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The Propitation Of God


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#1 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:50 PM

For far too long, Bible translators have inserted the word 'propitiation' into those passages of Scripture which speak of Christ's sacrifice (and of sacrifice to God generally). They have translated the Greek word HILASTERION as 'propitation', or 'propitiatory' sacrifice, which it does not mean in these Scriptural contexts.

The following paper reveals the correct understanding of the word, based fimly on Scriptural evidence.
Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

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#2 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:50 PM

DISSERTATION ABSTRACT

(to be printed in Tyndale Bulletin 51.1, April 2000)

Jesus as the Mercy Seat: The Semantics and Theology of Paul’s Use of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25

by Daniel P. Bailey

Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1999

Interpreters of Rom 3:25 and of 4 Macc 17:22 (codex S) commonly base their conclusions about hilasterion upon the immediate literary context coupled with vague notions of Jewish sacrifice and of the verbs hilaskesthai and exilaskesthai. Instead, scholars should consider first the more important linguistic evidence, namely, the concrete, non-metaphorical uses of the substantive hilasterion in other ancient sources.

They should be wary of investing hilasterion with meanings that are otherwise unattested (even though they may make sense in Romans or 4 Maccabees) and of parallelling Romans and 4 Maccabees prematurely. Only concrete, inanimate referents of this term are actually found in the other ancient sources; a hilasterion is always a thing -- never an idea or an action or an animal. This suggests that the uses of hilasterion in Rom 3:25 and 4 Macc 17:22 are metaphorical, while further exegesis shows that the two metaphors must be distinct, reflecting two different concrete uses of the term.

Unfortunately, past studies of hilasterion have often allowed theological considerations to overshadow lexicography. Hence it was the doctrine of propitiation rather than the actual occurrences of the term hilasterion in ancient sources that dominated the English-language discussion of Rom 3:25 in the twentieth century. C. H. Dodd reacted against this doctrine and argued that the root idea behind Paul’s use of hilasterion was one of expiation (of sin) rather than propitiation (of God).


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#3 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:51 PM

However, Dodd based his study not on hilasterion itself but on the use of the verb hilaskesthai and its cognates in the Septuagint.

The result was an over-emphasis upon verb-based notions of a theological function, whether the propitiating of God or the expiating of sin, with too little attention to the concrete referents of the term hilasterion, such as the Old Testament mercy seat and Greek votive offerings.

Neither Dodd nor most of his early opponents considered what hilasterion actually denoted in Paul’s day.

Admittedly, abstract notions of propitiation or expiation can be fitted into the context of Rom 3:21-26, causing centuries of debate. The problem from a lexicographical standpoint is that words ending in -terion seldom denote abstract verbal ideas, while hilasterion never does; the suffix -terion is very concrete.

Additional mistakes can be made by ignoring the available linguistic evidence. Since Paul elsewhere compares Jesus to an animal victim, as for example in Rom 8:3, where the phrase "peri hamartias" is standard Septuagintal language for the Levitical "sin offering," Heb. "hattat" (cf. NRSV mg.), many have mistakenly concluded that similar victim language must be present in Rom 3:25.

Jesus is said to be a hilasterion; he is also said to have shed his blood
. Therefore, it is commonly assumed that a hilasterion in the ancient world must have been something that could shed its blood, i.e. a sacrificial victim ("sacrifice of atonement," NIV; NRSV). This, too, fits the immediate context.


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#4 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:51 PM

But it is a false syllogism, since it assumes that the meaning of hilasterion can be determined by the meaning of "blood" (after all, blood is sprinkled on the hilasterion of the Pentateuch, i.e. the mercy seat, but this does not make the hilasterion into a "victim"). It is also unsupported by external evidence: hilasterion never denotes an animal victim in any known source.

In fact, there are only two main applications of the term hilasterion up through the middle of the second century AD. It can designate (1) the golden "mercy seat" or "kapporet" on top of Israel’s ark of the covenant (LXX Pentateuch; Heb 9:5; six times in Philo); or (2) durable votive offerings to the pagan deities, generally anathemata (so LSJ s.v. "hilasterios" II 2).

There are also minor extensions of the Pentateuchal use in the prophets: the altar ledges in Ezek 43:14, 17, 20 and perhaps the altar or one of its parts in Amos 9:1. (The later uses of hilasterion by Symmachus to refer to Noah’s ark at Gen 6:15 MT [6:16 Sym.] and by Byzantine Christian writers to refer to churches, altars, monasteries, and saints’ tombs raise additional problems.)


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#5 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:51 PM

The application of hilasterion to Greek votive offerings was the normal or mainstream use in the first century AD. While generally pagan, it is also reflected in Jewish sources such as Josephus Ant. 16.182 and 4 Macc 17:22 (see below). The hilasterion in Josephus is a marble monument. But the most famous hilasterion in the ancient world was the Trojan Horse.

This was called a thelkterion or "charm" by Homer (Od. 8.509) but a hilasterion or "propitiatory gift" by Dio Chrysostom (Or. 11.121) and by two later commentators on Homer (anonymous scholia, ed. Dindorf [1855]; comm. by Eustathius of Thessalonica, ed. Stallbaum [1825]). The term hilasterion or its Rhodian variant hilaterion was customarily inscribed on other gifts dedicated to the gods.

