Monthly Archives: November 2012

Mark Chapter 1:5-8

Second Update 3/24/13

5 καὶ ἐξεπορεύετο πρὸς αὐτὸν πᾶσα ἡ Ἰουδαία χώρα καὶ οἱ Ἱεροσολυμῖται πάντες, καὶ ἐβαπτίζοντο ὑπ’ αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ Ἰορδάνῃ ποταμῷ ἐξομολογούμενοι τὰς ἁμαρτίας αὐτῶν.

And the entire region of Judea came out to him, and all the Jerusalemites, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.

How much do we credit to hyperbole, and how much do we believe this? That ‘the whole region of Judea’ and ‘all the residents of Jerusalem’ came out to be baptized? For ‘all’, can we read‘a significant number’? A bunch? Several dozen?

The point is that the evangelist is telling us that the Baptist was very popular.  All the more reason to attach Jesus to the Baptist’s coattails, making Jesus seem popular by association.

5 Et egrediebatur ad illum omnis Iudaeae regio et Hierosolymitae universi et baptizabantur ab illo in Iordane flumine confitentes peccata sua.

6 καὶ ἦν ὁἸωάννης ἐνδεδυμένος τρίχας καμήλου καὶ ζώνην δερματίνην περὶ τὴν ὀσφὺν αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἐσθίων ἀκρίδας καὶ μέλι ἄγριον.

And John was dressed in the skin of a camel, and (=with) a belt of leather around his  waist, and he used to eat locusts and wild honey.

Very interesting. The aspect of the ascetic is very familiar to us nowadays. It wasn’t all that common among the pagans, but it wasn’t unknown, either. The Dead Sea Scrolls give some indication that the ascetic impulse was not unknown, and may have been something of a trend among the so-called Essenes. And there have been any number of gyrations and pretzel-bending to ‘prove’ that the Baptist was an Essene.

Pro: if this was becoming something of a trend, this would explain the Baptist’s popularity in Judea and Jerusalem. In European cities during the Middle Ages, the itinerant preacher was a common figure, coming ‘round and whipping the populace into a frenzy of religious fervour. And, the Baptist can be seen to fit into the mold of the OT prophets; a holy man preaching repentance. Perhaps the baptism was new, but the message may not have been.

Con: the argument from silence. This can be a dangerous weapon to try to use in ancient studies. The survival of evidence is so whimsical and so random that one can never take the absence of evidence as being in any way conclusive. However, the impression the evangelist gives is that the Baptist was a one-off sort of phenomenon, that he was a solitary figure rather than a member of a community. He may well have shared beliefs with members of the Essenes, just as he probably shared beliefs with a lot of the residents of Jerusalem and Judea as a whole. Again, if the intent was to tie Jesus to a larger context, it would have behooved Mark to make the Baptist’s connection to a more general movement rather than presenting him as a solitary figure.

The most telling detail is that he ate locusts and wild honey. This is not the diet of a member of a group, but of a single ascetic.

All this being said, Jesus did have a message that, as we have it, extolled the poor, oten putting them on a higher moral plane than the rich. This, we are told, was a radical idea in a world where the prevailing notion that “all Gods friends were rich.” (h/t, RK) However, ‘radical’ ideas often have deeper roots. The cockamamie government set up by the US Constitution, e.g. was certainly radical in the late 18th Century; the roots, however, trace back to ideas conceived a few thousand years earlier. “Radical” ideas catch fire because the are only the final spark to the dry tinder that has been accumulating in the general consciousness for some time. The ideals of the hippies of the 1960s resonated largely because they hit a demographic cohort that had been raised in opulence and privilege, so they could afford to despise the wealth their parents had struggled so hard to accumulate.

Jesus message resonated because it struck chords. Maybe the Essenes had drawn on Jewish social values and injunctions to help the poor, and the Baptist drew on this semi-subterranean idea of the moral superiority of the poor. Recall that the wealthy among the Jews were often–but not always–the ones most likely to “Hellenize” and associate with wealthy pagans, sometimes turning their backs on their co-religionists.

The point is that Jesus message of the moral value of poverty resonated. Not just among Jews, but the downtrodden among the pagans. But it also resonated among wealthier people, too. These became the financial patrons of the nascent movement. Perhaps, like their hippie progeny, these wealthier members had the luxury to hold their wealth in less esteem than their contemporaries. However, we’re verging into pop psychology here, and I’m not going to defend any of this with any vigour.

6 Et erat Ioannes vestitus pilis cameli, et zona pellicea circa lumbos eius, et locustas et mel silvestre edebat.

7 καὶ ἐκήρυσσεν λέγων, Ἔρχεται ὁ ἰσχυρότερός μου ὀπίσω μου, οὗ οὐκ εἰμὶ ἱκανὸς κύψας λῦσαι τὸν ἱμάντα τῶν ὑπο δημάτων αὐτοῦ:

And he preached, saying, “One more powerful than I is coming after me, of whom I am not worthy to stoop down to loosen the strap of his sandals.”

This is excellent. First, connect Jesus to the tradition of the Baptist. Then, have the Baptist tell everyone that Jesus is the more powerful.

And notice its ‘powerful’ (or strong, or mightier, or something such). It’s not ‘more holy’, or any sort of spiritual value. It’s the sense of physical strength, whether in an individual, or in the sense that Rome was more powerful than Judea. Why does he chose this word? It makes sense, but is ‘powerful’ the word we would associate with Jesus? Certainly, a case can be made, but it’s not necessarily the most obvious word to choose. It does, potentially, hearken back to the sense that the Christ would be a powerful ruler. Is that what the implication is meant to be?

7 Et praedicabat dicens: “ Venit fortior me post me, cuius non sum dignus procumbens solvere corrigiam calceamentorum eius.

8 ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι, αὐτὸς δὲ βαπτίσει ὑμᾶς ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ.

I baptized you in water, but he will baptize you in the holy spirit.

The holy spirit. Or The Holy Spirit.  This latter translation of this as the Holy Spirit (Ghost) goes back to the KJV.

There are two separate issues here.

First, why is the spirit “holy” in some places, but not in others, such as in verse 12 below. There, it’s just ‘the spirit.’ Is this a different entity?

Second, is the holy spirit the same thing as The Holy Spirit? Of course not. So, when we encounter this combination of words, ought they be capitalized? What about ‘the spirit’? Should that be rendered as ‘The Spirit’? In all cases? Or only some? If the latter, which ones, and why not the other ones?

We ran across the words combined in Paul twice, both in 1 Thessalonians. They did not occur in Galatians. However, had we gotten to Romans and Corinthians, we would have encountered them frequently. They occur in Mark a total of four times. But not in Matthew. They appear in Luke five times, but only thrice in John.

So what does all this mean?

First of all, to think of this as The Holy Spirit, as in the third part of the Trinity at this point is wildly anachronistic. Per Jaroslav Pelikan, in The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition, which is the first volume of a five-volume history of theology, the concept did not truly develop until the third century. As such, to see this as The Holy Spirit is just not appropriate.

So what is the holy spirit? Or, the spirit?

