Violence in Atonement Models

Violence is a huge issue. It is something that is all around us. We run into stories about violence and killings everyday. For many who have been victims of abuse or some sort of violence, thinking about the violence in Christianity is something difficult for them. There are many whose past includes various forms of abuse and tragedies. In response, many Christians who have been victims of some sort of violence have struggled with the thought of a good Father killing His only Son. Some have seen it as some sort of divine child abuse. Some do not like the idea of penal substitution or other forms of substitutionary atonement.

Over the years, the church has had several different atonement models, something we should discuss in a future post but will bypass for now. As the problem of evil and violence has been one of the biggest issues for atheists and non-believers in believing God, this is also a struggle for many believers in how they think about atonement.

Recently, I was asked to read a paper by Denny Weaver called “Violence in Christian Theology” (which can be found here). I would suggest reading his paper to have a greater understanding of what he and other Christians are struggling with (please note, while he does touch on some of the atonement models, I do not believe they are all captured correctly as he is trying to make his own point about his model). Some will agree with his view while others will not. Some may even say it is not-essential and move on. What this prompts us to is what do we think about our salvation and in particular how does atonement work. What did Jesus really do? What was the process in accomplishing this work? And also, what is my own personal atonement model?

We must think about what we believe Jesus did, what the Father did, and though some things may be uncomfortable to think about, truly reason and conclude about the tremendous sacrifice of Christ, the punishment he endured and paid for us, and the atonement that believers have. We must wrestle with what is a part of atonement and how it works. As we wrestle with these ideas and concepts, we begin to go to a place of greater appreciation for Christ. The Cross starts to get bigger. Our salvation becomes sweeter. Our love for Christ grows. Our love for the Father, His plan, His sovereignty increases.

As we discuss atonement and the many violent aspects of it, it is important to remember our audience. We can’t hide or distort what Christ did or His sacrifice, but when we talk to victims of violence and abuse, we must be sensitive. We must tell of the substitution and the satisfaction and the victory. But as with all things, we must know our audience.

As we read Denny Weaver’s article, we were asked to reflect on it and think about certain questions. I would encourage you as well to reflect on your beliefs and what you believe about atonement. Here are my responses to the questions:

  • According to Weaver, why is violence such a major part of most evangelical atonement models? Who is the source/cause of the violence?
    • According to Weaver, violence is a part of divine retribution. Since sin creates an imbalance, the violence in the atonement models assumes that the imbalance is corrected by the punishment of death. Weaver uses the analogy of the criminal justice system to show that doing justice means to inflict punishment, which is understood as violence. Weaver points to other models where Jesus, in passive submission, endures unjust suffering for the sake of others. All forms of atonement assume the violence of retribution or justice based on punishment, God’s law or honor receives the necessary death that it demands for justice and to pay that debt. Since sinners cannot pay their own debt, Weaver says these atonement models depend on God-induced and God-directed violence. God is seen as the divine avenger or punisher and as a child abuser, who arranged the death of one Child for the benefit of the others.
  • Do you agree with Weaver’s answer to that question?  Why or why not?
    • The sacrifice and death of Jesus was a violent act. I would tend to agree that violence found in atonement models is a major part of the language and story. What Jesus did and accomplished for believers by His substitution, representation, and identification will cause one to think of the suffering He endured and is a major theme of the atonement models. The death of Christ cleansed us from sin and satisfied the wrath of the Father. Redemption for sins was accomplished through the blood of Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice is a part of the story of atonement. In addition, much of our language about atonement uses warfare or violent language, including a number of violent metaphors. Violence is deeply embedded in our psyche and world.
  • Granted that you might not agree with Weaver’s model of the atonement, does he point out anything you should consider in your own theology?
    • We are to care for all people and show courtesy, respect and charity. We are all created in the image of God and people for whom Christ died. Christians should seek justice for the oppressed and marginalized.
    • While we cannot conform to the way of the world or change the Gospel message, Weaver brings up a good point to consider when presenting the Gospel, especially to those who have experienced violence and abuse. We need to be mindful of the language that we use when presenting the Gospel message. If we are not careful, the way the Gospel is presented could sound like an endorsement of violence or abuse to certain audiences.
    • Weaver mentions that what sinners need is the resurrection of Jesus because that is where the victory of the reign of God is. As we also saw in class, many atonement models focus on the death and sacrifice of Jesus and do not mention the resurrection to the degree that it deserves. For me, the death and burial of Jesus is not the only thing to be mentioned in discussing atonement, but His resurrection and victory over death should be brought up or thought about more to help speak of the atonement.
  • Is it possible to move away from the violence in the atonement while remaining faithful to the biblical text?
    • Yes, I think it is possible. First and foremost, we must remain faithful to the biblical text and story. At the same time, it is good to be aware of the audience and think about their background. It is good to be intentional and careful of the metaphors and descriptions that are commonly used in describing the events. Substitutionary atonement cannot be discarded for the satisfaction of God’s wrath as they are essential components of the story. It is important to be careful of the language and expressions.
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Examination of Imputed Sin pt.1

