The Greek Syntactical, Exegetical Analysis of Christ’s Atonement In the eyes of many, Jesus’s death on the cross was his failure because it got rid of him, and he never succeeded in his mission. I want to analyze his Atonement in the light of Greek syntactical exegesis of what the New Testament says and means in one or two directions which show not failure, but entire success of his mission. The cross was half of the point, the resurrection the other half. I cannot possibly do an exhaustive description of all angles of the Atonement, but there are some which can be given reasonable exposure in a brief description of what the Atonement means. This will be such a paper, a tight focus on key Greek syntactical, exegetical terms and concepts, elucidating what it all means for us from the Christian New Testament point of view. There are things we humans just cannot do, being powerless. We die. That’s it. No, that’s a full stop. That’s it. Done. So let’s take a look at Jesus’ Atonement in that light, along with the forgiveness of sins, which, whether we like it or not, we are also powerless to do in God’s eyes. We don’t get to simply commit sin and do evil, then look into a mirror and say I forgive myself! It doesn’t work that way. Key texts with syntactical, exegetical importance I will look at are, for the most part, with nods to a few others in support, will be Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28; 1 Timothy 2:6; 1 Peter 1:18-19, 1 John 3:16, because of the important Greek word clusters and terms and their meanings used to bring us light on the Atonement. The death and suffering of Jesus is just unreasonable. To the world it actually is quite a load of foolishness, lets face it, it makes very little sense why God would do that. Now, this is the visceral, blunt, surface reaction of our seeing suffering, hate, evil, etc., of which the cross has been seen as exactly that. It causes bewilderment from those who misunderstand. But there is another view to look into. C. H. Dodd, the great classical Christian scholar, notes the cross, while manifesting a suffering man, is also Jesus’ self-giving with a motive of pure love, since that is why God is said to have given his only-begotten Son (John 3:16), this giving of his all of his own Being it is therefore possible for humanity to receive, which we interpret as a sacrifice, which originated in love, which, “consequently [comes] to possess a positive value.” It’s a loving gift of eternal life with God, turning our short-sighted grasp of sacrifice, suffering and death, into a positively astonishing gift after all, of Eternal Life of love, which is God’s entire point of it all. Mark 10:45 is as good an entry point as any in this. Και γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωοπου ουκ ηλθεν διακονηθηναι αλλα διακονησαι και δουναι την ψυχην αυτου λυτρον αντι πολλων - “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The neuter noun λυτρον - “lutron,” is one word in a Greek word cluster used throughout the Old and New Testaments, the New Testament will be the main focus in this short paper. The basic idea is concerning a ransom for a price, from the Greek λυω “luo” - to free those in prison, ”the cognates are properly applied to redemption...particularly clear is the connection of λυτρον itself with price...there is no occurrence of the word in the LXX (Septuagint - the Greek Old Testament) without a price being expressed or clearly implied. As far as the New Testament writers were imbued with the LXX outlook, they must have had in their minds some idea of deliverance by payment of price when they used the words of this word group.” In the Oxyrynchus papyri λυτρον is seen as a ransom, a releasing of a vow, while in the vernacular, the verb λυτροω has the view of redeeming something like property or clothes, etc. With the preposition αντι “Jesus contrasts what he surrenders with what he gains. He surrenders his life and obtains the many who are liberated. The thought is also in the background that by his death Jesus stands in the place of those who are in bondage to sin and death, and suffers in their stead in which sets them free… the ransom has not only an atoning but also a liberating aspect. The many are set free not only from guilt, but also at the same time from its consequences, death and judgment. Deliverance from guilt and deliverance from death is the same process.” αντι carries the idea of “in place of,” For the many in Mark 10:45, the plural genitive adjective πολλων, “have