Atonement in 1 Peter – Reflections on Isaiah 53

By Larry J. Perkins, PhD

The epistle of 1 Peter offers a specific perspective on the understanding of Jesus’ death and its significance. The writer’s integration of material from the Fourth Servant Song of Isaiah (52:13- 53:12) provides one of the few places in the New Testament where materials from this prophecy are applied Christologically to explain the death of the Messiah.[1] According to Karen Jobes “the most striking contribution to Christology is Peter’s identification of Jesus with the Suffering Servant of Isa. 52:13-53:12.”[2] This paper discerns what the author says about the significance of the death of Jesus through his use of these texts from Isaiah. As well, it considers how the Greek translator of Isa. 52:13-53:12 defined the work of the Servant and whether 1 Peter’s use of these texts supports the contention that the Greek translator of Isaiah “deliberately interpreted these oracles in ways that exclude the attribution of suffering to Kurios.”[3] Finally, it seeks to draw some conclusions pertinent to the discussion about atonement theology and its formulation as the author of 1 Peter understands it. If the writer is Peter the Apostle, this formulation is close to the church’s earliest, post-resurrection understanding about the significance of Jesus’ death.

  1. The use of Isa. 52:13-53:12 in 1 Peter[4]

In 1 Peter,[5] the writer declares that God, the Father, is the designer of human salvation. He is the one “according to whose foreknowing” (κατὰ πρόγνωσιν θεοῦ 1:2) the people in various provinces in Asia Minor have become “chosen resident aliens” (ἐκλεκτοῖς παρεπιδήμοις 1:1) and part of God’s household. In alignment with his “great mercy he has given us new birth…through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (ὁ κατὰ τὸ πολὺ αὐτοῦ ἔλεος ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς …δι’ ἀναστάσεως Ἰησοῦ ἐκ νεκρῶν Χριστοῦ 1:3). Using passive verb forms with God as the assumed agent, Peter affirms that Jesus Christ “was chosen[6] before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (προεγνωσμένου μὲν πρὸ καταβολῆς κόσμου, φανερωθέντος δὲ ἐπ’ ἐσχάτου τῶν χρόνων δι’ ὑμᾶς 1:20). Presumably by employing the cognate noun (πρόγνωσις) and verb (προγινώσκω) in 1:2, 20, Peter wants to emphasize that God deliberately sent Jesus Messiah in order to accomplish human salvation. The outcome desired is that “through him [Messiah] you believe in God” (τοὺς δι’ αὐτοῦ πιστοὺς εἰς θεὸν 1:21). God’s intent in this is that “in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ” (ἵνα ἐν πᾶσιν δοξάζηται ὁ θεὸς διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 4:11).

Five times in his letter Peter ascribes the calling of people into salvation to God’s initiative.[7] When people, Jews or non-Jews, respond to God’s inviting command to move from darkness to light, from ignorance to knowledge, from futility to purpose, from disobedience to obedience, they become participants in God’s “eternal glory in Messiah Jesus” (εἰς τὴν αἰώνιον αὐτοῦ δόξαν ἐν Χριστῷ 5:10), some aspects of which they experience in this age. Life now proceeds “under God’s mighty hand” (ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖρα τοῦ θεοῦ 5:6), a place and position of love, empowerment, protection and purpose.

This is Peter’s grand vision of the new reality that God has generated through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God, the Holy Spirit, revealed some aspects of this plan through the Old Testament prophets (the sufferings of the Messiah and the glory that would follow 1:10-12), but now this same Holy Spirit, “sent from heaven” (ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ ἀποσταλέντι ἀπ’οὐρανοῦ 1:12) is announcing the fulfillment of these things in Christ Jesus, “through those who have preached the gospel to you” (διὰ τῶν εὐαγγελισαμένων ὑμᾶς 1:12).

God is in charge of all of these events, from start to finish. It is important to understand the writer’s perspective on this because he believes that all that he teaches within 1 Peter occurs in accordance with “the will of God” (τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ 2:15; 3:17; 4:2, 19), even the suffering of believers for the sake of the gospel. This suffering includes the things that Jesus experienced during his trial and death, i.e., his sufferings.

The writer links the events of Jesus’ trial and death with Isa. 52:13-52:12 in his paranesis to the household slaves (2:18-25). Peter incorporates Jesus’ response to suffering as the paradigm that should define their response to “unjust suffering” (πάσχων ἀδίκως 2:19). In a rhetorical flourish[8] unmatched in the New Testament, the writer declares that “even[9] Messiah suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps” (καὶ Χριστὸς ἔπαθεν ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ὑμῖν ὑπολιμπάνων ὑπογραμμόν ἵνα ἐπακολουθήσητε τοῖς ἴχνεσιν αὐτοῦ 2:21). The exact sense of the phrase “for you” (ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν 2:21) has generated considerable debate. Leon Morris uses examples from contemporary papyri usage, in an extended note on the meaning of ὑπέρ in Galatians 3:13,[10] to show that this preposition can bear a substitutionary sense. He argues that “the substitutionary sense seems necessary in some passages”[11] and he includes 1 Cor. 15:29; Phm. 13; 2 Cor. 5:20 and Rom. 16:4 as examples. The Messiah’s suffering “for you” is not a suffering merely “for your benefit,” but the benefit arises because this suffering is done “in your place.” Peter never uses the preposition ὑπέρ to describe something humans do “for God’s benefit.”[12]

Having established the paradigmatic nature of the Messiah’s example, Peter proceeds to unpack what this looks like behaviorally for these household slaves. As he does this, he weaves material from Isa. 52:13-53:12 into his pastoral teaching. This linkage occurs in the following passages.

1 Peter Isaiah
2:22  The example of Jesus during his trial 53:9
2:23  The example of Jesus during his trial Possible allusions to 53:7c-d; 53: 6c, 12; 53:8a.
2:24  Jesus’ accomplishment through his crucifixion 53:4a, 12
2:24  Salvific implications 53:5d
2:25  Salvific implications 53:6

The writer in this hermeneutical tour de force (2:21-25) emphasizes the following aspects of Jesus’ trial and death, seeking to explain their significance for parenetic purposes.

The Messiah was sinless.

Despite tremendous provocation and injustice, Jesus continued to act in a sinless manner. No retaliatory or abusive language emerged from his lips. The writer emphasizes this by quoting from Isa. 53:9.

1 Pet. 2:22  ὃς ἁπαρτίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν  οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ

Greek Isa. 53:9[13]  ὅτι ἀνομίαν οὐκ ἐποίησεν, οὐδὲ εὑρέθη δόλος ἐν τῷ στόματι αὐτοῦ

The writer uses ἁμαρτία “sin” where Greek Isaiah reads ἀνομία “lawlessness.”[14] Since he never uses ἀνομία to describe human transgression, but regularly employs ἁμαρτία, particularly in the context of 1 Pet. 2:21ff, the author probably has made this change to create stylistic consistency within his text and not because he has access to a different Greek Isaiah text.[15] Further, in the Greek text of Isa. 52:13-53:12 the noun ἁμαρτία occurs several times. The writer notes that Jesus does not transgress through verbal discourse. He makes this point because verbal retaliation or abuse was the primary mode household slaves could employ to protest ill treatment.

