Roger Greene’s A Theology of Paul the Apostle, Part Two: Cross and Atonement is a rich study of Paul’s unique contribution to the important Christian doctrine of atonement, exploring the question of how sinners can be reconciled to God. Note that this is the second volume of Greene’s work on Pauline theology. Helpfully, this book begins with an outline that includes the contents of part one: Paul’s Eschatological Gospel.
In nine chapters, Greene exegetes Pauline texts on the gospel and cross while also doing historical theology to examine historical atonement theories such as recapitulation, Christus Victor, moral influence, and penal substitutionary atonement (PSA). Throughout the book, the author engages with more recent works of scholarship such as those by Barclay, Wright, Green, and Fredrickson, while also giving careful attention to older works such as those by Bultmann, Ridderbos, and Käsemann.
Greene’s vocabulary aligns with other apocalyptic interpreters. He follows Beverly Gaventa and others who distinguish between “Sin” (denoting the enslaving power or force) and “sins” (denoting the deeds humans commit as a result of Sin’s power over them). Siding with J. Louis Martyn, Greene also suggests that God’s “righteousness” or “justice” is more accurately understood as “rectification” so as not to misconstrue God’s justice as a passive quality or static attribute (5).
One aspect of this book that stands out is Greene’s rejection of PSA. As someone who affirms PSA, I am always interested to learn about other perspectives, Green’s included. Greene cites and sides with Anthony Tambasco, a theologian whom I was unfamiliar with, to portray Paul’s view of the atonement as a “representative journey” (189). Greene’s position is that Jesus’ death “for us” was not “in our stead,” but rather “to our advantage” or “for our benefit” (267). I found the clearest statement of his atonement position in these words:
Jesus endured the worst that the power of Sin could effect, namely, death. God overcame both the power of Sin and the power of Death by raising Jesus from the dead. That same triumph is now available to those “in Christ,” those who live out of the Gospel of God (65).
The author’s critiques of PSA appear on numerous occasions, but I was hoping for a more expansive presentation of the author’s position. For me, Greene’s greatest contribution in this book is probably his historical study of atonement perspectives from the church fathers to the present. Readers of this book will encounter fascinating exegesis and unwavering affirmation that human beings find peace with God only through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Special thanks to Pickwick Publications / Wipf and Stock for a free copy of this book, for which they did not require a review. This did not affect my thoughts in any way so far as I know.