In Galatians 2:21 it reads:

"εἰ γὰρ διὰ νόμου δικαιοσύνη, ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν"

Some translations are:

 Latin Vulgate: "si enim per legem iustitia ergo Christus **gratis** mortuus est"
 KJV: "for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."
 NIV: "for if righteousness could  be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing"

However the word by word translation would be: "For if the righteousness [comes] through the law, then Christ has died as a gift." The word "dorean" has normal meaning "gift" and it is derived from a word which is "to give", and thus "dorea" means a gift. Does it mean that salvation would be achieved through law also, without the Gospel?

  • 1
    Ironically Galatians 3:21(&22) answers the question about Galatians 2:21 incorrectly referenced as 3:21 Jul 13, 2021 at 2:14
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    Nihil Sine Deo, you are right. Jul 13, 2021 at 2:30
  • It literally means without any payment, no cost, for nothing, in vain. The translations are accurate on the word. What's worst is the mistranslation of Gal 3:21 if a law had been given. Implying that the law could never justify rather than now unable. Check my question on that.
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2021 at 3:11
  • @Michael16 “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” ‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭10:4‬ NOT unable but IMPOSSIBLE because the Law which relied on the sacrificial system was bankrupt. It was merely a foreshadow of what was to come. What saved those under the old covenant was FAITH in a coming solution, which is what saves people in the new covenant, FAITH in the existing solution. Namely Jesus Christ. Jul 13, 2021 at 3:59
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    Because @Michael16 if Jesus had not died those people even with all their sacrifices would NEVER have received salvation. So you see the Law was NEVER able to save anyone ever. Not as you say, any longer, but never did it save anyone in the first place Jul 13, 2021 at 4:15

3 Answers 3


When it comes to translated words, it doesn’t always follow that derivative words must absolutely hold to the root word of the translated language.

• δωρεαν - gratuitously

Derived from

• δωρεά - gift

Derived from

• δῶρον - gift made sacrificially, offering

The adverb in English gratuitously is defined as

being without apparent reason, cause, or justification

So if we exchange the Greek word δωρεαν for this definition in the verse in question we get

“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died (δωρεαν - without apparent reason, cause, or justification) for no purpose.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:21‬ ‭

To answer the underlying question by the OP

”Does it mean that salvation would be achieved through law also, without the Gospel?”

Firstly I would substitute gospel there with grace.

Not a chance! For righteousness belongs to God and it must be imputed to the created,(especially sinful, helpless, mortal men).

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭64:6‬ ‭

For righteousness that can be acceptable to God must be of God. God is pure, His righteousness is likewise pure

“I will get my knowledge from afar and ascribe righteousness to my Maker.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭36:3‬ ‭

The whole book of Job circles around this almost fatal mistake of Job, who failed to ascribe God’s righteousness to God but assumed it to himself and it cost him dearly

“So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he (Job) was righteous in his own eyes.” ‭‭Job‬ ‭32:1‬ ‭

If the law could have saved Job, then God would not have dragged blameless and upright Job through the crucible, but precisely because Job was blameless and upright according to the Law but NOT righteous, did God in His LOVING kindness exposed Job to the filthiness of self righteousness and it’s deceiving saving illusion. The Law is not what saves a man, FAITH in what God has to offer saves sinful, helpless, mortal men.

  • Make a new question on Job 32:1 if there's not one already. There are tons of blameless perfect righteous beings mentioned in the Bible. Even Gentiles can be justified by their obedience to God without the law. Rom 2:6-16
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2021 at 4:31
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    Blameless and upright is not the same as righteous. God never called Job righteous in the whole book of Job. All who are justified are justified NOT on the basis of a law or lack of a law but ON FAITH! @michael16 “For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭2:12‬ they will perish, no mention of being saved Jul 13, 2021 at 4:32
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    Up-voted +1. I absolutely agree with your perceptive statement : For righteousness belongs to God and it must be imputed to the created . Excellent. Abraham believed God (thus God's rightness was in Abraham's faith) and there was evaluated (accounted, imputed) to him unto righteousness (God seeing his own rightness within the faith of Abraham). Nohow else can man be 'just with God' as Job sought.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 13, 2021 at 8:29
  • I agree with this answer, there is no salvation without grace! But as you touched Job, I would like to ask: How would you explain Ezekiel 14:14 "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD." Jul 13, 2021 at 17:41
  • @lukasbalaz7 they will deliver their souls or they will continue to remain alive because of their upright living. This is not about eternal salvation, this is about living under the old covenant and being righteous under the Law continuing to live on earth, for they would not be affected by the calamities God would bring due to their blameless/upright living, if you like THEIR righteousness. God wasn’t interested in keeping Job alive on earth as long as possible and lose Job to hell, God wanted him for eternity too, that’s why He instigated the question to the Accuser/satan Jul 13, 2021 at 17:58

Obviously there is no specific translation which is why there are several options rendered.