The Messiah trusts God to enforce justice and look after his case.

In 1 Pet. 2:23 the writer does not quote from Isa. 52:13 -53:12, but there are various allusions. The reference to “the one who judges justly” (τῷ κρίνοντι δικαίως) picks up the note in Isa. 53:8b that the Suffering Servant should have experienced ἡ κρίσις, but for some reason did not. This Greek noun could mean the act of judging, i.e., the role of judge, the sentence given, or the trial process. Whatever the precise meaning of this noun in Isa. 53:8b, the text makes clear that the Suffering Servant dies, presumably because of his abortive trial. Greek Isaiah is silent as to who is executing the sentence. In Greek Isaiah, the κρίσις seems to refer to human systems that should have been applied, but for some reason were not. In 1 Peter, the writer indicates by his wording here that God is the “judge” and that the Messiah fully trusts God to exercise judgment in a completely righteous manner. Not only is the Messiah himself δίκαιος (innocent, righteous, just), but so is God, who acts justly in every instance. Peter puts God in charge of this process ultimately and situates the Messiah within God’s justice process, that will not fail.

The verb παρεδίδου (imperfect middle verb form indicating that the Messiah “was continuously surrendering/entrusting himself”) also occurs in Greek Isa. 53:6, 12. In both contexts, however, the Suffering Servant is the recipient of the action, not the agent.

Old Greek Isa. 53:6  καὶ κύριος παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἡμῶν

NETS  and the Lord gave him over to our sins

Old Greek Isa. 53:12  ἀνθ’ὧν παρεδόθη εἰς θάνατον ἡ ψυχὴ[16] αὐτοῦ

NETS  because his soul was given over to death

καὶ διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν παρεδόθη

NETS  and because of their sins he was given over

Yahweh is the specific agent responsible for “giving over” the Servant in 53:6 and is the implied agent in the two passive structures used in 53:12. While the verb is the same in 1 Peter and Old Greek Isaiah 53, the sense and subjects are quite different.

The Greek translation of Isa. 52:13-53:12 does not reveal directly how the Suffering Servant understood his relationship with Yahweh. However, the third Servant Song (Isa. 49:1-7) expresses the Servant’s knowledge that he is chosen by God, that God is faithful, and he will be honored by God. Elsewhere in his letter Peter uses this kind of language to describe the Messiah (cf. 2:5 (chosen); 4:13 (the Messiah’s glory will be revealed)); and God (4:19 God is faithful).

Because the Messiah places his trust in God, there is no need for him to employ abusive or threatening language in his relationships with humans. Peter describes the response of the Messiah as “when they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate, when he suffered, he made no threats” (ὃς λοιδορούμενος οὐκ ἀντελοιδόρει πάσχων οὐκ ἠπείλει 2:23). Jobes[17] suggests that with this language Peter reflects the Servant’s determination to be silent, “as a lamb is silent before the one shearing it, so he does not open his mouth” (ὡς…καὶ ἀμνὸς ἐναντίον τοῦ κείροντος αὐτὸν ἄφωνος ὅυτως οὐκ ἀνοίγει τὸ στόμα αὐτοῦ Isa. 53:7).

The Messiah bears in his body humanity’s sins “on the tree.”

The death of the Messiah enters Peter’s discussion here with reference to “the tree,” i.e., the cross and the corporal punishment that the Messiah endures. Various terms in 1 Peter 2:24 also occur in Isa. 53:

1 Peter 2:24  ὃς τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν αὐτὸς ἀνήνεγκεν ἐν τῷ σώματι αὐτοῦ ἐπὶ τὸ ξύλον

NIV  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.

Isa. 53:4a  οὗτος τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν φέρει καὶ περὶ ἡμῶν                                    ὀδυνᾶται

NETS  This one bears our sins and suffers pain for us.

Isa. 53:11  καὶ τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν αὐτὸς ἀνοίσει

NETS  And he himself shall bear their sins.

Isa. 53:12  καὶ αὐτὸς ἁμαρτίας πολλῶν ἀνήνεγκεν

NETS  And he bore the sins of many.

The common element between 1 Pet. 2:24 and Isa. 53:4, 11, 12 is the formula ἀναφέρειν/φέρειν τὰς ἁμαρτίας, “to bear the sins.” This verb, when modified by the accusative, can signify “to bear the consequences of something.” For example, in Num.14:33 Moses warns Israel that because of their rebellious murmuring their children “shall bear your fornication” (ἀνοίσουσιν τὴν πορνείαν ὑμῶν); i.e., they shall experience the consequences of their parents’ sinful disregard for Yahweh.[18] Similarly in Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2, the Messiah bears the consequences of sins that he never committed. 1 Peter uses the first-person plural (as found in Isa. 53:4), including himself in this wonderful act that the Messiah does. Further, Peter maintains the emphatic pronoun αὐτός (himself) that Greek Isaiah uses in 53:11, 12, perhaps to emphasize the dramatic and astonishing action of the Messiah. What Peter adds is the explicit reference to the crucifixion as the context in which this occurs.[19] Greek Isaiah also makes clear that the suffering of the Servant is corporeal, resulting in wounds, sickness and finally death. What is clear in both Isaiah 53 and 1 Peter 2 is that the Messiah’s (Suffering Servant’s) substitutionary embrace of the consequences of sin committed by others results in terrible, undeserved suffering and death.

The consequences of the Messiah’s death by crucifixion for those who accept salvation is that they “die to sins” and “live for righteousness” (1 Pet. 2:24). Peter considers Isa. 53:5 “by his bruise we were healed” (τῷ μώλωπι αὐτοῦ ἡμεῖς ἰάθημεν)[20] to describe this radical change in spiritual orientation, quoting this clause at the end of v. 24 (οὗ τῷ μώλωπι ἰάθητε[21]), incorporating necessary syntactical adjustments. Again, the note of substitution is unmistakable. The Messiah’s “bruising” results in the salvific “healing” of Peter’s audience. The vicarious nature of this activity is also apparent. Peter uses the aorist passive formation found also in Greek Isaiah. The agent who brings this healing is left implicit. However, the initial verses of this letter (1:1-3) indicate that it is God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who collaboratively are responsible for this healing.

People are characterized as straying sheep.

