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Monday, March 12, 2007

Propitiation Revisited

Even thought I am anxious to get back to the Lindisfarne gospels I have decided that they can wait. For some time I have been curious about how the word 'propitiation' has come into the English language.

Here is the reasoning behind the ESV choice for propitiation,
    Another example of an important correction to the RSV was the translation of the Greek word hilasterion and its cognates (Rom. 3:25, Heb. 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10) which the RSV translated "expiation." The ESV corrected this to "propitiation." Propitiation means to appease the wrath of someone by the substitution of an offering. Thus Jesus bore the wrath of God that was due mankind. The righteous anger that was due mankind was placed upon His Son. Christ's sacrifice had the effect of both bearing the sin of man (expiation) and the punishment due man for his wickedness (propitiation).

    It is worth noting that the NIV and the NRSV both took the "middle ground" and translated hilasterion as "atonement." In so doing the translators decided not to take a stand on the issue since "atonement" captures both expiation and propitiation. Clearly, many modern translations have not translated hilasterion as propitiation for the simple reason that it does not fit their theology. That God's wrath needed to be appeased was contrary to their understanding of God. Both the "Message," and the CEV translations have removed the heart of the meaning of propitiation from their respective translations entirely. (See Romans 3:25)
Here is Dr. Packer's stated rationale,

    Christian language, with its peculiarities, has been much studied during the past twenty years, and two things about it have become clear, First, all its odd, ‘stretched’, contradictory and incoherent-sounding features derive directly from the unique Christian notion of the transcendent, tripersonal Creator-God. Christians regard God as free from the limits that bind creatures like ourselves, who bear God’s image while not existing on his level, and Christian language, following biblical precedent, shakes free from ordinary limits in a way that reflects this fact. So, for instance, faced with John’s declaration in 1 John 4:8-10, ‘God is love. . . . Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,’ Calvin can write without hesitation: ‘The word propitiation (placatio; Greek, hilasmos) has great weight: for God, in a way that cannot be put into words (ineffabili quodam modo), at the very time when he loved us, was hostile (infensus) to us till he was reconciled in Christ.’7 Calvin’s phrase ‘in a way that cannot be put into words’ is his acknowledgement that the mystery of God is beyond our grasp. To Calvin, this duality of attitude, love and hostility, which in human psychological terms is inconceivable, is part of God’s moral glory; a sentiment which might make rationalistic theologians shake their heads, but at which John certainly would have nodded his.
This gives me something to think about. I would appreciate any help in interpreting this passage. My first question is simply this. Why don't any translations use appease or placate instead of propitiation, if that is what it means? In fact, most use either atonement, a word invented by Tyndale for another context, or reconciliation, which is what the Geneva Bible used. My understanding is that although it did turn up in the Wycliff version of Lev. 25:9, it was not normally used in the Christian scriptures until the Bishop's. This was not a translation of the reformation.

I have just found this website which provides these early versions in modern spelling for comparison. It also provides the Tyndale OT books. Here is a verse, 1 John 4:10, which gives us some idea of the difficulties of translating ἱλασμὸν.

    10 In this thing is charity, not as we had loved God, but for he first loved us, and sent his Son forgiveness for our sins [and sent his Son helping for our sins] . Wycliffe

    10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his son to make agreement [a satisfaction] for our sins. Tyndale/Coverdale

    10 Herein is that love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be a reconciliation for our sins. Geneva

    10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. KJV (Websters)

35 Comments:

At Tue Mar 13, 12:04:00 AM, Blogger Apprentice2Jesus said...

I think what is deserved for a word this rich, in ANY translation, is a footnote of some sort. It is obvious one word is just not enough to capture the fullness of the meaning. The NIV using "atonement" may seem like middle ground, but it is not, even if "atonement" does not quite capture the full meaning.

I currently attend a mainline seminary and atonement has connotations theology students would just rather not deal with. So, using that word is not as "soft" as it may seem, plus it does capture more meaning than just looking at "propitiation."

At any rate, some sort of footnote in any translation would obviously be helpful. There aren't that many passages that use it so we're not talking about a lot of repetition. They could even say, "See footnote at this reference..." if they get bored with always repeating something.

