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.

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 11, 2012, in epistles, Galatians, Paul's Letters and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. The joke may not carry in Greek, but maybe what Paul meant by “big letters in his own hand” was his John Hancock. Again, a joke.

  2. Regarding references of the collection of circumcised, it almost seems like a contest of collecting converts based on circumcised vs uncircumcised. Almost an echo of David’s collection of foreskins in battle.

  3. Well, if it’s a joke, no wonder I didn’t get it. May I ask how you know this?

    As for the other…well, these sorts of “competitions” among warriors was not uncommon.

  4. Background on John Hancock for those outside the United States, when our Declaration of Independence was signed by the delegates, the President of the group was John Hancock, who signed his name so large that the king would be able “to see it without his spectacles [eyeglasses]”, as the story goes. “John Hancock” is now used as a reference for the signature at the bottom of a document, especially a large signature. My joke (or pun) was that the phrase “big letters in his own hand” could be understood either as “long content he wrote out in the document” or my joke translation of “large characters of text”. I’m expecting that you will say the pun doesn’t work in Greek, but since they are both Indo-European, it is possible the pun works in both languages.

    My joke is not meant to be disruptive, but illustrative of the difficulties you must confront when translating difficult passages. If Paul ever meant to be humorous, could we tell, or would we take him seriously? I haven’t seen anything so far, though, where Paul was anything but serious in his letters, though many sermons I’ve attended had a fair amount of humor used to illustrate, or they used parables like Jesus. Does Paul use parables anywhere? That may have happened during gatherings when he lived with the Galatians, but Paul doesn’t seem to make indirect references to parables in his letters, either. No so far. Will that be true for all the epistles, Pauline, pseuod-Pauline, or otherwise? Are all of the Parables in the Gospels/Acts and the Revelations? Maybe some of the obscure references by Paul and others are meant to be obscure so as not to be definitively convictable, like Revelations are?

  5. My apologies. I had most of a better response (so it seems) drafted, but didn’t post it, and one of my darling daughters clicked off the browser window and sent it to data bit heaven. It seemed like the other one was much more insightful, etc. But then, it always seems that way, doesn’t it?

    Your joke/pun is not in the least disruptive. Given the actual words, there is no reason to exclude your “John Hancock” reading of this. Now, the second question is whether this is something that Paul would have a) thought was amusing; and b) actually done.

    Did you ever see “The Name of the Rose”? If so, do you recall the scene between Sean Connery and the humorless old monk, in which they are discussing whether Jesus ever laughed, or made a joke. Old Monk, of course, said “absolutely not” because humor was much too frivolous for Jesus. Sean C then points to the Peter/petros = rock line, and says that Jesus made a pun, so he didn’t think humor was out of the question.

    So it is here.

    I have a very poor sense of humor when it comes to stuff like this. As such, I would probably be the last to see any humor in any of these texts. Part of that is because I have never really run across anything in Paul to indicate that the man even had a sense of humor. And the SofH in, IMO, a necessary prerequisite for making a joke, or even a pun. But, given that I have a limited sense of humor, my failure to find one in Paul is borderline begging the question, in the real sense of the term. How do I know Paul doesn’t have a SofH? I don’t see it. Why don’t I see it? Because I have no SofH.

    “Begging the Question” really means using a circular argument. How do you know it’s the best? Because the most people like it. Why do most people like it? Because it’s the best.

    This is where different people with different perspectives will see (real or imagined) different things. Each points out what s/he sees, and then you have a debate. And, in the end, generally no one changes their mind. Oh well.

    One last thing: I am not aware of Paul using parables. Some of that may be my ignorance, so, if I come across anything subsequently, I’ll update this (assuming I remember!). One thing that Akenson drives home is that Paul is really not in the least interested in Jesus the Man. In fact, his argument is that, for Paul, Jesus did not become The Christ until after the Resurrection. As such, why would he care about what Jesus did before? And I have seen this from Garry Wills, too, in a book “What Paul Meant”. He’s not as explicit, but he says Paul is primarily interested in The Christ. This, I suppose, is why the QHJ crowd pretty much ignores Paul, despite the violence this does to the actual historical record.

    So, I believe that the parables will be restricted to the gospels, for the most part. But again, consider the audience and intent of the writers: Paul was writing for people who were already believers, to settle questions that came up as the result of belief. The gospels, at least in part, were also intended for potential converts; as a result, the writing style had to be a bit more didactic, and a little less authoritative. Parable would be more suitable for the former, and less so for the latter type of writing.

    As for Revelation, in some ways the whole thing is an extended parable. Or metaphor. Or something. It’s an apocalypse; as such, it has another and different set of internal rules.

  6. Good clarification that an apocalypse is different than a parable. To de-conflate my previous statement even further, another illustrative category would be anecdotal or stylistic references to Old Testament stories. I can think of several forms: from the geneaologies of Matthew and Luke, to the retelling of Abraham and the law by Paul in Galatians, to the many references in Hebrews.

