The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Jesus died in our place? Or for our sake?

What was the purpose of Jesus’ death? Translations of the Greek New Testament contain many verses that say Christ died FOR us? But what do those little words translated as “For” mean?

Did He die for us in order to save us from our sin, that is, from our wrongdoing?—from ourselves?
Or did He die for us in the sense of dying in our place, to appease the wrath of an angry God so that His suffering satisfied God’s wrath, and thus God wouldn’t be angry at us anymore?

I looked up as many verses as I could quickly find containing the phrase or similar phrase as “Christ died for us” and found that in nearly every instance, the word “for” is translated by the Greek preposition “ὑπερ” which means “on behalf of” or “for the benefit of” or “for the sake of” or “because of”.

The following verses are from the ESV. I have reddened every “for” that is translated from “ὑπερ”. Try reading them, substituting one of the three phrases I gave above as the meaning of “ὑπερ”.

In one verse, the Greek proposition “περι” is translated as “for”. That word means “concerning”. Jesus died concerning us. We were His concern.

If any of these verses were meant to mean that Jesus died in our place, the writer would have used the preposition “ἀντι”. This word means “instead of” or “in place of”. I believe there is NO VERSE that uses this preposition concerning Jesus’ death for us.

There is one that, at first blush, might be thought to be an instance:

This time, it is the preposition “ἀντι” which is translated as “for”. So am I wrong? Is this a clear case of Jesus having died in our place. No! If we examine the context, we can see that in this case “giving his life” is not a reference to his death, but rather giving his life here on earth to serve others.

So whoever among them wanted to be great, they could not attain greatness by persuading Jesus to let them sit next to Him in His glory—not by lording over other people like the Gentile rulers—but by serving other people. This is how Jesus spent His life, not for Himself, but for others. He came not to be served, but to serve others. He gave His life to serve others. Jesus is not here referring to giving up His life by dying on the cross, but giving up His life while living in this world, by serving others. He gave His life as a ransom in place of many others—living for them. Paying “a ransom” is a means of liberating others from misery. Jesus’ earthly life was the price He paid in order to liberate others.

1 Like

That post is a keeper, Don. I’ve wanted to put something like that together but I’m …what’s the word?..ah yes, Lazy. :frowning:

Anyway, thanks.

I’m a little confused why you bring up ‘anti’ and its relative meaning, which is as you say… “means “instead of” or “in place of”.” — but seemingly ignore the <ὑπὲρ> hyper which likewise as you say… “means “on behalf of” or “for the benefit of” or “for the sake of” or “because of”.” So maybe I’m misreading you?? But anyway, there is this text from Hebrews where…

This appearing “on our behalf” was of course by way of the Cross, i.e., his death… on our behalf — <ὑπὲρ> hyper.

But that said, I think BOTH elements are there… so this is not a case of either/or but both. Certainly, Jesus came to serve in laying down his life, not only by that which he demonstrated in life-conduct, BUT also in his death which really is the focus of that Hebraic notion of RANSOM as per Mk 10:45; Mt 20:28. Then there is this…

THAT ‘testimony’ was Calvary, i.e., his death. Interestingly here in this verse appear both words in the phrase… “ransom for all” = < ἀντίλυτρον ὑπὲρ πάντων> antilytron hyper pantōn. Along similar lines is Isaiah’s…

Thus Mark’s choice of ἀντὶ πολλῶν. <anti pollōn> = “instead of many” meant… the redemptive saving thereof, which is what we see spoken of in John’s gospel, as per…

So, to the two options posed in the OP above the answer can be… “both”.

Davo, you are probably thinking of “on behalf of” as meaning “as a representative of,” which indeed is a correct meaning of the phrase. But, I not think “υπερ” ever means that. However, according to the Cambridge Dictionary “on behalf of” also means “done for another person’s benefit or support, or because you are representing the interests of that person.” This is what I had in mind by including “on behalf of” as one of the meanings of “υπερ”.


Hey Paidion you said:

Thanks Don, and I revel that this is your position. That is pretty cool.

