature that happened on the cross per Aquinas account.

Regards,
Joey

Nick said...

Joey,

The original context of what Paul is quoting is plainly teaching that the curse isn't about sinless living, but rather promising to live by the Mosaic Law and then not living by it. And Paul is very clear that the Mosaic Law never saved, even if kept perfectly, proving from another angle that the issue was never about sinless living. Your exegesis ultimately cannot answer how someone can put themselves 'under' the Law if everyone is already under the Law. Galatians 5:2-3 is decisive here.

Nothing suggests we all should be hanging from a tree suffering the punishment of Deut 21, so the idea that Jesus took this punishment in place of us is unwarranted and ignores basically my whole post.

As for your Aquinas comments. First of all, you need to start with the Summa, where Aquinas goes over the nature of the Atonement. Without that foundation, you'll be misreading Aquinas and similar theologians.
In the context of the quote you gave, Aquinas wasn't speaking of the Father's Wrath being poured out on Jesus in our place or anything of that kind. Rather, he explains that to be crucified was such a disgraceful way to die, that in itself was a curse. So there isn't anything specifically PSub about saying Christ endured a punishment on our behalf when punishment is not taken in the sense of bearing guilt but rather simply taking on the form. So the 'form' of punishment is crucifixion, which Jesus endured, but this was not because Christ was somehow (e.g. by imputation) seen as guilty.

JoeyHenry said...

Nick,

1. Paul does say that the Law couldn't save. Why because no one measures up to it. Where does Paul say that even if the Law is perfectly obeyed that it couldn't save? Firstly,if the Law is obeyed perfectly then there is no transgression, thus, there's no redemption needed. Secondly, there are those who remain under the Law and consequently under its curse because they don't recognize the redemption of Christ. All are under the Law and its curse and only those who are in Christ are not under the Law. Sadly there are those who remain under the Law. Your objection against my exegesis has been easily answered.

2. One to one correspondence of punishment that the God-man should suffer and a mortal man should suffer is not needed in order for Psub to be true. But the Biblical data is clear in that what Christ suffered on the cross was our curse although there is no one to one correspondence.

3. No, I was not contextualizing Aquinas to say that the quote means that the Father's Wrath is being poured out on Jesus. Read my post again. I am simply making the case that in exegeting the passage Aquinas believed that the punishment that Christ undertook was ours. Penal substitution in short. It is logically clear that if Christ suffered our punishment then he was treated as if he were the transgressor even though he is sinless for our sake. Otherwise God did violence to Christ arbitrarily. Aquinas exegesis is more close to the reformer's take on the atonement than yours.

Regards,
Joey

Anonymous said...

JoeHenry,

Your first point is an enormous misreading of Paul. He does not teach that following the law perfectly is by itself sufficient for salvation. I assume you have Romans 2:13 in mind: "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." Paul is very clear that we are not justified by works. In the very next chapter he writes:


"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

And in Ephesians (2:8-9).

"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."

The biggest and most obvious problem with suggesting that we could--in theory--be righteous before God by simply not trangressing the Law is the doctrine of original sin. We are born into an ungodly state and destined for eternal hellfire if we are not saved from that state, and salvation is received not by works but by faith in Christ.

Let me ask you a question. If observance of the Law was sufficient for salvation, why does the Bible say things like this: "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless." Surely this is a gross exaggeration on Luke's part. All good Protestants know that "There is none righteous, no not one." How was God so irresponsible in his authorship of the Holy Scriptures to inspire an error that would obscure the fact that observance of the Law was sufficient for salvation?

Anonymous said...

JoeHenry

Regarding your third paragraph...

Thomas most certainly does not teach PSA in his Commentary on Galatians. I will not deny absolutely that there is a penal element to the atonement and a substitutionary element to the atonement. To say that those two elements are all there is to PSA is either ignorant dishonest. PSA is a specific term which means that God "imputed" the sins of the elect to Christ and punished him in their stead. With that in mind, let's see what the Angelic Doctor says about Christ being made a curse.

Now it is according to two kinds of evil that there can be two kinds of curse, namely, the curse of guilt and the curse of punishment. And with respect to each this passage can be read, namely, He was made a curse for us.

He says there are two kinds of curse: guilt and punishment. Now, guilt, which you ignored, is the more fundamental of the two because someone cannot be justly punished until they are declared guilty. He goes on to explain how Christ was guilty.

First of all with respect to the evil of guilt, for Christ redeemed us from the evil of guilt. Hence, just as in dying He redeemed us from death, so He redeemed us from the evil of guilt by being made a curse, i.e., of guilt: not that there was really any sin in Him—for “He did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” as is said in 1 Peter (2:22) —but only according to the opinion of men and particularly the Jews who regarded him as a sinner: “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee” (Jn 18:30). Hence it is said of Him, “Him who knew no sin He hath made sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21).

