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Galatians Six: Let No One Give Me Any More Problems!

It has been a joy to translate Galatians over the last two months and to share it with all three of my dear readers. In this last chapter, we are visited again by the muckety-mucks, called to remember Paul’s illness (eyesight causes big letters), and the joy of a new creation. He also gets a little grumpy, too.

This is not the place for deep study, but as a translator I notice the end of this book comes quick – almost suddenly – and there is an absence of any kind of personal goodbyes. Scholars have many reasons for this and you should look some of them up. 

In the meantime, enjoy! 

Galatians: Chapter Six

1. Brothers and sisters, should anyone be overcome in a transgression, those of you who are spiritual ought to restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Be aware of yourself, though, that you are not tempted.

2. Carry one another burdens and so fulfill Messiah’s law.

3. If anyone think himself to be some muckety muck when he is not, he has deluded himself.

4. Instead, let everyone test his own work. Then he can have pride in himself in private, and not at the expense of anyone else, 

5. because everyone will carry his own burden.

4. Instead, let everyone test his own work. Then he can have pride in himself in private, and not at the expense of anyone else, 

5. because everyone will carry his own burden.

6. The learner of the word must share all good things with the one teaching the word. 

7. Make no mistake, God is not to be mocked. Whatever a person sows, that person will reap.

8. The person who sows in the flesh will reap ruin from the flesh. The person who sows in the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. 

9. Do not get tired of doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up. 

10. Therefore, then, let us use the time we have for good to all people, but mostly to the households of God. *

11. Do you see how big the letters are that I wrote for you in my own hand?**

12. Many of those who wish to look proper in the flesh try to force you to be circumcised but only because they do not want to be persecuted because of Messiah’s cross.  

13. Those who are circumcised do not obey the law but they want you to be circumcised so they can brag about your body. 

14. It will never be that I will boast, except in the cross of the Lord our Messiah Jesus, by whom the whole universe is crucified to me and I have been crucified to the whole universe.

15. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but new creation is! 

16. As for the many who will stay in line with this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, as well as the Israel of God.

17. As to the rest, let no one give me any more problems, for I bear on my body the slave branding of Jesus. 

18. Brothers and sisters, the grace of the Lord, our Messiah Jesus be with your spirit. Amen. 

Translation Notes

*households is plural. Seems to indicate in Paul’s mind that households are churches, but they probably meet in people’s actual homes, so it is less a metaphor and more of a physical description. 

**Most translations do make this a question, and the GNT does not indicate it is an interrogative, but the way I read the sentence it makes the most sense as a rhetorical question Paul is asking his readers.

Study Questions

1. What do you make of verse 2, that says we carry each others burdens, then verse 5 that seems to say the opposite?

2. Would you agree that we are all a little delusional when it comes to self-evaluation (vv 3-4)? How delusional are you in particular?

3. What are all of the ramifications of ‘ruin’ in verse 8?

4. How do you feel about Paul specifying we ‘mostly’ do good to those who are believers? 

5. Paul’s theology envisions the crucifixion of Jesus as having cosmic implications. How do you interpret verse 14? 

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Galatians 5 — Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit

Christ-followers often come back to Galatians 5 because of the beautiful simplicity of the Fruit of the Spirit in verses 22 and 23. I know I do. However, that is only a fraction of how much is going on in this chapter. Paul really goes after his opponents and tells them things like they’ve rendered Jesus useless, they should castrate themselves, and they will face judgment for the troubles they are causing. This was fun translating.

Below is my rendering of Galatians 5 from the Greek New Testament. Behind that are translation notes (*) and then five study questions which can be used for personal or group study. I will post Chapter Six next week. Enjoy!

Galatians: Chapter Five

1. Messiah freed us to live* free. Stand strong, then, and do not get tangled up again in a yoke of slavery.

2. Look, this is me, Paul, talking. If you let yourself be circumcised, then Messiah will be of no use to you. 

3. I solemnly swear to you again, everyone who has been circumcised is obligated to observe the whole law. 

4. All who are made right by the law were cut** off from Messiah. You lost grace. 

5. We eagerly await in the Spirit, by belief, for the hope of rightness.

6. In Messiah Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters, but belief working through love. 

7. You began running so well; who slowed you down to not be persuaded by the truth?

8. That persuasion is not from the one called you. 

9. A small amount of yeast leavens the whole batch of dough.

10. I myself am persuaded about you, in the Lord, that you will not think any other way. The person who troubles you will bear the judgment, whoever he is. 

