Taking my preliminary and tentative observations into account as I have yet to read more than some bits of this volume, I can state confidently that if one were to surmise that this is just another systematic, synthetic analysis of the atonement doctrine, one would be pleasantly surprised at Macleod's approach. It is thoroughly Biblical and Theological in the best sense of both descriptors. First, Macleod examines the entirety of the New Testament in order to explicate what the Gospels, Letters, and the Apocalypse have to say regarding the atonement. One item I appreciate here is Macleod's insistence on the centrality of the cross. He writes:
...the cross is not in the first instance a doctrine, but a fact, and no interpretation of the fact can make the suffering of Christ more or less awful than it actually was. Whether we speak of the cross as penal, piacular, expiatory, propitiatory, vicarious, substitutionary, exemplary, liberating or conquering makes no difference to what Jesus had to endure. The cross remains a fact. With this fact the church, and indeed the whole world, has to reckon; and with this fact all our thinking about the atonement must begin (15).I am also delighted in the observations Macleod makes when he discusses the "slow motion" the Gospels undertake when they encounter Good Friday (22-23). The remainder of the Gospel's narratives skip much of Jesus' earthly life and ministry, but "when it comes to the crucifixion we have the sequence frame by frame..." (22) Macleod goes on to compare this to the creation accounts in Genesis 1, where the "account covers the events of billions of years in twenty-five verses, ...but when it comes to the creation of the human species, the pace instantly changes" (23).
Then Macleod draws a thought-provoking comparison the Gospels concern for the events of Good Friday with the concern of the creation of human beings in Genesis. He writes:
The reason is simple enough. Humankind is the centre of the story, and the account of the preceding six 'days' serves merely to set the scene for the history of the redemption of our species. It is for the same reason that the crucifixion narrative goes into slow motion. It is the pivot on which the world's redemption turns, and it involves such a sequence of separate events that we assume, instinctively, that they must have occupied several days. Instead we find to our astonishment that they all occurred on one day; and the events of that one single day are reported in meticulous detail (23).
In closing, I am anxious to read more of Macleod's insightful analyses. I am especially looking forward to see how Macleod tackles a recent interpretive trend that states that the punishment of the Son, Jesus, is akin to divine child abuse on the part of God the Father. More anon.