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« On Koinonia Comments | Main | Multisensory Preaching and Teaching: 1 Introducing the Controversy by Rick Blackwood »


Not trying to hi-jack the thread on hilasterion here, but here goes anyway:

I'm in need of further education here! How do we know that hilasterion is a metaphor? In that it cannot contain the full reality of what was accomplished on the cross? Or in another sense?

Follow-up question: Do you think Dr. Leon Morris overstates the case for propitiation as dealing primarily with wrath in his commentary on Romans (Pillar)?

If I remember correctly (not in front of me at the moment), he concludes that those who don't render it "propitiation" as it pertains to the removal of divine wrath, are at best smuggling a foreign idea into the text and at worst purposely writing the "wrath of God" concept out Scripture.

Thanks --- always enjoy your blog posts, used your grammar in first year.

One correction:

Galatians 5:16 in TNIV is "walk."

Hey hey hey. Thanks for the correction. The NIV is "live" and they changed it to "walk" in the TNIV. I thought I checked that, but guess I didn't. Thanks. I corrected the blog.

As for the other question: I joined two ideas in one blog, metaphors and technical theological terms. Hilasterion falls into the later. Sorry if I wasn't clear.

Here goes my first blog, so please cut the humble engineer some slack if he does not get this right:

John tells us that Jesus is our hilasmos for our sins. The Hebrew writer says as a priest / Jesus does hilasmos for the sins of the people and Paul says God displayed Jesus as a hilasmos on the cross in His blood to show God’s righteousness. So we have what Jesus is, does and displays concerning our sins. So where do we find God’s anger satisfied, our sins removed and God being shown righteous in this technical term? In the rich history of the Hebrew sacrificial system where the mercy seat was above the arc containing the 10 commandments. Hilasmos is used in the LXX Septuagint as a translation for the Hebrew word kapporeth (mercy seat on Arc = place)where God’s presence was above the 10 commandments. This term was given by John and Paul to help us see how the OT mercy seat was a foreshadowing of Christ’s work on the cross. In this system the high priest was to carry the blood from an animal sacrifice killed as a symbolic substitution for the sin of a person who confessed his or her sins over the animal while holding its head as it was killed. So in this picture we see anger satisfied with a death, confessed sins being forgiven and mercy demonstrated for the violation of righteousness God’s standards (10 commandments). So for John, Jesus is the place of hilasmos where our sins are forgiven and are cleansed from not being right with God (unrighteousness) according to 1 Jn 1:9. For Paul, we have peace through the blood of His cross(Col 1:20); we have been justified by faith (Rom 5:1) from the wrath revealed from Heaven (Rm 1:18); and so we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Hebrew writer says (Heb 9:11-12) that Jesus appeared as a high priest and entered through the heavenly tabernacle (which Mosses made a pattern of), with His own blood into the holy place (heaven) once for all and obtained eternal redemption (for us). So no wonder Paul would neither be ashamed of the cross (1 Cor 1:18) or the Gospel which reveals God’s righteous (Rom 1:17).
So for me, Jesus Himself is my mercy seat sitting (place) as my advocate beside His God and Father where my sins are propitiated (wrath is satisfied and I am forgiven and at peace with God). My sin is expiated (removed and cleaned from all my unrighteousness by His blood). Thus for me, all the various translations of hilasmos are faithful attempts to bring out its semantic range and depth of meaning of what Jesus is to me and what he has done for me.

Great post. I realize the following will be somewhat off-topic but I will ask it just the same. In your post, you write "There is the path of discipleship we must walk." (I am in agreement with this, by the way!) But some have rightly observed that the word "Disciple(s)" never again occurs after the book of Acts. Any idea why this is so? I know some can have pretty strong opinions about this. Not me; truly, I haven't figured this one out yet. I just honestly don't know.

There are many parts to Jesus' teaching that don't continue into the early church such as parables. But Jesus' concepts certainly do. And since Acts takes us near to the end of the NT writings, I wouldn't draw any conclusions other than vocabulary preference from its absence elsewhere.