Dan Thompson

 
At Tue Mar 13, 12:57:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 01:28:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

it was not normally used in the Christian scriptures until the Bishop's

Besides the use in Leviticus 25:9, Wycliffe uses it in First Chronicles 28:11:

Forsothe Dauid yaf to Salomon, his sone, the discryuyng, `ether ensaumple, of the porche, and of the temple, and of celeris, and of the soler , and of closetis in pryuy places, and of the hows of propiciacioun, `that is, of mersi;

Indeed, also before the Bishop's Bible, it was used in the Book of Common Prayer (1549 and 1552) in the Communion Service when it quotes 1 John 2:1-2.

I should note that "propitiatory" (which is used many times by Wycliffe) has a more ancient history in English, being cited in the Ormulum:

Tær oferr þatt arrke wass An oferrwerrc wel timmbredd þat wass Propitiatoriumm O Latin spæche nemmnedd.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 01:50:00 AM, Blogger anonymous said...

I should also mention that "atonement" (in the very early form "onement") appears in Wycliffe, e.g., Ezekiel 37:17:

And ioyne thou tho trees oon to the tother in to o tree to thee; and tho schulen be in to onement in thin hond.

In its modern form "atonement" appears in Sir Thomas More's History of Kyng Richard the Third, dating from thirteen years earlier than Tyndale:

Having more regarde to their olde variaunce then their newe attonement.

Of which .... none of vs hath any thing the lesse nede, for the late made attonemente.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 03:39:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Suzanne.

(From the ESV site, apparently yet another new one:) Clearly, many modern translations have not translated hilasterion as propitiation for the simple reason that it does not fit their theology. ... Both the "Message," and the CEV translations have removed the heart of the meaning of propitiation from their respective translations entirely.

There are all sorts of good reasons why many modern translations do not use "propitiation". I accept that there may have been theological reasons behind the change to "expiation" in RSV. But it is surely unfair to Eugene Peterson, who is thoroughly evangelical, to suggest that he is rejecting substitutionary atonement. His reasons for not using the word "propitiation" are clearly translational and stylistic.

(Packer:) Christian language, following biblical precedent, shakes free from ordinary limits

This is a very strange statement. In what way is there a "biblical" precedent for language going beyond ordinary limits? Yes, there is in certain modern Bible translations, especially ESV, and perhaps to some extent in KJV and other older translations. But in the original text of the Bible is there any way in which the language goes beyond ordinary limits? I don't think so.

(Packer again:)Calvin can write without hesitation: ‘The word propitiation (placatio; Greek, hilasmos) has great weight ...’

So here the argument for using the word "propitiation" appears to be that it was used by Calvin's translator, in a case where even in his original Latin Calvin did not use "propitiatio". I wonder why Calvin avoided "propitiatio". Was it perhaps not well understood even in 16th century Latin? It would actually be clearer modern English to transliterate his Latin word as "placation", which although itself a rare word is clearly linked to the well understood word "placate". I'm not sure that "placation" would capture every aspect of the meaning of the Greek word, but "propitiation" clearly does not, and at least "placation" captures what Calvin and Packer apparently consider to be the key meaning component.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 08:28:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Suzanne asked:

Why don't any translations use appease or placate instead of propitiation, if that is what it means?

Good question. I would like to know the answer, as well. As you know, I'm a fan of using English words of Anglo-Saxon origin in our translations, as much as possible. I feel that way because A-S words have been native to English for a longer time than Latinate words. And they often communicate better to a larger number of English speakers. I don't know what A-S words would translate hilasterios well, but the search for them would be worth it.

The semantic space occupied by a word in one language often does not exactly match the semantic space used by a corresponding word in another language. There is often some loss of nuances or some other less-focal meaning in translation. But we should be able to find native English words, well understood by the majority of English speakers, to translation hilasterios.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 09:01:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Regarding the distinctions between propitiation and expiation, if I remember correctly, Leon Morris made a case for BOTH meanings in his book on the atonement.

That may have influenced some translations such as the NIV and NRSV to simply use "sacrifical atonement" or something related.

To understand what Jesus actually did on the cross will always require an instructional context that a simple English word (regardless of which one is selected) will not achieve.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, neither "appease" nor "placate" is of Anglo-Saxon origin. Also "appease" has very negative connotations here in the UK, especially since the policy of appeasement of Hitler before the Second World War.