Do you see this? Thomas only says that Christ was imputed guilty by men, not by God. If he meant to teach PSA, which concerns the divine imputation of sin, he missed his chance by avoiding the concept entirely. Strike one for PSA. Maybe what he will clarify things in his explanation of punishment.

Secondly, it is explained with respect to the evil of punishment. For Christ freed us from punishment by enduring our punishment and our death which came upon us from the very curse of sin. Therefore, inasmuch as He endured this curse of sin by dying for us, He is said to have been made a curse for us. This is similar to what is said in Romans (8:3): “God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin,” i.e., of mortal sin; “Him who knew no sin,” namely, Christ, Who committed no sin, God (namely, the Father) “had made sin for us,” i.e., made Him suffer the punishment of sin, when, namely, He was offered for our sins (2 Cor 5:21).

For Thomas, the curse of punishment is death. But death happens to all people: those redeemed by the blood of Christ along with the worst of sinners. Death is certainly a punishment for sin, but our punishment for our sins is chiefly eternal damnation. If (1) Thomas is teaching PSA here, (2) Christ receieved our punishment in our stead as PSA teaches, and (3) Thomas does not speak in this passage of our punishment as anything more than death, then it follows that the elect should not ever suffer death at all because God already exacted the punishment.

Anonymous said...

If you are still not convinced, St. Thomas elaborates further on the sense in which Christ was cursed.

But it is possible to expound this authority both with respect to the evil of punishment and the evil of guilt. Of the evil of punishment thus: Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree, not precisely because he hangs on a tree, but because of the guilt for which he hangs.

Thomas is explaining the general meaning of Deuteronomy here. The only imputation of guilt he mentions above is that of men, not of God.

And in this way Christ was thought to be cursed, when He hung on the cross, because He was being punished with an extraordinary punishment. And according to this explanation, there is a continuity with the preceding. For the Lord commanded in Deuteronomy that anyone who had been hanged should be taken down in the evening; the reason being that this punishment was more disgraceful and ignominious than any other.

There you have it! The curse was that he died in the extraordinary and disgraceful way that he did. This is exactly what Nick has been saying!

He is saying, therefore: Truly was He made a curse for us, because the death of the cross which He endured is tantamount to a curse—thus explaining the evil of guilt, although it was only in the minds of the Jews—because it is written: Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree. But with respect to the evil of punishment, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree is explained thus: The punishment itself is a curse, namely, that He should die in this way.

You see that the imputation of guilt was only in the minds of the Jews and not in the mind of God.

Explained in this way, He was truly cursed by God, because God decreed that He endure this punishment in order to set us free.

Note that he only says that God cursed Christ inasmuch as his suffering was by God's decree, which is really a trivial observation as all things that occur are by God's decree. In the preceding paragraph. He more explicitly refutes the idea that Christ was cursed by God in the sense that God imputed any guilt to Christ.

Then He gives the testimony of Scripture when he says, for it is written: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This is from Deuteronomy (21:23). Here it should be noted, according to a Gloss, that in Deuteronomy, from which this passage is taken, our version as well as the Hebrew version has: “Cursed by God is everyone that hangs on a tree.” However, the phrase “by God” is not found in the ancient Hebrew volumes. Hence it is believed to have been added by the Jews after the passion of Christ in order to defame Him.

Remember that the Thomas explains "cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree" to mean that the one who hangs is cursed because of his guilt. But he says that this was, as you remember, only in the minds of the Jews, and so for that reason, Thomas explicitly denies the authenticity of the variant of this verse which states "cursed by God is everyone that hangeth upon a tree."

In summary, according to St. Thomas, Christ was cursed in the following ways:

(i) By guilt, only in the sense that he was imputed guilty according to the opinion of men and particularly the Jews, not by God.

(ii) By punishment, only in the senses that he suffered that he suffered death, which is a punishment for sin, not the punishment for sin.

(iii) By men, in the sense that he was reviled by men ("it should be noted that a curse is that which is said as an evil").

(iv) By God, only in the sense that God decreed that Christ should suffer at the hands of men, as God has decreed all historical events. God did not impute sin to Christ.

Regardless of whether you believe PSA to be the Biblical teaching on the Atonement, it is not taught in Thomas Aquinas' Commentary on Galatians and the fundamental premise (viz. the divine imputation of the elect's guilt to Christ) is explicitly denied. Thomas Aquinas was not a Protestant!

Anonymous said...

Regarding your third paragraph...

Thomas most certainly does not teach PSA in his Commentary on Galatians. I will not deny absolutely that there is a penal element to the atonement and a substitutionary element to the atonement. To say that those two elements are all there is to PSA is either ignorant dishonest. PSA is a specific term which means that God "imputed" the sins of the elect to Christ and punished him in their stead. With that in mind, let's see what the Angelic Doctor says about Christ being made a curse.

