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will commend itself to the Christian intelligence of all time, and that, while not satisfying our curiosity or removing all our difficulties, will fit in with the facts of our experience.
Let me, in the first place, refer to explanations that have been ascribed to Paul that do not seem to me fairly to represent his thought. On the one hand, he is made responsible for the view that Christ's death secured forgiveness in virtue of its being the vicarious endurance of the punishment that followed transgression under the law, and that would have been inflicted on us had He not, by bearing it in our room, released us from liability. Holding the view taught in the Rabbinical schools that the relation between God and man was of the nature of a legal compact under which man had contracted guilt and exposed himself to punishment, and sharing also their view that the innocent individual might take upon him the punishment that was due to the transgressor, and so deliver him from the liability to punishment,—the apostle, it is alleged, ascribed to the death of Christ efficacy to bring about the remission of sins in virtue of its having been undeserved by Him personally, and its having, consequently, power to take the place of the sinner's death and deliver him from it. This is the view supposed to be set forth in Gal. iii. 12, where we read that “ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law being made a curse for us.” Now it is undoubtedly true that deliverance from the law, both in its condemnatory and enactive power, was one chief element in the salvation Paul owed to Christ and to His death. But in using the term law he sometimes had in view the idea of law generally, the idea of moral obligation in a preceptive categorical form which is part of our constitution as moral beings; and at other times that legal system which had been imposed by God on Israel for a temporary purpose. It is with law in the latter sense—the Jewish national law—that he brings the death of Christ into connection, in the striking passage in Galatians. This he does in order to show that it had achieved the deliverance of the Jews from the consequences of their failure to keep that legal system, with all its ceremonial details, under which they had been placed for providential ends. And there arises a serious difficulty in the way of our giving a universal scope to an argument that is intended primarily to explain the deliverance of the Jews from the consequences of the transgressions of their law, and that carries on the face of it the marks of its limited significance; for the sentence which Christ is represented as bearing in the place and stead of others, the curse of transgression, “the hanging on the tree” (ver. 13), is not the sentence of death as a universal fact, but the sentence of death threatened under the special laws of the Jews.
1 According to the Pharisaic theology, forgiveness of sin was impossible without payment of the debt by some one, if not by the offender, then by another for him, who, by reason of his innocence, did not need on his own account to die the death that was the penalty of sin, whose submission to it would compensate for its remission to the guilty. An outward mechanical idea of guilt and forgiveness and religion generally underlies this scheme. We have here, too, the real root of the Catholic doctrine of the merit of the saints being available to cover the shortcomings of others. The Pharisees taught the vicarious righteousness of the patriarchs and saints of Israel. See Weber, Altsyn. Theologie, pp. 267–300; also Apocal. Baruch, xiv. 7.
We have, indeed, no means of determining even how Christ's bearing the curse of the law resulted in its removal from those who were under it; and questions arise here which we cannot answer with certainty. Was the deliverance itself a subjective one? Or was it more, was it
? Perhaps it would be more correct to say that, according to the object he has in view, Paul, in speaking of the law, thinks sometimes of the ritual aspect of it, as in his Epistle to the Galatians ; at other times of its ethical aspect, as in Romans. For an instructive account of the meanings of “law” in Paul's writings, see Grafe's Die Paulinische Lehre vom Gesetz, 1893.
objective as well ? That is, did Christ's undeserved endurance of the curse of the law at the hands of those who administered it deliver believers from the law and from the fear of its threatenings by the impression made upon their minds of the worthlessness and moral effeteness of a religious system that had culminated in such a crime? Was it that the believing Jew felt he might well afford to ignore the threatenings of a legal system that had been so blind as to inflict its heaviest curse on its own Messiah ? Is that what is meant by Christ having delivered us from the curse of the law through His having submitted to be accursed for our sakes ?1 Or, if that is regarded as too modern an explanation to be attributed to Paul, and if he is to be viewed as teaching that the deliverance was objective in its nature, and that it effected a real change in the relations of God and Israel, in what way did Christ's being made a curse accomplish such a change? Was it as a substitutionary infliction on Him of the punishment which the transgressors would otherwise have borne? or was it as a moral equivalent for it? And if, as the passage shows, it was to the law regarded as a personified power that this homage was paid, in what relation does law on this view stand to God? And how is God to be conceived as affected by the surrender of His Son to the curse of the law? These are questions that are left unanswered, and till we have a satisfactory answer to them a dogmatic conclusion from the passage is unwarranted.
