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In II Corinthians 5:21, we read :

τον γαρ με γνοντα αμαρτιαν υπερ ημων αμαρτιαν εποιησεν ινα ημεις γινωμεθα δικαιοσυνη θεου εν αυτω [TR - Majority Text - Stephens 1550 from EGNT]

for him who knew not sin, for us sin he made, that we might become righteousness of God in him [EGNT]

Here, εποιησεν is rendered 'made' and this exact word is used, also, in John 4:6, where it occurs in regard to Jesus 'making' water wine.

The Englishman's Greek New Testament [above], The Wycliffe, Tyndale, KJV, Young's Literal and J.N.Darby all translate εποιησεν, ποιεω, as 'made'.

Liddell & Scott state 'make', 'produce' or 'execute' for ποιειο.

ποιεω [Strong 4160] appears about 540 times in the AV. It is translated 'make' 100 times; 'do' 350 times; and 90 times it has varied renderings - 'fulfil', 'provide' etc.

Especially considering its use in a context, John 4:6, where something, supernaturally, was suffused throughout something else, what does εποιησεν tell us, in II Corinthians 5:21, about what was effected regarding sin, associated with Christ, in order that others might become, γινομαι , something else ?

[Edited after Posting : I would point out that, above, the First Declension noun, αμαρτιαν, is in the accusative singular here; so it is 'sin', itself, that is in view, not 'sins'.]

[Second Edit after Posting : I can only find one place in the AV where ποιεω is translated "appoint" and it is not an earthly kind of appointment - Hebrews 3:2. Usually, 'appoint' is τιθημι or its cognates.]

[Third Edit after Posting : εποιησεν is now correctly pasted; the previous was a pasting error.]

  • Sincere apologies for the 'migration' and 'duplication'. I had no idea that would happen. I shall very much try to avoid it in future. – Nigel J Oct 9 '17 at 13:52
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    Error in pasting has now been corrected. Gratitude is expressed for advising of the error. – Nigel J Oct 9 '17 at 19:19
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You are asking about the word ἐποίησεν in isolation, but I don't think any answer will be meaningful without considering the full context of the verse: that for our sake he made (ἐποίησεν) him to be sin who knew no sin.

I assume the question is prompted because the notion that Christ was "made to be sin" seems rather opaque and that perhaps there is some meaning of ποιέω1 that will make it less so. But I don't think there is some deeper or obscure meaning of ποιέω lurking here: It means pretty much "to make".

As to how the phrase "made Him to be sin" can make sense, perhaps it is relevant that an ancient meaning of the Greek verb "sin" - ἁμαρτάνω - was to miss a target or miss a mark, broadened also to mean failing one's purpose or missing the point1 One could think of Adam's fall in terms of both the sinful offense itself, and then the spiritual disease - sin - with which he and his progeny were later infected.

Maximos the Confessor (ca 580-662) seems to have held this interpretation in "On Jesus Christ, the New Adam Who 'Became Sin'"2, essentially an extended commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:21:

Our forefather Adam committed two "sins" by his transgression of the Lord's commandment: the first "sin" was culpable, when his free choice willfully rejected the good; but the second "sin", occasioned by the first, was innocent, since human nature unwillingly put off its incorruption. Therefore our Lord and God, rectifying this reciprocal corruption and alteration of our human nature by taking on the whole of our nature, even had in his assumed nature the liability for passions which, in his own exercise of free will choice, he adorned with incorruptibility. And it is by virtue of this natural passibility that he became sin for our sake, though he did not know any deliberate sin (γνωμικὴ άμαρτία) because of the immutability of his free choice.3


1. e.g. Homer Iliad V.287, Oddysey XXI.155. Other examples can be found here.
2. Letters to Thalassios XLII; in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (tr. from the Greek; St. Vladimir Seminary Press, 2003)
3. Ibid., pp.119-120

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ποιέω simply means to do/act/perform (Mt 1:24), and thus by extension, observe religious laws or feasts (Mt 5:19; 26:18); or cause [to be/to be preserved] (Jn 11:37)/appoint (Jn 6:15; Rev 1:6)—thus by extension sometimes make (Heb 1:2; Gen 1:1 LXX). For all its uses in the New Testament, see this reference.


The reason the word can be used for the 'change' of water into wine, is because it is used in the 'cause to be' sense (cause water to be wine), without going any deeper into how that change is affected (e.g. both Genesis 1:1 and John 4:6 are miracles).

Similar to how 'converted,' (hence also 'turned water into wine') can mean simply either its usage has changed, or its actual shape, color, size, etc. To say water has been changed into wine is not necessarily to say how. Such is the case with this word: its imiplications do not extend beyond the fact that a substantial (e.g. water made wine) or contextual (e.g. appointed a king) change has made made.


In Galatians 3:13-14, an almost identical argument made by St. Paul as that of 2 Corinthians 5:21, he equates (if we indeed are to take this as the same kind of argument) ποιέω (do, make) with γίνομαι (be made, become). ποιέω focuses of on the action of the chaning of something into somthing, and the γίνομαι focuses on the realization of the change in the thing changed.

This argument can be summed up as 'God made Christ a scapegoat for us' or 'God made Christ evil x so that [ἵνα—resulting in] we can be made or recieve good y.'

Christ can on no count be considered to be an actual curse, or actual sin (how can you be 'collectively every instance of transgression against God's law'?) This is proven, if by nothing else, by the passage itself. Here in Galatians 3:13, the latter part of the verse shows that 'to be made a curse' means, in the context of Christ, to be 'made [the one] to suffer for sins that deserve this punishment':

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

That is, 'to be made a curse' is conflated, in the context of Christ, with 'recieve the evils of the curse'. Although to be made a curse implies, in this unqiue case of Christ, that the person is innocent! I think this is the difference.