We now turn our attention to further examining imputed sin. Where does it come from? What is it? Does it differ based on different denominations? Are there different views on this? If so, what do they believe? This post and the following post will start to examine these questions and hopefully provide more information on this doctrine and offer a glimpse at the beauty of what Christ did.


 

Examination of Imputed Sin

In the judicial and theological sense, to impute is to attribute anything to a person or persons, upon adequate grounds, as the judicial or meritorious reason of reward or punishment.[1] “To impute sin, in Scriptural and theological language, is to impute the guilt of sin.”[2] Guilt does not mean a corruption or fault, but the legal obligation to satisfy justice. The consequence of imputation is more than merely an infliction but a punishment; an evil imposed in execution of the penalty of law and for the satisfaction of justice.[3] So far as the meaning of the word is concerned, it makes no difference whether the thing imputed is sin or righteousness; whether it is our own personally, or the sin or righteousness of another.[4] The Reformed and Lutheran theologians admit that in the imputation of Adam’s sin to humans, of human’s sins to Christ, and of Christ’s righteousness to believers, the nature of imputation is the same, each illustrating the others.[5] Continue reading

The Gospel Story in a Postmodern World

This past semester I was required to watch a Czechoslovakian short film called “Most” (translated “The Bridge” in English) as part of a class. This film was nominated for an Academy Award back in 2004 for best short film. As a lover of film and photography, I was excited to watch this film and it was simply amazing. The writing is captivating, the cinematography is brilliant (and regardless of whether you watch this film for what I have to say below, just watch it for the brilliance that is displayed), and the music is wonderful.

What made this film more interesting for me is that it was part of a soteriology class (a class on salvation). The professor does a wonderful job at stressing to the students the importance of being culturally relevant. That is, he wants the students to be theologically sound, hear what culture is saying and yearning for,  but also identify ways of connecting with culture and how to share the gospel message through a variety of ways.  What is the message that a person, group, or community is saying. What is that culture or person worshipping? What are the themes or narratives of the story? What is the story and how does one relate to it? Throughout this class, we have listened to songs from mainstream artists to Christian artists to those who were once Christian artists and now are not. Obviously, music and film is a huge factor in society.

In today’s day and age, connecting with the audience through storytelling is vitally important. Typically, being in a postmodern world, connecting with people is all about the story. If we think about how the Gospel message was shared during the Modern era, it is drastically different, not better or worse, just different. Change has brought adaptation. It is a different era. People of today tend to connect through stories. A more recent example is to think back to 20 – 30 years ago and the widespread use of tracts that the church community would use to share the gospel with a non-believer. While those still exist as well as other “older” and different techniques, in dealing with an ever changing world that is always connected and loves their social media, Christians have adapted and tried to venture into different avenues of telling the Gospel story.

The Bridge is a film that really stuck with me. It captivated me and engrossed me into the story. I went in not knowing what it was about or the outcome, but left with an appreciation for what the filmmakers did. The Bridge is an example of talented people sharing the Gospel message through film. It is an example of how we as Christians can show/tell the beauty and majesty of Christ and His work to a generation or population that connects with stories and film.

As a person who adheres, follows, and believes in a literal hermeneutic, there will be many that watch this who say that is not “really” the gospel message. There were many in my class who said or thought the same thing. The reason is the story does not tell the whole story of the gospel. It does not give the viewer insight into the Trinitarian relationship of the Father and the Son and how they put a plan into place for the redemption of the world. It does not show Jesus making a choice. Instead, it shows a split second decision of the father (which is far different from the All-Knowing and wonderful Father).

I say this with caution, watch the film and remember the various parts of the gospel. The cautionary part is to just watch, not through the literal lens of all the film didn’t cover, but through the lens of reflection and contemplation.  Through the lens of a father that made a choice. A choice that was not easy. You may have to put your allegorical hat on. You could also call it a modern parable if you wanted. It is a parable that tells and conveys a message of sacrifice, redemption, and hope.

