In What Sense Do I Still Live? - Gal 2:20 (Monday with Mounce 100)
First of all, the versification of the Textus Receptus that I have in Accordance lists Χριστῷ συνεσταυραύρωμαι as part of v 19, and yet the KJV translates it as part of v 20. The NRSV and HCSB (also TEV, NJB) are the only translations I checked that keep “I have been crucified with Christ” in v 19; the rest put it with v 20. Even the NKJV moves it to v 20.
Secondly, the KJV is unique in using the English present tense to to translate the perfect συνεσταυραύρωμαι. Is this wrong? Careful.
Humility is a good thing in critiquing translations. Rarely (if ever) do translations simply do something without a reason. Can you think of why the KJV translators did what they did? (The answer has nothing to do with changes in English.)
The perfect indicates a completed action with ongoing effects. When the force of the perfect seems to be directed toward the completion of the event, we call it a consummative or extensive perfect and tend to translate it with “have” or “has.” Paul says, “I have finished the race” (2 Tim 4:7).
When the force of the perfect seems to be directed toward the consequences of the event, we call it an intensive perfect are often use the English present tense. “Jesus says, ‘Your sins are forgiven’” (Matt 9:2).
The KJV is properly emphasizing that while the fact of our death with Christ is an accomplished fact (“I have been crucified”), it is nevertheless a present reality; I live as one who was and is still crucified with Christ.
Frankly, this seems to me a better translation based on the needs of the immediate context. The emphasis is not on what happened to us, but on the the present life we are living, which is based not only on the past work of Christ on the cross but also on the ongoing life of faith motivated by Jesus’ love.
But there is another difference between the KJV and other translations, and it is the next phrase. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” Other translations say something like, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (NIV).
The KJV seems to assert that the individual, even after crucifixion with Christ, still lives — and the question would be, in what sense do I still live. This is not even an option in the other translations.
I don’t think I would make a big deal of this, since the next phrase seems to contradict it. “I live; yet not I.“ Well, which is it? However, once you look at the statement in the theological flow of the verse, you can see what Paul is saying.
- He is crucified with Christ.
- Despite the crucifixion, he still lives.
- Yet, the life he lives is considerably different from his previous life.
The KJV requires you to process the language and to read it all in context. And while I am not a big KJV fan, I do like the higher level of prose that requires me to stop and think through what is being said.
But most modern translations don’t want us to work so hard, and they iron out the potential contradiction (“I live; I don’t live”) by saying, “It is no longer I who live.”
This is one of my favorite verse. At conversion, my life ended. I experienced a death to the “old man.” And I daily live as one who is crucified — or at least that is the challenge of the Christian journey. And while I am still alive, I am alive to a new kind of life that is lived through faith, motivated by the fact that Jesus loved (and loves) me and gave himself for me.
So the question is, how different is your life? Is it characterized by death to self and a life of faith and love? Or, if the truth be known, is there little difference?
William D. [Bill] Mounce posts about the Greek language, exegesis, and related topics at Koinonia. He is the author of numerous books, including the bestselling Basics of Biblical Greek, and is the general editor for Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of the Old and New Testament Words. He served as the New Testament chair of the English Standard Version Bible translation, and is currently on the Committee for Bible Translation for the NIV. Learn more and visit Bill's blog (co-authored with scholar and his father Bob Mounce) at www.billmounce.com.
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