Re: Mercy Seat

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Feb 16 2000 - 19:44:31 EST

At 6:33 PM -0500 2/16/00, wrote:
>At 04:39 PM 2/16/00 -0500, you wrote:
>>When such prestigious translations as the NASB and NRSV translate
>>hILASTHRION as "mercy seat" (Heb.9:5), I assume there is a reason beyond
>>mere tradition, but I can't find it with my rather meager resources. Is
>>there any particular reason for not using "place of propitiation," or
>>some such? Thanks.
>expiation is better-- and its the name of the cover of the ark of the
>covenant in the LXX.
>Expiation? Do you find this better than "appeasement?"
>D Grekoff

"atonement", "expiation", "appeasement"--we latter-day "Greeks" seem to
have a much more difficult time with English than with Greek, don't we? I
suppose we could use "satisfaction." I sometimes wonder how much of the
difficulty lies with our grasping what it means to satisfy the wrath of a
bloodthirsty god by killing a precious animal (and surely there are few
animals we wouldn't want to call precious) and pouring out its blood for a
god. I speak for myself only here, although I wonder if some others might
share my feeling of how utterly alien to us/me is the system of animal
sacrifice upon which the function of the hILASATHRION is grounded. And I
may be altogether wrong, but somehow I think the queasiness or difficulty
we feel about how to turn hILASTHRION into English may not have something
to do with the utter strangeness of this conception of pleasing a deity.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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