Some will say, “Well, there is no resurrection.” That is a valid point. There is not a true resurrection of the boy. However, at the end of the film, you are left with a boy that looks very much like the son that died and a father that was sad at how much he lost. Upon seeing the boy, the joy returns with the father raising his arms, essentially seeing the sacrifice was worth it.

The message will focus on the sacrifice and decision of the father. It will show the lengths the father goes to in order to save all those passengers who were doomed and never knew it. There are many today that are walking around searching for answers. There are many who are broken and lost, who have turned to addictions to ease the pain. Many seek to fill the void with things (or “broken cisterns”) that will never leave them satisfied. We have tried to fill this emptiness left by sin with counterfeit gods that only leave us worse off and dissatisfied. Our lives yearn to have that fellowship with our Father that was lost. We long for the Garden.

There is hope though. That fellowship is repaired through Christ. Many have heard or seen the illustration that between God and man there is this canyon or valley that exists because of sin. Christ came, died, rose from the grave, ascended into heaven and will come back. The Cross and Christ essentially bridges the gap between Holy God and sinful man.

The topic of culturally relevant theology is a discussion for another post, but after seeing this amazing film I wanted to share it with you. Many have probably seen it, but think about the title. Think about where this happens. The analogy of the father making a decision by sacrificing his son to save the many has been used in several evangelism models. It is popular enough that you may have even used once before. This brings that analogy to life. The anguish, the hurt, the reluctance, the death, the sorrow, the pain, and the decision all come to life in this beautiful story.

I love the Gospel and love the Gospel story. I am not advocating changing the story or conforming it to “trick” someone into believing. As Christians we are to be strong and faithful to the true and accurate faith in Christ. Yes, I know there are many other stories/films/songs that show the gospel either overtly or covertly, but what I love about this film is how the Gospel story is being shown in a way that relates to this postmodern world. It meets those that are broken in hurting and shows how hard it was for the Almighty Father to sacrifice His only Son. As popular songs and movies play, they show the great need for a Savior and how culture looks for a Savior in all the wrong places. This movie meets the people where they are at with a story of brokenness and redemption. It leaves the viewer with gratitude, thanksgiving and hope.

A whole series and book could be produced on what stands out and touches each of us as we watch the film. What may have been impactful to us once, may be different the next time. Meaning, not just with this film but with songs or other films, a certain portion may stand out to us based on our life circumstances at the moment. If we were to listen or watch it again during a different life stage, something else may stand out. Film offers a wonderful way to share the Gospel. This film stirs inside questions and emotions and thanksgivings for what our Father did, and what our Savior did and endured. It shows that no matter how lost or broken or downtrodden a person may be, God can redeem, bring healing, and restoration.

I ask that you would spend the 30 minutes to watch the film. I gain nothing from it and in no way have any ties to it, nor do I get any monetary benefits. I love this film. Just watch. If nothing else moves you, look for the scene where the snow is falling in front of the camera and see the beauty of the snowflakes. See what comes out of pain. Place yourself in the fathers shoes, what decision would you make? What are ways we can relate the gospel to modern culture that we possibly have not done before?

Ministering in the Spirit

As the series continues on what the Gospels show us on the Spirit, today’s post will focus on what Jesus taught about the Spirit in regards to ministry. What does it mean to minister in the Spirit? Many things can go into this ministry term. There are items like intercessory prayer, listening to the Father, obeying the Father, seeking God and obeying Him as He leads you.

These type of items lead us to think what is my ministry in my current environment? At the workplace or at home, what type of ministry has God called me to? This may change and there will be different seasons of ministry. One season, may be ministering to your family by encouragement, love, support, service, etc.

Maybe your ministry is at your workplace. My current situation, I work in an environment that is surrounded by people of the Hindu faith. I did not choose that type of ministry, but that is what God has currently called me to. It can be something grand like sharing the Gospel message with those around you. It could even be starting a lunchtime Bible study. Or inviting co-workers to church. But lets not forget the importance of the day-to-day and the minutiae of the daily grind. This is where the mission field comes alive. It is the being there for your fellow human, listening to their stories and what is happening in their lives. This is where the invitation to church and the sharing the Gospel message gets it footing. (Because I feel there may be some confusion on this sentence, let me explain. Anyone can go to a stranger and share the Gospel or invite someone to church without any problems. God will use that how He sees fit. For example, if on my first day [or week] of a new job, I invite people to church or share the Gospel, it could be met with some difficulty since the other person does not know me. But, as I do life with them and work with them, be an example, get to know them, it allows the invitation to have more traction because we have done some amount of life together. Their comfort with me and knowing I am not some weird person, will have them be more likely to listen to what I am presenting, plus it allows me to have that background on what their needs and struggles are. All that being said, when God calls you to something, it is best to obey and not delay).

