Galatians 2.20

TC has written a post arguing for a different understanding of the phrase ἐν ἐμοὶ. While I will concede that such an interpretation is possible, I believer the more traditional understanding is best. And here is why: Its the verb. ζάω occurs in the GNT around 140 times or so. Of those times, it has our little preposition above twelve times. All of them either directly or indirectly comes from Paul – there’s one time in Acts where Paul is preaching.

I would argue that the meaning of a given constituent phrase is closely related to the verb used. I think it seems pretty clear overall that there is a tendency for the phrase to denote location rather than reference. But more importantly when you look at the specific verse in question, the fact that the prepositional phrase occurs twice with the verb. The second one rather clearly denotes the location where Paul is living – that is in the body/flesh. That is the biggest reason why the phrase ἐν ἐμοι should be understood in the same way.

(Note: The translations are not mine, they are the NRSV)

Acts 17:28 ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν ὡς καί τινες τῶν καθʼ ὑμᾶς ποιητῶν εἰρήκασιν τοῦ γὰρ καὶ γένος ἐσμέν For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’
Rom 6:2 μὴ γένοιτο οἵτινες ἀπεθάνομεν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ πῶς ἔτι ζήσομεν ἐν αὐτῇ By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?
Rom 6:11 οὕτως καὶ ὑμεῖς λογίζεσθε ἑαυτοὺς εἶναι νεκροὺς μὲν τῇ ἁμαρτίᾳ ζῶντας δὲ τῷ θεῷ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ So you also must consider yourselves • • dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Rom 10:5 Μωϋσῆς γὰρ γράφει τὴν δικαιοσύνην τὴν ἐκ τοῦ νόμου ὅτι ποιήσας αὐτὰ ἄνθρωπος ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς • Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things • will live by them.”
Gal 2:20 ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith • in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.


Gal 3:12 δὲ νόμος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ πίστεως ἀλλʼ ποιήσας αὐτὰ ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law will live by them.”
Phil 1:22 εἰ δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω • If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer.
Col 2:20 εἰ ἀπεθάνετε σὺν Χριστῷ ἀπὸ τῶν στοιχείων τοῦ κόσμου τί ὡς ζῶντες ἐν κόσμῳ δογματίζεσθε If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations,
Col 3:7 ἐν οἷς καὶ ὑμεῖς περιεπατήσατέ ποτε ὅτε ἐζῆτε ἐν τούτοις These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.
2 Tim 3:12 καὶ πάντες δὲ οἱ θέλοντες εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διωχθήσονται Indeed, • all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Titus 2:12-13 παιδεύουσα ἡμᾶς ἵνα ἀρνησάμενοι τὴν ἀσέβειαν καὶ τὰς κοσμικὰς ἐπιθυμίας σωφρόνως καὶ δικαίως καὶ εὐσεβῶς ζήσωμεν A 13 προσδεχόμενοι τὴν μακαρίαν ἐλπίδα καὶ ἐπιφάνειαν τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, • upright, and godly, while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

3 thoughts on “Galatians 2.20

  1. Mike, I appropriately impressed with your research. I noticed that you said that my proposal is a possibility (thanks).

    I would argue that the meaning of a given constituent phrase is closely related to the verb used.

    I believe this statement is the clincher in favor of the traditional rendering.

    My venture, as I mentioned, is a proposal, but not with much linguistic support, as it turns out.

  2. As you know Mike, exploring the possibilities is part of it. But sometimes you have to forgo some of them for the best one.

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