Galatians Chapter 5:11-26

Chapter 5 continues:

11ἐγὼ δέ, ἀδελφοί, εἰ περιτομὴν ἔτι κηρύσσω, τί ἔτι διώκομαι; ἄρα κατήργηται τὸ σκάνδαλον τοῦ σταυροῦ.

But I, brothers, if I will yet preach circumcision, why yet am I persecuted?  Then the scandal of the cross is voided.

This is kind of interesting. First, who’s persecuting him?  Had to think about this one. If he preaches circumcision, he’s going along with mainstream Jewish thinking, so he’s not flaunting the differences of the Jesus followers. This means that he’s eliminated the scandal of the cross by not waving it in people’s faces.

Or something. Maybe even something like that.

11 Ego autem, fratres, si circumcisionem adhuc praedico, quid adhuc persecutionem patior? Ergo evacuatum est scandalum crucis.

12 ὄφελον καὶ ἀποκόψονται οἱ ἀναστατοῦντες ὑμᾶς.

Oh, would that also they cut themselves those disturbing you.

 They cut themselves.’  Rendered variously as ‘mutilate themselves’, and even ‘castrate (excuse me, ‘emasculate’) themselves.

Wow.  This is a bit harsh. Plus, notice the range of translations. I think the idea is something like ‘go circumcise yourself’, but, if it’s a mainstream Jew, then that’s already been done. Maybe he does mean ’emasculate’? I doubt it, despite the fact that both the ESV and the NIV translate it this way, but it’s possible.  The KJV, however,  renders it as ‘would that those bothering you were cut off” (language updated slightly.)

12 Utinam et abscidantur, qui vos conturbant!

13Ὑμεῖς γὰρ ἐπ’ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἐκλήθητε, ἀδελφοί: μόνον μὴ τὴν ἐλευθερίαν εἰς ἀφορμὴν τῇ σαρκί, ἀλλὰ διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης δουλεύετε ἀλλήλοις.

For you were called for the purpose of freedom, brothers.  Not only for the occasion of freedom of the flesh, but on account of/through love serve each other.

“Freedom of the flesh” here probably (?) refers to the lack of circumcision, and the relaxing of the dietary and other restrictions placed by Judaism. I’ve said this before, but the implication that Judaism is somehow ‘slavery’ while following Jesus is ‘freedom’ is also pretty extreme.

13 Vos enim in libertatem vocati estis, fratres; tantum ne libertatem in occasionem detis carni, sed per caritatem servite invicem.

14ὁ γὰρ πᾶς νόμος ἐν ἑνὶ λόγῳ πεπλήρωται, ἐν τῷ Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου ὡς σεαυτόν.

For the whole law in one saying/expression/sentence  is fulfilled, in “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

14 Omnis enim lex in uno sermone impletur, in hoc: Diliges proximum tuum sicut teipsum.

15εἰ δὲ ἀλλήλους δάκνετε καὶ κατεσθίετε, βλέπετε μὴ ὑπ’ ἀλλήλων ἀναλωθῆτε.

But if you bite and devour each other, watch lest you are consumed by others.

“Bite and devour”: excellent rhetoric. Great image.

15 Quod si invicem mordetis et devoratis, videte, ne ab invicem consumamini!

16Λέγω δέ, πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν σαρκὸς οὐ μὴ τελέσητε.

But I say, walk about in the spirit and the desires of the flesh will not be your final end. (you will not perfect/complete yourselves)

Note: here’s a great example of how a minor change in translation can deeply affect the meaning. “…will not be your final end” is very different from “you will not perfect yourselves.”  The first is perfectly correct, but it does not necessarily convey the same thing as the second.  The meanings definitely overlap, but it’s a case of how the meaning is taken.

16 Dico autem: Spiritu ambulate et concupiscentiam carnis ne perfeceritis.

17ἡ γὰρ σὰρξ ἐπιθυμεῖ κατὰ τοῦ πνεύματος, τὸ δὲ πνεῦμα κατὰ τῆς σαρκός: ταῦτα γὰρ ἀλλήλοις ἀντίκειται, ἵνα μὴ ἃ ἐὰν θέλητε ταῦτα ποιῆτε.

