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Q:What is the most accurate rendering/translation of the phrase “Christ is not a minister of sin” ?

Q2: & what does that communicate to us?

““But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭NKJV

“But if while seeking to be justified in Christ we ourselves have also been found to be sinners, is Christ then one who encourages sin? Absolutely not!” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭NET

“But if, in our effort to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have been found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭2:17‬ ‭NRSV‬‬

Some translations make it seem like it’s saying that Christ doesn’t encourage sin, and others seem to imply that Christ doesn’t serve the purposes of sin within people, but we know James says God doesn’t tempt anyone to evil.

Put it another way: “influencer of sin” vs “acting agent of sin”.

Speaking of the NKJV since it uses the word “Minister”, the definition of Minister is: “a person acting as the agent or instrument of another.” To me that seems like a slight difference. So according to the Greek what is the most accurate English translation across ALL English translations?

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The Greek text for Galatians 2:17 is as follows:

εἰ δὲ ζητοῦντες δικαιωθῆναι ἐν Χριστῷ εὑρέθημεν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἁμαρτωλοί, ἆρα Χριστὸς ἁμαρτίας διάκονος; μὴ γένοιτο.

The key part for your question, regarding Christ not being a minister of sin is:

ἆρα Χριστὸς ἁμαρτίας διάκονος...

If you note ἁμαρτίας (hamartias), it is here in the genitive case, suggesting possession, origin, or source. Literally translated, according to the Greek syntax, you have the phrase: [is] then Christ of sin a minister...

So, you have this idea of "sin" as a concept, of which Paul inquires, does Christ serve or minister. It is something like working for a corporation. You could ask something like this: [is] then Cork88 of Walmart an employee?

In such an arrangement, if you did work for Walmart, you would be under the authority and umbrella of the company. It would be the agency, you would be the agent.

Similarly, if Christ is the minister of sin, then He would be its agent, and the agency, that is, the power and authority invested in Him, would come from sin, as the over-arching umbrella "company", if you will.

Furthermore, in keeping with the overall context, Paul is writing about Jews and Gentiles, and whether or not Jews are contaminated by associating with Gentiles. Paul is rhetorically asking his audience if whether or not, by living and fellowshipping among sinful Gentiles (2:15), Jewish Christians are embracing or promoting the idea that Christ, like the Gentiles with whom they are living and fellowshipping with, is also a sinner like them. His emphatic response is "May it never be so".

The point is, is that since both Jews and Gentiles are justified by faith in Christ, and not by works of the law (2:16), avoiding living among and fellowshipping with Gentiles in the Church does not violate the law and therefore does not make the Jews in Galatia who believe in Christ, sinners for doing so. Otherwise, they might base their justification, not on Christ, but on keeping the law regarding Gentiles.

But since Christ is no minister of sin, it's something they need not concern themselves with, and therefore, the hostility and animosity between the two groups, and the hypocrisy that such hostility and animosity generates, can come to an end.

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  • Very helpful, +1
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 7:42
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The Greek (for my own sake as I write this):

εἰ δὲ ζητοῦντες δικαιωθῆναι ἐν Χριστῷ εὑρέθημεν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἁμαρτωλοί, ἆρα Χριστὸς ἁμαρτίας διάκονος; μὴ γένοιτο.

If we, striving for justification in Christ, are found to be sinners ourselves, then, consequentially (ἆρα) Christ would be a servant of sin? No way!

We have a conditional construction here with the 1) protasis (the condition) and 2) the apodosis (the logical conclusion of the condition). Then we have Paul's reaction to the "conclusion". "Hardly!"

Now what we do not have in the apodosis (the conclusion of the condition) is the verb. It is understood, but not explicit. This is quite normal.

The aorist in the protasis (the condition) is typical of the counter-factual (unreal, unfulfilled, etc) condition with a secondary indicative in the protasis (we have that: εὑρέθημεν) and a secondary indicative, with or without ἄν in the protasis, but we have no verb in the protasis. It is understood.

A counter-factual condition in English: If I had gone out without a coat, I would have froze. (But I didn't go out without a coat, so I didn't freeze.)

What we do have is Paul's answer to the question: μὴ γένοιτο

So we have a counter-factual conditional question, where Christ as an administer of sin, is counter-factual.

The secondary tense aorist usually denotes a condition in the past while the secondary tense of the present stem usually denotes a counter-factual condition in the present.

BDF §360 might help.

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  • Very detailed & useful, +1.
    – Cork88
    Feb 11 at 7:43

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