not merely forfeited a favorite possession but their very lives, themselves; and what Jesus gives them is His very life, Himself. What he does on their behalf is simply to take their place.” Spicq describes the First Century logic in their thinking - “Humans, being slaves of darkness and sin (Rom. 6:17; 20; Col. 1:13) were incapable of liberating themselves (Matt 16:26) and Christ gave his life as the price from their emancipation. This meaning of λυτρον - price of deliverance (of a slave or prisoner), ransom - is the meaning in the Old Greek Testament - LXX - and the disciples understood it spontaneously , since emancipation from servitude or captivity upon the payment of ransom was so common in the first century.” In just one place in the New Testament is the hapax legomenon singular accusative noun αντιλυτρον combined for an intriguing emphasis joined with the Greek preposition υπερ, at 1 Timothy 2:6 - “Who gave himself a [vicarious] ransom (αντιλυτρον υπερ) for all, to be testified in due time.” The preposition υπερ “Seems to have arisen from the image of one person standing or bending over another in order to shield or protect him, or of a shield lifted over the head that suffers the blow instead of the person (cf. υπερασπιζω “cover with a shield”)” The Greek υπερ “has a substitutionary meaning. “The prefixed αντι- reinforces the idea of substitution already present in the λυτρον concept, and so even if the υπερ were taken with the meaning ‘for the benefit of,” (one of its possibilities within certain contexts), the concept of substitution would be present in the text.” As Swete said, the entire theme of Christ’s life was service, though also being served by angels and women and men, the theme was his service to mankind. The Greek passive verb διακονηθεισα used at 2 Cor. 3:3 is in connection with services rendered, and as Blass observed, it is used with reference to the person who receives service. As Swete noted the uniqueness of Christ’s sacrifice - “The disciple may lose his life, the Master can only give it in the fullest sense. Further, while the disciple parts with his life for the sake of Christ and the Gospel, the Master gives it as a αντιλυτρον υπερ πολλων, His death is to be a supreme act of service to humanity.” With Matthew 20:28 - the singular accusative feminine “to give his life” - δουναι την ψυχην αυτου - which is the essence of his service. The aorist infinitive here has no time limit, it is his life’s work “to give.” “The sole significance of the preposition [αντι] in each New Testament context is that of substitution and exchange.” “Paul [at 1 Timothy 2:6] uses a noun which combines the noun and preposition in a single word, which thus appears stronger than the simple λυτρον suggesting a ransom which has been completely paid, an atonement that has been effected… the addition of the preposition αντι - ‘instead of’ - is significant in view of the preposition υπερ, ‘on behalf of,’ and in place of all, on the grounds of which freedom may be granted.” In the previous verse, (1 Tim 2:5) it was noted that there is one God, and one mediator between God and humans, who is Jesus Christ. The syntax places Christ in the middle as the intermediary between God and humans. And it specifies that “he gave a [vicarious] ransom for all” in order to actualize the salvation willed by God. In essence, “he reconciled those whom sin had set at variance. This is not a temporary assignment, but his permanent function: the God-Man was, so to speak, born to be the Peacemaker!” “As with λυτρον so with αντι, both imply substitution… the aorist tenses indicate that the allusion is not to a lifelong sacrifice but to one definitive act of self-surrender. God somehow makes the death of Jesus help in the salvation of others. It is in this more special sense that Jesus gives his own life for the sake of many lives.” Mark 14:24 - “This represents my blood of the covenant that is poured out for many”… reflects Isaiah 53:12 - “he poured out his life unto death… he bore the sins of many.” וְהוּא֙ חֵֽטְא־רַבִּ֣ים נָשָׂ֔א - we-hu het rabbim nasa - “He bore the sins of many,” the hebrew verb נָשָׂ֔א here from a primitive root meaning to lift or to bear. He bears the sins of the many instead of them having to bear the sins, i.e., substitutes their burden for his own. “The analysis of the 22 New Testament uses of αντι leads to the conclusion that apart from only 6 instances where this preposition joins another word to form a virtual conjunction, it always expresses