The Greek text of 2 Corinthians 7:10 according to the Nestle-Aland 28th ed. states,

Ιʹ ἡ γὰρ κατὰ θεὸν λύπη μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίαν ἀμεταμέλητον ἐργάζεται· ἡ δὲ τοῦ κόσμου λύπη θάνατον κατεργάζεται. NA28, ©2012

The apostle Paul mentions ἡ λύπη (“sorrow”) twice. First, he modifies it by the prepositional phrase κατὰ θεὸν. Then, he uses it in a genitive construction: ἡ τοῦ κόσμου λύπη. What is the most accurate translation of each phrase, and how does the grammar (λύπη modified by a prepositional phrase v. λύπη in a genitive construction) affect the meaning of each phrase?

Was there a reason the apostle Paul preferred a genitive construction in the latter occurrence (ἡ τοῦ κόσμου λύπη) rather than, perhaps, another prepositional phrase such as ἡ κατὰ κόσμον λύπη? Or, does the latter occurrence only make sense when construed in a genitive construction?

  • So, are you asking why the first expression was not also a genitive - 'the of God sorrow' balanced against 'the of world sorrow' ? And thus, what is the effect (presumably an emphasis of some kind) of using kata rather than using 'of' in the first part of the couplet ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 3:01
  • @NigelJ—Yes, or vice-versa. Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 3:03

1 Answer 1


Perhaps Paul puts genitive and not κατὰ+accusative for the "world" for it creates a wonderful equivocality: a) it may mean "one's sorrow for the worldly things (κόσμος featuring as object) that are unworthy of and perilous for being coveted (because if one pursues them, one will leave the potentiality for development towards divine perfection unactualized, which is metaphorically speaking "death"); and b) it may mean "world's sorrow" (κόσμος featuring as subject), that is to say, sorrow of that greater part of the mankind that chose not to follow Christ (like the semantics of κόσμος in John 16:20).

With reference to God such ambivalence is impossible, for God cannot be a subject of λύπη, He cannot have sorrow, only we can have the "according-to-God" λύπη for being so far from His perfection and longing and co-working with Christ's presence in us to attain it.

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