Now it is according to two kinds of evil that there can be two kinds of curse, namely, the curse of guilt and the curse of punishment. And with respect to each this passage can be read, namely, He was made a curse for us.

He says there are two kinds of curse: guilt and punishment. Now, guilt, which you ignored, is the more fundamental of the two because someone cannot be justly punished until they are declared guilty. He goes on to explain how Christ was guilty.

First of all with respect to the evil of guilt, for Christ redeemed us from the evil of guilt. Hence, just as in dying He redeemed us from death, so He redeemed us from the evil of guilt by being made a curse, i.e., of guilt: not that there was really any sin in Him—for “He did not sin, neither was guile found in his mouth,” as is said in 1 Peter (2:22) —but only according to the opinion of men and particularly the Jews who regarded him as a sinner: “If he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up to thee” (Jn 18:30). Hence it is said of Him, “Him who knew no sin He hath made sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21).

Do you see this? Thomas only says that Christ was imputed guilty by men, not by God. If he meant to teach PSA, which concerns the divine imputation of sin, he missed his chance by avoiding the concept entirely. Strike one for PSA. Maybe what he will clarify things in his explanation of punishment.

Secondly, it is explained with respect to the evil of punishment. For Christ freed us from punishment by enduring our punishment and our death which came upon us from the very curse of sin. Therefore, inasmuch as He endured this curse of sin by dying for us, He is said to have been made a curse for us. This is similar to what is said in Romans (8:3): “God sent his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin,” i.e., of mortal sin; “Him who knew no sin,” namely, Christ, Who committed no sin, God (namely, the Father) “had made sin for us,” i.e., made Him suffer the punishment of sin, when, namely, He was offered for our sins (2 Cor 5:21).

For Thomas, the curse of punishment is death. But death happens to all people: those redeemed by the blood of Christ along with the worst of sinners. Death is certainly a punishment for sin, but our punishment for our sins is chiefly eternal damnation. If (1) Thomas is teaching PSA here, (2) Christ received our punishment in our stead as PSA teaches, and (3) Thomas does not speak in this passage of our punishment as anything more than death, then it follows that the elect should not ever suffer death at all because God already exacted the punishment.

Anonymous (continued) said...

If you are still not convinced, St. Thomas elaborates further on the sense in which Christ was cursed.

But it is possible to expound this authority both with respect to the evil of punishment and the evil of guilt. Of the evil of punishment thus: Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree, not precisely because he hangs on a tree, but because of the guilt for which he hangs.

Thomas is explaining the general meaning of Deuteronomy here. The only imputation of guilt he mentions above is that of men, not of God.

And in this way Christ was thought to be cursed, when He hung on the cross, because He was being punished with an extraordinary punishment. And according to this explanation, there is a continuity with the preceding. For the Lord commanded in Deuteronomy that anyone who had been hanged should be taken down in the evening; the reason being that this punishment was more disgraceful and ignominious than any other.

There you have it! The curse was that he died in the extraordinary and disgraceful way that he did. This is exactly what Nick has been saying!

He is saying, therefore: Truly was He made a curse for us, because the death of the cross which He endured is tantamount to a curse—thus explaining the evil of guilt, although it was only in the minds of the Jews—because it is written: Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree. But with respect to the evil of punishment, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree is explained thus: The punishment itself is a curse, namely, that He should die in this way.

You see that the imputation of guilt was only in the minds of the Jews and not in the mind of God.

Explained in this way, He was truly cursed by God, because God decreed that He endure this punishment in order to set us free.

Note that he only says that God cursed Christ inasmuch as his suffering was by God's decree, which is really a trivial observation as all things that occur are by God's decree. In the preceding paragraph. He more explicitly refutes the idea that Christ was cursed by God in the sense that God imputed any guilt to Christ.

Then He gives the testimony of Scripture when he says, for it is written: “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” This is from Deuteronomy (21:23). Here it should be noted, according to a Gloss, that in Deuteronomy, from which this passage is taken, our version as well as the Hebrew version has: “Cursed by God is everyone that hangs on a tree.” However, the phrase “by God” is not found in the ancient Hebrew volumes. Hence it is believed to have been added by the Jews after the passion of Christ in order to defame Him.

Remember that the Thomas explains "cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree" to mean that the one who hangs is cursed because of his guilt. But he says that this was, as you remember, only in the minds of the Jews, and so for that reason, Thomas explicitly denies the authenticity of the variant of this verse which states "cursed by God is everyone that hangeth upon a tree."

In summary, according to St. Thomas, Christ was cursed in the following ways:

(i) By guilt, only in the sense that he was imputed guilty according to the opinion of men and particularly the Jews, not by God.

