Defending Substitution

Thomas Schreiner | May 22, 2015


Simon Gathercole. Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2015. 116 pp. $19.99.

Simon Gathercole’s work on the New Perspective on Paul, synoptic Christology, gnostic gospel writings, and other matters is well known. His latest book, Defending Substitution: An Essay on Atonement in Paul, examines the issue of substitution in the writings of the apostle. 

Originating in various lectures, Defending Substitution retains Gathercole’s lecture style, which also accounts for its brevity. The senior lecturer in New Testament studies at the University of Cambridge structures the book in simple fashion. Chapter one distills some objections to substitution from various New Testament scholars, and chapters two and three set forth a defense of substitution in Paul. (Gathercole examines 1 Corinthians 15:3 and Romans 5:6–8 respectively.) He sums up his case in the conclusion.

Modest Goal

Gathercole begins by considering the importance of substitution both for our understanding of the gospel and also for our personal lives. He defines substitution as Christ dying in our place so that he dies “instead of us.” Gathercole carefully delineates what he’s trying to do from what he’s not trying to do in this work. He’s simply defending substitution; he’s not defending penal substitution. He admits non-penal substitution does exist, as with the live…


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