A Cup that's not of God's wrath
But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" (Mark 10:38)It appears to be becoming a popular argument in Evangelical circles that the presence of the word "cup" here implies or proves Penal Substitution.
Now you might well ask how any sane person could possibly reason their way from the word "cup" to the doctrine of Penal Substitution. Well, apparently the "logic" goes that in several passages in the Old Testament prophets they speak of "the cup of God's wrath", and therefore Jesus' use of the word "cup" refers to God's wrath, and therefore he is expecting to take God's wrath upon himself as a Penal Substitute.
Such ridiculously tenuous logic seems like a bad joke. It reminds me of Liam Goligher's equally stellar claim in The Jesus Gospel that a reference to the herb hyssop in one of the psalms proves Penal Substitution. Yet this "logic" is used by people including NT Wright (The Challenge of Jesus, 87; Matthew for Everyone, 60-61), Thomas Schreiner (The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views, 91) and the writers of Pierced For Our Transgressions (68-70). More than one of these cites Bolt's The Cross from a Distance (69-71) as source of this idea.
Apart from the wholly unconvincing and ridiculously tenuous logic, there are two main problems with such a claim. The first problem is that the Bible uses the word "cup" as a metaphor for a fate, which can be either a positive or negative fate. A few examples of a positive fate include:
The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. (Psa 16:5)Similarly a couple of examples of a negative fate include:
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psa 23:5)
I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord (Psa 116:13)
On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur; a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup. (Psa 11:6)People God is wrathful towards do, unsurprisingly, experience a negative fate, and cup language is sometimes used to describe this fate. However the use of the cup metaphor itself is not limited to God's wrath and hence the word "cup" does not mean "suffering God's wrath".
A cup of horror and desolation is the cup of your sister Samaria (Ezek 23:33)
The second, and most important problem with the claim, is the verse that follows Mark 10:38:
The disciples replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; (Mark 10:39)Here Jesus explicitly says they will drink the same cup as himself. If the "cup" he is drinking from means "Penal Substitution", then the disciples must also be participating in Penal Substitution. Yet this bizarre conclusion shows that the exegesis being proposed for verse 38 is ridiculous.
The craziest thing of all is that the writers of Pierced For Our Transgressions are aware of verse 39 and hence know the exegesis of verse 38 they are proposing is ludicrous. Yet they comment in a footnote: "Jesus' point [in vs 39] is that their sufferings will be patterned on his, not that they will be identical in every respect. Neither James nor John will die under God's wrath in place of others." So it seems that when they feel like it, "cup" means "Penal Substitution", and a verse later, when it's no longer convenient with their theology the same cup suddenly stops being Penal Substitution. I just can't fathom the stupidity...