11. Brothers and sisters, if I preach circumcision then why am I still being persecuted? If that were so, then the scandal of the cross would be cleaned up.***    

12. Oh, how I wish those upsetting you would castrate themselves.**** 

13. Brothers and sisters, you were called into freedom, only do not use freedom as an excuse to indulge in the flesh. Instead, serve one another with love.

14. For the whole law has been fulfilled in one saying, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’

15. But if you bite and chew on one another, watch out that you do not destroy yourselves.***** 

16. I say, you must walk in the Spirit. Do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

17. For fleshly desires are against the Spirit, and spiritual desires are against the flesh, for these oppose one another so much so that you do what you do not want to do. 

18. If you are led by the Spirit, then you are not under the law.

19. It is obvious what he works of the flesh are: sexual immorality, nastiness, indecency, 

20. idolatry, sorcery, quarreling, rivalries, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, divisiveness, factions******  

21. envy, drinking binges, orgies and things like that. As I said before when I told you, people who do these kinds of things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 

22. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, belief, 

23. gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things. 

24. But those who are in Messiah Jesus crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.*******  

25. If we can live in the Spirit, then the Spirit can keep us in line. 

26. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying one another. 

Translation Notes

*The word ‘live’ is not found in the text, but it makes sense and must be what Paul is implying. Messiah did not free us to live as slaves, but as free people.

**I find no small amount of word play with the use of ‘cut off’ from Messiah in the context of a discussion about circumcision.  

***Scandal here is commonly rendered as stumbling block, which it is. However, the Greek word here is so close to our word scandal and it means roughly the same. Stumbling block makes sense with the ‘running’ metaphor of v. 7, but he is three metaphors removed from that (argument, yeast, and now cleaning something up). I don’t see any need to use the stumbling block as being in the way of a runner metaphor any longer. 

****Again, the wordplay. The troublers advocated circumcision; Paul thinks they didn’t cut off enough when they were circumcised. It is a rather provocative and graphic statement that seems to imply they will no longer be able to reproduce, spiritually speaking, followers of their bad teaching.  

*****It is actually a repetition of the phrase ‘one another  — watch out that you don’t destroy one another’ but I chose to differentiate this from the biting and chewing with a different word. 

******There is a religious component to the word used by Paul to describe factions. He is speaking of religious divides such as the Pharisees and Sadducees, or in modern times perhaps he might mean Calvinist and Arminian, as an example of religious factions. There is apparently no limit to human beings and our divisive tendencies.  

*******The word I render as ‘passions’ is in the same group as the familiar Greek word ‘pathos’ and therefore carries a feeling of passion that is mixed with suffering – you feel it! 

Study Questions

1. In verse 2 Paul says if the Galatian Christians carry through with circumcision, then Jesus is of no use. Is there a modern equivalent to this line of thinking – something we might engage in that nullifies the work of Christ in us? 

2. Verse 7 is a clunky read, but the line of thinking is clear. Which part speaks to you most – the implication that you formerly were doing well but now aren’t, that someone specific has slowed you down, and the trick they are using is to persuades you against the truth? 

3. A little yeast makes the whole batch rise. This powerful metaphor in verse 9 is used by Paul in 1 Corinthians 5 to describe how sin infects a congregation while here he means legalistic teachings. Are there other ways we could use this metaphor, and are any of them positive rather than negative?

4. There are two possible ways to understand verse 10. One is that Paul is convinced the Galatians will eventually see things as he does, and the troubler will be judged. The other is to view Paul’s words as being about the stubbornness of the Galatians and so the meaning is something like “I’m certain you will not change your mind no matter how much I try to persuade you, but the person who did this to you will bear the judgment for what he has done.” It seems to me both are possible in the grammar of the text. Which one do you lean toward? Why? 

5. Can you connect the desires of the flesh in verses 19-21 with a correlating fruit of the Spirit in verses 22 and 23? How does that clarify meaning, or does it muddy the waters more?

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Galatians Chapter Three: ‘Stupid Galatians’

The third chapter of Galatians was incredibly enjoyable to translate. As one working with the text, the nuance of Paul’s writing in the last half of the chapter gave way to more creative freedom, at least that is what I felt, in finding the the right wording and tone. On a personal note, he starts out by insulting them, but finishes the chapter with the beautiful soaring rhetoric of inclusion. It is kind of funny, if you think about it — ‘Hey idiot . . . we’re in this together’.

As usual, there are three parts here. The first is the translation from the Greek New Testament. The second part is translation notes and the last are study questions for personal reflection or for group study. I finished the translation this morning for Chapter Four, and will post it next week, one week at a time finishing right before the season of Lent begins.

