Notes on Galatians

Version Date: June 9, 2022

Ga 1:8-9 "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel different from what we have preached to you, let him be shunned. As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel different from what ye have received, let him be shunned or converted." The Galatian believers were not supposed to let anyone preach in the church a different gospel. The Greek word αναθεμα appears in this verse in the phrase εστω αναθεμα which was translated "let him be shunned" in Ga 1:8 and "let him be shunned or converted" in Ga 1:9. By means of the word αναθεμα, the text makes a reference to the old covenant, for the word αναθεμα corresponds in LXX to the Hebrew word חרם "devoted thing or person." In the Old Testament, the word חרם has been used in two different ways: (a) for what was devoted irrevocably to the Lord's service, and (b) for what was devoted to destruction. Though the new covenant does not devote anything to destruction, it still indicates that believers should separate themselves from those spreading a false gospel (2Jn 1:10-11, Tit 3:10). Thus, εστω αναθεμα "let him be devoted" was translated more explicitly "let him be shunned." With the option (a) of interpreting the word αναθεμα, Ga 1:8-9 expresses the wish that those preaching a false gospel would devote themselves to the Lord. This case has the limitation that Ga 1:8 mentions also "an angel from heaven;" since the only angels that could preach a false gospel are fallen angels and these cannot become devoted to the Lord, case (a) does not apply to them. Moreover, even if the false teachers eventually repented, they still had to be shunned until they stopped spreading their false gospel.

Another way to translate αναθεμα would be "devoted." However, this is not as clear as the translation above. Two other ways in which αναθεμα has been translated are "anathema" and "accursed." One drawback of using "anathema" or "accursed" is that these words could be taken as stating an eternal condition of an individual, inviting the hearer to examine people and identify those that cannot be saved. However, the truth is that the gospel is for everyone (Ac 17:30) and one should not judge who can be saved and who cannot but allow the gospel to reach all. This conclusion is not contradicted by 1Co 16:22 and 2Pt 2:14. First, since the apostle was seeking to help those who did not love the Lord to come to the faith, αναθεμα "devoted" in 1Co 16:22 cannot mean "accursed," but it has the meaning (a) discussed above of "devoted to the Lord." Thus, ει τις ου φιλει τον κυριον ιησουν χριστον ητω αναθεμα μαραν αθα in 1Co 16:22 is translated, "If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him become devoted to him. Come, O Lord!" The fact that the apostle uttered "maranatha," that is, "Come, O Lord!" in his native tongue, not in Greek, emphasizes that he was praying it as he spoke it. The context suggests that he was praying that the Lord would come into the lives of the Corinthians that were attending the church but were unconverted. Now the law makes it clear that those who do not believe are under a curse (Ga 3:10); all who come to faith are set free and are no longer under the curse of the law. This also is the likely interpretation of καταρας τεκνα "children of curse" in 2Pt 2:14. It does not speak of eternally accursed people but of people who are under the curse of the law because of unbelief. This condition is not permanent, for one could repent and believe. The phrase "children of curse" is similar to phrases such as τεκνα ... οργης "children of wrath" (Eph 2:3), τοις υιοις της απειθειας "the sons of disobedience" (Eph 2:2), τεκνα υπακοης "children of obedience" (1Pt 1:14), and τεκνα φωτος "children of light" (Eph 5:8), and corresponds to a Hebrew idiom in which one having things pertaining to something or someone is said to be its or his son. As for Ga 1:8-9, taking αναθεμα in the context of Scripture, it corresponds to the Hebrew word חרם "devoted," which is not described precisely by the word "accursed."

As argued above, believers should not consider anyone accursed but seek to lead all men to the Lord, including those who strongly oppose the truth. One could preach a false gospel out of ignorance, not because he is opposed to the Lord. As for those who are opposed to the Lord, in God's time, he could open their eyes to the truth and they could become believers, just as the apostle Paul indicated in 2Ti 2:25. The apostle himself provides an example (1Ti 1:16) showing how a person persecuting beyond measure the church (Ga 1:13), who was a blasphemer and an insolent man (1Ti 1:13), turned out to be one set apart from his mother's womb for the gospel, who at the right time was converted to the truth (Ga 1:15).

