On the Tree, 1 Pet. 2. 24

The following article has been abridged from a more detailed study, published in volume 7 of Mr Darby’s Collected Writings, pages 293-301 This year marks the hundredth anniversary of the author’s death, but the present-day relevance of the article can be gauged from the erroneous translations of 1 Peter 2. 24 given in many modern versions; e.g. NEB . Good News Bible and R.S.V. footnote.


In the attempt to maintain the doctrine of Christ’s bearing sins all His life, the translation of this text is called in question I am satisfied that it is perfectly correct. The English version is, “who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”. A simple person would surely, in reading Peter, refer to Christ’s sufferings in death. Thus I read: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God. being put to death in the flesh . ”, 3. 18.

No one denies that Christ suffered, during His life, sufferings which found their perfection in His death, besides the wrath-bearing character of it. But the question is, “Was there sin-bearing during His active service?”. It turns on the word “bare”, anenegke (aorist infin. of anaphero). Anaphero means “to bear, or undergo”, probably because sacrificial victims, which were offered up, were supposed to bear sins: at any rate, it does mean “to bear, to undergo the pain and burden of anything”; and when used in connection with sacrifice cannot be separated from actual offering up to God The etymological sense of “to bring up or back” would be a mere absurdity here. Determining the meaning of a word by etymology, in a cultivated language, is the most absurd thing possible. It is interesting as philological research; but as determining the usus loquendi. it is ridiculous.

Anenegke is a sacrificial word. It is used here (if we are to take it as referring to Isaiah 53. 12) for the Hebrew “nasa”, which means “to lift up, to bear, to forgive”. It is alleged that “nasa” cannot mean “to bear passively with”, as would be the case with anenegke epi to. This is a mistake. Aaron was to bear (“nasa”) the names of the children upon his heart, Exod. 28. 29. So with the judgment, v. 30. It is also said that Isaiah 53. 4 (“nasa”) is translated elabe by divine inspiration (Matt 8 17; Isa. 53. 4 LXX is phero), and hence it could not be anenegke in verse 12. But this proves, if anything, that the Spirit would not use a sacrificial, vicarious word in verse 4, but would in verse 12; for Hebrews 9. 28, that Christ was once offered eis to potion anenegkein amartias, are the very words of Isaiah 53. 12 So that we have a direct proof that inspiration will not use a vicarious sacrificial word as to Christ’s living sympathies and sorrows; but that it will and does use it when it speaks of bearing sins when offered up to God.

What is the scriptural use of anaphero, in connection with sins and sacrifices, with or without epi to? The following instances will show. The use of it in Numbers 14. 33 (anoisousi ten pomeian umon) is noticeable: save in Leviticus 20. 19, the word always used for bearing the consequences of one’s own or one’s father’s sin is lamband. In Leviticus 20. 19 it is aphoisousi. Lambano is regularly used for bearing the fruit of one’s sin, bringing sin on oneself in its consequence on itself, but it is not used for vicarious bearing. It is important to note, on the other hand, the actual use of anaphero. when used with sacrifice. Numbers 14. 33 and Isaiah 53. 11 are plain proofs that it is used for bearing sins penalty. The act of having the sin on the victim is not in itself the expiation; it puts the victim in the answering place. For the other (expiation), death and the judicial action of God must come in to put the sin away. The victim must be slain and offered on the altar. Offering has, in scripture, a double character. It is used (i) for presenting the victim, or indeed any offering, “to cause to come nigh”; but anaphero epi to is not used for this. If the reader takes Leviticus 1 he will find prospherein and prosagein, to bring up This was the presenting the offering which was to be a victim. But as soon as (ii) the victim, or part of it, is spoken of as burnt on the altar, Lev. 3. 5, then it is anoisousin auta epi to thusiasterion. So in verse 9, the general idea of offering is prosoisousi, and in verse 11, the burning of it on the altar is anoisousin epi to. And this is the regular use of it. as Exod. 29. 18, 25; 30. 20; Lev. 3. 16; 4. 10, 19. 26, 31; 6. 15. 35; 7 21; 8. 16, 20, 27; 9. 10, 20; 16. 25; Num. 5. 26. That is, anaphero epi to is the technical expression for consumption or offering up to God by fire, when on the altar, in contrast with bringing up to the altar. It has the proper peculiar force of bearing offerings as a victim on the altar, under the consuming fire of God, not of bringing up to. Its use for the Hebrew word “hala”, Gen. 8. 20, etc, also confirms this. The burnt offering was killed before it was “offered” in this sense of the word. Lev. 14. 19-20. In Christ both went together. Judges 13. 19, again, shows distinctly what anaphero epi to means; for it is added, “… when the flame went up from off” the altar, v. 20. The victim was offered on the rock, and in the going up of the flame. This is what “hala” refers to, not the bringing up to the altar.

The Hebrew words for which anapherein epi to thusiasterion are used (namely, burning or causing to ascend on the altar), and the uniform use of them, prove distinctly that the force of the word is the bearing under consuming fire on the altar, and not bringing sins up to it. I may quote another proof, strongly confirming the use of this word - 2 Chronicles 29. 27. Verse 24, the victim was kiled: verse 27 Hezekiah commanded it to be offered, anapherein epi to thusiasterion. On this occasion anaphero is used for bringing victims to the house, v. 21; but this I quote because there it is not epi. The sins were not yet on them, they were the spotless victims that were to become sin-bearers.

It remains only to adduce the cases of anapherein, in the sense of bearing or offering. We have first Hebrews 7. 27. This has nothing to do with the victim bearing sins up to the altar, but the high priest’s offering it on the altar, where it was the victim. When, consequently. there is the more general meaning of Christ giving Himself up to be a victim, we have the word used for that in Leviticus, prosphero, Heb. 9. 14. Hence we have in verse 28, “once offered (prosenechtheis) to bear (anenegkein) the sins of many”. We have further. James 2. 21, “When he had offered up Isaac on the altar” (anenegkas … epi to thusiasterion), and 1 Peter 2. 5, “offer up spiritual sacrifices”. The offering of the victim to God is prosphero. The consumption on the altar was its offering up as a sacrifice to God; this is anaphero. A living victim bringing up sins to the altar is a thought foreign and contrary to scripture. When the victim had been presented, and the hands of the offerer had been laid upon it, it was slain at the door of the tabernacle. Death was the way sin was dealt with in the victim. We know Christ’s death was on the cross, as well as the full drinking of the cup of wrath; the thought of bringing sins up livingly, as if He offered Himself and sins, is an impossibility.

The supposition that epi with an accusative means actively bringing up, and then rest, is a mistake. See the constructions in Matthew 13. 2; 19. 28; Acts 10. 17; 11. 11. There may be grammatically the idea by implication that that which is epi to is not always and naturally there; but as a matter of fact, it does mean resting on a place or thing at the time spoken of. Thus, Matthew 13. 2, “All the multitude stood” epi ton aigialon. So Matthew 19. 28, “Ye shall sit on twelve thrones”, epi dodeka thronous. Acts 10. 17; ch. 11. 11, epestesan epi ton pulona; epi ten oikian.

Thus I return to 1 Peter 2. 24 with the full evidence of scripture and the Greek use of the word. All the scriptural order of sacrifice and the language of scripture confirming it, that the simple-hearted reader may rest in all confidence in his English translation, “bare our sins in his own body on the tree”.