Note of the Day


Note of the Day – October 17

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This note is supplemental to the concluding article on “Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”; it deals with Gal 6:16, and, in particular, with the unusual expression “the Israel of God”.

Galatians 6:16

“And, as (many) as walk in line by this (measuring) rod, peace upon them, and also mercy upon the Yisrael of God”

I discussed the first clause in the aforementioned article (above); the “(measuring) rod [i.e. rule]” (kanw/n) being the statement in verse 15 (on this, see the previous day’s note), though Paul doubtless would have applied it as well to the teaching and line of argument in the letter as a whole. The second half of the verse is a benediction offered by Paul, one which is similar to the “blessing of peace” (Birkat ha-Shalom) of the Shemoneh Esreh (“Eighteen Benedictions”) in Jewish tradition: “…and mercy upon us and upon all Israel, your people” (cf.  Betz, Galatians, p. 321-22)—the two-fold reference “us… and Israel” indicates an extension from the local congregation to all Israelites and Jews. Paul’s juxtaposition is similar, though slightly different:

“upon them (i.e. those who walk by this rule)…and upon the Israel of God

The main difficulty interpreting Paul’s statement is to identify just what he means by the unusual expression “the Israel of God” (o(  )Israh\l tou= qeou=). There are three possibilities, that it refers to: (a) Israel (Jews/Judaism) in the normal ethnic-religious sense, (b) Jewish believers, or (c) believers in general. The first of these is to be excluded for two reasons: (1) it would seem to contradict the entire thrust and message of the letter, and (2) the qualifying term “of God” strongly suggests that believers specifically are intended (cf. below). This leaves the last two possibilities, either: (i) Jewish believers in particular, or (ii) all believers (Jew and Gentile alike). Many commentators today, influenced by a scholarly (and modern pluralistic) emphasis on the Judaism of Paul, assume that he means the former (i); on the other hand, the overall context of Galatians, strongly suggests the latter (ii). However, it may be possible to combine aspects of both interpretations and thereby achieve a more accurate sense of Paul’s thought. A comparative analysis of similar phrases and expressions, in Galatians as well as other of Paul’s letters, I believe, points in this direction. There are two points of comparison:

  1. Expressions involving “Israel”
  2. Expressions involving “of God”

1. “Israel” ( )Israh/l). In several instances, Paul refers to “Israel” in the traditional ethnic-religious sense to refer to himself (or others) as an Israelite (2 Cor 11:22; Phil 3:5). Otherwise, there are several significant passages (apart from Gal 6:16):

  • Romans 9-11—Paul refers to Israel 14 times in these chapters, which provide perhaps his most detailed and extensive discussion of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles (from an eschatological viewpoint); these chapters will be examined in more detail during the study of Paul’s View of the Law in Romans. As I will be discussing there, the key verse to an understanding of Paul’s thought is Rom 9:6: “for the ones out of Israel [e)c  )Israh/l], these are not all Israel”—in other words, not all of those belonging to Israel (in the normal ethnic-religious sense) are the true Israel. According to Paul’s teaching in Romans (and elsewhere), some Israelites fell away and have not believed (i.e. have not trusted in Christ), while Gentiles who believed in Christ have become part of (the true) Israel. Paul’s difficult, challenging eschatological statement “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:26) will be discussed (along with the modern “Two Covenants” approach to Rom 9-11) in a later note.
  • 1 Corinthians 10:18—Here Paul uses the expression “Israel according to the flesh” (o(  )Israh\l kata\ sa/rka), which can be understood two ways: (a) in an ordinary ethnic-religious sense, (b) or “according to the flesh” (kata\ sa/rka) in contrast with “according to the Spirit” (kata\ pneu=ma). His frequent use of kata\ sa/rka in this specialized, latter sense, indicates that he may intend this here as well. The overall thrust of his illustration in 1 Cor 10:1-18ff matches the message of Rom 9:6: that many Israelites have fallen away, in spite of being born into the covenant and participating the religious and spiritual blessings provided them by God—i.e. they are not part of the ‘true Israel’.
  • 2 Corinthians 3:7ff—Paul uses a similar manner of illustration in 2 Cor 3:7-18, but applied directly to the (written) Law of Moses. Israelites (Jews) possess the Torah, being taught/instructed by it and hearing it proclaimed constantly, and yet many of them are veiled from the truth of it (in Christ).
  • Romans 2:28-29—Paul distinguishes between one who is a Jew (i.e. Israelite) outwardly (from birth, circumcision and observing the Torah), with one who is a Jew inwardly (by the Spirit), i.e. believers in Christ. This would clearly indicate that there is a true Israel “according to the Spirit” as compared with Israel “according to the flesh”—cf. Galatians 4:21-31 (esp. v. 29).

2. “of God” (tou= qeou=). Paul’s use of this qualifying term indicates a very definite connotation, one associated specifically with believers (in Christ). To begin with, he is certainly drawing upon traditional Old Testament and Jewish language, with phrases such as “fear of God”, “glory of God”, “judgment/wrath of God”, “kingdom of God”, et al, in a manner shared by Judaism and early Christianity. But at times, certain idioms seem to be applied within a specific Christian (Gospel) context, to indicate that which is true, or truly comes from God. A few important examples may be noted:

  • “the justice/righteousness of God” (dikaiosu/nh tou= qeou=), especially as contrasted with the justice/righteousness that come through observing the Law (i.e. “works of the Law”)—Romans 3:5, 21-22; 2 Cor 5:21
  • “promise(s) of God” (e)paggeli/a tou= qeou=), esp. as fulfilled truly in Christ (and in the Holy Spirit) unto believers—Rom 4:20; 2 Cor 1:20; Gal 3:16-22ff;
  • “knowledge of God” (gnw=si$ qeou=) and “wisdom of God” (sofi/a tou= qeou=), esp. contrasted with false/human knowledge and wisdom—Rom 11:33; 1 Cor 1:17-24, 30; 2:6ff; 15:34; 2 Cor 10:5; Col 1:10; Eph 3:10.
  • “assembly [i.e. the people called out] of God” (h( e)kklhsi/a tou= qeou=), which likely has the specific nuance of the “true congregation”, i.e. of believers in Christ—cf. especially Gal 1:13; 1 Cor 10:32; 11:22; 15:9 (note the references to Paul’s persecution of believers).
  • “temple/shrine of God” (o( nao/$ [tou=] qeou=)—Paul uses this expression in 1 Cor 3:16-17; 2 Cor 6:16 (cf. also 1 Cor 6:19 and Eph 2:21), referring to believers themselves as the (true) temple (properly, shrine/sanctuary) of God, as opposed to the earthly Temple (which Paul otherwise rarely mentions, 1 Cor 9:13; 2 Thess 2:4).
  • “the Law of God” (o( no/mo$ tou= qeou=)—this expression occurs in Romans 7:22, 25 and 1 Cor 9:21; in Romans, Paul seems to use it broadly in the sense of the “will of God”, and as contrasted both with the Law of Moses, and, more particularly, to the “Law of sin”. In 1 Cor 9:21, Paul defines it specifically as being “in the Law of Christ” (e&nnomo$ Xristrou=).
  • “the commands of God” (e)ntolw=n qeou=)—I discussed this expression (1 Cor 7:19) in the previous note; the examples above, and the comparative context in Paul’s letters, suggest that he means this in the sense of the true commands (reflecting the Law or will “of God”), more or less synonymous with the Law/command of Christ (Gal 6:2; 1 Cor 9:21).

All of this strongly indicates that “the Israel of God” refers to the true Israel, and thus to (all) true believers in Christ. However, it is possible that the apparent distinction between them (those following the ‘rule’ of Gal 6:15) and the Israel of God, may be Paul’s way of moving from the Gentile (Galatian) believers to include the Jewish believers as well. If so, then this could represent a simpler, summary statement of what he expounds in far greater detail in Romans 9-11.


Note of the Day – October 16

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This note (on Galatians 6:15) is supplemental to the concluding article dealing with “Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”.

Galatians 6:15

This verse represents Paul’s final doctrinal statement in the letter, as he returns with a decisive declaration on the main issue involved—whether Gentile believers ought to be circumcised and observe the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah). Circumcision is, in many ways, representative of the entire Torah, the covenant between God and Israel—it preceded the Sinai covenant, and is the fundamental mark of Jewish identity. It is understandable why Jewish believers felt that circumcision should be a requirement for Gentile converts, since early Christianity was born within a Jewish cultural-religious matrix. Paul, in Galatians, is among the very first Christians to argue for a distinctively Christian religious identity—something entirely new, and separate from traditional Judaism. In the conclusion (peroratio) of Galatians, vv. 12-17 of chapter 6, for one last time, Paul contrasts the Gospel message as he understands (and proclaims) it, with that of his Jewish-Christian opponents; the polemic is sharp in vv. 12-14, with circumcision set against the cross of Christ (cf. Gal 2:19-21). The declaration in verse 15 follows:

“For neither circumcision is any(thing), nor (is having) a foreskin, but (rather)—a new formation [kainh\ kti/si$]”

This is the second of three similar statements in Paul’s letters dealing with circumcision, the first occurring in Gal 5:6, and the third in 1 Cor 7:19 (assuming Galatians was written prior to 1 Corinthians); they may be compared side-by-side (in translation):

Gal 5:6

“For in (the) Anointed Yeshua neither circumcision has any strength, nor (does having) a foreskin, but (rather)—trust working in (you) through love”

Gal 6:15

“For neither circumcision is any(thing), nor (is having) a foreskin, but (rather)—a new formation”

1 Cor 7:19

“(For) circumcision is nothing, and (having) a foreskin is (also) nothing, but a guard of [i.e. guarding] the commands of God (is)”

Each statement begins with a declaration that circumcision is unimportant/irrelevant for believers; it is helpful to compare these:

Gal 5:6
ou&te peritomh/ ti i)sxu/ei ou&te a)krobusti/a
“neither circumcision has any strength, nor (does having) a foreskin”

Gal 6:15
ou&te peritomh/ ti e)stin ou&te a)krobusti/a
“neither circumcision is any(thing), nor (is having) a foreskin”

1 Cor 7:19
h( peritomh/ ou)de/n e)stin kai\ h( a)krobusti/a oude/n e)stin
“circumcision is nothing and (also having) a foreskin is nothing”

The two clauses in Galatians are nearly identical; the formulation is a bit different in 1 Cor 7:19, but all three say essentially the same thing—”has no strength”, “is not any(thing)”, “is nothing”. Gal 5:6 qualifies the statement by the expression “in Christ Jesus”, which, of course, is to be assumed in all three forms. That religious, cultural, and ethnic distinctions between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles) are eliminated for believers “in Christ”—this is an important theme and doctrine in Galatians (see esp. Gal 3:26-28). The use of the verb i)sxu/w, “to have (or use) strength”, in Gal 5:6 is significant; it can be understood two ways: (a) that circumcision has no effect (or power) in the life of a believer (before God), and also (b) that it has no binding force, i.e. believers are not obligated to observe the command. The same is true of being uncircumcised, as the context of 1 Cor 7:19 makes especially clear (see “Did you know…?” below).