Of course, it’s the spirit of God, which means it’s necessarily holy. Beyond that, it’s hard to say at this point. I ran across a lovely quote about how the heavens hung low during the few centuries on either side of the Common Era, and how the traffic between the two was heavy. There was a widespread belief in spirits of all sorts; some good, some malign. This is the period when a lot of the Jewish Apocrypha and Pseudographa were written. These included things like the Book Of Enoch, Book of Jubilees, and others. One trait of these works is that they include references to spirits, angels, and other such creatures, which indicates that belief in such beings was widespread and had permeated into Jewish thought.

But this doesn’t get any closer to what Mark means here. We will keep track of this concept and, at some point, correlate the uses and see what we can make of this.

Update:  see the discussion to Mark Chapter 1:9-12 for additional thoughts on this.

8 “Ego baptizavi vos aqua; ille vero baptizabit vos in Spiritu Sancto ”.

Second Update.

See the discussion to Mark Chapter 7:1-13. I have just, belatedly, realized that the Greek word “baptizo”, which is the root of our word “baptize” does not have a special meaning in Greek. It is, at least here in NT usage, a common word for “to wash.” So, instead of taking the title of John the Baptist, we could very legitimately call him “John the Washer.” Sort of has a different implication, doesn’t it?


Mark Chapter 1:1-4

Here we begin the Gospel of Mark.

1 Ἀρχὴ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ [υἱοῦ θεοῦ].

This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus the Christ, [ the Son of God ].

A couple of interesting points right off the bat.  First, in this case, translating <<
εὐαγγελίου>> as ‘gospel’ would probably give a better poetic reading of this. Yes, the technical, pedantic, completely literal translation is ‘good news,’ but, here, that really does some injustice to the spirit of the text. IMO, anyway.

Then we’ve got Jesus the Christ. I mentioned this in passing in dealing with Paul, but the way Greek uses the definite article is very different than the way English does. “Christ” was not a surname; it was a description, or possibly could be thought of as a title. As such, to get the sense of this, “Christ” should, probably, be translated as “the Christ.” Otherwise, this gives a completely false impression of how this would have been heard by the audience.

In fact, this should probably always be rendered as “Jesus the Messiah.”

Two things to notice about “Son of God.”  There is no definite article here, either. Despite this, we would naturally translate this as “the son of God.” All four of my source translations (KJV, NASB, ESV, and NIV) all render this as “the son of God.” So it is with “the Christ/the Messiah” as well. Note that the [ son of God ] is bracketed. That means that the phrase is not found in all manuscript traditions.  As such, there is a very real chance that this was not there when “Mark” wrote this, but it crept into the various texts over time. It is possible that it was there, which is why it’s in most traditions, and was left out of others, but such things as this are more likely to be added rather than dropped. The term is ‘gloss’; something that a copyist included in the margin, that a later copyist took as part of the text.

We did note that this term was used by Paul. As such, it’s not impossible that “Mark” fully intended this to be there. As for the implications, though, recall that in both 1 Thessalonians and Galatians, Paul did use the expression “God our Father” on a number of occasions, And, if God is our father, then we are all children of God. As such, this term may not be all that exclusive to Jesus

Now, here is where things get really interesting. Why is this the beginning of the Good News? Why does the narrative start here, and not in Bethlehem as it does with Matthew and Luke (but not with John, either)? Is is possible that Mark did not see what came before this as part of the good news of the Messiah? That the tale of the Messiah starts here. Anything before this, was the story of Jesus bar Joseph, rather than Jesus the Christ. We’ll get back to this later in the chapter.

1 Initium evangelii Iesu Christi Filii Dei.

2 Καθὼς γέγραπται ἐν τῷ Ἠσαΐᾳτῷ προφήτῃ, Ἰδοὺ ἀποστέλλω τὸν ἄγγελόν μου πρὸ προσώπου σου, ὃς κατασκευάσει τὴν ὁδόν σου:

So it was written in the prophet Isaiah: “Behold! I send my messenger before your face (before you), he will prepare your way.”

As someone raised Christian, it’s a little odd to think that Isaiah does not have the stature in the Jewish tradition that Elijah has. Isaiah was truly brought to the fore by Christian, and even proto-Christian writers because of the section known as Deutero-Isaiah, the Second Isaiah. This starts with chapter 40, and tells the story of what has come to be called “the suffering servant” who was seen, by Christians, as the prophecy of the coming of Jesus, who would suffer and so redeem us.

Remember: it wasn’t Isaiah who appeared with Moses during the Transfiguration; it was Elijah.

2 Sicut scriptum est in Isaia propheta: “ Ecce mitto angelum meum ante faciem tuam,
qui praeparabit viam tuam.”

3 φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ, Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ

A voice crying in the wilderness: “Prepare ye the way of the lord, make straight his paths”.

At first, I didn’t plan to say much about this. However, at second glance, I’m suddenly wondering if Jesus’ followers didn’t grab onto the Baptist as a ‘foreruner’ to Jesus in order to make this ‘prophecy’ work. Sort of a “if John the Baptist didn’t exist, it would have been necessary to invent him”. See the comments to 1:4 below.

3 vox clamantis in deserto: “Parate viam Domini, rectas facite semitas eius.”

4 ἐγένετο Ἰωάννης [ὁ] βαπτίζων ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ καὶ κηρύσσων βάπτισμα μετανοίας εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.

It was John the one baptizing in the wilderness, and preaching baptism of repentance for (the purpose of) removing of sins.

Note about the Greek: ‘the one baptizing’ is translated to capture the sense of the participle, which is the form of the verb here. Greek has a variety of forms of participle, and uses them often to convey the immediacy of the action, or the simultaneity with the main verb of the action expressed in the participle.

While the base meaning of << ἐγένετω >> is ‘to become’, about 80% of the time it’s simply a substitute for the verb ‘to be.’  This is how I rendered it here, as did the Latin.  However, the standard translation among my 4 crib translations is ‘ appeared’. This certainly works, and is well within the possible meanings, but it was not my first choice. Another instance were a consensus translation has, seemingly, taken hold.

Note the Latin: << μετανοίας >> gets translated as  <<paenitentiae>>. There will be more to say about this when we get to Matthew’s version of this story.

Here is where a better background in the religious trends of the day would be very helpful. I do not know if baptism was a common practice of the time. It wasn’t among pagans, but I cannot say the same about Jewish practice. Repentance, OTOH, certainly has deep roots in Judaic history; that was the whole point of the prophets: calling Israel to repent, usually by returning to the practices of their elders, turning away from the innovations learned from the heathen surrounding them.

But another thing, this one about John the Baptist in particular. There is a fair bit of discussion about how the Baptist’s role in the NT and in the career of Jesus has been downplayed and squelched by the NT writers. This was done, so the argument goes, to diminish the Baptist’s role as mentor, or thought leader, thereby bolstering Jesus.

