Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

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Stephen Carlson
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Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 8th, 2011, 2:56 pm

According to the NA27 text, Gal 1:4 has this description of Jesus Christ:
τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν
who gave himself for our sins
Many manuscripts, however, including the important P46, Sinaiticus, A 1739 and DFG read περί instead of ὑπέρ.

BDAG basically proposes the same meaning for both these prepositions. It is my feeling, however, that there is a tendency among commentators to minimize the semantic difference between variant readings (so they don't have settle difficult text critical issues), and I wonder if the commentary on Gal 1:4 is no different.

So, my question is: is there any difference in meaning between these two prepositions in the context of Gal 1:4?

Stephen Carlson
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cwconrad
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by cwconrad » December 8th, 2011, 4:05 pm

Stephen Carlson wrote:According to the NA27 text, Gal 1:4 has this description of Jesus Christ:
τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν
who gave himself for our sins
Many manuscripts, however, including the important P46, Sinaiticus, A 1739 and DFG read περί instead of ὑπέρ.

BDAG basically proposes the same meaning for both these prepositions. It is my feeling, however, that there is a tendency among commentators to minimize the semantic difference between variant readings (so they don't have settle difficult text critical issues), and I wonder if the commentary on Gal 1:4 is no different.

So, my question is: is there any difference in meaning between these two prepositions in the context of Gal 1:4?

Stephen Carlson
Perhaps I haven't read as many commentators, but my own impression is the opposite, that commentators tend to maximize semantic differences between what might well be synonymous words or expressions. I wonder if this particular question about the overlap and distinction between these two prepositions has ever been carefully researched. Louw & Nida seem to say that the two carry the same sense when they govern "general content":
Louw&Nida 90.24 wrote:περίb (with the genitive); ὑπέρb (with the genitive): markers of general content, whether of a discourse or mental activity — ‘concerning, about, of.’8
περίb: γνώσεται περὶ τῆς διδαχῆς ‘he will know concerning the teaching’ Jn 7:17; εὐθὺς λέγουσιν αὐτῷ περὶ αὐτῆς ‘immediately they spoke to him about her’ Mk 1:30.
ὑπέρb: οὗτός ἐστιν ὑπὲρ οὗ ἐγὼ εἶπον ‘this is the one concerning whom I spoke’ Jn 1:30; πολλή μοι καύχησις ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ‘my great confidence concerning you’ 2Cor 7:4; ἡ ἐλπὶς ἡμῶν βεβαία ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν ‘our hope concerning you is firm’ 2Cor 1:7.
On the other hand, they insist that in matters of benefaction περί is properly used of events (or things?) while ὑπέρ is standard usage for persons:
Louw&Nida 90.36 wrote:90.36 ὑπέρa (with the genitive): a marker of a participant who is benefited by an event or on [p. 803] whose behalf an event takes place — ‘for, on behalf of, for the sake of.’ ὅς ἐστιν πιστὸς ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν διάκονος τοῦ Χριστοῦ ‘who is a faithful servant of Christ on your behalf’ Col 1:7; ἵνα εἷς ἄνθρωπος ἀποθάνῃ ὑπὲρ τοῦ λαοῦ ‘in order that one person might die on behalf of the nation’ Jn 11:50; δεήσεις, προσευχάς, ἐντεύξεις, εὐχαριστίας, ὑπὲρ πάντων ἀνθρώπων ‘petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving on behalf of all people’ 1Tm 2:1; τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ‘he who gave himself on behalf of our sins’ Ga 1:4. In a number of languages, one cannot speak of ‘doing something on behalf of sins’; only a person can be benefited by an event, and therefore one must translate ‘who gave himself on behalf of us who had sinned’ in Ga 1:4. See also 90.39.
Louw&Nida 90.39 wrote:περίe (with the genitive): a marker of events which are indirectly involved in a beneficial activity — ‘on behalf of.’ ὅτι καὶ Χριστὸς ἅπαξ περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἔπαθεν ‘because Christ once for all suffered on behalf of sins’ 1Pe 3:18. A strictly literal translation of this expression in 1Pe 3:18 could be extremely misleading in some languages, since it would imply that Christ’s suffering in some way benefited or enhanced sins. Accordingly, it is necessary in a number of languages to translate as ‘because Christ once for all suffered for the sake of people who had sinned.’ Note a similar use of ὑπέρ in Ga 1:4 (see 90.36).
My guess is that there's a distinction but that it's not always carefully observed by authors or speakers. While we're at it, maybe we can clarify the usage of English "for" and "over" ("Don't cry for me ... ", "Shed a tear over ... " and German "für" and "über."
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οὔτοι ἀπ’ ἀρχῆς πάντα θεοὶ θνητοῖς ὑπέδειξαν,
ἀλλὰ χρόνῳ ζητέοντες ἐφευρίσκουσιν ἄμεινον. (Xenophanes, Fragment 16)

