Galatians 1:11-15

To continue with chapter 1

11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπ’ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον:

For I make note to you, brothers, the gospel which was gospelized by me that (it) is not according to men.

Here we go: Paul is not getting this from men.  Is the implication that those other gospelizers did get theirs from men? 

 In 1 Thessalonians Paul was not shy to point out that he spoke with power and with with the (possibly holy) spirit.  Here, he goes even further, so one has to ask why it surfaces—so strongly and so insistently—here.  One may speculate that Paul’s authority was questioned; that people were, perhaps, asking: “Who is this guy?  Doesn’t he have nerve speaking like this?  He never met Jesus, but others did.  Why should we listen to him?”  Follow this down into the first part of Chapter 2.  We saw in 1 Thessalonians that Paul’s motives (possibly) were questioned, which led him into something of a defensive tone, but here it seems that maybe we’ve moved up to a whole other level.

11 Notum enim vobis facio, fratres, evangelium, quod evangelizatum est a me, quia non est secundum hominem;

12οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτό, οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ δι’ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

For neither did I receive this self-same thing  from men, nor did I learn it, but it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

 This makes it impossible to argue with both Paul’s motives and his message, since they come directly from God.  He’s implying that he’s got what one of my history profs called ‘a hotline to the deity.’  He will stress this again—and again—as we go along.

 Remember the part about “a revelation from Jesus Christ” when we get to 1:16-17.

 12 neque enim ego ab homine accepi illud neque didici sed per revelationem Iesu Christi.

13Ἠκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ, ὅτι καθ’ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν,

 For you have heard mine related when in the Judaizing, the according to the tradition I put the assembly of God to flight and I destroyed it.

Paul the persecuter.  This certainly agrees with what we are told in Acts, so it’s probably true.  And it sounds like real ‘trials’, which, with what he was telling the Thessalonians, indicates that there were trials or persecution of some degree.  “Destroyed” is, obviously, a strong word.  This seems to indicate something beyond harassment.  How much further?  And if he literally destroyed the assembly of God, does this mean, perhaps, that he eradicated one complete group, like the one in Damascus?  Or, perhaps, one outside Damascus?  However: this is pure speculation on my part.  It becomes very enticing to start to fill in the blanks, the holes in the narrative. It’s fun, but it can lead to some really whacky ideas.

13 Audistis enim conversationem meam aliquando in Iudaismo, quoniam supra modum persequebar ecclesiam Dei et expugnabam illam;

14καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου, περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων.

And I came to the fore in Judaism among many contemporaries in my generation, being extremely zealous of the traditions of my ancestors handed over.

Paul’s roots and heritage.  It is extremely interesting that he tells us about himself to this extent.  In this, he is unusual for ancient authors, who very often say almost nothing of themselves, their life, or their experiences.  Assuming that we can believe this, it’s very revealing.

14 et proficiebam in Iudaismo supra multos coaetaneos in genere meo, abundantius aemulator exsistens paternarum mearum traditionum.

15ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ

But when [ God ]  was pleased, being the one separating summoning*  separating** me from my mother’s womb, and calling through his grace.

Separated Summoning  “Separating me from my mother’s womb.”  Here we have a second foreshadow of the Predestination debate.  Does anyone remember the first? It was in 1 Thess, but I’ve forgotten where.

*Updated based on feedback.  My apologies for misleading.

**Actually, I was right the first time.  See comments.

15 Cum autem placuit Deo, qui me segregavit de utero matris meae et vocavit per gratiam suam,


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 30, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The phrase “separated me from my mother’s womb” seems to be an explicit statement of separation from Judaism, which comes to him from his mother, as well as the sense you note of “changing his destiny”.

  2. The problem is my unfortunate choice of words to translate <>. This should–or could–be better translated as “called,” which is the base root of the Greek word. As such, the idea here is probably best expressed as “summoned”. So, here’s an instance where the choice of translation has a big impact on the theological implications.

    This is a great example of a linguistic field: the words overlap to a point, but the places where they don’t overlap carry very different implications.

  3. Revision #2.

    It turns out I was right the first time. The verb in question is not <>, but <>. Had it been the latter, as I said in my first comment, I would have been right to make the correction and change the translation to ‘summoning’. However, God separated Paul from his mother’s womb and then called him through grace.

    So this means Dean’s point is valid. But is he right? Or, the correct question is, ‘do I agree with him, or his interpretation?’

    I”m not sure I do, but it remains to see if my case is convincing. It revolves around whether <> can be read as Dean suggests. The answer is ‘yes’. However, are there other possible readings? I think so.

    One other set of meanings is “to distinguish, to determine, to define.” These words, I think, go in a slightly different direction. “To distinguish” in this sense, is “to designate,” which then includes “to appoint.” If you accept this, I don’t think you have the idea of separation so much as defining. But that’s some pretty fine lines to walk.

    Dean’s reading is certainly possible, but that’s not how I would read it. It’s certainly not how I read it. However, getting input on possible different ways of looking at this is a big reason I’m going to all this trouble.

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