I disagree. If you look at this version, and then the gospel of John, if anything, the Baptist’s role has been increased. In John, Jesus is baptized twice. Seems like this would have gone the other direction if the idea was to write the Baptist out of the story. Rather, I believe that the followers of Jesus attached themselves to the possibly larger following of Baptist. This act would give Jesus a longer pedigree, and the claim to ancient wisdom was a very big deal in the Graeco-Roman world. This is especially true for the pagans; innovations were scorned; what was appealing was the ‘old time religion’ (as it were) that could trace itself back for centuries. The roots of Graeco-Roman religion went back to Homer; Judaism could trace itself back as far–or further. The precedence of Homer vs. Moses was a major topic of debate among the religious savants of the Mediterranean civlisation in the three or four centuries on either side of the beginning of the Common Era.

In fact, the more innovative that Jesus’ message was, IMO, the more likely that the need for a pedigree would have been more acute. John the Baptist could serve as the bridge between Jesus and the ancient traditions of Judaism, so it was necessary to preserve, if not increase–or even invent–the connection to John. Remember: Paul never mentioned the Baptist. Why not? By the time the gospels were written, a decent interval would have passed, and the Baptist could have been eliminated. One possible explanation for the retention of the Baptist is that the connection was too well known to be ignored; but another is that the connection was useful to the NT writers, so they at least maintained, if not increased the connection.

Remember: the audience for the gospels probably contained a higher percentage of pagans than the audience for Paul’s letters. Using the Baptist as shorthand for a connection to a very ancient tradition would have had enormous PR value.

4 fuit Ioannes Baptista in deserto praedicans baptismum paenitentiae in remissionem peccatorum.

Beginning Mark

 Now we transition to the Gospel of Mark.

This is generally considered the first gospel written. The standard date is somewhere in the 70s; it was written after the Romans crushed the revolt of Judea, destroyed the Temple, and sacked and basically leveled the city of Jerusalem. Incidentally, they also changed the name of the administrative unit and the form of the government. Prior to this, the territory had been called Judea, after the native usage, and it had been ruled through the local high priests under the guidance of a Roman government official. After the revolt, the name was changed to Palestine to eliminate the nationalist sentiment surrounding “Judea”, and the local puppet rulers were removed and it was ruled  directly as a Roman province.

In the period following the destruction of the Temple, there was a certain animosity towards things Judean in the minds of the ruling Romans. As such, the followers of Jesus had to be careful of the way Rome was portrayed in any writing. Overt hostility invited savage reprisals. The Romans, contrary to general opinion, were reasonably tolerant about a lot of things, such as local custom and local religion. Do your thing, but don’t get out of line was the general attitude. Those who got out of line, OTOH, were dealt with in brutal and merciless fashion. Crucifixion was a very common fate for any number of offenses, and the Romans often lacked patience. Obey, or suffer the consequences. But “obey” was largely political.

This accommodation with the Roman authorities is the root of some of the anti-Jewish sentiment expressed in the gospels. The blame for Jesus’ death was fixed on the Jewish authorities, and Pilate was allowed to wash his hands of most of the guilt. There is even a ‘Gospel of Pilate’, written in the second century CE, in which Pilate becomes an ardent Christian.  There is no factual basis for this, but it gives some indication of the lengths that Jesus’ followers would go to in order to remove blame from the Romans.

But, OTOH, the Jesus assemblies had to retain some of the links to the Jewish past. In the Classical world, especially among the Greeks and Romans, lengthy history provided justification, especially for religious beliefs. Innovations got no respect. So the followers of Jesus, to maintain any credibility among the pagans, had to show that they were tied to the very long history of Judaism. As a result, the followers of Jesus had to walk a fairly fine line between disparagement and acceptance of their Jewish roots.

One other major change took place after the destruction of the Temple. I have never seen direct investigation of this, but IMO, the source for potential converts to proto-Christianity (for want of a better term) was probably pagans rather than Jews. This is largely an inference drawn from the way the gospels–especially Mark and Luke, and also John–are written. And where they were written. Mark and Luke were written outside of Judea/Palestine, and for an audience that wasn’t of Jewish heritage. Mark, for example, always takes pains to translate his Aramaic words because he realized his audience would not understand them otherwise. Luke, in fact, addresses his gospel and acts to Theophilus.

One interesting aspect of this change in audience is the implication that Paul “won.” It was the peoples that he proselytized that became the Christians of the turn of the First Century. As such, it would seem that the gospel writers would have been eager to use Paul’s writings, but it doesn’t seem that they did to any large extent. By early in the Second Century, writers who can be called Christian make references to Paul’s works, but such references did not pop up much before that. The inference to be drawn is that the gospel writers did not know of Paul’s works. The writing that became incorporated into Christian Scripture were originally written for fairly specific and local audiences.  They gained wider acceptance as time went on; Matthew knew about Mark, and Luke probably knew about both, but, this dissemination took time.

The other thing to note is the reason the gospels were written. Paul’s writings resemble a lot of what St Augustine would produce: letters intended to meet a specific need at a specific time in a specific place. These were not ‘general’ works; the gospels were. Why?

Likely a couple of reasons. The first is that the message had become disseminated over a wider geographic span; the intimate knowledge of Judea was lost. But, also, time had passed. Two generations had come and gone since Jesus walked the earth. The audiences did not ‘remember’ him any longer. And this is one reason, I suspect, why the gospels took primacy in Christian thought. They ‘begin at the beginning’, as it were, where Paul’s letters drop us in mid-stream.

Finally, I should have made this clear at the beginning. Paul wrote some of the letters attributed to him. The Evangelists, OTOH, are a literary fiction akin to “Homer.” As such, their names should properly be presented in quotes, as in “Mark”, or should be called “the writer of Mark.” But this is cumbersome. I risk doing violence, or at least misleading, and perpetuating a literary fraud, but it’s too deeply ingrained now to change it.

So Far

To date we have taken on 1 Thessalonians and Galatians. These are two of Paul’s earlier works; as such, they represent the oldest surviving writing in what came to be the Christian Scripture, or the Christian corpus as a whole.

I hope it seems clear that Galatians represents something of an ‘advance’ over 1 Thessalonians. By this I mean that it should seem that Galatians has an extra layer. 1 Thessalonians is, primarily, and to a large extent, a pastoral letter. That is, its main focus seems to be on exhortation and comfort of the Thessalonian community. Some of it recapitulates Paul’s experience there. The ‘theological’ content is rather oh-by-the-way, consisting mainly of the choice of phrases (Lord Jesus Christ; God our Father; preach with power). Galatians, on the other hand, is almost a legal argument setting out the ‘case’ for ‘his’ gospel over the ‘other’ gospel, apparently that of the Jerusalem Assembly.

It should be noted, though, that 1 Thessalonians also has implications of ‘competing’ gospels. Paul is quick to point out that he took great pains not to be a burden, working ‘day and night’, presumably to make money, so that he didn’t have to rely on the recompense he says was due to an apostle.  This may imply that others had come, and had claimed the support of the community. And there are references in 1 Corinthians, to other preachers, such as Peter and Apollos.  Overall, we are given the sense that Paul was not alone in his missionary activity.  There were others; and, given the lack of real central control, there was not a consistency of message. This is not, or should not be surprising. This was one of the motivating forces for the development of the Institutional Church.