Ga 1:20 Though entirely and thoroughly truthful, the apostle and his companions were seen by many as liars (2Co 6:8, Mt 10:25).

Ga 2:7 Concerning το ευαγγελιον της ακροβυστιας "the good news of the uncircumcision" and της ακροβυστιας "of the circumcision," these denoted two aspects of the same gospel, for Jesus brought good news for both the circumcised and the uncircumcised. In support of the fact that these do not denote two different gospels, note the many other ways that have been used to describe the gospel: το ευαγγελιον της βασιλειας "the good news of the kingdom" (Mt 4:23), το ευαγγελιον ιησου χριστου "the good news of Jesus Christ" (Mk 1:1), το ευαγγελιον της χαριτος του θεου "the good news of the grace of God" (Ac 20:24), το ευαγγελιον θεου "the good news of God" (Ro 1:1), το ευαγγελιον μου "my good news" (Ro 2:16), το ευαγγελιον ημων "our good news" (2Co 4:3), το ευαγγελιον της δοξης του χριστου "the good news of the glory of Christ" (2Co 4:4), το ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας υμων "the good news of your salvation" (Eph 1:13), το ευαγγελιον της ειρηνης "the good news of peace" (Eph 6:15), το ευαγγελιον της δοξης του μακαριου θεου "the good news of the glory of the blessed God" (1Ti 1:11), το ευαγγελιον αιωνιον "the eternal good news" (Rev 14:6). Clearly, these different descriptions do not denote different gospels, though emphasizing different facts of the good news.

Ga 2:17 No one can keep the law perfectly, so from the viewpoint of the law those seeking to be justified by faith are sinners. The fact that such sinners belong to Jesus does not make Christ a minister of sin; he is not by any means supporting sin. This is because the sinners who belong to Jesus do not seek to serve sin but have died to sin in order to live for God. Since they have died to sin, they are no longer judged by the law, but are dead also to the law. Indeed, the law was given in order to reveal sin, so that people may turn to God. As one understands sin through the law and turns away from sin, he dies to the law. He is no longer under the condemnation of the law that he may live for God.

Ga 3:1 "O foolish Galatians, who has corrupted your understanding to disbelieve the truth? To you it was shown before your eyes that Jesus Christ was foretold by the Scripture; among you was he shown foretold as crucified." The Galatians had seen with their own eyes that the Old Testament Scriptures predicted Jesus and that he would be crucified. They were not supposed to lose sight of this, neither of any other parts of the Old Testament, when focusing on certain matters of the law.

The translation above can be explained as follows. The first half of the verse has, ω ανοητοι γαλαται τις υμας εβασκανεν τη αληθεια μη πειθεσθαι. The Byzantine text is followed here, which includes τη αληθεια μη πειθεσθαι "to disbelieve the truth." The phrase υμας εβασκανεν was translated "has corrupted your understanding." The verb βασκανω, which in the New Testament appears only in this passage, is found in LXX. In De 28:54, βασκανει τω οφθαλμω translates תרע עינו "his eye will be evil" and in De 28:56, βασκανει τω οφθαλμω αυτης is used for תרע עינה "her eye will be evil." The related adjective βασκανος appears in the phrase ανδρι βασκανω of Pr 23:6, translating רע עין "one with an evil eye," and in ανηρ βασκανος of Pr 28:22, used for איש רע עין "a man with an evil eye." At this point, it is clear that the verb βασκανω is about having an evil eye. As could be seen also from Mt 6:23, 20:15, Mk 7:22, Lk 11:34, one having an evil eye (οφθαλμος πονηρος) has an incorrect way of perceiving things. Since βασκανω in Ga 3:1 is used transitively, it refers to one making the Galatians look at things the wrong way. Thus, υμας εβασκανεν was translated "has corrupted your understanding."

