Sacrifice. - Metaphors And Meaning -- By: Derek Kidner

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 33:1 (NA 1982)
Article: Sacrifice. - Metaphors And Meaning
Author: Derek Kidner


Sacrifice. - Metaphors And Meaning*

Derek Kidner

* A paper read at the Tyndale Fellowship Biblical Theology Study Group in Cambridge, July 1980.

In this paper my brief is to examine ‘the ideas underlying such terms as propitiation, expiation, covering, cleansing, in the OT and NT’. I will devote the first half of the paper to the list of terms suggested, and the second half to a survey of the major sacrifices laid down in Leviticus, drawing chiefly on my out-of-print monograph, Sacrifice in the Old Testament1 for the latter.

I. Sacrificial Language

(A) Expiation And Propitiation

Ever since C. H. Dodd attacked the rendering of ἱλάσκομαι, in Scripture by ‘propitiate’,2 there has been a tendency for conservatives to spring to its defence, and others to rally to the word ‘expiate’. There is something of a paradox here. On the one hand, all alike agree that propitiation has uncomfortable affinities with pagan thought, and is only acceptable on the understanding that in Biblical religion the one who is propitiated is also the one who provides the means thereto, as both the OT and the NT make plain (e.g. Lv. 17:11; 1 Jn. 4:10),

On the other hand, expiation is a word whose hard edges so resist any softening of the doctrine of atonement that one might have expected it to be the watchword of the sterner sort. First, it has the objectivity which belongs to a fully scriptural atonement doctrine, for to expiate is not to offer an apology (as might suffice in order to propitiate) but to do or suffer something commensurate with the damage done, in order to expunge it. Secondly, it is a penal word, acknowledging both

guilt and desert, for while expiation is a kind of payment, it is more. One, does not expiate a debt, only an offence. In the third place, within the context of the doctrine of atonement, expiation confronts us very sharply with the paradox of substitution. If an offence is to be expiated, how can any but the culprit himself achieve this? This question arises far less sharply with certain other metaphors that we can use. An intercessor can propitiate an offended party on behalf of the offender; a benefactor can pay off another’s debt or give a ransom for a hostage or redemption for a slave; but one man can expiate another’s crime only if he is the ringleader to whom the guilt overwhelmingly belongs, or a kinsman or compatriot close enough t...

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