By Dr. Laurence M. Vance

The Wall Street Journal is the premier source of news for the business community. Although some preachers may read the Journal, no one would ever say that the paper was directed toward ministers of any stripe. Yet, in the July 9, 2002, issue of the Wall Street Journal we read: “Arthur Andersen, an extremely large sacrificial lamb, has been slain by prosecutors, judge, and jury to propitiate the vengeful gods of the marketplace.” “Propitiate”? Isn’t that a form of the supposedly archaic word propitiation that appears three times in the Authorized Version (Rom. 3:25; 1 John 2:2, 4:10)? Someone should suggest to the publishers of the Wall Street Journal that they put out an easier-to-understand version of their newspaper. What we need is a New Wall Street Journal that uses modern English everyone can understand.

But if we need a New Wall Street Journal then we also need new and updated issues of The Boston Globe, The New York Times, National Review, and The Weekly Standard, for these are just some of the newspapers and magazines that have used forms of the word propitiation this year, 2002.

Actually, the breakdown is as follows: the word propitiation can be found in The Boston Globe (May 17), The New York Times (January 26), Commentary Magazine (May 1), and National Review (April 8). The word propitiated occurs in The Washington Post (March 17). The word propitiate can be found in The New Yorker (February 4), National Review (February 1), The Weekly Standard (March 18), The Hartford Courant (May 19), USA Today (May 14), The San Diego Union Tribune (March 24), The Times-Picayune (March 12), The New York Times (March 10), the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (February 23), the New York Newsday (February 21), and The Washington Post (February 20).

But this is just U.S. newspapers and magazines. The use of forms of the word propitiation is not just limited to publications in the United States-these words have also appeared in foreign English-language newspapers in the year 2002.

The word propitiation was used in the London paper The Guardian (May 2), Africa News (March 6), and the Indian papers The Times of India (July 21), The Economic Times (July 22), and Business Today (January 20). The word propitiated appeared in the London papers The Independent (June 29), The Times (May 23), and Financial Times (February 9), the Philippine paper Business World (July 22), Time International (May 13), and the Indian papers India Today (July 22), Business India (May 13), Business Today (January 20), and The Economic Times (July 19). The word propitiate occurred in the Peruvian paper Latin American Weekly Report (July 9), The Jerusalem Post (January 25), the Canadian paper the Toronto Star (March 30), Africa News (March 7), the Australian papers Sunday Age (March 3) and The Australian (July 9), the London papers The Times (June 15), the Sunday Telegraph (June 9), The Independent (April 29), and The Guardian (April 13), and the Indian papers The Times of India (July 20), The Hindu (July 25), and Indian Express (June 9), and the Scottish papers The Herald (January 19) and The Scotsman (May 14). And finally, the word propitiates appeared once in London’s The Times (June 15).

So, in light of the use of forms of the word propitiation in current, major newspapers and magazines, both in the United States and in foreign countries, how could any Bible revision committee justify the changing of the word propitiation in the Authorized Version?

But that is exactly what most Bible revision committees in the twentieth century did.

The verses in question, as they appear in the Authorized Version, are as follows:

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God,” Rom. 3:25.

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2.

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 4:10.

In Romans 3:25, instead of being a “propitiation,” Jesus Christ is a “sacrificial death” in the Good News Bible (GNB-1976), a “sacrifice of atonement” in the New International Version (NIV-1978) and the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV-1990), a “way to forgive sin” in the New Century Version (NCV-1987), “our sacrifice” in the Contemporary English Version (CEV–1995), an “atonement cover” in the New Evangelical Translation (NET-1992), a “sacrifice of reconciliation” in the Goodspeed New Testament (1923), a “mercy seat” in The Easy Bible (1980), an “expiation” in the Revised Standard Version (RSV–1952), and a “reconciling sacrifice” in the Berkeley New Testament (1945).

Again, in Romans 3:25, instead of God setting forth Christ “to be a propitiation through faith in his blood,” God set him forth “to sacrifice his life so as to win reconciliation through faith” in the Jerusalem Bible (JB1966), “as a place where atonement by Christ’s blood could occur through faith” in the International Standard Version (ISV-1998), and “to be the means of expiating sin by this sacrificial death, effective through faith” in the New English Bible (NEB–1970).

Regarding the verses in First John where the word propitiation occurs, instead of being “the propitiation,” Jesus Christ is “the atoning sacrifice” in the NIV, NRSV, and ISV, “the mercy seat” in The Easy Bible, “an atoning sacrifice” in the Berkeley and Goodspeed New Testaments, “the expiation” in the RSV, and “the atoning sacrifice [the covering]” in the NET.

Again, in First John, instead of Christ being the “propitiation for our sins,” he is the “atoning sacrifice for our sins” in the ISV, the “sacrifice that takes our sins away” in the JB, the “remedy for the defilement of our sins” in the NEB, and the means by which our sins are forgiven” in the GNB. The CEV could not decide between the “sacrifice that takes away our sins” and the “sacrifice by which our sins are forgiven.” Likewise, the NCV could not decide between the “way our sins are taken away” and the “way to take away our sins.”

So if the word propitiation is not archaic, why is it changed in the vast majority of modern Bible versions? The word propitiation is a derivative of propitiate, from the Latin propitius, “favorable.” It is a very descriptive word signifying the removal of the judicial displeasure of God. It is the appeasing of the wrath of a righteous God against sin by the acceptance of Christ’s death as a satisfactory substitute.

Now it is evident why most modern Bible revision committees changed the word propitiation in the Authorized Version. Since the necessity of appeasing the wrath of a holy, righteous God is not preached much today, it is no wonder that the word propitiation was changed. As a consequence, sinners are often given a watered-down gospel that in many cases is no gospel at all. Furthermore, sinners who do get saved are often spiritual cripples with no fear of God or the judgment seat of Christ.

“Every word of God is pure” (Pro. 30:5), even the word propitiation. So whether or not you read the Wall Street Journal, instead of reading a modern version of the Bible, get a version that has been translated into modern English: the King James 1611 Authorized Version.