The true force of 1 Peter 2:24 has been called in question by those who seek not only to make Christ’s life vicarious, but His sufferings during the time of His active service penal. The thought that all the sufferings of that Blessed One have infinite value, and that they were all for us, every Christian heart would close in with adoringly. There may be obscurity of mind connected with it; but the heart is right. But when intellectual proofs are attempted to be given to sustain unsound doctrine on this point, so as to undermine the true character and value of atonement, and to cast a cloud on divine righteousness, it is desirable then to maintain the truth. I do not hesitate to say that those who speak of the appropriation of Christ’s living righteousness to us for righteousness, and hold the sufferings of His active service to have been penal and vicarious, have, in no case, a full, clear, and scriptural gospel. I am sure many who, from the teaching they have had, hold it, are as far as my own heart could desire from the wish to weaken the truth of atonement and the value of Christ’s blood-shedding, without which there is no remission. They have not seen the deep evil lying at the root of a doctrine which speaks of vicarious sufferings, and bearing of sins to which no remission is attached. I am quite ready to believe that the most violent accusers of the doctrine which looks to the sufferings of Christ upon the cross as the alone atonement and propitiation for sin do not wish to enfeeble its value. But we may enquire into the justness of all views which we do not judge to be scriptural, and press too with confidence what we find in scripture.
I do not believe in the penal and vicarious character of Christ’s sufferings during His active service, nor do I believe in the appropriation of His legal righteousness to me as failing in legal righteousness myself. I am satisfied that those who hold it have not a full, true, scriptural gospel; by some it is used for the maintenance of what is horribly derogatory to Christ. I have known many valued and beloved saints who hold that Christ, under the law, satisfied, by His active fulfilment of it, for our daily failure under it. I believe it to be a very serious mistake, though I may value them as His beloved people still. I believe in His obedience to the law; I believe that all His moral perfectness, completed in death, was available to me as that in which He was personally agreeable to God, and a Lamb without spot and blemish. But these are not the appropriation to me of legal righteousness. But I am not now purposing to go over all this ground; I merely maintain the ground on which I stand, and the doctrine which I hold as scriptural, and as of immense importance to the Church just now. I would do it meekly, patiently, that souls may be delivered from error and bondage into the liberty of the truth of God, which is the only real power of godliness; but I would do it firmly and constantly.
In the attempt to maintain the doctrine of Christ’s bearing sins all His life, the translation of the text I refer to has been called in question. I am satisfied that it is perfectly correct. As an element in this question, I would now examine it. The English version is, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” A simple person would, surely in reading Peter, refer to His sufferings in death. Thus, in chapter 3, I read: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” No one denies that Christ suffered, during His life, sufferings which found their perfection in His death, besides the wrath-bearing character of it; for He was obedience unto death, even the death of the cross.
But the question is, “Was there sin-bearing during His active service, or was He kept up as the Lamb to bear sin?” It turns on the word “bear,” anenegke. It is alleged that if it meant “bare,” it must be upenegke or ebastase or eblae. All this is a mistake. A sacrificial word is, I do not doubt, purposely used; but anaphero means “to bear, or undergo,” probably because sacrificial victims, which were offered up, were supposed to bear sins: at any rate, it does mean “to bear, undergo, sustain.” The truth is, determining the meaning of a word by etymology, in a cultivated language, is the most absurd thing possible. It is interesting as philological research; but as determining the usus loquendi, it is ridiculous. I might say “hell-fire” must mean “covering sins” (for it is the same word as “to heal,” used also provincially for roofing)—for the same reason, hence, that the fire of hell was purgatorial or remissory! It did originally mean a covered place, hades, and hence, gradually, everlasting punishment. Anaphero does mean to offer in sacrifice: it means “to recreate oneself, to remember, to cough up, to return, to cast the sin on another, to weigh or consider, etc. The question is, does it mean to bear, to undergo the pain and burden of? and, when used sacrificially, can it be separated from the altar of sacrifice? I say it does mean “to bear, undergo the pain and burden of anything”; and when used in connection with sacrifice, cannot be separated from actual offering up to God.
