New Release: Defending Substitution

Cover ArtIn recent decades, the church and academy have witnessed intense debates concerning the concept of substitutionary atonement. Many have taken issue with the concept, claiming that it promotes bloody violence, glorifies suffering and death, and inevitably amounts to divine child abuse. On the other hand, others have defended penal substitution, arguing that the concept plays a pivotal role in classical Christian doctrine.

In this volume, world-renowned New Testament scholar Simon Gathercole offers an exegetical and historical defense of the traditional substitutionary view of the atonement. Gathercole provides critical analyses of various interpretations of the atonement and places New Testament teaching in its Old Testament and Greco-Roman contexts, demonstrating that the interpretation of atonement in the Pauline corpus must include the concept of substitution.


“Gathercole draws on a range of classical as well as biblical sources to argue that for Paul, at least, the notion of substitution remained central….This book will give new energy to the ongoing discussion.” – N. T. Wright, University of St. Andrews, Scotland

“By careful and lucid analysis of key passages, Simon Gathercole shows that this view has deep roots both in Paul’s texts and in his Jewish and Greco-Roman cultural heritage.” – Francis Watson, Durham University

“This is a work all those interested in the atonement will want to read and engage. It is certainly a book I shall be recommending to my students.” – Oliver Crisp, Fuller Theological Seminary

“These learned and lucid lectures use the prism of modern disputes to take us to the heart of Pauline teaching on the cross. I highly commend it.” – Mark Dever, Capitol Hill Baptist Church

“A model of scholarly clarity and sobriety.” – Stephen Westerholm, McMaster University

“I warmly recommend this revival of a classic argument…Here is an eminently accessible point of reference for future exegetical, theological, and, indeed, ecumenical engagement with St. Paul on the death of Christ.” – Markus Bockmuehl, Oxford


Simon Gathercole (PhD, University of Durham) is senior lecturer in New Testament studies in the Faculty of Divinity of the University of Cambridge and Fellow and director of studies in theology at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. A leading British New Testament scholar, he has written hundreds of articles and several groundbreaking volumes, including The Preexistent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; The Gospel of Judas: Rewriting Early Christianity; The Composition of the Gospel of Thomas; and The Gospel of Thomas: Introduction and Commentary. He is also coauthor of How God Became Jesus: The Real Origins of Belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature–A Response.

For more information on Defending Substitution, click here.