“Propitiation means the turning away of wrath by an offering. In relation to soteriology, propitiation means placating or satisfying the wrath of God by the atoning sacrifice of Christ.” Charles C. Ryrie
One of things I like about the ESV is that it doesn’t necessarily do away with all of the old sounding words. Some words, like propitiation, are good words to use and the modern reader may need to look up a definition or two as necessary. The KJV uses propitiation three times, once in Romans and twice in 1 John. The NIV does not use this word all, in the case of Romans 3:25 calling Christ the “sacrifice of atonement.”
I do not rely on any one translation of scripture. The original texts were written in Hebrew and Greek, which very few of even the most devoted scholars learn to read (both). When really studying the meaning of a verse or passage, I find reading from several translations helpful. Here’s what I discovered tonight while so doing with propitiation. The King James uses the word three times; the New KJV and ESV Bibles contain the same word four times. “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.” (Hebrews 2:17 ESV) The KJV uses reconciliation in this verse.
We are reconciled to God because he made Christ our atoning sacrifice. The truth of the Gospel message does not change even as languages do. The sad fact is that English is not the best language when it comes to expressing what we mean precisely. I’m not trying to say anything in this post other than I found it interesting. Consider the fourth horse described in Revelation 6. The King James, as does the ESV, describes the horse as pale. Back in college, my first experience with any Bible not KJV was a New Revised Standard that I bought containing the Apocrapha. The NRSV describes the fourth horse as pale green, implying it was in sickly condition. The rider of the fourth horse is Death, and hell follows with him, striking a fourth of the world’s population with sword, famine, pestilence and wild beasts. Venturing into the Greek language, the suggestion in Rev 6:8 is that the color of the horse indicated physical illness. It’s a sick sort of pale, not just lightly colored. A fact one would miss if sticking to one’s favorite pet version of scripture. (Is NRSV anyone’s favorite?)
The Word of God is forever established in heaven; I do not believe that verse refers to any of the English translations. Anything interesting you’d like to share? Please do so in the comments.