The second half of the verse, οις κατ οφθαλμους ιησους χριστος προεγραφη εν υμιν εσταυρωμενος, can be translated: "to whom it was shown before the eyes that Jesus Christ was foretold by the Scripture; among you was he shown foretold as crucified." The New Testament has the phrase κατ οφθαλμους "before the eyes" only in Ga 3:1. However, this phrase is rather frequent in LXX and is followed each time by a pronoun or a noun in the genitive case indicating whose eyes are mentioned. The only exception is the expression οφθαλμοις κατ οφθαλμους "eyes to eyes," that is, "face to face" from Nu 14:14. So in Ga 3:1, the relative pronoun οις must be the reason κατ οφθαλμους is not followed by the possessive pronoun υμων. Note that προεγραφη "was written" has the aorist tense, so the text cannot be translated "was being written before your eyes," for that would require the imperfect tense. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the verb προγραφω refers to something that was already written (Ro 15:4, Eph 3:3). The same passive form of the verb appears in Ro 15:4, where it refers to things predicted in the Scripture. So also in Ga 3:1, προεγραφη must refer to things that were written before Jesus came into the world, that is, Old Testament passages predicting Jesus and his crucifixion.

Ga 3:8 "And the Scripture, having foreseen that God justifies the nations by faith, declared in advance to Abraham the good news that 'All nations will be blessed in thee.'" Any blessing that a person may have is insignificant in comparison to the blessing of being saved. Therefore, if a person has every conceivable blessing but lacks salvation, he is not really blessed. So the statement that "All nations will be blessed in thee" refers primarily to the blessing of being saved. This explains why Ga 3:8 states that the promise that "All nations will be blessed in thee" refers to justification. The phrase "in thee" refers to the fact that those who believe are reckoned as (spiritual) descendants of Abraham (Ga 3:29) and are blessed with him (Ga 3:9).

The word εθνη "nations" appears twice in Ga 3:8, first in εκ πιστεως δικαιοι ο θεος τα εθνη "God justifies the nations by faith," and then in ενευλογηθησονται εν σοι παντα τα εθνη "all nations will be blessed in thee." When there is evidence that a passage refers exclusively to the Gentile part of the nations, the word εθνη "nations" can also be translated "Gentiles." However, this is not the case here, so the word was translated "nations." Note that the word εθνη "nations" includes the Jews; it is the plural of εθνος "nation" which has been used also for the Jews (Jn 11:48, 50, 18:35). The same comment could be made about the Hebrew word גוי "nation" which is used also for Israel, such as in Ge 12:2, Ex 19:6, Ps 106:5. Though sometimes the word "nations" is used for men who will not be blessed with Abraham (see Ps 10:16), the word "nations" is used favorably in Ga 3:8. So there is no reason to assume that the Jews are not included in Ga 3:8.

In Hebrew, the statement that "all nations will be blessed in thee" appears in several passages. First, ונברכו בך כל משפחת האדמה "all families of the earth will be blessed in thee" was spoken to Abraham (Ge 12:3). Years later, ונברכו בך כל משפחת האדמה ובזרעך "all families of the earth will be blessed in thee and in thy seed" was spoken to Jacob (Ge 28:14). Speaking of Abraham, the Lord also said, ונברכו בו כל גויי הארץ "all nations of the earth will be blessed in him" (Ge 18:18). Related is also והתברכו בזרעך כל גויי הארץ "all nations of the earth will bless themselves in thy seed," which was spoken to Abraham in Ge 22:18 and to Isaac in Ge 26:4.

Considering the statement of Ga 3:8 that the Scripture spoke to Abraham, the Scripture denotes the text recorded in it. So the words that God spoke to Abraham, since they are recorded in the Scripture, are Scripture. So the fact that the words spoken to Abraham declared good news is the same thing as saying that the Scripture declared good news to Abraham. Now it is interesting to note the aorist tense of προιδουσα "having foreseen." It shows that before the good news were declared to Abraham, the Scripture had already indicated that the nations would be justified by faith. At the time of Ge 13, the written text of the Bible might have consisted only of Ge 1-10. A passage speaking about justification by faith is Ge 4:3-7; see Heb 11:4.