God has put each of us in our current mission field. We may or may not have every expected this is what we would be doing. But as believers, we are all missionaries. We are all ministers. Ministry is not just for those in a church/parachurch organization. Ministry is part of our Christian faith. We are to follow God and obey Him in whatever our setting because He has put us there for a reason. As a believer, you are a minister. God has called you to something that He specifically designed you for. Let us live for God and embrace that ministry all in the power of the Holy Spirit. All we can do is obey, the results and the kingdom building is in God’s hands.


The first mentioned theme Jesus discusses about the Spirit’s teaching ministry is that of unveiling the prophetic Scriptures. “He will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:12-15). What also should be observed from this passage is the indwelling Spirit will glorify Christ rather than Himself. Also, the “all things” riches that are to be imparted are the things not only of Christ but also amplified to include the things of the Father.[1] A dominant theme in the John 14-16 discourse is Christ announcing that the coming of the Holy Spirit into the world would continue Jesus’ ministry.[2] When Jesus speaks of the Spirit’s coming, He is emphasizing the Spirit’s ministry of bringing truth to the saved (John 16:13) and the unsaved (John 16:8).

The promise and prayer of Christ to ask the Father to send the Spirit (Luke 11:13; John 14:16) to abide with believers forever is definitively answered. Christ introduces the theme regarding the work of the Spirit in this age that an unregenerate person cannot make an intelligent acceptance of Jesus as Savior until the preliminary work of the Spirit has enlightened an unsaved person’s heart (John 6:44).[3]

In order to enter the kingdom of God, one must be born physically (born of water) and spiritually (John 3:5-8). The second birth of the Spirit are evidence of the remarkable work that the Father does and continues to do in the regenerate person’s life.[4] “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life,” (John 6:63; see also John 3:34) refers to the Spirit as a life giver and depicts Him as the source of spiritual birth. This section is important because it shows the Spirit active in Jesus’ proclamation and also necessary in the reception of the Christian message. John (7:39; 14:15-17) and Luke (11:13) present the Spirit as a gift of the Father conditioned upon belief in Christ in answer to His prayers. The Spirit indwells the believer and as He hears the divine instructions originating from Christ for the believers specific needs, the Spirit will convey that message to the one whom He abides in.[5] This includes the conviction of sin and call to repentance (John 16:8-11).


[1] Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 6, 223.

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 5 (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 151.

[3] Ibid, 153.

[4] S. H. Mathews, “The Holy Spirit in the Gospel of John,” American Journal of Biblical Theology, accessed 25 January 2015, http://www.biblicaltheology.com/Research/MathewsSH01.pdf.

[5] Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 5, 156. Also see Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 6, 37.

Research notes for the provisions of the year of jubilee

The continuation of the small research involved in the year of Jubilee paper. I share this in an effort to show where the paper was formed, some influences on my own opinion, but also to show what some scholars think and say about this topic. We don’t always get to see too much of the details behind the scene that these scholars do. We may see snippets of their work here or there, but they have such deep knowledge of things that this becomes almost an “ode” to all those who have invested so much time and effort into these individual topics.