As Peter concludes his interpretation and application of Isa. 52:13-53:12, he describes these believers in their pre-Christian state as “sheep going astray” (ἦτε γὰρ ὡς πρόβατα πλανώμενοι 2:25). Greek Isaiah characterizes Israel, speaking through the prophet, in these terms:

Isa. 53:6  πάντες ὡς πρόβατα ἐπλανήθημεν, ἄνθρωπος τῇ ὁδῷ αὐτοῦ ἐπλανήθη

NETS  All we like sheep have gone astray; a man has strayed in his own way.

This ‘straying’ is defined in Isa. 53:6 as “our sins.” The author of 1 Peter describes this ‘straying’ similarly as sinful human behaviour responsible for the Messiah’s death. God’s intervention through the Messiah has given them opportunity to “return to the Shepherd and Overseer of their souls.” The characterization of God in these terms brings us back once more to Peter’s fundamental assertion that God is accomplishing his plan. Only the intervention by the Shepherd will result in the sheep’s rescue.[22]

Peter again links the death of Jesus in 3:18 with Isa. 53 material, primarily through the expression “the righteous (singular) for the unrighteous (plural)” (δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων). In Greek Isa. 53:11 God desires “to justify a righteous one who serves many well” (δικαιῶσθαι δίκαιον εὖ δουλεύοντα πολλοῖς).[23] The designation of the Suffering Servant as “righteous, innocent or just” parallels the Messiah’s sinless behaviour. In the case of the Suffering Servant, although he is suffering because of sins, they are not his. He is innocent. In the case of the Messiah this “innocence” makes him suitable as the “once for all sacrifice.”

The phrase περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν (“for sins”1 Pet. 3:18) in the Greek translation of the Pentateuch does occasionally translate the term for “sin-offering.” For example, among the many instructions Moses gives in Lev. 5 regarding appropriate sacrifices, several sacrifices are to be offered as “sin offerings.” In 5:7 Moses says that if a person cannot afford to sacrifice a sheep “for his sins” then he should bring “two young doves to the Lord, one for sin (περὶ ἀμαρτίας) and one for a whole burnt offering.” Similarly, in 5:11, the poor can bring “one tenth of an oiphi of fine flour for sin (περὶ ἁμαρτίας).” In both cases the NRSV translates the corresponding Hebrew text as “sin offering.” While it is possible that the author in 3:18 simply means that the Messiah “suffered for sins,” his use of sacrificial terminology in 1:18-19 suggests that he means something more, namely that the Messiah suffered as a sin offering. The use of ἅπαξ (once for all) similarly indicates that the writer is intending to say something more significant in 3:18.[24]

The last section in 1 Peter for discussion is the reference to redemption in 1:18-19. Peter exhorts the recipients of his letter to “live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” The basis for his injunction lies in what they now know about God’s actions for their salvation.

1:18-19  οὐ φθαρτοῖς, ἀργυρίῳ ἢ χρυσίῳ, ἐλυτρώθητε ἐκ τῆς ὑμῶν ἀνατροφῆς πατροπαραδότου ἀλλὰ τιμίῳ αἵματι ὡς ἀμνοῦ ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου Χριστοῦ

NIV  It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Within these verses Peter incorporates several metaphors related to sacrificial ritual, but also with echoes of slave manumission. The references to “a lamb without blemish or defect” and “precious blood” clearly point to animal sacrifices required in the Old Testament for Israel’s maintenance of covenant relationship with God. When connected with the concept of redemption, the sacrificial language speaks of the cost of such liberty.

In the Old Testament the concept of redemption occurs first in connection with Israel’s escape from Egypt.[25] In Greek Exodus 6:6, Yahweh promises Israel that “I will bring you out from the domination of the Egyptians and I will deliver you from slavery and I will redeem (λυτρώσομαι) you by a raised arm and a great judgment.” The context is plainly one of freedom from slavery. What is the ransom price that is paid for this redemption? The life of Pharaoh’s firstborn will be taken. This is the great judgment. Israel is protected from the effects of this judgment by God’s action to initiate Passover. The ‘price’ that an Israelite family pays for freedom from this judgment is the sacrifice of a “perfect sheep” (πρόβατον τέλειον Exod. 12:5). God also insists that Israel either sacrifice to God or ransom every firstborn male human and animal. A ransom given in exchange for the life of the person or animal will be a sheep (Exod.13:13).[26] It is within these rituals that the language Peter uses to explain the significance of the Messiah’s death is situated.[27]

Peter’s discussion in 2:21-25 reveals that the Messiah “bore our sins in his body on the tree.” When he uses this sacrificial language in 1:18-19 and links it with the idea of redemption, what do these statements reveal about Peter’s understanding of the work Jesus accomplished at the cross? Peter’s framework can be summarized as follows.

  1. Peter construes the Messiah’s death as a sacrifice.
  2. It is a sacrifice περὶ ἁμαρτίας (a sin offering), but also has associations with the Passover sacrifice (description of the lamb in 1:18).
  3. An act of redemption is required in order to enable people to escape from the slavery of sin (cf. the language of freedom used in 1:16).
  4. The Messiah’s death is the ransom price (ἐλυτρώθητε…τιμίῳ αἵματι 1:18-19) that enables this freedom and deals with the judgment that God otherwise would exact from sinful human beings.
  5. He is a suitable sacrifice because he is innocent (δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων 3:18) and has no sin in himself, so he is “without blemish” (ἀμώμου καὶ ἀσπίλου; cf. Passover sacrifice instructions in Exod. 12:5 πρόβατον τέλειον).
  6. He voluntarily takes upon himself the consequences of humanity’s sin, thereby emulating the action of the Suffering Servant in Isa. 53.
  7. This is a singular offering (ἅπαξ) and nothing more is required to secure the righteousness of human beings(3:18).
  8. All this happens under the orchestration of God, the Father, whose foreknowing has engaged the Messiah in this task “before the foundations of the earth.” There is no antagonism between the Father and the Son about these matters. The Son is perfectly in agreement with the Father (language of submission in 2:23 παρεδίδου…τῷ κρίνοντι δικαίως). Therefore, his death is not a coercive or abusive act, but a voluntary offering of himself, with full trust in God’s perfect justice.

What is left undefined by the writer is to whom the ransom is paid. There is no doubt in his mind that a ransom is paid (the use of the verb λυτρόομαι (1:18) indicates this) and the Messiah pays it on behalf of those in whose place he offers his life. Regardless of how the Greek translation of Isa. 52:13-53:12 is construed, the writer of 1 Peter understands the Messiah’s death to be voluntary, substitutionary, sacrificial, a ransom, and completely within the scope of God’s specific and just plan. All these elements are necessary for people to experience the new birth in Christ and escape the just judgment of God.

