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19 Why then was the law given?[a] It was added[b] because of transgressions,[c] until the arrival of the descendant[d] to whom the promise had been made. It was administered[e] through angels by an intermediary.[f]

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  1. Galatians 3:19 tn Grk “Why then the law?”
  2. Galatians 3:19 tc For προσετέθη (prosetethē) several Western witnesses have ἐτέθη (etethē, “it was established”; so D* F G it Irlat Ambst Spec). The net effect of this reading, in conjunction with the largely Western reading of πράξεων (praxeōn) for παραβάσεων (parabaseōn), seems to be a very positive assessment of the law. But there are compelling reasons for rejecting this reading: (1) externally, it is provincial and relatively late; (2) internally: (a) transcriptionally, there seems to be a much higher transcriptional probability that a scribe would try to smooth over Paul’s harsh saying here about the law than vice versa; (b) intrinsically: [1] Paul has already argued that the law came after the promise (vv. 15-18), indicating, more than likely, its temporary nature; [2] the verb “was added” in v. 19 (προσετέθη) is different from the verb in v. 15 (ἐπιδιατάσσεται, epidiatassetai); virtually all exegetes recognize this as an intentional linguistic shift on Paul’s part in order not to contradict his statement in v. 15; [3] the temper of 3:1-4:7 is decidedly against a positive statement about the Torah’s role in Heilsgeschichte.
  3. Galatians 3:19 tc παραδόσεων (paradoseōn; “traditions, commandments”) is read by D*, while the vast majority of witnesses read παραβάσεων (parabaseōn, “transgressions”). D’s reading makes little sense in this context. πράξεων (praxeōn, “of deeds”) replaces παραβάσεων in P46 F G it Irlat Ambst Spec. The wording is best taken as going with νόμος (nomos; “Why then the law of deeds?”), as is evident by the consistent punctuation in the later witnesses. But such an expression is unpauline and superfluous; it was almost certainly added by some early scribe(s) to soften the blow of Paul’s statement.
  4. Galatians 3:19 tn Grk “the seed.” See the note on the first occurrence of the word “descendant” in 3:16.
  5. Galatians 3:19 tn Or “was ordered.” L&N 31.22 has “was put into effect” here.
  6. Galatians 3:19 tn Many modern translations (NASB, NIV, NRSV) render this word (μεσίτης, mesitēs; here and in v. 20) as “mediator,” but this conveys a wrong impression in contemporary English. If this is referring to Moses, he certainly did not “mediate” between God and Israel but was an intermediary on God’s behalf. Moses was not a mediator, for example, who worked for compromise between opposing parties. He instead was God’s representative to his people who enabled them to have a relationship, but entirely on God’s terms.