Galatians: Chapter Three 

1. Stupid Galatians!* Who tricked you? It was before your very eyes Messiah Jesus has been publicly crucified.

2. There is only one thing I want to learn from you; did you receive the Spirit from works of the law or by hearing then believing? 

3. You are truly tricked — beginning in the Spirit and now finishing in the flesh. 

4. Why did you suffer so much for nothing? If it was for nothing. 

5.  So come now, does the one who supplies you with the Spirit and wonder-working power do so by works of the law or by hearing then believing 

6. just like Abram who ‘believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness’?**

7. You should know this, those who believe are the children of Abram.

8. The scriptures predicted the Gentiles would be made right by believing when God gave the gospel beforehand to Abram, that ‘all the Gentiles will be blessed in you.’

9. So now those who believe are blessed with the faith of Abram. 

10. Those who count on the works of the law are under a curse because it is written, ‘Everyone is accursed who does not keep everything and do everything written in the Book of the Law.’ 

11. For it is clear no one is made right with God by the law, for, ‘those who are right will live by belief.’

12.  The law is not out of belief, therefore, the one who has done them, ‘will live by them.’ 

13. Messiah redeemed us from the curse of the law. By becoming accursed for us, and so it is written, ‘accursed is everyone who has been hanged on a tree.’ 

14. So now the blessing of Abram stretched to the Gentiles in Messiah Jesus, and thereby we might receive the promised Spirit through belief. 

15. Brothers and sisters, let me speak to it in an everyday human way; it’s all very similar to a will that’s already probated, and no one can annul any of it or add a codicil. 

16. The promise was made to Abram and his seed***. It does not say ‘seeds, as though it were plural, but from one – your seed – who is Messiah. 

17. I tell you this, a will already probated by God cannot be annulled by the coming of the law four hundred and thirty years later.  The promise cannot be cancelled. 

18. If the inheritance comes from the law, it is no longer by the promise, but God has bestowed the promise to Abram.

19. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressors until the promised seed would come. It was handed down by the angels, mediators. 

20. The mediator was not one, but God is one.

21. Is the law then against the promise of God? Never! If the law that was given was able to bring life, then rightness really would come from the law. 

22. For the scriptures locked everyone up under sin, so that the promise comes by belief in Jesus as Messiah to those who are believing. ****  

23. Before faith came, we were held captive under the law waiting for faith to be revealed. 

24. The law became our teacher in Messiah, so that we might be made right by belief. 

25. But belief has come. We are no longer under the teacher.

26. For all of you are children of God by belief in Jesus as Messiah. 

27. It is the people who have been baptized into Messiah that have clothed themselves in Messiah. 

28. There is no Jew nor Greek. There is no slave nor free. There is no male nor female. You are all one in Messiah Jesus. 

29. And, if you are of Messiah, then you are seed of Abram, inheritors by promise. 

Translation Notes

*Some translators use “foolish” but Paul doesn’t use the word most commonly associated with fool or foolish in the Bible, which is one of my favorite words, a root word of ‘moron’. He chooses a completely different word, and so did it. 

**It is hard to know where to put the question mark, but there is a question in verses 5-6.

***The word is ‘spermati’ or a root word for ‘sperm’. Paul plays with the singular and plural of the word here, so child/children or descendant/s works well. There is a sexual connotation to the word in the language of the New Testament, though, that the word ‘seed’ implies in English so I went with that instead of softening it up.

****It is redundant, but I believe the redundancy is a feature not a bug of this argument, so I resisted the urge to clean it up.

Study Questions

  1. Paul did not attack the Galatians as being evil, but of being stupid. They weren’t thinking clearly on the issue. What issues do you think Christ-followers today do not think clearly about, i.e. are stupid about?
  2. Abram believed God, verse 6 says, which references Genesis 15, and it was counted unto him as righteousness. What did Abram believe about God?
  3. Verses 10-14 are some of the densest theological statements in the whole New Testament and are filled with Old Testament references. Use your Bible concordance and chase down all the Old Testament references and work through how Paul is using them.
  4. It is my contention that Paul is making an argument based on the Jewish tradition of angelic mediators of the law that the promise made to Abram was more durable primarily because God’s word trumps angelic action. Do you think he means the law was always inferior and defective?
  5. Paul uses the primary grouping of people — slave, free, Jew, Greek, and male and female to talk about the possible barriers in church life. What categories would you use today?
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Galatians Chapter Two — ‘I am crucified with Messiah’

Last week I posted my rendering of (click here) Galatians One, and as promised, here is the second chapter. Below the text, as translated from the Greek New Testament, are notes on the translating work, then study questions. I intend to post a chapter a week, so come back for more.

