As promised, here is my recent translation of Galatians 1. Just a few preliminary notes are in order. It is a rather wooden translation, since I have purposely stuck as literally as possible to the Greek for a number of reasons, the most important being that it helps to sort of jerk me out of familiar phrases in Galatians which I have mostly heard out of context. I’ve also put in parentheses words which do not appear in the Greek but may be implied by the context. In some cases, if there is more than one English word corresponding to the idea in the Greek (and if I think it’s important enough to mention), I put a slash mark with a few possible meanings: e.g., ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν = to the nations/Gentiles.
The ‘commentary’ I will give is not meant to be any sort of complete analysis of the chapter, but simply to point out some interesting Old Testament/Hebrew Bible echoes within Paul’s letter and to tease out other interesting bits which we’ve been discussing in a Greek seminar on Galatians lead by Tom Wright. The two short seminars we’ve had thus far have given me quite a lot to think about and I would like to share some of it with you.
1 Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ ἀπ᾿ ἀνθρώπων οὐδὲ δἰ ἀνθρώπου ἀλλὰ διὰ ᾿Ιησοῦ
Paul, an apostle not from men and not through man but through Jesus
Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ ἐγείραντος αὐτὸν ἐκ νεκρῶν,
Messiah and God (the) father, who raised him from/out of the dead,
2 καὶ οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ πάντες ἀδελφοὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας,
and all the brothers with me, to in the churches in Galatia,
3 χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ
grace to y’all and peace from God our father and from (the) lord Jesus Messiah
4 τοῦ δοντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ
who gave himself on behalf of our sins, in order that he might rescue us from
τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν,
the age of evil now present according to the will of our God and father,
5 ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.
to whom (be) the glory into the ages of the ages, amen.
6 Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθημι ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς
I marvel that thus you are quickly turning away from him who called you
ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ] εἰς ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον, 7 ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο,
in (the) grace of Messiah, into another gospel; this ‘other’ (gospel) is not,
εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταρασσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι
and yet some are troubling you and are desirous to change/pervert
τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. 8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ
the gospel of Messiah. But (even) if we or an angel out of heaven
εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρ᾿ ὅ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.
preaches/gospels to you beside that which we gospeled to you, he is accursed.
9 ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω· εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται
As we have said already also now I say again: if one of you preaches/gospels
παρ᾿ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. 10 ᾿´Αρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω
beside that which you received, he is accursed. For now (do) I persuade men
ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι
or God? Or (do) I desire to accommodate men? If yet
ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην.
I was trying to accommodate men, a slave of Messiah I would not be.
11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν
For I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which was preached/gospeled
ὑπ᾿ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον· 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγω παρὰ ἀνθρώπου
by me because it is not according to men; for nor (did) I myself from man
παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ δἰ ἀποκαλύψεως ᾿Ιησοῦ Χριστοῦ.
receive it, nor was I taught (by man), but through a revelation of Jesus Messiah.
13 ᾿Ηκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ ᾿Ιουδαϊσμῷ, ὅτι
For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, that
καθ᾿ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν
to an extraordinary degree I was persecuting the church of God and annihilating
αὐτήν, 14 καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ ᾿Ιουδαϊσμῷ ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς
her, and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my
συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου, περισσοτέρως
equals/contemporaries/own age in my nation/people, to a much greater degree
ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων. 15 Ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν
a zealot of my fathers’ traditions. But when [God] desired,
[ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος
who separated me out of my mother’s womb and called through his grace
αὐτοῦ 16 ἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα εὐαγγελίζωμαι αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς
to reveal his son in me, in order that I might preach/gospel him to the
ἔθνεσιν, εὐθέως οὐ προσανεθέμην σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι
nations/Gentiles, I (did) not immediately consult with flesh and blood
17 οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον εἰς ῾Ιεροσόλυμα πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους,
nor (did) I go up into Jerusalem to (those who were) apostles before me,
ἀλλὰ ἀπῆλθον εἰς ᾿Αραβίαν καὶ πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα εἰς Δαμασκόν.
but I went away into Arabia and again I returned into Damascus.
18 ᾿Έπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν
Thereupon after three years I went up into Jerusalem to visit Cephas/Simon
καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε, 19 ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ
and remained with him fifteen days, but I saw not the other apostles
εἶδον εἰ μὴ ᾿Ιάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου. 20 ἃ δὲ γράφω ὑμῖν,
except James the brother of the lord. And what I write to you,
ἰδοὺ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι. 21 Έπειτα ἦλθον εἰς τὰ κλίματα
see before God that I am not lying. Thereupon I went into the region
τῆς Συρίας καὶ τῆς κιλικίας· 22 ἤμην δὲ ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ
of Syria and of Cilicia; and I was not known in face
ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς ᾿Ιουδαίας ταῖς ἐν Χριστῷ. 23 μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες ἦσαν
to the churches of Judea which were in Messiah. But they heard only that:
ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει,
‘The one who persecuted us once now gospels/preaches the faith/belief which
24 καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸν θεὸν.
once he was annihilating, and they were glorifying God in me.
