[b-greek] Re: Gal. 3:24

From: Michael Haggett (michaelhaggett@lineone.net)
Date: Sat May 12 2001 - 23:20:30 EDT

Carl has said that these three constructions mean pretty much the same


... and used the measured tones that I've come to expect from him in the
remainder of that post.

However in his next post he went on to say that he saw no element of
"potential" in the third of these. I don't often disagree with Carl, but I
have to say that I most strongly disagree with him on this.

Although I think it could be said that this and those two alternatives
express the same GENERAL idea, Carl seems to completely miss the difference
in TONE between them. It really isn't good enough to be satisfied only with
understanding something in a general way. Language is far richer than that
... HOW you say something is as important (if not more important) as WHAT
you say - any politician, salesman, teacher or preacher knows that!

Let me illustrate with these examples:

Don't say that
You will not say that
You do not say that
You shouldn't say that
You are not to say that

The same idea is expressed ... but in different ways. And the TONE you
choose will very likely affect the response you get. Pick the wrong tone,
and you'll alienate rather than persuade others.

Now, I will accept that there might sometimes be some doubt about EXACTLY
WHAT DIFFERENCE a writer intended when using such Greek constructions (and
particularly when we might not see how the difference could be reflected in
translation), but my initial rule of thumb would be to assume that different
constructions and phraseologies are used to convey things in DIFFERENT ways,
rather than assume that they interchangeably say the same thing the same

So I think Mark is right to be sceptical about Carl's assertion.


Turning now to the specifics of Galatians 3:24, I think the element of
potential is entirely appropriate for what I understand Paul to mean. I
think Carl has interpreted the "we" to refer only to believers ... for that
is the only way I can make sense of the justification being a "fact" without
any element of potential.

I, in contrast, take the "we" to refer to those to whom the Law was given -
the Jews (and perhaps those Gentiles who had attached themselves to the
synagogue as Godfearers). So Paul is therefore saying that the Law became
something to "paidagogue" us (i.e. the Jews) to Christ. BUT, having
presented us with Christ as it's end, justification is something that can be
either accepted or not accepted. Justification is therefore something
potential rather than certain (leaving aside any predestination/election
element). And in fact, as we now know with hindsight, most first century
Jews did NOT accept it ... for them it remained an unrealized potential!

So to my mind the use of the subjunctive here is not forced or in any way
unnatural. It is only "forced" if we apply the "we" to the wrong group,
because it is only by doing this that we can logically remove the natural
potentiality that the subjunctive conveys.

Michael Haggett

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