  • Provisions
    • four main provisions applied.
      • 2.1. Land Return. This is perhaps the main provision of the Jubilee year, without parallel in the sabbatical year. In the Jubilee year, any land that had been sold in the previous forty-nine years was to be returned to its original family of ownership according to the Mosaic land distribution [1]
        • The theological motivation for the Jubilee law of land return was that the land belonged to Yahweh, so the law regarded Israel as being “aliens and tenants” with Yahweh (Lev 25:23). Israelites technically were stewards of the land, not its owners. This theology of the land undergirds the whole Jubilee legislation. The land, of course, is crucial in the OT for the *promises and purposes of Yahweh as well as being an indicator of the relationship between Yahweh and Israel.
        • The overarching principle for land ownership and tenancy is found in verses 23–24. The land is YHWH’s; the people of Israel were resident strangers on his land. Therefore, they had no right to sell it irretrievably. Thus, both buyer and seller were to recognize the temporary nature of their arrangement and anticipate the eventual return of the land to the seller or his family. [2]
        • If possible, kinship structures were to prevent the control of land from leaving the family. If, however, land must be sold, it must be sold commensurately with the number of years remaining until the Jubilee, for in that year, the land is to be returned to its original owner.
      • 2.2. Release of Israelite Slaves. In addition, Israelite slaves were to be released (Lev 25:39–43). Presumably the return of land coinciding with slave release would give freed slaves the resources to make a new start. A distinction is made between Israelite slaves and foreign slaves; the provision of release did not apply to the latter (Lev 25:44–46). Even if an Israelite became a slave of a resident alien, the right of redemption still applied, so that Israelite slaves could redeem themselves if they prospered or a family member could redeem them. The details in Leviticus 25 regarding slaves make it clear that slaves were to be treated generously and not harshly. The theological undergirding of this law is that the people of Israel are the servants of Yahweh who redeemed them from Egypt (Lev 25:55). This is not unlike the theological motivation regarding the sabbatical law of slave release (Deut 15:15). This theological expression also relates to the land-return law. Both land and Israel belong to Yahweh.[3]
        • If it becomes necessary for an Israelite to come under another’s authority as a tenant, this person is to be treated with compassion and released in the Jubilee year. However, if slaves are acquired from the surrounding nations, they are kept as property, and, presumably, not released in the Jubilee (vv. 44–46). Finally, if an Israelite farmer is indentured outside of his clan, a kinsmen has the first right of redemption, and if this is not possible, then the farmer is to be released in the year of Jubilee. [4]
      • 2.3. Cancellation of Debts. If, as has been suggested above, debt repayments were suspended during the sabbatical year, then in the Jubilee year they were cancelled entirely. Though Leviticus 25 does not explicitly discuss debt cancellation, the return of an Israelite to his land plus the release of slaves implies the cancellation of debts that led to slavery or the loss of land (see Sloan, 7–9). Related to this provision is the proscription of interest charged to fellow Israelites (Lev 25:36–37). This provision is also grounded in Yahweh’s redemption of Israel from Egypt.
      • 2.4. Fallow Land. As in the sabbatical year, the land was to lie fallow in the Jubilee year (Lev 25:11–12). Similar to God’s provision of *manna in the wilderness, the year preceding the sabbatical and Jubilee years would produce sufficient for the fallow years (Lev 25:21).[5]
        • Rest for the land. The command for the land to rest is given first. Here, YHWH gives his assurance that if they are faithful to keep his command to give the land its rest, the Israelites will not lack food. Rather, YHWH will bless the crop of the sixth year so that it will produce a crop sufficient for three years (vv. 21–22). Thus, the crop of that year will provide for the year itself, the next year when the land is resting, and a third year, the first year of the new cycle, while the people are waiting for the crops to come in again. [6]
      • During this year of joy and liberation the law stipulated three respects in which the land and people were to be sanctified: (1) It was to be a time of rest for the soil as well as people (Lev. 25:11). The unattended growth of the field was for the poor to glean and for the beasts of the field (Exod. 23:11). (2) All land was to revert to the original owner (Lev. 25:10–34; 27:16–24). The original distribution of land was to remain intact. All property which the original owner had been obligated to sell (and had not yet been redeemed) was to revert (without payment) to the original owner or his lawful heirs. Some exceptions to this pattern are noted in Lev. 25:29–30; 27:17–21. (3) Every Israelite who had sold himself—either to his fellow countryman or to a foreigner settled in the land—because of poverty and remained unredeemed was to be freed along with his children (Lev. 25:39–46).[7]
      • The use of the ram’s horn was significant. With this horn God announced His descent on Mt. Sinai, called Israel to be His people, received them into His covenant, united them to Himself, and began to bless them (Exod. 19:13, 16, 19; 20:18).[8]
        • The year began on the Day of Atonement “. . . to show that it was only with the full forgiveness of sins that the blessed liberty of the children of God could possibly commence.”[9]
        • No sowing or reaping was to take place, as during the sabbatical years (v. 11). God promised to provide for His people as they rested in response to His gracious promise (vv. 18-23).

[1] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[2] Chris bruno

[3] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. 703

[4] Chris Bruno

[5] Barker, P. A. (2003). Sabbath, Sabbatical Year, Jubilee. In Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[6] Christorpher Bruno, “’Jesus is Our Jubilee’…But How? The OT Background and Lukan Fulfillment of the Ethics of Jubilee,” in JETS 53/1 (March 2010) 81-101.

[7] Brand, C., Draper, C., England, A., Bond, S., Clendenen, E. R., & Butler, T. C. (Eds.). (2003). Year of Jubilee. In Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers. 1694

[8] Thomas Constable, “Notes on Leviticus,” Internet, available from http://soniclight.com/constable/notes/pdf/leviticus.pdf, accessed 22 November 2014.