The question naturally comes to mind: if circumcision (and uncircumcision) have no power or significance for the believer, than what does have? Interestingly, in these three statements, Paul gives three different answers, here presented side-by-side for comparison:

Gal 5:6

pi/sti$ di’ a)ga/ph$ e)nergoume/nh
“trust through love working in (you)”

Gal 6:15

kainh\ kti/si$
“(a) new formation”

1 Cor 7:19

th/rhsi$ e)ntolw=n qeou=
a guard of [i.e. guarding] (the) “commands” of God

Each of the statements, is, in some way, important and distinctive with regard to Paul’s teaching:

Gal 5:6: pi/sti$ di’ a)ga/ph$ e)nergoume/nh “trust working in (you) through love”—This formula brings together three elements fundamental to the teaching and line of argument throughout Galatians:

pi/sti$ (“trust/faith”), i.e. trust in Christ (cf. Gal 2:16, 20; 3:2, 5, 7-9, 11-12, 14, 22-26); a key premise of the letter is that people (believers) are made/declared just (righteous) before God by trust in Christ, and not by observing the Law. This a dominant theme through the first four chapters (esp. chap 3).

a)ga/ph (“love”)—love is an important motif in the exhortation section of the letter (Gal 5:1-6:10), with its emphasis on believers demonstrating (sacrificial) love to each other; the so-called “love command” (Lev 19:18; Mark 12:28-33 par) represents the only “Law” that believers are obligated to observe (Gal 5:13-14, cf. Rom 13:8-10), presumably to be identified with the “Law of Christ” in Gal 6:2.

e)nerge/w (“work in”)—the term “work” is important in Galatians; Paul repeatedly refers to “works [e&rga] of the Law” (i.e. doing/observing the Law/Torah), Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10, as contrasted with trust in Christ and the Gospel; note also the parallel expression “works of the flesh” (Gal 5:19). For the believer, it is God and the Spirit which works (Gal 2:8; 3:5).

Gal 6:15: kainh\ kti/si$ “a new formation”—The noun kti/si$ is derived from the verb kti/zw, “to form, found”, as with a city/settlement or building, etc.; more generally, it can have the sense of “produce, make”, etc., i.e. “create”, in reference to God. Often the expression here is translated “new creation”, sometimes influenced by the idea of regeneration or “new birth”; however, for Paul, I believe the emphasis is rather on a new identity for the believer in Christ. The expression is also used in 2 Cor 5:17:

“So then, if any (one is) in (the) Anointed [e)n Xristw=|] he is a new creation/formation [kainh\ kti/si$]…”

The dualism of old vs. new is an important aspect of Paul’s theology and anthropology, cf. Rom 6:6; 7:6; 1 Cor 5:7-8; 2 Cor 3:6, 14; 5:17; Col 3:9-10; Eph 2:15; 4:22, etc.

1 Cor 7:19: th/rhsi$ e)ntolw=n qeou=—The noun th/rhsi$ is related to the verb thre/w, “(keep) watch, guard”, and so primarily means a “guard”, i.e. as in a prison; however, it can also have the more general, abstract meaning of “keeping, holding”, etc. The noun e)ntolh/ literally refers to something laid on someone to complete, i.e., an order, charge, injunction, etc.; it is often translated “command(ment)”, and, in the plural, in a Jewish context, typically refers to the commands and regulations of the Torah. At first glance, this seems to be an entirely different emphasis than in Galatians; the idea of “keeping the commands” (of the Torah) is altogether opposite of what Paul teaches for believers there. Since, in 1 Cor 7:19, he has just stated that “circumcision is nothing”, it is most unlikely that the “commands of God” here are synonymous with the Torah commands. More plausibly, it could refer to the moral/ethical commands, especially of the Decalogue (cf. Mark 10:19 par; James 2:11; Rom 13:9). However the qualification “of God” for Paul probably carries the sense of the true commands (cf. the parallel expression “the Law of God” in Rom 7:22, 25); the overall context of Paul’s teaching—especially in Romans and Galatians—would identify the true command(s) with the so-called “love command” (cf. “the Law of Christ”, Gal 6:2), in which, according to the teaching and example of Christ, the entire Law is summarized and fulfilled (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:8-10). The problem with the context in 1 Corinthians, is that Paul brings up the question of circumcision only in passing; it is not central to the teaching and argument of chapter 7, which involves practical instruction and advice regarding marriage and marital status among believers.

It is interesting that in Gal 5:6; 6:15; 1 Cor 7:19 Paul does not simply say that “circumcision is nothing”, etc.; instead, he adds that “(having) a foreskin [a)krobusti/a] is (also) nothing”, etc. The statement in Gal 5:6, that “(having) a foreskin has no strength” (just as circumcision “has no strength”) is especially unusual from our vantage point today. However, as Christianity spread throughout the Gentile (Greco-Roman) world, instead of Jewish pressure on Gentile believers to be circumcised, there would be the opposite cultural pressure on Jewish believers to hide their circumcision. Paul would have been aware of this dynamic, especially in a Greek city such as Corinth. In 1 Cor 7:18, Paul urges that those who have been circumcised (i.e. Jewish believers) ought not to “pull (a foreskin) upon” (e)pispasa/omai) them. In the Greco-Roman world, operations were available for Jewish men to ‘restore’ the foreskin (epispasm) or otherwise hide the effects of circumcision.


Note of the Day – October 14

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Today’s note is supplemental to the series on “Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians” (on Gal 5:1-6:10); in particular, I will be discussing the interesting expression “the Law of Christ” in 6:2.

Galatians 6:2

“Bear one another’s burdens—and thus you will fill up (completely) the ‘Law of Christ'”

It is noteworthy that, throughout the first five chapters of Galatians (focused in chs. 3-4), Paul has been arguing that believers in Christ are freed from the Law (that is, of the obligation to observe the commands and regulations of the Old Testament/Jewish Torah). Now, suddenly, he re-introduces the idea of believers fulfilling the Law, but defined specifically as “the Law of Christ” (o( no/mo$ tou= Xristou=). Two questions naturally come to mind: (1) what exactly does Paul mean by this expression? and (2) what is the relationship (if any) between the “Law of Christ” and the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah)? I hope to address both questions in the process of examining this verse.

First, let us consider the overall context of his statement in v. 2:

Throughout the first four chapters of Galatians, and especially in chapters 3-4, Paul has been arguing rather extensively (and forcefully) two main points:

  • That it is through faith in Christ, and not by observing the Torah (“works of Law”), that a person is made (or declared) just/righteous before God
  • That with the coming Christ, and, especially, as a result of his sacrificial death, believers (those who trust in him) are no longer “under the Law” and are freed from its obligations and commands (and, in turn, freed from the enslaving power of sin as well).

However, in chapters 5 and 6 (5:1-6:10), Paul has moved from argument to exhortation and religious-ethical instruction (parenesis). Since believers have freedom in Christ, and are free from the Law, how is one to live and act?—what is the basis for governing and regulating attitudes and behavior? Paul makes two points clear in this section:

  • Attitude and behavior is (to be) governed by the Holy Spirit, which involves believers accepting to be led/guided (to “walk”) by the Spirit
  • Even though believers are free from the Law, being led by the Spirit will (and must) result in a moral and upright life, in spite of (and/or because of) the natural conflict between the Spirit and “flesh”

In Gal 5:26-6:10, we find the only section of practical instruction in the letter, in particular, 5:26-6:6:

  • 5:26 describes behavior contrary to “walking in the Spirit” (cf. also v. 15)
  • 6:1-2 urges faithful believers to exhibit the “fruit of the Spirit” in helping to restore an offender, and to “bear each others‘ burdens”
  • 6:3-4 counsels self-examination for believers, emphasizing the importance of humility and personal integrity, emphasizing rather that each person must “bear his/her own burden”

In vv. 3-4, the believer turns inward, focusing on his/her own life and affairs, while in vv. 1-2, the believer turns outward, in order to aid and assist other believers in time of trouble. Paul’s statement in v. 2 is part of this second emphasis.

Verse 2a—”bear each other’s burdens…” (a)llh/lwn ta\ ba/rh basta/zete). It is this exhortation which defines the statement in 2b, and must be kept in mind when analyzing the expression “the Law of Christ”. It is also closely parallel to the exhortation in 5:13, as we shall see.

Verse 2b—”…and thus you will fill up (completely) the ‘Law of Christ'” (kai\ ou%tw$ a)naplhrw/sete to\n no/mon tou= Xristou=). “and thus” (kai\ ou%tw$) relates back to 2a, which serves as a conditional phrase—if you bear each other’s burden, then, in so doing, you will fill up the “Law of Christ”. The verb Paul uses (a)naplhro/w) is a compound form of plhro/w (plhróœ, “fill [up], fulfill”); the prefixed particle a)na (ana) indicating “up”, but essentially serving as an intensive element, i.e. “fill up completely“. The verb plhro/w can be used in the sense of observing or completing commands/regulations, i.e., of the Law (Torah), cf. Matt 5:17. However, in Galatians, Paul speaks in terms of the Torah commands being “done” (i.e. as “works”) rather than being “fulfilled”.

With regard to the expression “the Law of Christ”, it should be examined according to: (1) parallels in Galatians, (2) parallels in the other Pauline letters, and, finally, by way of brief comparison, (3) with any other relevant parallels in the New Testament.