At a first look, it may seem that God could be the subject of the verb προευηγγελισατο "declared in advance good news." However, this is not the case. Considering εκ πιστεως δικαιοι τα εθνη ο θεος "God justifies the nations by faith," it is impossible to parse δικαιοι as the nominative plural masculine of δικαιος "righteous" and translate the phrase as "the nations are righteous by faith" because the neuter gender of τα εθνη does not agree with the masculine gender of δικαιοι. So the only possibility is that δικαιοι is the 3s present active indicative form of δικαιοω "to justify" and ο θεος "God" is its subject. Therefore, ο θεος "God" cannot be the subject of προευηγγελισατο "declared in advance good news," but rather η γραφη "the Scripture" is its subject.

Ga 3:11-12 Living by faith is not the same thing as doing the law. Though the law expects faith, it expects also observing everything in it perfectly, for אשר יעשה אתם האדם וחי בהם "the man who will do them will live in them" (Lev 18:5, Ne 9:29, Eze 20:11, 13, 21). Though at various points a faithful person fails to do what is right, and so he does not have the righteousness of the law, since he lives by faith he is righteous because he has received the righteousness of Christ.

Ga 3:20 "A mediator, however, is not for one only but between two. But God is one of the two." This verse draws attention to the fact that there was a mediator between God and men. Mediation was needed because people were separated from God by their sins. The law was given to deal with the issue of sin that separates men from God.

Ga 4:4-5 "But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth his Son. This was after the Son had been born of a woman and had been under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we may receive the adoption as sons." In the context of the previous verses, this passage speaks about the coming of the Lord into the life of a person that is being born again; see 2Pt 1:19, Jn 14:23. This can be seen also when noticing that the form γενομενον, which appears twice in the verse, is an aorist participle of γινομαι "to become," not an aorist infinitive. Note that the text has γενομενον εκ γυναικος "having come from a woman," that is, "having been born of a woman," and γενομενον υπο νομον "having come under the law." Since a participle is used and not an infinitive, γενομενον εκ γυναικος and γενομενον υπο νομον cannot mean "to be born of a woman" and "to be born under the law." Since the tense of γενομενον is the aorist, γενομενον εκ γυναικος "having come from a woman" and γενομενον υπο νομον "having come under the law" speak of things that happened before God sent forth his Son. So this passage is not speaking about God sending the Son into the world, but about the Son being sent to a new believer.

Ga 4:9 "But now, knowing God, or rather being known by God, how comes that ye turn again to the weak and poor elementary traditions which ye desire to serve again, this time from above." Considering the English translations of this verse, the phrase παλιν ανωθεν has been rendered "once more," "all over again," "again," ... . It consists of παλιν "again" and ανωθεν "from above;" ανωθεν has also been interpreted sometimes with the meaning "again." This phrase was translated here "again, this time from above."

Ga 4:24 The things that were happening to the patriarchs had a meaning. See for example Ge 25:22-23. See also Ge 32:28 in the context of Jacob striving with the angel of the Lord. Since Isaac was born through the special intervention of God, Isaac is like those who are born again, for they experience rebirth because of God's work in their lives. Since Ishmael was born naturally (Abraham was considerably younger when Ishmael was conceived and Hagar was probably young), he is like those who have not experienced yet spiritual rebirth. So the mother of the child of promise is like the new covenant.

In view of apposition, μια μεν απο ορους σινα "one from Mount Sinai" is not about Hagar or Sarah, but about one of the two covenants. Nonetheless, it may be that Hagar herself was from Mount Sinai; see the note on the next verse.

Ga 4:25 "For Mount Sinai of Hagar is in Arabia. It corresponds to the present Jerusalem. She is in slavery with her children." The statement that Mount Sinai is in Arabia emphasizes that the mountain of the old covenant is on earth, not in heaven. The phrase "Mount Sinai of Hagar" fits the fact that Hagar stands for the old covenant, since the old covenant has been associated with Mount Sinai. However, it may be that Hagar herself was from Mount Sinai. Though Hagar was an Egyptian woman (Ge 16:1, 3, 21:9, 25:12), after she and Ishmael departed from Abraham, Ishmael did not live in Egypt but in the wilderness of Paran (Ge 21:21), which was close to the wilderness of Sinai (Nu 10:12).

