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.


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 5, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters, Summary and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. How many times did Paul find a James-gang style Christian community already thriving outside of Palestine? How many times did Paul start a Christian community and have the James gang come along to “correct” Paul? It would seem it was probably the latter much more often than the former, given the rules that each community started with.

    • Technically, there is no answer to this question. There simply is no information one way or the other.

      I would suspect that the second scenario seems the more likely; however, as I try to justify this position, I can’t really come up with any reason to support this sense. I guess it’s a matter of geography: Paul was wandering around while the James Gang, seemingly, was fairly stationary in Jerusalem. Fairly stationary, but not completely inert. There are passages (don’t have the cites off the top of my head) in which Paul speaks rather disparagingly about how other apostles, including at times the brothers of the Lord, traveled in a retinue that included their wives, which led to considerable expense for the assembly that had to support them.

      So, I would think that they followed up on Paul rather more often than otherwise. Of course, it is easy to imagine a situation in which a group of Jews somewhere outside Judea had become followers of Jesus based on James’ teaching, and Paul came along and provided his message.

      So the answer, I guess, is ‘yes.’

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