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Romans 3:24-25

Context
3:24 But they are justified 1  freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 3:25 God publicly displayed 2  him 3  at his death 4  as the mercy seat 5  accessible through faith. 6  This was to demonstrate 7  his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 8 

1 tn Or “declared righteous.” Grk “being justified,” as a continuation of the preceding clause. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

2 tn Or “purposed, intended.”

3 tn Grk “whom God publicly displayed.” Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

4 tn Grk “in his blood.” The prepositional phrase ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι (ejn tw aujtou {aimati) is difficult to interpret. It is traditionally understood to refer to the atoning sacrifice Jesus made when he shed his blood on the cross, and as a modifier of ἱλαστήριον (Jilasthrion). This interpretation fits if ἱλαστήριον is taken to refer to a sacrifice. But if ἱλαστήριον is taken to refer to the place where atonement is made as this translation has done (see note on the phrase “mercy seat”), this interpretation of ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι creates a violent mixed metaphor. Within a few words Paul would switch from referring to Jesus as the place where atonement was made to referring to Jesus as the atoning sacrifice itself. A viable option which resolves this problem is to see ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι as modifying the verb προέθετο (proeqeto). If it modifies the verb, it would explain the time or place in which God publicly displayed Jesus as the mercy seat; the reference to blood would be a metaphorical way of speaking of Jesus’ death. This is supported by the placement of ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι in the Greek text (it follows the noun, separated from it by another prepositional phrase) and by stylistic parallels with Rom 1:4. This is the interpretation the translation has followed, although it is recognized that many interpreters favor different options and translations. The prepositional phrase has been moved forward in the sentence to emphasize its connection with the verb, and the referent of the metaphorical language has been specified in the translation. For a detailed discussion of this interpretation, see D. P. Bailey, “Jesus As the Mercy Seat: The Semantics and Theology of Paul’s Use of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25” (Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 1999).

5 tn The word ἱλαστήριον (Jilasthrion) may carry the general sense “place of satisfaction,” referring to the place where God’s wrath toward sin is satisfied. More likely, though, it refers specifically to the “mercy seat,” i.e., the covering of the ark where the blood was sprinkled in the OT ritual on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This term is used only one other time in the NT: Heb 9:5, where it is rendered “mercy seat.” There it describes the altar in the most holy place (holy of holies). Thus Paul is saying that God displayed Jesus as the “mercy seat,” the place where propitiation was accomplished. See N. S. L. Fryer, “The Meaning and Translation of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25,” EvQ 59 (1987): 99-116, who concludes the term is a neuter accusative substantive best translated “mercy seat” or “propitiatory covering,” and D. P. Bailey, “Jesus As the Mercy Seat: The Semantics and Theology of Paul’s Use of Hilasterion in Romans 3:25” (Ph.D. diss., University of Cambridge, 1999), who argues that this is a direct reference to the mercy seat which covered the ark of the covenant.

6 tn The prepositional phrase διὰ πίστεως (dia pistew") here modifies the noun ἱλαστήριον (Jilasthrion). As such it forms a complete noun phrase and could be written as “mercy-seat-accessible-through-faith” to emphasize the singular idea. See Rom 1:4 for a similar construction. The word “accessible” is not in the Greek text but has been supplied to clarify the idea expressed by the prepositional phrase (cf. NRSV: “effective through faith”).

7 tn Grk “for a demonstration,” giving the purpose of God’s action in v. 25a. Because of the length and complexity of the Greek sentence, a new sentence was started here in the translation.

8 tn Grk “because of the passing over of sins previously committed in the forbearance of God.”



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