Redemption - Trench's New Testament Synonyms
Redemptionapolytrosis (G629) Redemption
katallage (G2643) Reconciliation
hilasmos (G2434) Atonement
The New Testament uses three major sets of images to explain the inestimable benefits of Christ's death and passion. Although these benefits transcend human thought and therefore cannot be expressed perfectly in language, they must nevertheless be described in words and in terms of human relationships. As in similar cases, Scripture approaches this central truth from many complimentary perspectives that compensate for one another's weaknesses and that serve to express the multifaceted nature of this truth. The three words used to represent these sets of images are apolytrosis (redemption), katallage (reconciliation), and hilasmos (propitiation). Almost every word and phrase that directly bears on this aspect of our salvation through Christ is related to one of these three words.
Apolytrosis is the word that Paul preferred. In drawing attention to this, Chrysostom correctly observed that Paul's use of apo (G575) expresses the completeness of our redemption in Christ, a redemption not followed by any bondage: "He did not speak simply of a lytrosis but of an apolytrosis as we no longer return again to the same bondage." Apo has the same force in apokatallassein, which means "to reconcile absolutely," apokaradokia (G603), and apekdechesthai (G553; Rom. 8:19). Both apolytrosis and lytrosis appear late in the Greek language; lytrotes (G3086) seems to be unique to the Greek Scriptures (Lev. 25:31; Ps. 19:14; Acts 7:35).
When Theophylact defined apolytrosis as "the recall from captivity," he overlooked its most important aspect. Apolytrosis is not just "recall from captivity" but "the rescue of captives from captivity through the payment of a ransom." The idea of deliverance through a lytron (G3083) or antallagma (a price paid) is central to these words (Isa. 52:3; 1 Pet. 1:18-19), though in actual use it often is absent in words from this family (cf. Isa. 35:9). Thus apolytrosis is related to an entire group of significant words, not only to lytron, antilytron, lytroun, and lytrosis, but also to agorazein and exagorazein. Here is a point of contact with hilasmos, for the lytron paid in this apolytrosis is identical with the prosphora (G4376) or thysia(G2378) that results in the hilasmos. Apolytrosis also is related to all of the statements in Scripture that speak of sin as slavery, of sinners as slaves (John 8:34; Rom. 6:17, 20; 2 Pet. 2:19), and of deliverance from sin as freedom from or as cessation of bondage (John 8:33, 36; Rom. 8:21; Gal. 5:1).
Katallage occurs four times in the New Testament but only once in the Septuagint and once in the Apocrypha. On one of these occasions (Isa. 9:5), katallage simply means "exchange"; on the other (2 Macc. 5:20) it is used in the New Testament sense of being opposed to the wrath of God and refers to God's reconciliation and favor toward his people. It is clear that synallage, synallassein, diallage, and diallassein are more usual in earlier and in classical Greek. Nevertheless, the grammarians were wrong who denounced katallage and katalassein (G2644) as words that were avoided by writers who strove for purity. No one should be ashamed of words that were used by Aeschylus, Xenophon, and Plato.
There are two aspects to the Christian use of katallage. First, katallage refers to the reconciliation "by which God has reconciled himself to us." God laid aside his holy anger against our sins and received us into his favor by means of the reconciliation that was accomplished once for all by Christ on the cross. Katallage is used this way in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 and Romans 5:10, where katallassesthai is a pure passive: "We are received into grace by him with whom we had been in wrath." Second and subordinately, katallage refers to the reconciliation "by which we are reconciled to God," the daily deposition of the enmity of the old man toward God under the operation of the Holy Spirit. This passive sense of katallassesthai appears in 2 Corinthians 5:20 (cf. 1 Cor. 7:11). All attempts to substitute the secondary for the primary meaning of katallage are based on a foregone determination to deny the reality of God's anger against the sinner, not on unprejudiced exegesis. Katallage is related to all the language of Scripture that describes sin as a state of enmity (echthra, G2189) with God (Rom. 8:7; Eph. 2:15; James 4:4) and sinners as God's enemies who are alienated from him (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21), that depicts Christ on the cross as the peace and as the maker of peace between God and man (Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20), and with all invitations such as: "be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20).
