Paul has completed his introduction. Paul has given is greetings, has even begun his argument from verse one, right out of the gate. Paul has established his authority, in case it was being questioned. Now we move from the introduction to why Paul wrote his letter. Here, we find Paul’s argument. Paul says that we should not turn from the Gospel that has been taught us. We are not to accept anything stating to be the gospel when there is no other gospel at all, and those that deliver a false gospel are to be cursed, cursed to Hell. Paul teaches us that we are to stand fast, firm, to the Gospel.
This is the portion of the letter where we get the purpose or occasion. Here, in this section of the epistle, we are introduced to the notion that there are “some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ” (Gal 1:6 CSB). Some of the Galatians are turning away from the Gospel that Paul had preached to them. The Gospel is so important that if anyone else were to teach something other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they are to be damned to Hell. One major thing, here to note, is Paul’s use of the rhetoric device of omission (Osborne 1991, 40). Paul omits his usual, and customary Greek/Jewish, thanksgiving/prayer section. This is important because his audience would have expected it, may have been excited to see what he may have been thankful for in their Churches. However, Paul is not extremely happy with the Galatians, therefore he moves right in to tell them why he is upset with them. A close reading of this section will show how serious it is as well, the reason why Paul is upset and writing to his Churches in Galatia.
Don’t Quickly Flee from the Gospel
I am amazed that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Gal 1:6 CSB)
Two key words in this section are vitally important. In most of my studies for this section, I have noticed that they are overlooked. Paul uses an adverb, followed by a verb. These words are tacheōs, the adverb meaning quickly, and metatithesthe, the verb meaning turning. Of these two, we can safely say that tacheōs is easily understood at face reading. However, metatithesthe needs to be explained more for us to understand it.
In Greek, this word had a tone of revolting, in a military style, and a complete attitude change (Boice 1976, 428). The word was also used to show someone’s conversion from one school of philosophy to another (Hays 2000, 204). Since this was in the middle voice, the only persons forcing the Galatians to do this was themselves and no one else (Boice 1976, 428). To the Galatians, who heard this message in the original language, they would have heard Paul telling them that they were abandoning the Gospel on their own volition. This would have been crushing to the Galatians. That is how serious Paul sees this issue, the Galatians were revolting against God by their own doing.
Not only are the Galatian’s revolting against God, they are ignoring the fact that it was He who called them. Paul uses the aorist verb, kalesantos when he speaks to the Galatians as being “called” by God. The aorist verb, as we stated last time, is something that happened in a fixed moment, however, it is something that is on-going without completion (Osborne 1991, 51). The other thing to note about the word kalesantos is that it is connected to the word Christou.
In Greek, much like in Latin, the verbs are connected to nouns by cases. Since this verb is in the genitive (this is sometimes the case of possession), it must match the noun of the same case. It was Christ who did the calling, not Paul, this is the main point of this statement. It must be made evident that Paul is not claiming, here, to be the one who called the Galatians. Most other scholars, linking back to John Calvin’s interpretation of this verse, believe that it is Jesus who called the Galatians (George 1994, 92). Paul’s writings use “him who called you” interchangeably with God (Gal 1:15; 5:8; Rom 4:17; 9:12; 1 Thess 2:12; 5:24 CSB; George 1994, 92). The Galatians were defecting from God, Christ, and Paul—though it is more important to note that it was God who they were deserting (George 1994, 92). Paul calls God the Father in this letter, several times (Gal 1:1, 3, 4; 4:2, 6 CSB). It was this God the Father, the One who calls, who created everything, and who raised Jesus from the dead that the Galatians were deserting (George 1994, 92).
This is where there are variant readings on Gal 1:6. Remember that variants are differences between the manuscripts we have on the various collections of the base texts for the Bible. Most manuscripts, all from the west (Latin side of the Roman Empire), have “by the grace of Christ.” However, there are some manuscripts (P46 c. 200 AD and the heretical Marcion Canon, mid to late second century) that have “by grace” (which is thought to be the original since it is the smallest version), some have “by the grace of Jesus Christ”, and some that have “by the grace of God.” Since the version that just has “by grace” is thought to be the original, we can make an assumption that later scribes felt the need to clarify who’s grace the Galatians were called by, hence the modern translation of the “by the grace of Christ” (textual note in the NET). It can also be argued that in the Pauline Corpus, the use of “by the grace of Christ” is used more often. Since this is also true, we can also deduce that the original statement was this one. However, most scholars see the first argument as the valid one (Ibid.). Either way, what is most important is that whichever variant someone takes, the theology is still the same—the Galatians were called by God, either through Christ as God, or just God as Himself by His grace.
