Galatians: Chapter 1:1-10

This is generally considered the second oldest of Paul’s genuine letters.  Galatians, to me, represents something of a new step for Paul, because this one is primarily a doctrinal letter,

Some of the tensions that are hinted at in 1 Thessalonians–especially the idea of other gospels–have bubbled closer to the surface, if they haven’t overspilled.  In particular, the tensions with the Assembly of Jerusalem, led by James, brother of the lord, as Paul casually calls him, have become more strained.  One gets the sense that Paul. A certain chunk of 1 Thess was full of what sounds like Paul being defensive and trying to justify himself; here, he has gone on the offensive.  He’s taking it to James and Peter.

Of particular interest is Paul’s story of his conversion.  We all “know” about the road to Damascus and the blinding light and all of that.  Odd that Paul mentions none of this.  Jesus came to him as a revelation (apocalypse, in Greek) from God, but a lot–make that most–of the familiar details are absent.  Why?

One possible answer is that these details were too well known to need repeating.  Another, simpler, answer is that Luke made them up when he wrote Acts.

Another interesting bit comes at the end of Chapter 1 and into Chapter 2.  This section describes what has been called the Synod of Jerusalem; an absolutely, completely anachronistic term meant to tie the discussions between Paul and James as the precursor of, and similar to, the Synods and Councils that were held later, especially after Constantine converted and legalized Christianity after 312. but calling this a ‘synod’ is every bit as an achronistic as calling the Assembly (perhaps ‘assembly’ is more accurate) of Jerusalam, or Galatia, or Thessalonika a ‘church’.  It completely warps the reality of the 50s CE with its glacial overburden of accumulated meaning.

The issue at the heart of the discussions between Paul and James was whether Gentiles–non-Jews–had to become Jews before they could become followers of Jesus.  James said yes; Paul said no.  Paul, eventually, won.

One other point about Galatians, and 1 Thessalonians, and Philippians, is that they are some of  the only pieces of proto-Christian writing that were written before the destruction of Jerusalem and the subsequent Diaspora of Jews that occurred in the revolt described by Josephus.  1 and 2 Corinthians and Romans probably fall into the same category, but it’s not as certain. Most scholars take this position, but the alternative is easily possible. It’s also to be noted that these six letters, and the letter to Philemon, are the only letters that scholars confidently ascribe to Paul himself.  The others were likely written by his followers, like Timothy and Titus.

If you don’t believe this, try this test.  I have been a lector in my church, and have read any number of passages from the authentic letters, especially 1 & 2  Corinthians, and Romans.  I suggest you read sections–at random–out loud. Then read something from Timothy. The syntax of the authentic letters is tortured in English, and the Greek is very stylized.  Timothy? Ephesians?  Not so much. They read much, much more easily than the 7 authentic letters.

Meant to incude this in a previous paragraph, but the writing moved on, and now it doesn’t fit.  The authentic letters were also mostly written before the death of James, brother of Jesus, also known as James the Just.  The standard date for his martyrdom is 64 CE.

Enough of my blather. Let’s listen to Paul. He’s much more entertaing.

1 Παῦλος ἀπό.στολος, οὐκ ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

Paul, an apostle neither from men, or by men, but through Jesus Messiah

Here we have our first bit of doctrine.  He specifically calls Jesus the “Christ”.  In Greek, this literally means ‘anointed one’, which is more or less the translation of  “messiah” in Hebrew or Aramaic, whichever it is.  Already, apparently, the idea of Jesus the Christ had become a foundation stone of Christian belief.  We saw this in 1 Thessalonians.

καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν

and by God the father who awakened him (Jesus) from the dead,

 God the Father, which had become a fairly general belief among Jews.  But note: Jesus did not rise from the dead.  Rather, God raised Jesus.  In the second clause, the “him” is in the accusative case, which denotes a direct object.  So God did the raising; Jesus was raised.

If God is our father, then are we are all ‘sons of God’?  This is neither a rhetorical question, nor a point of logic.  It has implications for the application of the term to Jesus, which would, otherwise, somehow set him apart.  Achilles was the son of (a) god(dess), and Herakles was the son of (a) god, and Alexander  The Great claimed to be a ‘son of (a) god’ in his propaganda.  Now, in Greek, “son of a god” and “son of god” (or “son of God”, for that matter) would both be << ὑιος θεου >>.  As such, any distinction between ‘son of god/son of a god’comes only from the way it is translated into English.  Also used in 1 Thess, 1:1—missed it there.

