Galatians Chapter 2 1-5

In Chapter 2, things really start to get interesting.

1Ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ, συμπαραλαβὼν καὶ Τίτον:

Then, after fourteen years, I again went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, bringing along with (us/me) also Titus.

IOW, Paul has been teaching for fourteen years before returning to Jerusalem.

1 Deinde post annos quattuor decim, iterum ascendi Hieroso lymam cum Barnaba, assumpto et Tito;

2ἀνέβην δὲ κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν: καὶ ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατ’ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον.

I went according to a revelation and brought up to them the gospel which I announced (= preached) among the peoples, which I showed (taught) to them in private, lest towards emptiness (= in vain) I race, or ran.

(That my comings and goings be in vain).

Another revelation.

A word about the Greek. <<κατὰ>> is a preposition, with a lot of different meanings.  The base meaning is ‘down’, sort of the opposite of <<ανα>> which is used for ‘up’, as in Ana-basis: the march up (country). However, it’s also the word used to denote the gospels. κατὰ Mαρκον—according to Mark.  Here, it has pretty much that same sense.  The point is that there is a pretty wide latitude in how some—a lot—of these words can be used. That gives translators (like me!) a pretty good chance to get it wrong. At least, it requires a pretty healthy dose of circumspection. 

As a cross-reference, see 1 Thessalonians 4:16.  There, Jesus << καταβήσεται ἀπ’ οὐρανοῦ >>  Jesus ‘comes down from the sky’.  This provides an excellent contrast.    

2 ascendi autem secundum revelationem; et contuli cum illis evangelium, quod praedico in gentibus, seorsum autem his, qui observabantur, ne forte in vacuum currerem aut cucurrissem.

3ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ Τίτος ὁ σὺν ἐμοί, Ελλην ὤν, ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι:

Nor was Titus, the one with me, despite being Greek, required to be circumcised.

In here we start the great argument that Paul says occurred between himself and the “pillars,” usually taken to be Cephas (Peter) and James, the brother of Jesus.  These, of course, are the actors of the gospels.  What Paul is describing is a fundamental disagreement etween Paul and those followers of Jesus who believed that new members of the community had to become Jews; that is, they had to follow the dietary and other restrictions of Judaism, and the men had to become circumcised.  This group of Jewish followers, apparently and sensibly, was centered in Jerusalem.  This meeting has been described as the Council, or the Synod of Jerusalem, taking it as the first of the ‘ecumenical’ councils that would become a standard affair as the followers of Jesus became The Christian Church.

 That Titus, a Greek, and therefore uncircumcised, was not required to become circumcised represents a significant victory for the Pauline/Gentile wing over the Jewish faction of the followers of Jesus.  It Is also important  to bear in mind that Paul has been teaching for 14 years at this point.  As such, he’s probably made a number of converts, a lot of whom are non-Jews.  This gives him bargaining power.  We have to ask just how large the Jerusalem assembly was; of course, there is no way to know, but it’s not hard to believe that Paul’s groups may easily have outnumbered the assembly of Jerusalem. 

 Remember, Jerusalem in approximately 50 (+/-) CE was on the Eve of Destruction.  Recall that Peter went to Rome, where, tradition has it, he told his stories to Mark, who wrote the first gospel.  Peter was also matyred in Rome.  Taken together, the Jerusalem assembly did not have a lasting, long-term impact on the subsequent development of what became Christianity.  The church’s future, and its history, lay with the non-Jews.  As such, Paul’s ‘winning’ the debate with the Jerusalem assembly and the so-called (by Paul) “pillars” of the community was, really, a momentous event.

The other question that needs to be borne in mind is the persecution of Jesus’ followers by Jews—like Paul.  Was this happening in Jerusalem?  Or was this a phenomenon of places like Damascus, where perhaps the Jewish leaders were a bit less tolerant than they may have been in Jerusalem.  Or, had that died down in the two decades between Jesus’ death and this meeting?