(1) Parallels in Galatians—the main passage is 5:13-15, which I have discussed previously; the parallel between 5:13-14 and 6:2 is striking:


“be slaves to each other [a)llh/loi$] through love”

“for all the Law is filled (up) [peplh/rwtai] in one word”


” bear each others’ [a)llh/lwn] burdens”

“and thus you will fill up [a)naplhrw/sete] the Law of Christ”

The “one word” in 5:14 is Lev 19:18 (“you shall love your neighbor as yourself”), well-established in early Christian tradition as a central command (or principle), sometimes referred to as the “love command”, under the influence of similar language in the Gospel and letters of John (Jn 13:34-35; 14:15-24; 15:10-17; 1 Jn 2:7-11; 3:23; 4:21; 5:1-3). It is part of the two-fold “Great Commandment” in Jesus’ teaching (Mark 12:31 par; Matt 5:43; 19:19)—also related to the so-called “golden rule” (Matt 7:12; Luke 6:31)—as a ‘summary’ of the Law. Paul offers a more precise contextual statement in Rom 13:8-10; for other instances in early Christian writings, see James 2:8; Didache 1:2; Barnabas 19:5; and Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 93:2. It is reasonable to relate this to the “Law of Christ” in Gal 6:2; I would suggest that the connection should be understood in the following terms:

  1. The ‘love command’ (Lev 19:18) is no longer associated with the Torah in early Christian tradition, but rather more directly with the teaching (and example) of Christ.
  2. In Paul’s thought, Christ, in his own person and by his work, represents (and brings) the end/completion/fulfillment of the entire Law (cf. Rom 10:4), just as the ‘love command’ effectively summarizes and fulfills (and thereby takes the place of) the entire Law.
  3. The new covenant (of faith and the Spirit) is defined as believers being “in Christ”, belonging to Christ, etc., just as the old covenant (at Sinai) was defined by inclusion of Israel according to the terms of the Law (Torah).

(2) Parallels in the other Pauline letters—Here I will focus on formal parallels, where Paul uses a phrase or expression similar to “the Law of Christ”.

  • 1 Corinthians 9:21—”in [i.e. under] the Law of Christ” (e&nnomo$ Xristou=). This expression is nearly identical, with the context in 1 Corinthians being significant. In v. 20, Paul speaks of becoming like one who is “under the Law” in order to reach those “under the Law” (i.e., Israelites/Jews); similarly, to those who are “without (the) Law” (a&nomo$), i.e. Gentiles, he became as one who is “without (the) Law” (cf. Gal 2:12, 14). However, Paul is clearly uncomfortable referring to himself (and, presumably, any believer) as being “without Law”, so he parenthetically comments: “not (indeed) being without the Law of God, but in the law of Christ”. It is doubtless the use of the word a&nomo$ (“without law”) that prompts him to use (or to coin) the term e&nnomo$ (“in [the] law”).
  • Romans 7:22, 25 (cf. also 8:7; 1 Cor 9:21)—”the Law of God” (o( no/mo$ tou= qeou=). In Romans (and also 1 Cor 9:21), Paul uses this expression in a wider sense than “the Law” (o( no/mo$), the latter almost always referring specifically to the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah). In Rom 7:22ff, the “Law of God” is contrasted with the “Law of sin” as two principles fighting against each other, as a dynamic taking place in the life/heart/mind of a person prior to faith in Christ (note also the similar dynamic for believers in Gal 5:17). It would be fair, I think, to identify the expression “the Law of God” generally with the will of God, which, of course, is also communicated by way of the Torah commands.
  • Romans 3:27—”the Law of faith/trust” (no/mo$ pi/stew$). This expresses the basic Pauline teaching that people are made/declared just (“justified”) before God through trust/faith (pi/sti$) in Christ, in direct contrast with the “law of works (e&rga)” (i.e., “works of the Law”).
  • Romans 8:2—”the Law of the Spirit of life” (o( no/mo$ tou= pneu/mato$ th=$ zwh=$). This characterizes the principle, expressed repeatedly in Galatians (esp. Gal 5:1ff), that believers are free from the Law—not only specific commands preserved in the Torah, but also the “curse” of the Law and the power of sin, here phrased as “the Law of sin and death”. This freedom—the Law of the Spirit of life—is qualified and centered by the familiar expression “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|). Since the Holy Spirit is understood largely in terms of the Spirit of Christ, of his live-giving presence and power at work in the believer, the “Law of the Spirit of life” can be considered, to some extent, as synonymous with the “Law of Christ”.
  • Romans 16:26 is also worth noting, where Paul speaks of “the charge/injunction [e)pitagh/] of God of-the-Ages”, in reference to God’s ordering of the proclamation and spread of the Gospel to the nations. In 1 Cor 7:19 we also find the expression “(the) commands/charges [e)ntolai] of God”, which could generally mean the commands of the Torah, but as Paul has just stated that “circumcision is nothing”, this is unlikely; possibly it refers to the ethical commands of the Torah (e.g. in the Decalogue), but it is probably better to consider the meaning as similar to the “command[s] of Christ” (cf. below).

(3) Parallels in the remainder of the New Testament

  • James 1:25; 2:12—”the Law of freedom” (no/mo$ e)leuqeri/a$). This sounds like an expression which could have come from Galatians, with its emphasis on freedom in Christ. And, indeed, the overall context of James 1:22-2:13 is generally similar to Paul’s exhortation and instruction in Gal 5:1-6:10, in the sense that both passages emphasize: (a) the need for moral/ethical behavior among believers, and (b) that faith in Christ will (and should) result in sacrificial acts of mercy and service to those (believers) who are in difficulty. The main difference is that James speaks of all this in terms of “works” (e&rga) and “doing” (i.e. the “Law”) which Paul generally does not apply in Galatians. In James 1:25, the “Law of freedom” is characterized as “complete” (te/leio$), which possibly relates to the Pauline idea of the Law (Torah) being completed in the person and work of Christ (Rom 10:4, etc).
  • James 2:8—”the kingly/royal Law” (no/mo$ basiliko/$). Here the thought is even closer to the “Law of Christ” in Gal 6:2, and also with Gal 5:13-14. This “royal Law” is identified with the so-called love-command (Lev 19:18), as in Gal 5:14; similarly, the implication in James 2:10 is that violation of this command means violating the entire Law. In all likelihood, the “Law of freedom” and the “royal Law” are basically synonymous, and could fairly be identified with the “Law of Christ”.
  • The Gospel and letters of John, for the most part, do not use the word no/mo$ (“law”), preferring rather the word e)ntolh/, either in the singular or plural.  )Entolh/ literally signifies a charge or order which is placed on someone, typically translated as “command(ment)”. The “commandments” (pl.) can be referred to as Christ’s, that is, coming from Christ (“his commandments”), cf. John 14:21 (cf. also 15:14); 1 John 2:3-4, or as God’s (the Father’s), 1 John 3:22-24; 5:2-3; 2 John 5-6, or both (Jn 12:49-50; 14:21, 31; 15:10)—with little (if any) distinction between the two. This accords with Johannine theology, especially as expressed by Jesus in the Gospel: that the Son only does and says what he sees/hears the Father doing and saying; in other words, Christ’s commands are the same as God’s (Jn 12:49; 14:31; 15:10). It is never specified just what these commandments are; rather, they seem to be identical with the “commandment” (sg.) of God (and Christ)—Jn 12:49-50; 15:12; 1 Jn 3:23; 14:21; 2 Jn 6. This (single) commandment is: (1) characterized as “new” (Jn 13:34; 1 Jn 2:8), and (2) defined in terms of love toward God and fellow believers (i.e. the two-fold “great commandment”) (Jn 13:34; 15:12, 17; 1 Jn 4:21; 5:2-3; 2 Jn 5-6; cf. also Jn 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jn 2:5). Interestingly, in 1 Jn 2:7-8 and 2 Jn 5, the author explains that, in a sense, this is not actually a new commandment, but one already familiar from Scripture, the teaching of Jesus, and direct instruction by the Spirit. This may be a way of saying, along with Paul, that this “love command” summarizes and fulfills/completes the entire Law.

Note of the Day – October 13

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In the last two daily notes, I discussed the first two pairs of statements which bracket vv. 16-25 (see the chiastic outline in the earlier notes). As previously indicated, these pairs may be summarized:

  • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25)
  • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24)
  • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Today’s note will examine the third and final pair.

Affirmation for believers (regarding Freedom)—Gal 5:18, 23b

Here, again, Paul makes specific reference to freedom from the Law, which is the primary theme running throughout the letter. The two verses, looked at in tandem, are:

V. 18: “But if you are (being) led in the Spirit, you are not under (the) Law
V. 23b: “…(but) against these (thing)s [i.e. the fruit of the Spirit] there is no Law

A casual reading of vv. 16-25 might easily miss the connection between these statements, the parallel being as much conceptual as it is formal. A close examination, however, demonstrates that Paul is making very similar claims; we can best see this by dividing each verse into two parts—the first presenting a conditional clause or phrase involving the Spirit, and the second being a conclusive affirmation regarding believers and the Law.

Part 1: Conditional

V. 18: ei) pneu/mati a&gesqe (“{but} if you are led in the Spirit…”)
V. 23: kata\ tw=n toiou/twn (“against these things…”)

Technically, only verse 18 properly contains a conditional clause, as indicated by the particle ei), “if” (I have left out the coordinating particle de/ [“but”] to better show the condition). The expression pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”) has been discussed in the prior two notes. The verb a&gw essentially means “lead”, but often specifically in the sense of “lead away, carry off, ” etc. Some commentators have thought that Paul’s use here may indicate a charismatic or “mantic” experience, i.e. being “carried away” by the Spirit. This is possible, but the overall context of Galatians strongly suggests that the basic sense of being led (i.e. directed/guided) better applies here. If so, then it fits with the similar language and symbolism Paul uses throughout regarding believers and the Spirit:

  • walk about in the Spirit” (v. 16)
  • walk in line in the Spirit” (v. 25)
  • “sow (seed) into the Spirit” (6:8)

Believers act in (and by) the power of the Spirit, being guided (willingly) by the Spirit; note in this regard:

  • Believers, through faith in Christ, receive Spirit from God and begin “in the Spirit” (3:2-3, 14; 4:6)
  • God works in believers through the Spirit (3:5; 4:6)
  • We live in the Spirit (5:25)

There is a close formal parallel between v. 18a and 25a:

ei) pneu/mati a&gesqe, “if we are led in the Spirit, (then)…” (v. 18a)
ei) zw=men pneu/mati, “if we live in the Spirit, (then)…” (v. 25a)

Both, I believe, represent actual conditions, reflecting the reality of the Spirit in the lives of believers. In this regard, let us turn to verse 23, which, as I indicated, is not precisely a conditional clause. In fact, it is dependent upon vv. 22-23a, the list of “fruit of the Spirit” (karpo\$ tou= pneu/mato$)—the demonstrative pronoun toiou=to$, “these (thing)s”, refers to the nine items representing the “fruit”. Effectively, Paul is establishing a condition—i.e., if you exhibit the “fruit” of the Spirit, if the Spirit is working and you allow yourself to be led and guided by it, then know that “against these things…” The use of the preposition kata (“against”) is significant, as it reflects the conflict for believers described in vv. 17 and 24. Throughout Galatians, Paul has mentioned three related forces related to this conflict: (1) the flesh, (2) the Law,  and (3) the power of sin.