One other phrase should be mentioned, namely λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν, translated in the NIV as “a people belonging to God” (1 Pet. 2:9). The noun περιποίησις defines something acquired and thus possessed. The Greek translation of Isa. 43:21 describes Israel as λαόν μου, ὃν περιεποιησάμην τὰς ἀρετας μου διηγεῖσθαι (“my people whom I have acquired to set forth my excellencies” (NETS); “the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise” (NRSV rendering of the Hebrew text)). Malachi prophecies (3:17) that there will come a day when God “makes them my acquisition (εἰς περιποίησιν).”[28]

The cognate verb περιποιέω occurs in Paul’s speech at Ephesus (Acts 20:28), where the church of God is defined as ἣν περιεποισατο διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου (“which he bought with his own blood” (NIV)). Peter includes the expression λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν and integrates this expression with his statement in 1:19 about the redemption of believers “with the precious blood…of the Messiah.” God either has or is in the process of “possessing” this people. This suggests that the price paid for this acquisition was the sacrificial death of the Messiah, as the Acts passage suggests.[29] The fact that the Messiah is described as “chosen, precious” (ἐκλεκτὸν ἔντιμον 2:4, 6) in God’s eyes means that those associated with him likewise acquire special value in God’s economy.

Peter does not define how this spiritual transaction occurs, i.e., how the payment flows, but he does seem to understand that the Messiah’s death at the cross was a payment in some form, that enables God to acquire a new people for himself.

  1. The Relationship between Yahweh and the Suffering Servant in Isa. 52:13-53:12

In their book Invitation to the Septuagint, Jobes and Silva use the Fourth Servant Song in Greek Isaiah to demonstrate how the exegesis of a Septuagint text should proceed.[30] In the process of this discussion they note three separate cases where the Greek translator of Isaiah seems to have blunted the sense of the Hebrew text when it says that Yahweh is responsible for “smiting the servant.”

The first case is Isa. 53:4d.

MT  ואנחנו השׁבנהו נגוע מכח אלהים ומענה…: .

NRSV  yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.

LXX  καὶ ἡμεῖς ἐλογισάμεθα αὐτὸν εἶναι ἐν πόνῳ καὶ ἐν πληγῇ καὶ ἐν κακώσει

NETS  and we accounted him to be in trouble and calamity and ill-treatment.

Jobes and Silva comment that”[t]his rendering is only one of several examples where the translator clearly avoids statements that attribute the Servant’s sufferings to God’s actions.”[31]

The second case is Isa. 53:6.

MT   ויהוה הפגיע בו את עון כלנו

NRSV  and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

LXX   καὶ παρέδωκεν αὑτὸν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἡμῶν

NETS   and the Lord gave him over to our sins.

Jobes and Silva suggest that “[t]he strong Hebrew expression ‘the Lord has struck him with the iniquity of us all’ is softened by means of the verb παραδίδωμι, a term that this translator uses at various times when he needs to get out of a difficulty (the force of the following dative construction ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις is not clear).”[32]

The third case is Isa. 53:10.

MT  ויהוה חפץ דכאו החלי

NRSV  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.

LXX  καὶ κύριος βούλεται καθαρίσαι αὐτὸν τῆς πληγῆς[33]

NETS  and the Lord desires to cleanse him from his blow.

On this text Jobes and Silva comment: “In verse 10a, the use of καθαρίσαι αὐτὸν to represent דכאו (Piel infinitive with pronominal suffix, “to strike him”) is another instance of the translator’s concern to avoid attributing to God the action of mistreating the servant.”[34]

E.R. Ekblad has made similar observations and concluded that “the LXX translators’ many differences with the MT of Isa. 53:3-7 may be interpreted as theologically motivated. They seek to disassociate God from the Servant’s (Israel’s) suffering in verses where the MT could be (in the author’s view, wrongly), and often has been, interpreted to support a notion of atonement through penal substitution.”[35]

This paper argues that while the writer of 1 Peter does not employ materials from Isa. 52:13-52:12 to identify God’s involvement in the Messiah’s sufferings, his entire presentation places the Messiah within the scope of God’s action and his suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension occurs “under God’s mighty hand.” This framework indicates that he associates God with the Messiah’s sufferings and his use of the Fourth Servant Song to describe how the Messiah “bore our sins in his body on the tree” shows that he understands the Servant’s suffering similarly, regardless of how the Greek translator of Isaiah may have intended the Isaiah text to be read.

Certainly, there are differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint translation of Isa. 52:13-53:12. The Isaiah translator is well-known for his periphrastic renderings and his tendency to contemporize the text with respect to events of his day. However, discerning theological tendencies within his translation is another matter.

Plainly, as Jobes and Silva, as well as Ekblad, have demonstrated, the texts of 53:4, 6, 10 seem to indicate concern on the part of the translator regarding Yahweh’s involvement in the Servant’s suffering. Three elements provide some traction on this question. First, does the Isaiah translator in other sections of Isaiah seek to disassociate Yahweh from Israel’s sufferings? If not, why would this be a specific “theological concern” for the translator in the case of the Fourth Servant Song, particularly if, as many understand, the Servant is a collective representation of Israel? Second, is the characterization of the translator’s strategy in Isa. 52:13-53:12 sustained by a review of the evidence or do alternative explanations negate this hypothesis? Third, does the Isaiah translator alter all references to Yahweh’s association with the Servant’s suffering in Isa. 52:13-53:12 and if not, perhaps other explanations should be sought for these changes in 53:4, 6, 10.

The Isaiah translator’s theological concerns

Two texts in Greek Isaiah are relevant to the first question. One of the most famous passages in Isaiah, one that Jesus himself adopts and uses, is the Song of the Vineyard in Isa. 5. The theme is Yahweh’s disappointed expectations for Israel. The vineyard is Israel; the owner is Yahweh. When the vineyard does not bear the expected fruit, the vineyard owner decides to destroy it. The prophet, speaking for Yahweh, says:

LXX  ἀφελῶ τὸν φραγμὸν αὐτοῦ…καὶ καθελῶ τὸν τοῖχον αὐτοῦ…καὶ ἀνήσω τὸν ἀμπελῶνά μου.

NETS  I will remove its hedge,…I will tear down its wall,…I will abandon my vineyard.[36]

As this oracle continues the prophet announces:

LXX   καὶ ἐθυμώθη ὀργῇ κύριος σαβαωθ ἐπὶ τὸν λαὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἐπέβαλεν τὴν χεῖρα αὐτοῦ ἐπ’ αὐτοῦς καὶ ἐπάταξεν αὐτούς,…

NETS   And the Lord Sabaoth was enraged with anger against his people, and he laid his hand on them and struck them….[37]

Yahweh acts in judgment against his people and the destruction is significant. The resultant suffering, though deserved, is horrendous. The translator of Isaiah does not adopt any strategy to mitigate the force of these pronouncements by Yahweh. What is particularly noteworthy in this example is the statement that Yahweh “strikes” Israel. The Hebrew verb נכה (Hiphil imperfect waw-consecutive with pronominal suffix) is rendered by καὶ ἐπάταξεν αὐτούς. The Hophal participle of נכה occurs also in Isa. 53:4 in the phrase “struck down by God” which the translator renders as ἐν πληγῇ. The rendering in 53:4 does not necessarily occur because the translator generally in his translation desires to avoid the idea that Yahweh will strike Israel with judgment, because he translates similar Hebrew material in 5:25 without adjustment.

