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Tuesday, February 07, 2006


I have been listening to Dr. Packer's interviews on the ESV site here. They are quite interesting and provide a varied and multifaceted background to the translation of the ESV. I enjoyed listening to these wide-ranging discussions.

However, a point was brought up that is by no means new, but it triggered some fresh memories for me. That is the word 'propitiation'. Apparently ιλαστηριον in Romans 3:25 was translated as 'expiation' in the RSV, and the ESV translators made it an important statement that they would bring back the term 'propitiation':
    whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; (RSV)
However, the NRSV shares common ground here with the NIV and TNIV using 'sacrifice of atonement':
    whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement F12 by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; (NRSV)

    God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement,[a] through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—
    (Footnote: Or as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin) (NIV)

    God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, [i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished.
    (Footnote: The Greek for sacrifice of atonement refers to the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant (see Lev. 16:15,16).) (TNIV)
The ESV proudly retains the word 'propitiation' as it was in the KJV and, of course, the Latin Vulgate:
    whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. (ESV)

    Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (KJV)
Here is the New Living translation, which Dr. Packer recommends warmly in the ESV interview:
    For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God's anger against us. We are made right with God when we believe that Jesus shed his blood, sacrificing his life for us. God was being entirely fair and just when he did not punish those who sinned in former times (NLT)
I understand that the translation of ιλαστηριον is important but I find the term 'propitiation' to be a strangely Latin intrusion into the English Bible. In fact, I was surprised to see it there in Romans 3:25. It seemed to me that Romans 3 was referring to the mercy-seat or the lid of the ark of the convenant. I researched a little further to see where I had received this peculiar impression. Indeed, in Darby's translation it is the mercy-seat:
    whom God has set forth a mercy-seat, through faith in his blood, for [the] shewing forth of his righteousness, in respect of the passing by the sins that had taken place before, through the forbearance of God; (Darby)
In Switzerland we studied the epistle to Romans in our Greek class and discussed the translation of ιλαστηεριον . However, in French the term for mercy-seat is the 'propitiatoire' so here we find that the sacrifice on the mercy-seat is the 'victime propitiatoire':
    C'est lui que Dieu a destiné, par son sang, à être, pour ceux qui croiraient victime propitiatoire, afin de montrer sa justice, parce qu'il avait laissé impunis les péchés commis auparavant, au temps de sa patience, afin, dis-je. (Louis Segond)
    In German the term is simply mercy-seat, 'Gnadenstuhl':
      welchen Gott hat vorgestellt zu einem Gnadenstuhl durch den Glauben in seinem Blut, damit er die Gerechtigkeit, die vor ihm gilt, darbiete in dem, daß er Sünde vergibt, welche bisher geblieben war unter göttlicher Geduld; (Luther)
    Curious to find out how the word 'propitiation' found its way into the English Bible, I checked out Tyndale's version and found the 'seate of mercy':
      whom God hath made a seate of mercy thorow faith in his bloud to shewe ye rightewesnes which before him is of valoure in yt he forgeveth ye synnes yt are passed which God dyd suffre. (Tyndale)
    My quest ended by finding that it entered into the English Bible first in the Bishop's Bible:
      Whom God hath set foorth to be a propitiatio, through fayth in his blood, to declare his ryghteousnes, in that he forgeueth the sinnes that are past. (Bishop's Bible)
      I have to say that I am somewhat upset to find that the use of the term 'propitiation' has been made into such a 'cause celebre' - that people feel that they are getting a more authentic Bible if it has the term 'propitiation' in it.

      When I was a very young child we had a visitor to our home, Mr. Norman Berry. He brought with him a model of the Tabernacle, much like this one, that he set up in the meeting hall. The colours and drapery were exquisite, the furnishings of the temple shone with glittering gold paint. Each item fascinated the gaze of a child and the terms laver, altar and table of showbread were familiar to us. We also knew what the mercy-seat was.

      Somehow the Tabenacle Talks that accompanied this model have found their way onto the internet here. In Norman Berry's talks, the word 'atonement' is used instead of propitiation. When it is translated into French it becomes propitiation, but when it is translated into Portuguese it becomes expiation.

      Wouldn't it be a hundred times better to read Leviticus and understand the concept than have a term that so cloaked in mystery as propitiation. I have taken a brief survey today and found not one of my family and acquaintance who knows what the word 'propitiation' means. As an English word, I know nothing of it either, except that I encountered the word in French and knew what it meant there.