The other overall impression we are given is that these early communities had already accepted the notion of being children of God. Jesus was The Christ, raised from the dead by Our Father, after Jesus had been crucified. More, the Christ was expected to return, riding on the clouds. The dead would join the living in…well, someplace. The heavens, or the heaven, which does not seem to have become Heaven quite yet. There have been a couple of hints of an idea that will come to be seen as Predestination once it gets spelled out in Romans.  This much is common to both epistles.

In addition, Galatians has told us that faith is primary, especially over the Law. As such, the assemblies of Jesus had begun, to some degree, to pull away from their Jewish roots. Perhaps this is why the Jerusalem Assembly thought it was a good idea to send other missionaries to places where Paul had already been: to reel in these groups that were drifting too far from the Jewish heritage. Paul may have been given sanction to preach to the Gentiles in the way that Peter preached to the circumcised, but Paul does not say that James and the Pillars gave him leave to cut ties to the Jerusalem Assembly completely. In fact, Paul seems to concede that he was obligated to ‘remember the poor’, which likely means pay the temple tax to the group in Jerusalem.

We have also been introduced to the concept of grace; but we’re not quite sure what this actually means. Whatever Paul intended with the term, it seems likely he didn’t mean what later theologians decided it came to mean.

So, where do we go from here?

At this point, I think it would be best to go on to the Gospel of Mark.  Ideally, we should do at least 1 Corinthians and Romans before moving on to the gospels, but I believe it will be useful to see how the gospel message differs from what Paul has been telling us. After looking at Mark, I think it would be best to come back to 1 Corinthians and Romans. That will make the ‘compare and contrast’ more effective.  I believe.  Or, ‘I hope’ might be more accurate. Maybe, too, once we get to more familiar ground, those of you reading this will feel more comfortable about commenting.

So let me say, once more and with feeling, that I am not an expert on this. My dread is that someone who truly knows what they are talking about will come along and blow me out of the water!  If this happens, so be it.  However, I think we’re getting to the actual words that were written. We may not have approached the ‘historical Jesus’, but that is not the point. The goal is to get to the historical message propagated by the followers of Jesus. These are two very different things.


Paul introduced the notion of grace into the discussion of the Christ. It is used frequently in both the letters written by Paul, and those ascribed to him, such as Timothy, Titus, & c.

The odd thing, however, is that the word is completely absent from both Mark and Matthew.  It reappears in Luke/Acts, appears only twice in John, and then is taken up by the other writers of epistles, including James, Peter, and Jude.

Of the dozen or so of times the term <<χάρις>> is used by Paul, or his disciples writing as Paul, the vast majority of them are translated as ‘grace’.  There are a few times when it’s translated as ‘thanks’ or ‘favor’, or even once as ‘gift.’  We really have to ask ourselves what Paul meant by this word.

[ Note: here is where the Great Treasures Bible site comes in really handy. If you click on a word in the Greek text, you are provided with a complete list of every time the word is used in the NT.  And it provides the snippet of the sentence in which the word occurs, so it’s possible to get at least some sense of context. ]

It bears repeating that the basic meaning of the word is ‘favor.’  What is interesting is that in a large number of these occurrences, if you were  to translate <<χάρις>> as ‘favor’, the sentence would still make perfect sense. Thus, we have to ask ourselves why it gets translated as ‘grace’?  It is crucial to ask this question because substituting ‘favor’ for grace gives something of a different reading.

Or does it?

If you look up the term ‘grace’ in the Catholic Encyclopedia, one is confronted with a fairly long, rather technical discussion. Included in this discussion is a distinction between actual grace, supernatural grace, sanctifying grace, and probably others. The OED Online defines the Christian of grace concept as

  • the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.

One perfectly logical reason for translating <<χάρις>> as ‘grace’would be because it was rendered in Latin as ‘gratia.’  From here, it’s but a step to ‘grace’.  However, I have to question the process here. An entire edifice of Christian theology is built upon the concept of ‘grace’, as can plainly be seen from the entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia. However, it strikes me that something happened, that the word, the idea of  ‘favor’ underwent a metamorphosis and turned into something that simply wasn’t there in the original.

However, I could be dead wrong about this because I am completely misunderstanding the idea of ‘grace’, both in its later Christian form, and as the word is used in both Greek and Latin.

So let’s look at the uses of the word in Galatians. I will provide the translation as ‘grace’, then simply change the word to ‘favor’.  Let’s see if the meaning is distorted.

1:3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ,

Upon you the grace and peace from God our father and the lord Jesus Christ…

Upon you the favor  and peace from God our father and the lord Jesus Christ…

IMO, there is no difference in meaning between these two sentences. Or, if there is, we have to ask what the word ‘grace’ means in English.

1:6 Θαυμάζωὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ] εἰςἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον…

I marvel how quickly you have turned from the one calling you in/by the grace [of Christ] to another gospel.

I marvel how quickly you have turned from the one calling you in/by the favor [of Christ] to another gospel.

Here we get a slightly difference meaning, but only if we accept that ‘grace’ means something different than ‘favor’ in English.  Of course, the two words are not identical; otherwise, there would not be two words.

However, we then have to ask if the different meanings of ‘grace’ and ‘favor’ are not the result of 2,000 years of being told that they are different, so that ‘everybody knows’  what ‘grace’ means in this context. Let’s look at those definitions I cited above. There s absolutely no reason to believe that Paul intended his word to mean anything like what either of these two sources define as ‘grace’.

One reason I believe this is because the term disappeared from usage for a couple of decades, until it was revived by Luke, for reasons unknown.  Now, we can posit differences in what Paul’s communities believed, and what Mark’s and Matthew’s communities believed, and this would be a reasonable inference. There likely were differences. But ‘grace’ as the Catholic Encyclopedia defines it would have been rather important, and probably would not have disappeared for a couple of decades.  Would it?

1:15 ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰτῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ…

However, it pleased [God], he separating me from my mother’s womb, and calling me through his grace

However, it pleased [God], he separating me from my mother’s womb, and calling me through his favor

IMO, ‘favor’ works perfectly well here, unless we’re going to argue there is a connotation of ‘sanctifying’–or something–included in the word as Paul uses it. Or, that Paul was somehow talking about actual or sanctifying favor.

In fact, the OED definition shows us that the two words are interchangeable, as it defines ‘grace’ as ‘favor’.

2:9 καὶ γνόντεςτὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοιεἶναι, δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ…

And recognizing the grace given to me, James and Peter and John, those seeming to be the pillars (of the assembly) gave their right hand to me.

And recognizing the favor given to me, James and Peter and John, those seeming to be the pillars (of the assembly) gave their right hand to me.

IMO, there is no difference between these two translations.

2:21 οὐκ ἀθετῶ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ: εἰ γὰρ διὰ νόμου δικαιοσύνη, ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν.

I do not reject the grace of God; for, if through the Law I am sanctified, Christ has died in vain.

I do not reject the favor of God; for, if through the Law I am sanctified, Christ has died in vain.

IMO, there is no difference between these two translations.

I’m going to take the last two together.

5:4 κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ οἵτινες ἐννόμῳ δικαιοῦσθε, τῆς χάριτος ἐξεπέσατε.

You have been made useless from/for Christ, whoever by the Law is justified; you have fallen from grace.

You have been made useless from/for Christ, whoever by the Law is justified; you have fallen from favor.

