Galatians Chapter 5:1-10

And so we begin Chapter 5.

1τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν: στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε.

Therefore, stand in the freedom (into which) the Christ liberated us, and do not again take up the yoke of slavery.

Had to switch this around a bit to get it to make sense in English

More literarly, this would read:

In the  freedom (in/for which) the Christ liberated us, stand therefore and not again the yoke of slavery take up.

The slavery, essentially, would be to return to following the Law of Moses.  This continues the metaphor from Chapter 4, with the distinction between the heirs of the bondwoman Hagar, or of the free woman Sarah. Interesting choice of words: freedom vs slavery.  This is a pretty strong statement, indicating, it seems, a degree of repugnance for his former practices. Is that too harsh?  Remember he told us back at the end of Chapter 1 that he was noted for his zealousness as a Jew.  Now he’s referring to it—and not for the first time—as slavery.

See comments to 3:10 & 4:8.   

Does this give us any indication that the Galatians were Jews?  Not necessarily.  The distinction he’s making could just as easily be the distinction between the Judaizers—the James Gang and their followers—and preachers like Paul, or Paul, who believed it was not necessary to follow the Law as James & Co believed.  We are told of other gospels; that of the Jerusalem Assembly could easily be what is meant here.  So we don’t necessarily get any insight on whether the Galatians were Jews.

 Note: this could be a settled point among biblical scholars, and I could be simply wrong that there is even a question.

1 Hac libertate nos Christus liberavit; state igitur et nolite iterum iugo servitutis detineri.

2Ἴδε ἐγὼ Παῦλος λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι ἐὰν περιτέμνησθε Χριστὸς ὑμᾶς οὐδὲν ὠφελήσει.

Therefore, I, Paul tell you that if you are circumcised, the Christ profits you nothing.

Here we go a step further.  The Christ profits you nothing if you follow the Law.  That’s a pretty strong statement, and it gives some insight why Jewish scholars have felt that Paul was one of the original sources of Christian anti-Semitism. 

2 Ecce ego Paulus dico vobis quoniam, si circumcidamini, Christus vobis nihil proderit.

3μαρτύρομαι δὲ πάλιν παντὶ ἀνθρώπῳ περιτεμνομένῳ ὅτι ὀφειλέτης ἐστὶν ὅλον τὸν νόμον ποιῆσαι.

For I attest again to all circumcised that the obligation is to do ( = keep) the whole law.

This sounds an awful lot like Paul is arguing against the Judaizers, the James Gang and their ilk.  The most likely reason he would be doing this is to convince his audience to follow him instead of the James Gang with their requirements to keep all of the Jewish Law.  In fact, this would help explain why he told the whole story of his meeting with the Jerusalem Assembly, and the concordat to which both parties agreed.  This gospel of the Jerusalem Assembly would then be the ‘other gospel’ to which Paul refers in Gal 1:5 (and subsequently).  These would be the people who ‘bewitched’ the Galatians in 3:1.

 So does this mean that the Galatians were Gentiles?  Would seem to.  Since circumcision seems to be an/the issue, this would only be—or most likely be—an issue for Gentiles.

3 Testificor autem rursum omni homini circumcidenti se quoniam debitor est universae legis faciendae.

4κατηργήθητε ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ οἵτινες ἐν νόμῳ δικαιοῦσθε, τῆς χάριτος ἐξεπέσατε.

You have been made useless from ( = for) the Christ, whoever is justified in the law, he has fallen out of grace.

Grace: this is a great example of a situation in which Paul’s words make sense in light of two thousand years of exegesis and the working out of a doctrine of Grace.  But we have to ask ourselves, if you take away all that we have learned since this was written,  is it completely clear what Paul means here?  I’m really not sure it is.  The REB translates this as “fallen out of God’s grace”, which obviously throws up and entire edifice of subsequent doctrine.

 Beyond that, Paul here is actively stating that followers of Jewish Law are out of God’s grace, whatever ‘grace’ happens to mean to him.  Whom does he include in this banishment?  The Jerusalem Assembly?  Is he peeved because they are not sticking to the agreement of the Synod of Jerusalem, and leaving the conversion of Gentiles to Paul?  That they are sticking their noses in where they don’t—in Paul’s opinion, anyway—belong?  It is very possible to read a certain level of anti-Semitism in this passage.  He’s gotten exasperated, so he’s, more or less, condemning the whole lot of them.

4 Evacuati estis a Christo, qui in lege iustificamini, a gratia excidistis.

5ἡμεῖς γὰρ πνεύματι ἐκ πίστεως ἐλπίδα δικαιοσύνης ἀπεκδεχόμεθα.

For we wait in the spirit the hope of justification by (from) faith.

The KJV, NASB, ESV, and NIV all capitalize “Spirit.”  This, I think, risks running off the tracks into fantasy, rather than sticking to the text. This is, IMO, exactly the sort of thing I’m talking about. There is no reason to believe that Paul is talking about The (Holy) Spirit. He has been, consistently, talking about the difference between flesh and spirit. Here, we are told, one is to be justified while waiting in/by the spirit, as opposed to in the flesh, which is what the Law entails. Making this The (Holy) Spirit, is the back-reading of several hundred years of theological development.