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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 8th, 2011, 8:02 pm

cwconrad wrote:Perhaps I haven't read as many commentators, but my own impression is the opposite, that commentators tend to maximize semantic differences between what might well be synonymous words or expressions.
If both the words or expressions are in the text, my impression is the same as yours. But between the text and the variants, my impression is that their differences are minimized.

Stephen
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Mark Lightman
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by Mark Lightman » December 8th, 2011, 9:31 pm

I am on record as saying that the fact that the textual variants move back and forth comfortably between things that we make a big deal of--word order, καὶ versus δὲ, the tenses, λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν versus λέγει αὺτῲ, ὑπὲρ versus ἀντὶ, θέλω versus βούλομαι, etc, shows that these differences were primarily not semantic but stylistic. The Greeks loved variety, and would choose from overlapping forms to create sentences which sounded euphonic and balanced to them. Homer was the first guy to do this, and the best of all.

I cannot prove any of this. It's just a feeling I get. I think we do the same thing in English. I call this semantic minimalism.
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by Stephen Carlson » December 9th, 2011, 12:27 am

Mark Lightman wrote:I am on record as saying that the fact that the textual variants move back and forth comfortably between things that we make a big deal of--word order, καὶ versus δὲ, the tenses, λέγει πρὸς αὐτὸν versus λέγει αὺτῲ, ὑπὲρ versus ἀντὶ, θέλω versus βούλομαι, etc, shows that these differences were primarily not semantic but stylistic. The Greeks loved variety, and would choose from overlapping forms to create sentences which sounded euphonic and balanced to them. Homer was the first guy to do this, and the best of all.
OK, I'll bite. What's the difference in stylistic effect between ὑπέρ and περί? How is one more euphonic than the other?

Stephen
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Iver Larsen
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by Iver Larsen » December 9th, 2011, 4:07 am

If we look at the two prepositions when they co-occur with "sin" there does seem to be a slight difference. περὶ is more general and it refers to the reason and necessity for a sacrifice without having the beneficiary in focus, while ὑπὲρ appears to have the implied beneficiary more in focus.

Paul consistently uses ὑπὲρ as in 1 Cor 15:3, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 1:4. John has settled for περὶ and it may well be that the small distinction was lost over time. The variant περὶ in Gal 1:4 appears to be a later adjustment to such a change in usage.

Hebrews uses both expressions, but the small distinction may be seen:

5:1 Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεὺς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων καθίσταται τὰ πρὸς τὸν θεόν, ἵνα προσφέρῃ δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν
(for the benefit of those who have sinned, not for the benefit of sins, It s a metonymy wher sins stand for sinners)

5:3 καὶ δι᾽ αὐτὴν ὀφείλει, καθὼς περὶ τοῦ λαοῦ, οὕτως καὶ περὶ αὐτοῦ προσφέρειν περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν
both with respect to the sins of the people and with respect to his own sins

7:27 πρότερον ὑπὲρ τῶν ἰδίων ἁμαρτιῶν θυσίας ἀναφέρειν ἔπειτα τῶν τοῦ λαοῦ
for the benefit of himself (his own sins) and then for the benefit of the people (who have sinned)

10:6 ὁλοκαυτώματα καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας οὐκ εὐδόκησας
You were not pleased with whole-burnt offerings and (offerings) with respect to sin (also 10:8)

