Christ Died for Our Sins: Representation and Substitution in Romans and their Jewish Martyrological Background

By Jarvis J. Williams

An exploration of Paul’s theology of Jesus’ sacrifice, locating its roots in the cultic language of the martyrological narratives of Second Temple Judaism.

ISBN: 9780227175552


In Christ Died for Our Sins, Jarvis J. Williams argues a twofold thesis: first, that Paul in Romans presents Jesus’ death as both a representation of, and a substitute for, Jews and Gentiles. Second, that the Jewish martyrological narratives in certain Second Temple Jewish texts are a background behind Paul’s presentation of Jesus’ death. By means of careful textual analysis, Williams shows that the Jewish martyrological narratives appropriated and applied Levitical cultic language and Isaianic language to the deaths of the Torah-observant Jewish martyrs in order to present their deaths as a representation, a substitution, and as Israel’s Yom Kippur for non-Torah-observant Jews. Williams demonstrates that Paul appropriated and applied this same language and conceptuality in order to present Jesus’ death as the death of a Torah-observant Jew serving as a representation, a substitution, and as the Yom Kippur for both Jews and Gentiles. Scholars working in the areas of Romans, Pauline theology, Second Temple Judaism, atonement in Paul, or early Christian origins will find much to stimulate and provoke in these pages.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 153 mm
Pages 244

Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Jarvis J. Williams is an Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.



1. Thesis and History of Research
2. Representation and Substitution in the Hebrew Cult and in Isaiah 53
3. Representation and Substitution in Second Temple Jewish Martyrologies
4. Jewish Martyrology and Substitution in Romans 3:21-4:25
5. Jewish Martyrology and Substitution in Romans 5:6-11, 8:1-4, and 8:31-34
6. Jewish Martyrology and Representation in Romans 5:12-6:23
7. Conclusion

Ancient Documents Index


Endorsements and Reviews

Jarvis Williams approaches atonement with a remarkable scholarly thoroughness and respect for complexity. He argues for the presence of substitutionary thought in Paul while allowing that this does not account for all aspects of Paul’s soteriology. This is an essential book for any thorough study of atonement in Romans.
Dr Stephen Finlan, United Church of Christ, author of Problems with Atonement

In this rewarding book, Jarvis Williams articulates his interpretation of the beneficial meaning of the death of Christ presented in his previous work. Focusing on the Letter of Romans, Williams argues that Paul builds on Jewish martyr theology by presenting Jesus’ death as both a representation and a substitution for Jews and Gentiles, i.e., Jesus acted as the sinner in life and death representing Jews and Gentiles and died in place of them.
Jan Willem van Henten, Director, Graduate School of Humanities, Universiteit van Amsterdam