But perhaps the real reason why "appeasement" or "placation" is not used is because they clearly give only one of the two meanings which Leon Morris discerned and Rick mentioned. So people of his school prefer "propitiation" because they want to preserve the fiction that this word actually has both meanings. For they are confusing their theological conclusion that the biblical concept has both meaning components with a linguistic conclusion that the word "propitiation" has both meaning components. But in fact this word, effectively invented (as an English word) by theologians, has zero meaning apart from that which theologians have tried to attach to it - meanings which are not understood by ordinary people.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 10:50:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

1

 
At Tue Mar 13, 10:51:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

I've never heard anyone say that propitiation carried both meanings of propitiation and expiation.

Morris said that ἱλαστήριον contained meanings for both the theological concepts of propitiation and expiation, and that neither word alone carried the full weight of what Jesus did on the cross.

Expiation, incidentally, is from the influence of C. H. Dodd. Besides the RSV, it is used in the NEB and REB.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 02:17:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

I've never heard anyone say that propitiation carried both meanings of propitiation and expiation.

Rick, you may be right. But this seems to be the logical consequence of what the ESV team wrote in the passage Suzanne quoted:

RSV translated "expiation." The ESV corrected this to "propitiation." ... Christ's sacrifice had the effect of both bearing the sin of man (expiation) and the punishment due man for his wickedness (propitiation).

In other words, they agree with Morris that the biblical concept involves both meanings, and presumably also that the original word carries both of them. But they reject the rendering "expiation" as incorrect and correct it to "propitiation". The implication of that is that they consider the word "propitiation" to carry both meanings. Yet, contradictorily, they reject the rendering "atonement" despite claiming that it captures both meanings.

But perhaps I shouldn't expect anything to logical from the ESV team. It seems that what they really mean is not what they say, but (in contradiction to Morris) that the original word means only "propitiation" to the exclusion of "expiation".

 
At Tue Mar 13, 02:36:00 PM, Blogger Dan Sindlinger said...

In the Septuagint, the KJV translates the Greek term "hilasterion" as "mercy seat" 23 times. This is a reference to the lid of the ark of the covenant, which represented God’s presence. So I think it is eisegesis to suggest that hilasterion (propitiation) means to appease the wrath of someone by the substitution of an offering.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 02:50:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Anonymous,

I think this

Tær oferr þatt arrke wass An oferrwerrc wel timmbredd þat wass Propitiatoriumm O Latin spæche nemmnedd.

means that "the covering of the ark was called a propitiatorium in the Latin language". It was not refering to propitiatory as an English word. I am glad to have this quote, it is certainly part of the history of the word.

I am particularly interested in what you say about the history of the word atonement because there is strong support for saying that Tyndale invented it. So Tyndale actually has been given credit for the word propitiation and the word atonement. Hmm. Very intiguing.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

I am curious to know why the Geneva Bible which was in a way Calvin's English bible, did not use the word propitiation.

I have no idea what the French Olivetan bible has for this. It is possible that it uses propitiation but I don't know that.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 02:57:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Dan, I see your point, although I guess the issue is not quite so simple. I don't think we can simply render hilasterion in Romans 3:25 as something like "lid of the Ark of the Covenant", although just possibly as something like "cover for sins" (cf 4:7, a different word for "cover" of course). And the words used in Hebrews 2:17 and 1 John 2:2, 4:10 are different although related.

Rick, I realise that what I wrote in my previous comment cannot really be true. Of course the ESV team believe, as I do, that "Christ's sacrifice had the effect of ... bearing the sin of man" (and of course of woman), and so they are not rejecting this concept, despite labelling it "(expiation)". The issue is rather whether "the Greek word hilasterion and its cognates" have this meaning as well as the meaning "bearing ... the punishment due man [and woman] for his [and her] wickedness". Now I am not of the school of thought which seems to believe that every word or sentence in the Bible refers to the sacrificial death of Christ and to translate it otherwise is to diminish Christ's glory. So I am happy to allow the ESV team to believe both that Christ's death was an expiation (as they define this word, which is otherwise meaningless to me) and that this is not an appropriate translation of this word group. But if so they should realise that they are going against Leon Morris, who, according to Rick, "said that ἱλαστήριον [hilasterion] contained meanings for both the theological concepts of propitiation and expiation".