10:12 οὗτος δὲ μίαν ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν προσενέγκας θυσίαν
he having brought one sacrifice for the benefit of those who sinned/of sins

10:18 οὐκέτι προσφορὰ περὶ ἁμαρτίας
there is no longer (need for) an offering with respect to sin

10:26 οὐκέτι περὶ ἁμαρτιῶν ἀπολείπεται θυσία
there no longer remains a sacrifice with respect to sins

13:11 εἰσφέρεται ζῴων τὸ αἷμα περὶ ἁμαρτίας εἰς τὰ ἅγια
the blood of animals is brought into the holy (places) occassioned by/with respect to sin

1 Pet 3:18 keeps the distinction, but 1 John 2:2 and 4:10 uses περὶ where Paul would probably have used ὑπὲρ.
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by David Lim » December 10th, 2011, 10:42 pm

This is my present understanding of the usual meaning of these prepositions:
"υπερ" + genitive = for (for the sake of) [Luke 22:19-20, John 6:51, 11:4, Rom 15:8-9]
"περι" + genitive = { about / concerning } (a topic) [John 8:46, 16:8-9, Rom 8:3]

Thus "υπερ αμαρτιων" naturally implies "υπερ ημων" and therefore "ημεις" are the beneficiaries, but "beneficiary" does not seem to be inherent in the preposition itself.
Also "περι αμαρτιας" does not necessarily indicate any reason for a sacrifice but rather indicates that the topic is sin.
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by David Lim » December 10th, 2011, 10:47 pm

cwconrad wrote:My guess is that there's a distinction but that it's not always carefully observed by authors or speakers. While we're at it, maybe we can clarify the usage of English "for" and "over" ("Don't cry for me ... ", "Shed a tear over ... " and German "für" and "über."
Interesting. How about "cry for nothing" and "mourn over him"? Seems like English speakers do not bother much either. ;)
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Re: Gal 1:4 ὑπὲρ / περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν

Post by S Walch » December 17th, 2011, 9:17 am

Iver Larsen wrote:Paul consistently uses ὑπὲρ as in 1 Cor 15:3, 2 Cor 5:21, Gal 1:4. John has settled for περὶ and it may well be that the small distinction was lost over time. The variant περὶ in Gal 1:4 appears to be a later adjustment to such a change in usage.
I don't want to bring this into a discussion on textual variants, but if your last statement is true, would we not see a few manuscripts that change ὑπὲρ to περὶ in more verses (and I guess vice-versa), other than, as far as I can find in the NA apparatus, this one place in Gal 1:4?

And as Mr. Carlson mentioned in his first post, Papyrus 46 has περὶ rather than ὑπὲρ (dated around 150-200 CE (and P46 also omits τῶν from the text as well)), therefore showing that the difference probably shouldn't be classed as a "later" adjustment, but quite an early one in the textual tradition of the NT.

I don't see any particular difference between ὑπὲρ and περὶ, as both have meanings that overlap, but the change from περὶ to ὑπὲρ in Gal 1:4 is probably a more "correction" to conform Gal 1:4 with 1 Cor 15:3, as περὶ only ever appears with ἁμαρτία in Paul's writings in Romans 8:3, but that isn't "with regards to our sins". I'm actually quite surprised to see that ὑπὲρ and ἁμαρτία only appear together in the Pauline writings in the three verses you mentioned above. I thought it was a bit more common than it actually is :)

In fact, ὑπὲρ with ἁμαρτία is extremely rare in the NT itself (1 Cor 15:3; 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 1:4 (questionable); Heb 5:1, 7:27, 10:2), when compared with περὶ and ἁμαρτία (John 8:46, 15:22, 16:8, 9; Rom 8:3; Heb 5:3, 10:6, 8, 18, 26, 13:11; 1 Pet 3:18; 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

Does anyone know whether someone has done a study on these two prepositions as they are used in the NT? It would be quite helpful in determining whether it is just a stylistic difference, or whether a definite difference of meaning can be determined between the two :)

Stephen Walch
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