    A few years ago, I was made aware how Shakespeare used Ovid in his writing. A translation of Ovid’s Metaphorphoses was extremely popular in England a few years before Shakespeare, so it gave him a ready-made verbal shorthand to flesh out his plays in the following way: when Shakespeare made reference to Phoebus’s (Helios’) orb crossing the sky, he is not just waxing poetic about the sun at any old place in the text to refer to the sun and the daytime. The text is placed in a scene with rebellious youths (runaway lovers), and the reference to Phoebus is to remind you of the story where Phoebus’ rebellious mortal son Phaeton refused to listen to his father about how to drive the sun chariot and perished. Shakespeare wants you to think of the consequences the rebellious youth suffered. The references to Ovid are so profuse in Shakespeare that you can miss a lot of the meaning of his words if this is ignored.

  7. Good point about Jesus’ pun, too. From the Gospels, not only did Jesus have a sense of humor, he often kept the party going. He filled the wedding wine jars in Cana, he turned appetizers into a feast after the Sermon, one night he showed them the best fishing hole they ever found. He would stay up later than them at all-night campfires, and even as a kid he didn’t want to go home when he was supposed to. He was often alleviating anxiety, calming the storm, evading fights, discouraging divorce. He was not big on earthly versions of authority and encouraged others to interpret the rules liberally, except for dealing with social relations and classes, where he was strict on good works.

  8. When talking about John the Baptist and Jesus, I keep running into various possible archetypes that they may have fit in the consiousness of mid-1st-century followers. One is the traditional Jewish dual Messiah pair type of priest (cohen) and king (Judah/David). I encountered a discussion of dual Jewish schools called Zugot (pairs) starting during the Maccabean era and ending with Hillel and Shammai during Jesus’ youth, and forming the basis of the split between Pharisees and Saddukkees. After 40AD, Judaism went through a transformation that later lost the temple and relocation of teachers from Jerusalem to Jammai and the group that formed the the Mishnah as the Gospels were being written and partly in response to the Christian writings, including Jewish oaths to flush out Christians. It has often been postulated that Jesus and John fit the dual Messiah role when Christianity was more Jewish, but dropped as it became more Gentile. Is it possible that Jesus and John the Baptist filled a spirtual gap of Zugot pairings in some Judeo-christian minds, instead of the Messiah role? If so, their supporters would be antagonistic to each other, instead of co-supportive. This Zugot form would still fit the story and lead to the separate John the Baptist followers that exist today (if they demonstrate a continuity back to John). Like the Greek Dark Age, its a black box that we see things go in, come out, but not the inner workings – not unlike an apocalypse.

  9. Both comments are intriguing. I like the first one with Jesus the Party Animal who did all sorts of non-serious things. It takes a certain amount of irreverence, IMO, to overturn the apple cart and bring about a new way of looking at things.

    As for the second comment, I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. My personal opinion is that the Jesus followers piggybacked on John’s popularity. My suspicion is that John was more popular than Jesus, and for quite a while after both John and Jesus’ death. As such, they needed to co-opt him rather than compete with him. As I’ve mentioned, John’s role grows as the gospels progress, culminating in John’s gospel in which the Baptist gets more attention than in the others. Given this, I’m not sure that Jesus followers–who by this point can be called Christians–would have seen this in such Judaic terms.

    John had to be co-opted and ‘domesticated’ as it were. It was important for the early followers of Jesus to attach themselves to John, but they simultaneously also had to downgrade John into the role of Herald. It seems that this rather falls between the two stools of contrasting pair and co-Messiahs. However, what I’m describing is what, ultimately, became orthodox Christianity; what the followers of Jesus believed underwent large changes before getting to that point and there was never just one strand of belief. There still isn’t. So, can we rule out that some may have seen John/Jesus in one of the modes you suggest? No. It’s possible.

    Do we have any real idea of whether the modern-day followers of the Baptist can actually trace their roots back to the Baptist? Or is this a case of modern-day Druids, whose history was more or less created in the 19th Century? I believe that the father of Mani, who went on to found Manicheanism, was a follower of the Baptist; but, to the best of my knowledge, there are no texts dating back to anyone close to being a contemporary of the Baptist. As such, it would be hard to posit any sort of direct connection. Word of mouth is too unreliable. The Jesus of Paul is vastly different from the Jesus of John’s gospel. It’s unlikely that John the Baptist would not have undergone a similar transformation.

    So, short answer: I have no clue.

  10. Even after rewrites, it came across too Party Animal, when I meant Life-of-the-Party, engaging, energetic, and fun. Upon reflection, though, since he was a leader, he had to have charisma in the modern sense of the word. Currently, I’m reading about Lincoln during his time on the court circuit. After Lincoln came to town once before, it was standing room only whenever he came back. People came from miles around and they didn’t leave after the court was over, but stayed on through all night, talking and hearing stories, but Lincoln was the one they came to see. Even the judge stayed up late with them. Lincoln was energized by the interactions so he was often the last one awake. Those stories weren’t just fun, they were used to illustrate a point Lincoln was often trying to make legally or politically. Photos I’ve seen of the events remind me of the best events I’ve ever been to, or wished I’d been at, in my life. Paul may have been less fun, but may have helped enough people who felt kindly towards him as the beginning of the attraction to him.

  11. Good analogy with Lincoln, and good points overall. The thing we have to bear in mind is that we talk about Jesus every day; John the Baptist comes up once a month. The inference, IMO, is that we talk about Jesus for a reason. That he was charismatic and maybe the life of the party would be one way to explain it.

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