“Given for You”: A Lucan Theology of Substitution & Atonement

· Papers

Jesus’ statement in Luke 22:19, “This is my body, which is given for you,” represents the most explicit teaching in the Gospel of Luke of the substitutionary character of the death of Christ. However, some scholars contend that this portion of the pericope is unoriginal to Luke’s Last Supper tradition, being omitted by Codex Bezae (D) and a few Italic and Old Syriac manuscripts. For example, Bart Ehrman writes that the passage “originally said nothing about the atoning effect of Christ’s body and blood.” He asserts that the text in question is inconsistent with the theology of Luke, which, he claims, does not associate substitution or atonement with the death of Christ: “The death of Jesus in Luke-Acts is not a death that effects an atoning sacrifice. It is the death of a righteous martyr who has suffered from miscarried justice, whose innocence is vindicated by God at the resurrection.” Moreover, he maintains that Luke does not assign any redemptive significance to the cross.

This essay is an examination of Lucan soteriology to discover what connection, if any, Luke makes between the death of Jesus and the forgiveness of sins. The primary text considered will be Christ’s Last Supper discourse in Luke 22:14-23. After evidence for and against the longer reading is briefly discussed, the pericope will be read in context with a view to what can be concluded regarding Luke’s understanding of the cross and whether he attributes to it a salvific character. Then this exegesis will be placed in the larger context of Luke’s Gospel and of a Lucan soteriology.

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