or alludes to a substitutionary exchange.” While Mark 10:45 points to a substitution, it is even clearer in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “where the price of our redemption is given as ‘the precious blood’... we find the price mentioned and an evil condition from which the ransoming has freed us. There is a substitutionary thought, for it is Christ, not the sinners, who has paid the price, so that He is acting in their stead in His redeeming death.” The precious blood - Τιμιω αιματι “timio haimati] - is a dative of means, the how this is going to be accomplished, while χριστου - “Christ” is the possessive genitive which modifies the explicit occurrence of the blood [αιματι] and the syntax here and in the next verse “serves to clarify χριστου as the referent of the participles in the next verse which emphasizes Christ.” Now for the other critically important syntactical preposition in 1 Tim. 2:6, “Who gave himself a [vicarious] ransom (αντιλυτρον υπερ) for all, to be testified in due time.” I have explored the αντιλυτρον with considerable profit, and now we shall see the really powerful application of the other preposition (only used all together in the New Testament here, namely the preposition υπερ, and its nuances which shed light on Christ’s Atonement as understood by the Early Christians of the New Testament. Though not common in classical Greek, υπερ with the genitive concerns with the death of one person in the place of another as Xenophon leaves some evidence. Εθελοις αν ω Επισθενες υπερ τουτου αποθανειν - “Are you willing, Episthenes, to die instead of this boy?” The Early Christian Church Father Irenaeus referenced the Lord in this manner: “who gave his soul for our souls (υπερ των ημετερων ψυχων) and his own flesh for our flesh (αντι των ημετερων σαρκων - Haer. 5.1.2) John 11:50 is quite interesting. “You even fail to realize that it is in your interest that one man die for the people than that the entire nation perish.” This is the high priest Caiaphas to the Jewish leaders. Υπερ obviously means substitution since Caiaphas describes how such a death “for the people” makes sure “the entire nation” is not destroyed. Here, the death of one (as a scapegoat) can be a substitute for the death of many. “As John sees it (vv. 51-52), Caiaphas has unwittingly expressed a theological profundity: Christ’s suffering is vicarious and redemptive.” The syntax leads directly to this conclusion. “In 1 Timothy 2:6 υπερ gains a substitutionary sense under the influence of the αντι- in αντιλυτρον and the αντι- of Mark 10:45.In the overall context of New Testament theology, the sense of the verse is this: as enslaved to sin (Romans 6:17) humans are incapable of freeing themselves (Matthew 16:26), but Christ’s act of self-surrender paid the price for the deliverance of all people.” The exegetical syntax leads directly to this conclusion. Paul used υπερ with the idea of gaining favor through the sacrifice, as a starting point of faith and confession belonging to the oldest strata of Christian tradition. The pericope at Romans 5:8 - χριστος υπερ ημων απεθανεν - “Christ for us died,” and 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Thess. 5:10; 2 Corinth. 5:14f; Galatians 3:13 “are passages in which Paul develops the atoning significance of the death and passion of Jesus with the help of typological trains of thought… Jesus in his death vicariously took upon Himself the mortal curse (Deut. 21:22f and 27:26) which the Law brings and itself represents. He did so υπερ ημων, i.e., it brought salvation to us, to those under the curse.” “God took death to Himself in Christ, it lost its destructive character and became a creative divine act. Thus the resurrection is grounded in Christ’s death. This death removed sin and it therefore removed death. Life grew out of it… death is overcome for those who make this death their own in faith, so that Christ can be called the πρωτοτοκος (εκ) των νεκρων - “Firstborn out of the dead” (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; Rom. 8:29). This leads us right back to Mark 10:45 and Matthew 20:28 - Και γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωοπου ουκ ηλθεν διακονηθηναι αλλα διακονησαι και δουναι την ψυχην αυτου λυτρον αντι πολλων - “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The aorist infinitive verbs here interestingly shows the syntax leads to exegetical insight. The first verb is passive - “not to be ministered to,” and then it becomes the aorist active - “but to