For the flesh desires (things) contrary to the spirit, and the spirit desires (things) contrary to the flesh.  For they lie against each other, so that what you might want you cannot do these things.

To this point, I have not made enosugh of the whole theme in Paul about the difference between the flesh and the spirit.  To the best of my knowledge, this distinction does not go back deeply into Jewish thought.  It is, however, part of Greek thought going back several hundred years before the time of the Christ; indeed, the distinction between body and spirit, or soul, is found in Homer.  In The Illiad, the spirits of the dead are sent speeding to Hades when slain; in The Odyssey, Odysseus calls up the spirits of his father, Achilles, and others by performing a blood ritual.  To the best of my knowledge, there is no real Hebrew/Jewish equivalent until a century or two before Jesus.  IOW, after the Near/Middle East had been under Greek rule, and Greek cultural influence for a century or more.

 For dualistic religions, the distinction between Good Spirit, synonymous with, or equivalent to Light, and Evil Matter, synonymous with, or equivalent to Darkness, is fundamental.  One of the earliest such religions was Zoroastrianism; there was a long string of successors, passing through the Gnostics at about the time of Jesus, and continuing on from him, culminating in the ancient world with Manicheanism.  Gnosticism represents a real challenge for historians; in its ‘pure’ form, Gnosticism is truly a completely distinct religion.  In more ‘dilute’ forms, it can combine with Christian beliefs and become a Christian heresy.  In both Paul and Mark we have points where these two writers intersect with Gnostic beliefs.  Paul’s insistence on the distinction between the good spiritual traits, and the sinful traits of the flesh is one such intersection.  What Paul says here is completely orthodox, but crank it up a notch or two, and it could easily cross the line into heresy, if not outright apostasy.

 This spirit/flesh dichotomy is one of the areas, IMO, that Akenson does not consider in sufficient depth.  He is very intent on putting Saul/Paul in the Judaic (Judahist, a term he coined, and which I find very useful and very descriptive), to the point that he gives short shrift—or overlooks completely—aspects of the Jesus faith that seem to come more naturally from the pagan world.  Yes, Jesus and his band were Jews, but by Akenson’s own admission (it’s a central point of his thesis, in fact), that could—and did—mean a lot of different things. That there were pagan influences on Judaic thought seemed fairly obvious to me as an undergraduate, studying Classics/Classical history.  Now, much of what I saw as the pagan roots of Christian thought weren’t necessarily there when the gospels or Paul’s letters were written, but accrued as Christianity became co-opted by Gentiles with Classical education, but some parts were, and the good spirit/bad flesh distinction is one of the most fundamental.

 BTW: it’s these 2000 years of accretions that we’re trying to remove in this study.

And why << ἀντίκειται >>?  Why not <<ἀντέστην >> as we saw in 2:11 above? Why ‘lie against’ instead of ‘stand against’?  Can’t answer that.  Makes one wonder if Paul had any sense of the Homeric echo in 2:11.  It would seem to be very fitting here, too.

17 Caro enim concupiscit adversus Spiritum, Spiritus autem adversus carnem; haec enim invicem adversantur, ut non, quaecumque vultis, illa faciatis.

18εἰ δὲ πνεύματι ἄγεσθε, οὐκ ἐστὲ ὑπὸ νόμον.

For if you are led by the spirit, you are not under the law.

This is really a confirmation of what has been said before.

18 Quod si Spiritu ducimini, non estis sub lege.

19φανερὰ δέ ἐστιν τὰ ἔργα τῆς σαρκός, ἅτινά ἐστιν πορνεία, ἀκαθαρσία, ἀσέλγεια,

For the works of the flesh are manifest (apparent, obvious), which are corrupt, unclean, and wanton,

Could you ask for a better clarification of how Paul views the ways of the flesh?

