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Recovering the Scandal of the Cross: Atonement in New Testament & Contemporary Contexts Paperback – August 24, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


"Joel Green and Mark Baker offer a richly-textured interpretation which does justice both to the variety of models of atonement in the Bible and to the varieties of postmodern culture. This is thought-provoking theology for a mission context." (Stephen Travis, formerly Vice-Principal of St. John's College, Nottingham UK)

"In the second edition of Recovering the Scandal of the Cross, Baker and Green continue the important conversation about the doctrine of the atonement by responding to new proposals and to critics of the book's first edition. . . . Most helpful is their insightful treatment of non-Western views of the cross which pushes forward evangelical attempts at cultural contextualization without sheer accommodation. Everyone interested in cutting-edge theological thinking about the atonement must read this second edition." (Roger E. Olson, professor of theology, George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University)

"By focusing on the importance of narrative context, language and metaphor, this book recaptures some of the mystery and complexity of New Testament views of atonement. Besides engaging recent debates on the salvific meaning of the crucifixion, this revised edition surveys New Testament, historical, and contemporary models of the atonement, revealing unintended side effects of a contemporary model of penal satisfaction. Scholars and pastors will gain from the insights of this clear and well-researched study--one that shows the necessity of doing theology that relates to the mission of the church in every context and generation." (Frances S. Adeney, William A. Benfield Jr. Professor of Evangelism and Global Mission, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary)

About the Author

Joel B. Green is dean of the school of theology and professor of New Testament interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky. Among his several books are The Gospel of Luke, and (with John T. Carroll) The Death of Jesus in Early Christianity.

Mark D. Baker is assistant professor of mission and theology at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California. He is the author of Religious No More: Building Communities of Grace and Freedom.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; Probable 1st edition (August 24, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0830815716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0830815715
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,040,225 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joel B. Green is Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary.

Prior to his appointment at Fuller Seminary in 2007, Dr. Green was Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky (1997-2007), where he also held administrative positions first as Dean of the School of Theology and then as Vice President of Academic Affairs / Provost. He has served on the faculties of the American Baptist Seminary of the West and Graduate Theological Union, and New College Berkeley, Berkeley, California, a graduate school of Christian and interdisciplinary studies for the whole people of God.

He is the editor of the New International Commentary on the New Testament, co-editor of the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary, and editor of the Journal of Theological Interpretation.

Dr. Green has served churches in Texas, Scotland, and California, and presently serves as Teaching Pastor of La Canada United Methodist Church, La Canada, California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

99 of 110 people found the following review helpful By David Eagle on November 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
The book offers a critique of the penal substitution model of atonement. Penal substitution is found through evangelical theology, and enjoys wide popularity today (see for example Christianity Today's "Call for Unity" of June 14th for a list of theologians and authors who consent to this view). The book begins with an examination of the various "models" or "ways of speaking about atonement" present in the New Testament. The authors argue that the New Testament writers did not present only one view of the atoning work of the cross, but instead presented a variety of metaphors and models that were rooted in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and connected to the specific contexts of the writers.
The book then proceeds to survey some models of atonement from church history, looking at thinkers such as Irenaeus, Anselm, Charles Hodge and others. With respect to Hodge and penal substituion, the authors argue that Hodge's notion of justice is too deeply entrenched in a Western idea of justice, and can lead to a warped view of God. The book concludes with examples of people who are trying to re-articulate the saving significance of the cross today in their own specific contexts.
This book is an important book because it highlights the need for evangelical Christians to think seriously about how to contextualize the message of the atonement. If missionaries in Africa or Japan need to contextualize the gospel, why shouldn't Western Christians do the same? This book is a call for Christians in North America to re-engage their culture with a message of the cross that speaks clearly into their situation.
This book is also important because it offers a balanced, biblical critique of penal substitution.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Bill on May 18, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book gave me a glimpse of a bigger cross than the one I learned in church. As a pastor, I am embarrassed at how long I described the work of Jesus on the cross as merely Jesus taking the punishment I deserve. Jesus came to rescue the broken, not just pay an overdue bill.

My conversations with those that do not know Jesus are so much richer today because of my understanding of the multiple facets of the cross. No, I can no longer pencil it all out on a napkin, but people respond to Jesus b/c he meets them where they are at. Their story becomes his story.

The world needs to see Jesus, the Gospel, the cross through multiple facets - I like this Jesus!
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mierek on March 14, 2007
Format: Paperback
What is scandalous about the cross of Jesus and why do Christians need to recover it? According to the authors, the cross is scandalous insofar as it turns all the categories of the world--failure and success, master and servant, sin and redemption--upside down. Not only are Jesus' disciples in the Gospel of Luke confounded by the apparent failure of his mission (i.e., dying on a cross rather than leading Israel as newly anointed Davidic king), but also the entire project of salvation involves God becoming human and DYING out of his love for humanity. Contemporary mainstream American Christianity, with its self-assured and monochromatic emphasis on individual salvation through God's redemptive violence, too often misses the subversive and countercultural dimensions of the scandalous cross. In this powerful examination of the models and meanings of the cross in Christian history and theology, Green and Baker provide an antidote to this monochromatic gospel by revealing the ambiguity of the cross and challenging the reader's preconceived notions about what the New Testament itself says about salvation in Christ.

For the earliest followers of Jesus, his death "on a Roman cross was an event that lacked within itself a self-evident, unambiguous interpretation" (11). In fact, according to the authors, while the earliest Christians affirmed the centrality of Christ's death on the cross to their salvation, they didn't seem to worry too much about how it had its saving effect.
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24 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Jacob on December 13, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book could have been a really good book. There are genuine philosophical and theological problems to a "substitutionary only" approach to the atonement. Unfortunately, these authors gave the same pat 19th century liberal gospel approach. I was dissatisfied. I wanted to see hair fly and punches connect.

The main bad guys are Anselm and Charles Hodge. Even their critiques of Hodge, and I have problems with Hodge, were pathetic. They could have really nailed him. And they thought that answering Hodge answered all of the Reformed objections. It didn't.

I do not think they dealt as fairly with St Anselm as he could have. David Bentley Hart (*Beauty of the Infinite*) has shown how St Anselm and St Athanasius do not fundamentally disagree. Another problem I had is that biblical students need to see that the Bible incorporates all 3 models of the atonement (Mark 10 = substitutionary; Colossians 2:15 = Christus Victor; Peter 2:21 = exemplary).

Lacking in Power? The early church, particularly in its Eastern manifestation, set forth a powerful view of the atonement where Christ triumphed over the powers. This is missing from this book. Skip it. Read Rene Girard for an interesting take on the substitutionary atonement.
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