      I have rejected grammatical theology and now I am ready to reject etymological theology. (Well, obviously I am not really a theologian) But why can't we trust a Bible in our mother tongue, our native language?


      At Tue Feb 07, 03:53:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Suzanne, I agree with most of your comments here. But "propitiation" was a cause celèbre long before the ESV. I remember in the late 1970s reading an already old book condemning RSV, and one of the complaints was that by using "expiation" rather than "propitiation" RSV was watering down the gospel by using a word which did not refer to God's wrath. Well, "propitiation" has one advantage, that it is not quite as obscure as "expiation", which as far as I am concerned refers neither to God's wrath nor to anything else at all. For at least some people use "propitiate" in its dictionary sense of "conciliate, appease".

      As for your suggested rendering "mercy seat", that is certainly worth considering but brings in the rather complex issue of the meaning and translation of the Hebrew word involved here, כַּפֹּרֶת kapporet, rendered ἱλαστήριον hilastērion in LXX. This is the Greek word which in the ESV New Testament is rendered "propitiation" in Romans 3:25 (cf. Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, rendering related words), but "mercy seat" in Hebrews 9:5. The question is whether the Hebrew word in fact means anything more than "lid", i.e. the cover of the Ark of Covenant. For the underlying Hebrew root probably means "cover" in a rather literal sense (it is so used of Noah covering his ark with pitch in Genesis 6:14 - which can also mean that he atoned for it with a ransom, surely a deliberate double meaning in Hebrew); but it also has an extended sense, or perhaps a homonym, meaning "atone". Thus there may be justification for understanding Hebrew כַּפֹּרֶת kapporet as actually having a meaning related to atonement, rather than simply as "lid". And the way that (literally) "the house of the כַּפֹּרֶת kapporet" is used in 1 Chronicles 28:11 (TNIV "the place of atonement") suggests that this had become more than the common word for "lid", although not necessarily more than a special term for this specific and famous lid.

      But clearly ἱλαστήριον hilastērion in Romans 3:25 means a lot more than "lid".

      By the way, I note also here that Propitiation is a fellowship of gays and lesbians within the Anglican Church of Canada. I don't suppose Packer would support the use of "propitiation" to propitiate this group!

      At Tue Feb 07, 07:45:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      I knew that this had been an issue for some time. I did have a look at kipper in the Hebrew, however, it was late by then.

      But I have two concerns. First, that one translation not be held up as superior to the others. And second that something comprehensible be written. Mercy seat had the virtue of meaning something to me, but I doubt that it would be as vivid to others. I find the New Living is quite clear and the translations that use sacrifice of atonement. I have difficulty seeing what all the fuss is about theologically.

      At Tue Feb 07, 10:47:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      I totally agree that one translation not be held up as superior to the others. This seems to be the basic fallacy which is brought up again and again by the pro-ESV and anti-TNIV crowd: our rendering is literal and correct, anything else is a change and an inaccuracy. They refuse to provide exegetical arguments for why their rendering is more accurate than anyone else's, and implicitly rely on tradition and on KJV.

      The theological fuss is because allegedly "propitiation" has a meaning component of turning aside someone's wrath but "expiation" and "sacrifice of atonement" do not. Thus it is alleged that anyone who avoids "propitiation" is playing down the important doctrine of God's wrath. Well, I agree it is an important doctrine. But I wonder if these people have in fact proved that the Greek word in question has that meaning component, as used by Paul and not only in later systematised theology. After all, there is nothing in the context of Romans 3:25 to prove that Paul is even considering God's wrath.

      At Tue Feb 07, 12:08:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

      The insistence on words like "propitiation" (or regeneration, sanctification, predestination, etc..) has little to do with anyone actually fussing over meaning and everything to do with people who simply prefer to hold on to a whole slew of "pet" theological or ecclessiastical terms, thinking that an understanding of them will help mediate an understanding of God. I'll go so far as to say that even "church" and "gospel" fall under this category as well...

      ...These are all terms which serve hold zero meaning to the modern ear (or at the very least, carry unnecessary baggage), and do little but block out the world from understanding the simplicity of the kingdom of God.

      I'm all for teaching a right and correct understanding of what the life and death Jesus means, but the entire terminological approach of theology and ecclessiology is unfruitful and worthless. The world is starving for good news, but some people insist on feeding the world with the most unsalted and bland tasting of breads. In their imagination, they think that what they are telling the world is actually "rich" and satisfying -- and in thinking so, they end up starving themselves as well.