The second text occurs in the call narrative where Isaiah responds to Yahweh’s appointment as prophet (Isa. 6). In response to Isaiah’s question concerning the duration of his mission, Yahweh answers:

LXX  ἕως πότε, κύριε; καὶ εἶπεν ἕως ἂν ἐρημωθῶσιν πόλεις παρὰ τὸ μὴ κατοικεῖσθαι καὶ οἶκοι παρὰ τὸ μὴ εἶναι ἀνθρώπους καὶ ἡ γῆ καταλειφθήσεται ἔρημος. καὶ μετὰ ταῦτα μακρυνεῖ ὁ θεὸς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους.

NETS  “How long, O Lord?” and he said: “Until cities become desolate, because they are not inhabited, and houses, because there are not people, and the land will be left desolate. And after these things God will send people far away.”[38]

Again, Yahweh is the one making this announcement, forecasting how his message of judgment against Israel will be completed. The Greek translator holds nothing back in his rendering.

These two contexts (and their number could be multiplied) demonstrate that generally the Isaiah translator does not alter texts in which Yahweh brings judgment and punishment against Israel, actions that imply suffering and destruction. If this is true of the translation generally, then we must be cautious to assume that this is his intent in the alterations observed in the translation of Isa. 52:13-53:12, particularly if he identifies Israel as the Suffering Servant.

The Isaiah translator’s strategy

The second question is whether the translator’s renderings of the proposed texts from Isa. 53:4, 6 and 10 disassociate Yahweh from the Servant’s suffering.

Isa. 53:4

It is true that the Greek text in this verse does not render האלהים in its translation. The materials from Qumran do not provide any evidence that the Greek translator has a different Hebrew text which also omitted mention of God in this context. It must be assumed that the translator makes an adjustment in his rendering for some reason.

Further, elsewhere the translator has no problem rendering the sense of the main verb (מכה) when this action of “striking Israel” is ascribed to Yahweh (5:25). As well, in this context the translator transforms the Hebrew syntax, rendering three passive participles that qualify the pronominal object (referencing the servant), as a string of prepositional phrases that define the way people evaluated the Servant’s situation – he is “in trouble and in calamity and in ill-treatment.” The Hebrew text specifies that אלהים is responsible, but the translator leaves the agent implicit. Within the Jewish canon trouble, calamity and ill-treatment can be attributed to Yahweh or to intermediate agents whom Yahweh uses to achieve his ends. Therefore, the omission of האלהים from the Greek translation does not necessarily remove the association of Yahweh with these activities. Finally, in the context, the following verse leads these observers to acknowledge that the Servant’s sufferings occurred because of their sins and lawlessness, but that they result in benefit for them. However, it is “the Lord” who “gave him over to (or perhaps ‘for’) our sins” (Isa. 53:6).

The change made by the Greek translator was not necessarily due to a theological tendency. Stylistic considerations could be at work. Rhetorical factors may have led him to maintain the parallelism by using a similar phrase in the case of the middle term.

Isa. 53:6

The key issue in this text is the rendering of ויהוה הפגיע בו את עון as καὶ κύριος παρέδωκεν αὐτὸν ταῖς ἁμαρτίαις ἡμῶν. The Hebrew verb פגע occurs five times in Isaiah.[39] The Qal form means “to meet or encounter” and this form is found in Isa. 47:3 and 64:4. In 64:4, the translator renders the verb as συναντήσεται (he will meet), which shows the translator understands the meaning of the Hebrew verb. He renders 47:3 as οὐκέτι μὴ παραδῷ ἀνθρώποις (“I will no longer deliver you over to men” (NETS)[40]), a rendering that is similar to that in 53:6 (and 53:12). At Isa. 59:16, the prophet uses the Hiphil form to define someone who intercedes, and the Greek translator gives a good equivalent with the participle ὁ ἀντιλημψόμενος (one who helped). Clearly, the translator knows the meaning of this Hebrew verb in both the Qal and Hiphil forms.

The Hebrew idiom that occurs in Isa. 53:6 is only found here in the entire book of Isaiah (Hiphil + acc.rei + ב) to signify “cause something to light upon.” This is rendered in the NRSV as “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity.” The rendering in 47:3 demonstrates that the equivalence between פגע and παραδίδωμι is known to the translator. The Greek idiom was used for another Hebrew expression at 25:5 (ἀπὸ ἀνθρώπων ἀσεβῶν, οἷς ἡμᾶς παρέδωκας) to describe how Yahweh delivered Israel over to the impious, presumably for judgment. The Greek translator in creating this translation for 53:6 and using a form of παραδίδωμι as the equivalent is not doing something new. In fact, he uses the same idiom he employed previously in 47:3.[41]

What does it mean in Greek “to deliver someone over to someone/something?” The idiom signifies that the subject is committing a person to another person or group for purposes of punishment or destruction. For example, in Josh. 2:14, Rahab uses this idiom in her discourse with the Israelite spies: ὡς ἂν παραδῷ κύριος ὑμῖν τὴν πόλιν (whenever the Lord hands over to you the city). She is talking about the capture of Jericho by the Israelites. The Psalmist entreats Yahweh: μὴ παραδῷς τοῖς θηρίοις ψυχὴν έξομολογουμένην σοι (do not deliver a soul that acknowledges you to the wild animals 74(73):19). The Psalmist seeks deliverance from his enemies.

The Hebrew text in Isa. 53:6 describes Yahweh’s action to bring the consequences of the sins of others to bear upon the Servant. The results presumably will mean that the Servant then bears the punishment for these sins that was due to the sinners themselves. The Greek translation alters the sense but, in the end, it is Yahweh, i.e., κύριος, who “hands over/delivers” the Servant “to the sins,” i.e., to consequences that sinful activities normally create. The wording is different, but the result seems little changed.

It should be noted that in Isa. 53:12, the translator uses this Greek verb twice. In the last clause of v. 12 he renders a Hiphil form of פגע (“he made intercession for the transgressors”) as διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν παρεδόθη (“and because of their sins he was handed over”). The passive Greek verb implies an agent, who in this context most probably is Yahweh. This use of the verb reaffirms the repeated emphasis in the Fourth Servant Song that the Servant’s life is surrendered because of the sins of the people and Yahweh is the agent.

