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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Terms and Meaning:
The word is Latin and brings into its English use the atmosphere of heathen rites for winning the favor, or averting the anger, of the gods. In the Old Testament it represents a number of Hebrew words - ten, including derivatives - which are sufficiently discussed under ATONEMENT (which see), of which propitiation is one aspect. It represents in Septuagint the Greek stems ἰλασκ -,
Elsewhere in the New Testament this form is found only in Romans 3:25 , and it is here that difficulty and difference are found extensively in interpreting. Greek fathers generally and prominent modern scholars understand Paul here to say that God appointed Christ Jesus to be the "mercy-seat" for sinners. The reference, while primarily to the Jewish ceremonial in tabernacle and temple, would not depend upon this reference for its comprehension, for the idea was general in religious thought, that some place and means had to be provided for securing friendly meeting with the Deity, offended by man's sin. In Hebrews particularly, as elsewhere generally, Jesus Christ is presented as priest and sacrifice. Many modern writers (compare Sanday and Headlam), therefore, object that to make Him the "mercy-seat" here complicates the figure still further, and so would understand
2. Theological Implication:
The basal idea in Hebrew terms is that of covering what is offensive, so restoring friendship, or causing to be kindly disposed. The Greek terms lack the physical reference to covering but introduce the idea of friendliness where antagonism would be natural; hence, graciousness. Naturally, therefore, the idea of expiation entered into the concept. It is especially to be noted that all provisions for this friendly relation as between God and offending man find their initiation and provision in God and are under His direction, but involve the active response of man. All heathen and unworthy conceptions are removed from the Christian notion of propitiation by the fact that God Himself proposed, or "set forth," Christ as the "mercy-seat," and that this is the supreme expression of ultimate love. God had all the while been merciful, friendly, "passing over" man's sins with no apparently adequate, or just, ground for doing so. Now in the blood of Christ sin is condemned and expiated, and God is able to establish and maintain His character for righteousness, while He continues and extends His dealing in gracious love with sinners who exercise faith in Jesus. The propitiation originates with God, not to appease Himself, but to justify Himself in His uniform kindness to men deserving harshness. Compare also as to reconciliation, as in Romans 5:1-11; 2 Corinthians 5:18 ff. See also
Besides the comms., the literature is the same as for ATONEMENT , to recent works on which add Stalker, The Atonement ; Workman, At Onement, or Reconciliation with God ; Moberly, in Foundations, Christian Belief in Terms of Modern Thought .
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Propitiation'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/p/propitiation.html. 1915.