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RESEARCH: Notes on Galatians 2:19

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RESEARCH: Notes on Galatians 2:19

Joseph B. Pierce

Missionary to Ecuador

 

"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God." Gal. 2:19.

Perhaps the wording of this text, as translated, renders the meaning a bit obscure. We suggest that the difficulty is in the word "through," which is translated from the Greek preposition dia. The word disappears very frequently in the Greek New Testament and is translated by a variety of words and expressions according to its various meanings in relation to the context in which it is used.

One of the ideas that can be expressed by the word dia is that of circumstance. Following are examples of this usage as found in the Authorized Version. Since the word dia appears with a noun in the genitive case in our text (Gal. 2:19), we will cite first examples occurring with the genitive:

1 Thess. 4:14. Dia is translated in ("sleep in Jesus").

2 Cor. 5:10. Dia is translated in ("done in his body").

1 Tim. 2:15. Dia is translated in ("saved in childbearing").

2 Peter 3:5. Dia is translated in ("and in the water").

Acts 16:9. Dia is translated in ("in the night").

Rom. 4:11. Dia is translated by the expression though ("though they be not circumcised"). The American Standard Version renders the word dia, in this text, though ("though they be in uncircumcision"). The word dia here definitely indicates a "state of being."

In the following examples dia occurs with nouns in the accusative case:

2 Peter 3:12. Dia is translated wherein ("wherein the heavens").

Gal. 4:13. Dia is translated through ("through infirmity of the flesh"). It is evident in this text that the great apostle is reminding the Galatian believers that he preached to them while he was in the state of suffering physical infirmity.

Now, having observed this New Testament usage of the Greek word dia, in which it specifies circumstances of time or state of being (and could be translated by the word in or by the expression being in, et cetera), let us apply this meaning to the word dia in Galatians 2:19. A literal translation of the text would be, "For I, being in the law, died to the law, in order that I might live unto God." The word "died" is more accurate than "am dead" in this text. (See also A.S.V.)

By saying, "I, being in the law," the apostle Paul refers to the circumstance of his being a Jew, with all the advantages of a Jew (see Rom. 2:12); and by saying that he "died to the law" he renounced the efficacy of any of the works, or ceremonies, of the Jews to save from sin; he died to Judaism as a means of salvation. In Galatians 2:21 Paul sums up his argument by saying, "For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." He recognizes Christ as the only source of the righteousness by which he is to be justified.

It will be seen that this very permissible translation of the text permits a meaningful relation with the context, and particularly with the thought contained in verses 15 and 16 of the same chapter.

 

 

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