Ok, so I’ve only gone with the texts you’ve mentioned above (there are oddles more) with regards to <ὑπὲρ> hyperRom 5:6, 8; 14:15; 1Cor 15:3; 2Cor 15:14; 1Jn 3:16 = “on behalf of” <ὑπὲρ> hyper.

Alfred Marshall’s ‘Interlinear Greek-English New Testament’ reads “on behalf of” for each and EVERONE of those references, AND Harold K. Moulton’s ‘The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised’ gives these renderings for <ὑπὲρ> hyper… prep. with a genitive, above, over; met. in behalf of, instead of, in maintenance of, for the furtherance of, for the realization of; equivalent to <περί> peri (I left out all the textual references to these). Along with that is this online rendering of the same… [1) in behalf of, for the sake of 2) over, beyond, more than 3) more, beyond, over](

So, given your “* But, I not think “υπερ” ever means that.*” can you give your defined meaning, and application of this, and lay out your rationale for as to why, thanks.

Davo, I thought I had done exactly that!

I agree with the translation of “ὑπερ” in English as “on behalf of.”

But not in the English sense of “as representative of” but rather in the sense of “done for another person’s benefit or support, or because you are representing the interests of that person.” That is what Jesus did for us through His death. His death was for our benefit or support. His death released God’s enabling grace to deliver us from sinful inclinations, when that enabling grace is received through faith. And Jesus also represents our interests—that is our interests in being delivered from the propensity to do evil, if we are willing to accept it through faith.

I am not claiming that by receiving this enabling grace through faith, we will never do anything wrong again. Our deliverance is contingent on our willingness to be delivered by that enabling grace (Titus 2:11-15). This deliverance (or salvation) is a process, that continues through faith. Some day the process will be complete. As the apostle Paul wrote (as recorded in Philippians 1:6):

Thank you, Chad. I am glad to appreciate this view.
Thank you too, Dave B, for your gracious comment.

Ok, I can appreciate that but I think such DOES cover both… but we can agree to disagree on that.

My thoughts, however, is that you’ve made your argument BASED around what I would see as an unnecessary splitting-of-hairs in rejecting the given meaning of the Greek <ὑπὲρ> hyper, saying it means something other than its English rendering (my understanding of your words). And this rejection is the mainstay of your proposition… I’m merely asking for you to explain with LXX or GNT evidence, or whatever other sources, that which backs up your claim that with regards to an apparent lack of “as representative of” aspect relative to the Greek <ὑπὲρ> hyper, that such does NOT cover the aforementioned.

IOW, I think you could make your argument without appealing to the Greek, disagreeing with the application you place on the Greek and then NOT showing how/why you’ve reached that conclusion from any Greek text… thus not demonstrating the validity of your assertion to justify your claim upon which your whole position is based etc.

In any case, Davo, I have not found that the Greek preposition “ἀντι” (instead of) used anywhere in the New Testament to indicate that Christ died as a sacrificial substitute for us, thus appeasing God so that God was satisfied in punishing Him instead of us.

If you think “ὑπερ” does the job of proving penal substitution, then, yes, we disagree.

Certainly we can look at those two things, but first… can/will you answer the basic question relative to your argument to clear matters up because two things you said seem a little contradictory. First you said…

Then you said…

So, if as you state… “on behalf of” and “as a representative of” equates to, or is as you say… which indeed is a correct meaning of the phrase but then… “I not think “υπερ” ever means that.” Then WHAT on earth are you saying <ὑπὲρ> hyper ACTUALLY means?

It’s a little hard to move forward UNTIL you actually clear this up first: what are you saying <ὑπὲρ> hyper means?

I have answered the question already several times, Davo. Here is the final repetition. I still stand by my initial statement:

The only thing that I have added is that by saying the word means “on behalf of”, I had in mind "“done for another person’s benefit or support, or because you are representing the interests of that person.” (that definition comes straight from an English dictionary.) I then went on to explain that Jesus died for our benefit and support, and that in his dying, He represented our interest of overcoming wrongdoing. THAT IS WHY I INCLUDED “ON BEHALF OF” AS ONE MEANING OF THE PREPOSITION.