      If one can't explain the simple and tragic act of a perfect man willfully dying so that others might live without using a meaningless word like "propitiation", then you might as well preach in Latin too.

      Better yet, how about just mumbling to them?

      If Jesus really wanted his message to be complex and full of foreign words and phrases, then he would have never used the simple imagery and words that he used in his parables: Things like birds, rocks, flowers, seeds, fig trees, vine trees, etc.. All things that even the simplest peasant children of 1st century Palestine could understand.

      At Tue Feb 07, 02:16:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      If I remember correctly, "expiation" in the RSV was due to the influence of C. H. Dodd who did not care for the word propitiation or any suggestion of God's anger. Peter, you are certainly correct that "expiation" is the more obscure word. I don't think I've ever seen it that often outside of Dodd and the RSV.

      Staylight, I think you're wanting to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I don't have a problem with a translation using "atoning sacrifice" for ἱλαστήριον because it will keep most readers from stumbling over a word for which they may have no context, and it certainly doesn't bog the reader down with the debate over meaning.

      But I would not be ready to throw out certain theological terms just because they cause a bit more study. I'm not sure whether you mean eliminating these words in our translations or eliminating them altogether. It sounds to me as if you are suggesting the latter. But where do we draw the line? Do we eliminate "justification" and "sanctification," too? Do we eliminate concepts such as Jesus as Logos?

      The biblical writers often used very specific terms. Our English words are at best attempts to create equivalent meaning since we recognize that very few will learn the original languages. I have no disagreement with your description of "the simple and tragic act of a perfect man willfully dying so that others might live." But I don't think we have to limit serious study and deep reflection for the sake of simplicity. Specific words allow us to have specific understandings, and there's a proper place for them. I'd prefer to have "imputation" in a theology book rather than a Bible because I think the average reader would stumble over it. But that doesn't mean that the concept isn't there, let alone that it's not important.

      I heard the message of the gospel at a simple level of understanding when I was seven years old. I understood enough to respond, and I understood enough that it "stuck." There is beauty in the simplicity of that message. But at the same time, I have no doubt that I will spend a lifetime (and beyond) trying to fully understand it.

      At Tue Feb 07, 04:20:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Thank you, Rick, for mentioning CH Dodd. I quickly found what Dodd wrote, in his Moffatt NT commentary on Romans (Hodder & Stoughton 1932, I have a paperback reprint of 1959). Here is some of what he wrote concerning Romans 3:25:

      Thirdly, we have the term propitiation. The Greek word (hilasterion) is derived from a verb which in pagan writers and inscriptions has two meanings: (a) 'to placate' a man [sic] or a god; (b) 'to expiate' a sin, i.e. to perform an act (such as the payment of a fine or the offering of a sacrifice) by which its guilt is annulled. In the Septuagint, on the other hand, the meaning (a) is practically unknown where God is the object, and the meaning (b) is found in scores of passages. Thus the biblical sense of the verb is 'to perform an act whereby guilt or defilement is removed.' The idea underlying it is characteristic of primitive religion. The ancients felt that if a taboo was infringed, the person or thing involved became unclean, defiled or profane. The condition of defilement might be removed by the performance of the appropriate act: it might be washing with water, or sprinkling with blood, or simply the forfeiture of some valuable object to the deity concerned with the taboo. Such acts were felt to have the value, so to speak, of a disinfectant. Thus in the Old Testament a whole range of ritual actions are prescribed for disinfecting the priets, the altar, or the people from various forms of defilement, ritual or moral. Our versions in such cases use the phrase 'to make propitiation'; but the more proper translation would be 'to make expiation.' This meaning holds good whenever the subject of the verb is a man. But, as religious thought advanced, it came to be felt that, where the defilement was moral, God alone could annul it; and so the same verb is used with God as subject in the sense 'to forgive.'

      In accordance with biblical usage, therefore, the substantive (
      hilasterion) would mean, not propitiation, but 'a means by which guilt is annulled': if a man is the agent, the meaning would be 'a means of expiation'; if God, 'a means by which sin is forgiven.' Biblical usage is determinative for Paul. The rendering propitiation is therefore misleading, for it suggests the placating of an angry God, and although this would be in accord with pagan usage, it is foreign to biblical usage. In the present passage it is God who puts forward the means whereby the guilt of sin is removed, by sending Christ. The sending of Christ, therefore, is the divine method of forgiveness.

