Friday, August 24, 2007
Jesus' Life, Death, and the Atonement
Steve Bryan in his (luke-warm) review of Scot McKnight's book, Jesus and His Death, in the March edition of JETS, has a very good introduction to his review:
In teaching courses on Jesus, I have often asked this question: "Would it matter if Jesus had died in a rickshaw accident in Calcutta or by a stray bullet in inner-city Los Angeles or as a tuberculosis victim in Addis Ababa as long as he died as the sinless Son of God?" My purpose in asking this question is to provoke students to consider the way in which evangelical soteriology is often abstracted from the historical circumstances in which Jesus lived and died, cut off from the story of Israel and often even from the story of Jesus' own life. Many evangelicals have never considered the way in which the individual confession that "Jesus died for me", or the universal confession that "Jesus died for the word" is tied in Scripture to the particular story of God's dealings with Israel. The reticence of evangelicals to take up the study of the historical Jesus is perhaps symptomatic of the real challenge that such study presents to evangelical theology. That is not to say that evangelical soteriology need be threatened by the study of Jesus as a person with aims and intentions that were sensible within a first-century Jewish context. Rather, it is simply to point out that much evangelical soteriology is formulated in such a way as to take little accont of Jesus' own understanding of his death. Against this tendency, Scot McKnight's work faces squarely the historical question of Jesus' understanding of his death. There is much to praise in McKnight's work, but its greatest contribution is the clarion call to anchor soteriology in the mission of Jesus, especially in Jesus' interpretation of his death.