Part 2: Affirmation

V. 18: ou)k e)ste\ u(po\ no/mon (“…you are not under Law”)
V. 23: ou)k e)stin no/mo$ (“…there is no Law”)

This is, for Paul, perhaps the fundamental message he wishes to deliver to the Galatians, an affirmation of Christian identity, stated simply, and by way of negation. In verse 18, this relates back to the condition, “if you are led in the Spirit…”, and indicates the result: “…(then) you are not under the Law”. It is hard to imagine a simpler, more definite statement that believers are no longer bound and obligated to observe the commands of the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah). This is especially so when one considers the normal view of Torah precisely as (authoritative) instruction, a set of rules and precepts by which one is led and guided in the way of truth and to fulfill the will of God. For believers, it is rather the Spirit which provides the guidance traditionally ascribed to the Torah.

The statement in verse 23 is especially interesting by comparison, as it has to be understood in the context of vv. 22-23, providing a conclusion to the list of the “fruit of the Spirit”—”against these things [i.e. the fruit] there is no Law”. At first glance, it is not entirely clear what Paul means by this statement. Contextually, and upon examination, one may consider it according to the following aspects:

  1. There is no law against the fruit of the Spirit since they are all good and holy and, practically speaking, there is no law against doing good.
  2. The Law is principally about doing, i.e. “works” (cf. Gal 2:16; 3:2, 5, 10-13), but the fruit of the Spirit are not works (as contrasted with “works of the flesh”).
  3. For believers the conflict is now between the Spirit and the flesh (cf. throughout Gal 5:1-6:10)—we are dead to the Law (2:19-20) and freed from its commands (2:4; 3:13, 23-25; 4:1-7, 21-31; 5:1ff), so it no longer applies.
  4. The guidance believers receive (from the Spirit) in governing or regulating attitudes and behavior in ethical (and religious) matters is not “Law” in the sense that the Torah commands are considered “Law”

Arguments can be made in favor of each of these viewpoints, however, I would say that the last two best capture Paul’s meaning and intent. While the context of vv. 22-23 is primary, I believe it is also appropriate, in this instance, to take the clause ‘out of context’, as a separate, independent statement (as I have essentially done above). This yields an especially clear and decisive statement that, for believers (those who are in Christ and in the Spirit), there is no Law. While such a conclusion, in one respect, accurately represents (and punctuates) Paul’s teaching about believers and the Torah, it is not the end of the story. Further on, in Gal 6:2, Paul does refer to a “Law” for believers: “the Law of Christ” (o( no/mo$ tou= Xristou=); and it is this expression which I will be discussing in the next daily note.


Note of the Day – October 12

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In the previous note, I discussed the pair of statements which bracket vv. 16-25 (see the chiastic outline for this section), the first of three concentric pairs (vv. 16-18, 23b-25) surrounding the central lists of vices (“works of the flesh”) and virtues (“fruit of the Spirit”). As previously indicated, these pairs may be summarized:

  • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25)
  • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24)
  • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Today’s note will examine the second pair.

Conflict for believers (Flesh vs. Spirit)—Gal 5:17, 24

This conflict is expressed two different ways by Paul: (1) the current conflict (v. 17), and (2) its resolution (v. 18).

Verse 17:

aFor the flesh sets (its) impulse against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh—bfor these lie (stretched out) (one) against the other, so that you might not do the (thing)s which you might wish (to do).”

On the juxtaposition of flesh and Spirit in Galatians (and elsewhere in Paul’s letters), see the previous note and articles; on the “impulse [e)piqumi/a]” of the flesh, cf. also the previous note. Here, in verse 17, we find the related verb e)piqume/w, which I have translated by way of conflating two valid renderings: (a) “have an impulse toward (something)”, and (b) “set (one’s) mind/heart upon (something)”. The principal statement is 17a, which juxtaposes “flesh” and “Spirit”, setting them against each other. Previously in Galatians kata\ sarko/$/pneu/mato$ meant “according to the flesh/Spirit”, here it means, more precisely and fundamentally, “against the flesh/Spirit”. The opposition and mutual incompatibility (even hostility), indicated throughout Galatians, is here expressed directly.

Verse 17b expounds the essential statement with two, related, explanatory clauses:

  1. “for these [i.e. flesh and the Spirit] lie out (one) against the other…”—The particle ga/r relates this clause to what came before (the statement in 17a). The verb Paul uses is a)nti/keimai, “to lie (stretched out) against”, as two opposing animals or armies, etc; the preposition a)nti, like kata, means “against”, but in the more precise sense of two opponents facing each other.
  2. “…so that you might not do the (thing)s which you might wish (to do)”—The subordinating conjunctive particle i%na could indicate either a purpose or a result clause, i.e. “so (in order) that…” or “so that (as a result)…”; formally, a result clause is more appropriate, however, there is clearly the sense of a will being imposed, whether that of the opposing forces, or the overriding will/purpose of God (or both). The two verbs—qe/lhte and poih=te—are both subjunctive forms (“might wish”, “might do”); in other words, each opposing force obstructs and resists the will and action of the other.

Anyone familiar with Paul’s letters will recognize the similarity between verse 17 and Romans 7:15-25. A proper discussion of this passage will have to wait until its place in the series of articles and notes on “Paul’s View of the Law (in Romans)”. Even though, by consensus of most commentators, in Romans 7, Paul is dramatizing the situation of human beings prior to faith in Christ, while Galatians 5 relates specifically to believers as they live in Christ and by the Spirit, the dynamic he describes in each letter is very similar. The main difference, I believe, is that, in Romans 7, the flesh is additionally bound up under the enslaving forces of the Law and sin; in Galatians 5, on the other hand, only the flesh (the “impulse of the flesh”) is involved. The believer, as Paul teaches repeatedly in Galatians (and in Romans, for that matter) is free from both the Law of the Old Testament and the “law of sin”.

Verse 24:

“But the (one)s of (the) Anointed [Yeshua] have put to the stake [i.e. crucified] the flesh (together) with the sufferings and impulses (it brings)”

If the conflict (between flesh and Spirit) was stated in verse 17 (above), the way of resolution to the conflict (if believers are willing to accept it) is presented in verse 24. Each of the important expressions in this verse ought to be examined, at least briefly:

de\ (“but”)—the adversative conjunctive particle de/ properly relates to the prior verses (vv. 19-23), but it could just as well connect back to the statement of conflict in verse 17; in many ways, it is more appropriate and makes better sense in this context.

oi(tou= Xristou= [ )Ihsou=] (“the ones of the Anointed [Yeshua]”)—here Christian identity is described with a genitival expression, i.e. believers as the ones belonging to Christ, “of Christ”. Certainly this should be understood in relation to the familiar Pauline expression “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|).

e)stau/rwsan (“have put to the stake”)—the reference of course being to the believers’ identification with, and symbolic/spiritual participation in, the death (crucifixion) of Christ. This was already stated, famously and most powerfully, by Paul in Gal 2:19f:

“…I died away to the Law, so that I might live to God. I have been put to the stake (together) with the Anointed…”

For other mention of the death and cross of Christ in Galatians, see Gal 1:1, 4; 2:20-21; 3:1, 13; 5:11. Through identification with the crucifixion (at the spiritual level), believers are freed from the Law, and, with it, from the power of sin (the “curse” of the Law, cf. 3:10-14). This freedom is expressed vividly in terms of dying—becoming dead to the Law; in Col 2:13-14, we find the even more dramatic image of the Law (and sin [debt/trespass]) itself dying, being nailed to the cross.

th\n sa/rka (“the flesh”)—on Paul’s use of sa/rc (“flesh”) see the previous notes and articles on the relevant passages in Galatians (“Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”). Interestingly, while Paul declares that, in Christ, believers are free from the Law and the power of sin, he never goes so far as to extend this freedom to the flesh. As he indicates repeatedly in his letters, and specifically here in Gal 5:17 (cf. above), believers face a regular conflict and daily struggle against the “impulse of the flesh”. For more on this thought, see below.

su\n (“with”)—the conjunction su/n, “(together) with” also appears in Gal 2:19, but prefixed to the verb stauro/w (“put to the stake”) in the compound form sustauro/w (“put to the stake [together] with”). There the conjunction connects the believer with Christ; here, in a different, opposite direction, it connects the flesh with its “sufferings and impulses”

toi=$ paqh/masin kai\ tai=$ e)piqumi/a$ (“the sufferings and the impulses”)—on the word e)piqumi/a (translated here as “impulse”), cf. the previous day’s note; the expression e)piqumi/a sarko/$ (“impulse of the flesh”) was used in verse 16. The word is fairly common in Paul’s letters (cf. 1 Thess 2:17; 4:5; Rom 1:24; 6:12; 7:7-8; 13:14; Phil 1:23; Col 3:5, also Eph 2:3; 4:22, etc), and can be fairly rendered “desire, longing”, sometimes in a positive sense, but more often in the negative sense of fleshly/carnal or sinful desire. The word pa/qhma refers to pain or (painful) suffering, hardship, affliction, etc., often indicating a strong emotion or impulse, i.e. “passion”; as such, the word (or the related noun pa/qo$) may be connected semantically with e)piqumi/a, cf. 1 Thess 4:5; Col 3:5. The nouns are plural, and should be seen as both deriving conceptually from the singular “impulse [e)piqumi/a] of the flesh”—the “impulses” (pl.) reflect the reality that believers will experience the “impulse” of the flesh on different occasions and in various forms, along with the effects (the “pains/sufferings”) they bring.