      This is an interesting and to me reasonably persuasive argument. It depends in part on theories of the development of Israelite religion from primitive paganism which I would not accept. Nevertheless, neither in the Old Testament nor in Romans is there any clear relationship in the context between "atonement" or "propitiation" and the wrath of God. But of course many evangelicals would not accept that the idea of placating an angry God ... is foreign to biblical usage. In fact I don't think I would go that far, as it does seem to be present e.g. in Numbers 25:11, 2 Chronicles 12:7,12, 29:10, 30:8; but none of the "propitation" words are used in these contexts. In fact it seems that the "propitiation" words are used in the Old Testament with this clear meaning only when the one placated is human, Genesis 32:20 and Proverbs 16:14. So I conclude that the insistence on "propitiation" in the sense of turning away God's wrath is exegetically unjustified, or at the very least highly uncertain and debatable.

      At Tue Feb 07, 05:26:00 PM, Blogger KAT said...

      Sorry if I wasn't clear (heh...funny that).

      I mentioned in my post that I was all for teaching a "right and correct" understanding of Jesus -- and by that I mean that I'm not trying to sacrifice any of the truths behind such words as "propitiation". One can do away with those words, replace them with simpler ones, and still communicate the same truths.

      Words themselves hold little value if they do not communicate in a straightforward manner. If a reader or hearer needs a theologian or theological dictionary to help define words in their bible translation, then that means that the bible that they are hearing or reading from is not communicating in a straightforward manner -- It means that a proper translation has not occurred. It means that they have to jump through unnecessary hoops just to hear what God is saying to them.

      I don't even think these words hold value for in depth study either. In order for someone to reach depth, they must first reach clarity -- and clarity only comes through simplicity.

      Not to say that all of the bible can be translated and communicated in simplistic and familiar terms though. If readers wish to better familiarize themselves with the biblical world, then secondary materials, such as historical and geographical data, are needed.

      However, there should be little need for secondary materials like theological dictionaries (at least for the average New Testament reader or hearer). That's the kind of stuff that can be communicated quite coherently within a bible translation itself. Most of it is just extra baggage and carry over terms from Latin.

      It should be possible for the average reader to find depth of meaning and study without ever opening up a theological dictionary. It should be possible for the average reader to reach theological truths without ever confronting a word like "propitiation".

      Whew...For someone insisting on simplicity, I'm getting a bit long-winded, aren't I? :D

      At Tue Feb 07, 05:52:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      Yes, Straylight, that is my position, that truth is not the property of a particular word, but refers to the reality which happened.

      However, I would say that mercy-seat might retain the intracanonical connection, so I am surprised that conservative Christians don't prefer it, and congregation, instead of church. That is, Luther used congregation and mercy-seat, but in English there is a tradition that is not entirely of the reformation, using propitiation and church. But these terms are held up as superior or I suppose more literal. I can't see how they are.

      I have to admit that I do not agree that terms should be kept in the Bible just because a body of literature has grown up around them. The Brethren tradition has lots of terms too but many of them are different from the reformed or Anglican tradition. Can you say that the Bible belongs to any one tradition of interpretation? A lot of this isn't even going to cross over into French and German anyway.

      It is hardly a matter of limiting serious study. Is that how you view my argument, Richard, as an encouragemnt to limit serious study? Whew. I could have saved myself many years of language study, if I had wanted to do that!

      At Tue Feb 07, 06:25:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      At Tue Feb 07, 06:27:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      Dodd, in The Bible and the Greeks, argued the terms were related in pagan thought as a place of propitiation. The imagery is the pagan god who is angry with you. He said a better translation would be expiation because it was God’s appointed means to deal with our situation. On the Day of Atonement, he makes the effects of sin ineffective. Emphasis is on what God does (expiation), rather than what humans do (propitiation).

      Leon Morris, in New Testament Studies redid Dodd. He said that there WAS wrath present in the Old and New Testament contrary to Dodd, who said there was no wrath.

      Morris said God expiates AND is propitiated. Opposite of love is not wrath. The two are not incompatible. Anger is an appropriate reaction at times to those you love. The opposite of love is hatred—something into which anger can turn. Morris saw wrath as a positive angry love that does many wonderful things in the world.

      Of course, if Morris is right and expiation and propitiation are both valid, then maybe "atoning sacrifice" is the best translation after all.

      Oh...and Suzanne, my comments about limiting serious study were in reference to what straylight said, not what you said.

      At Tue Feb 07, 08:33:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

      Fantastic discussion. Thanks to you all; I'm learning a lot, especially from your explanations of the word meanings, Peter.