19 Manifesta autem sunt opera carnis, quae sunt fornicatio, immunditia, luxuria,

20εἰδωλολατρία, φαρμακεία, ἔχθραι, ἔρις, ζῆλος, θυμοί, ἐριθείαι, διχοστασίαι, αἱρέσεις,

Idolatrous, drug-addled, enmity,

20 idolorum servitus, veneficia, inimicitiae, contentiones, aemulationes, irae, rixae, dissensiones, sectae,

21φθόνοι, μέθαι, κῶμοι, καὶ τὰ ὅμοια τούτοις, ἃ προλέγω ὑμῖν καθὼς προεῖπον ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες βασιλείαν θεοῦ οὐ κληρονομήσουσιν.

Jealousies, drunkenness, and the other things like this, I warn you, accordingly as I warned that those doing these sorts of things, will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We’ll take on the laundry list shortly.  Let’s talk about the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the letters that the consensus takes to be genuine Paul, the term is used a grand total of 8 times.  Six of these are in 1 Corinthians; the other three are scattered one each in Romans, here, and 1 Thessalonians.  This term, as far as I can tell, is never actually described, let alone defined.  It’s a good thing, but what and why is a tad vague.

21 invidiae, ebrietates, comissationes et his similia; quae praedico vobis, sicut praedixi, quoniam, qui talia agunt, regnum Dei non consequentur.

22Ὁ δὲ καρπὸς τοῦ πνεύματός ἐστιν ἀγάπη, χαρά, εἰρήνη, μακροθυμία, χρηστότης, ἀγαθωσύνη, πίστις,

The fruit of the spirit is love, charity, peace, blessedness, kindness, goodness, faith.

See comments at end of chapter

22 Fructus autem Spiritus est caritas, gaudium, pax, longanimitas, benignitas, bonitas, fides,

23πραΰτης, ἐγκράτεια: κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος.

Gentleness, self-control; against these sorts of things there is no law.

23 mansuetudo, continentia; adversus huiusmodi non est lex.

24οἱ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ [Ἰησοῦ] τὴν σάρκα ἐσταύρωσαν σὺν τοῖς παθήμασιν καὶ ταῖς ἐπιθυμίαις.

Those of the Christ [ Jesus ] have crucified the flesh with the vices and desires.

24 Qui autem sunt Christi Iesu, carnem crucifixerunt cum vitiis et concupiscentiis.

25εἰ ζῶμεν πνεύματι, πνεύματι καὶ στοιχῶμεν.

If we live in the spirit, we walk in the spirit.

25 Si vivimus Spiritu, Spiritu et ambulemus.

26μὴ γινώμεθα κενόδοξοι, ἀλλήλους προκαλούμενοι, ἀλλήλοις φθονοῦντες.

Do not become vain, calling out each other, being jealous of each other.

26 Non efficiamur inanis gloriae cupidi, invicem provocantes, invicem invidentes.

As mentioned in 5:19 above, this gives a pretty clear sense of how Paul sees the distinction between spirit (good) and flesh (bad).  I suppose I could go on, but I’m not sure to what purpose.  So maybe I oversold with my ‘see comments at end of chapter’ note above.

I guess the question to ask is how, or even if, the spirit is related to the Kingdom of God.  Those participating in the matters of the flesh, we are told, will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  So the obvious–or the logical–implication is that the kingdom is related to the spiritual virtues.  I guess my question would be, why the very limp connection here?  Why not make it more robust? That seems a tad peculiar.

And beyond that, let’s talk about chronology. The kingdom becomes a big theme in the gospels, which follow these letters of Paul.  Given that, and the fact that Paul makes more references to it in 1 Corinthians, can we take this to mean that 1 Corinthians comes after 1 Thess and Galatians? That the theme developed with time? So that Galatians was written before, and not after 1 Corinthians?

That may be a valid inference, logically speaking, but that doesn’t mean it’s convincing, let alone conclusive.


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 4, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. The Kingdom of God – this could mean “where God lives” or it could mean “the kingdom God made for us”. Early apocalyptism implied the latter, but it has come to mean the former in modern times. Heaven can be on the earth. Can we determine which he means and which are meant in the Gospels?

  2. Actually, no, we can’t tell. That’s what all the fuss is about!

  3. Actually, no,we can’t. That’s what all the fuss is about

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