Although I think that the ESV argument which Suzanne quoted is rather tendentious as well as confused, my real objection to "propitiation" in Bible translations is not theological but translational, that this word has little or no meaning for most audiences.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 03:08:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne wrote:

I am curious to know why the Geneva Bible which was in a way Calvin's English bible, did not use the word propitiation.

I think the answer is, why should it? I can understand why translators from the Latin might use "propitiation", as the Latin Vulgate has "propitiatio" in Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 4:10, and "propitiatorium" in Hebrews 9:5, also "repropitiaret" in Hebrews 2:17, also related words in Luke 18:13 and Hebrews 8:12, but not in Matthew 16:22 (and this, not the shorter list in the main post, is in fact the complete list of New Testament uses of the word group).

But what did Calvin's translators translate from? Not I think the Vulgate. Calvin in his own Latin works (as quoted by Packer) used "placatio", not "propitiatio", for this concept, so he certainly didn't follow Jerome blindly. So why would you expect his Geneva translators to do so?

 
At Tue Mar 13, 03:18:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

But what did Calvin's translators translate from? Not I think the Vulgate. Calvin in his own Latin works (as quoted by Packer) used "placatio", not "propitiatio", for this concept, so he certainly didn't follow Jerome blindly. So why would you expect his Geneva translators to do so?

First, Peter, I have not yet quoted from Calvin's French text so I think we need to hold off on that one. Second, we don't know what the Olivetan bible had.

However, I have always had the impression that the word propitiation has been defended because it was the word used by the early reformers, as an English word. Now, I don't think so. I think this is a 20th century battle against C.H. Dodd, as we have discussed.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 04:43:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

My reading of Packer's comment, stripped of high-falutin' language, is as follows:

This is a central point of the Christian religion, so we need a special, precise word to carry the exact nuance we desire. The three-in-one God is not bound by ordinary limits of language. Calvin said, and I agree: the term is strange because the underlying idea is strange -- God both loves and is hostile to us. An ordinary word would not be appropriate -- it would have baggage that didn't reflect the precise meaning needed. This is consistent with 1 John 4:8-10.

If my reading is correct, then I see nothing wrong with Packer's sentiment. I think Christians often forget how strange (to non-Christians) the central Christian mystery is. Using a strange word is appropriate in this context.

In particular, I disagree with Mr. Kirk's reading that Packer is saying that we should use "propitiation" because Calvin did.

Regarding the origin of propitiatory -- Ormin's use is exactly in the sense of the "mercy-seat" of the tabernacle: namely the golden lid with two winged cherubin that covered the Ark of the Covenant that was the Earthly dwelling of God.

Note in any case that the usage was well established around 1300, as can be seen in Cursor Mundi (line 8281):

And [in þat hali arke] was aarons wand,... þe gilden oyle, þe propiciatori, Tua cherubins.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 05:24:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Anonymous,

In French the propitiatoire is the usual word for mercy seat - that is the word. So anyone with an understanding of the books of Moses in French would recognize the word and the connection.

The TNIV uses atonement in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures, there is a consistant connection between the abstract and the concrete. The word becomes meaningful by being attached to a real object. The TNIV uses day of atonement, atonement cover, sacrifice of atonement, etc.

However, in the KJV and the ESV there is a disjunct between mercy seat, day of atonement and propitiation. It is almost as if the translators want the average person to become dependant on theologians to explain this, when a consistent use of vocabulary and a model of the temple makes all this clear to a five year old.

Personally I don't think that there is any difference between saying atonement, propitiation, or expiation. None are native English words, all came into the language to explain this concept. However, at least some bibles have attempted to invest the word with meaning. I think the French do very well by propitiation and propitiatoire and the English with atonement and atonement cover.

What do you think? I will leave the theology aside.

I am glad that the Ormulum and the Cursi Mundi are being brought into the discussion. It is really useful to see the roots of Christian vocabulary in English when one thinks of the task of translating into another language.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 05:50:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Here is he English tranlastion of what Calvin wrote. I believe that he wrote "propitiation" in French, and I think it is a meaningful French word. My problem is that I don't think it has ever been given the full meaning in English that it has in French I think that Dr. Packer could very well say that some word will be needed here, it may be a strange word, but, ... personally I have some reservations about what has actually evolved in this little piece of linguistic history.


