Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Rebuttal To Catholic Nick On Bearing Sin

  • Discussion:
          -A blogger who goes by the name of Catholic Nick published an article where he explains his understanding of the phrase "bearing sin" in sacrificial contexts (as opposed to a penal substitutionary atonement reading). Following are his comments alongside with a critique:

          "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."

          The fact that there is a process here does not negate the fact that there was a transfer of guilt on to the animal that is killed. See Leviticus 16:21. The work of the priest is continued on behalf of the person who is substituted. Christ is both our unblemished Lamb and High Priest.

          "These texts [Exodus 28:36; Leviticus 10:17; Numbers 18:1] are 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."

          This reasoning is biblically sound, but the Old Testament sacrificial system is multi-faceted. Matters cannot be simplified to the point where we begin to miss details regarding the nature of the atonement. The Book of Hebrews explains that Jesus Christ is both our priest and sacrifice. THis excerpt from Barnes' Notes on the Bible:

          "The iniquity of the sanctuary - i. e. the guilt of the offences which an erring people would be continually committing against the majesty of God, when brought into contact, through the ordinances, with the manifestations of His presence. Compare the marginal reference. The iniquity of your priesthood - As the priests themselves were but men, they were strengthened to bear the iniquity of their own unintentional offences, by being entrusted with the ceremonial means of taking it away (compare Leviticus 16). The word "bear" has, in the Old Testament, this double sense of "enduring" and "removing;" but in the person of Christ, who atoned by His own endurance, the two axe in effect one."

          "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,"

           The laying of sins on Christ does pertain to Him making intercession on our behalf. Him bearing our sin refers to making atonement. Making atonement is being guilty in another person’s place. Nick seems to make a leap of logic in his argument here. Whenever people bore their own sins, that means they were punished for them (Numbers 14:33; Ezekiel 18:20). Jesus was guilty because our guilt was imputed to Him, in the same sense that sins were placed on the innocent scapegoat in Old Testament sacrifices.

           "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.)"

           Bore = ἀνήνεγκεν (which in Greek means to carry in most places as 1 Peter 2:24). It can rarely be translated "to lead up". (anēnenken). The word means the exact sense that Nick denies in this case. He is wrong, and fails to employ proper hermeneutics.

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