[9] Keil, C. F., and Franz Delitzsch. The Pentateuch. 3 vols. Translated by James Martin. Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament. N.p.; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d. 2:458

A Visual Synthetic Chart of Leviticus

In the past few posts, we have discussed the key themes to Leviticus and I showed how I would breakdown the book by sections. For this post, I want to provide you a visual tool of what my synthetic chart of Leviticus looks like. This will hopefully provide greater clarity on the two previous posts. Note, will many charts and outlines there are some small and minor variances, so others may see something different than I do.

First, at the top of the chart is the theme. This is a very short and concise statement on the book, almost think of it as a headline. Second, the Message Statement. This can come from the thematic outline that we did not too long ago. Basically, this expands the headline into a complete sentence about the books main message. To go with the message statement, we include the key verse for the book that supports our theme and message statement. For this example, since our theme was holiness, I used Leviticus 20:26 which says, “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own.”

Next, we try to break down the book into sections. These are the parts of the book that seem to go together, are continuous and do not touch on a different topic. For this book, we have seven different sections. As part of the sections, we want to do another message statement. This time we don’t have to include a key verse, but we do want to provide a good summary sentence that captures the main idea for that particular section.

Next, are the subsections which are the various different parts that make up the whole of that section. Many times this will be the paragraph headings in your Bible. With this, you will be able to focus on one certain topic and see how the other parts of that section all ties together. The next part of the synthetic chart is the verses that make up that subsection. Within that paragraph or subsection, the writer will pull together the ideas that make up that subsection. Think back to diagramming a sentence in your grade school days, this is essentially diagramming a subsection. For example, if we look at the first subsection under section 1 (Laws concerning offerings and sacrifices), which is titled “laws of burnt Offerings”, we see there are two parts to this. There is Moses being called by God, and God describing the burnt offering. Yet because they are cohesive, they are part of that subsection. This is one of the hardest things for me to do because I don’t always see a very clear distinction, or I think something should be a subsection on its own. This takes a lot of practice but will be very beneficial in seeing how the book ties together. Part of this, is also providing paragraph titles in your own words for that section of verses. This will help to see what those verses talk about and provide a short headline that describes that section.

Finally, the last phase of the synthetic chart is the various themes that are seen throughout the book. Not every chapter and verse will have the same theme and not every theme will be in all the chapters and verses.  This tool provides a way to see the various themes throughout the book, where they appear and the frequency at which they appear. To do this, simply identify a theme for a particular passage, and note it under the paragraph titles and verses that are above. For example, Holiness seems to be predominant in chapter 2, verses 1 to 3 and verse 10. So we note it under the two verse sections that make up chapter 2. But, the Atonement them goes from chapter 4 to chapter 6 verse 7, so we have a long section that is noted under all of those verse sections. Part of doing the subsections, verses and paragraph titles is to help one see the themes that keep surfacing.

This is a very tedious and laborious process, but it is one that is so beneficial. It can really take your Bible study and community group teaching/Sunday school teaching to another level. This is a really great practice for getting more out of your Bible reading and helps to provide understanding to what you just read. Here is what the chart will look like:

synthetic chart of leviticus

 

Dividing the Book of Leviticus

In this post, we will continue to look at the different divisions within the book of Leviticus. This will describe my viewpoints as to why book can be divided into the various sections. This will make more sense when I post the full synthetic chart in the next post. This post is to provide reasoning and research as to why I have divided the book as such and what other commentators or authors have said.

The reasoning for dividing the third section entitled, “Laws of Purity”, between chapters eleven and fifteen are because this section mainly focuses on what God describes as clean and unclean. This is God’s call for the Israelites to be pure before Him with God detailing the cleanliness of creatures, purification after childbirth and skin infections.

The fourth section details the “Day of Atonement”, following the NAC and NBD, I choose to not include the Day of Atonement in the “Law of Purity” section because it seems to require its own section based on the information.[1] While it does talk about purity and cleanliness from sin in the atonement sacrifices, the chapter that is rich with information differs just enough from the previous section that it did not fit. At the same time, I did not feel it belonged in the next section because that focuses on holiness and the Holiness Code that it appeared to have a more singular focus on just the Day of Atonement.

The Laws of Holiness,” which is the fifth section, covers the chapters from the Holiness Code (17) to the Sabbath year and Year of Jubilee (25). The main sources I relied on for this section break was the NAC and the Holman Concise Bible Commentary which did not include chapter 26 in this section.[2] This division occurs mainly because the theme of this section is for the people of Israel to be holy just as God is holy.