There is an important implication in the language of verse 24, when Paul states that believers (“the ones of Christ“) have put to death (crucified) the flesh—in other words, it does not happen automatically (or magically) as a result of Christ’s death; it requires involvement by the believer, in at least two respects:

  • Identification/participation with the crucifixion at the symbolic/spiritual level, through faith and the work of the Spirit—see esp. Gal 2:19-20 (cf. above)
  • The daily life of the believer, whereby the flesh—both its “impulse” and its “works”—are regularly “put to death” in a practical, habitual sense, cf. Rom 6:6ff; 8:13; Col 3:5; also Gal 6:8-9, 14; and note Jesus’ words in Mark 8:34 par. In traditional theological language, this is sometimes referred to as (self-)mortification.

Just as we are exhorted to “walk” in the Spirit (even though we already live in the Spirit), so we are exhorted to put the flesh to death (i.e. “crucify” it), even though we have already been “crucified with Christ”.


Note of the Day – October 11

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The notes for the next few days will be supplemental to the current article on Galatians 5:1-6:10 (“Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”), specifically the exhortation/warning section 5:13-25, and, in particular, verses 16-25. I have outlined the structure of these verses as follows:

  • Exhortation: “walk [peripate/w] in the Spirit” (v. 16)
    • Conflict for believers: “flesh against the Spirit” and “Spirit against flesh” (v. 17)
      • Affirmation for believers: “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law” (v. 18)
        • Works of the flesh (vv. 19-21)
        • Fruit of the Spirit (vv. 22-23a)
      • Affirmation for believers: If the fruit of the Spirit is present, “there is no Law” (v. 23b)
    • Resolution of conflict: the flesh has been crucified (with Christ) (v. 24)
  • Exhortation: “walk [stoixe/w] in the Spirit” (v. 25)

With three concentric pairs (vv. 16-18, 23b-25) surrounding the central lists of vices (“works of the flesh”) and virtues (“fruit of the Spirit”). These pairs may be summarized thus:

  • Exhortation (vv. 16, 25)
  • Conflict—Flesh vs. Spirit (vv. 17, 24)
  • Affirmation regarding freedom (vv. 18, 23b)

Each of these will be discussed in turn. Today’s note deals with the first:

Exhortation for believers—Gal 5:16, 25

These two exhortations are similar and closely related:

V. 16: “But I relate (to you): walk about in the Spirit and (no) you will not complete the impulse of the flesh”

V. 25: “If we live in the Spirit, (so) also we should walk in line in the Spirit”

To begin with, the expression “by the Spirit” in Greek is the dative form pneu/mati (pneu¡mati), from pneu=ma (pneu¡ma)—there is no preposition. On the basis of other instances in Paul’s writings (Rom 2:29; 8:9; 9:1; 14:17; 15;16; 1 Cor 12:3; 2 Cor 6:6; Gal 6:1; Col 1:8), it may be filled out as e)n pneu/mati, “in the Spirit”, though this ought to be understood primarily in an instrumental sense, i.e. “in the (power) of the Spirit”, or “through the Spirit”, “by the Spirit”—by the power and guidance, etc., of the Spirit. Of the seven uses of this form in Galatians, all but one occur in the Exhortation (5:5, 16, 18, 25 [twice]; 6:1)—in other words, the Christian manner of life and behavior, etc, is (to be) governed by the Spirit. It will be helpful to study in detail several of the words and expressions in these verses:

Verse 16

peripatei=te (“walk about”)—this is a common verb, which may, of course, be taken in the concrete, literal sense of physically walking/moving about an area; however, it is frequently used in a more abstract philosophical and ethical sense of a regular/habitual mode of behavior, lifestyle, etc. This is how it is used in much of the New Testament, especially in the letters; it occurs 32 times in the Pauline letters, with this particular imperatival form also appearing in Col 2:6; 4:5 and Eph 5:2, 8.

pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”)—this expression has been discussed above; it may be useful to consider the references to the Spirit (pneu=ma) in Galatians:

  • Believers receive the Spirit (from God) through faith/trust (in Christ), 3:2, 14
  • Believers begin their new life “in the Spirit” (contrasted with “flesh”), 3:3
  • God supplies the Spirit for believers (context of miraculous power), 3:5
  • The Spirit represents the ultimate (end-time) promise of God for his people, 3:14
  • God sends the Spirit into the hearts of believers, allowing them to realize their identity as sons of God (in/with Christ), 4:6 (“born according to the Spirit”, v. 29)
  • It is by/through the Spirit (and faith) that we expect to be declared/made just/righteous before God, 5:5
  • The Spirit works to bear “fruit” in believers, i.e. Christian/Christlike virtues and characteristics, 5:22f; 6:1
  • Believers ‘cooperate’ with the Spirit, allowing it/him to work in their lives, according to the image of willingly “walking” (5:16, 25) and “sowing” seed (6:8)—again, contrasted with the flesh

Consider also, for comparison, the other uses of the imperative form peripatei=te, parallel to peripatei=te pneu/mati here, “walk about in the Spirit“:

  • Colossians 2:6—”walk about in him [i.e. in Christ]”
  • Colossians 4:5—”walk about in wisdom
  • Ephesians 5:2—”walk about in love
  • Ephesians 5:8—”walk about as offspring [i.e. children] of light
  • Note also the one non-Pauline occurrence, in John 12:35 (Jesus speaking): “walk about as (ones) holding the light

e)piqumi/an sarko\$ (“impulse of the flesh”)—I translate the Greek work e)piqumi/a as “impulse [upon/toward something]”; however, in anthropological terms, it often covers a similar range of meaning as “heart” and “mind”, the verb e)piqume/w being rendered, “set (one’s) heart/mind upon (something)”. Often in the New Testament (and similar religious-ethical writings), it carries the sense of illicit, sinful longing or desire. The word sa/rc (“flesh”) is used quite often by Paul in his letters, and with a fairly wide range of meaning, from physical/material flesh to a power/principle of sin and wickedness at work in human beings (and to which they are in bondage). Frequently, for Paul, it seems to refer specifically to the selfish or self-centered aspect of human beings, the corrupt/wicked ego (“I”) which thinks and acts contrary to God and Christ. In Galatians, Paul regularly contrasts the “flesh” with the Spirit (of God/Christ); it is also closely connected with the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah), the “works of the flesh” being parallel (and at least partly synonymous) with “works of the Law”.

ou) mh (“no, no” or “no…not”)—the double negative particle serves to strengthen the denial, i.e. “not at all”, “in no way”, “by no means”, “certainly not”, etc.

telesh/te (“complete”)—the verb tele/w, related to te/lo$ (“end, goal”), fundamentally means “finish, complete”; here it specifically refers to the completion of the “impulse of the flesh”. In modern English terms, we might describe this as acting out, or acting on, one’s desire. The verb is relatively rare in the Pauline letters (Rom 2:27; 13:6; 2 Cor 12:9, and 2 Tim 4:7), with the use in 2 Cor 12:9 expressing the opposite context: of believers being “made complete” by (and in) Christ. A dynamic similar to that indicated by Paul here, i.e. response to temptation and sinful desire, is vividly described, though with quite different language, in James 1:14-15.

Verse 25

ei@ (“if…”)—this particle marks v. 25 as a conditional statement, but one based on real or actual condition.

zw=men (“we live”)—the verb za/w (“live”) carries a two-fold sense in Paul’s letters, and particularly here in Galatians: (a) the divine/spiritual life we have (as believers) in Christ, and, properly (b) living in the world (as believers) in Christ. This double-meaning (a kind of wordplay) is expressed powerfully in Gal 2:19-20; in Gal 3:11-12 (citing Scripture), “life” is used specifically in the sense of salvation, of being made/declared just before God. The use of the present indicative here in v. 25 shows that this life/living is currently real and active for believers.

pneu/mati (“in/by the Spirit”)—on this expression, see above. As indicated, the protasis of this (conditional) statement (“if we live in/by the Spirit…”) is based on a real condition—i.e., “if we live in/by the Spirit, (as indeed we do, then)…”

kai\ (“and”)—a similar coordinating conjuctive kai-particle appears in verse 16—formally similar, but with a different use and significance:

V. 16: “walk in the Spirit, and (then, i.e. as a result)…”
V. 25: “live in the Spirit, and (also, i.e. in addition)…”

Readable English requires that in verse 25 kai be translated “also”; this establishes the apodosis of the conditional statement—”if… (then) also…”

stoixw=men (“we should walk in line”)—this is a different verb (stoixe/w, “go in line”) than that used in verse 16 (peripate/w, “walk about”), the difference being obscured in translations which render both simply as “walk”. There is probably not a great deal of distinction of meaning, though stoixe/w is a more precise, forceful verb to use, i.e. “walk/step in line, in an orderly manner”. If peripate/w in verse 16 refers to believers’ “walk” generally, here stoixe/w likely indicates a “walk” that is properly governed and regulated by the Spirit. The first verb in v. 25 (zw=men, “we live”) is a present indicative form, suggesting the current reality of believers’ situation; on the other hand, stoixw=men (“we should walk in line”) is a present subjunctive form, i.e. “we should…”, “we ought to…”, etc. A life regulated and guided by the Spirit still requires something from us—a willingness to allow and accept the guidance, and so to “walk” in it.


Note of the Day – October 6

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Today I will be concluding the discussion from the previous day’s note (on Gal 4:8-9), and continuing on to discuss verses 10-11. Much attention was devoted to the important (and difficult) expression “the elements [stoicheia] of the world” (in v. 3, 9), drawing upon the similar usage in Colossians 2:8, 20. Being “under the stoicheia of the world” (Gal 4:3), in Paul’s thought, is clearly parallel (and partly synonymous) with being “under the Law”—the former, it would seem, including the latter. If one were to widen the scope of meaning of Paul’s expression, it might proceed as follows, including:

  • The Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah)
  • A basic sense of religious/moral law, such as shared by (all) cultures and societies
  • Human beliefs, ordinances, teachings, etc (including various “superstitions”), which are regarded as authoritative and/or binding according to custom and tradition

We might summarize Paul’s expression in modern idiom, by saying that he refers to “the way of things” or “the way of the world”—which is in marked contrast to the Gospel and the way of (faith in) Christ. This latter point is indicated especially by the way he characterizes the stoicheia in v. 9 as a)sqenh/$ (“without strength”) and ptwxo/$ (“poor”), both words indicating weakness and inability. Again, we are not accustomed to thinking of the Old Testament Law this way, and, as I have previously noted, many commentators are reluctant to take Paul’s statements regarding the Law in Galatians at face value or accept their full force; and yet, already in the early recorded preaching of Acts 13:38-39 (if we accept it as authentically Pauline), we find this emphasis on the Law being powerless. What he says (in Acts and Galatians) regarding salvation/justification is basically affirmed (from an ethical/moral standpoint) in Colossians 2:22-23.

