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The verse in question is 2 Corinthians 5:21 The Greek text is:

μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ

Translated as:

"Not having known sin, for us sin He made that we might become the righteousness of God in Him"

Can "ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν" be translated as "because of our sin"? Can "ἐποίησεν ἵνα" be translated as "He made so that"? (meaning He made it possible that)

This way the translation would read

"Not having known sin, because of our sin He made so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him"

  • Just to be clear, the "translated as" here is.... your own translation? Or perhaps from an interlinear? It doesn't make much sense in English to my reading, but I can see how it might arise from a word-for-word rendering. – Susan Nov 28 '16 at 22:08
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange Jack, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other sites. I'd also be interested to hear your response to Susan's comment. – Steve Taylor Dec 2 '16 at 14:39
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Can "ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν" be translated as "because of our sin"?

No. The Greek language uses noun cases (here nominative, accusative, and genitive) to keep track of each word's role in the sentence. Although it may appear to be viable in English, the proposed translation is disallowed by the case markings of the Greek text. The preposition ὑπὲρ with the meaning "for the sake of" requires a genitive object, which is provided by the pronoun ἡμῶν ("us").1 The accusative ἁμαρτίαν ("sin") therefore has no place in the phrase. It is instead an object2 of the verb ἐποίησεν ("he made").

Can "ἐποίησεν ἵνα" be translated as "He made so that"? (meaning He made it possible that)

This question, in isolation, is whether a ἵνα clause can function as the lone "object" of ποιέω. This is rare (ποιέω generally takes one or two accusatives, as noted above/below), but it happens.3 However, the answer to the first question effectively requires the verb ἐποίησεν govern at least one accusative, so not "he made so that...".

The third problem with the proposed translation is the article τὸν which the OP has left off the beginning of the Greek text:4

τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν.....

The article both nominalizes the participle μὴ γνόντα and also removes the morphological ambiguity between nominative and accusative, viz. it must be accusative. The phrase τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ("him who knew no sin") is necessarily an object, and the only candidate verb is ἐποίησεν. The basic syntax of the usual translation is therefore not in question:

τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν
him who knew no sin

ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν
for our sake

ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν
he made [to be] sin


1. Υπερ with the accusative has a different meaning -- "beyond" (see BDAG s.v. ὑπέρ, B.) -- which doesn't make much sense here and certainly doesn't contribute to OP's proposed translation.

2. More precisely, the complement in an object-complement ("double accusative") construction. See Wallace p. 182ff.

3. See BDAG s.v. ποιέω, 2.h.α., providing the example of John 11:37: οὐκ ἐδύνατο οὗτος... ποιῆσαι ἵνα καὶ οὗτος μὴ ἀποθάνῃ; "Can he not ... make [it so] that this man also not have died?"

4. I gather this was inadvertent. If there is a textual variant to that effect which I've missed, please do let me know.

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