What is perhaps most striking upon first reading this passage in Greek is the frequency of Paul’s use of the word εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion = gospel/good news). In fact, the word translated as ‘preach’ is the verb form of euangelion: he ‘gospels’ the gospel. Whatever this ‘good news’ is, its content is important. Paul is adamant that there is no other gospel than that which he preached (v. eight) and the gospel which he received is not of human origin or something he thought up himself, but a revelation from God (v 1 and v 11). Further, if anyone tries to preach a different gospel, he is accursed (v 8-9). As we will learn in chapter 2, the letter addresses an issue in the church which Paul believes threatens the integrity of the gospel, for Paul rebukes Cephas and his fellow Jewish Christians because their behavior is not “consistent with the truth of the gospel” (2:14).
Paul’s autobiographical sketch in vv 13-24 stands out not only because it is rather lengthy to be included in such a short letter, but also because there are a number of Old Testament allusions. These echoes appear to portray Paul’s own calling as similar to that of an Old Testament Jewish prophet and zealot. The passage is not just a run-down of where Paul went after his call to preach to the nations/Gentiles, but contains echoes of the calling of the Servant in Isaiah 49 and the prophet Elijah in 1 Kings 19.
Paul describes himself as one who, prior to his meeting Jesus on the road to Damascus, was zealous for the Jewish traditions of his ancestors (vv 13-14). Yet there is no reason to imagine that Paul stopped being a zealous Jew – in fact, further allusions in the text give the impression that he thinks of himself as coming from a tradition of zealots. His Judaism, we shall see, has not been cast aside but re-oriented around the person of Jesus whom Paul believes is the Jewish Messiah. Isaiah 49 begins:
1Listen to Me, O islands,
And pay attention, you peoples from afar
The LORD called Me from the womb;
From the body of My mother He named Me.
If you read the whole of Isaiah 49, you will find that the Servant is called to be a light to the nations, which Paul claims is his calling, the reason he too was ‘separated’ out of his mother’s womb: to preach good news to the Gentiles. Another indicator that Paul has this passage in his mind is an idea he expresses a few times throughout the letter: the fear that he has “run in vain” or that his work has been in vain (cf. 2:2). In Isa. 49, the Servant says, “I have toiled in vain, I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity…”
Through these allusions, Paul sets himself up as fulfilling the call of Israel (the Servant) to be a light to the Gentiles. This is one reason why his physical location in v 13-24 appears to be important. After his call, he doesn’t go first to Jerusalem (the center of Judaism), but away to Arabia. After three years, he visits Cephas briefly in Jerusalem for fifteen days, but Paul assures his readers that the only other apostle he saw was James and then it was off to the region of Syria and Cilicia! He’s serious about this call to the Gentiles – he’s off in Gentile lands. Oh, and what does God say to the Servant in Isaiah? “And he said to me, ‘You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified'” (Isa. 49:3). When the churches of Judea hear that Paul is proclaiming the gospel which he once tried to destroy, “They were glorifying God in me” (Gal. 1:24).
But where’s the Elijah bit I promised? There’s an interesting article in the Journal of Biblical Literature by Tom Wright about this called ‘Paul, Arabia, and Elijah (Galatians 1:17)’. He mentioned it briefly in class and then I found the paper on JSTOR. With reference to Paul’s self-identification as one who is zealous for the law in Gal. 1:14, Wright says:
Zeal of this sort was part of a long tradition within Judaism, looking back to particular scriptural and historical models. Of these, the best known was Phinehas, whose brief moment of glory appears in Num 25:7-13, when he intervened to kill a Jewish man consorting with a Moabite woman. As M. Hengel has shown in considerable detail, Phinehas remained as a model for subsequent “zealous” activity, not least in the Maccabean period, when the same issue (compromise with pagans and paganism) was perceived to be at stake. (p. 684, JBL, Vol. 115, No. 4 [Winter, 1996], pp. 683-692)
Wright goes on to say that in subsequent traditions, the prophet Elijah also appears as model of zeal because of his slaughter of the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 17-19. The connection between Elijah and Phinehas as two models of zeal in the popular consciousness of first century Judaism was so strong, Wright explains, that the two figures actually merge in several traditions (Wright, p. 685). The textual connection between Elijah and Galatians (apart from the already significant connection of “zeal”) is v 17 where Paul goes to Arabia and then returns to Damascus. This is precisely what Elijah does after his enounter with the prophets of Baal. He flees to Mt Horeb (Sinai) where he encounters God and expresses his fear that he is the only one left who is zealous for the LORD of Hosts. After this meeting at Horeb, he returns to Damascus.
But wait a minute? Didn’t Paul go to Arabia and then to Damascus, not from Sinai to Damascus? Actually, Paul tells us later in 4:25 that Sinai is a mountain in Arabia. Now, I’ve always thought of that phrase as a metaphorical one (and I think Paul uses it in this sense as well) – but Wright suggests that geography at the time of Paul’s writing wasn’t as clearly defined as it is now and he has this general idea of the area that he calls ‘Arabia’ and Sinai is a mountain in Arabia.
Well, there’s a lot more I could say on this chapter, but I’ll stop for now since this is already a long post. I’ve said nothing on the introduction, really, which is a shame. But stay tuned for thoughts on chapter 2.