Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Did the Father "lay our sins" upon Jesus? (Isaiah 53:6) - More Problems with Penal Substitution

Back in 2014, I made a post (HERE) showing how the Early Church Fathers used the Greek Translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint aka LXX), which guided their understanding of Isaiah 53. Today, I want to point out another significant find, this time within the New Testament itself, showing that Paul saw Isaiah 53 principally through the Greek Translation as well. This information is significant, because it touches upon a popular sentence within the Hebrew edition of Isaiah 53:6 which commonly translated into English says: "the Lord laid upon him [Jesus] the sins of us all". Protestants often take this phrase as meaning our guilt was "imputed" to Jesus, such that Jesus then took the punishment we deserved (i.e. suffered God's Eternal Wrath) in our place. But while this isn't what the Hebrew idiom "bear sin" actually means (see HERE), more importantly the Greek translation saw the nuances in the Hebrew and renders this text noticeably differently: "the Lord delivered him [Jesus] up for our sins". 

The phrase "delivered up for our sins" is noteworthy because it is a phrase used by Paul in Romans 4:25 and 8:32. And the only place the Old Testament speaks of being "delivered up for our sins" is in the Greek translation of Isaiah 53:6 and Isaiah 53:12. This isn't the obvious meaning from the Hebrew text. So Paul must have had the Greek understanding of Isaiah 53 principally in mind. 

Here are some well respected Lutheran and Reformed scholars who have no problem affirming that Romans 4:25 and 8:32 are referencing the LXX of Isaiah 53:6,12.
Leon Morris: The Epistle to the Romans, page 214, on Romans 4:25  

Cranfield: Romans, a Shorter Commentary, p96-97

Douglass Moo: The Epistle to the Romans, p288

Charles Hodge: Commentary on Romans, p200

Charles Hodge: Commentary on Romans, see above source

Thomas Schreiner: Romans, p243

There should be no doubt that the LXX Isaiah 53:6,12 are what Paul had in mind in Romans 4:25; 8:32. Given this textual fact, we not only see that the LXX 53:6,12 are much 'softer' than the English rendering of the Hebrew, we also can safely assume the LXX of Isaiah 53:10 was the principle understanding as well for Paul (see link in my opening sentence). When we read the text of Isaiah 53:6 as saying the Father "delivered" Jesus into the hands of the Romans and Jews, this can only be taken to mean the Father providentially permitted the Jews and Romans to catch Jesus and not rescue Him (John 7:30; 8:20; Mat 26:53). We cannot reasonably read "delivered him up" with the Protestant presumption of Penal Substitution wherein God the Father was pouring out His wrath invisibly upon Jesus. Thus, a key Protestant proof text is taken away rather decisively.

In conclusion, I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting the Hebrew Masoretic text has errors in it, or that it is in contradiction with the Greek Septuagint (LXX). Rather, what I'm suggesting is that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament often contains nuances and idioms that aren't always easily translated into other languages. So we should be thankful for the Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, because these Jewish translators were aware of Hebrew idiom and nuance. And we know beyond a doubt that the Septuagint is the translation the Apostles were well aware of and event quoted, as did the Early Church Fathers.


Mark Thimesch said...

Excellent work, Nick!

Anonymous said...

In a thread on one of the linked you posted, I noticed a couple of protestants objected to reliance on the Septuagint, arguing that it should be discounted when it does not agree with what they term the Hebrew "original". It is important to recognize that this argument of theirs fails, because the septuagint is older than the masoretic text and cannot be presumed to be in error when the two disagree. More significantly, we know for a fact that in Qumran there are hebrew fragments of old testament writings which agree with the LXX against the Masoretic text. This strongly suggests that the LXX is a faithful translation of Hebrew texts which were either corrupted or lost prior to the compilation of the Masoretic text in its currently recognized form.