I also stated that if you take the other meaning of “on behalf of” id est “as representative of” that this is not the meaning of the preposition as Paul used it. He was not saying that Jesus died to represent us, to take our place, and to take the punishment that we deserved, deflecting God’s wrath—in other words “penal substitution” as fundamentalist preachers teach it.

I cannot make it any clearer. There is nothing more to explain. If you still do not understand me, then there is nowhere else to go.

Ok, so that makes sense… but apart from just saying this, have you proved that case? So far NO! In fact above you said…

So you’ve said in this statement above (which I highlighted)… “also means” AND “one of the meanings of “υπερ”.” — THUS you CANNOT preclude the likes of as representative of as a legitimate rendering AS WELL; especially given that you yourself also CLEARLY AGREED that… ““on behalf of” as meaning “as a representative of,” which indeed is a correct meaning of the phrase.” You then dismiss this BUT haven’t explained WHY apart from just saying Paul rejects using <ὑπὲρ> hyper accordingly. It is one thing to say something but you have not proven it. In which case we are left talking past each other. :open_mouth:

So you’ve stated 4 options but then have argued that none of these can possibly conclude a meaning resembling as representative of and yet Paul indicates in our stead, place or position i.e., representative, Christ wherefore died — or at least that “our” covers such as Paul was writing to, as per here…

What does a priest do, especially a High Priest, but advocate ON BEHALF OF those He represents — Jesus did this via his death and resurrection and consequently to benefit all… thus it is as I initially noted, a BOTH/AND scenario not as you would posit it, EITHER/OR.

We have Paul here…

Jesus wasn’t a servant to the benefit of God’s truth, BUT was fully representative thereof. (2Cor 13:8)

Likewise “on behalf of” has representative connotations beyond just beneficial ends…

The apostles were representing Christ… not to Christ’s benefit but to the hearers…

There are more… Paul definitely DOES on occasion use <ὑπὲρ> hyper in the sense of as representative of — to state otherwise is not factual.

"On behalf of " in English—YES. One of the meanings is “as a representative of”.
“υπερ” in Greek—NO. “AS a representative of” is NOT one of the meanings.

I didn’t intend to repeat this for the (is it the 5th time?). But you drive me to it.

By the way, Davo, none of the scriptures you posted above are clear indications that “υπερ” means “as a representative of” or “in the place of” though some may INTERPRET them that way.

Even the one about baptism from the dead doesn’t necessarily means baptism “in the place of the dead.” It may well mean baptism “for the benefit of the dead.” The thinking of those who were practising baptism for the sake of the dead probably was that the dead would receive the benefits that they would have received had they been baptized while they still lived.

Paul’s point in bringing this up was that if the dead will never be raised to life again, there would be nobody to benefit.

The one thing you ARE indeed consistent on Don is this repetitious denial that the Greek <ὑπὲρ> hyper CAN and DOES, on occasion, lend itself to having STRONG connotations towards meaning as representative of, i.e., in the stead of, aka on behalf of. I have provided both Greek lexical references and link (there are more than just the one link confirming this) as well as quoting two biblical Greek masters, i.e., Marshall and Moulton, along with numerous textual examples of the point being made. And yet mostly you offer… ““υπερ” in Greek—NO. “AS a representative of” is NOT one of the meanings.” — and yet with no real viable explanation demonstrating this other than your mere say-so; thus what you espouse seems nothing more than doctrine-driven opinion. Citing the ‘English Cambridge Dictionary’ till the cows come home does diddly squat in grasping the Greek.

So… for the benefit of any others interested enough to be following along I offer this as EVIDENCE of the representative nature of <ὑπὲρ> hyper i.e., “ON BEHALF OF” as per PAUL…

Paul and the apostles’ plea is CLEARLY of a representative nature demonstrated by the FACT that their plea or beseeching were as though God Himself was pleading through us, as indeed He was. Paul’s repetitious “on behalf of Christ” is NOT indicative of a “benefit” towards Christ, NO… to the contrary, such was God’s active moving through His disciples as His ambassadors towards those addressed. NO ONE denies the beneficial reality that flowed from that BUT that is NOT the point of Paul’s words HERE.