Hebrew 2:17 “to make reconciliation”
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, TO MAKE RECONCILIATION to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
A Christian brother writes to me, saying: Dear Will, I have another little puzzle for you if you have time. In a book, The Atonement, by Gordon Clark, who I think was a great Christian philosopher, he states that the KJV is in error in Hebrews 2:17 for translating the greek word as reconciliation rather the propitiation. I think the KJV is correct because it matches Luke 18:13. Can you add some insight to this? Thanks,
Hi Ron. Thanks for writing. Well, Mr. Clark may be a great Christian philosopher. I don’t really know. But what I do know is that the man is a self appointed Bible corrector who really does not know what he is talking about at all when he tells people that the King James Bible is in error in Hebrews 2:17 for translating the word as “to make reconciliation”.
The particular Greek word used there is the verb hilaskomai and it is only found twice in the entire New Testament. It is found in Luke 18:13 where the repentant publican prays: “God BE MERCIFUL to me a sinner.” The other time is here in Hebrews 2:17 where the KJB translates it as “to make reconciliation”.
There is also the noun form of this verb - hilasteerion - and it likewise is found only twice in the N.T. It is translated as “A PROPITIATION through faith in his blood” in Romans 3:25 and as “shadowing the MERCYSEAT” in Hebrews 8:12.
The Greek Lexicon called Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon 1887 defines the verb hilaskomai on page 329 as meaning: “to appease, propitiate, RECONCILE to oneself, to expiate, to atone for” and in the imperative in a passive sense “to be gracious”.
Likewise the Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich A Greek-English Lexicon on page 376 defines the verb hilaskomai as meaning “to propitiate, to CONCILIATE”. The English word “reconcile” is exactly what “conciliate” means.
Not only does the King James Bible correctly translate the verb as “TO MAKE RECONCILIATION for the sins of the people.” in Hebrews 2:17 but so too do the following Bible translations:
The Geneva Bible 1587 - “and a faithfull hie Priest in things concerning God, that he might make reconciliation for the sinnes of the people.”, Whitston’s Primitive New Testament 1745 - “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people”, Webster’s 1833 translation, Lamsa’s 1936 translation of the Syriac Peshitta - “and faithful high priest in the things of God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”, The Voice 2012 - “a merciful and faithful high priest of God, called to reconcile a sinful people.”, the Montgomery New Testament 1924 - “in all that relates to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”, the KJV 21st Century Version and the Third Millenium Bible 1998 - “to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
Other versions have a similar meaning. The New Life Bible 1969 says: “He gave Himself as a gift to die on a cross for our sins so that God would not hold these sins against us any longer.”
Names of God Bible 2011 - “so that he could serve as a faithful chief priest in God’s presence and make peace with God for their sins.”
God’s Word Translation 1995 - “as a faithful chief priest in God’s presence and make peace with God for their sins.”
I am not saying that “expiation” or “propitiation” (as other versions have it) are wrong, but neither of these words occurs in the Old Testament at all, but the words “reconcile” and “reconciliation” DO and in reference to an atonement (at-one-ment, or reconciliation).
See for example Leviticus 8:15 where Moses “took the blood...and poured the blood upon the altar, and sanctified it, TO MAKE RECONCILIATION upon it.”
in Leviticus 16:20 Aaron, the high priest, again took blood and sprinkled it upon the altar and cleansed it fromthe uncleanness of the children of Israel and “RECONCILING the holy place, and the tabernacle of the congregation, and the altar”
In 2 Chronicles 29:24 under king Hezekiah’s time of national revival the priests killed the sacrificial animals “and they MADE RECONCILIATION with their blood upon the altar, to make an atonement for all Israel.”
Here we see that “making reconciliation” is the equivalent of “to make an atonement”. The Bible is its own commentary.
In Ezekiel 45:15 and 17 again we see all these sacrificial animals being used for burnt offerings and peace offerings “to make RECONCILIATION for the house of Israel.”
And finally and very significantly we see the prophesy in the book of Daniel 9:24 of the Seventy weeks that are determined upon thy people and upon the holy city “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, AND TO MAKE RECONCILIATION for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”.
Thus by translating the word hilasomai as “TO MAKE RECONCILIATION for the sins of the people” the King James Bible directly ties the sacrifice of Christ into the Old Testament types and prophecies about Him, whereas the words “expiation” and “propitiation” do not. The King James Bible is its own commentary and is the superior translation.
All of grace, believing the Book,
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