This distinction is found in numerous passages of Scripture: "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him might not perish," (John 3: 16). We see that the first place is assigned to the love of God as the chief cause or origin, and that faith in Christ follows as the second and more proximate cause. Should any one object that Christ is only the formal cause[2], he lessens his energy more than the words justify. For if we obtain justification by a faith which leans on him, the groundwork of our salvation must be sought in him. This is clearly proved by several passages: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins," (1Jn 4: 10). These words clearly demonstrate that God, in order to remove any obstacle to his love towards us, appointed the method of reconciliation in Christ. There is great force in this word "propitiation"; for in a manner which cannot be expressed, God, at the very time when he loved us, was hostile to us until reconciled in Christ. To this effect are all the following passages: "He is the propitiation for our sins;" "It pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell, and having made peace by the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;" "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them;" "He has made us accepted in the Beloved," "That he might reconcile both into one body by the cross."[3] The nature of this mystery is to be learned from the first chapter to the Ephesians, where Paul, teaching that we were chosen in Christ, at the same time adds, that we obtained grace in him. here

 
At Tue Mar 13, 05:54:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

I don't know why Dr. Packer says 'placatio' but the Greek - Latin lexicon of the early 17th century has proptiatio and placatio as meanings for the Greek ilasmos. I thought that Calvin might have written propitiation as a French word and placatio as the Latin in brackets, I just don't know.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 06:18:00 PM, Blogger anonymous said...

Well, if you are asking my opinion, rather than linguistic observations -- I will warn you in advance that some may not like it:

I think the Greek writers used Hellenistic concepts, in part influenced by Mystery religions, and mixed it with the Semitic concept of "at-onement" to produce what was truly a new religious concept, loosely related but separate from Israelite and Jewish (as well as Mystery) thinking.

The strangeness of this to Jews is apparent from reading Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho.

Concordant with my belief that kippur and hilasmos are distinct concepts, I favor translation into distinct English words. Of course, if one views them as being theologically equivalent, that equivalence can be pointed out in theologically oriented notes or lessons, but should not be part of the translation proper.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 06:54:00 PM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Anony,

I believe you are absolutely right, and I've taught this before. In my opinion when Paul uses a word like ἱλαστήριον, he is borrowing from the vocabulary of the mystery religions to accommodate the meaning of what Jesus did on the cross to his readers/hearers.

Now when -I- say this, I don't mean to imply some kind of Religionsgeschichte idea that Christianity was borrowing theology from the mystery religions or was being influenced by the mystery religions. Rather, Paul was using a word that his audience would immediately recognize as a means to partially explain what Jesus did on the cross.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 07:06:00 PM, Blogger Brian said...

I remember reading in Dr. Packer's book Knowing God he delienated betweeen expiation and propitiation. He may have overstated his case but for him expiation was a temporary sacrifical act not unlike the OT sacrifices where as propitiation was a permanent appeasement of God's wrath -

thus for Packer the one who preached expiation was not preaching the gospel but an anti-gospel whereas the one who preaches propitiation preaches the true gospel

again he may have overstated his case.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 07:56:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Concordant with my belief that kippur and hilasmos are distinct concepts, I favor translation into distinct English words.

Anon,

I may have overstated my case. That is, I would not say that they are the same concept. Surely they are distinct.

However, Paul chose to use cognate words, Luther chose to use cognate words, Calvin chose to use cognate words. Tyndale chose to use cognate words, at least some of the time. So there is a strong tradition on this side.

Against this tradition we have the Bishop's bible, KJV and ESV. I see this as a tradition that favours ecclesiastical and insitutionally approved language.

It seems to me that 'atonement' as used in the TNIV is more simply more concordant, more transparent to the Greek and more in line with verbal, pleniary inspiration of the word than the atonement/propitiation split.

However, if one believes in an ongoing revelation of God's truth to the prophets of each age - then propitiation might be the right choice.

Rather, Paul was using a word that his audience would immediately recognize as a means to partially explain what Jesus did on the cross.

Rick,

Why shouldn't we do the same?

 
At Tue Mar 13, 08:06:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Anon. commented:

Concordant with my belief that kippur and hilasmos are distinct concepts, I favor translation into distinct English words. Of course, if one views them as being theologically equivalent, that equivalence can be pointed out in theologically oriented notes or lessons, but should not be part of the translation proper.