First, it means “to bear or undergo.” I must turn to the dictionaries for this, and the passages in which it is used. They leave no sort of question. It is only systematizing, and not the facts in the Greek language, which can lead any one to deny it. I turn to Stephanus. I find anapherein, ferri, perferre, pati, ut Christus dicitur, anenegkein, peccata nostra (1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 9:21). Citatur e Thucydide, anapherein kindunous, quod, durum sit redderet Ferre pericula: potiusque verti debeat, Subire pericula (better “to undergo,” that is, than “to bear”). The general sense of “undergoing the burden and pain of” is evident; and that is our point here. There is a reference in the beginning of the article to Aristides (I suppose, Ailius Aristides, the rhetorician), which I cannot verify. So Pape, auf sich nehmen ertragen, “to take on oneself”; “to bear” kindunous, Thucydides; phthonous kai diabolous kai polemon, that is, “envy, calumny, war,” Polybius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus. He adds, New Testament. Liddell and Scott give “to uphold, to take on one,” Latin sustinere (quoting Aeschylus (achthos) and Thucydides). It is thus perfectly certain that the word means “to bear the burden of anything, to undergo.” The etymological sense of “to bring up or back” is a mere absurdity here.
We have now to examine the scriptural use of it in connection with sacrifice, and in particular the passage in Peter. Anenegke is a sacrificial word. It is used here (if we are to take it as it usually is taken, as referring to Isaiah 53:12) for nasa, which means “to lift up, to bear, to forgive,” and here confessedly “to bear.” It is alleged—for I have considered diligently what is alleged against it—that it cannot mean “to bear passively with “, as would be the case with anenegke epi to. This is a mistake. Aaron was to bear the names of the children upon his heart (Exod. 28:29). So with the judgment, in verse 30.
It is said that Isaiah 53:4, is translated elabe by divine inspiration, and hence it could not be anenegke, in verse 12. But this proves, if anything (for the word may be translated differently in different places according to the sense, but if it be the Spirit’s purpose to make the difference here, it proves this), that He would not use a sacrificial vicarious word in verse 4, but would in verse 12 (that is, that the “bearing,” in verse 4, was not sacrificial, but is in verse 12); for Hebrews 9:28, that Christ was once offered eis to potion anenegkein amartias, are the very words of Isaiah 53:12. So that, if this is of any value, we have not an inference that it cannot be used in one place because it is not in another; and that Peter, if he had quoted it, would have used another word for “nasa “in verse 12, because Matthew did in verse 4 (an argument, when said to be from inspiration, which I decline characterizing), but a direct proof that inspiration will not use a vicarious sacrificial word as to Christ’s living sympathies and sorrows; but that it will and does use it when it speaks of bearing sins when offered up to God.
And now, leaving argument, which I am glad to do, what is the scriptural use of anaphero, in connection with sins and sacrifices, with or without epi to? The following instances will shew: Numbers 14:34, kai anoisousi ten porneian umon. The use of it in this passage is the more noticeable: save in Leviticus 20:19, the word always used for bearing the consequence of our own or a father’s sin (and under the old covenant this is the same thing), is lambano in the Septuagint. In Leviticus 20:19, it is aphoisousi. In Exodus 28:29, lepsetai ta onomata epi to logeion; and for the same words in verse 30, it is kai oisei tas kriseis epi ton. Indeed, the argument as to lambano may justly be carried much farther, for lambano is regularly used for bearing the fruit of one’s sin, bringing sin on oneself in its consequences. It is not bearing it vicariously, but as a consequence on oneself. The only apparent exceptions that I am aware of, and they are only apparent, are Leviticus 16:22, the scapegoat; and Ezekiel 4:4, 5, 6. But the first is lepsetai eis gen abaton, “He shall carry them in to a land not habited,” and in the case of Ezekiel, it was clearly not vicarious, but representative and the same as the ordinary case. In a word, amartian lambanein is not used for vicarious bearing, but bearing the consequence of one’s own fault, coming under the effect of it oneself, panas luere.
But what is important is to see the actual use of anaphero, when used with sacrifice. Numbers 14:34, and Isaiah 53:11, are plain proofs that it is used for bearing sins penally. But now, as to sacrifice. The reader must bear in mind that the act of having the sin on the victim is not in itself the expiation. That puts the victim in the answering place. For the other, death and the judicial action of God must come in to put it away. It must be slain and offered on the altar—as it is said, “by means of death.” Christ had to take our sins on Him, and therefore die—give His life a ransom for many. Every one, therefore, believes He had taken them on Him before He gave up the ghost. The question is, did He take them on Him in order to suffer on the cross, and suffer the penal judgment of them there, as the victim was brought up to the altar, then the sins confessed on his head, and then the victim itself, thus made sin, slain, and burnt? Or was Christ born into this penal state, suffering it before He actually gave Himself up to be offered on the cross? Was He under the penal consequences of sin in the sufferings of His active service—was that penally from God? or in the sufferings of the cup He took to drink upon the cross from God? I believe the latter—that it was after the victim was presented as an offering to the altar (in Christ’s case we must say presented Himself as a spotless victim to the cross) that the penal sufferings for sins were on Him, because our sins were on Him; and that it is to this bearing of sins alone that the passage in Peter applies. Christ offered Himself without spot to God. Jehovah laid, then, the iniquity upon Him. He who knew no sin was then made sin. Did the Lord lay the iniquity upon Him before He offered Himself without spot, a proved spotless lamb? One who knew no sin was made sin when He had bowed to His Father’s will to drink that cup.
