This year I will preach from the book of Galatians about twenty-five times. As I prepared or this, I’ve been translating Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches from the Greek New Testament. I’ve completed two chapters, and will post about one a week. Included are some translators notes and at he end a few study questions for you, should you choose to think about it a while or want to use it for a Bible study group.
The words in [brackets] are textual variants, which means these were likely added by later scribes to smooth out the rendering but it is sometimes hard to tell.
Galatians: Chapter One
1. Paul, an apostle, not of people or any person, but of Messiah Jesus and God the father, who raised him from the dead.
2. And all the brothers and sisters with me, to the churches* in Galatia,
3. Grace and peace to you from God our father and [the] Lord Jesus, the Messiah,
4. who gave himself for our sins so that he could rescue us from this present evil age according to the will of God our father.
5. To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
6. I am amazed you have abandoned the one who called you in [the] grace [of Messiah] so quicky for a different gospel.
7. Not that there is another, except from those troubling you, those people who want to distort the Messiah’s gospel.
8. And, should we, or even an angel from heaven, preach [to you] different from what we preached, let that person be anathema.**
9. As we have said before and now I say again, if anyone should preach anything other than what you received, let that person be anathema.
10. Am I persuaded by people or God? Do I seek to try to please human beings? If I were still pleasing people, I am not a servant of Messiah.
11. I want you to know, brothers and sisters, the gospel proclaimed by me is not from human beings.
12. For neither did I receive it from people nor was I taught, but by revelation of Jesus as Messiah.***
13. You heard about my lifestyle when I was in Judaism, that I violently persecuted God’s church and ravaged her,
14. and how I kept rising in Judaism above many. I was the foremost of my generation, being ever more a fanatic for the traditions of my fathers.
15. When it pleased [God], the one who separated me from my mother’s womb, who has called me by his grace,
16. to reveal his son in me, so that I might proclaim**** him among the nations, I did not immediately consult myself with flesh and blood.
17. Nor did I go up to Jerusalem before the apostles, but instead I went to Arabia and then again returned to Damascus.
18. After three years, I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas. I stayed with him fifteen days.
19. I did not see any of the other apostles except James *****, the Lord’s brother.
20. Look, I write these things to you before God. I do not lie.
21. Then I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia.
22. But my face was unknown to the Judean churches in Christ.
23. Yet they kept hearing about the person who before was persecuting us and is now proclaiming the faith he once ravaged.
24. They were glorifying God because of me.
*the term here is, of course, ekklesia, which is usually rendered as church. However, the word means gatherings, so this text would more naturally read ‘to those who assemble together in Galatia’
**anathema usually is rendered as cursed or be accursed. It is a complicated idea that carries with it religious overtones. Something anathematized was destroyed, but the destruction was understood as a kind of spiritual obligation to the Lord. I have chosen to us the transliteration here rather than a rendering, because the word has found its way into the English lexicon all by itself. It doesn’t really need translating.
***I inserted the ‘as’ in this passage – ‘Jesus as Messiah’ to emphasize the importance Paul keeps placing on Jesus by calling him Messiah and also to smooth out the language. Throughout I use ‘Messiah’ instead of ‘Christ’ because we tend to think of Christ as Jesus’ last name rather than title. Most renderings would say “revelation of Jesus Christ.” My rendering emphasizes the nature of the revelation, that it wasn’t only a revelation of Jesus, but a revelation of him as Messiah. I think that is what Paul is getting at.
****the word here is ‘evangelize’, which Paul uses in Galatians to describe the act of preaching the gospel. The construct of the sentence, particularly the pronoun ‘him’ indicates from an English perspective that ‘proclaim’ or ‘preach’ are better verbs, because our use of the word evangelize would not have Jesus in the objective – we don’t’ evangelize Jesus as if Jesus needed to hear the good news about Jesus. We preach Jesus as we evangelize others. It is a subtle difference, but significant.
*****James is the name we use but it is actually Jacob, which is James’ name is in the New Testament. I mention it only here to remind the reader of the Hebrew name, and that Jesus’ brother was named for the great patriarch from the book of Genesis – and the reader should likewise remember his mother was Mary, but really Miriam, the brother of Moses, and her husband was Joseph, the famous son of the very same Jacob in Genesis.
- Why do you think Paul emphasizes that his apostleship is from God and not from human beings? If it is about authority, what role does authority play in church life?
- Paul accuses the Galatians of abandoning (v. 6) the idea of grace. What is grace? More specifically, what would it look like if a church or a Christ-follower gave up on grace today?
- Anathema is a strong word. Who would you anathematize if you could? Why? In other words, what pushes you over the edge — what can you not tolerate in church life?
- Someone clearly had accused Paul of lying, because he is ver defensive that he is not lying. Have you ever been accused of lying? Were you defensive? What are good tactics for combating false accusations?
- Paul says he was guilty of ravaging the church. It is imagery evocative of sexual violence. Does that startle you that he admits to raping the bride of Christ? Have you ever considered how you treat the church?