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Faith of our Fathers: Jerome on Double Imputation

24 September, 2009
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From Jerome (c.347-420), in Expositio in Primam Epistolam ad Corinthiios (PL 30:820):

Christ who was without sin is said to be made sin for us [2 Cor 5:21], because for our sins he died. Christ who knew no sin, the Father made sin for us: that, as a victim offered for sin was in the law called ‘sin,’ according as it is written in Leviticus, ‘And he shall lay his hand upon the head of his sin’ [e.g. Lev 4:29]; so likewise Christ, being offered for our sins, received the name of sin. ‘That we might be made the righteousness of God in him’: not our righteousness, nor in ourselves.

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7 Comments
  1. 24 September, 2009 9:59 pm

    Not to shock you, but that quote in no way teaches the Protestant notion of “double imputation.” Rather than teaching “made sin” means “imputed with our guilt,” Jerome recognizes that Scripture teaches it means ‘made a sin offering,’ which is not the same as imputation or penal-substitution.

  2. 25 September, 2009 1:31 pm

    Nick~

    Did you actually follow up Jerome’s logic here, rooted in the texts he cites? How else would you explain ‘not our righteousness, nor in ourselves’? I have to say, the line you’re attempting to tread between these themes is so thin as to be nonexistent.

    I’m not shocked; I’m aware of how you feel about C or C’s views. I’m confident in saying, however, that our views are not only closer to Jerome’s than yours, but closer to the Catholic tradition you’d like to claim against us — esp. on penal substitution. But again, we’ve had this conversation before.
    ~B

  3. Nick permalink
    25 September, 2009 9:54 pm

    I think you are misunderstanding me. My point is that you’re reading Psub/Double-Imp/etc into his quote (I don’t have the original source so I’m basing my talk on just this limited quote).

    The issue of “not our righteousness nor in ourselves” simply means not of us or our own natural powers, perfectly orthodox. It in no way indicates an imputed alien (legal) righteousness.

    Jerome’s quote is actually very Catholic, and many Reformed Protestants I’ve spoken to won’t accept the “sin offering” interpretation of “made sin.”

    • 26 September, 2009 11:59 am

      Nick~

      I don’t think I’ve misunderstood you; I know that you think I’m reading these things into Jerome, and my point is rather that I’m reading them from Jerome.

      Speaking of ‘reading things in’: how do you get ‘not of us or our own natural powers’ from ‘not our righteousness, nor in ourselves’? The quote doesn’t say ‘our righteousness, but by God’s grace, and in us, but again by grace’, like you want it to say; rather, he plainly says NOT our righteousness (but Christ’s), NOR in ourselves (but in Christ).

      That, in parallel with his example from Leviticus of the legal transferral of our sin and its punishment to the animal which represents us in its destruction by God, is pretty clearly double imputation. Christ being made sin, according to Jerome, doesn’t mean that he intrinsically became sinful, but means he ‘received the name’ of sin; in paralllel, according to Jerome, our ‘being made the righteousness of God in him’, is not that we’re made intrinsically righteousness before God, but we receive such a righteousness that it is NOT our righteousness, NOR in ourselves.

      Again, follow Jerome’s logic. Whatever you say about one side of the parallel, you say about the other. You can’t make Jerome’s quote make no sense on its own terms, just because you want to make another sense out of it.
      ~B

  4. Nick permalink
    27 September, 2009 8:57 pm

    Quote: “I know that you think I’m reading these things into Jerome, and my point is rather that I’m reading them from Jerome.”

    Then what more can be said?
    The following facts support my claims: (1) The term “imputation” doesn’t even appear in the quote; (2) The Protestant notion of imputing an alien righteousness is foreign to Jerome and rather an invention of Luther; (3) The quote, as it stands, is orthodox Catholicism.

    I’m not sure your beef with “not of us or our own natural powers” for that is what the ‘not our righteousness” means when explained.

    The difficulty here is that you’re reading Jerome with Protestant glasses on, note some key examples from what you said:

    (1) QUOTE: “he plainly says NOT our righteousness (but Christ’s), NOR in ourselves (but in Christ).”

    Nick: He never says “but Christ’s” nor intends to say ‘Christ’s Righteousness,’ you’re reading that Protestant into the quote. The “Righteousness of God [the Father]” is not the Protestant notion of “Christ’s Righteousness.”

    (2) Quote: “his example from Leviticus of the legal transferral of our sin and its punishment to the animal”

    Nick: You’re reading this into Jerome and the Bible. There is no ‘transfer of sin/punishment’ to the animal; that’s a misreading of Leviticus! I have a Penal Substitution debate on my page where I address this very issue.
    So your conclusion, “is pretty clearly double imputation,” is getting ahead of yourself and not based on solid evidence.

    (3) Quote: “Christ being made sin, according to Jerome, doesn’t mean that he intrinsically became sinful, but means he ‘received the name’ of sin; in parallel, according to Jerome, our ‘being made the righteousness of God in him’, is not that we’re made intrinsically righteousness before God, but we receive such a righteousness that it is NOT our righteousness, NOR in ourselves.”

    Nick: True, he didn’t mean he “intrinsically became sinful,” but here is where you get hung up: You’re assuming that since it’s not ‘intrinsic’ it must then be ‘impute’; that’s wrong!
    Christ didn’t “become sin” in the sense of being made intrinsically sinful, nor did he become sin by imputation, but he did “become sin” in a figurative sense – that he was made a sin offering. Note this ‘third’ option.

    (4) Quote: “Again, follow Jerome’s logic. Whatever you say about one side of the parallel, you say about the other. You can’t make Jerome’s quote make no sense on its own terms, just because you want to make another sense out of it.”

    Nick: No. The ‘parallelism’ is not accurate either, the ‘became sin so that we might become’ is to be read in the sense of “Event-A caused Event-B,” not “Event-A is parallel to Event-B.” Protestants have, since the start, have read way too much into this one verse.

  5. Doug permalink
    22 November, 2009 7:24 pm

    Luther did not originate the understanding of the Double imputation. It was understood and taught in the second century. Unfortunately the author of the quote is unknown by name.

    “Substitutionary Atonement and Double Imputation – 2nd Century AD
    “He showed how long-suffering He is. He bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us – the Holy for the wicked, the Sinless for sinners, the Just for the unjust, the Incorrupt for the corrupt, the Immortal for the mortal. For was there, indeed, anything except His righteousness that could have availed to cover our sins? In whom could we, in our lawlessness and ungodliness, have been made holy, but in the Son of God alone? O sweet exchange! O unsearchable working! O benefits unhoped for! – that the wickedness of multitudes should thus be hidden in the One holy, and the holiness of One should sanctify the countless wicked!”
    The quote is from The Epistle to Diognetus 9, translated by Maxwell Staniforth. This text dates from the mid to late 2nd century AD. It is an early indication that the doctrines of substitutionary atonement and double imputation were not first the product of the Protestant Reformation, but were held dear by the earliest generations of Christians. The author is unknown – he refers to himself simply as a mathetes “disciple”.”

  6. 23 November, 2009 4:03 am

    interesting Doug. B should be able to follow that up quicker than me. I could ask the Heidelblog dude. He would know more about that.

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