Scripture Query and Answer: 2 Corinthians 13:4

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Q. Is there sufficient ground for the assertion that, in these passages, the dative case is mistranslated, that being often used (as every Greek scholar knows), for the instrument or means whereby a thing is done or comes to pass? Should it not be (Eph. 2:11And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; (Ephesians 2:1)) “by trespasses and sins” (or in consequence of “having no life” in us)? There seems some incongruity in speaking of walking in the sins wherein they were dead. Moreover it is worthy of note, that the same apostle speaking of spiritual corruption (Col. 3:5, 75Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: (Colossians 3:5)
7In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. (Colossians 3:7)
), says, “in the which ye also walked sometime when ye lived in them;” and it is difficult to suppose, that he used life in sin, and death in sin, to express precisely the same thing. Turning to Rom. 6:22God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:2), should it not be, “dead by sin? If sin is such a dreadful thing as to have exposed us all to the punishment of death—from which Christ's death alone frees us—how can we think of continuing in it any longer? In chapter 5:12, we have “death by sin;” and in verse 17, “By one man's offense.” Why then in Rom. 6:22God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:2) is “to” to be employed in rendering the same dative case? The apostle has shown what we have incurred by sin, and then immediately he is made to say, “How shall we who are dead to sin?” which has no force in connection with his previous reasoning. In regard to Rom. 6:10, 1110For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 11Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:10‑11), how can Christ be said to be dead unto sin? but if it should be “dead by sin” —by reason of man's sin, the sense is plain, “in that he liveth, he liveth by God,” “by the power of God.” (2 Cor. 13:44For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (2 Corinthians 13:4).)
The received version of Gal. 2:1919For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. (Galatians 2:19) is “to the law;” but it is argued, it should he by the law; the law denounces death.
The value of these queries may not at first be very obvious; but these passages have an importance in a controversy not needful to mention here; and we cannot be too anxious to endeavor to ascertain the correct text of the word of God.
Wherein does the apostle's assertion, “that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,” which he emphatically calls “the gospel which, he preached,” or Father part of it for he goes on to insist on the deep importance of Christ's resurrection) differ substantially from the statement in 1 Peter 2:2424Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. (1 Peter 2:24)? though all must admit that the latter passage is specifically addressed to believers—to those who have returned “to the Shepherd of their souls.” Taking 1 Cor. 15 in all simplicity, it appears to me to warrant my telling any man, that Christ died for his sins and not merely that be is the Lamb of God “that taketh away sin.” “Our” cannot mean in this connection the sins of Paul and other believers; for what possible “gospel” or good news, could that be to unconverted sinners? And such the Corinthians were when Paul first preached unto them. T. D.
A. As regards Rom. 6, the wished-for translation is the result of a misconception of the whole passage. It makes it a motive drawn from a previous evil result and no more; whereas it is perfectly certain that the passage contemplates our dying in becoming Christians, not by our sins. Those who have been baptized unto Christ have been baptized unto His death. We have been made one plant with Him in the likeness of His death; and this in order that we might walk in newness of life. Hence it is perfectly certain that the doctrine of the chapter is dying out of our old man, and living in newness of life—not our dying by our sins so as to be afraid of living in it now. And such is the whole tenor of the chapter; “our old man had been crucified with him;” and the use too of the dative at the close. How the writer can take νόμψ in Gal. 2:1919For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. (Galatians 2:19), as “by the law,” is hard to conceive; because it is preceded by διὰ νόμου, meaning by the law, which makes it simply impossible.
2 Cor. 13:44For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God toward you. (2 Corinthians 13:4), is ἐκ δυνάμεως, I suppose he only quotes this for the sense. Living in sin, and being dead in it, is not the same thing. One is the continuity of the old man in sin, the other is his state in respect of God; but both are true. Alienated from the life of God. A reference to Colossians shows, in the analogous passage, νεκροῦς... ἐν τοῖς παραπτώμασι καὶ τῆ ἀκροβυστία. Now ἐν can be used as an instrument or power too. But I think no intelligent Christian could doubt what it means here; and I do not see how it is possible with ἀκροβυστία to take it in any other sense than in.' Besides, νεκρούς would not be the word. It signifies properly 'a corpse.' It is not dying as a punishment for them, but a state in which they were. Then God creates again. They are viewed not as dying by or for their sins. It is not ἀπεθάνετε, but being νεκρούς He has quickened. The first work in the corpse is quickening with Christ, God's act. In Romans and Colossians, being alive in sin, ye have died (ἀπεθάνετε) in Christ. In Ephesians, being νεκροί, we have been quickened with Him. It is a new creation. It does not seem to me there can be the smallest doubt of what is the right translation.
As to 1 Cor. 15, again, I know of no objection, if used in a general way of saying, Christ died for any man's sins. In the passage, however, Paul is addressing believers as such, but still speaks vaguely, so that “he that hath ears to hear” may apply it. “Ηe is a propitiation for the whole world.” But this is never said of bearing sins. That is carefully avoided in Scripture. It will not be found other than dying for our sins. But “bearing” in all parts of Scripture is thus specifically confined. So we read, ‘We beseech in Christ's stead, Be reconciled... for he hath made him to be sin for us.' Scripture is accurate here—a propitiation set out before all, and sure remission of all, if we come; but bearing sins never extended to those who are lost, or His doing it might be in vain for believers. “Our” to saints or sinners is the scriptural way of putting it.