6:18  Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίουἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μετὰ τοῦ πνεύματος ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί: ἀμήν.

The grace of our lord Jesus Christ (be) with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

The favor of our lord Jesus Christ (be) with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

At first glance, these two seem rather similar to 1:16.  But–and this is a big caveat–these all seem to fit into somewhat of a similar pattern.

Substituting ‘favor’ for ‘grace’, does give us a slightly different meaning; however, in most of these instances, it’s because we (or I) have come to believe that ‘grace’ is not the same thing as God’s favor. It is, of course, but, to my mind, ‘grace’ has the sense of something like pixie dust (!) that God sprinkles upon us. These are both ‘things’, but ‘favor’ is decidedly non-substantial. It can be granted, but it is an attitude. ‘Grace’, OTOH, has the sense of something closer to ‘spirit’; it’s not tangible, perhaps, but that has an existence independent of the grantor. Favor does not. A favor, or ‘favor’ cannot exist independently of the grantor.

Maybe this is it: God can give grace, but only grant favor.

All of this, however, is based on an understanding based on 2,000 years of Christian exegesis and interpretation.

And it must be stated that the concept of ‘grace’ can and probably did develop as time passed. Luke may not have understood the term in the same was as Paul did, and by the time we got to the writer, of say, The Epistle to the Hebrews, it may have meant something very different. So I’m not saying that all that exegesis is wrong, or without foundation. Rather, what I’s saying is that we cannot necessarily read all of these later developments into the word as Paul wrote it and used it. Here in these early usages, translating the Greek as ‘favor’ may not be wrong.

Let’s look at the twice that <<χάρις>> is used in 1 Thessalonians.

1:1 Παῦλος καὶ Σιλουανὸς καὶ Τιμόθεος τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ Θεσσαλονικέων ἐν θεῷ πατρὶ καὶ κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ: χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη.

Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the assembly of Thessalonika, in God the father and our lord Jesus Christ: grace and peace.
Paul and Silvanus and Timothy, to the assembly of Thessalonika, in God the father and our lord Jesus Christ: favor and peace. 
 5: 28 Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μεθ’ ὑμῶν.
The grace of the lord Jesus Christ (be) with you.
The favor of the lord Jesus Christ (be) with you.
IMO, in both instances, ‘favor’ works perfectly well.  Feel free to disagree.Chronologically, the first use of  <<χάρις>> by someone not named Paul comes in the first chapter of Luke.1:30  εὗρες γὰρ χάριν παρὰ τῷ θεῷ

The KJV translates this as “thou hast found favor with the Lord.”

As a final note, let’s take a look at the definition of the Latin term ‘gratia.’  This is obviously the root of ‘grace.’  Is it possible that the bifurcation of grace/favor came about because of something in the Latin term?

The Lewis and Short definition is as follows:

grātĭa , ae, f. gratus; lit., favor, both that in which one stands with others and that which one shows to others.

I. (Acc. to gratus, I.) Favor which one finds with others, esteem, regard,liking, love, friendship

Answer: not really.  If anything, the Latin is even further away from from what ‘grace’ has come to mean in Christian theology.

So we’ve talked about words that evolved between Classical and Biblical times.  This word–and especially the concept based on it–certainly developed in between Paul’s writing and the time when assemblies of Jesus’ followers became the Christian Church.

Summary Galatians in toto

Galatians as a whole is qualitatively different from 1 Thessalonians.  In Galatians, there was much less of the pastoral sort of exhortation than was found in 1 Thess. Now, this isn’t meant as a definitive, conclusive pronouncement, but sort of a general observation.

Overall, Galatians is an argument. As in, it’s a case set out, with premises and evidence intended to convince the reader (hearer, in ancient times) of a particular point of view.

What appears to have happened is that Paul converted pagan Galatians. That the latter is true rests on internal evidence, especially the whole issue of circumcision. This would not have been an issue for Jews who would already have been circumcised.

After this conversion, probably some time after, new representatives of Jesus followers attempt to sway the Galatians to another gospel. This horrifies Paul beyond belief, and he writes this letter to bring the Galatians back to their senses, and to the true gospel that he preached to them.  This alternative gospel, in all probability, was that of, or closely related to, that taught by the Jerusalem Assembly. This would have meant pretty much following the Jewish Law, including submitting to circumcision.

To demonstrate this point, Paul engages in some autobiography.  He tells us of his conversion, telling us that he is on par with James and the others because Paul experienced the risen Christ just as they had. That he hadn’t know the living Jesus doesn’t matter to Paul. Whether this is because for Paul, as Akenson argued, Jesus did not become the Christ until the resurrection.

Then, like an attorney establishing standing, Paul tells us the story of the Council of Jerusalem, when he went to Jerusalem and met with the pillars of the community there. This included James, the brother of Jesus, Cephas, and John. The last two figure prominently in the gospels. James, however, was neither James, the son of Zebidee, nor the other James, surnamed The Lesser. IOW, this James was not a member of Jesus’ followers while Jesus was alive.

The outcome of this ‘council’ was that Paul’s mission to the Gentiles was given official recognition and sanction by James and the leaders of the Jerusalem Assembly. In exchange, Paul agreed to collect what was, essentially, the temple tax expected of all Jews, the proceeds to be paid to the Jerusalem Assembly.

Paul does this, I believe, to demonstrate that he has jurisdiction over Gentile converts. As such, the new preachers are cutting into turf that rightly–per the agreement made–belonged to Paul. As such, they had no business intruding into the Galatian assembly and sowing dissension. Both by virtue of receiving his gospel directly from God, and by virtue of the agreement of Jerusalem, Paul is the pre-eminent authority here.

After establishing his standing, and the superiority of his jurisdiction, Paul then goes into a very long, very complex metaphor. The basis is the distinction between the Law, given to Moses, and the promise, given to Abraham, four-hundred and some-odd years prior to the Law. This temporal precedence is meant to demonstrate the spiritual superiority of the Promise over the Law.

The Law was a necessary evil, something to take care of ‘us’ while we were spiritual minors. The Law was a pedagogue, a tutor, a trustee charged with watching over us until the coming of The Christ.

There are comparisons, dichotomies, distinctions between following Jesus and following the law.  The difference is no less than that between freedom and slavery.  Abraham had two sons; one of a slave, the other of a free-born woman. Followers of the Christ are the descendants of the free woman, Sarah; followers of the Law are the descendants of Hagar, the slave.

Another significant dichotomy that Paul sets up is that between flesh and spirit.  To the best of my knowledge, this concept owes more to the Graeco-Roman thought world than it does to the Judaic/Hebraic one. However, I don’t know enough about the latter to say that definitively. The point is, flesh is bad, spirit is good, and the Law is likened to the flesh, and the Christ-faith is of the spirit.

So, the point is, Galatians is a remarkably cohesive,  very well-presented case for why following the Christ is preferable to following the Law.


Unbelievably, I forgot perhaps one of the most important themes of this letter.  It’s the idea of the Law vs. Faith. Abraham was given the Promise because he put his faith in God and obeyed God’s injunction to sacrifice his only son. Abraham thus demonstrated the priority of faith over the Law.  This idea in Paul would form the basis for Martin Luther’s doctrine of salvation through faith, and not through works.  Faith is believing and trusting God; works, OTOH, are what the Law prescribes.