As for the Greek: here, the ἀλλ’ οὐδὲ construction is interesting.  The Vulgate takes something of a literalist approach by substituting Sed neque in a one-for-one switch.  This, however, requires him to insert cum (which also has a broad latitude of uses) in his third clause to give the sense of << despite >>.  The beautiful thing is that the Greek here is actually flexible enough that the ἀλλ’ (syncopated form of ἀλλα, terminal ‘α’ dropped when followed directly by a vowel), which is most generally translated as “but.”  If you think about it, ‘despite’ and ‘but’ are both exclusionary, and so can be taken as interchangeable.  Greek can stretch far enough that the ἀλλα can properly belong to the “being Greek” clause.   

The question then becomes, did Paul realize this?  In a sense, this is a fairly elegant piece of Greek grammar, it’s minimalist and yet not totally bewildering.  This kind of leans toward the style of Thucydides—terse, almost epigrammatic, emulated by Tacitus in Latin—as opposed to the riper style that Plato captures in Gorgias, when he ‘quotes’ from the title character, who was a renowned sophist/rhetorician.

The point of this is, Paul, IMO, did not ‘write’ his own letters.  He dictated them.  This was standard practice in the ancient world. Julius Caesar reputedly had two secretaries going at once: he’d give one a sentence, and while that was being physically written, he’d dictate a sentence to the other.  The level of Greek composition varies between 1 Thessalonians, Galatians, and Phillipians.  And then it hits a whole other level when we get to 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans.  Paul was educated, he was from Tarsus, a trading city.  He grew up in a milieu in which Greek was the common language used by a number of different communities, Syrians, Jews, Romans, Arabs.  (See the story of Pentecost in Acts for a bit of a list).  So he probably spoke Greek well enough, but writing is an entirely different animal, requiring an additional skill set.  In Phillipians, when Paul is in prison, I suspect he didn’t have ready access to a secretary.  As a result, there are certain passages of Philippians that are borderline gibberish.

3 Sed neque Titus, qui mecum erat, cum esset Graecus, compulsus est circumcidi.

4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους, οἵτινες παρεισῆλθον κατασκοπῆσαι τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἡμῶν ἣν ἔχομεν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἡμᾶς καταδουλώσουσιν:

On account of the false brothers brought in beside (us), who came in beside to look down upon (as in th sense of ‘observe from a height; or, to spy) our freedom which we held in Christ Jesus, so that the might bring enslavement down upon us.

This is really interesting.  Paul is telling us that the James Gang in Jerusalem is sending spies out to—spy?—on the Gentile Followers.  That’s interesting in itself, but it goes further.  Paul claims that they were enjoying freedom in Christ Jesus.  Freedom from what?  From Jewish practice, such as kosher, and with whom you could dine—which was an issue for Jesus, too, as the gospels tell us.  Note that Paul, a Jew’s Jew as he brags above, a Pharisee—the sect that gave Jesus so much grief—is claiming that he/they enjoyed freedom from all this, and that others—the Jewish Faction—wanted to re-impose slavery to the laws once again.  IOW, Paul himself feels liberated by being able to live outside the constraints of Jewish Law.

4 Sed propter subintroductos falsos fratres, qui subintroierunt explorare libertatem nostram, quam habemus in Christo Iesu, ut nos in servitutem redigerent;

5οἷς οὐδὲ πρὸς ὥραν εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ, ἵνα ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διαμείνῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς.

To them towards the hour (= for no time; for a moment; not at all) we did not yield to the subjugation, so that the truth of the gospel remains among you.  (We did not yield to them into subjugation for a moment, so that…)

Paul stood tall and firm against these spies from the James Gang, not bending into compliance with their demands for a moment.

This, perhaps, may help explain why Paul was so adamant about having received the revelation of his gospel directly from God: this gives him the stature to stand up to Peter and the Brother of Jesus.

5 quibus neque ad horam cessimus subicientes nos, ut veritas evangelii permaneat apud vos.

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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 September 8, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. This may not be related but the “emptiness” term, translated as “in vain” made me think of a similar term from Mark 13:14, which quotes from Daniel 11:31, about “an abomination of desolation”. The actual quote from Mark is: “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong–let the reader understand–then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” The actual quote from Daniel is: “”His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation.”

    Do you see any similarity in the phrasings of the Greek versions of these passages and the “in vain” passage here? When I borrow a phrase from a well-known source, I carry contextual meaning that is not necessarily apparent without the knowledge that I might be quoting someone for the dramatic effect.

  2. I’m leaving this comment because I forgot to check the box to notify me of responses.

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