What is an actual legal model that exemplifies that an innocent person can be punished on behalf of a criminal?

The Biblical doctrine that that asserts an innocent person can be punished on behalf of a criminal is a primary basis for a Christian’s justification by faith alone.

But it seems that in actual legal practice this kind of thing would be thought of as absurd: The judge requires that the actual criminal must serve them time behind bars. Right?

Does anyone know of any non-religious and non-biblical sources or examples that discuss or demonstrate the idea of imputed righteousness: Where one person is allowed to suffer the legal punishment in place of another. I’m pretty confident the circuit courts here in Wisconsin wouldn’t allow that in a criminal case except regarding for the monetary payments. i.e.: I don’t think they poses the option to be able to allow jail time to be served by someone else; and this is presumably why they take your finger prints and mug shots before they put you in prison.
Is there a functional model (either modern or historical) that demonstrates this kind of imputed righteousness in action?
… Interested to see what you’ve found.

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Good question, @timotto.

Some extra-biblical examples would be a “whipping boy” who would be punished when a young prince did wrong (since the tutor could not whip a prince who outranked him). Versions of this have appeared in various parts of the world since the late Middle Ages.

Another would be the ancient Roman practice (also practiced by other ancient cultures) of making a guard who lost a prisoner serve whatever penalty the prisoner would have suffered.

During the American War Between the States, a conscripted man in the Union could pay for another to serve his enlistment.

But you are right that it is not a common practice in this world - nor should it be. Such a practice among fallen men would be too subject to abuse. And the corrective intent would be lost to the one who most needed it.

And besides, it’s not as if the guilty party is literally unable to serve his own sentence. The worst that mortal governments can do is take your life - but each man does have a life he can give.

But for a loving God to graciously assume the infinite penalty that all mortals owe but none could ever pay is what makes such substitutionary atonement a divine solution.

I hope this will help you with this question.

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Hi I guess I’d suggest the role of parenting as exemplifying this. We are often (in the case of my 2 kids regularity whilst 7-14!) are required to take on the responsibility for their misdemeanours. Society and school (and, in our case, our church) felt that the kids behaved as such due to poor parenting and that we were responsible. Both my kids have a specific ‘disorder’ as a result of trauma prior to coming to live with us. Whilst this did not excuse their behaviour, the consequences were the consequences and they were too young and unable to understand much of it. As such, we, the parents, gladly defended them and bore the consequences. Whilst it’s not crucifixion, it certainly did not come free. I learnt a fair bit about taking on the responsibility for the ‘crimes’ of others through parenting. So I’d say there isn’t really a need to look for a legal system but simply to look at the average parent. God bless.

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I have been thinking about this for some time. I do appreciate the examples given by James Lyons. But while these examples are thought provoking, neither the whipping boy nor the guard who lost the convict volunteered to be a substitute to pay the penalty for the guilty party. The soldier substitute is just a hired gun, missing the justice issue. There is an ancient story about a Native American chief who dealt with a rampant thievery issue during a time of drought and famine. He made a decree that the next person caught in the act of stealing would be tied to a post in the middle of the village and severely whipped. He set a trap and the apprehended thief was brought before him. It was his own mother. He gave the order to have his mom tied to the post. The brave with the whip stood ready behind her. The chief bared his own back, and stepped between them and covered his mom’s body with his own, then gave the order and took her punishment. But that is also inadequate to describe, justification by grace through faith imputing righteousness to the offender. In 77 years I have never heard of “non-religious and non-biblical sources or examples that discuss or demonstrate the idea of imputed righteousness: Where one person is allowed to suffer the legal punishment in place of another.”

The price for violating an infinite being is an infinite penalty. When there is an offense, in order for true justice to be satisfied, either the offender or the offended must pay the penalty.

Proverbs 17:15 says, “He that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the just, even they both are an abomination to the Lord.” & 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also hath suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit” The truth and love of God are on full display at the cross of Calvary.

As James Lyons rightly stated, “But for a loving God to graciously assume the infinite penalty that all mortals owe but none could ever pay is what makes such substitutionary atonement a divine solution.” I appreciate all who honestly consider and pray about this most important life issue. Thank you so very much

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