Galatians: Chapter Two

1. Fourteen years passed. Again, I went up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along.

2. I went because of a revelation. I laid out the gospel I preach among the Gentiles* to the muckety mucks**, all alone, to make sure I was not running, or had run, in vain.

3. And Titus, who was with me, a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. 

4. Because*** of those false brothers and sisters who were brought in secretly, they slipped in to spy out our freedom, what we have in Messiah Jesus, so that they might enslave us to the law. 

5. We never yielded, not even for a second, in submission to them, so that the truth of the gospel might endure with you. 

6. But for those leaders – whether they were or weren’t it matters not to me for God is not impressed by people – but the muckety mucks added nothing else to my message.  

7. Quite to the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised just as Peter the circumcised. 

8. For the one who worked through Peter as an apostle to the circumcised worked also in me to the Gentiles. 

9. And recognizing the grace having been given to me, James, Cephas, and John – those seeming to be pillars, — muckety mucks — gave me the right hand of fellowship affirming we were for the Gentiles but they were for the circumcised.  

10. Only one thing more, that we should remember their poor, which is the very thing I was excited to do. 

11. But, when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face because he stood condemned.  

12. He always ate with the Gentiles until a group of people sent by James came. When they arrived, he began to draw back and kept separating himself out of fear of the circumcised.

13. The other Jews were all in on it together with him so much so even Barnabas got carried away in their hypocrisy.

14. When I realized they were not walking in a straight line toward the gospel truth, I said to Cephas**** in front of them all, ‘If you, being Jewish, live like a Gentile and not a Jew, how dare you compel Gentiles to live the Jewish lifestyle?’

15. We who are by nature Jews, and not Gentile sinners.*****

16. We know people are not made right from works of the law, but instead through faith in Jesus as Messiah. We trusted Messiah Jesus so as to be made right by faith in Messiah and not by works of law. No flesh will be made right by the works of the law.     

17. But if, seeking to be made right in Messiah, we then are found out to be sinners, does Messiah the serve sin? Never! 

18. For if I destroy these things then rebuild them, I show I have transgressed against myself. 

19. Because of the law I died to the law, so now I can live for God. I have been crucified with Christ

20. I no longer live, but Messiah lives within me. For now, I live in the flesh by faith in the son of God, the one who loved me and gave himself for me. 

21. I dare not cancel the grace of God, for if rightness is gained by law, then the Messiah’s death was meaningless. 

Translation Notes

*I am following most translations of ‘Gentiles’ at this point, but the word is best understood as ‘nations.’ In the elite Jewish mindset, there are only Jews and everyone else. Paul is saying this is what I preach to everyone else – to all the other people groups in this great big world. 

**I am not playing as fast and loose with the wording here as you might suspect. The way Paul uses this phrase to describe the important people among the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem is fascinating. It is impossible to tell if he is sincere or if he is critical. The language is ‘I laid out before the ones who seem to be something, all alone, to make sure I was not running …’ As the chapter unfolds, I become more and more convinced Paul is critical of these people who think they are such a big deal, yet at the same time he desperately wanted and needed their approval of his ministry at that time.  

***Paul is getting angry, and he loses context. It is a good thing that Titus didn’t have to be circumcised, but here he remembers the argument and the battle against the ‘false brothers and sisters’ who wanted to make him be do so. The ‘Because’ is more in his head than grammatical.

****Sometimes he calls him Peter, sometimes he calls him Cephas. One wonders what ‘name’ Peter might have called Paul.

*****This sentence makes very little sense except to see it as Paul’s concluding summary of Peter’s hypocrisy in which he includes himself in the ‘it is impossible for a Jew to live the Jewish lifestyle, much less a person who grew up without ever knowing the law’ category. For Paul, this impossibility was a very powerful reason why the gospel was so beautiful.  

Study Questions

  1. Pretend for a moment you have to to Jerusalem and are being asked to lay out before them the gospel as you understand it. What would you tell them?
  2. Paul is clearly still upset, years later, about the fake Christians who snuck in to try and derail grace. Have you ever seen someone sabotage grace? What did you do to stop them?
  3. Paul opposes Peter, but he calls out Barnabas for hypocrisy. Have you ever been guilty of hypocrisy? Do you think this might have had some impact on their relationships, or maybe even why they ceased being partners in ministry together?
  4. How do you understand verse 20?
  5. Obviously Jesus’ death was not meaningless. However, are there actions we take on a regular basis that seem to downplay his atoning death?