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Romans 8:3 says the following

καἰ περἰ ἁμαρτἰας (and for sin)

Many translations suggest as an offering for sin as an alternate translation. I can see how περί can mean in place of, but is as an offering for a common translation of περἰ?

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No, περἰ does not normally have the meaning as an offering for. Purely on the basis of the Greek present, it is hard to translate περἰ in that way.

The standard translations of περἰ + genitive are as follows:

  • around, about, or near a place
  • about, concerning
  • about, on account of
  • for (as in, to fight for one's life)
  • of motive (as in, for the sake of victory)

You could make this verse fit any of the last four meanings. (My source for these definitions is Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon Abridged Edition, which is admittedly more a resource for classical Greek than biblical, but which is probably apt in any case.)

With that said, however, some scholars have made the argument that περἰ ἁμαρτἰας as a phrase has a set meaning. In, for instance, the LXX of Leviticus 5.9, we come across the following bit of Greek:

καὶ ῥανεῖ ἀπὸ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ἐπὶ τὸν τοῖχον τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου τὸ δὲ κατάλοιπον τοῦ αἵματος καταστραγγιεῖ ἐπὶ τὴν βάσιν τοῦ θυσιαστηρίου ἁμαρτίας γάρ ἐστιν
Leviticus 5.9 (LXX)

Here, περὶ τῆς ἁμαρτίας means precisely sin-offering. The phrase is a set phrase that appears in other places in the Septuagint, as a translation for the Hebrew lechatta'th (sin-offering). It seems quite likely that Paul intended this allusion when he wrote Romans 8.3. I'm not sure that it's strong enough to be the principal translation, but there's a very strong case for including it as a footnote.

A couple of references on Google Books for these ideas:

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Actually, περἰ ἁμαρτἰας is frequently used in the LXX to translate the Hebrew word חטאת (chatta'at), meaning "sin offering."

You could verify this by performing a phrase search for περἰ ἁμαρτἰας in the LXX and examining the corresponding Hebrew word. For example, see LXX of Lev. 7:7.

There are also numerous occurrences in the Greek NT where the same Greek phrase is used in a context that is undoubtedly referring to "sin offerings." For example,

Hebrews 10:6 (KJV)

In burnt offerings and [sacrifices] for sin (περὶ ἁμαρτίας) thou hast had no pleasure.

Hebrews 10:8 (KJV)

Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and [offering] for sin (περὶ ἁμαρτίας) thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure [therein]; which are offered by the law;

Hebrews 10:18 (KJV)

Now where remission of these [is, there is] no more offering for sin (περὶ ἁμαρτίας).

Essentially, περἰ ἁμαρτἰας is functioning as a substantive prepositional phrase, thus "that which is for sin," i.e. a sin offering. It's likely that Koine Greek simply didn't have an equivalent word for the Hebrew word חטאת; therefore, the Jewish authors had to employ the prepositional phrase περἰ ἁμαρτἰας as a substantive.

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    You could also add Hebrews 13:11 as an additional verse. – Joseph Feb 16 '13 at 5:55
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Sacrificial allusions are probably present here, giving the reason why the Son was sent: kai peri hamartias (for sin). Paul could simply be referring to the whole relation of Christ’s mission in respect to sin (Cranfield:1987:382; Stott :1994:220; Meyer:1983:303; Lenski:1960:500; Shedd:1980:231; Sanday & Headlam:1902:193), and the Roman Christians could have thought of the phrase in that context (Morris:1988:303); cf. Galatians 1:4; I Peter 3:18.

Or, it could mean “for the purpose of taking away sin” (Brooks & Winbery:1979: 30).

But the Greek phrase frequently means “sin offering” in the LXX (Leviticus 5:6-7; 9:2; 14:31; Numbers 6:16; Psalms 40:6; Isa.53:10; Ezekiel 42:13), and it is likely to mean that here as well: God sent His own Son to be a sin-offering (Moo:1996: 480; Dunn:1988:422; Fee:1994:531; Bruce:1985:152). Cf. Hebrews 10:6-9,17-18; 13:11-12; Isaiah 53:10.

Paul does deal with "Mr. Sin," or the Sin as a master, or the power of Sin in Romans 6:10. "For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all..." As we can see, Christ "died to Sin" in vs.11 (cf. 6:2,11)--it was He who died and not Sin.

Paul then tells his readers that because they have been freed from this hostile tyrant [(v.2; v.11 "Even so"] they should not let him come back and reign again (vss.12-13). In fact, Sin will not have and need not have dominion over them any longer since they are under grace and not under law (v.14). They do not need to go on presenting their members to Sin, etc. either (v.12), which would also show that Sin is still alive.

In Romans 8:3 God judicially “condemned Sin in the flesh” through the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, cf. Romans 6:7-10. His sacrificial, atoning death, was the means by which God judicially condemned “Sin in the flesh” (Witherington III & Hyatt:2004: 214). Sin (personified) was condemned as a criminal, and because of that condemnation it lost its right to rule over humanity (Lenski:1960:502); cf. 5:12,21. God effectively removed Sin’s ability to “dictate terms” for those who are “in Christ,” v.2 (Moo:1996: 481).

Though the context would indicate that Sin’s power was also broken (Schreiner:1998:403) and deposed of its rule, there is a question regarding this specific meaning due to the judicial connotations of the Greek word, translated “condemn” (Moo:1996:481). The verb, however, may denote the legal procedure of a pronouncement of sentence and its judicial verdict of execution, and that is probably the meaning here (Cranfield:1987: 382-383). God judicially made Sin forfeit its domination (Meyer:1983:303), and then as Fee (1994:534) points out, its power was overthrown since the whole argument that began in 5:12 involves freedom from Sin’s tyranny.

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