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What does it mean in 2 Corinthians 5:14 that "were all dead/all have died?"

ESV
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;  {"were all dead", KJV}

ESV
and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

2 Corinthians 5:14 - 15

ESV - 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Clarify Share Report Asked May 13 2019 Mini Jack Gutknecht

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Closeup Jennifer Rothnie Supporter Housewife, Artist, Perpetually Curious
2 Corinthians 5:14 is "For the love of Christ compresses us, having concluded this: That one died for all, therefore all died."

Contrast this to the KJV translation which introduces several errors:
"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:"

There is no 'if' here in the Greek, and the phrase 'then were all dead' is different from the Greek "ara hoi pantes apethanon" which is literally 'therefore, (the) all have died.'

The KJV mistranslation can at first glance make this verse look like it is talking about how everyone before Christ is dead in sin. But while a true sentiment, that is not what this passage is speaking about.

Putting the KJV translation aside, we can examine the context of the passage to find out what it is talking about.

"For the love of Christ compresses us, having concluded this: That one died for all, therefore all died. And for all He died, that those living no longer for themselves should live, but for the One having died and been raised again for them." II Cor 5:4-5

In the immediate context, we see a parallel structure. The one who died for 'all' in verse 4 is the one who died and was raised 'for them' in verse five. The 'all died' is parallel with 'those no longer living for themselves' in verse five.

All, or pás, means 'all' in the sense of each and every part that applies, with an emphasis on the individual parts making up the whole. As such, the term pás/all can apply to different things in scripture. Sometimes it applies to the whole world (Jn 3:16,) to every person in the world, to all members of a specific class or group (Matt 3:10,) all things in a category (Mk 4:34,) the whole extent of something (I Cor 13:2,) all people meeting a condition (Acts 2:21); and even in an idiomatic sense like 'all manner of' (Matt 9:35) or 'a lot of' or 'as many as' (Matt 22:10,) etc.

If the term has some form of restriction, that will be apparent from context. And in this case, we know from the parallel structure that the "all have died" is the same group as those who "no longer live for themselves but for the one who died for them." That is, believers! 

This also makes sense in the larger context of Paul's letter: He is speaking to believers of how our true life is not in this 'mortal body' which will perish but in the new 'heavenly dwelling' we will receive - a spiritual body, at the judgement. Due to this, we are not supposed to view others - whether Christians or unbelievers, through 'worldly' judgments such as reputation, status, ethnicity, who saw Christ while He was alive, etc. And so we who have died and no longer live for ourselves go out with this in mind to preach a message of reconciliation to the rest of the world.

So, then, what does it mean that believers "have died" yet now live to Christ? This concept is detailed extensively in Rom 5:1-11:

"....We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, a that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him...In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus."

We unite in Christ's death and 'die to sin' - God raises us to new life, and we then live for the one who died for us! Because of this, we have confidence to share the good news that anyone can be reconciled to God in this way.

May 13 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report


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