The exact relationship between katallage and hilasmos is somewhat confused for the English reader, because the word atonement, which the Authorized translators used once to translate katallage (Rom. 5:11), has slowly changed in meaning. If a new translation were to be made, "atonement" would plainly be a better translation of hilasmos, which refers to propitiation. The central aspect of hilasmos is found in atonement, as we currently use this word, though this was not always the case. When our Authorized Version was made, atonement referred to reconciliation or the making up of a previous enmity. All of its uses in our early literature justify the etymology (which now is sometimes called into question) that "atonement" is "at-one-meet" and therefore equivalent to "reconciliation." Consequently "atonement" was then (though not now) the correct translation of katallage.
Hilasmos is used twice in the First Epistle of John (2:2; 4:10) but nowhere else in the New Testament.1 am inclined to think that the excellent word propitiation, which was used by our Authorized translators, did not exist in the English language when the earlier Reformed versions were made. The versions of Tyndale, Geneva, and Cranmer have "to make agreement" instead of "to be the propitiation" in 1 John 2:2 and "he that obtaineth grace" in 1 John 4:10. Hilasterion (G2435) is also translated by "propitiation" (Rom. 3:25), though I think that is incorrect. Other erroneous translations translate hi-lasterion as "the obtainer of mercy" (Cranmer) and "a pacification" (Geneva). The Rheims Version was the first to use "propitiation"; the Latin tendencies of this translation caused it to transfer this word from the Vulgate. Hilasmos is not used frequently in the Septuagint, though in some passages (Num. 5:8; Ezek. 44:27; cf. 2 Macc. 3:33) it was being prepared for its more solemn use in the New Testament. Hilasmos is related to the Greek hileos and hilaskesthai and to the Latin iram avertere (to avert anger) and ex irato mitem reddere (to render mild from angered). Hesychius correctly, though inadequately, equated hilasmos (cf. Ps. 130:7; Dan. 9:9) with the following synonyms: eumeneia, synchoresis diallage, katallage, and praotes (G4236). I say "inadequately" because none of the words that Hesychius offered as equivalents contain the essential notion of hilasmos and hilaskesthai:the eumeneia (goodwill) has been gained by means of some offering or other means of appeasing. Hilasmos is more comprehensive than hilastes, the word Grotius proposed as its equivalent. Not only does Christ propitiate, as hilastes (propitiator) would indicate, but he both propitiates and is himself the propitiation. In the language of the Epistle to the Hebrews, in offering himself he is both archiereus (G749) and thysia or prosphora The two functions of priest and sacrifice (which were of necessity divided in the typical sacrifices of the law) met and were united in him, who was the sin-offering by and through whom the just anger of God against our sins was appeased. Without compromising his righteousness, God was enabled to show himself propitious to us once more. When used of Christ, hilasmos declares all of this. According to Cocceius: "Hilasmos is the death, accomplished for sanctification before God, of the bondsman who is willing to present an offering for sins and thus to remove condemnation."
Hilasmos is related to a larger group of words and images than either of the preceding terms. This group includes the words that set forth the benefits of Christ's death as a propitiation of God, as well as those that speak of him as a sacrifice or an offering (1 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 10:14), as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36; 1 Pet. 1:19), and as the Lamb who was slain (Rev. 5:6, 8). A little more remote but still related are all of those words that describe Christ as washing us in his blood (Rev. 1:5). In comparison with katallage, hilasmos is the deeper word and closer to the heart of the matter. If we had only katallage and the group of words and images that cluster around it to explain the benefits of Christ's death, they would show that we were enemies and by that death were made friends. But katallage does not explain how we were made friends. It does not necessarily imply satisfaction, propitiation, the Mediator, the High Priestall of which are found in hilasmos. I conclude this discussion with Bengel's excellent note on Romans 3:24:
Hilasmos (expiation or propitiation) and apolytrosis (redemption) have fundamentally a single benefitnamely, the restitution of a lost sinner. It is apolytrosis in reference to an enemy, and katallage in respect to God. And here these terms, hilasmos and katallage, again differ. Hilasmos (propitiation) removes an offense against God; katallage (reconciliation) has two fronts and removes (a) God's displeasure toward us (2 Cor. 5:19) and (b) our alienation from God (2 Cor. 5:20).