The Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ is the heart and core and center of revealed religion.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie Christ and the Creation

By , on July 3, 2017

Nibley, Reconciliation, Rescue


The word atonement appears only once in the New Testament (Rom. 5:11 in the King James Version), and in the Revised Standard Version it does not appear at all, the translators preferring the more familiar word reconciliation. (See also footnote to Rom. 5:11 in the LDS edition of the King James Version.) Reconciliation is a very good word for atonement there, since it means literally to be seated again with someone (re-con-silio)—so that atonement is to be reunited with God, just as Paul said: “[The Lord] sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on High.”

The Greek word translated as “reconciliation” is katallagein. It is a business term, which the lexicon tells us means “exchange, esp. of money; … change from enmity to friendship, reconciliation; … reconciliation of sinners with God. 2 It is the return to the status ante quo, whether as a making of peace or a settlement of debt.

The monetary metaphor is by far the most common, being the simplest and easiest to understand. Hence, frequently the word redemption literally means “to buy back”—that is, to reacquire something you owned previously. Thus, Moses said: “But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh.” (Deut. 7:8.)

By redemption, someone has paid a price to get you off, restoring you to a former, happier condition. But the frequent use of the commercial analogy is not out of reverence for trade and commerce—just the opposite, in fact. The redeemed are bought to clear them of all worldly obligation by paying off the world in its own currency, after which it has no further claim on the redeemed.

The Greek equivalent is lutrosis, a ransoming. Paul tells the Saints to prepare for the salvation that has been made available by disengaging from this world—“denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world”—so that God “might redeem [lutrosetai] us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people.” (Titus 2:12, 14.)

Salvation likewise means “rescue” (soteria, also rendered “deliverance”). Another expression is “for a price,” the word being time, “that which is paid in token or worth of value.” He paid for us what he thought we were worth so he could join us with him.

Hugh W. Nibley

The Atonement of Jesus Christ, Part 1,” Ensign, Jul 1990, 18

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