      I'm wondering, though, if it's realistic for us to expect that we can avoid all words that will need any explanation?

      Even 'sacrifice of atonement' is not clear to the crowd I play guitar with in the pub on Thursday nights!

      I also think that the NT concept of the anger of God is hard to communicate to a generation who see anger as equivalent to losing one's cool. Anger as an expression of love is a very rare concept in our world. You could translate words like 'wrath' literally, but still have a huge amount of explanation to do. And even if 'propitiation' is correct, the word conveys no meaning at all to the vast majority of modern English speakers. Neither does 'atonement', and 'sacrifice' is something governments ask us to do when they're trying to make their budgets balance!

      My two cents' worth!

      Tim C.

      At Wed Feb 08, 12:30:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

      Hi, I just found this blog, very cool!

      Choosing words is a very hard thing. I have learned much about that through translation work (nothing big, just small works, mostly for gaining experience) I have taken part in while serving in Cambodia (a small country in South East Asia).

      There is much discussion about keeping things simple so that everyone can understand. And even more so than in the West because the education level here is so much lower and the culture so much different.

      To bring the "word" question to extreme - what do you do when a people do not understand what a cross is? Do you use a word that they understand? Or do you use a word as literal as possible and then explain what it means?

      The line must be drawn somewhere - in any translation work.

      But what if you translate the word for "crucifixion" to be "shot in the head with a gun"? Do you think that person would appreciate you making it easy for them to understand, if later, someone explained to them that Jesus was really crucified? How would you feel if you were in their place?

      I believe that dynamic equivalent, and paraphrases have their place, and help many to understand the Word - but I would never rather have a paraphrase over a translation that tries to translate word for word with as little interpretation as possible (again, there is a line here, and translators have to choose where it is, because no understandable translation is word for word)

      Just some thoughts - again a great topic and a great blog

      At Wed Feb 08, 05:14:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Morris is right, the Bible does teach of the wrath of God, and even teaches that it is "propitiated" or placated in certain cases, e.g. Numbers 25:11, 2 Chronicles 12:7,12, 29:10, 30:8 which I listed before. But he is wrong to claim that therefore ἱλαστήριον hilastērion and related words mean "propitiation". They do not, not because there is no concept of God's wrath in the Bible (Dodd's claim, at least allegedly), but because these words are never used in the Bible in relation to God's wrath. Morris, in his article on Propitiation in the New Bible Dictionary (IVP 1962), wrote: "The objection to propitiation arises largely from an objection to the whole idea of the wrath of God". But this is in fact only part of the objection to understanding ἱλαστήριον hilastērion etc as "propitiation". Morris tries to argue that this word in Romans 3:25 is linked with the concept of God's wrath, but his argument is very doubtful because the reference to God's wrath which he appeals to is two whole chapters away, in 1:18. The point in 3:24-26 is that the demands of justice are met in Christ, not the demands of wrath.

      Of course it is necessary to understand what is really meant by God's wrath. The common use of "anger" or "wrath" suggests a person losing control of themself. But no one would claim that this is what God does. Rather, God's reaction to evil is that of a judge: he condemns and punishes the sinner according to principles of justice, not in the uncontrolled and arbitrary way which is generally associated with human anger or wrath. So perhaps the basic exegetical and translational problem is with these words rather than with the "propitiation" word group.

      And then there still remains the translational objection to the use of "propitiation": even if this concept is exegetically justified, the word should not be used if it is not clearly understood by its target audience. And yes, Tim, the substitute phrase also needs to be well understood, and "atonement" is not a widely understood word.

      At Wed Feb 08, 06:11:00 AM, Blogger Dickie Mint said...

      Suzanne, I just noticed that the NET Bible uses 'mercy seat' at Romans 3:25. My memory suggests that is a change from the Beta edition but you know how memory can play tricks...


      At Wed Feb 08, 06:15:00 AM, Blogger Ted Gossard said...

      Thanks Suzanne for bringing this up and helping us think through the issue. It seems to me that "sacrifice of atonement" is a vast improvemetn over propitiation. Atonement is not that big of a word to learn, I think.

      At Wed Feb 08, 09:06:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      You know the more I think about it, the more I like the approach of the HCSB in that it has bullet notes for "certain foreign, geographical, cultural, or ancient words" leading the reader to look at a glossary in the back.

      Any work that is translated not just from one language to another, but from another culture and time to another will have certain words that need explanation. I've never seen another translation, except perhaps the NET with its vast footnotes, take this kind of approach.

