Biblical Translation Copyright disclaimers
This explanation aims to show how God’s good commandments forbid human sacrifices (ref. Deuteronomy 24:16, Ezekiel 18:20), and thus 1 John 2:1-2 (or any other similar verse for that matter) is in no way saying that Christ (Messiah) was a literal human sacrifice for our sins.
Instead, with verse 1 first telling us that Christ is our ‘advocate’, the word typically translated as ‘propitiation’ in 1 John 2:2 is then reviewed.
We see that the English dictionary’s definition for ‘propitiation’ can be defined as ‘appeasing’, and in phrase form can be described as how ‘Christ lifts his hands in prayer to God as our representation in a propitiation-like, priestly manner, to please Him on our behalf.’.
We will see that this is the better rendering and translation of what the word ‘propitiation’ means in this instance, as other verses confirm Christ appeases G-d, by praying (interceding) for us here (Isaiah 53:12, Romans 8:34), as advocate and mediator (1 John 2:1, 1 Timothy 2:5).
1 John 2:1-2 reads as follows;
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 2:1-2 ESV (also see KJV)
Immediately we see that 1 John 2:1 speaks of Christ being our ‘advocate’.
This sets context for us.
By 1 John 2:2 saying ‘propitiation’ for our sins here, the verse is perhaps then often misunderstood by many – with some feeling it is speaking of a righteous man (Christ/Messiah) literally dying for the sins of many as a type of human sacrifice.
This cannot be the case, as the commandments forbid human sacrifices (ref. Deuteronomy 24:16, Ezekiel 18:20).
The key word in 1 John 2:2 translated as ‘propitiation’ will now be reviewed and explored a little more, to allow for better understanding of the verse.
The ancient Greek word used is the Strong’s Greek Concordance’s Word G2434.
According to the concordance, the word can indeed be used in a ‘sacrifice’ type sense – however – here, the word is often recieved in the wrong context/usage.
Many mistakenly feel it is speaking of human sacrifice. Such an interpretation though would break the commandments that state a literal ‘human sacrifice’, is forbidden.
What can we do here?
If we dig just a little deeper for sake of understanding, and review other legal definition(s)/useage(s) for the English word ‘propitiation’, a simple dictionary explanation reads;
‘1 The action of propitiating or appeasing a god, spirit, or person.
‘he lifted his hands in propitiation’
1.1 Atonement, especially that of Jesus Christ.‘
(Lexico Powered By Oxford)
‘…If you propitiate someone, you stop them being angry or impatient by doing something to please them….’
– (Collins Dictionary)
Here, Christ lifts his hands in prayer to God as our representation in a propitiation-like, priestly manner, to please Him as our advocate and high priest in the order of Melchizadek (Psalm 110:4).
This agrees with a key verse in the Tanakh (Old Testament) which says that Christ does infact do just this.
In Isaiah 53:12, it says the Messiah makes intercession for the transgressors;
‘…he… makes intercession for the transgressors.‘
Isaiah 53:12 ESV
This agrees with the correct context of 1 John 2:1-2 and the dictionary’s definition of the word ‘propitiation’ – with how it may be legally used (i.e. ‘lifting hands in prayer to appease’ [as our advocate]).
‘Messiah (Christ) makes intercession (meaning to pray and/or mediate) for repentant humans…’
– and one may certainty pray with ‘lifted hands’ – as it says;
I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
1 Timothy 2:8 KJV.
Hoping that it is fruitful.
May the Holy G-d bless you beyond maximum in Christ (Messiah).