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Galatians 3:16

Context
3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant. 1  Scripture 2  does not say, “and to the descendants,” 3  referring to many, but “and to your descendant,” 4  referring to one, who is Christ.

Galatians 3:19-20

Context

3:19 Why then was the law given? 5  It was added 6  because of transgressions, 7  until the arrival of the descendant 8  to whom the promise had been made. It was administered 9  through angels by an intermediary. 10  3:20 Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one. 11 

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

2 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.

3 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.

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

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

5 tn Grk “Why then the law?”

6 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.

7 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.

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

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

10 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.

11 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.



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