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Rethinking the Atonement

New Perspectives on Jesus's Death, Resurrection, and Ascension

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Traditional views on the atonement tend to be reductive, focusing solely on Jesus's death on the cross. In his 2011 groundbreaking book Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews, David Moffitt challenged that paradigm, showing how the atonement is a fuller process. It involves not only Jesus's death but also his resurrection, ascension, offering, and exaltation.

In the succeeding years, Moffitt has continued to expand and clarify his thinking on this issue. This book offers a more fulsome articulation of his work on the atonement that reflects his recent thinking on the topic. Moffitt continues to challenge reductive views of the atonement, primarily from the book of Hebrews, but he engages other New Testament passages as well. He offers fresh insights on sacrifice and atonement, the importance of resurrection and ascension, Jesus's role as priest, and a new perspective on Hebrews.

This important book brings Moffitt's award-winning and influential scholarship to a broader audience.

Foreword by N. T. Wright
1. Rethinking the Atonement: An Introduction
2. Modeled on Moses: Jesus's Death, Passover, and the Defeat of the Devil in the Epistle to the Hebrews
3. Wilderness Identity and Pentateuchal Narrative: Distinguishing between Jesus's Inauguration and Maintenance of the New Covenant in Hebrews
4. Isaiah 53, Hebrews, and Covenant Renewal
5. "If Another Priest Arises": Jesus's Resurrection and the High-Priestly
Christology of Hebrews

6. Blood, Life, and Atonement: Reassessing Hebrews' Christological Appropriation of Yom Kippur
7. Weak and Useless? Purity, the Mosaic Law, and Perfection in

8. Serving in the Tabernacle in Heaven: Sacred Space, Jesus's High-Priestly Sacrifice, and Hebrews' Analogical Theology
9. It Is Not Finished: Jesus's Perpetual Atoning Work as the Heavenly High Priest in Hebrews
10. Observations on Directional Features of the Incarnation and Jesus's Sacrifice in Hebrews
11. Jesus's Heavenly Sacrifice in Early Christian Reception of Hebrews: A Survey
12. Righteous Bloodshed, Matthew's Passion Narrative, and the Temple's
Destruction: Lamentations as a Matthean Intertext
13. The Sign of Jonah and the Prophet Motif in the Gospel of Matthew: Moving toward the Gentile Mission
14. Atonement at the Right Hand: The Sacrificial Significance of Jesus's Exaltation in Acts
15. Affirming the "Creed": The Extent of Paul's Citation of an Early
Christian Formula in 1 Corinthians 15:3b-7



"Moffitt brings together several substantial, probing chapters covering a wide range of issues, mostly in Hebrews but with important extra material on Matthew, Luke-Acts, and the early 'creed' in 1 Corinthians 15. Backed up by a wealth of detailed exegetical and theological argument, he engages with scholarly debate not only to answer critics of his earlier proposals (though he does that trenchantly, not least by a detailed study of patristic sources) but to extend his proposals into several areas where the modern reappraisal of the ancient Jewish world, so vital for today's studies of Jesus and Paul, needs to be worked through in terms of what Hebrews is actually saying--which is somewhat different from what many have assumed. The result is an eye-opening series of arguments, each one of which now needs to be pondered and integrated into our overall assessment of Hebrews and its contribution to early Christian thought as a whole. Moffitt clearly relishes both the fine-grained detail of biblical exegesis and the larger theological picture that emerges from it, and all who share these passions will richly enjoy his writing."

N. T. Wright (from the foreword)

"A new publication by David Moffitt is always a treat. This book brings together a number of seminal essays in which Moffitt applies his precise and illuminating analysis of the biblical logic of sacrifice to Hebrews and other NT texts. Using a combination of exegetical rigor and theological insight, Moffitt makes a compelling and urgent case for re-examining the saving significance of Jesus's resurrection and ascension (as well as his death) within the biblical understanding of atonement. This volume will be indispensable for the study of Hebrews, and it should be foundational for the development of atonement theology."

Loveday Alexander, professor emerita of biblical studies, University of Sheffield

"Rarely does a new body of scholarship come along that compels us to rethink what we thought we knew about the New Testament. Moffitt's work on the Letter to the Hebrews is exactly that sort of game-changing intervention. This new collection of deeply researched essays builds upon and persuasively amplifies his earlier interpretations of resurrection and atonement in Hebrews, while also illuminating the theology of other New Testament documents. For those whose faculties have been trained by practice to recognize serious and illuminating exegesis, this book is not milk but solid food."

Richard B. Hays, George Washington Ivey Distinguished Professor Emeritus of New Testament, Duke University

"From the author who has revolutionized Hebrews' studies, Rethinking the Atonement presents in one place many of David Moffitt's exegetical arguments. Readers are challenged to recover a holistic affirmation of God's work in Christ: incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and session. Moffitt has changed not only how I read Hebrews but how I conceive of my faith. I'm eager to put this volume into the hands of my students and parishioners."

Amy Peeler, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College

"Moffitt argues compellingly that while Jesus's death on a cross completes the earthly work of salvation, his priestly work in heaven continues, and this too is part of his saving, and atoning, work. This collection of essays is not simply a rethinking but a Copernican Revolution in atonement theology, both because it concerns the movement of a celestial body (the risen and ascended Jesus Christ) and because it calls for a reversal of some traditional soteriological polarities."

Kevin J. Vanhoozer, research professor of systematic theology, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

"Rethinking the Atonement represents rigorous, in-depth biblical scholarship of the highest order. It is not merely original; it promises to be no less than field changing. That is because it will no longer be possible to write on the atonement, let alone Christology, without engaging in detail with the exegetical arguments that Moffitt presents. What is most exciting, however, is not simply the lucid way in which he demonstrates that widely held assumptions about the atonement are deeply flawed but that he does this in a way that brings the gospel alive. This is one of those rare books in biblical scholarship that should be compulsory reading not only for biblical scholars but also for academic theologians, students, and pastors alike. I cannot recommend this remarkable volume highly enough!"

Alan J. Torrance, emeritus professor, University of St. Andrews

"This is a spectacular set of essays from one of the greatest living New Testament scholars--David Moffitt. This collection provides a convenient and affordable anthology of some of his most influential work. For those who are unfamiliar with Moffitt, this is your chance to remedy that, and for those who are familiar, this is your chance to have some of his most influential work readily available."

Madison N. Pierce, associate professor of New Testament, Western Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. David M. Moffitt
    Isabella Baradaran

    David M. Moffitt

    David M. Moffitt (PhD, Duke University) is reader in New Testament studies at the University of St. Andrews in St. Andrews, Scotland. His book Atonement and the Logic of Resurrection in the Epistle to the Hebrews received a Manfred...

    Continue reading about David M. Moffitt


"Against the common perception that Hebrews locates our salvation solely in Jesus's blood sacrifice, David Moffitt digs deeply into the text to show how the resurreciton and ascension of Jesus are also crucial aspects of his saving power. These essays make a compelling case that the high-priestly Christology of Hebrews is based on a tragectory that doesn't end with Jesus's crucifixion but rather begins with it."

Gordon Marino,

Christian Century