The Forgiveness of Sins

By Tim Carter

An in-depth study of the forgiveness of sins as a central theme of early Christian theology, in the New Testament and the writings of the Church Fathers.

ISBN: 9780227176054


In The Forgiveness of Sins, Tim Carter examines the significance of forgiveness in a New Testament context, delving deep into second-century Christian literature on sin and the role of the early church in mitigating it. This crucial spiritual issue is at the core of what it means to be Christian, and Carter’s thorough and erudite examination of this theme is a necessity for any professional or amateur scholar of the early church.

His far-reaching analysis begins with St Luke, who is often accused of weakness on the subject of atonement, but who in fact uses the phrase “forgiveness of sins” more frequently than any other New Testament author. Carter explores patristic writers both heterodox and orthodox, such as Marcion, Justin Martyr and Origen. He also deepens our understanding of Second Temple Judaism and the theological context in which Christian ideas about atonement developed. Useful to both the academic and the pastoral theologian, The Forgiveness of Sins is a painstaking, clear-eyed exploration of what forgiveness meant not only to early Christians such as Tertullian, Irenaeus and Luke, but to Jesus himself, and what it means to Christians today.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm
Pages 434

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Trade Information JPOD

About the Author

Tim Carter is a Baptist minister and an Associate Research Fellow at the London School of Theology. His other writings include Paul and the Power of Sin: Redefining ‘Beyond the Pale’ (2002). A New Testament scholar, he finds academic research spiritually renewing, as well as a stimulant to his pastoral ministry.



1. Introduction
2. God Alone Forgives
3. The Subject of Atonement
4. Prayer and Sacrifice
5. Interceding for Forgiveness
6. Exile and the Forgiveness of Sins
7. Labelling Sinners in Luke
8. ‘No Forgiveness Without Bloodshed’
9. Three Layers of Forgiveness
10. No Longer Dying to Forgive Us
11. Too Hard to Forgive?
12. The Forgiveness of Sins and Baptism
13. A Baptism of Repentance
14. Who Can Forgive Sins But God Alone?


Index of Ancient Sources
Index of Subjects


Endorsements and Reviews

This is an important book. After all, it deals with a matter that, for any Christian, is of eternal significance. And it does so with great care: it is well researched and persuasively argued. The end product is rich in detail and well worth reading. I commend it.
William Atkinson, Senior Lecturer, London School of Theology

This book is a remarkable achievement. Tim Carter has taken a fresh look at a vital issue at the heart of the Christian faith. His work is both thoroughly scholarly, showing great command of the source material, and fully accessible. The key matters are all addressed by drawing on the Hebrew Bible, other Jewish material, the New Testament and the writings of the early church, making appropriate use of some helpful innovative methods. The result is a thorough account of a significant doctrine, one which models an approach to thinking biblically about an important theological and pastoral question; it will be read with great profit by anyone who wants to understand what is meant by the forgiveness of sins and to reflect in greater depth on its implications.
Stephen Finamore, Principal of Bristol Baptist College

Dr Tim Carter is a fine, thoughtful New Testament scholar. In this fascinating book he shares the fruits of long-term research on the theme of ‘the forgiveness of sins’ in the Old and New Testaments, and early Christian writings into the third century. Here is an in-depth investigation of a surprisingly neglected, but vital, theme in the New Testament and early Christianity – a theme that continues to be of vital importance today. Dr Carter’s careful, patient discussion of a wide range of texts shows excellent awareness of key issues, and avoids brushing difficult questions under the exegetical carpet. This is notably so in Luke-Acts, where the large majority of New Testament uses of ‘the forgiveness of sins’ are found, and where Dr Carter brings a fresh and creative approach which is deeply rooted in the text. Readers will find their mind stimulated, their understanding enlarged, and their heart ‘strangely warmed’ by Dr Carter’s fresh and helpful study.
Prof Steve Walton, Professorial Research Fellow at St Mary’s University

Tim Carter’s The Forgiveness of Sins offers a rigorous analysis of the meaning of the forgiveness of sins in a range of Jewish and Christian texts. … In this book, Carter brings cutting edge insights to the discussion on the forgiveness of sins by consulting a broad range of texts, employing diverse methodologies, and meticulously examining the original languages. … The result is a book that is bound to bring insight to both scholars and ministers.
Eric J. Beck, in The Expository Times, Vol 128, No 12

This appraisal of Lukan theology is refreshing.
F. Gerald Downing, in Journal for the Study of The New Testament: Booklist 2017, Vol 39, No 5

… explores the idea of divine forgiveness in the Old Testament, in intertestamental literature, in the New Testament and in Patristic writings. … a detailed and meticulous work.
Anthony Bash, in Theology, Vol 120, No 3

This learned and comprehensive monograph surveys the idea of the forgiveness of sins in the Old and New Testaments, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and early Christian writings both orthodox and heterodox down to Augustine in the fifth century … striking and original insights emerge … for anyone interested in forgiveness and atonement it is essential reading.
John Barton, in Church Times, 19 January 2018

The Forgiveness of Sins is an excellent work. … This impressive book is a must read for those who have backgrounds in biblical studies and a serious desire for understanding the forgiveness of sins in the Christian Bible.
Seth Shipman, in Theological Book Review, Vol 28, No 2