Tag Archive for 'propitiation'

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.

Romans 3:25, Propitiation and the NLT Translation

I must admit that the word propitiation is a minor shibboleth for me. If Romans 3:25, Hebrews 2:17, 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10 don’t have it, I get negative thoughts. When I found out my NRSV that I carefully chose over two years ago, without having looked at these verses, didn’t have it I almost switched to the ESV immediately before I came to my senses. (I previously used the NIV for 20 years because it’s what everybody else read. When I got more serious I realized I didn’t really like it compared to others even though it’s a fine translation.)

I’ve come to dislike the archaic language in the NRSV and over time have really warmed up to the HCSB for many reasons which I won’t mention because this post is too long already. Except that of course it has the word propitiation. I was 99% sure I was going to switch to this when the update comes out next year but I’m being patient and keeping an open mind.

A quick look at Romans 3:25 in the NLT shows that it doesn’t say propitiation. Oh well. As far as a dynamic equivalent (formerly known as thought-for-thought) translation goes, I like how the NLT does it. But I like the idea of some of the literal aspects of the HCSB.

So I took a look at the first part of Romans 3:25 again in the NLT more carefully:

For God sent Jesus to take the punishment for our sins and to satisfy God’s anger against us.

Isn’t that just what propitiation means? Isn’t this better than “atoning sacrifice” or “sacrifice of atonement” that some other translations use? For me this would be so. Again, I’m not disparaging other translations and I know this idea is complex and beyond me to make any authoritative judgments. Reading Douglas Moo’s take on it was confusing to say the least.

This really makes me pause. For some reason I still fight against the idea of using a dynamic equivalent translation as my main Bible. I always wonder if more interpreting is going on than with a more literal approach. I’m still leaning towards the HCSB.

That’s enough rambling for now. Maybe I’ll post again as I become more decisively indecisive.

Comments welcome as always.

Book Review: The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

The Truth of the Cross by R.C. Sproul

In my first book review on this blog I’d like to start out with a passage of Scripture and a quote from the book.

“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-2 NKJV).

he [Paul] told the Corinthians he had determined to know nothing except Christ crucified. Clearly Paul was determined to know all kinds of things besides the person and work of Jesus. He wanted to teach the Corinthians about the deep things of the character and nature of God the Father. He planned to instruct them about the person and work of the Holy Spirit, about Christian ethics, and about many other things that go beyond the immediate scope of Christ’s work on the cross. So why, then, did he say this? The answer is obvious. Paul was saying that in all of his teaching, in all of his preaching, in all of his missionary activity, the central point of importance was the cross.

Those are mentioned on pages 3 and 4 and serve as a good basis for the book.

Generous use of Scripture is utilized including exposition of longer passages like Genesis 18 and rules about slaves and marriage in Exodus, which to me is a bonus. We even get some lessons in history like learning a bit about Anselm of Canturbury and how limited atonement was first widely articulated by Augustine. Useful but short personal anecdotes are used sparingly with Scripture taking center stage.

The book serves a wide audience. He uses theological terms but always defines them for those who may not have a wide vocabulary in that area.

Some other interesting topics he goes into:

  • three distinct ways in which sin is described: debt, enmity, crime
  • expiation and propitiation
  • what blessed and cursed means in the OT (Gal 3:13)
  • the sacrificial lamb and the scapegoat and how Christ fulfilled both parts of the sacrifice
  • misunderstandings of limited atonement (a hot issue for some)

just to name a few of those that especially interested me.

I would like to have seen him go more into original sin. Maybe it wasn’t in the scope of this book.

This was the first book of R.C. Sproul’s that I’ve read. I thoroughly enjoyed his writing and teaching style and look forward to reading more of his books.


Other reviews:

What Does Propitiation Mean?

[pruh-pish-ee-ey-shuhn] or [pro-pish-ee-ey-shuhn]

Propitiation: peace with God forever at CAMPONTHIS
Be sure to listen to the excellent Podcast which lasts about 15 minutes.

Some translations use “atoning sacrifice”, “sacrifice of atonement” or “expiation” (RSV) among others. If you want to read more about why different terms are used you can find plenty on the web by using Google.

These are the four instances the term is used.

Romans 3:25
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.

Hebrews 2:17
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God’s Wrath and Our Salvation

In the church I was brought up in they taught that Jesus’ death paid for everyone’s sins except for those who are really bad like murderers etc. and that the wrath of God was taken away from virtually everyone. What does the Bible say?

John 3:36
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Romans 2:8
but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.

Isn’t this unfair?

Romans 9:22-24
What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory– even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Ephesians 2:3
among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

If we don’t believe God is a God of wrath, it dilutes our thankfulness for the fact that He sent His Son to be a propitiation for us.

1 John 4:10
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

Romans 5:9
Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:9-10
For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.