Faith is superior to the Law and to works.

Summary Galatians Chapter 6

Despite my contention that the last chapter of these epistles tend to drift off into pastoral concerns or exhortation, there is a fair bit to say about this, the final chapter of  Galatians.

We discussed whether or not Paul used a secretary.  This is a topic which may be reasonably settled, but I’m not aware of it.  High level of risk for me to look foolish on this topic. Oh well. This initially came from the section (Gal 1:10) where we discussed the Athenian form of the verb ‘to be.’  Now. Paul was writing from Athens, but that doesn’t mean he had an Athenian–or any other kind of–secretary.

There was a mention of actions having consequences.  Nothing exactly earth-shattering.

We also had a discussion about an apparent contradiction, in which I showed how pedantic I can be.

One of the more interesting moments was when Paul seemed to tell the assembly to be nicer to other members of the faith. This appears to run contrary to the spirit of Matthew 5:46, in which we are told there’s no benefit to loving only those who love you.

We also revisited the persecutions, and came to the conclusion that the followers of the Jerusalem Assembly were likely the persecutors, since Paul spends a fair bit of time on the whole ‘to be or not to be circumcised’ issue.

Paul also described himself as ‘crucified to the world.’  This is, perhaps, the intellectual or metaphorical beginnings of the idea of mortification of the flesh.  This led to a tangent about Jesus’ relationship–if any–given that Paul never mentions John.

Finally, there was the concept of grace.  But this discussion will  deferred to a later post.

Galatians Chapter 6:11-18

Chapter 6, and the letter, concludes.   Updated

11Ἴδετε πηλίκοις ὑμῖν γράμμασιν ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί.

You’ve seen such big letters I have written to you, in my own hand.

Well, this certainly shoots a big hole in my argument about Paul having a secretary!  (Gal 1:10).  Seriously, this is now an issue, on which I don’t have anything to say at this point.  This is becoming the sort of thing where I may simply not be qualified to have an opinion that’s worth the bytes it’s printed with.

11 Videte qualibus litteris scripsi vobis mea manu.

12ὅσοι θέλουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί, οὗτοι ἀναγκάζουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι, μόνον ἵνα τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Χριστοῦ μὴ διώκωνται:

Whosoever wishes to appear pleasing in the flesh, those who force you to be circumcised, only so that in the cross of the Christ you will not be persecuted.

Who is doing the persecuting here?  How does this square with what we read about the meetings of Paul with James in Jerusalem?  Why would the Gentiles persecute, or even care, who was circumcised or not?  This is an issue only for observant Jews, like the James Gang.  Are there Jews who are still trying to stamp out the Jesus sect, the way Paul did before he crossed the aisle and joined the other side?  Who else is likely to be doing the persecuting?

12 Quicumque volunt placere in carne, hi cogunt vos circumcidi, tantum ut crucis Christi persecutionem non patiantur;

13οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι αὐτοὶ νόμον φυλάσσουσιν, ἀλλὰ θέλουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι ἵνα ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ καυχήσωνται.

For neither do the circumcised themselves protect the Law, but they wish you to be circumcised so that in your flesh they might boast.

This is borderline bizarre. The circumcised want to boast about how they got others to be circumcised?  And we come back to whether the Galatians are Jews?  Here, if whether they are circumcised is an issue, one would infer that they are not.  However, in other places it would seem like they are.  Why else would the whole story of Abraham have any resonance?

But the point seems to be something like the observant Jews somehow take pride in convincing—or coercing? Hence the persecution?—other Jews (or non-Jews who want to follow Jesus as a sect of Judaism) to accept circumcision. Seriously?  How does that work?

I guess, if they’re boasting, then getting others to accept circumcision is a point of honour (or something) with them.

But let’s think about this for a minute.  Some Jesus followers believed, apparently very strongly, that following Jesus fully meant being a Jew first. James, brother of Jesus, was apparently of this mindset.  Is that so surprising? This was their tradition; it was what they knew. Why wouldn’t they feel uncomfortable leaving it? And convincing others to follow them surely helped convince themselves that what they were doing was right, or proper, or the best thing to do.  It only gets to be a problem if persecution, or coercion is involved. And it certainly seems contrary to the agreement that Paul would proselytize the uncircumcised.

13 neque enim, qui circumciduntur, legem custodiunt, sed volunt vos circumcidi, ut in carne vestra glorientur.

14 ἐμοὶ δὲ μὴ γένοιτο καυχᾶσθαι εἰ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, δι’ οὗ ἐμοὶ κόσμος ἐσταύρωται κἀγὼ κόσμῳ.

But to me there is no being boastful if not (unless/except in) the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, through whom to me the world was crucified, and I (was crucified) to the world.

“Crucified to the world”. Essentially, the beginnings of the foundation for the idea of mortification of the flesh.  Or, perhaps, the intellectual justification for & foundation of the idea.

Update.  Here’s an interesting point: I started the summary for the chapter. When I got to this point, I was going to talk about how the idea of being crucified to the world was not alien to Jewish tradition, and was to use John the Baptist as an example.  Then I decided to check on Paul’s references to John.

Paul never mentions John.

This may belong more to discussionso f the gospels, but just to presage a bit. 

It is something of a commonplace that Jesus started as a disciple of John. Modern commentators generally make this point to lessen Jesus’ role a bit. However, when I get to the point of discussing John, in Mark 1, my contention is not that John was diminished by the gospels, but that he, and his role, and Jesus’ attachment to John were deliberately overstated by the gospel writers to give Jesus more of a pedigree.

That Paul doesn’t mention John the Baptist helps, I believe, make this point. 

14 Mihi autem absit gloriari, nisi in cruce Domini nostri Iesu Christi, per quem mihi mundus crucifixus est, et ego mundo.

15 οὔτε γὰρ περιτομή τί ἐστιν οὔτε ἀκροβυστία, ἀλλὰ καινὴ κτίσις.

For there is neither circumcised nor uncircumcised, but a new possession.

I am not at all sure how ‘possession’ gets morphed into ‘creature’, or ‘creation.’  But that’s how the Latin renders it, and all of my crib translations follow suit.  The root meaning of  << κτίσις  >> is to possess.  This is the term Thucydides used for his famous claim that his history would be ‘a possession for all time.”

But aside from the morphing of words, we finish out by emphasizing that circumcision is not important.  This would matter to the Gentile members of the Assembly.

15 Neque enim circumcisio aliquid est neque praeputium sed nova creatura.

16 καὶ ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν, εἰρήνη ἐπ’ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος, καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ.

And howsomuch in this law they are arranged, peace over them and compassion, and upon Israel and God.

Sort of making peace with those of another opinion?

16 Et quicumque hanc regulam secuti fuerint, pax super illos et misericordia et super Israel Dei.

17Τοῦ λοιποῦ κόπους μοι μηδεὶς παρεχέτω, ἐγὼ γὰρ τὰ στίγματα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματί μου βαστάζω.

Of the rest let no one trouble me,  for I the marks of Jesus on my body carry.