 Also, Jesus did not ‘rise’. He was ‘raised’.  This, potentially, has huge implications for the question of Jesus’ divinity.  Here is a great example of what we “know” about Christianity.  Of course Jesus was divine; we knew that going in, and the matter was never questioned.  However, this was not at all true.  It was not until the gospel of John, written perhaps 40-50 years after this letter, that we get an unambiguous statement of Jesus as the co-equal of God The Father (=GTF).  In fact, the nature of Jesus led to a number of heresies, such as Arianism, which taught that Jesus was a lesser god than God The Father.

 The debates about who, exactly, Jesus was, and what the implications of this raged well into the 5th Century CE. 

So, was Jesus considered divine?  As we will see in Mark, the answer to this question is not completely conclusive.  I mention this here as something of a foreshadow of the discussion that will take place in Mark.  Remember: this was written a decade–or more like two–before Mark; and since Mark is, at the least,  a bit ambiguous about the divinity of Jesus, we can note that this may not have been a settled issue at the time of Paul’s writing.  

So, if Jesus ‘was raised’, this could be seen as indicating that Paul did not see Jesus as a being that was equal to, co-eternal with, or identical with GTF.  This will become especially interesting when we get to Mark’s gospel.

A final note.  The word that I have been translating as ‘raised’ could almost be transliterated into English as ‘energized,.

2 καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντες ἀδελφοί, ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας

and all those brothers with me, to the asembly of the Galatians(,)

‘Galatia’ is singular; ergo, it is the region, not the people, who would be pluralized.  Given the way the cases are juggled, it is difficult to get the Greek and English to line up.

3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς καὶ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

greetings to you, and the from God the father and our lord Jesus Christ

God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Implications of Jesus’ superior status, but it does seem to imply some sort of division or distinction between GTF and Jesus, does it not?

Lord Jesus Christ.  As noted in 1 Thessalonians, the use of “lord” has divine implications.  This is more or less translated from Hebrew as ‘adonnai,’ which is a common invocation in Hebrew-language prayers. If you’ve ever spent a Friday eveing in Temple, or heard someone light the menorrah, you’ve heard the word.  As such, does this not contradict, or weigh against my contention in V 2?  Not necessarily.  Paul has no doubt, and leaves no doubt in his readers, that Jesus was The Christ.  As such, he certainly could have had some divine characteristics.  The question is, was Jesus divine, or was The Christ divine?  This is a big question throughout the Pauline corpus, and much of the NT.

 Should have (at least) mentioned this prior, but here is a pretty fundamental situation when the Greek and the Latin do not line up especially well.  The Greek ‘χάρις’ is rendered by the Latin ‘gratia’χάρις’ is the root of ‘charity’, but it also has the sense of ‘thanks’ as in ‘eu-charist’ = ‘good thanks‘.  ‘Gratiais the root of gracias’ or ‘grazie’, or ‘thanks’ as they have come down in Spanish or Italian, which is why St Jerome chose to use it.  But ‘gratia‘ is also the root for ‘gratis’ in English, which means ‘free’, as in, ‘no cost’, which is also the base meaning in Latin.  This comes through if you think of ‘gracias’ as meaning, ‘it came at no cost to me’, or, ‘no problem’.

Of course, ‘gratia’ is also the root of the English ‘grace’.  This latter term has become loaded down with huge theological implications in the intervening millennia.  And the fact that the Western Chuch worked from the Latin word, with its meaning of ‘at no cost’ had a major impact on the Western doctrine of grace as something that was a free gift of God.  Augustine and Luther after him put a lot of emphasis on this ‘free’ aspect of  grace.    Here, in both Latin and Greek, it more simply means ‘thanks’ .

3 gratia vobis et pax a Deo Patre nostro et Domino Iesu Christo,

4 τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν περὶ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς

(Jesus being) the one having given himself over (for) our sins, so that he may rescue us from the evil age that is the one standing ( = current age), according to the will of our God and father.

Our sins.  Christ was given over for our sins.  In what way?  And the ‘current evil age’ is a concept that will be used in the gospels as well.

 Will of god.

(ὑπὲρ + gen = above & away from ) 

Given himself for our sins. We touched on this in 1 Thess; it still hasn’t been explained.  This lack of explanation may imply that the idea was so basic and/or central, that Paul did not feel the need to explain what he meant.

5 ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων: ἀμήν.

To whom the glory (be) forever and ever, amen.

 Simply not really possible to give a more literal translation of αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.  “Through the aeons of the aeons”, but that’s pretty much gibberish.

5 cui gloria in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

6 Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ] εἰς ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον,

I marvel that so quickly you have been turned from the calling you in the grace [of Christ] toward another gospel.

Another gospel !!!

 This is very interesting, and very serious.  What is this ‘other’ gospel?  Who’s teaching it?  What does it teach?  Other teachings were implicit in 1 Thess; it’s explicit here.

