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"Insights" from the New Testament Greek

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 "Insights" from the New Testament Greek

ROMANS 5:11 "THE ATONEMENT"

By Bob Jones, Northside Bible Church, Jacksonville Florida

The English word "atonement" only occurs once in the 1611 King James Version New Testament, in Rom. 5:11, where we, who believe in Christ, are said to have received "the atonement".

The Greek word translated "atonement" in Rom 5:11 is the noun form of "katallasso". Thayer's Greek Lexicon states that this word literally means "to exchange", and in it's New Testament contexts means "to be reconciled", or "restored to favor", in that, through the expiatory death of Christ, God exchanged the fallen state of sinners for a state of favor and blessing. Katallasso is also found twice in the previous verse, Rom. 5:10, and again in Rom. 11:15, 1 Cor 7:11, and 2 Cor 5:18-20, where it is translated "reconciled", "reconciling", and "reconciliation" in every instance in the KJV New Testament, except for Rom. 5:11.

In the Old Testament, the KJV translators used the English word "atonement" to translate the Hebrew word "kaphar". "Kaphar", where it spoke of the Levitical sacrifices, literally means "to cover", referring to sins being temporarily "covered" by the blood of the Levitical sacrifices . "Covered" in the sense that God cannot "see" the sins, that are "covered" by the blood of the sacrifice. "Kaphar", is translated 71 times in the KJV Old Testament, as "atonement" referring to the temporary "covering" of sin. The Old Testament sacrifices for a "covering" of sins had to be continually repeated for individuals, and performed yearly, by the High Priest, for the Nation of Israel. The animal sacrifices God commanded in the book of Leviticus looked forward to Jesus and His once for all finished work on the Cross. The KJV translators could have used many English synonyms to translate "kaphar" in the Old Testament, or even translated "kaphar" literally, as "covering", but, by choosing "atonement", 71 times in the Old Testament, they, in essence, assigned a "theological definition" to their choice of "atonement".

I do not find in the New Testament where Jesus did anything "temporary" on the Cross, or that any sins were just "covered". So why did the translators of the KJV insert the word "atonement", just one time, in the New Testament to translate the Greek noun form of "katalasso"? Apparently because one of the literary rules of Elizabethan English in AD 1611, was to avoid repeating a word more than once in any context. So, in Rom 5:10 - 11, where God placed the Greek word "katalasso" three times, the KJV translators changed the third occurrence of "katalasso" in this passage from "reconciliation" to "atonement".

Rom 5:10 - 11 in the KJV reads "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled ("katalasso") to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled ("katalasso"), we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. ("katallage", should be translated here "the reconciliation").

I suspect that if the KJV translators had been consistent, and translated "katallage" in Rom 5:11 as "reconciliation", Christian Theologians today would not use the Old Testament word "atonement" in New Testament theology.

What does it mean that we were "reconciled" to God by the death of His Son while we were His enemies?

Our former condition:

Exchanged for:

Rom 3:11 & 12 None seek God

Rom 8:14 & 15 Adopted as an adult child of God

Rom 8:7 - 8 Against God

John 10:27 We follow Jesus

1 Cor 1:18 The Cross is foolishness

1 Cor 1:18 The Cross is the power of God

Eph 2:1-3 and 12 Dead by nature

Phil 2:13, 2 Pet 1:4 A new nature

John 8:41-47 A child of Satan

Col 1:13 Placed in the Kingdom of God

Eze 36:26 A stony heart

Eze 36:26 A new heart

Acts 13:41 Cannot believe

Eph 2:8 Given faith, the ability to believe

Prov 30:12 Filthy

Titus 3:5 Washed, renewed

Jer 13:23 Cannot do good

Eph 2:10 Created to do good

John 13:19 Love darkness

Col 1:12 - 13 Delivered from darkness

John 14:16,17 Cannot receive the Holy Spirit

1 Cor 12:13 Made to drink of the Spirit

Rom 5:12-21 Spiritually dead

John 3:3 Born anew

Psa 51:5 Born in sin

1 Jn 2:12 Sins permanently forgiven (Greek "perfect" tense)

Rom. 5:10 and 11 state that while we were God's enemies, Jesus "exchanged" our fallen condition as enemies of God for a new condition of salvation "in Christ", and we greatly "joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ" when we receive, or "take hold of" this wonderfully "exchanged" relationship, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior.

What a wonderful Savior we have!

Bob Jones