Let us now look at the end of verse 9, where the whole issue regarding slavery vs. sonship in vv. 1-11 is brought to a pointed question, which begins—

“how (is it that) you turn [back] again upon [i.e. to] the weak and poor elements [stoicheia]…?”

and then concludes, dramatically:

“…to which again, as above [i.e. as before], you wish to be slaves?”

 The relationship between these two clauses may be outlined as follows:

  • You turn back again
    • to the stoicheia
    • to which
  • You wish to be slaves

Verse 10—Here Paul gives the only example (in Galatians) of what he means by turning back to be “under the stoicheia“:

“You watch along (the) days and months and seasons and years”

The verb parathre/w can literally mean “(stand) watch/guard alongside (someone)”, or, more generally, to “watch [i.e. look] carefully (at something)”, i.e. “observe carefully, inspect, examine” (cf. Luke 17:20). Here it is used in the technical sense of religious-cultic observance. There are a couple of points worth noting:

  • Paul’s statement itself takes the form of a stoichos, that is, an ordered list or series—days, months, seasons, years.
  • It summarizes an entire range of socio-religious practice, conforming to patterns of time, especially, e.g., the seasons (cycles) related to fertility (agriculture, childbirth, etc). This makes up a significant portion of the Torah commands and regulations as well—Sabbath, New Moon, New Year, the Sabbatical/Jubilee year, the festal days (such as Passover, originally tied to the harvest), the day of Atonement, etc. It is interesting that Paul makes virtually no mention in his letters of the Jewish holy days and seasons, not even the Sabbath (or the Christian corollary, the “Lord’s Day”); cf. Colossians 2:16.

To this may be supplemented information from Colossians 2, where Paul associates the “stoicheia of the world” (vv. 8, 20) with the following:

  • “human tradition”, lit. “(things) given/passed along by men” (v. 8)
  • circumcision (vv. 11-12)
  • written ordinances/resolutions (do/gmata) (v. 14, cf. also v. 20)
  • chief/principal and authoritative things/entities (“principalities and powers”) (v. 15)
  • dietary regulations (“food and drink”) (v. 16)
  • feast days, new moon, and Sabbath days (v. 16)
  • (religious) observance/worship of ‘Angels’ (v. 18)
  • basic prohibitions in the ritual and/or moral sphere (“do not touch/taste/handle”) (v. 21)
  • ordinances/commands (charges laid on a person to keep) (v. 22)
  • “teachings of men” (v. 23, par. to the expression in v. 8)

Clearly, the context is Jewish, and thus is largely parallel to that in Galatians, with the possible exception of the mention of deities/powers/angels in vv. 15, 18. In Gal 4:9, the stoicheia (of the world) are described as “without strength, weak” (a)sqenh/$) and “poor” (ptwxo/$); in Colossians 2, this is expressed in similar, but slightly different terms, as:

  • empty [keno/$] delusion/deceit” (v. 8)
  • “a shadow of the (thing)s about (to come)” (v. 17)
  • causing the mind and flesh to be rashly/carelessly inflated (v. 18)
  • lead to ruin/decay [fqora/] in their use/observance (v. 22)
  • lacking the ultimate honor/dignity/value [timh/] for true religion (v. 23)

Throughout the passage, these things are all contrasted with Christ (“according to the stoicheia of the world and not according to Christ”, v. 8ff); note also:

  • Christ is the head of all “principality and power” (v. 10), having removed their power and triumphed over them (v. 15); Christ as head is also contrasted with the mind/flesh that is inflated by religious observance (v. 18-19)
  • True (spiritual) circumcision (“without hands”) is of/in Christ (vv. 11-13)
  • His death wipes out the written ordinances against us (v. 14, cf. Gal 2:19-20)
  • The reality of these things is in the “body of Christ” (v. 17)

The statement with the closest connection to the argument in Galatians is that of v. 20:

“If you have died off with (the) Anointed {Christ} from the elements [stoixei=a] of the world, (for) what [i.e. why] (then), as (if) living in the world, do you subject yourself to ordinances [dogmati/zesqe]?”

This is essentially the same question Paul asks in Gal 4:9. Since the modern (religious) mind is, in many respects, so different from the ancient Jewish (and Greco-Roman) viewpoint with which Paul is dealing, it may be helpful, in conclusion, to summarize the components connoted (and denoted) by his expression “the elements [stoicheia] of the world”:

  • First, the habitual/customary religious response of human beings to the natural/physical world (the “elements”, literally); this, in a primary sense, is the “shadow”, that which decays and “passes away” (cf. 1 Cor 7:31).
  • Second, the ‘divine’ powers (deities) which, according to the ancient/traditional religious view, inhabited, governed and controlled the various phenomena of the natural world. It is difficult to gauge precisely Paul’s belief in such matters based on what is expressed in his letters; however, he seems to have believed in the existence of “powers” (presumably created heavenly/angelic beings), which, temporarily, had governing authority/control over the world. He likely also shared the early Christian view that the pagan/polytheistic deities were actually a reflection of evil spirits/demons (1 Cor 10:20).
  • Third, authoritative religious and ethical law—commands, regulations, precepts, observances, et al—established by tradition and custom.
  • Fourth, the specific commands, etc. of the Old Testament/Jewish Law (Torah).

Since the main issue of Galatians is the question of Gentiles observing the Torah, it is really only this last aspect which is dealt with there.

Verse 11—In the concluding verse to this section, Paul turns to an expression of self-doubt (dubitatio) regarding the Galatians’ current course of action (i.e. the inclination to observe the Torah regulations):

“I fear for you, how (might) not [i.e. lest] I have uselessly wearied (myself with work) unto you”

In other words, Paul seems to be expressing fear that his missionary work with the Galatians might have been useless or in vain. It is a clever rhetorical shift: his fear is for the Galatians, yet he moves the focus to himself—this technique allows him to transition to the next argument (4:12-20), which is an appeal based on his own person and example.


Note of the Day – October 5

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Today’s note is the first of two on Galatians 4:8-11, and is supplemental to my article on Gal 4:1-11 (part of “Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”). This first note is on vv. 8-9, and will cover two areas:

  1. The structure and syntax of the verses
  2. The relationship of the stoicheia to the Law

Structure and Syntax

In verses 8-9, Paul makes us of a me/nde\ construction. The primary particle me/n serves as a marker in narrative or discourse, linking items or clauses together; as such, it is often followed by the coordinating particle de/ (“and, but”). Syntactically, the clauses are connected, usually in a continuative (“so [first]… and then…”) or adversative (“so [on the one hand]… but [on the other hand]…”). Paul coordinates in the latter sense, contrasting the believers’ condition before faith in Christ with that after faith:

“But (consider that) on the one hand [me\n] then [to/te], having not seen [i.e. known] God, you were slaves to the (thing)s being ‘not gods’ by nature; but now [nu=n] on the other hand [de\], knowing God—and more, being known under [i.e. by] God—how do you turn again upon the weak and poor stoicheia?…”

The adverbs to/tenu=n (“then…now…”) correspond to, and qualify, the me/nde\ construct. Moreover, the temporal contrast is understood specifically in terms of knowledge (that is, knowledge of God)—before faith, they were “not knowing”, after faith, “knowing”. In the condition prior to faith, the verb ei&dw is used (lit. “to see”), probably to indicate perception, recognition, etc. After faith, ginw/skw is used, the principal verb for knowledge (esp. of God); and Paul further qualifies this by interjecting the parallel adversative clause “but (even) more, known by God”, to indicate the priority (and governing character) of God’s role in the revelatory and salvific process. It is interesting to compare vv. 8-9 here with the famous Areopagus speech of Acts 17:22-31 (on this, cf. the articles and notes in my series on the Speeches of Acts). The theme of knowledge of God dominates the speech (knowing/unknowing, vv. 23, 30), and there too Paul addresses the condition of humankind prior to faith in Christ (cf. also Acts 14:15-17; Rom 1:18-23). The contrast is characterized by two additional details which are also found in other passages:

  • The emphasis on pagan idolatry—”the things being by nature not gods“. A particular and important point of the Old Testament (Prophetic) polemic against pagan/polytheistic religion was that the gods they worshiped did not really exist, often being equated simply with their images (idols) so as to reinforce this idea. Paul draws upon this line of thinking in Acts 14:15; Rom 1:23; 1 Cor 8:4ff; 10:19, though in 1 Cor 10:20 he appears to follow the belief, common in early Christianity, that the pagan gods did have real existence, but were actually evil spirits/demons. Here, he offers a more general ‘philosophical’ description: that the things which the Galatians previously worshiped and served were “by nature” (fu/sei) “not gods”—the construction of this latter phrase (mh\ ou@sin qeoi=$) indicates that they have no real existence (cf. Plato Laws 10.889E for a classical distinction between the “gods” existing “by (artistic) production” (te/xnh|) rather than “by nature” (fu/sei), and note Acts 17:29).
  • Conversion as turning—The verb e)pistre/fw (“turn [back] upon”), though rare in the Pauline letters, is frequently used in regard to people turning (back) to God, and, in a specifically Christian sense, of coming to faith/trust in Christ, cf. Acts 3:19; 9:35; 11:21; 26:18, 20, etc. In Acts 15:36, it is used of the Gentiles coming to faith; the parallel with Gal 4:9 is even closer in Acts 14:15, where Paul urges the people of Lystra to “turn upon the living God, away from these empty/worthless [matai/wn] (thing)s”. In other words, this turning is away from something old (sin, idolatry, etc) and toward something new (God/Christ).

