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.
Posted on November 11, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged Bible, Bible commentary, Bible scholarship, biblical scholarship, commenting, epistles, Galatians, New Testament, religion, St Paul, theology. Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.