Christians commonly believe that Jesus Christ was punished for our sins. What they rarely understand is that there are two kinds of punishment, with sharply differing purposes.
Corrective punishment: the way a father disciplines his child, to guide the child towards the right path
(associated emotion: love)
Retributive punishment: vengeance; retribution; an eye for an eye; inflicting harm onto a criminal, commensurate with the harm that the criminal caused
(associated emotion: anger / wrath)
In the bible, very different Hebrew words are used to refer to each kind of punishment. But in English the distinction is lost. In Isaiah 53:5, modern English translations use the ambiguous “punishment”; on the other hand, good old King James Version helpfully says “chastisement”.
Isaiah 53:5 King James Version (KJV)
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5 Common English Bible (CEB)
He was pierced because of our rebellions
and crushed because of our crimes.
He bore the punishment that made us whole;
by his wounds we are healed.
The Hebrew word for chastisement / punishment in Isaiah 53:5
|King James Word Usage – Total: 50|
|instruction 30, correction 8, chasten 4, chastisement 3, check 1, bond 1, discipline 1, doctrine 1, rebuker 1|
The Hebrew word is clearly used in a corrective sense throughout the entire bible.
The following passage also strongly indicates a significant component of corrective / instructive punishment in Christ’s redemptive suffering.
Hebrews 5:8-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
8 Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; 9 and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,
Along with these other passages:
Mark 1:10-45 New English Translation (NET Bible)
10 And just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my one dear Son; in you I take great delight.”
Proverbs 3:11-12 New English Translation (NET Bible)
My child, do not despise discipline from the Lord,
and do not loathe his rebuke.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.
Corrective vs retributive punishment also differ in the way guilt / responsibility is attributed. When something bad happens due to a child’s misbehaviour, usually the parent is blamed for not teaching the child properly. When a crime is committed (by an adult), the adult criminal takes the bulk of the blame.
Mark 10:13-16 Common English Bible (CEB)
Jesus blesses children
13 People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children. 15 I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he hugged the children and blessed them.
Matthew 18:1-5 Common English Bible (CEB)
Greatest in the kingdom
1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples, 3 and said, “I assure you that if you don’t turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
Romans 8:29 Common English Bible (CEB)
29 We know this because God knew them in advance, and he decided in advance that they would be conformed to the image of his Son. That way his Son would be the first of many brothers and sisters.
Hence, the humble, repentant sinner will be lovingly embraced as a child of God, and suffer corrective punishment, just as Jesus Christ suffered corrective punishment via the cross. Thus all children of God are forgiven of their sin.
(Forgiveness means that one does not suffer retribution for one’s crimes. Further reading:
1 John 3:1 New International Version (NIV)
3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
Hebrews 12:4-13 New International Version (NIV)
God Disciplines His Children
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”[a]
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,”[b] so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.