Offering has, in scripture, a double character. It is used for presenting the victim, or indeed any offering, heevi or kikriv, “to cause to come nigh”; but anaphero epi to is not used for this, though in grammar I know not why it should not be. It is for hard causes in judgment in Deuteronomy 1:17, anoisete auta ep erne, “Ye shall bring them to me,” but not for offering that I can find. If the reader takes Leviticus 1 he will find for these words prospherein or prosagein, to bring up. This was the presenting the offering which was to be a victim. But as soon as the victim, or part of it, is spoken of as burnt on the altar (Lev. 3:5), then it is anoisousin auta epi to thusiasterion. So in verse 9, the general idea of offering is prosoisousi, hikriv, and in verse 11, the burning of it on the altar, anoisousin epi to. And this is the regular use of it in Leviticus, and elsewhere, as Exodus 29:18, 25; ch. 30:20; Leviticus 2:16; ch. 3:16; ch. 4:10, 20, 26, 31; ch. 6:15, 35; ch.7:21; ch. 8:16,19,20,27; ch. 9:10,20; ch. 16:25; ch. 17:6; Numbers 5:26; ch. 18:17. This last has the same force but there is not epi to thusiasterion. That is, anaphero epi to is the technical expression for consumption or offering up to God by fire, when on the altar, in contrast with bringing up to the altar. When epi to is not used, it has practically the same force when used of offerings—that is, offering to God; but anapherein epi to has the proper peculiar force of bearing them as a victim on the altar, under the consuming fire of God, not of bringing up to. It answers to hiktir, not to hikriv. It is impossible that the use of language can be made plainer by the facts of that use.
There is another word for which it is used, which confirms this, hala (Gen. 8:20; ch. 22:2: so Exod. 24:5; Lev. 14:19, 20); where the reader will remark, comparing verse 13, that in both cases, of the sin or trespass-offering and the burnt-offering, they are killed before they are offered in this sense of the word. In Christ both went together; He died on the cross. But it is of importance to remark it here, because it shews that hala, as well as hiktir, is not bearing the sins up to the altar, but the being offered (in consuming fire) on the altar to God. The word is used in some passages generally as a burnt-offering, an offering made by fire, the sense being assumed to be known; but this shews the strict sense is, the ascending up to God as a sweet savour, under the proving and consuming fire, not the bringing up sin to the altar. And this is so true, that as to these burnt-offerings were of a sweet savour, so no offering not made by a fire was a sweet savour. Compare Leviticus 2:9 and 12, determining the use of this word in the most positive way. They were to bring it up (takrivoo), as an offering, but they were not to offer it (yahaloo) as a sweet savour, very justly as to the sense translated “burnt” in the English. It was not to be made to ascend as a sweet savour—that is, to be burnt and mount up to God as such.
The general use may be seen in Numbers 28:2 and Deuteronomy 12:13, 14; chapter 27:6 is a proof that the horion of epi to, i.e., epi with an accusative (see below), is not so absolute, but proves that anoisei, in any case, does not mean necessarily bringing up to, for here it is used with the genitive. Judges 13:19, again shews distinctly what anaphero epi to means (here epi ten, because it was a rock); for it is added, “For it came to pass, that when the flame went up,” behaaloth, “from off” the altar. The victim was offered on the rock, and in the going up of the flame. That was what hala refers to, not the bringing up to the altar.
Additional cases will be found in Kings and Chronicles, David’s and Solomon’s offerings; but it is only repeating similar cases, which confirm, but are not needed, to prove the point. The words for which anapherein epi to thusiasterion are used (namely, burning or causing to ascend on the altar), and the uniform use of them, prove distinctly that the force of the word is the bearing under consuming fire on the altar, and not bringing sins up to it. I may quote another proof, strongly confirming the use of this word in 2 Chronicles 29:27. Verse 24, the victim was killed; verse 27, Hezekiah commands it to be offered, anapherein epi to thusiasterion. I add, on this occasion, it is never used for bringing or bearing sins up to the altar, it is used for bringing victims to the house; but this I quote, because there it is not epi. The sins were not yet upon them; they were the spotless victims that were to become sin-bearers, and sweet savours of offerings made by fire.