It would be really, really nice to have a more exact idea of the time between 1 Thess and Galatians.  Apparently, enough time that the message of Jesus was already splitting signficantly.

 6 Miror quod tam cito transferimini ab eo, qui vos vocavit in gratia Christi, in aliud evangelium;

7 ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο: εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

There is no other.  If not some (others) there are being the ones disturbing you and desiring to turn the gospel of the Christ.

Nice rhetorical touch. Paul teaches the gospel of Christ. Those other guys, by implication, teach something else.

7 quod non est aliud, nisi sunt aliqui, qui vos conturbant et volunt convertere evangelium Christi.

8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρ’ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

But also if we, or an angel from the sky (heaven—singular) gospelize [you]  opposed ( lit = ‘beside ) to that which we have gospelized (evangelized) you, let him be anathema

An angel from the sky.  This hearkens back to 1 Thess 4:16, when the lord will come down from the sky, which has pretty much become ‘heaven’ in translations.

Anathema is a direct transliteration of ‘ἀνάθεμα’.  It became the technical term for casting someone, or their doctrine, into the realm of heresy.  “If someone should believe….let him be ‘anathema’ (Latin: ‘anathema sit’.  It’s a direct transliteration into Latin, and again into English. 

 Lidelll & Scott will tell you that the meaning is ‘cursed’; certainly, this is more or less the base meaning, but here’s where we get into some conceptial distinctions.  I’ve recently seen this translated as ‘damned’, but this is too overtly Christian for the context.  “Damned’  means ‘damned to Hell.  So if you don’t have a  hell,  you can’t really be ‘damned’.  Maybe there was a Hell, but I don’t think so.

 Here, ‘ἀνάθεμα ἔστω’ = ‘anathema sit’;  The verb ‘to be’ is what is called iussive subjunctive in Latin.  I use the Latin term because it really captures the element of command, which is what ‘let him be anathema actually is.

8 Sed licet nos aut angelus de caelo evangelizet vobis praeterquam quod evangelizavimus vobis, anathema sit!

9 ὡς προειρήκαμεν, καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω, εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρ’ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

As I said, and I say again now, if someone evangelizes you beside the one you accepted from, let him be cursed.

So important it bears repeating.  But the whole idea of another gospel opens up a can of worms. The existence of another version of the Christ story was implied in 1 Thessalonians; apparently, by the time he wrote this letter, a year or two later, the problem had grown.  Or, since Galatia is closer to Judea (part of modern Turkey), perhaps the situation there was simply more acute?

9 Sicut praediximus, et nunc iterum dico: Si quis vobis evangelizaverit praeter id, quod accepistis, anathema sit!

10Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην.

For now do I persuade men or god? Or do I seek to please men?  If I still pleased men, the slave of Christ I would not be!

Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon, which is pretty much the definitive source for Classical Greek, indicates that << ἤμην >> can be one of two things. 1) the imperfect for of the verb εμαι, which = ‘to linger’, to tarry; or 2) a rare form, used mainly in Attica (Athens) of the imperfect tense of eimi, the standard verb for ‘to be’.  Here, it is this rare Attic form which was used Classical Greek literature.  Had this rare form become commonplace by the time this letter was written?  Or, is it possible that the person who actually, physically wrote (as opposed to composed) the letter was from Athens?  Recall in 1 Thessalonians that Paul remained in Athens alone for some time.  “Alone” probably doesn’t mean solitary, but without his usual band of assistances, such as Timothy. [ I have no idea what the scholarly opinion is on this. ] It is very likely that Paul dictated his letters; this was a common, almost standard practice.  This would be, IMO, especially likely since Paul may have been less than perfectly fluent in writing Greek. 

The topic of Paul’s use of a secretary will come up again in conjunction with Philippians, and again with 1 Corinthians.  There are passages of Philippians that are borderline gibberish, which, IMO, would perhaps indicate that Paul wrote the letter—to some degree at least—by himself.  Philippians was composed while Paul was in prison.  Then we get 1 Corinthians, which shows a level of polish and style far beyond what we find here in Galatians.

The point is that here, Paul’s secretary was most likely an Athenian, or, at least, a Jew living in Athens.  Or with some connection to Athens.


About James, brother of Jesus

I have a BA from the University of Toronto in Greek and Roman History. For this, I had to learn classical Greek and Latin. In seminar-style classes, we discussed both the meaning of the text and the language. U of T has a great Classics Dept. One of the professors I took a Senior Seminar with is now at Harvard. I started reading the New Testament as a way to brush up on my Greek, and the process grew into this. I plan to comment on as much of the NT as possible, starting with some of Paul's letters. After that, I'll start in on the Gospels, starting with Mark.

Posted on August 29, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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