The word is used for water flowing freely with no restraint Rev 21:6, 22:17. Water flowing without producing anything is pointless - it should do some work to make the flow useful. If Christ died for no reason, then it has produced nothing, no gain.

They hated me for no reason/ without a cause John 15:25

You mentioned gift - a gift is given with no strings attached - it too is given freely.

If Christ died freely/without reason, with no strings attached - like the saving of all humanity, then it was pointless.

We know that his death did produce something - of untold significance, for it relates to earth AND heaven!

...through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Col 1:20

  • Thanks. John 15:25 makes it quite easy, because it is quite difficult to hate as a gift. "ὅτι ἐμίσησάν με δωρεάν". Many translations translate Rev 21:6, 22:17 by the word "gift". The letter to Colossians is angelic. Jul 13, 2021 at 2:48

It is translated rightly in the versions here as "in vain" and "for nothing". The point in Gal 2:21 is that if righteousness still comes from the law then Christ died in vain. It is a deductive argument like 3:3 or 3:21, since they received the spirit by faith apart from the law, therefore it proves that righteousness does not and cannot come by the law anymore; see ouketi οὐκέτι no longer 3:18, 3:25, 4:7. God now justifies by faith without the works of the law, for nothing with respect to the law. The law has been rendered invalid as the promise covenant has arrived, its purpose as a discipliner tutor has been fulfilled. Of course justification was by the law, otherwise God would be a deceiver and an abomination for lying. May it never be. See my question on the translation error of all Bible versions (except NLT and Godbey) on Galatians 3:21 which wrongly translates "if a law had been given", when the text says: if (the) given law can give life, then righteousness would be by the law. There is no indefinite "a law" and past perfect "had been" in the text, it is an interpolation of the translators likely copying vulgate instead of translating. Commentary, not translation.

From BDAG3 entry of the word:

δωρεάν acc. of δωρεά used as adv. (since Hdt. 5, 23 [δωρεήν]; ins, pap, LXX; PsSol 7:1; TestSol; Joseph.).

① pert. to being freely given, as a gift, without payment, gratis (so, in addition to the ref. in Nägeli 35f and Poland 496 note **, GDI 2569, 4 [Delphi]; PSI 400, 16; 543, 19 al. [both III b.c.]; 1401, 8; PTebt 5, 187; 250 [both II b.c.]; Gen 29:15; Ex 21:11 δωρεὰν ἄνευ ἀργυρίου al.; Tat. 19, 1) δ. λαμβάνειν (Jos., Vi. 425), διδόναι (Bell. 1, 274, Vi. 38) receive or give without payment Mt 10:8 (cp. Sextus 242; of an emissary who paid his own traveling expenses IPriene 108, 165); cp. Rv 21:6; 22:17; δ. εὐαγγελίσασθαι 2 Cor 11:7. δικαιούμενοι δ. justified, made upright, as a gift Ro 3:24. οὐδὲ δ. ἄρτον ἐφάγομεν παρά τινος we have not eaten bread with (or from) anyone without paying for it 2 Th 3:8.

② pert. to being without contributory fault, undeservedly, without reason/cause ἐμίσησάν με δ. they hated me without reason J 15:25 (Ps 34:19; 68:5; PsSol 7:1; cp. Ps 118:161; 1 Km 19:5).

③ pert. to being without purpose, in vain, to no purpose (Job 1:9; Ps 34:7) δ. ἀποθνῄσκειν Gal 2:21; ITr 10.—DELG s.v. δίδωμι. M-M. s.v. δωρεά. TW.

  • “Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭3:21‬ ‭ your assertion is incorrect about “no longer”. It NEVER was able to save anyone EVER Jul 13, 2021 at 4:05
  • @nihil plz see my question on Galatians 3:21 mistranslation, I have refuted it. The translation is blatantly false and deception. It does not say if a law had been given. It says if the given law gives life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. Exactly same as 2:21. I will include this in my answer since the Q has been updated.
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2021 at 4:11
  • Provide a link to your refutation please Jul 13, 2021 at 4:12
  • hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/25183/… @nihil the question itself is a refutation, nobody dares to refute my point. I have put that link on the bio of my profile.
    – Michael16
    Jul 13, 2021 at 4:22
  • Thank you for the link, I read it and the comments, I have a better understanding of what you are getting at. Now show me where the law ever saved anyone or made anyone righteous @michael16 and then could you even bring up your argument, until then it’s a pointless argument because if a law, any law, has never made anyone righteous what are you arguing? Jul 13, 2021 at 4:31

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