Isa. 53:10

In this text the question is why the translator chooses καὶ κύριος βούλεται καθαρίσαι αὐτὸν τῆς πληγῆς (“and the Lord desires to cleanse him from his blow [or calamity]” (NETS)) to render the sense of the Hebrew text ויהוה חפץ דכאו החלי[42] (“and yet is was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain” (or “by disease”) NRSV). Jobes and Silva acknowledge that the translator probably read the Hebrew verb דכא as the equivalent of the Aramaic verb זכה which means “to cleanse.”[43] Whenever this verbal root occurred in his Hebrew text, the translator uses a different rendering, contextualizing his translation.[44] It seems he has some awareness that it bears negative connotations. If he does not know the specific meaning of the Hebrew verb, his strategy of using the meaning that a cognate Aramaic verb possesses in this context should not be construed to signify that he is attempting to alter the meaning of his Hebrew text. Rather, he is struggling to understand the Hebrew verb and translate it with a reasonable equivalent.

The translator, regardless of how he construes the sense of this verbal form, attributes to Yahweh, the subject (κύριος) of the verb (as in the Hebrew text), responsibility for this action. Further, the exact meaning of the resultant Greek is unclear, particularly the sense of the genitive τῆς πληγῆς. The corresponding Hebrew text indicates that the calamity was the means by which Yahweh intended to “crush” the Servant. The Greek genitive modifying the verb καθαρίσαι  could imply separation, i.e., to cleanse him from calamity (or some disease?).[45] This would give the sense “to cleanse him by the calamity.” Ziegler, in his edition of Greek Isaiah, notes that the majority of manuscripts read ἀπὸ πληγῆς, which, if original, would settle the question of meaning to signify separation.[46]

With these various issues – textual uncertainty, dispute as to the meaning of the genitive, reading the Hebrew verbal root from the standpoint of an Aramaic cognate – it is difficult to be sure what the translator’s strategy is in this text. To conclude that this reading represents “another instance of the translator’s concern to avoid attributing to God the action of mistreating the Servant” goes beyond what the evidence will bear. This may or may not be the case.

The translator’s treatment of other texts

The third question is whether other texts in Isa. 52:13-53:12 support the attribution of the Servant’s suffering to Yahweh’s action. Two texts in Isa. 52:13-53:12 seem to support Yahweh’s involvement in the Servant’s mistreatment. In 53:5 the translator tells us that “upon him was the discipline of our peace” (παιδεία εἰρήνης ἡμῶν ἐπ’ αὐτόν). The noun παιδεία signifies a discipline that incorporates an element of chastising or punishment. The genitive modifier suggests that this disciplinary chastising results in “peace,” the restoration of relationship between Israel and Yahweh. But who brings this disciplinary chastising to bear upon the Servant? The following clause incorporates a passive verb (ἰάθημεν “we have been healed”) whose agent remains implicit. The last part of v. 6 states clearly that it is Yahweh who gives the Servant over to sins. The context would suggest that Yahweh is the only logical agent who can be responsible for the disciplinary chastisement that the Servant experiences.

Twice in 53:12, the Greek translation uses the aorist passive form παρεδόθη. In the first case “the life [of the servant] was given over for execution.” In the second, “he was given over because of their sins.” Again, who is the agent implied in this action? In 53:6 Yahweh explicitly is named as the agent. These are cases of the divine passive, implying that Yahweh is the one ultimately responsible for this action.

Conclusions

Millard Erickson argues that “the basic meaning of atonement” consists in the concepts of sacrifice, propitiation, substitution, and reconciliation.[47] This meaning, he states, is referred to commonly as “the penal-substitution theory of the atonement.”[48] In essence, “Christ died to satisfy the justice of God’s nature. He rendered satisfaction to the Father so that we might be spared from the just desserts of our sins.”[49]

Our review of 1 Peter has found that the author describes the death of Jesus in sacrificial terms. The spilling of his blood becomes an explicit element in 1:18ff and the expression “bear our sins in his body” (2:24) echoes sacrificial terminology found in the Old Testament. Substitution is also clearly expressed because Jesus, who is without sin, takes upon himself our sins and his death occurs precisely because of this voluntary act of substitution (“by his bruises we have been healed” 2:24). In 3:18 the author describes the Messiah as “suffering once for sins, the just for the unjust.” Reconciliation is based upon the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is through the Messiah’s death that Jesus “leads us to God” and enables wandering sheep to return to their souls’ rightful Shepherd. While Peter does not employ the concept of “peace” often, his dominant metaphor of God’s household implicitly defines a reconciled relationship between God and believers. Birth into this household occurs because Jesus rose from the dead, demonstrating God’s immense mercy (1:3).

But what about the idea of propitiation? Does Peter incorporate this concept into his discussion of the reasons for the Messiah’s death? It is true that 1 Peter does not use terms such as wrath (ὀργή) or anger (θυμός). However, Peter assumes the understanding of sacrifice expressed in the Old Testament (cf. Leviticus 4:35, for example), wherein the sacrifice for sin was required to appease God’s wrath and receive forgiveness. He affirms that “God is holy.” Further, he is concerned that human beings enjoy the blessings made available through the Messiah’s death, including the opportunity to “live for righteousness” and avoid God’s just judgment. The writer understands that God will judge “the living and the dead” (as he did through the flood in Noah’s day). Satisfying God’s just demands then becomes a necessary element in gaining entrance into God’s household. Jesus becomes “a stone of stumbling and rock of offence” (2:8) for those who reject the Messiah as God’s means for human salvation. Without Jesus and his substitutionary death, there is no hope for mercy.

While Peter in his epistle may not be as explicit about some issues as Paul is in Romans or may not express things precisely the same way as the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, there are many areas of similarity and enough evidence to argue that Jesus’ death was sacrificial, substitutionary, reconciling, and propitiatory. Peter uses Isa. 52:13-53:12 with clear reference to the death of Jesus, presumably because this is one of those prophetic texts (1:10-12) in the Jewish canon that bears witness to the sufferings and glory of the Messiah. If the Greek translator of Isaiah 53 did theologically soften Yahweh’s involvement in the Servant’s suffering, the author of 1 Peter does not seem to interpret it this way.

Larry J. Perkins is Professor Emeritus in Biblical Studies and President Emeritus of Northwest Baptist Seminary. He has been teaching for forty years in Greek language, biblical studies, Septuagint Studies, and Leadership at masters and doctoral level. He is the author of The Pastoral Letters. A Handbook on the Greek Text (Waco, TX: Baylor University Text, 2017) and The Art of Kubernēsis (1 Corinthians 12:28): Leading as the Church Board Chairperson. He also contributed Exodus, in A New English Translation of the Septuagint and the Other Greek Translations Traditionally Included under that Title, ed. Albert Pietersma and Benjamin Wright (New York/ Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Author copyright.

