Re: Mercy Seat

From: Ben Crick (
Date: Thu Feb 17 2000 - 13:52:10 EST

On Wed 16 Feb 2000 (18:44:31), wrote:
> [snip] 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.

 I was always taught that the difference between an expiation and a
 propitiation was as follows:

 When a party is offended by some unacceptable behaviour on the part of an
 offender, a "propitiation" satisfies the wrath of the offended party and
 removes the enmity. OTOH, when the offender makes restitution in some
 way, the *offence* or the crime is "expiated".

 So the referent of a Propitiation is the offended party; while the
 referent of an Expiation is the offence itself.

 hILASTHRION is of course the standard LXX word for KaPPoReT: rendered in
 the biblia sacra vulgata as /propitiatorium/ (but not systematically). E.g.
 Exodus 25:17, Leviticus 16:14. Root K-P-R signifies a "covering" of some
 sort. Noah's Ark was "covered" with pitch. The "mercy seat" of the Ark of
 the Covenant was the lid or "cover" of the repository of the Tablets of the
 Law, etc. It also means a bribe: a gift which makes the offended party drop
 the case against the offender (1 Samuel 12:3).

 In the Piel (double P) it means a complete covering or "expiation" for sins,
 and a complete sweetener or "propitiation" to the offended party.

 Just some thoughts.


 Revd Ben Crick, BA CF
 232 Canterbury Road, Birchington, Kent, CT7 9TD (UK)

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