The fact of the matter is that Jesus is different from much in the rest of the NT. I remember a formative time in my own thinking when I was teaching NT Survey at Gordon-Conwell. I realized that I had been reading Jesus through the eyes of Paul, and I committed not to do that any more. From that point on I made some significant shifts in my theology, not because Paul disagreed with Jesus, but because they have different emphases and different ways of thinking. For example, you perhaps could get justification by faith out of "Blessed are the poor in spirit," but you don't feel this same thrust in Jesus' teaching. Of course, he wasn't fighting the battle Paul was and so his language and images are different.

All good points. Thanks for the response. As always, I am really blessed by all of your posts. By the way, with reference to your grammar (Basics of BG) which I used and loved, I really enjoyed the chapter intros from the different contributors. I especially enjoyed the one by Dan Wallace on John 1:1.

Blogs are great for errata (Latin excuse to correct your typos with the implied passive cry “show mercy” / GK2661 by the writer):

In my zeal or enthusiasm (My softer dynamic phrase way of not saying its metaphorical functional equivalent: blind), I also should have said, “Dr. Mounce, thank your for all of your efforts in making the Greek resources available to help me understand the depths of God’s Word”. The pupil-san (me) is indebted to his sensei (Japanese for teacher) for much! I use your interlinear and Greek “for the Rest of Us”, your BBG / work books and your analytical lexicon here in Japan.

I should acknowledge I did imposed the same root meaning on all the cognates of the noun hilasmos (GK 2662; atoning sacrifice) and that one should be careful on the place it refers to (GK 2663; adj for cover on arc, mercy seat) and what it means (propitiation, expiration) since cognate root meaning can vary – the lexicon referenced above helped make this a safe assumption.

Question: You mentioned Hilasterion was a technical theological term. Agreed! But could I also understand its referent usages by Paul and John to be metaphors of a place in order to invoke the idea of or concept of what it represented? The metaphorical lid / mercy seat represents Jesus Himself who propitiates wrath for mercy from the Righteous Father, whose poured blood expiates my sin and I am redeemed and cleansed of all unrighteousness and etc. I am just trying to “tighten up (metaphorically)” my language usage a bit.
Again, thanks!

Here is how I have come to distinguish between an EXILASITO and a HILASTERION:

* an "atonement" is something done by *the perp*;

* a "propitiation" is something done by the *judge*;

* an "atonement" is an appeal for forgiveness though an expression of remorse;

* a "propitiation" is intended to appease the objections of the public (particularly those left unavenged) for the pardoning of the wicked;

* an "atonement" is a demonstration TO a judge;

* a "propitiation" is a demonstration *by* a judge;

* an "atonement" is made to recommend a penitent to a judge;

* a "propitiation" is made to recommend a judge to the wronged;

In no case and at no time is either an "atonement" or a "propitiation" conceived of as a **commercial** transaction, where sin is "paid for". Both atonement and propitiation are *gestures* in the context of the dispensation of *mercy,* not in the fulfillment of justice.

The death of Jesus is **never** spoken of in scripture as an "atonement" and no offering by a sinner is ever considered in scripture as a "propitiation." Confusion of these terms is the opposite of "rightly dividing."

The only "debt" that is in view in the propitiation was God's own obligation as judge, to repay the wicked for their deeds:

Ro 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

When God **freely forgave** sinners and pardoned them, releasing them from punishment, God opened himself up to the charge that he was **negligent** in his duty as judge, scandalously leaving victims unrequited. What if Jesus let Hitler off at the last minute, based on his faith? Would not the Jews have a grievance with the judge? So the propitiation was to justify **God** rather than sinners.

As an individual, as judge has the right to freely forgive those who offend him. As a public servant, a judge must not be remiss in dispensing punishment to avenge victims. So God, willing to forgive (and often having done so in the past) HAD to give a demonstration of his commitment to public justice, which he did, by setting forth his son as a propitiation. In so doing he demonstrated that he was forgiving freely, but not without likewise bearing injustice in the form of the abuse of his son.

This is a very key passage:

Romans 3:24 Being justified freely by his [God's] grace through the redemption [release] that is in Christ Jesus:
25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his [God's] righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
26 To declare, I say, at this time his [God's] righteousness: that he [God] might be just[ified], and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.


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