From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Fri Feb 18 2000 - 17:22:10 EST

I'm forwarding the following message to the list for a new subscriber,
Daniel Bailey:
>Date: Fri, 18 Feb 2000 16:01:29 EST
>Dear fellow students of biblical Greek:
>I've just joined this conversation site and notice that there has been an
>ongoing discussion under the heading of the "MERCY SEAT" participated in by
>members including D. Grekoff, Carl Conrad, Ted Mann, Ben Crick, Kevin
>Woodruff, Jim West, Jonathan Robie, Jonathan Ryder, and Cindy Smith. I've
>just completed a Ph.D. dissertation entitled "Jesus as the Mercy Seat: The
>Semantics and Theology of Paul's Use of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25"
>(University of Cambridge, 1999). I would therefore like to join your
>Despite its subtitle, this dissertation actually focuses more on Greek
>lexical "semantics" than it does on "theology." I've done an exhaustive study
>of the term HILASTERION (or "hILASTHRION," which does not look as nice).
>There are many individual questions to which I could respond, but I begin by
>including a shortened version of my abstract. A longer version is appearing
>in Tyndale Bulletin 51.1 (April 2000). If you would like an e-mail version of
>the long abstract, please respond to: <>.
>Best wishes,
>Dan Bailey
>Daniel P. Bailey
>6977 N. Bethmaur Lane
>Milwaukee, WI 53209
>Jesus as the Mercy Seat: The Semantics and Theology of Paul's Use of
>HILASTERION in Romans 3:25
>Daniel P. Bailey
>(Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Cambridge, 1999)
>Paul's predication of the term HILASTERION of Jesus combined with his mention
>of Jesus' own blood leads modern interpreters to speculate that HILASTERION
>was a term that could denote a sacrificial victim -- hence: "whom God put
>forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood" (Rom 3:25, NRSV). But this
>is unsupported by the Greek sources.
>This dissertation examines all the known occurrences of HILASTERION outside
>biblical and Byzantine Christian sources, of which there are about eight --
>half of them new to this study. All can be glossed by "(sc. anathema)
>propitiatory gift or offering" (LSJ). Since HILASTERION never designates a
>sacrificial victim, the NRSV lacks support. Its meaning would rather be
>(cf. P. Fay. 337).
>The tendency to parallel Rom 3:25 and 4 Macc 17:22 (codex S) is also
>misguided. Obviously the phrase TO HILASTERION TOU THANATOU AUTWN (referring
>to the martyrs) cannot mean "the victim of their death." The background is
>rather to be sought in the normal Greek practice of offering durable
>propitiatory gifts (not victims) to the deity -- hence: "their death as a
>propitiatory votive offering."
>Paul's use of HILASTERION is rooted not in the Greek but in the biblical
>world. Here HILASTERION refers most famously to the "mercy seat," the golden
>plate with the cherubim above Israel's ark of the covenant. Philo saw the
>mercy seat as "a symbol of the gracious power of God" (Mos. 2.96; cf. Fug.
>100). Paul applies this symbolism to Jesus because it makes him the centre
>not only of atonement for sin (Leviticus 16) but of the revelation of God
>(Exod 25:22; Lev 16:2; Num 7:89). The terms DIKAIOW and APOLUTRWSIS in Rom
>3:24 pick up the language of the exodus (esp. Exod 15:13) and enable Paul to
>present Jesus as the centre of the ideal sanctuary (cf. Exod 15:17).

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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