These include statues, monuments, stelae (Inscr. Cos 81 and 347, ed. Paton and Hicks [1891]; Bullettino del Museo dell’Impero Romano 3 [1932], p. 14, no. 11, ed. Patriarca, printed as appendix to Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale di Roma 60 [1932]; variant hilaterion, Lindos II, no. 425, ed. Blinkenberg [1941]), drinking bowls (e.g. a "phiale" as a hilaterion, Die Lindische Tempelchronik, B49, ed. Blinkenberg [1915]), and tripods (e.g. a "tripous" as a hilasterion, scholion on Apollonius of Rhodes 4.1549, ed. Wendel [1935]).

Hilasterion (hilaterion) in all these extra-biblical occurrences can be glossed by "(sc. anathema) propitiatory gift or offering" (LSJ). Or, to adopt an ancient definition, pagan hilasteria are generally "ta ekmeilixasthai dunamena dora," "gifts capable of appeasing" (sc. the gods) (scholion on Apollonius).


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#6 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:52 PM

Since this application to votive offerings was typical, it is a possible background to Rom 3:25. Yet no one has ever succeeded in showing how God is supposed to have presented humanity (or himself?) with a gift that people normally presented to the gods. Moreover, the mainstream use of hilasterion finds no parallel in "the law and the prophets" to which Paul appeals (Rom 3:21). The general meaning "propitiatory gift" therefore fails to fit the context of Rom 3:25.

By contrast, a more specialized allusion to the biblical "mercy seat" (which is not a gift to the gods) does fit Paul’s context, with plenty of support from lexicography (cf. LXX Pentateuch).

Paul focuses on "the law and the prophets" and more particularly on the Song of Moses in Exodus 15. The combination of God’s righteousness and redemption in Exod 15:13 ("hodegesas te dikaiosune sou ton laon sou touton, hon elutroso") closely parallels Rom 3:24 (dikaioo and apolutrosis).

Furthermore, Exod 15:17 promises that the exodus would lead to a new, ideal sanctuary established by God himself. God’s open setting out of Jesus as the new hilasterion -- the centre of the sanctuary and focus of both the revelation of God (Exod 25:22; Lev 16:2; Num 7:89) and atonement for sin (Leviticus 16) -- fulfils this tradition.


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics

#7 Fortigurn

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Posted 12 October 2004 - 11:52 PM

Applying the biblical sense of hilasterion to Jesus in this theologically pregnant way would not have been be entirely unprecedented for Paul (contra D. Moo, Romans, NICNT [1996], 236 with n. 79), since Philo thought of the mercy seat as "symbolon tes hileo tou theou dunameos," "a symbol of the gracious power of God" (Mos. 2.96; cf. Fug. 100). Perhaps this shows that Philo traced the term hilasterion etymologically not to hilaskesthai (to propitiate or expiate) but to hileos, "gracious" or "merciful."

This would then support the translation by "mercy seat," though the vaguer expression "place of atonement" is also in common use (NRSV mg. at Rom 3:25 and Heb 9:5). The old objection that Paul cannot have alluded to "the" well-known hilasterion of the Pentateuch without using the Greek definite article is baseless, since Philo clearly uses anarthrous hilasterion to refer to the mercy seat (Mos. 2.95, 97; Fug. 100).

Finally in 4 Macc 17:22 the original text, preserved in codex S (codex A is secondary), contains the controversial expression "to hilasterion tou thanatou auton," "the hilasterion of their death" (referring to the martyrs).

This can be interpreted by the same kind of appeal to established usage, only the results are different from those seen in Rom 3:25. It makes no sense to speak of "the mercy seat of their death" in 4 Maccabees; this imagery works, if it does, only in Romans.

However, the mainstream Greek metaphor "the propitiatory offering of their death" or "their death as a propitiatory votive offering" is completely in keeping with the use of Greek heroic and athletic imagery elsewhere in 4 Macc 17:8-24.

While Rom 3:25 cannot be understood apart from a knowledge of the Septuagint, no such knowledge is necessary to understand 4 Macc 17:22. The language and imagery are essentially Greek, and the more Jewish or biblical-sounding translation "their death as an [act of] atoning sacrifice" (NRSV) is misleading, since hilasterion does not denote an act of sacrifice, nor are the martyrs compared with the victims of sacrifice (such as those on the Day of Atonement).

In sum, considerations of both lexicography and context combine to discourage the common practice of parallelling Rom 3:25 and 4 Macc 17:22. Different metaphors -- one biblical, the other mainstream Greek -- explain each passage.


Miserere mei Deus,
Secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum
dele iniquitatem meam.

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">I am a Christadelphian. Click here to see my confession of faith.
______________________________________________________________________
‘John Wesley once received a note which said, “The Lord has told me to tell you that He doesn’t need your book-learning, your Greek, and your Hebrew.”

Wesley answered “Thank you, sir. Your letter was superfluous, however, as I already knew the Lord has no need for my ‘book-learning,’ as you put it. However—although the Lord has not directed me to say so—on my own responsibility I would like to say to you that the Lord does not need your ignorance, either.”

Osborne & Woodward, ‘Handbook for Bible study’, pp. 13-14 (1979)

______________________________________________________________________
target="_blank">Apologetics




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