In What Sense Do I Still Live? By Noel McRae
There are some interesting differences in translation between the KJV and other versions on Galatians 2:20. I am not a fan of the KJV version, but I found this study interesting.
The KJV is unique in using the English present tense to translate the "perfect" Greek tense. "I am crucified with Christ." Is this wrong? Dig out your various versions to see how they translate it.
The "perfect" indicates a completed action with ongoing effects. When the Greek perfect tense seems to be directed toward the completion of the event, we tend to translate it with "have" or "has." Paul says, "I have finished the race" (2 Tim 4:7).
When the perfect seems to be directed toward the consequences of the event, we often use the English present tense. "Jesus says, ‘Your sins are forgiven’" (Matt 9:2).The KJV is properly emphasizing that while the fact of our death with Christ is an accomplished fact ("I have been crucified"), it is nevertheless a present reality; I live as one who was and is still crucified with Christ.
This seems a better translation based on the needs of the immediate context. The emphasis is not on what happened to us, but on the the present life we are living, which is based not only on the past work of Christ on the cross but also on the ongoing life of faith motivated by Jesus’ love.
But there is another difference between the KJV and other translations, and it is the next phrase. "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me" Other translations say something like, "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (NLT, NIV).
The KJV seems to assert that the individual, even after crucifixion with Christ, still lives — and the question would be, in what sense do I still live.
This is not even an option in the other translations. I don’t think I would make a big deal of this, since the next phrase seems to contradict it. "I live; yet not I." Hmm, which is it? Once you look at the statement in the theological flow of the verse, you can see what Paul is saying.
• He is crucified with Christ.
• Despite the crucifixion, he still lives.
• Yet, the life he lives is considerably different from his previous life.
Greek scholar Bill Mounce says, "The KJV requires you to process the language and to read it all in context. And while
I am not a big KJV fan, I do like the higher level of prose that requires me to stop and think through what is being said. But most modern translations don’t want us to work so hard, and they iron out the potential contradiction ("I live; I don’t live") by saying, ‘It is no longer I who live.’"
At conversion, our life ended. we experienced a death to the "old man." And we daily live as one who is crucified — or at least that is the challenge of the Christian journey. And while we are still alive, we are alive to a new kind of life that is lived through faith, motivated by the fact that Jesus loved (and loves) us and gave himself for us.
So the key question to me in studying this verse is, how different is my life? Is it characterized by death to self and a life of faith and love? Or, if the truth be known, is there little difference?