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I heard somewhere that in 2 Corinthians 5:20

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech [you] by us: we pray [you] in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God

because of the absence of some words (I don't know which words exactly, maybe you's are absent) - either because of the specificity of Greek grammar or because of the damage on the manuscripts (again I don't know), there is a possibility of rendering it in quite another way - something like "we reconcile them to God" or something else.

Can, anyone, please, who is aware of this matter, provide some input here?

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1 Answer 1

up vote 4 down vote accepted

καταλλάγητε is the 2nd plural aorist passive imperative of καταλλάσσω.

Breaking this down, 2nd plural is you (all) "y'all." Passive makes the subject of the verb the recipient of the action. Imperatives are commands and aorist imperatives generally indicate a command to start something.

So what would "we reconcile them" look like? καταλλάσoμεν αὐτοῦς.

Could this transition have taken place (καταλλάσoμεν αὐτοῦς -> καταλλάγητε)? Looking at it, corruption of the underlying text is unlikely since the pronoun (αὐτοῦς) would have needed to have been completely lost and the ending of of the verb would have to have been badly damaged (σoμεν -> γητε). These letters and endings aren't really near each other so a scribal error seems quite unlikely. Finally, such a variant would be extremely poorly attested since neither UBS 4 nor NA 27 note any variant within the compiled texts that these works use.

EDIT The entire sentence in Greek is:

ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ οὖν πρεσβεύομεν ὡς τοῦ θεοῦ παρακαλοῦντος δι’ ἡμῶν· δεόμεθα ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, καταλλάγητε τῷ θεῷ.

Here are some of the words:

  • πρεσβεύομεν: present active indicative first plural of πρεσβεύω. Literally means "we are ambassadors"
  • παρακαλοῦντος: present active participle masculine singular genitive. It is part of the dependent clause begun with ὡς ("as"). Because it is a genitive absolute (this phrase: ὡς τοῦ θεοῦ παρακαλοῦντος δι’ ἡμῶν) we translate it as a straightforward phrase without using any of the "ownership" language markers of the genitive.
  • δεόμεθα: present active indicative first plural of δέω. Literally, it means "we bind/tie."

καταλλάγητε τῷ θεῷ "[y'all] be reconciled to God" becomes the content of the injunction upon the audience by Paul and his team.

"On behalf of Christ, therefore, we are ambassadors as God is urging through us. We bind you, on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God."

I intentionally kept the translation stilted so that readers could try to correlate the inflected meaning with the words. A smoother translation would probably render:

"Therefore, on behalf of Christ, we are ambassadors as though God is urging through us. We bind you, on behalf of Christ: be reconciled to God."

Now, to address the referent of the "y'all" we must actually look back through the context of the passage. At a basic level, the audience is the Corinthian church and so that would be a natural reading of this. Additionally, all previous "you"s throughout this pericope would indicate that Paul is exhorting those who are being deceived by the "super apostles." (2 Corinthians 11:5) Additionally, earlier within the context there seems to be group of people groups with "you" and then "some" (2 Corinthians 5:13), especially since the content of 2 Corinthians 5:13 indicates that the "you" group are direct beneficiaries of Paul's ministry.

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Sorry, I know this is old, was just looking at this verse myself and came across your answer, which is very helpful and has my +1. I’m having trouble with δεόμεθα as an active voice from δέω, though (last bullet)….I think it’s from δέομαι (but if from δέω it's middle/passive), which is deponent per BDAG (despite the existence of δέω), so I’m OK with calling it active, but it doesn’t really mean “to bind,” despite the etymologic connection (the semantics of which I don't really get). –  Susan Aug 17 at 3:10

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