Here, it seems that the implication is that faith is spiritual, and the Law is not.  As for what Paul thinks of things that are not spiritual, see verse 17 below.  That may be too clever by half, or be giving Paul credit for being too clever by half.

5 Nos enim Spiritu ex fide spem iustitiae exspectamus.

6ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ οὔτε περιτομή τι ἰσχύει οὔτε ἀκροβυστία, ἀλλὰ πίστις δι’ ἀγάπης ἐνεργουμένη.

For in the Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor non-circumcision is worth anything, but faith is working through love.

Notice: a few verses ago, he said that circumcision renders you useless for Christ.  How to square that with this passage?  The difference could easily be that above, he’s talking about those who accept circumcision as a necessary precursor to becoming a follower of Jesus.  Here, OTOH, he’s talking about those born into Judaism, as he was.  If it was your state from birth, well, there’s nothing to be done, and it’s irrelevant.  However, the warning is that one is not to accept circumcion as an adult in order to become a follower of Jesus.

 IOW, the Galatians are Gentiles.

<< δι’ ἀγάπης >> Greek famously has four words that can be legitimately translated as ‘love.’  The first, of course, is Eros; this describes erotic love.  Another is << φιλία >>, the ‘brotherly love’ that we encountered in 1 Thess 4:9; and, it’s the ‘brotherly love’ in the city of Philadelphia.  The third is << ἀγάπη >>.  The fourth is << χάρις / χάριτας >> and it doesn’t necessarily get translated as ‘love.’  We discussed this in relation to grace, doing a compare & contrast between ‘grace’, the Latin << gratia >> and << χάρις / χάριτας >>.  This, whether obviously or not, the root of “charity”.  In fact, it’s as much direct transliteration as root. In the old days, the translation of 1 Cor  [ ] was ‘faith, hope, and charity, the greatest of these being charity.’  Now, the last word is usually rendered ‘love,’ which throws a whole new slant onto the passage.

 But getting back to the word in this paragraph,<< ἀγάπη >>.  This excludes erotic love, and brotherly love, and, possibly, what we would call ‘charity.’  So, presumably, it would include all else, such as the love of a parent for a child.  That is probably the sense we encounter here.

6 Nam in Christo Iesu neque circumcisio aliquid valet neque praeputium, sed fides, quae per caritatem operatur.

7Ἐτρέχετε καλῶς: τίς ὑμᾶς ἐνέκοψεν [τῇ] ἀληθείᾳ μὴ πείθεσθαι;

You ran well.  Who hindered you from the truth to be obedient?  ( who hindered you from being persuaded by = obeying/following the truth?)

Again, seems to be excoriating those who have gone over to the gospel of the James Gang.

7 Currebatis bene; quis vos impedivit veritati non oboedire?

8ἡ πεισμονὴ οὐκ ἐκ τοῦ καλοῦντος ὑμᾶς.

The persuasion is not from the one calling you.

The argument of the James Gang, IOW, is not from God.  For God is the one calling them.

8 Haec persuasio non est ex eo, qui vocat vos.

9μικρὰ ζύμη ὅλον τὸ φύραμα ζυμοῖ.

A little yeast leavens the whole lump ( lit = ‘lump’, as in ‘lump of dough.’  Implication = ‘loaf’.)

Sort of saying, one bad apple spoils the bunch.  A little of this yeast of the Judaizers is enough to penetrate (and spoil?) the whole crowd.

9 Modicum fermentum totam massam corrumpit.

10ἐγὼ πέποιθα εἰς ὑμᾶς ἐν κυρίῳ ὅτι οὐδὲν ἄλλο φρονήσετε: ὁ δὲ ταράσσων ὑμᾶς βαστάσει τὸ κρίμα, ὅστις ἐὰν ᾖ.

I have been persuaded towards you in the lord, that you think nothing else.  The one disturbing you will bear the judgement, whoever he is.

The verb << πέποιθα ( = πέιθω0 >> here is interesting.  In Classical usage, it means ‘to persuade’, or in the passive ‘to be persuaded.’  This definition holds for most of the NT as well, with, of course, the exception of Paul.  In Paul, it often means ‘to have confidence.’  This is what the Latin ‘confido’ shows.  One can see the logic behind the development, but it’s interesting how Paul—or his translators—have their own peculiar meanings of what are fairly standard Greek words.  But then, it’s exactly the words that get used the most that evolve the most.  Right?

“Whoever he is.”  Like Paul does not know?  Have the Galatians not ratted the guy out?  But then, it’s possible that Paul doesn’t know.  He’s writing in response to a development that occurred after he left the Galatians.  He has heard reports of some of the Galatians, at least, going over to the side of the James Gang, and he’s writing in response to this development.  So, the corruption having occurred when he was not there, he may not know who the corrupter was.

10 Ego confido in vobis in Domino, quod nihil aliud sapietis; qui autem conturbat vos, portabit iudicium, quicumque est ille.


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 November 3, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Could “whoever he is” have the possible belittling meaning of “whoever he thinks he is”?

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