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Galatians 3:17-21

Context
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, 1  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 2  it to Abraham through the promise.

3:19 Why then was the law given? 3  It was added 4  because of transgressions, 5  until the arrival of the descendant 6  to whom the promise had been made. It was administered 7  through angels by an intermediary. 8  3:20 Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one. 9  3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? 10  Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 11 

1 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.

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

3 tn Grk “Why then the law?”

4 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.

5 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.

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

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

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

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



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