N.T. Wright on Expiation and Propitiation

Many are confused about these terms. RSV is one that uses expiation. KJV, ESV, HCSB and a few others use propitiation. Others like NRSV and NIV will use sacrifice of atonement or atoning sacrifice and NET uses mercy seat. You’ll have to go somewhere else for the latter. This quote below seems to be the simplest way to put it, although I think propitiation is more complex than stated, as I’m sure N.T. Wright would know. If you want to be even more confused, read Moo’s commentary on Romans (library book)! I’m not knocking him, I just couldn’t make much sense of it. But he did make a case for using ‘sacrifice of atonement’ because propitiation might not quite cover it. Propitiation used to be a shibboleth for me but I’ve loosened up on that.

I hope this simple explanation helps people who don’t know what these words mean to get a basic idea.

In his explanation of Romans 3:21-26 in the NIB Romans commentary, Wright states,

Dealing with wrath or punishment is propitiation; with sin, expiation. You propitiate a person who is angry; you expiate a sin, crime, or stain on your character. Vehement rejection of the former idea in many quarters has led some to insist that only ‘expiation’ is in view here. But the fact remains that in Romans 1:18-3:20 Paul has declared that the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and wickedness and that despite God’s forbearance this will finally be meted out. (p. 476)

Sorry I forgot who to give the Hat Tip (HT) to.

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