Thanks for this, Anon. I confess that I've never even thought about similarities or differences between kippur and hilasmos before. So I appreciate your stimulation to do so. I need to do some studying.

Until then, I'll offer the following contribution, translations of three, presumably key, verses, from the Hebrew Bible and New Testament of kippur, hilasmos, and hilasterion, respectively:

Lev. 17:11 (kippur):

For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul. (KJV)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you
upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood
that makes atonement, by reason of the life. (RSV)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you for making atonement for your lives on the altar; for, as life, it is the blood that makes atonement. (NRSV)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (ESV)

because the life of a creature is the blood, and I appoint it to make expiation on the altar for yourselves: it is the blood, which is the life, that makes expiation. (REB)

Since the life of a living body is in its blood, I have made you put it on the altar, so that atonement may thereby be made for your own lives, because it is the blood, as the seat of life, that makes atonement. [NAB; footnote: That atonement may thereby be made for your own lives: hence, the sacrifice of an animal was a symbolic act which substituted the victim's life for the life of the offerer, who thus acknowledged that he deserved God's punishments for his sins. This idea of sacrifice is applied in Hebrews 9-10 to the death of Christ, inasmuch as "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22).]

For the life of the creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you for performing the rite of expiation on the altar for your lives, for blood is what expiates for a life. (NJB)

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life. (NIV; TNIV)

for the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life. (NET)

For the life of the flesh is in the blod, and I have assigned it to you for making expiation for your lives upon the altar; it is the blood, as life, that effects expiation. (NJPS)

For the life of the flesh is in the blood. And as for Me, I have given it to you on the altar to ransom your lives, for it is the blood that ransoms in exchange for life. (Alter)

The life of every living thing is in the blood, and that is why the LORD has commanded that all blood be poured out on the altar to take away the people's sins. Blood, which is life, takes away sins. (TEV/GNB)

Life is in the blood, and I have given you the blood of animals to sacrifice in place of your own. (CEV)

for the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the LORD. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. (NLT)

because blood contains life. I have given this blood to you to make peace with me on the altar. Blood is needed to make peace with me. (GW)

For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have appointed it to you to make atonement on the altar for your lives, since it is the lifeblood that makes atonement. (HCSB; footnote on "altar for:" Or to ransom your lives)


1 John 2:22 (hilasmos)

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world. (KJV)

and he is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (RSV)

and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (NRSV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (ESV)

He is himself a sacrifice to atone for our sins, and not ours only but the sins of the whole world. (REB)

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (NIV; TNIV)

and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world. [NET; footnote on "atoning sacrifice:" A suitable English translation for this word (hilasmos) is a difficult and even controversial problem. “Expiation,” “propitiation,” and “atonement” have all been suggested. L. Morris, in a study that has become central to discussions of this topic (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, 140), sees as an integral part of the meaning of the word (as in the other words in the [hilaskomai] group) the idea of turning away the divine wrath, suggesting that “propitiation” is the closest English equivalent. It is certainly possible to see an averting of divine wrath in this context, where the sins of believers are in view and Jesus is said to be acting as Advocate on behalf of believers. R. E. Brown’s point (Epistles of John [AB], 220–21), that it is essentially cleansing from sin which is in view here and in the other use of the word in 4:10, is well taken, but the two connotations (averting wrath and cleansing) are not mutually exclusive and it is unlikely that the propitiatory aspect of Jesus’ work should be ruled out entirely in the usage in 2:2. Nevertheless, the English word “propitiation” is too technical to communicate to many modern readers, and a term like “atoning sacrifice” (given by Webster’s New International Dictionary as a definition of “propitiation”) is more appropriate here. Another term, “satisfaction,” might also convey the idea, but “satisfaction” in Roman Catholic theology is a technical term for the performance of the penance imposed by the priest on a penitent.]

And Christ himself is the means by which our sins are forgiven, and not our sins only, but also the sins of everyone. (TEV/GNB)

Christ is the sacrifice that takes away our sins and the sins of all the world's people. (CEV)

He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. (NLT)

He is the payment for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. (GW)

He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not only for ours, but also for those of the whole world. (HCSB; footnote on "propitiation:" The word propitiation has to do with the removal of divine wrath. Jesus’ death is the means that turns God’s wrath from the sinner; see 2 Co 5:21.)


