2014 Synoptic Gospels

Session 1

Introduction to the problem

The Temple and the Cross in Mark: Another look at Christus Victor

Elizabeth Shively 

The purpose of this paper is to suggest an expanded view of the atonement in Gospel of Mark that takes into account Mark’s presentation of Jesus’ conflict with Satan. I argue that Jesus, by his death, defeats Satan and liberates human beings from satanic power, particularly the power to deceive. My approach is to analyze the characterization of Satan and Jesus in Mark, and the narration of two related texts in light of related themes in the larger story: Jesus’ prophetic act in the Temple that leads to his death (11:15-19), and the crucifixion scene in which Jesus’ death is tied to the tearing of the Temple veil (15:33-39). I demonstrate that both texts mimic exorcisms and belong to Jesus’ struggle against satanic power. In addition, both texts are indicative of human perception about the work of God. The Temple scene indicts its authorities for their failure to recognize Jesus and for their complicity in preventing the nations from understanding the Temple’s proper use. The scene at the cross changes the trajectory of human misperception: at the moment of Jesus’ death and the tearing of the veil, the centurion confesses that Jesus is the Son of God. Somehow, Jesus’ death is a victory over the powers that keep people in bondage, by illuminating human understanding to see Jesus.

Session 2

He was numbered with the lawless (Luke 22:37): Substitution in Luke’s Passion Narrative

Monique Cuany 

Luke’s gospel has often been considered as downplaying if not eradicating the atoning significance of Jesus’ death. Indeed, famously Luke omits the ransom saying from Mk 10:45. It is further pointed out that he does not intimate that Jesus’ death has substitutionary value when Jesus declares that Isaiah 53:12 must be fulfilled in him in Luke 22:37. This essay re-examines the function of the quotation of Is 53:12—“He was numbered among the transgressors”—in Luke’s passion narrative. Far from an insignificant allusion to the suffering servant, it argues that Luke develops the theme of substitution throughout the passion narrative, showing Jesus as suffering the punishment which should have been inflicted on those around him. While several exegetes have identified such ironies in Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ trials, this paper examines this development in detail.

Did Luke believe that Jesus’ death had any ‘redemptive’ significance?

Michael Flowers 

The term “redemption” appears several times in Luke’s writings and is certainly not restricted to Jesus’ death, but it should not be understood in isolation from it either. In the opening scenes of Luke’s Gospel the stage is set for redemption to occur. When Zechariah’s tongue is loosed he declares (proleptically) that God “has redeemed his people” (Lk 1:68). Anna is said to have awaited “the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:68). The next we hear of redemption is shortly after Jesus’ death, on the road to Emmaeus where the distraught disciples lament: “But we had hoped that he (Jesus) was the one to redeem Israel.” Jesus then rebukes them. The point here seems to be that the disciples had failed to appreciate the redemptive significance of Jesus' death. I maintain that in ch. 22 Luke emphasizes the connection between Christ's "passion" (pascho) and the "Passover" (pascha) festival, suggesting that his death was the fulfillment of this "type." This word play was not unknown in the Jewish world. The textual issue in Lk 22:19b-20 would also be discussed in this context. There are good reasons for thinking the verses were original to Luke. In the crucifixion scene, the differences between Lk and Mk with respect to the temple curtain being torn are probably not theologically significant and we should avoid reading too much into them. Paul's farewell statement to the Ephesian church in Acts 20:28 can only mean that Jesus' death was an atonement for sin. Luke has accurately preserved Pauline thought here and this suggests that he held similar thoughts.There may have been reasons as to why Luke’s presentation about Jesus’ death is more subtle. But if we look carefully we need hardly conclude that in Luke’s thought “there is no … direct soteriological significance drawn from Jesus’ suffering or death” (Conzelmann) or that in Luke's writings “Nothing is said of the saving significance of the cross of Christ” (Vielhauer).

Session 3

Drinking the blood of the covenant

Tim Carter 

There is surprisingly little common ground between the four versions of Jesus’ cup word at the Last Supper: there is a cup and Jesus says something about his blood and the covenant; if shared tradition is taken as evidence of historicity, this is pretty meagre fare.  Yet we can be reasonably confident of one thing: the disciples all drank the wine which Jesus identified with his blood, notwithstanding the strongly-held Jewish taboo on blood consumption. This paper utiltises this act of drinking what has been identified as blood as a way of exploring Jesus’ understanding of the atoning effects of his death. Those who shared in the wine were engaged in a covenant-making ritual, and it will be suggested that in symbolically breaking this ancient taboo Jesus was displaying a unique authority in asserting the atoning significance of his blood. The paper offers an exegesis of Lev. 17:11: rather than offering a definitive understanding of how blood effects atonement the text should be read as an example of gazerah shawah, juxtaposing a reference to the life being in the blood with the comparatively rare view that blood atones for one’s life, thereby arriving at the notion that the life in the blood atones for the life of the worshipper. Thus the only OT offering an explanation of how atonement works is an exercise in creativity: Jesus developed this creative tradition in the words he said over the cup and this trend is developed further in the different versions we have of his cup word as well as in the wide range of sacrificial interpretations of his death in the New Testament. The meaning of the atonement can be explained, but can never be exhausted, by the range of metaphors available in and beyond the pages of the New Testament.