Perkins, Larry J. “Atonement in 1 Peter – Reflections on Isaiah 53.” Northwest Institute for Ministry Education Research. www.nimer.ca (retrieved Date Accessed). Peer reviewed.

Notes

[1] Specific quotations from Isa. 52:11-53:12 occur elsewhere in the New Testament, but these are not used to explain the significance of Jesus’ death.

Mt. 8:17 quotes from Isa. 53:4 to explain Jesus’ healing ministry.

Lk. 22:37 quotes from Isa. 53:12 to explain why Jesus is crucified among evil people.

Acts 8:32-35 quotes from Isa. 53:7-8 and Philip explains to the Ethiopian Eunuch that the prophet is talking about Jesus, “proclaiming the good news to him about Jesus.”

Rom. 15:21 quotes from Isa. 52:15 to explain his mission to the Gentiles.

Rom. 10:16 quotes from Isa. 53:1 (cf. 52:7) to explain why the Jewish people rejected Jesus as Messiah.

Jn. 12:38-43 the author quotes from Isa. 53:1 and Isa. 6:10 to explain why the Jewish people did not believe Jesus, even though the prophet Isaiah “saw his glory and spoke concerning him.”

Although Mark 10:45 does not quote directly from Isa. 53, many scholars consider that Jesus is alluding to this text when he states his intention to “give his life as a ransom for many.” There exist other linkages with the Fourth Servant Song. In Acts 3:13, Peter says that God “has glorified his servant” ἐδόξασεν τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ, which is reminiscent of Isa. 52:13 …ὁ παῖς…δοξασθήσεται σφόδρα.

[2] Karen Jobes, 1 Peter. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI.: Baker Academic, 2005), 51.

[3] E. Robert Ekblad, “God is not to Blame: The Servant’s Atoning Suffering According to the LXX of Isaiah 53,” in Stricken by God, edited by Brad Jersak and Michael Hardin (Abbotsford, B.C.: Fresh Wind Press, 2007), 180. Cf. E. Robert Ekblad, Isaiah’s Servant Poems According to the Septuagint. An Exegetical and Theological Study (Leuven: Peeters, 1999).

[4] O.Cullmann, Peter – Disciple · Apostle · Martyr A Historical and Theological Study (London: SCM Press, Ltd., 1962), 68-69 notes that only in Acts 3-4 does the New Testament describe Jesus as παῖς τοῦ θεοῦ “servant of God” and in both chapters Peter is the primary character. 3:13 τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ Ἰησοῦν; 3:26 ἀναστήσας ὁ θεὸς τὸν παῖδα αὐτοῦ; 4:27 ἐπὶ τὸν ἅγιον παῖδά σου Ἰησοῦν ὃν ἐχρισας; 4:30 διὰ τοῦ ὀνόματος τοῦ ἁγίου παιδός σου Ἰησοῦ. In one case David is referred to with this expression (4:25 Δαυὶδ παιδός σου). He proposes that “it is probably not too bold to conclude from this fact that the author thus preserves the clear memory that it was the apostle Peter who by preference designated Jesus as the ‘Suffering Servant of God’.” Cullmann continues to suggest that “the Christology of the apostle Peter, if we may dare to use this expression, was quite probably dominated by the concept of the ebed Yahweh.”

[5] Whether the apostle Peter wrote 1 Peter is disputed. I will use the name “Peter” to indicate the author, without at this point arguing the case for Petrine authorship.

[6] The NIV renders προεγνωσμένου as “chosen.” This rendering does not fully capture the linkage with the cognate noun used in 1:2 πρόγνωσιν, which the NIV renders as “chosen according to the foreknowledge.” NRSV renders the verb in 1:20 as “destined,” which captures the sense of chosen and appointed according to previous plan. NASB used “foreknown” at 1:20 to translate the participle.

[7] 1:15; 2:9, 21; 3:9; 5:10. Everyone who resides in “the household of God” does so because God specifically has called them.

[8] An example of alliteration (paronomasia). Cf. examples in the Greek Old Testament at Prov. 24:12; Isa.1:21.

[9] The NIV translation does not reflect the emphatic καὶ in the καὶ Χριστῷ construction in 2:21. NRSV and NASB render it as “Christ also.”  Achtemeier argues that the καὶ is “related to the verb,” not specifically to the noun Χριστῷ. However, normally the emphatic καί precedes that lexeme it is modifying. Consider its occurrence in 2:5 καὶ αὐτοὶ…οἰκοδομεῖσθε or 3:18 ὁτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἔπαθεν,.. or 4:1 καὶ ὑμεῖς τὴν εὐτὴν ἐννοιαν ὁπλίσασθε. The author seems to employ it in contexts where he wants to emphasize the connection between the actions of the Messiah and the actions of believers. In 2:21 the commonality seems to be that these household slaves are suffering unjustly and even the Messiah suffered in the same way. The household slaves are doing it because of their “consciousness of God” and the Messiah is doing it “for you.” While the suffering is common, the implications of the suffering are diverse, as Peter emphasizes in 3:18 where he notes the uniqueness of the Messiah’s suffering as ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν. For this reason, I would argue against Achtemeier’s perspective that this comparison between the suffering of household slaves and the Messiah “obviates the need to find a reference to Christ’s death as well as his suffering in the verb ἔπαθεν, again something unnecessary in this context” (cf. Paul Achtemeier, 1 Peter. Hermeneia (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1996), 199).

[10] Leon Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), 62-64.

[11] Ibid., 63.

[12] The only other context in which this preposition occurs is 3:18 in the expression δίκαιος ὑπὲρ ἀδίκων, where the Messiah is the innocent one.

[13] The Greek text of Isaiah is that produced by Joseph Ziegler, Isaias. Septuaginta Vetus Testamentum Graecum Auctoritate Academiae Litterarum Gottingensis editum vol. XIV (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, 1967). The term “Old Greek” refers to the translation of the Hebrew text produced sometime in the second century BCE, probably in Alexandria, Egypt, by a member of the Jewish community. It often is referred to as the Septuagint. An English translation of this Old Greek Translation of Isaiah can be found in A New English Translation of the Septuagint, edited by  Albert Pietersma and Benjamin Wright (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 2007). This translation often is referred to as “NETS” and can be accessed on the website of the International Organization for Septuagint and Cognate Studies.

[14] Note that the author does not mark this as a quotation and so may feel he can exercise some freedom with respect to the wording.

[15] Achtemeier says that “the change adapts the passage more exactly to the present context with its reference to sin in 2:19, and the subsequent reference in 2:24 to Isa. 53:4, where ἁμαρτίας is used” (200). He also makes the observation in footnote 152 that these terms were virtually synonymous in Greek Isaiah because of “the paralleling of ἁμαρτία with ἀνομία in 53:5, and the use of ἁμαρτίας in 53:4” (200).

