Monday, December 01, 2008

Atonement not as covering?

William Tyndale
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday's post -- in which I inquired why the English term "atonement" is used to define the Hebrew word for "covering" ("kapara") -- received a comment from Dave (Balashon), a blogger in Israel who uses his blog to investigate Hebrew terms, for he has posted a blog entry for September 28, 2006 on "kapara."

Dave's post on "kapara" is interesting and provides some useful links on the Hebrew term though it doesn't investigate why William Tyndale chose "atonement" to translate "kapara," for that's not Dave's focus, but the post is worth reading for anyone fascinated by the Hebrew that stands behind various English words of religious significance in the Bible.

But I'm still wondering why Tyndale chose "atonement" to translate "kapara."

Maybe he didn't. Maybe he chose it to translate the Greek term "katallagēn" (καταλλαγὴν) in Romans chapter 5, verse 11:
οὐ μόνον δέ ἀλλὰ καὶ καυχώμενοι ἐν τῷ θεῷ διὰ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ δι’ οὗ νῦν τὴν καταλλαγὴν ἐλάβομεν
Here's Tyndale's translation:
Not only so but we also ioye in God by the meanes of oure Lorde Iesus Christ by whom we have receavyd the attonment.
The King James Version (1611) borrowed Tyndale's use of "attonment" (1526):
And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
Anyway, I make the suggestion that Tyndale was initially intent on providing a translation for the Greek term "katallagēn" (καταλλαγὴν) because he first focused on the New Testament, in 1525-1526 -- even going so far as to translate Martin Luther's Compendious introduccion, prologe or preface vnto the pistle off Paul to the Romayns in 1526 -- before going on to translate the first five books of the Old Testament in 1530.

Admittedly, Tyndale does use "attonement" in the third book of the Old Testament, in Leviticus chapter 23, verse 27:
also the tenth daye of the selfe seueth moneth, is a daye of an attonement, and shalbe on holy feast vnto you, ad ye shall humble youre soules and offer sacrifice vnto the Lorde.
Compare the King James Version:
Also on the tenth [day] of this seventh month [there shall be] a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
But in using the term "attonement," Tyndale may have been making an analogy from the New Testament to the Old, rather than from the Old to the New, for the Greek term in Romans 5:11, katallagē, means "reconciliation," and Tyndale may have been interested in conveying the result of that reconciliation through Christ, namely, the state of being "at-one-ment" with God.

But I'll have to investigate this point further tomorrow, for I'm out of time today.

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