Stoicheia and the Law

The Greek work stoixei=on (stoicheíon) can be difficult to translate into English; it is related to the verb stoixe/w (stoichéœ) “go in order, in a line/row”, also stoixi/zw (stoichízœ) “set (something) in order, in a row, etc”. A stoi=xo$ is a ordered line/row (or series), and a stoixei=on is something that is so arranged, an element or component of such an ordered arrangement. Indeed the plural stoixei=a is often rendered generally as “elements”. This noun is rare both in the Greek Old Testament (only in the deutero-canonical Wisdom 7:17; 9:18; 4 Macc 12:13), and the New Testament. Apart from the two occurrences in Galatians, it is used only in Col 2:8, 20; Hebr 5:12; 2 Pet 3:10, 12:

  • 2 Peter 3:10, 12—here the reference is to the physical elements/components of the universe (also in the LXX)
  • Hebrews 5:12—the context indicates the “first/rudimentary principles” (of learning), in English idiom, something like “the A, B, C’s”
  • Colossians 2:8, 20—we have the same expression as in Gal 4:3, ta\ stoixei=a tou= ko/smou (“the stoicheia of the world”), and, it would seem, with the same meaning (cf. below)

In Galatians 4:1-2, Paul uses the example (par. with that in 3:24-25)—of a child who is under the control and guardianship of household servants until he reaches the age of maturity—in order to illustrate the condition of human beings (i.e. believers prior to faith) under the Law. Up to the this point, the emphasis has been upon Israelites/Jews who are living under the Old Testament Law (Torah), bound and required to observe its commands and regulations. Now, suddenly, Paul extends the argument to include the non-Jewish (Gentile) Galatians: “So also we, when we were infants/children (i.e. before the age of maturity)…” (v. 3a). Instead of being “under the Law” (u(po\ to\n no/mon), we find the parallel expression “under the stoicheia of the world” (u(po\ ta\ stoixei=a tou= ko/smou). Because of the apparent connection with (polytheistic) idolatry in vv. 8-9, stoicheia here is sometimes translated as “elemental spirits”, but this is not especially accurate or appropriate. The more general rendering “elements of the world” is better, but this also can be quite misleading, especially if is understood in the sense the word is used in the LXX and 2 Pet 3:10, 12. Paul seems to use it as a shorthand expression to summarize and include a range of religious phenomenology; the following points of contact should be considered carefully:

  • The natural order of things—that is, the ordered and orderly components of the world, created by God, and to which human beings respond within their own (natural) environment. While differing in many respects from a modern objective/scientific study of the phenomenology of religion, Paul does, in at least two passages, present a basic outline of the process—in Acts 17:22-31 (if the speech is accepted as Pauline), and Romans 1:18-23. Both of these passages describe human beings responding to the existence and (providential) presence of God evident in the natural order and arrangement of creation. Acts 17:26-27 specifically refers to: (a) seasons of nature, and (b) natural/physical boundaries (i.e. mountains, rivers, seas, forests, etc), both of which allow for humans to “feel their way” toward God (however imperfectly).
  • The powers of nature—in all cultures and places, human beings have glimpsed the Divine presence within the various natural phenomena, with resulting beliefs and conceptions of God either in terms of (a) an embodiment/personification of the particular phenomenon, or (b) as an intelligent being controlling/governing the phenomenon. This certainly applies, for example, to the celestial phenomena (sun, moon, stars and constellations), seasons and cycles of nature and fertility (agriculture and childbirth), processes of birth, growth and death, and so forth. Ancient and traditional societies typically saw the universe as governed and inhabited by many divine powers—Gods (qeioi) and (lesser) deities (daimonia)—and it is this very religious context which Paul draws upon in the narrative of Acts 7:16ff (esp. vv. 22-23).
  • The laws/principles of the natural order—we might commonly refer to this as “natural law”, but that is rather a more abstract concept than Paul would have used. However, it is clear that the stoicheia—that is, the (divinely-created) order and arrangement of things in the world—carry along with them governing laws and principles. Paul only just faintly spells this out in his writings, but modern comparative study of religion finds all sorts of basic (and natural) similarities especially as related to religious and moral laws, customs, standards, etc, between disparate cultures. In other words, Gentiles unfamiliar with the Old Testament/Jewish Law, still observe many basic beliefs, precepts, regulations, and so forth, which are similar to those in the Torah. This is described a bit more precisely by Paul in Romans 2:12ff, but it must be inferred from the context in Galatians.

How exactly do these “elements” (stoicheia) relate to the Law? We are accustomed to view the Old Testament Law (Torah) as part of “special revelation” (directly from God), and, as such, quite distinct from “natural revelation” (and natural law). And yet, Paul would seem here to treat the Law as very much part of the larger dynamic of the “stoicheia of the world”. In this regard, he offers only one brief example (in verse 10, to be discussed in the next note); but this can be fairly supplemented from the usage of the same expression (“stoicheia of the world”) in Colossians:

  • In Col 2:8, Paul warns believers against being led away (as booty/prey) through ‘philosophy’ and “empty deceit/delusion”, this is qualified by two parallel expressions—”according to the (things) passed along by men [i.e. human tradition]” and “according to the elements [stoicheia] of the world”—both of these are contrasted as “not according to Christ”. The context here is similar to that of Galatians, as both expressions are explained in terms of observing the (Jewish) Law, especially circumcision (vv. 11-14); note the connection between v. 14 and Gal 2:19-20.
  • In Col 2:20, Paul affirms that, as believers, they have “died away from the elements [stoicheia] of the world” (note again the similarity to Gal 2:19f). Here, instead of the Jewish Law (Torah) as such, the reference appears to be to a more general sense of religious/ethical law (“[authoritative] opinions… ordinances and teachings of men”), vv. 21-23. He states in verse 23 that such commands—especially in terms of prohibitions such as “do not touch/taste/handle” (v. 21)—are ultimately ineffective in curbing the desires of the flesh.

This analysis will be continued in the next day’s note, where I will also be examining the next two verses, Gal 4:10-11.



Note of the Day – October 2

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This note provides a more detailed analysis of Galatians 3:26-29 (spec. vv. 27-28), the verses which conclude the argument of Gal 3:15-29 (on this, see the article on “Paul’s View of the Law in Galatians”). The overall section is an argument from Scripture regarding God’s promise to Abraham; it is important to follow closely Paul’s line of reasoning, noting especially the careful manner in which he identifies traditional (ethno-religious) aspects of Jewish identity with believers (Jew and Gentile) in Christ. There can be no doubt that Jews would have found such a transferred application as unacceptable, even offensive; Jewish Christians may have found difficulty with it as well. Even today, for somewhat different reasons, well-meaning (and culturally sensitive) Christians are reluctant to use any terminology which suggests that Christianity replaces Israel/Judaism in God’s order of things. This issue will be touched on at the end of the exposition, below.

Verses 26 and 29 bracket this section with a pair of related, parallel statements:

  • Basic statement (v. 26)—”You are all sons through the trust in (the) Anointed Yeshua”
  • Recapitulation (v. 29)—”If you are of (the) Anointed, then you are {the seed/heirs}…”

The statement of v. 29 differs in two respects: (1) it is conditional (“if [ei)]…”), and (2) Paul uses a pair of traditional Israelite/Jewish expressions which qualify believers as “sons”:

  • “the seed of Abraham” (spe/rma  )Abraa/m)—this was an important motif in the earlier section (Gal 3:16), and cf. Rom 4:13ff; 9:7-8; 11:1; 2 Cor 11:22, also Acts 3:25; 13:23.
  • “heirs [lit. ones receiving the lot] according to (the) promise” (kat’ e)paggeli/an klhrono/moi)—likewise the theme of promise dominates these two sections (3:14, 16-19, 21-22) and again in 4:21-31 (vv. 23, 28); the idea of inheritance (i.e. the child/son as heir) will be a principal theme in Paul’s next argument (4:1-11), and cf. also Gal 4:30; 5:21; Rom 4:13-14; 8:17; 1 Cor 6:9-10; 15:50; Col 3:24; Eph 1:14, 18; 5:5; Tit 3:7.

In between, we have vv. 27-28, which may well reflect a (pre-Pauline) baptismal formula; in any case, the statement in v. 28 is clearly tied to the ritual of baptism, as similar formulations in 1 Cor 12:13 and Col 3:11 would indicate (see Betz, Galatians, pp. 181-4). The (traditional) language and imagery has already become standard in these early passages, as the phrasing in v. 27 suggests:

“For as many of you as have been dipped/dunked [e)bapti/sqhte] into (the) Anointed [ei)$ Xristo\n], you have sunk in(to) [e)nedu/sasqe] (the) Anointed”

  • Identification of the symbolic ritual
    —dipped/dunked into Christ
  • with being clothed, i.e. initiation rites
    —sunk in(to) Christ, as into (i.e. putting on) a garment

While largely foreign to Western culture today, this (ancient, mystical) language of initiation is important in several respects:

  • It prefigures and anticipates (future) death and judgment before God.
  • It establishes and confirms for the believer/initiate a present reality and experience of future blessedness (with God)—for early Christianity the emphasis was more on salvation than beatitude/blessedness (but note, esp. the Beatitudes of Jesus [on these, cf. my earlier series]).
  • This reality and experience is understood primarily in terms of religious (and spiritual) identity. The removal of clothing (i.e. the old self/nature) to enter the water, followed by the application of new clothing (such as a clean white garment), concretely symbolizes the realization of this new nature.

In verse 28, Paul concisely and dramatically describes the effect of the ritual—that is, the formulation of this new identity. He does this first with a series of negative propositions (likely using traditional language):

ou)k e&ni “in (Christ) there is no”… (the negative particle ou)k is emphasized—”there is no…”)

—”no Jew and no [ou)de\] Greek”
—”no slave and no [ou)de\] free (person)”
—”no male and [kai\] female”

Then this is summarized under a single positive statement:

“For you all are one in (the) Anointed Yeshua”
pa/nte$ ga\r u(mei=$ ei!$ e)ste e)n Xristw=|  )Ihsou=

This compact formula includes three themes which are central to Paul’s theology, and which are emphasized throughout Galatians:

  1. “All” (pa/nte$)—that is, all believers without distinction, socio-religious status, etc., and especially with no distinction between Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles).
  2. “One” (ei!$)—this unity/oneness is a vital theme in Galatians, though this may not be so obvious from a casual reading—there is only one Gospel (Gal 1:6-7; 2:5), one promised seed (Gal 3:16), parallel to the one Spirit (Gal 3:14; 5:22).
  3. “in Christ” (e)n Xristw=|)—this is the climactic expression and is central to Paul’s thinking: the new identity (and unity) of believers is in Christ—cf. Gal 1:22; 2:4, 16-17; 3:14, 26; 5:6, and often throughout the other letters.