minister,” and again another active - “to give his life.” This doesn’t give us the means or answer our question of how? It gives us the what. It’s not the predictive future, but rather the summarized action, no length of time is indicated. It is just a “snapshot” fact, this is what Jesus came to do. It helps us see Paul’s determination when he says “For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21) “This text illustrates two other points of Greek syntax: (1) The subject has the article (in the first clause, since on of the substantives has the article and the other is a proper noun [in Paul], what determines the subject is the word order; and (2) the tenses of the infinitives are lexically informed. It is no accident that the first infinitive is present (“to continue living”) and the second is aorist (“to die”).” We see this similar lexical informative syntax at John 5:26. ωσπερ γαρ ο πατηρ εχει ζωην εν εαυτω ουτως και τω υιω εδωκεν ζωεν εχειν εν εαυτω “For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also he has given to the Son to have life in himself.” The “anarthrous infinitive functions as the direct object. Notice too, the “he has given” is aorist, while “to have life” is present infinitive. And as he also has the power of life in him, so the power of his ability to forgive is based on His Father, exactly as His power to have life, after freely giving it up, is freely given back. “His right to forgive rests finally on the divine service which He renders in His death. Without this it would not be possible. Hence, this service rendered in His death is in fact the ransom for many. Since full remission cannot be separated from the person of Jesus, it cannot be separated from His death.” Endnotes 1. C. H. Dodd, “The Authority of the Bible, Harper Torchbooks, 1958: 215-216. Cf. James D.G. Dunn, “Unity and Diversity in the New Testament, An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity,” SCM Press, 3rd printing, 2006: 18. 2. “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” (10 vols), Gerhard Kittel, editor, William B. Eerdmans, reprint, 1975, Vol. 4:328. Hereafter cited as “TDNT.” 3. Leon Morris, “The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross,” Wm. B. Eerdman, reprinted 1976: 27. Hereafter cited as “APC.” 4. J. H. Moulton, G. Milligan, “Vocabulary of the Greek Testament,” Hendrickson, 2nd printing, 2004: 383. Hereafter cited as “VGT.” 5. Colin Brown, ed., “Dictionary of New Testament Theology,” 4 vols., Zondervan, 1986, 3:196. Hereafter cited as “DNTT.” 6. “TDNT,” Vol. 1: 373. 7. Ceslas Spicq, “Notes de lexicographie neo-testamentaire,” translated by James D. Ernest, “Theological Lexicon of the New Testament,” 3 Vols., Hendrickson, 2nd printing, 1996: 2:426. Hereafter cited as “TLNT.” See “The Expositor’s Greek Testament,” (5 vols.), Eerdmans, reprint, 1976, 2:636 - “There is no absolute independence for man; our nature requires us to serve some master.” Hereafter Cited as “EGT.” 8. Murray J. Harris, “Prepositions and Theology in the Greek New Testament,” Zondervan, 2012: 207. Hereafter cited as “PT.” 9. Daniel B. Wallace, “Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics,” Zondervan, 1996: 388. Hereafter cited as “GGBB.” 10. Friedrich Wilhelm Blass, “Grammatik des neutestamentlichen Griechisch,” translated by Henry Thackeray as “Grammar of New Testament Greek,” Forgotten Books, 2012: 184. 11. Henry Barclay Swete, “Commentary on Mark, The Greek Text with Introduction, Notes and Indexes,” Kregel, 1977: 240. Hereafter cited as “CM.” 12. Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, “Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Gospel of Matthew,” Alpha Publications, 1979, the exact reproduction of the 1884 German edition, p. 356. 13. “GGBB,” p. 365. 14. “DNTT,” p. 197. Also “CM,” p. 241 - “αντι belongs to the imagery of the λυτρον.” See also Bauer, Gingrich and Danker, “A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature,” 2nd ed., University of Chicago Press, 1979: 73, where αντι with the genitive is found in Homer, the papyri, the LXX, Josephus, “in order to indicate that one person or thing is, or is to be replaced by another, instead of, in place of, etc.” Hereafter cited as “BAGD.” 15. “TLNT,” 2:468. Cf. Wesley J. Perschbacher, “New Testament Greek Syntax,” Moody Press, 1995: 190 - “αντι with the genitive indicates, among others, substitution, equivalence, reason, exchange, and contrast,” [depending on context]. Hereafter cited as “NTGS.” Cf. “CM,” p. 241 - “The Lord contemplates a λυτρον which is ψυχη αντι ψυχης (Levit. 