Anapherein epi to thusiasterion is never used for bringing or bearing sins up to the altar; what it is used for has been fully shewn. But the supposition that epi with an accusative means actively bringing up to, and then rest, is a mistake. There may be grammatically the idea by implication that that which is epi to is not always and naturally there; but as a matter of fact, it does mean resting on a place or thing at the time spoken of. Thus, Matthew 13:2, “All the multitude stood” epi ton aigialon. So Matthew 19:28, “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones,” epi dodeka thronous. Acts 10:17; ch. 11:11, epestesan epi ton pulona epi ten oikian. Winer’s “Grammatik “(section 583) may be seen for this use and the use of epi with a genitive for motion. See a singular example in Leviticus 3:5, the pieces of the peace-offering on the burnt-offering, epi ta—on the wood, epi ta—on the fire, epi tou. This may be from the fire being always there belonging to the altar, whereas the wood was brought there: ousin will be understood then before it. In many cases, I have no doubt that the real cause of the accusative is this; when the preposition of the compound verb implies motion, there will be the accusative though the whole sense will be rest. I do not think you would ever have einai epi to. With ephistemi anaphero, you will have the accusative; so eisteke epi to in contrast with Christ’s sitting in a boat on the sea; but Mark esan epi ges. But this is grammar, and I pursue it no farther.
It remains only to adduce the cases of anapherein, in the sense of bearing or offering. We have first Hebrews 7:27, “who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice; for this he did once when he offered up himself.” Now, here it is perfectly certain that it has nothing to do with the victim bearing sins up to the altar, but with what we have seen to be its usual and uniform sense—the high priest’s offering it on the altar, where it was a victim. So, also, we have distinct proof that it is no vicarious life, for He did it once when He offered up Himself, and it was for sins. When, consequently, it may have a more general meaning of giving Himself up to be a victim, we have the word used for that in Leviticus, prosphero, Hebrews 9:16. Hence we have in verse 28, “once offered [prosenechtheis], to bear [anapherein] the sins of many.” Thus He was once offered, and offered to bear sins as thus offered, of which it is said that He had not to offer Himself often, for then He must often have suffered; but now He has appeared once in the consummation of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself—that is, His offering, His suffering, was the sacrifice of Himself. His being born was not His sacrifice. He offered Himself—One who was a man, though by the eternal Spirit, or there could be no offering. That is, He was a man before He offered Himself, His own blessed voluntary act, the perfect act of Christ, though in obedience, and Himself already the spotless Lamb. He was thus the Man, the spotless One, to bear the sins of many. This, there can be no doubt, refers to Isaiah 53:12.
We have, further, James 2:21, “When he had offered up Isaac on the altar”; and 1 Peter 2:5, “Offer up spiritual sacrifices,” which give no proof, save that the last shews this, that it was the offering up to God, which is very important in this way, that it shews it was not the bringing up the sins when laid on the victim’s head to the altar. The offering of the victim to God is prosphero. The consumption on the altar was its offering up as a sacrifice to God; this is anaphero. The notion of bringing up a living victim to the altar is unknown to scripture; the animal was slain when he had been offered (prosenechtheis), slain by whom it might be, and the blood sprinkled on the altar, and the fat, or the whole victim burnt; the altar had to do with death and the judgment of fire, and there was the sacrifice. A living victim bringing up sins to the altar is a thought foreign and contrary to scripture. When the victim had been presented, and the hands of the offerer had been laid upon it, it was slain at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. Death was the way sin was dealt with in the victim (we know Christ’s death was on the cross, as well as the full drinking of the cup of wrath); the thought of bringing sins up livingly, as if He offered Himself and His sins, is an impossibility. No; He offered Himself, and bare (anenegke) our sins, when offered (prosenechtheis) as a dying victim. Death was the wages of sin. Thus I return to 1 Peter 2:24 with the full evidence of scripture and the Greek use of the word. All the scriptural order of sacrifice, and the language of scripture, confirming it, that the simple-hearted reader may rest in all confidence in his English translation, “He bare our sins in his own body on the tree.” The word “bear “has a sacrificial character; but that no Christian reader ever doubted in this passage.
I do not see, I confess, how any scriptural locution could be made more certain. I doubt that any other could have so ample and absolute a proof of its actual meaning, and refutation of the meaning attempted to be put upon it, and of the desired change in the authorized version.