      Interestingly, it does -not- have a bullet not for its use of "propitiation" in Rom 3:25; Heb 2:17; 1 John 2:2; and 1 John 4:10.

      At Wed Feb 08, 09:48:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      I just got an email from Ray Clendenen in which he confirmed they are going to add bullet points for "propitiation" and "redemption" in future editions of the HCSB.

      At Wed Feb 08, 09:56:00 AM, Blogger Trevor Jenkins said...

      As both Suzanne McCarthy and Peter Kirk mention the argument over propitiation and expiation has been running for a long time. Certainly has. I heard Dr Packer mention it during a talk to the Cambridge University Christian Union in 1973 or 1974. At the time I didn't quite follow his argument and to this day whenever it is raised I have first to reach for my dictionary to lookup the definitions of both words. It seems odd to this pew-warmer that a translation being touted as "essentially literal" uses a word from the Latin rather than the Greek.

      At Wed Feb 08, 11:51:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      Interesting FYI... I remembered one other translation that uses "expiation" besides the RSV -- the Revised English Bible (REB).

      At Wed Feb 08, 03:17:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

      And the New English Bible (NEB) before it.

      At Wed Feb 08, 06:22:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

      Thanks for mentionng the NET Bible. That does seem like a more literal translation, which I think is great. I like different kinds of translations for different things.

      I don't think we have solved the problem of how best to translate ιλαστηριον but it is always good to look at the options.

      As Peter points out, the problem may be partly elsewhere, in our understanding of sin and justice. Then how to express ιλαστηριον in all honesty, as a translator. However, I believe that the Bible was translated into English before the word propitiation came into the English language. It would be interesting for me to look into this history a ittle more.

      At Wed Feb 08, 06:55:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

      Suzanne, in another place where 'propititation' appears in the Authorised Version (and, famously for us Anglicans, in the Book of Common Prayer), Tyndale has this rendering:

      'and he it is that obteyneth grace for oure synnes: not for oure synnes only: but also for the synnes of all the worlde' (1 John 2:2).

      AV has 'and he is the propitiation for our sins'.

      Tim C.

      At Wed Feb 08, 07:52:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


      It sounds as if there really wasn't a word for propitiation in English so this word was brought in from the Latin or French. However, I understand that German is less able than English to absorb loan words from Latin. They have a word, 'versohnung' but I think it is much more general and would include propitiation, expiation and atonement, there is not the same degree of particularity there. However, I am open to being corrected on this.

      English is so open to just accepting a new word but some languages are not. It might be interesting to look at how a variety of Eurpean languages have resolved these issues.

      At Wed Feb 08, 09:33:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

      Peter Kirk said Morris tries to argue that this word in Romans 3:25 is linked with the concept of God's wrath, but his argument is very doubtful because the reference to God's wrath which he appeals to is two whole chapters away, in 1:18. The point in 3:24-26 is that the demands of justice are met in Christ, not the demands of wrath.

      I wonder, Peter, if the wrath Paul speaks of in the first part of ch. 3--specifically 3:5-6--could legitimate the use of propitiation in 3:25.

      On another note, while we're on the issue of older translations, let's look at Wycliffe New Testament of 1388, if nothing else for historical curiosity. The Wycliffe NT (thought by almost no one to actually be translated by Wycliffe himself) was translated from the Latin Vulgate. Unfortunatly, all I have is Cooper's modern spelling edition, but Rom 3:25 reads "Whom [speaking of Jesus] God ordained forever by faith in His blood to the showing of his rightwiseness... ." Ordained has to be the oddest translation of all.

      Hebrews 2:17 reads "that he should be merciful to the trespasses of the people" (emphasis added).

      1 John 2:2 reads "and He is the forgiveness for our sins" (emphasis added).

      1 John 4:10 also uses forgiveness.

      The Geneva Bible (I have the facsimile of the 1602 annotated New Testament) consistently uses reconciliation for all four occurances.

      At Thu Feb 09, 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

      Rick wondered if the wrath Paul speaks of in the first part of ch. 3--specifically 3:5-6--could legitimate the use of propitiation in 3:25. Well, possibly. This is at least a nearer referent than 1:18. But it is also the word of Paul's imaginary opponent rather than his own. A better antecedent would be 2:5-8, where wrath is linked with final judgment, in a way which is not clear in 1:18. But 2:5-8 is still quite a long way from 3:25.


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