[16] ψυχή probably means “life, person” rather than “soul” in this context.

[17] Jobes, 1 Peter, 196.

[18] Heb.9:28 reads, “so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” (οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστὸς ἅπαξ προσενεχθεὶς εἰς τὸ πολλῶν ἀνενεγκεῖν ἁμαρτίας). NRSV translates this text as “so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many,…”

[19] Jobes notes (p.197) how significant death by crucifixion would be for slaves, because this was the common method of slave execution in the Roman Empire.

[20] The translator of Isaiah does not indicate who is responsible for the bruising, but presumably it arises in the course of the Servant’s suffering for the sins of other people.

[21] Some NT manuscripts add αυτου but they tend to be in the Byzantine family.

[22] Jobes points out (p.198-199) that the sheep-shepherd motif also is found in Isa. 40:10-11 and Ezek. 34:11-13, where God says he “will oversee (ἐπισκέψομαι) them.”

[23] NETS translates this section of 53:11 “to justify a righteous one who is well subject to many.” The sense of “serve” is more appropriate to this context than the idea of “subject to.”

[24] The similar use of this adverb in Heb. 9:28 with reference to the sacrificial nature of the Messiah’s death indicates that this connection was known within the early church.

[25] 1 Peter is linked in various ways with the Exodus story. In particular, the reference to “God’s mighty hand” in 5:7 reminds readers of God’s tangible actions to deliver Israel from Egypt and preserve this people in the wilderness.

[26] “If you do not exchange it, you shall redeem it. Every firstborn of a human being among your sons you shall redeem” (NETS translation of Exod. 13:13). The Greek reads: ἐὰν δὲ μὴ ἀλλάξῃς, λυτρώσῃ αὐτό. Πᾶν πρωτότοκον ἀνθρώπου τῶν υἱῶν σου λυτρώσῃ. Yahweh forbids sacrificing a ‘son,’ but rather requires its redemption. In his great song celebrating Israel’s escape and Egypt’s destruction, Moses praises God because “You led by your righteousness this people of yours whom you redeemed” (Exod. 15:13 NETS translation of the Greek text).

[27] This language of redemption also occurs in Greek Isa. 52:3.

[28] The phrase λαὸς περιούσιος ἀπὸ πάντων τῶν ἐθνῶν (“a people special above all nations” (NETS)) occurs in Exodus 19:5 (cf. 23:22 some Greek manuscripts where it occurs again, but there is no equivalent text in current Hebrew traditions). God promises that Israel will be “my special treasure (segullah) among all the peoples because I own the whole earth.” In other Old Testament contexts this term (segullah) indicates something very valuable. In Eccles. 2:8 the term describes “the treasure of kings,” i.e., silver and gold. The author of Chronicles uses it to describe the wealth David collected to construct the temple (1 Chr. 29:3). This term also occurs in Moses’ instructions to Israel in Deuteronomy (7:6; 14:2; 26:18-19). The Psalmist affirms that Lord has chosen Israel as His “special possession” (135:4). In Malachi the prophet (3:16-18) reports that those who feared God wrote their names in “a book of remembrance” and God announces that they are his “own possession.” Liddell and Scott state that λαὸς περιούσιος = λαὸς εἰς περιποίησιν. περιούσιος signifies something left over from abundance, profit, benefit; περιποίησις means a possession, something acquired.

[29] In Ephesians, Paul says that believers “have redemption through his (Jesus Christ’s) blood” (ἐν ᾧ ἔχομεν τὴν ἀπολύτρωσιν διὰ τοῦ αἵματος αὐτοῦ 1:7) and that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our inheritance “until the redemption of those who are God’s possession” (ὅ ἐστιν ἀρραβὼν τῆς κληρονομίας ἡμῶν, εἰς ἀπολύτρωσιν τῆς περιποιήσεως 1:14). Again, there is a linkage between the concept of possessing or acquiring a people, the process of redemption, and the blood of the Messiah as involved in this transaction.

[30] Karen Jobes and Moisés Silva, Invitation to the Septuagint (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2000), 215-226.

[31] Ibid., 221.

[32] Ibid., 223.

[33] The term πληγή could be understood in various ways, i.e., blow, calamity, stroke (Liddell-Scott, 1417). The source of the blow in the Greek text is not defined. Perhaps its interpretation should be linked with its use also in 53:4 where NETS renders it as “calamity.”

[34] Ibid., 226.

[35] E.R. Ekblad, “God is Not to Blame,” 204. I am not sure why Ekblad uses the plural in reference to the translation of Isaiah. I am not aware of any evidence that suggests more than one person was responsible for the Isaiah translation.  Care must also be taken to distinguish between how the translator intended his translation to be read and how, in the course of transmission history, it came to be understood.  In this part of the paper, I am interested in the first. In the initial part of the paper, I considered how the Greek Isaiah text was interpreted in its transmission history, particularly in 1 Peter.

[36] Isa. 5:5-6. Some might argue that the author of Isaiah 1-39 and Isaiah 40-55 are different individuals. However, from the standpoint of the translator, Isaiah is all viewed as one book.

[37] Isa. 5:25.

[38] Isa. 6:11.

[39] When seeking to discern the way the translator intended a Greek term to be understood in a particular context, it is important to understand how he may have used this term elsewhere in his translation. What Hebrew terms does the Greek term render and has the Hebrew text influenced the meaning of this Greek term in any particular manner? Understanding the general translation technique of the translator helps discern where he may be expressing an unusual meaning for some reason.

[40] What the translator may have thought the Hebrew text meant in this situation is unclear. It is an oracle of judgment against Babylon. Yahweh says he will withdraw justice from Babylon in 47:3c; therefore, the clause in 47.3d may relate to this action and mean “I will no longer deliver you over to men [so that you can enjoy the normal legal processes].”

[41] Consider also the translation at 64:7 καὶ παρέδωκας (different Hebrew verb) ἡμᾶς διὰ τὰς ἁμαρτίας ἡμῶν “and you handed us over because of our sins.” The Hebrew text seems to mean “you ‘melted’ us into the hand of our iniquity” (see the NRSV version and the footnote).

[42] The Hebrew noun חלי means “sickness; suffering” (L. Koehler and W, Baumgartner, eds. The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Vol. I (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 318).

[43] K.Jobes and M. Silva, Invitation…, 226.

[44] 3:15 ἀδικεῖτε; 19:10 ἐν ὀδύνῃ 53:5 μεμαλάκισται; 53:10 καθαρίσαι; 57:15 (rendering is unclear, but seems to be included in the term ὀλιγοψύχοις).

[45] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Zondervan, 1996), 107-108.

[46] Ziegler, Isaias., 322.

[47] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Baker Book House, 1986 (unabridged, one-volume edition)), 811-815.

[48] Ibid., 815.

[49] Ibid.

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