Reviews - What do customers think about The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament?
Brilliant. But of course it's brilliant if it's by Hengel Nov 13, 2008
In case you're wondering who Martin Hengel is: he's the Emeritus Professor of New Testament and Early Judaism at the University of Tubingen, Germany. Oh yes. And he's the most widely respected biblical scholar in the world.
He is so justly famous that every scrap he produces is translated and published again and again.
"Atonement", is very short--a mere 107 pages. Yet it is very powerful. A host of liberal scholars have argued that the doctrine of the atoning death of Christ did not exist in the beginning days of Christianity.
Hengel shreds their arguments to bits. There was a truly significant break with Temple cult in Jerusalem from the first moment of Christianity, as exemplified by the death of Stephen. This break "did not come without harsh resistance...This break was explained in terms of the revolutionary insight that the death of the Messiah...had brought about once and for all" (p 47).
"If Jesus had not messianic features...the origin of the Christian kerygma would remain completely inexplicable" (p 48). Furthermore, the time between the writings of Paul announcing the atoning death of Jesus, and calling Jesus God, was far too short--especially given the songs we see embedded in Paul's epistles--to allow for major dogma change.
Hengel points out: ""The decisive statements must in fact already have been formulated in Greek some time before the calling of Paul. Otherwise, there would have been no uproar against Stephen" (p 49).
Indeed, it is notable that the unity of the church was preserved from the first. As if could not have been "had the community in Jerusalem not shared this belief in the soteriological efficacy of the death of Jesus.
This brief glance at Hengel's book scarcely touches the complex arguments he makes.