Along these same lines, St. Athanasius wrote in his work On the Incarnation (De Incarnatione Verbi Dei)1: "For the Son of God became man so that we might become God". This is a play on that same poetic, metaphorical, hyperbolic language—'God stooped down so that we could stand up.' And is not to be taken literally: God took on human nature, and in that sense became man; mankind with not be given the Deity as their 'other nature.'

God condesends to 'be' what we are or deserve, in order to bring us into Himself to a greater degree than we are already, or than we can be without such condescension. This is most manifest, of course, in the Incarnation and Passion which result in Redemption of a son of Adam into son of God (Galatians 4:4-45).


1 St. Athanasius, De inc. 54, 3.

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  • Am I correct in saying that you are conveying that a change was made that was 'substantial' but not 'actual' ? – Nigel J Oct 9 '17 at 13:22
  • No, rather, that the actual change was a substantial one. – Sola Gratia Oct 9 '17 at 13:33
  • "on no count can be considered to be . . . actual sin" – Nigel J Oct 9 '17 at 13:56
  • There are two applications and senses of the word, loosely: make (literally into something else), and make someone something as in to appoint them to something, or to 'being' something: making someone king (Jn 6:15). Making heaven and earth (Gen 1:1). Jesus was cursed for on our behalf and made our 'being cursed.' St. Paul equates being made the curse with recieving the punishment of the curse. Similarly, in IICor, he is using metaphor: e.g. 'I am the Door.' Just as the example in Athanasius' work is clearly metaphor. Water actually becomes wine. Jesus is not 'actually' a literal door. – Sola Gratia Oct 9 '17 at 14:20
  • @Ruminator hyperbole/metaphor are used generously by Jesus. In the case of the quote of Athanasius, the hyperbole gets its strength from being a very exaggerated form of 'take on' (the characteristics of something else's nature; God and man). You aren't one of those people who think Jesus taught us to literally hate, rather than love our family, and wasn't using hyperbole, are you? – Sola Gratia Oct 9 '17 at 14:23
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We do well at times to remind ourselves of the implied metaphors contained in ordinary speech and speech patterns.

For example, the common expression which conveys a sudden understanding is highly metaphorical:

Oh, I see what you mean.

What exactly is being seen in this example. If in context, an interlocutor has just finished explaining a hard-for-you-to-understand concept (say, the meaning of the word made in 2 Corinthians 5:21), you could say at least one of two things:

  • Frankly, I don't see what you mean.
  • Oh, I see what you're getting at.

My point is simply this: When we use the word see in the above ways, we are not talking about a literal seeing, but a metaphorical seeing. I may see your lips moving as you explain what the word made means in context, and I can literally see your body language as you use your hands, for example, to gesticulate and perhaps emphasize a point you are making.

What I do not see in that instance, however, I do see metaphorically. To see something in that sense means

  • to understand
  • to get insight (notice the element of seeing in the word insight)
  • to experience a mental breakthrough (another metaphor)
  • to grasp (another metaphor) a paradigm, if only momentarily in a evanescent moment (a "Now you see it, now you don't" moment)

Take another use of a different word, the word make. A biblical illustration which came to me as I was pondering your question is the use of the word make in the expression "to make sport of," which is used, for example, in 1 Chronicles 10:4; Job 30:1; Psalm 104:26; and Habakkuk 1:10.

Then Saul said to his armour-bearer, ‘Draw your sword and thrust me through with it, so that these uncircumcised may not come and thrust me through, and make sport of me.’ But his armour-bearer was unwilling; for he was terrified. So Saul took his own sword and fell upon it (1 Chronicles 10:4 NRSV Anglicized, my emphasis).

We might ask, "In what sense is Saul being made a sport of?" Perhaps other words come to mind which explain or expand upon how the expression is used. We might think, for instance, Saul is being

  • taunted
  • ridiculed
  • made an object of derision
  • being put down and made to feel small in the eyes of others

Saul was not made into the game of basketball, or lacrosse, or some other organized way of having fun while getting exercise in an activity governed by certain rules. Rather, Saul was metaphorically "made" into something he was not. He was made a king by the prophet Samuel, but now he is in danger of being made sport of by his enemies, so he commits suicide.

All this to say, Jesus was not made to be sin in a literal fashion but in a metaphorical fashion. He was once one thing (viz., the perfect and sinless lamb of God) but now he is another (a sin bearer).

Need we go further and ask "In what sense did Jesus bear the sins of the world. Were they literally on his shoulders while he hung on the cross?" No. What happened at the cross was this: God imputed our sins to Jesus and at the same time made possible Jesus' righteousness to be imputed to us. A double imputation, as it were.

In conclusion, there is no need in this instance to attempt to discern a deeper or hidden meaning to the word made. Being aware of the metaphorical nature of words in general and the metaphorical nature of the word made in particular, is all that is needed. Biblical hermeneutics, in general, is a map, and a map is not the territory. Words are symbols, and they stand for (and in some sense take the place of) reality. Words are not the reality.

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  • So, is it only "metaphorically" that 'we become righteousness of God' in him ? – Nigel J Oct 9 '17 at 13:20
  • @NigelJ: I've added a couple sentences to the conclusion of my answer. Perhaps they can serve to answer, at least partially, your question. The REALITY is that we who were once condemned sinners are now made the righteousness of God through Christ's sacrifice. Words can at times be a rabbit hole from which there is no escaping. We manage to escape, however, when we "settle" on a meaning which we believe is true. That's where faith begins. Does Christ's literal blood make me literally righteous? No, but by faith we recognize that what Jesus did at the cross has the power to forgive our sins. – rhetorician Oct 9 '17 at 14:48
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    @Ruminator: I can live with that tweak. Don – rhetorician Oct 9 '17 at 15:25

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