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Galatians 3:15-22

Context
Inheritance Comes from Promises and not Law

3:15 Brothers and sisters, 1  I offer an example from everyday life: 2  When a covenant 3  has been ratified, 4  even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it. 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. 5  Scripture 6  does not say, “and to the descendants,” 7  referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” 8  referring to one, who is Christ. 3:17 What I am saying is this: The law that came four hundred thirty years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God, 9  so as to invalidate the promise. 3:18 For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave 10  it to Abraham through the promise.

3:19 Why then was the law given? 11  It was added 12  because of transgressions, 13  until the arrival of the descendant 14  to whom the promise had been made. It was administered 15  through angels by an intermediary. 16  3:20 Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one. 17  3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? 18  Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 19  3:22 But the scripture imprisoned 20  everything and everyone 21  under sin so that the promise could be given – because of the faithfulness 22  of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.

1 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:11.

2 tn Grk “I speak according to man,” referring to the illustration that follows.

3 tn The same Greek word, διαθήκη (diaqhkh), can mean either “covenant” or “will,” but in this context the former is preferred here because Paul is discussing in vv. 16-18 the Abrahamic covenant.

4 tn Or “has been put into effect.”

5 tn Grk “his seed,” a figurative extension of the meaning of σπέρμα (sperma) to refer to descendants (L&N 10.29).

6 tn Grk “It”; the referent (the scripture) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The understood subject of the verb λέγει (legei) could also be “He” (referring to God) as the one who spoke the promise to Abraham.

7 tn Grk “to seeds.” See the note on “descendant” earlier in this verse. Here the term is plural; the use of the singular in the OT text cited later in this verse is crucial to Paul’s argument.

8 tn See the note on “descendant” earlier in this verse.

sn A quotation from Gen 12:7; 13:15; 17:7; 24:7.

9 tc Most mss (D F G I 0176 0278 Ï it sy) read “ratified by God in Christ” whereas the omission of “in Christ” is the reading in Ì46 א A B C P Ψ 6 33 81 1175 1739 1881 2464 pc co. The shorter reading is strongly supported by the ms evidence, and it is probable that a copyist inserted the words as an interpretive gloss. However, this form of the “in Christ” expression is somewhat atypical in the corpus Paulinum (εἰς Χριστόν [ei" Criston] rather than ἐν Χριστῷ [en Cristw]), a fact which tempers one’s certainty about the shorter reading. Nevertheless, the expression is used more in Galatians than in any other of Paul’s letters (Gal 2:16; 3:24, 27), and may have been suggested by such texts to early copyists.

10 tn On the translation “graciously gave” for χαρίζομαι (carizomai) see L&N 57.102.

11 tn Grk “Why then the law?”

12 tc For προσετέθη (proseteqh) several Western mss have ἐτέθη (eteqh, “it was established”; so D* F G it Irlat Ambst Spec). The net effect of this reading, in conjunction with the largely Western reading of πράξεων (praxewn) for παραβάσεων (parabasewn), seems to be a very positive assessment of the law. But there are compelling reasons for rejecting this reading: (1) externally, it is provincial and relatively late; (2) internally: (a) transcriptionally, there seems to be a much higher transcriptional probability that a scribe would try to smooth over Paul’s harsh saying here about the law than vice versa; (b) intrinsically: [1] Paul has already argued that the law came after the promise (vv. 15-18), indicating, more than likely, its temporary nature; [2] the verb “was added” in v. 19 (προσετέθη) is different from the verb in v. 15 (ἐπιδιατάσσεται, epidiatassetai); virtually all exegetes recognize this as an intentional linguistic shift on Paul’s part in order not to contradict his statement in v. 15; [3] the temper of 3:14:7 is decidedly against a positive statement about the Torah’s role in Heilsgeschichte.

13 tc παραδόσεων (paradosewn; “traditions, commandments”) is read by D*, while the vast majority of witnesses read παραβάσεων (parabasewn, “transgressions”). D’s reading makes little sense in this context. πράξεων (praxewn, “of deeds”) replaces παραβάσεων in Ì46 F G it Irlat Ambst Spec. The wording is best taken as going with νόμος (nomo"; “Why then the law of deeds?”), as is evident by the consistent punctuation in the later witnesses. But such an expression is unpauline and superfluous; it was almost certainly added by some early scribe(s) to soften the blow of Paul’s statement.

14 tn Grk “the seed.” See the note on the first occurrence of the word “descendant” in 3:16.

15 tn Or “was ordered.” L&N 31.22 has “was put into effect” here.

16 tn Many modern translations (NASB, NIV, NRSV) render this word (μεσίτης, mesith"; here and in v. 20) as “mediator,” but this conveys a wrong impression in contemporary English. If this is referring to Moses, he certainly did not “mediate” between God and Israel but was an intermediary on God’s behalf. Moses was not a mediator, for example, who worked for compromise between opposing parties. He instead was God’s representative to his people who enabled them to have a relationship, but entirely on God’s terms.

17 tn The meaning of this verse is disputed. According to BDAG 634 s.v. μεσίτης, “It prob. means that the activity of an intermediary implies the existence of more than one party, and hence may be unsatisfactory because it must result in a compromise. The presence of an intermediary would prevent attainment, without any impediment, of the purpose of the εἶς θεός in giving the law.” See also A. Oepke, TDNT 4:598-624, esp. 618-19.

18 tc The reading τοῦ θεοῦ (tou qeou, “of God”) is well attested in א A C D (F G read θεοῦ without the article) Ψ 0278 33 1739 1881 Ï lat sy co. However, Ì46 B d Ambst lack the words. Ì46 and B perhaps should not to be given as much weight as they normally are, since the combination of these two witnesses often produces a secondary shorter reading against all others. In addition, one might expect that if the shorter reading were original other variants would have crept into the textual tradition early on. But 104 (a.d. 1087) virtually stands alone with the variant τοῦ Χριστοῦ (tou Cristou, “of Christ”). Nevertheless, if τοῦ θεοῦ were not part of the original text, it is the kind of variant that would be expected to show up early and often, especially in light of Paul’s usage elsewhere (Rom 4:20; 2 Cor 1:20). A slight preference should be given to the τοῦ θεοῦ over the omission. NA27 rightly places the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity.

19 tn Or “have been based on the law.”

20 tn Or “locked up.”

21 tn Grk “imprisoned all things” but τὰ πάντα (ta panta) includes people as part of the created order. Because people are the emphasis of Paul’s argument ( “given to those who believe” at the end of this verse.), “everything and everyone” was used here.

22 tn Or “so that the promise could be given by faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pisti" Cristou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view.

sn On the phrase because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, ExSyn 116, which notes that the grammar is not decisive, nevertheless suggests that “the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for the idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb πιστεύω rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful.” Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith is reliable and worthy of such faith.



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