Re: Help with Gal 5:16

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Tue Apr 28 1998 - 08:10:12 EDT

At 5:17 PM -0500 4/27/98, Eric Weiss wrote:
>I had never thought to translate Galatians 5:16 with an imperative as
>Carl suggested, but a quick search on Bible Gateway and the NET Bible
>shows that the RSV at least suggests this translation; but every other
>translation in this admittedly small sample suggests outcome rather than
>NIV So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires
>of the sinful nature.
>RSV But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the
>KJV This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the
>lust of the flesh.
>DBY (Darby) But I say, Walk in [the] Spirit, and ye shall no way fulfil
>flesh's lust.
>YLT (Young's) And I say: In the Spirit walk ye, and the desire of the
>flesh ye may not complete;
>NASB But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the
>desire of the flesh.
>NET (New English Translation But I say, live by the
>Spirit and you will
>not carry out the desires of the flesh.

I'd say that YLT also pretty clearly views this as an imperative ("may not
complete" here surely doesn't either indicate mere possibility or

BDF#365 "OU MH with the aorist subjunctive or future indicative, both of
which are classical, is the most definite form of negation regarding the
future. This mode of expression is more common in the NT and for the most
part less emphatic than in the classical language, but it is virtually
limited to quotations from the LXX and sayings of Jesus ..."

I can understand that these translators want to coordinate the two clauses,
and if that is done, then the second clause does appear to be a consequence
of the first. But in my opinion that is to ignore the fact that the first
verb here is in the present, the second in the aorist; I think that what we
have here is a careful coordination of two imperative phrases, the first
one strongly positive and phrased in the progressive aspect to underscore
the ongoing endeavor to live by the Spirit, the second one phrased in the
aorist with OU MH to indicate what one absolutely must NOT do.
Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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