The sixth section, “Blessing and Curse,” focuses mainly on obedience and the consequences of Israel’s actions. Commentaries seem to be split on whether this section stands alone or is part of the previous section. I choose to separate it as its own division since its main focus is obedience and the blessings or curses the people will receive for their disobedience. That is not to say that obedience is not part of holy living, but to include it in the previous section does not appear to do this chapter justice.

Similarly to the previous section, the final section, “The Law of vows and Tithes,” does not fit with the previous chapter. This section mainly focuses on the vows and tithes that the people do in regards a variety of different objects. This section introduces regulations that were not previously mentioned or suggested in Leviticus. “It is a simple fact that the laws in Lev. 27 are fundamentally different from the subject matter in the chapters that precede it, for these laws cover voluntary things.”[3] Since this section is so different from the previous and the rest of the book, I kept it separate.

The book of Leviticus can be divided up into different ways with some differing over the divisions of chapters 16 and 26, but overall Leviticus speaks to the reader to follow the Lord and be holy. While some may agree or disagree with these divisions, from my research, it appears to me that this is a logical way of outlining the book of Leviticus.

[1] Rooker,  Leviticus 79. Gispen, “Leviticus, Book of” 683.

[2] Merrill, The Pentateuch 37.

[3] Allen P. Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002) 487.

Bibliography

Gispen, W. H. “Leviticus, Book Of.” Edited by D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996.

Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1982.

Ross, Allen P. Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2002.

Merrill, Eugene H. “The Pentateuch.” In Holman Concise Bible Commentary, edited by David S. Dockery. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Rooker, Mark F. Leviticus. Vol. 3A. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985.

Leviticus: A deeper look

In the next few posts, we will take a deeper look into the book of Leviticus. This exercise will take the outline that was discussed in a previous post and develop a further breakdown of the book. The synthetic chart is used to divide the book into sections that seem to be similar. This grouping will be helpful in the overall study of the book as well as seeing what the author’s focus is.

There is probably not that much attention paid to Leviticus but as one dives deeper into the study of this book, the beauty and majesty of God can be seen. Leviticus displays God’s holiness and His desire for His children to be holy. He will take measures to protect His holiness from the unholy Israelites.

SYNTHETIC CHART OF LEVITICUS

Leviticus expresses God’s holiness and His requirements for Israel’s holiness; it provides guidelines for the means by which God provides atonement for sin through sacrifice. Leviticus, which refers to the “book of priests” or “that which concerns the priests,” provides instructions for Aaron and the priests to keep the people of Israel holy just as God is holy.[1] The overall burden of the Book of Leviticus was to communicate the awesome holiness of Israel’s God and to outline the means by which the people could have access to Him.[2] Leviticus is a literary expression of God’s desire that His holiness be reflected in the life of His covenant people Israel.[3]

The main themes that I noticed throughout the book of Leviticus were holiness, atonement and sacrifice. First, the holiness of God and His call for the Israelites to be holy because God is holy. Next, the offering of sacrifice was the foundational act the Israelites utilized to worship God through obedience to the sacrificial guidelines God provided. Finally, the reconciliation between God and His people by the shedding of sacrificial blood as a substitute so that the Israelites may be declared clean, pure and redeemed.

Major Divisions in Leviticus

The major divisions of Leviticus can be broken down into seven major sections. Some commentaries and authors divide into five or six sections, but in an effort to maintain the integrity of chapter sixteen (The Day of Atonement) and chapter 26, I have decided to let them stand alone instead of grouping them with other chapters. Although, the New Bible Dictionary also suggests dividing the book of Leviticus in this manner.[4]

The first major section focuses on chapters one through seven and is titled, the “Laws Concerning Offerings and Sacrifices.” The reason for this division is because this section mainly focuses on the sacrificial offerings which include the Burnt, Grain, Peace, Sin and Guilt. The rest of this section, Leviticus 6:8-7:38, mainly involve the instructions for Aaron in making the sacrifices. Some have suggested that Leviticus 6:8-7:38 should be included in the next section on priestly ordination, but I agree with Victor Hamilton who states, “Leviticus 6:8-7:38 is not only a supplement to the information given in 1:1-6:7, but also specific instructions to the priests concerning their obligations in the sacrificial ceremonies.”[5]

The second major section, “Ordination of the Priest,” involves chapters eight through ten. The main idea of this section is the ordination of the priesthood and sacrificial system and the consequences for failing to follow God’s holy guidelines. There are three main subsections involved in this, of particular note is the death of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, who did not follows the requirements that God had laid forth. This section was specifically for Aaron and his sons and did not fit in the sections before or after.

[1] M.F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000) 23.

[2] Eugene H. Merrill, “The Pentateuch” in D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998) 37.