I’ve seen this taken to mean that Paul had the stigmata; the wounds of the crucifixion that miraculously appear on the bodies of only the most pious of saints, like Francis of Assisi.  However, I don’t think we need to take this so literally.  Paul was imprisoned a number of times, and, per Acts, flogged.  Or, absent that, he traveled a lot on his missions, and that has to leave marks on a person.

17 De cetero nemo mihi molestus sit; ego enim stigmata Iesu in super corpore meo porto.

18Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μετὰ τοῦ πνεύματος ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί: ἀμήν.

The grace of our lord Jesus the Christ (be) with your spirit, brothers, amen.

18 Gratia Domini nostri Iesu Christi cum spiritu vestro, fratres. Amen.

Note: The plan was to add a discussion on ‘grace’ here. The idea was to include both the Greek term per se, as well as how << χάρις >>  is, and maybe should be translated in individual instances.

“Grace” is now fraught with all sorts of theological connotations, so I think it’s well-worth looking at in some detail.  However, that will be appended as a separate entry.  That way the discussion can all be in one place.

Galatians Chapter 6:1-10

Chapter 6 begins.   Updated

1Ἀδελφοί, ἐὰν καὶ προλημφθῇ ἄνθρωπος ἔν τινι παραπτώματι, ὑμεῖς οἱ πνευματικοὶ καταρτίζετε τὸν τοιοῦτον ἐν πνεύματι πραΰτητος, σκοπῶν σεαυτόν, μὴ καὶ σὺ πειρασθῇς.

Brothers, if a man is caught in some sort of transgression, you the spiritual ones put this sort in order in a spirit of gentleness, watching yourself, les you are not tempted.

Tempted?  Into what?  The sin in which the other person is caught?  Or, more likely (though can’t exactly say why I believe this), the implication is that the one helping should not become puffed with pride because s/he is so superior.  I have the impression that there is something like this in 1 Thess, but I can’t seem to pin it down.

1 Fratres, et si praeoccupatus fuerit homo in aliquo delicto, vos, qui spiritales estis, huiusmodi instruite in spiritu lenitatis, considerans teipsum, ne et tu tenteris.

2Ἀλλήλων τὰ βάρη βαστάζετε, καὶ οὕτως ἀναπληρώσετε τὸν νόμον τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Bear each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the time of the Christ.

Perhaps I shouldn’t generalize too much, but the final chapter tends to drift into exhortation, pastoral concerns, and generally nice thoughts. At  least, that’s how it went in 1 Thess.  Nothing wrong with this.

2 Alter alterius onera portate et sic adimplebitis legem Christi.

3εἰ γὰρ δοκεῖ τις εἶναί τι μηδὲν ὤν, φρεναπατᾷ ἑαυτόν:

For if someone seems to be what they are not, they deceive themselves.

3 Nam si quis existimat se aliquid esse, cum sit nihil, ipse se seducit;

4τὸ δὲ ἔργον ἑαυτοῦ δοκιμαζέτω ἕκαστος, καὶ τότε εἰς ἑαυτὸν μόνον τὸ καύχημα ἕξει καὶ οὐκ εἰς τὸν ἕτερον:

But let each of you test his own work, and then [towards ] he himself alone will have the glory and not to the other/another one.   (and the glory will [reflect, i.e.] towards he himself, and to no one else.)

Again, we come across some Greek that is particularly un-amenable to being translated smoothly into English.  It requires a certain amount of poetic licence.  However, this is where things get lost.  Sounds good in the new language, but has drifted rather far from what the original says.  This is fine when translating poetry with an idea of giving a sense of the poetry, but it often does violence to the original.

 This is why I don’t feel I’ve ever read a satisfactory translation of The Iliad.  To impart the sense of poetry is to mangle the Greek; to maintain the Greek is to lose all sense of poetry.  So, I would recommend prose translations if you can’t read it in the original!

Perhaps, “to thine own self be true” might not be a bad paraphrase?

4 opus autem suum probet unusquisque et sic in semetipso tantum gloriationem habebit et non in altero.

5ἕκαστος γὰρ τὸ ἴδιον φορτίον βαστάσει.

For each will carry his personal burden.

Per 6:2 above, they are instructed to carry each other’s burdens.  However, comments like this are absolutely pedantic on my part (highlighted phrases added for clarity).  I mean, really?  How pedantic  can I get?  Answer: very.

 Now, OTOH, there is an implication here.  Paul didn’t catch the ‘contradiction’.  Or, if he did, he didn’t feel it was a contradiction; or he didn’t feel it was worth ‘correcting’.  In either case, well, the decision is rhetorical and there’s no disputing the taste of it.  The decision becomes artistic, and so impossible to quibble with on substantive grounds of meaning.

But, if he didn’t catch it, then what?  Then we have to ask ourselves if he revised and re-drafted.  It was not unusual to write several drafts of a work of substance.  The last part of Thucydides reads very much like a rough draft that the author did not have time to complete before he, presumably, died.  But did Paul draft his letters?  Or were they dashed off, a one-off, the way most letters are written?  This leads to all sorts of questions: how systematic a thinker was he?  How ‘considered’ was his material?

This has implications.  IMHO, Romans and 1 Corinthians feel very much like considered, thought-out, fairly well-crafted pieces of literature.  Akenson cites Romans as a wonderful piece of prose, highly literate.  I’ve translated a chunk of it, but haven’t re-worked it enough to have a real feel for it.  Same with 1 Corinthians.  Galatians, OTOH, does not feel like it has the same high level of literary polish.  

This is one reason I tend to believe Galatians is earlier than 1 Corinthians.  However, I fully admit that this is not conclusive one way or the other. Galatians could very easily be later and ‘less literature-like’; there is no inherent reason why something later could not be less polished.  It’s easily plausible that he wrote Galatians quickly, to meet an immediate need. What sort of need? The fact that ‘another gospel’ was taking root among the Galatian assembly.

But feel free to disagree with me. On this, or any other point.

 One theme of Galatians, starting way back in Chapter 1:10 was the idea of Paul having a secretary, perhaps a native Greek speaker from Athens.  This inference was based on the unusual, Athenian, form of the verb ‘to be’ that was used.  As we have gone along, however, I have become less convinced that Paul had a more educated secretary writing Galatians.  Assuming he was in Athens as he says, picking up the odd Athenian form is not exactly remarkable.  As we have moved along, though, there have an increasing number of places where the prose, or the thinking, seems less than pellucid, as my Tacitus prof used to say.  These are frequent enough and severe enough that I now have strong doubts that Paul used a secretary for this letter.  Not the least of these is the place below in 6:9 where he talks about the long letters written in his own hand!

5 Unusquisque enim onus suum portabit.

6Κοινωνείτω δὲ ὁ κατηχούμενος τὸν λόγον τῷ κατηχοῦντι ἐν πᾶσιν ἀγαθοῖς.

Let the one being instructed make common (communicate) the lesson with him (the one) who has instructed him in all good things.