24:18) His own ψυχη given as a ransom for the ψυχαι of men.” 16. “APC,” p. 37-38. Also “TDNT,” 5:710, note 435 for many scriptures. 17. “PT,” p. 56. Cf. “VGT” p. 46 - “By far the commonest meaning of αντι is the simple ‘instead of.’” [in the Oxyrynchus papyri from Egypt of the Early Christian period]. 18. “APC,” p. 39. See also “TLNT,” 1:27 which ties in 1 Peter 1:19 with Rev. 5:9, and Eph. 1”7. Cf. “EGT,” 5:51-52; See also “TLNT,” 2: 428. Also worthy is Mark Dubis, “1 Peter, a Handbook on the Greek Text,” Baylor University Press, 2010: 32 - “precious blood like the blood of an unblemished and spotless lamb.” Cf. J. D. G. Dunn, “Messianic Ideas and Their Influence on the Jesus of History,” in James H. Charlesworth, editor, “The Messiah, Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity,” The First Princeton Symposium on Judaism and Christian Origins, Fortress Press, 1992: p. 380 - “Mark 10:45 is as likely to have been influenced by Daniel 7 as by Isaiah 53.” See also the interesting comments in Gerd Theissen, Annette Merz, “Der Historische Jesus: Ein Lehrbuch,” translated by John Bowden, “The Historical Jesus, A Comprehensive Guide,” Fortress Press, 1992: 421. Also Dale C. Allison, Jr., “Constructing Jesus, Memory, Imagination, and History,” Baker Academic, 2010: 81, 428-429. See Dennis R. MacDonald, “The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark,” Yale University Press, 2000 for amazing insights into the influence of the Greek Homeric materials Mark had access to and used. Also Dennis R. MacDonald, “Mythologizing Jesus, From Jewish Teacher to Epic Hero,” Rowman & Littlefield, 2015: 59-61. 19. Mark Dubis, “1 Peter, A Handbook on the Greek Text,” Baylor University Press, 2010: 32, 33. 20. “PT,” p. 211. On p. 215 it says υπερ is the broader term, meaning both substitution as well as advantage (“for the benefit of”), while αντι is the narrower word confined to expressing substitution. Cf. Wesley J. Perschbacher, “The New Analytical Greek Lexicon,” Hendrickson, 11th printing, 2010: 418 under υπερ showing, depending on context, the wider use and application of the preposition. See also Spiros Zodhiates, “The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary,” World Bible Publishers, 1992: 1411-1413. See “BAGD,” p. 838 - “υπερ with the genitive of the thing, in which case it must be variously translated υπερ των ααρτιων in order to atone for (the) sins or to remove them (Galatians 1:4; Heb. 5:1b; 7:27; 9:7).” 21. “PT,” p. 212. Cf. “VGT,” The Greek can also shade into meaning “in exchange for,” in the Christian Coptic papyri, p. 46. 22. “PT,” p. 215. See also “TDNT,” 1:450. Cf. “EGT,” 4:105. 23. “TDNT,” 8:509. Cf. “TDNT” 8:59 for this giving Christ the power. See “TDNT,” 6:55 - where the Greek preposition περι can also be used “when the reference is to the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of His people.” Cf. “TLNT,” 1:28, note 9. Also “PT,” p. 214. Also “EGT,” 2:625 - “How greatly is this utmost love of man surpassed by the love of God.” Also “EGT,” 3:169-170. See also James D. G. Dunn, “The Theology of Paul the Apostle,” Eerdmans, paperback, 2006: 222. As well see James D. G. Dunn, “The New Perspective on Paul,” Revised ed., Eerdmans, 2005:Ch. 3 for in-depth analysis, which, amazingly enough has caused many German Lutherans to claim Dunn is being anti-Lutheran! This book is his entire, thorough, and weighed, thoughtful response. 24. “TDNT,” 3:18. Cf. “DNTT,” 3:202 - “Although God does not deliver Jesus from death in the way that might have been expected, he delivers him in a deeper sense in the resurrection.” 25. “GGBB,” p. 558. P. 555 for the idea that the aorist is like a snapshot instead of a motion picture. Cf. Rudolf Bultmann, “Die Geschichte der Synoptischen Tradition,” translated by John Marsh as “History of the Synoptic Tradition,” Hendrickson, 1963: 148-150. 26. “GGBB,” p. 601. Cf. Jerry L. Sumney, “Philippiians, a Greek Student’s Intermediate Reader,” Hendrickson, 2007: 28. See also “NTGS,” p. 61. Also Donald Harman Akenson, “Saint Saul, A Skeleton Key to the Historical Jesus,” Oxford University Press, 2000: 229 - where he is somewhat uncomfortable with Paul’s attempted connections to Christ. Paul can come across unbelievably bold in paralleling himself to Christ. 27. “GGBB,” p. 602. Cf. “EGT,” 2:741 - concerning John 5:26, “the particles mark the fact of the gift and not the degrees of it.” 28. “TDNT,” 4:346, 347. See also “TLNT,” 3:253, note 23.