Nor have I been able to convince myself of the truth of 1 This is the view advocated by Schweizer in the searching examination of this passage in his article in the Studien u. Kritiken, on “Paul's Doctrine of the Redemptive Death of Christ in Gal. iii. 13, 14 " (1858, iii.). Dr. Fairbairn, in his Christ in Modern Theology, takes the same view, p. 481. “The law that thus judged Him condemned itself: by cursing Him, it became accursed." The explanation commends itself by its naturalness, substituting an historical for a dogmatic understanding of the words. But there is a doubt whether it is the explanation intended by the apostle.
the view which is at present popular amongst expounders of Paulinism, that the idea of sacrifice, as elaborated in the legal system of the Jews, furnishes the key to the understanding of the apostle's references to the connection between the death of Christ and the forgiveness of sins. His allusions to the Levitical cultus are exceedingly scanty. That he should borrow sacrificial language in speaking of the death of Christ is indeed what might be expected. Sacrifice among the Jews, and, indeed, in all religious systems of antiquity, was the means of reconciliation; a special virtue was ascribed to the blood of victims as the appointed means of making atonement for sin ; and it was natural, when he spoke of the death of Christ in connection with our reconciliation to God, that he should make use of language that belonged to that system that made provision for the Israelites' legal approach to God. The frequent references to the “ blood of Christ” may thus be accounted for; and it is to be noticed that it is not any one kind of sacrifice, such as the sin-offering, that is suggested in the use of the term “blood," but the sacrificial system generally, in which blood denoted cleansing and the impartation of new life as well as atonement. Paul is careful not to associate forgiveness of sin distinctly or exclusively with the type of the sin-offering. The nearest approach to this application of sacrificial language is in Rom. iii. 25, where we are told of Christ that “God hath set Him forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood.” The word propitiation (inaotýplov) is one in regard to which a great deal of discussion has taken place; but, without entering at all on the different explanations of it, it must suffice to say that a very large consensus of opinion is in favour of its being taken as a verbal adjective. In conformity with the general usage of similar words ending in tmplos, the word would then be rendered “that which serves the purpose of propitiation": and the meaning would be, God has set Him forth as a means of propitiation, available for those who put their trust in His death. In other words, God appointed Christ to die in order that all who place their confidence in Him might have, in His death, that which possesses the virtue of an expiation of sin, that which ensures the forgiveness of their sins and their admission to His fellowship.
The language, certainly, is borrowed from that ceremonial cultus that prescribed animal sacrifice as a means of propitiation; but in what way the death of Christ served this end, or possessed this efficacy, is not taught here, and is not to be inferred from the use of the word. We have no theory of sacrifice in the Bible, no explanation of the ceremonial value attached to it. And, even if we had, it would be unwarrantable to apply it to the death of Christ, for we degrade His offering by regarding it as a sacrifice of that sort. The Sacrifice of Christ was the offering of Himself to God, the sublime expression of His love to men, and was an entirely different thing from the legal sacrifices. It may throw light on them, being the very truth which they dimly shadowed forth; and the legal system of sacrifice may be interpreted by means of it. But the interpretation of the Sacrifice of Christ itself must be derived from another source. As illustrations of Gospel truth, sacrificial terms may be useful, but it is an abuse to view them as teaching or conveying that truth. The Sacrifice of Christ must be interpreted by the light which itself supplies, being the spiritual reality prefigured by the ceremonial cultus, it can reflect light on the system of animal sacrifices but can receive none from it.
The real clue to the apostle's thought on this subject is to be found, as it seems to me, in the single passage where there is anything like a formal discussion or explanation of
1 See Note B on Sacrificial Language in Paul's Epistles,