Rom. 3:25 (hilasterion)

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)

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)

whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement 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)

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)

For God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his death, effective through faith. God meant by this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had overlooked the sins of the past (REB)

God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished (NIV)

God presented Christ as a sacrifice
of atonement, 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— (TNIV)

God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. [NET; footnote on "mercy seat": The word (hilasterion) may carry the general sense “place of satisfaction,” referring to the place where God’s wrath toward sin is satisfied. More likely, though, it refers specifically to the “mercy seat,” i.e., the covering of the ark where the blood was sprinkled in the OT ritual on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This term is used only one other time in the NT: Heb 9:5, where it is rendered “mercy seat.” There it describes the altar in the most holy place (holy of holies). Thus Paul is saying that God displayed Jesus as the “mercy seat,” the place where propitiation was accomplished. See N. S. L. Fryer, “The Meaning and Translation of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25, ” EvQ 59 (1987): 99-116, who concludes the term is a neuter accusative substantive best translated “mercy seat” or “propitiatory covering,” and D. P. Bailey, “Jesus As the Mercy Seat: The Semantics and Theology of Paul’s Use of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25” (Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 1999), who argues that this is a direct reference to the mercy seat which covered the ark of the covenant.]

God offered him, so that by his blood he should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven through their faith in him. God did this in order to demonstrate that he is righteous. In the past he was patient and overlooked people's sins (TEV/GNB)

God sent Christ to be our sacrifice. Christ offered his life's blood, so that by faith in him we could come to God. And God did this to show that in the past he was right to be patient and forgive sinners. (CEV)

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, (NLT)

God showed that Christ is the throne of mercy where God's approval is given through faith in Christ's blood. In his patience God waited to deal with sins committed in the past. (GW)

God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. (HCSB; footnote on "propitiation:" Or as a propitiatory sacrifice, or as an offering of atonement, or as a mercy seat; see Heb 9:5. The word propitiation has to do with the removal of divine wrath. Jesus’ death is the means that turns God’s wrath from the sinner; see 2 Co 5:21.)

 
At Tue Mar 13, 08:27:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Brian recalled:

I remember reading in Dr. Packer's book Knowing God he delienated betweeen expiation and propitiation. He may have overstated his case but for him expiation was a temporary sacrifical act not unlike the OT sacrifices where as propitiation was a permanent appeasement of God's wrath -

thus for Packer the one who preached expiation was not preaching the gospel but an anti-gospel whereas the one who preaches propitiation preaches the true gospel


Hmm, I think it takes theologians, such as Dr. Packer, to differentiate between "expiation" and "propitiation" like that. Both words are in my passive English vocabulary, but I can't say that I really have a good sense of what they mean, let alone any difference between them. And I've had three semesters of systematic theology and I'm sure we must have focused on propitiation (it's been nearly 40 years ago and I didn't keep my class notes).

Here are the definitions of both words from my American Heritage dictionary (yes, Anon., as I wrote you in my recent comments, I do consider dictionary data one valid kind of evidence):

ex·pi·a·tion n. 1. The act of expiating; atonement. 2. A means of expiating or atoning.

pro·pi·ti·a·tion n. 1. The act of propitiating. 2. Something that propitiates, especially a conciliatory offering to a god.

Well, the second definition illustrate the internal loop problem in many dictionaries, where a word is defined by another word which needs to be defined. So let's get the definitions for "propitiate" (and I'll also get "expiate" for good measure):

pro·pi·ti·ate tr.v. To conciliate (an offended power); appease: propitiate the gods with a sacrifice. [Latin propiti³re, propiti³t-, from propitius, propitious.

ex·pi·ate v. --tr. 1. To make amends or reparation for; atone: expiate one's sins by acts of penance. --intr. To make amends; atone. [Latin expi³re, expi³t- : ex-, intensive pref.; see EX- + pi³re, to atone (from pius, devout).]

Hmm, it looks like we also need "atone" to get out of one of the loops:

a·tone v. a·toned, a·ton·ing, a·tones. --intr. 1. To make amends, as for a sin or fault: These crimes must be atoned for. 2. Archaic. To agree. --tr. 1. To expiate. 2. Archaic. To conciliate; appease: “So heaven, atoned, shall dying Greece restore” (Alexander Pope). 3. Obsolete. To reconcile or harmonize. [Middle English atonen, to be reconciled, from at one, in agreement : at, at; see AT1 + one, one; see ONE.]

