In the earliest Pauline letter, 1
Thessalonians, we have only “who died for us
so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him.”
In the next one, 1 Corinthians, it is written: “... Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures” (15:3). However as I explained here 1 Cor 15:3-11 is most likely an interpolation.
Cor 15:3a-8a is about
"factual" items: death, burial and many post-mortem visions
("evidencing" the resurrection). But one exception is among
them: "for our sins"
is a theological point, not an observable fact. And there
is no "atonement for sins" in the rest of 1 Corinthians (and
1 Thessalonians), but it appears in later epistles
(2 Cor 5:19a, 21a; Gal 1:3b-4a; Ro 3:23-25, 4:25a).
Was it inserted for sake of "homogeneity"?
Remark: it seems Tertullian (around 210) did not have "for our sins" in his copy of 1 Corinthians:
Against Praxeas (186):"[Paul] testifies that "He died according to the Scriptures,""
Against Praxeas (409): "For even the apostle, to his declaration-which he makes not without feeling the weight of it-that "Christ died," immediately adds, "according to the Scriptures,""
However, Christ is said sacrificed in 5:7
Let's notice that, in the same epistle, Paul
could not explain the meaning of “Christ crucified” and appealed
to the Holy Spirit for explanation (1:18-2:16). He admitted: "But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1:23). He also acknowledged
his message is only a foundation for others to build on (3:6-15).
But in the next letters, Paul will start to state a sacrifice for atonement of sins, in terms more and more precise, from one letter to the next:
2 Cor 5:19a "that
God was reconciling the world to himself in
counting men's sins against them..."
2 Cor 5:21a "God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us..."
Gal 1:3b-4a "... our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age ..."
Ro 3:23-25 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,"
Ro 4:25a "[Christ] who was delivered up because of our offenses,..."
So it seems the sacrifice for atonement of
sins was not in Paul's preaching early on, but got adopted
(progressively) later. How do I explain the change?
As I expounded on
my webpage, through the influence of Apollos of Alexandria, the author of
'Hebrews'. The authorship of 'Hebrews', which I took great pain to
demonstrate, is also in accordance with the NIV Study Bible,
introduction to 'Hebrews':
"... candidate for authorship [of 'Hebrews'] is Apollos, whose name was first suggested by Martin Luther and who is favored by many scholars today."
For the ones who are not familiar with my
website, I showed that 1 Corinthians is actually three combined
letters (see here) and that 'Hebrews' was written before the last one of those. Of
course, Paul & Apollos knew each other, during their stay in
Ephesus where they were both preaching (1 Cor 4:6, 16:12).
For me, 'Hebrews' (and Apollos, greatly
influenced by Philo of Alexandria) is the mother lode of Christian
beliefs. It gave us the pre-existence, Son of God, co-creator of the
universe (as the Word of God), and sacrifice for atonement of sins
(as explained in last two posted webpages), all of that justified by
quotes from the scriptures taken out of context.
But how does 'Hebrews' demonstrate the sacrifice for atonement of sins?
By the suffering servant of Isaiah? NO.
Rather through Jesus as the ultimate high priest: instead of continuously offering animals for sacrifice for cancelling sins, as the temple priests were doing in Jerusalem, Christ offered his own body, once for all (Heb 4:14-5:10, 6:20-10:22). That is expounded at length in the epistle and can be shown to originate from Philo of Alexandria's writings (see here).
About Jesus the high priest in “Hebrews”:
“For it was fitting
that we should have such a high
priest, holy, blameless, unstained,
separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He
has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this
once for all when he offered up himself.” (7:26-27)
From Philo of Alexandria's works:
"the man [the high priest] who was consecrated to the Father of the world, should have as a paraclete [intercessor], his Son, the being most perfect in all virtue, to procure forgiveness of sins, and a supply of unlimited blessings..." (On the life of Moses II, ch. XXVI)
"Who then is the chief butler of God? The priest who offers libations to him, the truly great high priest, who, having received a draught of everlasting graces, offers himself in return, pouring in an entire libation full of unmixed wine" (On dreams II, ch. XXVII)
"For we say the high
priest is not a man, but is the
word of God ..." (On
flight and finding, ch. XX)