In the first sentence of the verse, the neuter article το agrees with ορος "mountain", not with αγαρ "Hagar." This indicates that Mount Sinai is the subject, not Hagar. Therefore, αγαρ must be in the genitive case. Note that the noun αγαρ has the same form in the genitive and nominative cases (see Ge 21:9 in LXX.)

Ga 4:27 Believers are spiritual descendants of the believers who lived before them. So they are spiritual descendants of those who are already in the heavenly Jerusalem; figuratively speaking, the heavenly Jerusalem is their mother. The children of the heavenly Jerusalem are not born naturally, but by the Spirit. Nobody is in heaven because he was born to believing parents, but because he himself was born again. Thus, the heavenly Jerusalem is like a woman that does not give birth to any children. All her children are of unnatural birth. Nonetheless, she ends up with many children. As prophesied in Is 54:1, she is like a woman that does not give birth that ends up with more children than women that give birth.

Ga 5:2 This verse speaks of more than just circumcision, for Paul did circumcise Timothy (Ac 16:3). It speaks of taking circumcision with the intent of seeking to be righteous by means of the law.

Ga 5:9 The statement that μικρα ζυμη ολον το φυραμα ζυμοι "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" appears again in the same form in 1Co 5:6.

Ga 5:12 It is argued here that what Paul was stating was, "I wish that those troubling you would also silence themselves." A word-for-word translation of the text is: "I wish that those troubling you would also cut themselves off." Considering the meaning of this verse in the context of the Scripture, the wish must have been that they would stop spreading heresy. Indeed, in view of 1Ti 2:4, it cannot be that the apostle did not want the troublemakers to be saved.

The precise meaning of the verb αποκοπτω "to cut off" in this verse could be inferred by examining other verses that use it. Related to this verse is the Greek translation of De 23:1 (23:2) in LXX which includes the verb αποκοπτω "to cut off." There, the phrase פצוע דכה וכרות שפכה is translated by θλαδιας και αποκεκομμενος. Clearly, θλαδιας corresponds to פצוע דכה (the related verb θλαω means "to crush"), while αποκεκομμενος (perfect passive participle of αποκοπτω) matches כרות שפכה. Thus, the verb αποκοπτω "to cut off" refers to emasculation in De 23:1 (23:2). If the verb were used with this meaning in Ga 5:12, then the verse would express a wish that the troublemakers would emasculate themselves. Emasculation would have implied a certain separation from the church, for if those who wanted to be under the law were serious about it, they would have heeded De 23:1 (23:2) which excluded eunuchs from the congregation of the Lord. This did not exclude them from worshiping the Lord but only from the congregation. However, De 23:1 (23:2) is one of the Old Testament commandments that are not repeated in the New Testament. Such commandments prefigured and foreshadowed matters of the new covenant. So there is a way to look at De 23:1 (23:2) that is relevant to the new covenant. Eunuchs in De 23:1 (23:2) appear to stand for those who have been doctrinally impaired to the point that they are unable to sow seeds of faith. (This could happen by becoming persuaded by doctrines contrary to the faith.) Then, the verse would state that these are to be in a certain sense separated from the congregation. This interpretation is significant because the apostle Paul was preaching the meaning of the law, not its requirements under the old covenant. In the context of the meaning of De 23:1 (23:2), the verb αποκοπτω "to cut off" is not about emasculation but apparently about the inability to spread teachings. Though in De 23:1 (23:2) it would refer to an inability to spread teachings of the truth, its application in Ga 5:12 must refer to an inability to spread false teachings. So the apostle expressed the wish that the troublemakers would stop themselves from spreading false teachings. The future tense of the form αποκοψονται "will cut themselves off" indicates that the wish was for a future time, that sometime after the writing of the letter the troublemakers would change their mind. The word και "also" in και αποκοψονται "will also cut themselves off" indicates that this was one among other wishes that the apostle had. His wish was not impossible, for various examples show that οφελον "I wish" can be used for a feasible wish (2Co 11:1, Rev 3:15, 2Ki 5:3).