Aargh! There is a feedback loop, where the definition of "atone" referring to "expiate", and the definition of "expiate" refers to "atone."

It looks to me, from these definitions, that a key difference between "propitiate" and "expiate" is that the "propitiate" appeases an offended deity, whereas "expiate" involves acts of penance (sorry) which may or may not have any effect on a deity.

I don't see anything here about a temporal difference between the two, but Dr. Packer is a theologian. I am not, so I don't know if there is any consensus among theologians dealing with atonement that would agree with Dr. Packer.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 08:36:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

A few days ago I learned of a new wiki called Theopedia, being developed by individuals who have felt that Wikipedia does not give adequate treatment to topics of concern to them. I just used Theopedia for the first time. It has an article on propitiation and expiation.

 
At Tue Mar 13, 08:36:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Oh, and I forgot the Latin Vulgate also used cognate words in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 02:28:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Rick wrote, way back in this thread:

I've never heard anyone say that propitiation carried both meanings of propitiation and expiation.

I was just reading the Packer article from which Suzanne quoted, and found the following, in footnote 21:

The idea of propitiation includes that of expiation as its means

In other words, Packer is teaching that propitiation includes expiation, but not vice versa, which is more or less what I was also suggesting. No doubt Packer's view of the matter was influential among the ESV translation team which he heads, so this would explain why they considered "propitiation" to be an adequately inclusive term, but rejected "expiation" and perhaps also "placation" as less inclusive.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 02:53:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne wrote:

Here is he English tranlastion of what Calvin wrote. I believe that he wrote "propitiation" in French ...

This is the same passage as quoted by Packer from "Inst. II. xvii. 2". But Calvin wrote the Institutes in Latin, not French, although he did also himself translate into French the much shorter first edition, which does not include this passage (added in the 1559 edition).

Packer clearly notes that in this passage Calvin's original Latin word was not "propitiatio" but "placatio", and I can confirm that from my own different translation of Calvin's Institutes (by FL Battles, in the Westminster Press edition edited by John T. McNeill), in which the word "appeasing" is used in the text written by Calvin and there is a footnote "Placatio." Where Calvin quotes from 1 John 4:10, Battles renders "propitiation" but his note implies that Calvin wrote here the Greek word hilasmon; it is not clear what Calvin wrote when quoting 1 John 2:2, but Battles renders "expiation".

 
At Wed Mar 14, 03:05:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

What a sensible footnote in NET Bible for 1 John 2:2, as quoted by Wayne! My only concern is that even "atoning sacrifice" may be "too technical to communicate to many modern readers".

But I was surprised to see the "mercy seat" rendering in NET for Romans 3:25. "God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. just doesn't make sense. "Place of mercy" possibly, or "mercy cover" but "seat" gives wrong connotations that someone will sit on Christ. Anyway, the original Old Testament hilasterion (LXX) was not so much a seat as a cover, the lid of the ark as Dan mentioned. I'm not sure where the idea of "seat" came from.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 03:23:00 AM, Blogger David McKay said...

I attended a conference where the speaker said that if you want to grow as a Christian you need to know some big words. He talked about the meaning of atonement, redemption and propitiation and maybe justification.

At the conclusion of his talks, he told us we should thank God that we have been propitiated, indicating that he himself did not know how to use the word correctly.

[I understand that it is God who is propitiated.]

I did a quick survey and could not find one person any the wiser on the meaning of propitiation. [It was a pretty small conference.]

I would agree with the speaker that we need to understand key theological concepts to grow in our understanding of the Christian message, but deny that this has to be done via big words.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 07:27:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

I apreciate all you have found out about Calvin's quote. I have his shorter version in French but it wasn't much help. Now you have it explained it better.

And David that was a succinct example of the problem.

I am still intrigued by the occurence of the word atonement before Tyndale because so many people seem to think that Tyndale invented it. I do't know who first used mercy seat either but it is very early.

 
At Wed Mar 14, 07:45:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Herein is loue, not that we loued God, but that he loued vs, and sent his sonne to be the agreement for our sinnes. (Bishop's Bible, 1568)

and what heightens his love, was this, that it was not we who first loved God, but it was he that first loved us, and sent his son to expiate our sins. (Mace, 1729)

 

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