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.


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 10, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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