Ga 5:13 "For ye were called on the basis of freedom, brothers, but not for an opportunity to the flesh were ye called to freedom. On the contrary, through love serve one another." The call was to the true freedom that allows one to serve in true love. Freedom was not given that one may yield to the desires of the flesh but that he may serve through love. Note the contrast between loving service and the flesh. The two are opposed to each other; the flesh diminishes one's ability to act in true love (Ga 5:17). As for επ ελευθερια εκληθητε "ye were called on the basis of freedom," because freedom is available, the good news calls people to this freedom. Note that αλλα, translated above "on the contrary," appears at the beginning of a sentence also in Ga 1:8. In the translation above, επ ελευτερια εκληθητε ... μονον μη την ελευθεριαν ... was interpreted as επ ελευτερια εκληθητε ... μονον μη εκληθητε επι την ελευθεριαν ... . In this interpretation, εκληθητε was seen as implied in the second half of the verse, with μη modifying it. Though instances in which μη modifies an indicative form are relatively uncommon, they can be found, for example, in clauses introduced by ει μη "unless, except" (1Co 15:2, Nu 22:33, 2Ki 23:9). Such clauses describe exceptions, just as μονον μη εκληθητε επι την ελευθεριαν εις αφορμην τη σαρκι. Since the text has εις αφορμην τη σαρκι instead of την εις αφορμην τη σαρκι, the phrase εις αφορμην τη σαρκι was understood to modify εκληθητε, not την ελευθεριαν.

Ga 6:9 "When doing good, let us not grow weary. For when our time comes, we who do not lose heart will reap." The phrase καιρω ιδιω appears also as καιροις ιδιοις in 1Ti 2:6, 6:15, Tit 1:3. Note that ιδιος agrees in number with the noun it modifies, not its antecedent (e.g. Mt 25:14). Therefore, taking in account the context, καιρω ιδιω means "our own time", that is, "when our time comes." The phrase μη εκλυομενοι "not losing heart" modifies the subject "we," not the verb θερισωμεν "will reap." Thus, θερισομεν μη εκλυομενοι does not mean "will reap without losing heart" but "we who do not lose heart will reap."

Ga 6:14 "But may it not be to boast to myself except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world." While others would boast to themselves about their accomplishments, such as converting people to their teaching (Ga 6:13), the apostle stated that he would not boast to himself about anything except the cross of Christ. While salvation is by the grace of God, the Lord does not force anyone to take up the cross; that is the decision of the believer. This is true also of the apostle Paul. Though the Lord revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus, he still had to make the choice to follow the Lord. Indeed, note that the apostle used the words ουκ εγενομνην απειθης τη ουρανιω οπτασια "I did not become disobedient to the heavenly vision" in Ac 26:19.

In this translation, εμοι "myself" was taken as the indirect object of καυχασθαι "to boast". A similar example is ην υπερ υμων καυχωμαι μακεδοσιν "of which I boast to the Macedonians concerning you" (2Co 9:2), in which the dative form μακεδοσιν "Macedonians" is the indirect object of καυχωμαι "I boast." Note also ει τι αυτω υπερ υμων κεκαυχημαι "if I have boasted to him concerning anything about you" (2Co 7:14), in which αυτω "him" is the indirect object of κεκαυχημαι "I have boasted." The alternative interpretation in which εμοι "myself" is not the indirect object of καυχασθαι "to boast" seems unlikely, as it would imply that the apostle would not boast of anything to anyone except about the cross; this would not fit well everything else that the apostle wrote about boasting in his epistles. Now the fact that εμοι "myself" is the first word of Ga 6:14 emphasizes the contrast between the apostle and the teachers mentioned in Ga 6:13.