[3]F. D. Lindsey, (1985). Leviticus. in J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985) 172.

[4] See W. H. Gispen, “Leviticus, Book Of,” Edited by D. R. W. Wood, I. H. Marshall, A. R. Millard, J. I. Packer, and D. J. Wiseman. New Bible Dictionary (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 683.

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook of the Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids:Baker, 2005)  251.

Key Themes of Leviticus

This is a very brief, high-level overview of the book of Leviticus. It is designed to break down the book into sections that are easily distinguishable and provide a guide for Bible Study and improve memorization of a book.

First, we want to look at exactly what is a theme and provide a definition for it. Next, in order to reinforce our understanding of a ‘theme’ in a Biblical interpretation way, it is beneficial to form a personal definition of the word and how it is important.

As one goes through a book of the Bibles, in this case Leviticus, several themes can typically be seen. Sometimes, this can also be influenced by what is happening in a persons life and those particular ideas keep coming up. For Bible reading, the Spirit will guide and lead the reader and as they are open and listening to His leading, there will be several ideas, themes, topics that will keep coming up. There are times that the Spirit is working in us to get our attention. In general, these themes will make be fairly clear as they keep coming up in the text.

After the themes have been identified, it is good to develop a simple and concise message statement about that book. Essentially, a headline for the book. This simple, short statement will be much easier to remember than trying to think of all the different topics or events that occurred.

Finally, develop a working outline for the book. This helps in teaching Sunday school classes, adult community groups and is very beneficial for personal study. This will help in breaking the book into manageable sections to see the message the Author/author was conveying to the reader. Furthermore, this will bring greater clarity and understanding about the book and its themes.

KEY THEMES TO LEVITICUS

First, using 3-4 sources, define the meaning of “themes” (words repeated). Second, explain the importance of themes for Biblical interpretation.

  1. Theme is defined as “a particular subject or issue that is discussed often or repeatedly” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). It is also defined as “a unifying or dominant idea, motif” (“theme,” Dictionary.com). In reference to biblical interpretation, it is the “The outstanding and abiding truth (theological proposition, big idea) of the passage” (Dr. Bailey’s BE101 class notes Spring 14).

Thus, a personal definition of theme is the main subject, concept or idea that is repeated and therefore conveys the overarching motif.

  1. Themes are an important part of the Biblical interpretation because the reader takes the observations, interpretations, and applications to provide a simple and concise statement and correlate a theme to one’s life. The most reliable guide to knowing and interpreting what a story is about and what the writer wishes the reader to know is through the use of themes by means of the principle of repetition (“How to Read the Bible as Literature and get more out of it”, Leland Ryken, 1984, p. 59). Authors use themes to reinforce the key ideas or concepts that they want the reader to know. Identifying the themes and how they relate to one another in the text is a helpful tool to understanding its meaning.

Third, Identify key themes in Leviticus. (people are not themes.)

  • Holiness – The holiness of God and His call for the Israelites to be holy because God is holy.
  • Sacrifice – The offering of sacrifice was the foundational act the Israelites utilized to worship God through obedience to the sacrificial guidelines God provided.
  • Atonement – The reconciliation between God and His people by the shedding of sacrificial blood as a substitute so that the Israelites may be declared clean, pure and redeemed.

Fourth, formulate a message statement for the whole book. Fifth, develop that message in a concise working outline (with chapter and verses).

  1. Leviticus expresses God’s holiness and His requirements for Israel’s holiness; it provides guidelines for the means by which God provides atonement for sin through sacrifice.
  2. Outline of Leviticus
    1. God provides a way for Israel to approach Him by the atonement of their sins to become holy and pure through sacrifice (Chaps. 1 – 16).
      1. God provides guidelines for the laws of the sacrificial offering system for Israel and the priests to worship and be restored to Him (Chaps. 1 – 7).
      2. The ordination of the priesthood and sacrificial system and the consequences for failing to follow God’s holy guidelines (Chaps. 8 – 10).
      3. God establishes laws of purity and the Day of Atonement to cleanse and atone for Israel’s sins (Chaps. 11 – 16).
    2. God’s requirements for Israel to be holy just as He is holy through the setting forth of conditions for holiness (Chaps. 17 – 27).
      1. The Holiness Code enacted by God to protect His holiness from Israel’s sin and provide ways for Israel to be holy just as God is holy (Chaps. 17 – 25).
      2. The covenant blessings for obedience and curses for disobedience to the requirements of holiness (Chap. 26).
      3. The guidelines for vows and tithes that are to be set apart to the Lord (Chap. 27).