(ii) By punishment, only in the senses that he suffered that he suffered death, which is a punishment for sin, not the punishment for sin.

(iii) By men, in the sense that he was reviled by men ("it should be noted that a curse is that which is said as an evil").

(iv) By God, only in the sense that God decreed that Christ should suffer at the hands of men, as God has decreed all historical events. God did not impute sin to Christ.

Regardless of whether you believe PSA to be the Biblical teaching on the Atonement, it is not taught in Thomas Aquinas' Commentary on Galatians and the fundamental premise (viz. the divine imputation of the elect's guilt to Christ) is explicitly denied. Thomas Aquinas was not a Protestant!

Anonymous said...

(In case it was not clear, my last two posts were directed at Joe Henry.)

Joe Henry,

Your first paragraph is a grave misinterpretation of St. Paul. He does not mean that perfect observance of the Law is sufficient for justification when he says, "For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified." He is here only contrasting the doers of the Law with those who merely hear the Law and do not do it. He nowhere says that everyone who observes the Law is justified or that observance of the Law is the ground of justification.

The chief problem with your Pelagian heresy is a doctrine called original sin. As a consequence of the original sin of Adam, all are born into an ungodly state and, unless they are saved by God's grace, destined for eternal hellfire. All the works of the Law will not justify you then. Justification does not just consist in not sinning, but in the remission of sins and the infusion of grace.

James Jordan said...

The idea that Jesus become a curse for us is based on three mistaken notions:

1.) That everyone, Gentiles included, is under the ceremonial law and therefore cursed for not keeping it. That is entirely false.

2.) The idea that the curse of the law is anything other than exile for the Jews. That is entirely false, the curse of the law is not "hell" or any kind of "spiritual death" -- its just exile for the Jews.

3.) The idea that by doing something that gets yourself cursed you can take away a curse from someone else. That is entirely false. If Jesus got himself cursed by hanging on a tree, that in no way can take away anyone else' curse.

Joey Henry said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for your response.

1. I am glad that you do not deny that the atonement involves penal substitution. That is enough for me.

2. I would join you in reprimanding those who are not careful enough to define PSA. Yes there is a particular strand of understanding the PSA in the reformed tradition which are diverse. I am not one of those who define PSA as you defined it: "PSA is a specific term which means that God "imputed" the sins of the elect to Christ and punished him in their stead."

That definition is not a careful representation of the majority of the reformed thoughts because: 1. It portrays the atonement as three party event where God, Christ and the sinner is involved. On the contrary, only two parties are involved in the atonement, God and the sinner. 2. Given 1, it implies that God is the offended party alone who want satisfaction of the wrong done and compels this innocent Christ to be punished vicariously otherwise he remains angry. This is not the kind of PSA that we are advocating.

3. As for Aquinas, we are on agreement that his view of atonement involves penal substitution. Your argument is that this should not be taken that God imputed guilt to Christ but that only men imputed guilt to him. In a way yes... the word "impute" in this sense is the regarding of a man as truly guilty of sin. In the eyes of the Jews, he really is deserving to be punished for his own sins. However, that is not how God sees it. He sees Christ as innocent and sinless. Christ in his nature and person did not became guilty deserving of punishment when he bore our sins.

2. You recognize that death (including physical) is a punishment for sin. Clearly, Aquinas explained that:"For Christ freed us from punishment by enduring our punishment and our death which came upon us from the very curse of sin. Therefore, inasmuch as He endured this curse of sin by dying for us, He is said to have been made a curse for us." But you see a disconnect because as you observe, Christians still die physically. With that, you are arguing that Aquinas may have a different idea in mind other than PSA, otherwise, taken at face value, there is an inconsistency.

I believe that Aquinas words are pretty clear. I am not sure Aquinas addressed the issue of why saints still die given the penal substitution of Christ.

But I will provide an answer not from Aquinas but from a reformed perspective. We do not define the punishment of death as merely the separation of body and soul. The punishment of death entails the separation of body and soul AND the purpose and end of that separation. It's purpose is because of sin and its end the loss of God's grace and favor.

The Christians see death as a punishment for those who are not in Christ since they will be resurrected for damnation. But sees their own death as a blessing (Phil 1:21). It seems to me that the substitution that Christ made is not the notion of physical separation of the body and soul per se but the purpose and end of that separation. Had that not been the case, Christ would not need go go through Calvary and cry out the cry of dereliction and ask the Father to take away the cup that he dreads to bear. He could have simply separated his soul from his incarnate body and so paid the penalty on our behalf. Taken in this sense, when a saint goes home to the Lord, that separation of body and soul, is not due to sin as a punishment but a reward. That is why Paul can say, "to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord." The Lord Jesus' words that we will never die is full of meaning, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Yes our mortal bodies separate with our soul only to be replaced with an immortal body, in a twinkling of an eye.

Thanks,
Joey