6 Communicet autem is, qui catechizatur verbum, ei qui se catechizat, in omnibus bonis.

7Μὴ πλανᾶσθε, θεὸς οὐ μυκτηρίζεται: ὃ γὰρ ἐὰν σπείρῃ ἄνθρωπος, τοῦτο καὶ θερίσει:

Do not be wandered (deceived), God must not be mocked. For what a man sows, this shall he reap.

 << πλανᾶσθε >> is the root of the word ‘planet’.  It means, ‘to wander’.  In the night sky, the path of the stars is fixed and pretty much immutable; planets, OTOH, show up in different places.  That is, they ‘wander’ along the band of the Zodiac.

Beyond this we have a clear statement about actions having consequences.  That is, this could be used to indicate that faith alone may not be enough to be justified by God?  This is the genesis of a huge dispute in Christianity: faith alone, or works? Or both?  Eventually, to make sure that we miserable humans were sufficiently ground down into abject despair of our souls, Augustine said, in effect, neither.  We had to be chosen, or predestined, from the foundations of the world for salvation, and nothing we did could make a difference.  Paul seems to be saying something different here.

7 Nolite errare: Deus non irridetur. Quae enim seminaverit homo, haec et metet;

8ὅτι ὁ σπείρων εἰς τὴν σάρκα ἑαυτοῦ ἐκ τῆς σαρκὸς θερίσει φθοράν, ὁ δὲ σπείρων εἰς τὸ πνεῦμα ἐκ τοῦ πνεύματος θερίσει ζωὴν αἰώνιον.

That the sower to his own body from the flesh sows corruption, the one sowing to the spirit from the spirit sows eternal life.

 Flesh and spirit again.  This is taking on the life of a ‘theme’.

8 quoniam, qui seminat in carne sua, de carne metet corruptionem; qui autem seminat in Spiritu, de Spiritu metet vitam aeternam.

9τὸ δὲ καλὸν ποιοῦντες μὴ ἐγκακῶμεν, καιρῷ γὰρ ἰδίῳ θερίσομεν μὴ ἐκλυόμενοι.

But the one doing good does not tire, for in the season for its sowing for himself he will not lack.

Face it: that sounds bloody awful.  Will not lack?  Lack what?  He won’t tire, so, presumably, he won’t lack the energy to go out and sow because he has to get it done in the season (?).

 In order to make that sound good, you really have to smooth that over artistically.  Doing so obviously means that you’re tampering with nuances.

 And really, even the ‘standard’ definition is really something like an anecdotal statistical sampling: most of the time, this word means ‘x’.  Somewhat less of the time, it means ‘y’.  Then we have situations where, 2% of the time, it seems to mean ‘q’.

 This goes back to the McGrath book I mentioned in relation to the differences between  << δικαιωσυνη>> and <<iustificio >> (See Gal 2:16).  In his treatment, he came up with the concept of a ‘linguistic field’. (He may not have originated it; I don’t know off-hand.)  A word is more than its meaning: it also encompasses what it excludes, what it doesn’t mean, whether it has good or bad connotations.

 So when we encounter passages like this one,  we have to keep the concept of linguistic fields very much in mind.  For example. ‘shadow’ and ‘shade’ mean, essentially, the same thing.  However, ‘shade’ does not have the negative connotations of ‘shadow’.  We don’t say ‘a shade came over her face.’  Or, ‘he was shaded by an unknown pursuer’.  However, characters are ‘shady’, but that’s a different form of the word, the adjective rather than the noun.  Even here, a ‘shadowy figure’ is not at all the same thing as a ‘shady figure’.  One is indistinct, the other is unsavoury.  There is a very real difference.  Yes, we can say that the first can mean unsavoury as well; we can say it, but we generally would not.

 9 Bonum autem facientes infatigabiles, tempore enim suo metemus non deficientes.

10ἄρα οὖν ὡς καιρὸν ἔχομεν, ἐργαζώμεθα τὸ ἀγαθὸν πρὸς πάντας, μάλιστα δὲ πρὸς τοὺς οἰκείους τῆς πίστεως.

So therefore as we have the occasion, we do good things towards all, but especially towards those dwelling in the faith.

First a note on the Greek: Notice that in V-9 << καιρὸς >> got translated as ‘season’.  That is the base meaning.  Here, OTOH, I have translated it ‘occasion’.  This is a good example of linguistic field, and how it can expand.  If you think about it, the two translations are not at all exclusionary.  “In season” can certainly mean ‘at the proper time’.  But that doesn’t exactly work here.  However, “the proper time” and “when the occasion arises” overlap a great deal.  So I gave into peer pressure and used ‘occasion’ in this verse.  I’ve seen it translated as ‘opportunity’ as well.  That doesn’t have the temporal connotations of ‘occasion’, however.

Now for the meaning of the words.  The last part: we do good, but especially to those who dwell ( or, ‘whose house’ is in the faith, to catch the root meaning of << οἰκείους >>, which is ‘house’) in the faith.  Think about this in relation to Jesus’ statement that we get no benefit from loving those who love us (Mth 5:46).  After all, even the heathen do that. Here, Paul is saying something quite different. 

 What, exactly, is the significance of the difference?  Is there any?  I believe there is.  By the time the gospels were written, the Jerusalem Assembly did not exist any longer.  By that point one has to consider whether, perhaps, the tipping point had been reached and the majority of converts were now Gentiles, and not Jews.  Given this, was the injunction to include everyone sort of a PR move, designed to make people think, ‘hey—those Jesus people sure are nice.’  Or something along those lines?

10 Ergo dum tempus habemus, operemur bonum ad omnes, maxime autem ad domesticos fidei.

Summary Galatians Chapter 5

Summarizing Galatians Chapter 5.

Paul continues the metaphor of the Judaic Law as slavery.  Since this was a large part of Chapter 4, he apparently feels pretty strongly about this. He’s not going to let go until he’s browbeaten his listeners into agreement.  In contrast, Christ represents freedom.

The most reasonable conclusion to draw from all of this is that the Galatians had become subjected to an attempt to “convert” them to becoming Jewish Christians in the manner of the Jerusalem Assembly.  Already in 1:6, we are told of the ‘new gospel’.  Given all the anti-Jewish argument that followed, and that is continued here, I don’t see what else we could be talking about.

In fact, followers of the law, we are told, have fallen out of God’s grace.  What, exactly, he means by that, is an open question.  It should be noted that the base meaning of the Greek term “charis/charitas” is, really, “favour”.  Now, technically, falling out of grace, and falling out of favour can refer to identical situations.  However, the first has at least a level of religious implication that is, IMO, completely lacking in the latter.  Or, The second can be either wholly secular, or wholly religious, but “grace” has, at a minimum, an implied religious connotation.

Should verse 5 be “spirit”? Or “Spirit” (Holy implied). I suggest the former.

Paul can’t decide if circumcision is of no value, or actively bad.

And, once again, Paul stresses that he is ‘from God’, while the others are not.

The major concept of the section 5:11-26 is the distinction between flesh and spirit. This is, largely, a Greek concept, with a very long history in Greek thought.  It is not, to the best of my knowledge, derived from the OT.  Paul concludes the chapter with a fairly lengthy catalog of the vices attendant upon the flesh, and the virtues that follow from the spirit (not necessarily The (Holy) Spirit.