A difficult point of interpretation in verse 28 is the precise force of the three negative propositions—how literally should one take these, and how do they apply in practice? It is not possible to deal with this enormous socio-religious question here; I would only state that the tendency has been to limit or qualify Paul’s statements, by reason, practical necessity, and comparison with other passages in his letters, especially in regard to biological (gender) distinction (“male and female”). This, I fear, turns the thrust of Paul’s statement in Galatians rather upon its head. First, it must be recognized that Paul states clearly here that the old natural and social categories do not apply to the new identity in Christ, according to three representative examples:

  • Ethno-religious: Jew/Greek
  • Socio-economic status: Slave/Free
  • Socio-biological distinction: Male and Female

Churches and commentators today can accept the elimination of the first two distinctions much more easily than the third, especially since Paul himself appears to apply it inconsistently—if the Jew/Greek and Slave/Free distinctions do not (apparently) have any effect in terms of the role and status of believers in the Christian community, how can the Male/Female distinction continue to be observed (as Paul instructs, in various ways, both in the undisputed and disputed letters)? This is a most pointed (and relevant) question for churches in our society today, and one which ought to be studied and grappled with fairly, objectively, and without prejudice, in the spirit of the very unity Paul declares in vv. 27-28. That Paul may intend the Male/Female distinction as a special case is, perhaps, indicated by the slight variation in formula:

  • “There is in (Christ) no Jew and no [ou)de\] Greek” (similar for Slave/Free)
  • “There is in (Christ) no ‘Male and [kai\] Female'”

It would seem that he his not so much eliminating a socio-biological distinction as the existent duality (i.e. the distinct role and status in society and the community). If so, it would be a strong argument against the approach taken (and/or retained) by many traditional-conservative churches and groups, in relation to the role of women in the Church. However, we ought to be cautious about reading too much into this difference in the text. Either way, I would fully affirm, in the words of commentator F. F. Bruce (The Epistle to the Galatians [NIGTC] 1982, p. 190), that any apparent or supposed restrictions on the roles of women in the other Pauline epistles (e.g. 1 Cor 14:34f; 1 Tim 2:11f) “are to be understood in relation to Gal 3:28, and not vice versa“.

If we should re-examine vv. 26-29 as a whole, in light of the preceding analysis, it seems clear that Paul is actually making three statements regarding religious identity:

V. 26: “You are all sons (of God) through trust in Christ
V. 27-28: “You are all one in Christ” (symbolized through the ritual of baptism)
V. 29: “If you are of Christ…” (this last being conditional, according to the first two statements, cf. above)

This brings us back to the concluding statement of verse 29, where the new identity (which is of/in Christ) is identified with the old (and distinct) ethno-religious identity of Israel/Judaism—the seed/heirs of Abraham, including God’s promise (and blessing) to him. This conclusion to Paul’s argument would seem to make clear that this traditional Jewish religious identity and understanding actually applies only to believers (the ones trusting) in Christ. As hard as it might be for people (naturally) to accept, the old ethno-religious distinction no longer applies. However, while this idea is clear and definite enough in Galatians, Paul has given the entire matter a somewhat different (more expansive and nuanced) treatment in Romans. There will be cause to refer to this difficult (and sensitive) question again during discussion of the relevant passages in that epistle.



Note of the Day – October 1

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Today’s note is the last of three dealing with Galatians 3:19-25; the first discussed vv. 19-20, and the second, vv. 21-22. The third and concluding note today will examine vv. 23-25. Here again is the outline for this section:

  • Vv. 19-20: Statement of two-fold purpose [of the Law]: (1) for “transgressions”, and (2) to serve as a “mediator”
  • Vv. 21-25: More detailed explanation:
    (1) to enclose all things “under sin” (vv. 21-22)
    (2) to function as a paidagogos (vv. 23-25)

In verses 23-25 Paul builds upon the second purpose of the Law: to serve as a mediator. This is defined specifically by use of the image/metaphor of a paidagwgo/$ (paidagœgós), which will be discussed below.

Verse 23—This is effectively a restatement of verse 22:

V. 22: “The Writing [i.e. Written Law] enclosed all things under sin [u(po\ a(marti/an]…”
V. 23:  “…we were watched [i.e. kept/guarded] under the Law [u(po\ no/mon], being enclosed…”

The parallel between Law and sin (“under Law / under sin”) is as clear as it is striking. Many commentators (and, indeed, many Christians) are uncomfortable with this equation, and will often seek to qualify or ameliorate Paul’s actual language. Bear in mind the (rhetorical) question Paul asks in verse 21 (cf. also Rom 7:7; Gal 2:17)—he was well aware of the difficulty (and potential scandal) involved in his line of argument, and treats the matter carefully; even so, he must have realized it would be offensive to Jews (and Jewish Christians). It is the relation of the Law to sin that is perhaps the most extraordinary (and original) aspect of Paul’s teaching; I have addressed it, to some extent, in the earlier notes, but a more complete treatment must wait until discussion of the relevant passages in Romans.

There can be no softening of the expression in verse 23—the combination of the verbs froure/w (“watch, guard”) and sugklei/w (“close together, enclose”) very much indicates imprisonment. As mentioned in the prior note, this is the opposite, negative sense of the Torah as a fence around Israel. This also ties together the expressions “under Law” and “under sin” with the concept of slavery, to which Paul will turn in 4:1-11. Note how carefully he centers and qualifies this period of imprisonment:

  • “But before trust/faith’s coming” (pro\ tou= de\ e)lqei=n th\n pi/stin)
    • “we were watched/guarded under Law” (u(po\ no/mon e)frourou/meqa)
    • “being closed together [i.e. enclosed]” (sugkleiome/noi)
  • “unto [i.e. until] (the) impending trust/faith being uncovered” (ei)$ th\n me/llousan pi/stin a)pokalufqh=nai)

The use of the prepositions pro/ (“before”) and ei)$ (“unto”) in a temporal sense, means that Paul is establishing a definite time-frame—that is, the period before (prior to) the Gospel and trust/faith in Christ. Specifically, he refers to the situation of believers in Christ, prior to their coming to faith. This period is described much more extensively in Romans; here, Paul touches on it only briefly, but clearly.

Verse 24—The idea of being watched/guarded here is expressed by the figure of a paidagwgo/$ (paidagogos), literally, “child-leader”, one who leads a child (from which comes the English “pedagogue, pedagogy”). It is sometimes rendered as “teacher” or “tutor”, but, though the word could carry this basic sense, it is rather inaccurate and misleading here. The translation “guardian” is better, but still somewhat misleading in context; “guide” is more accurate, though it requires an understanding of the ancient (social) context underlying the word. The paidagogos, in well-to-do families, was a household slave or servant who would accompany the child to and from school, protecting the child, carrying the books, etc., giving instruction in proper manners, and so forth. For a standard classical description, see Plato Lysis 208 C-D. As a character-type or metaphor, the paidagogos had both negative and positive aspects; but, on the whole, in Greco-Roman literature (and theater), it served as a negative stereotype—a rough and uncouth figure, marked by the disciplinary rod he carried. A more positive association can be found in Greek philosophy (e.g. Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 3.12.8 [1119b 13]); for a specific connection with the law, cf. Plato, Laws 5.730 B, 7.808E-810C. More commonly, paidei/a (“training of a child”), in the general sense of education/instruction, is related to cultivation of virtue in Greco-Roman (and Hellenistic-Jewish) philosophy; for references in Philo, and other related citations above, cf. Betz, Galatians, pp. 177-8.

Paul presents two connected statements utilizing the paidagogos image, the first being here in v. 24:

“So then [w%ste] the Law has come to be our ‘childhood guide’ [paidagwgo/$] unto [i.e. until] (the) Anointed {Christ}, (so) that [i%na] we should be made/declared just out of trust [e)k pi/stew$]…”

The prepositional phrase (using ei)$ in a temporal sense), is parallel to that in v. 23:

  • “unto/until [ei)$] (the) impending trust/faith being uncovered” (v. 23)
  • “unto/until [ei)$] (the) Anointed (One)…”

This clearly (and precisely) sets the term of imprisonment/guardianship until the coming of Christ, at which point it ends. What is so striking in Paul’s explanation, as noted above and previously, is how the negative purpose of the Law—to imprison/enslave under sin—ultimately has the positive effect of making righteousness (and, we would say, salvation) depend entirely upon trust/faith in Christ. For similar instances of a i%na/purpose-clause in Galatians, cf. Gal 2:16, 19; 3:14, 22; 4:5; for the use of the particle w%ste to begin a sentence or clause, cf. Gal 2:13; 3:9; 4:7, 16, and frequently in 1-2 Corinthians.

Verse 25—This is the second statement/clause:

“…but the trust having come, we are not yet [i.e. no longer] under a ‘childhood guide’ [paidagwgo/$]”

Being “under a paidagogos” [u(po\ paidagwgo/n] has to be understood as synonymous with “under the Law” [u(po\ no/mon, cf. above]. Thus, we have here one of several clear (and decisive) statements by Paul in Galatians to the effect that believers are no longer under the Law (i.e. bound to observe the Torah). It may be useful to list other occurrences of the negative particle ou)ke/ti (“not yet, not any more, no longer”) in the Pauline letters: Romans 6:9 (twice); 7:17, 20; 11:6 (twice); 14:15; 2 Corinthians 1:23; 5:16; Gal 2:20; 3:18; 4:7; Philemon 16; Ephesians 2:19. I would argue that in many of these instances, Paul uses the particle as a way to define a specific (religious) identity and the circumstances that surround it (“if this, then no longer that…”); this is certainly the case in Galatians, Gal 2:20; 3:18; 4:7 and here in 3:25.

The paidagogos image also has the advantage of connecting the term (or period) of imprisonment/guardianship with that of a child. The whole idea underlying this example in vv. 24-25 is that a “child guide” (paidagogos) is only required as long as the child was under age; upon the child reaching adulthood (puberty), this guide is no longer needed. Also, while it is by no means so obvious to us today, in the ancient Greco-Roman context of Paul’s audience, it would have been understood that the paidagogos was a household servant or slave. It is these two specific associations—(1) the child reaching maturity, and (2) the period of childhood as a kind of slavery—which Paul will draw upon in the next argument of Galatians, ch. 4:1-11.