Published on March 23, 2016 by Joshua Centanni

Crossway, 2007 | 384 pages

In this wonderful book the authors seek to present the case for the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death with a focus on the biblical teaching but also on its subsequent historical expression throughout the history of the church and also with an eye to its pastoral implications and value. They also give special attention to the various criticisms and objections to the doctrine that have been raised. Their book is designed to steer a course between the formidable academic essays and the more popular treatments of the doctrine that are available, hoping to provide a substantive treatment of the doctrine for a wider audience.

Chapters 2 (the biblical teaching on penal substitution) and 3 (the theological framework for penal substitution) will without doubt be the most useful chapters for preachers. The survey-expositions of the prominent passages on substitution in chapter 2 are precise and cut quickly to the heart of the issues addressed – invaluable help for the preacher preparing sermons on these passages (Exod. 12; Lev. 16; Isa. 52:13 – 53:12; Mark; John; Rom. 3:21–26; Gal. 3:10–13; 1 Pet., especially 2:24 and 3:18). And chapter 3 demonstrates well the central importance of the doctrine in relation to related biblical teachings about God, man, and redemption.

Chapter 1 provides a wonderfully helpful survey of the contemporary debate over substitution and provides a very helpful annotated bibliography of the discussion. Answer to the question is settled, of course, by the biblical teaching (chapters 2 and 3), but chapter 5 pursues the argument further, tracing the biblical teaching through the centuries of the church. The survey of the early church is especially helpful, given the frequent allegation that substitution is a later invention. And chapters 6-13 provide helpful response to all the objections to penal substitution that have been offered by its critics. The polemic value of these chapters is great.

Pierced for Our Transgressions is an excellent, important work, and we are happy to commend it. What a wonderful series of studies in any church setting it could provide!

In future blogs (and a summary!) we will give you some tastes of what the book has to offer.


Table of Contents

Part One:  Making the Case

  1. Introduction
  2. Searching the Scriptures:
    The Biblical Foundations of Penal Substitution
  3. Assembling the Pieces:
    The Theological Framework for Penal Substitution
  4. Exploring the Implications:
    The Pastoral Importance of Penal Substitution
  5. Surveying the Heritage:
    The Historical Pedigree of Penal Substitution

Part Two: Answering the Critics

  1. Introduction to the Debate
  2. Penal Substitution and the Bible
  3. Penal Substitution and Culture
  4. Penal Substitution and Violence
  5. Penal Substitution and Justice
  6. Penal Substitution and Our Understanding of God
  7. Penal Substitution and the Christian Life
  8. A Final Word

Appendix:  A Personal Note to Preachers


About the Authors

Steve Jeffery is Minister at Emmanuel Church, Southgate, in North London. He has a MS and PhD in experimental physics from Oxford University.

Michael Ovey is principal of Oak Hill Theological College. He has a PhD in Trinitarian theology from King’s College, London.

Andrew Sach studied theology at Oak Hill and is now on the staff of St Helen’s, Bishopsgate, in central London. He has a PhD from York University.



Pierced for Our Transgressions boasts some nine pages of hearty endorsements. Here we’ll give you just a sampling.


D.A. Carson

This book is important not only because it deals so competently with what lies at the heart of Christ’s cross work, but because it responds effectively to a new generation of people who are not listening very carefully to what either Scripture or history says. One of the delightful features of this book is reflected in the subtitle: the authors make no apology for their thesis, but underscore the glory of penal substitution. This book deserves the widespread circulation achieved by corresponding contributions a generation ago – the contributions of Leon Morris, Jim Packer and John Stott.


Sinclair B. Ferguson

Agreement on the nature of the atonement has long been a defining feature of evangelical Christianity. Today, however, all is in crisis. For some time the writings of a number of scholars reared in evangelicalism have eroded, even denied, that the heart of the gospel is to be found in Christ’s penal substitutionary death and his glorious resurrection. But now – inevitably – this view has begun to appear in books written by popular authors who are viewed as contemporary, cutting-edge leaders. Sadly, much that is said and written unwittingly repeats what was long ago rejected as unorthodox. In the past, those views irrevocably led – within a generation – to a rejection of evangelical faith; unchecked, they will inevitably do so again. The stakes could scarcely be higher – the very nature of the gospel itself. Pierced for our Transgressions is a courageous, timely, comprehensive and welcome study. It is biblically sensitive and pastorally astute, with the added strength of being aware of where similar false steps in the past eventually led. Here is a sure-footed guide to the message of the cross – and therefore to Christ himself, and ultimately to God the Trinity. It deserves widespread and careful reading.


John Frame

This is certainly one of the most comprehensive treatments available of the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement. It presents exegesis, historical theology, and responses to contemporary debate, all in one volume. In all these areas, the book is excellent, both in its exposition and in its argument. It presents a cogent defense of the biblical and historic church doctrine, and in my view it devastates the criticisms of this position. The writing is clear and understandable to non-specialists, but its authors fully understand the technical issues, so that the book makes a real contribution to the academic discussion as well. I am delighted to see this book appear, and I hope that it gets a  very wide readership.


I. Howard Marshall

I commend this book for its comprehensive and fair scrutiny of the many objections brought against the doctrine of penal substitution in recent years. Even those who, like me, would disagree with the authors’ belief that a doctrine of particular redemption (or limited atonement’) is a necessary part of this doctrine will be grateful for this useful contribution to the current debate with its careful demonstration of the weaknesses of so many of the common criticisms made of the doctrine.


Fred G. Zaspel

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Pierced for Our Transgressions

Crossway, 2007 | 384 pages

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