The word grace is very important, especially to those of us practicing orthodox Protestant Christianity. In the Greek, this one-word chariti is where the action is taking place. This word is stating that grace is what the Galatians (as well as us) receive. What is grace? A. Boyd Luter (2016), in his article on grace in the Lexham Bible Dictionary (LBD), defines grace, simply, as “a more powerful person toward another.” It is also demonstrated by God towards His people (Luter 2016). Contextually, here, Paul is using the word “grace” as being distributed divinely. There are plenty of texts in the Old Testament (OT) that shows God’s grace (sometimes favor) toward Israel. Noah found favor in God (Gen 6:8 CSB); Moses was also able to find favor in God in Exod 33, 34 (CSB). God is expressed as being “compassionate and gracious.” Israel worshipped God as being gracious, mostly throughout the Psalms (Ps 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; 145:8 CSB; Luter 2016). Even the Prophets spoke of God’s graciousness (Jer 31:2; Zech 12:10 CSB; Luter 2016). By the time of Paul, the early Christians had expanded upon the notion of God’s grace, as being fulfilled in Christ Jesus. The early Church saw grace as being connected to salvation, Spiritual gifts, and was used in some of the epistles as greetings and farewells (Luter 2016). It is here, though, where we need to understand what Paul means when he uses the word chariti. From beginning to end, Paul soaks this letter in the notion of charis—grace (Gal 1:3, 15; 2:9, 21; 3:18; 5:4; 6:18 CSB; George 1994, 92). The word grace, here, is meant to be taken as absolute. Timothy George (1994, 92), in his commentary on Galatians, states that grace “show[s] that this is the only basis on which we can relate to God in any sense.”
A Different Gospel that is not Another Gospel
Not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are troubling you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. (Gal 1:7 CSB)
The end of verse six and the beginning of verse seven are connected together with the notion of a different gospel, which Paul states is no other gospel at all. The words heteros (different) and allos (another), as J. Louis Martyn (2008, 110) in his commentary on Galatians states, “are virtual synonyms in Paul’s vocabulary.” In ancient Greek, these words were not differentiated from each other, however, Paul, here, makes that happen (Martin and Wu 2002, 106). A distinction between the two words, heteros and allos, needs to be drawn. Heteros was a word that differentiated something different from the statement or thing already mentioned, where allos expresses another of the same thing (George 1994, 93). Basically, then, what Paul is stating is that the Galatians have embraced something completely different than the Gospel, yet there is no other similar or same version of the Gospel. Timothy George (1994, 93), in his commentary on Galatians, says it best—”[the Galatians] had embraced a heteros gospel, one drastically different in kind from that they had received from him, for there is, in fact, no other (allos) genuine gospel to be placed alongside the real thing.”
The true Gospel that Paul distinguishes in this letter is that of Christ crucified and resurrected—that we are saved by the grace of Christ and justified by our faith in that grace. Euangelion throughout the New Testament, basically, means a message of good news, or the process of delivering it (Seal 2016). First, an understanding more broad than Paul, the early Christians, and the other New Testament authors needs to be sought—context is everything. To really understand this, we need to look at the Greek translation of the Old Testament—the Septuagint (LXX) which was, for the most part, the translation the early Church used. The Septuagint uses the term “good news” as verbal form and once in the noun form (Smith 2016). In the Greek translation of Isaiah (Esaias) Jesus quotes, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me; he has sent me to preach glad tidings to the poor” (Esaias 61:1a; CSB translation is “The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor“). Isaiah also said of God speaking of Himself “as a season of beauty upon the mountains, as the feet of one preaching glad tidings of peace, as one preaching good news: for I will publish thy salvation, saying, O Sion, thy God shall reign” (Esaias 52:7, LXX—”How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isa 52:7 CSB).The Romans had their own understanding of “good news.” On an inscription from Priene (a Roman city on the western portion of Turkey) that states the divine Roma (a believed goddess who personified the divinity of the city of Rome) had made Augustus bring an end to all wars (there had been three separate civil wars in roughly twenty years over the single control of Rome) and usher in peace, a saviour of the Roman people, as prophesied of—possibly a nod to the Aeneid—denoting the “good news” of his victories (Crossan and Reed 2004, 239). After this inscription (ca. 9 BC) the Romans began using “good news” for the imperial cult, for military victories and honors for an emperor (Hays 2000, 205; Martyn 2008, 127-128). However, by the time of Paul’s writing, anyone who was a Christian euangelion came to mean something completely different in Jesus the Christ.
Paul’s Gospel, in a nutshell, was the centrality of Jesus—the climax of the salvation history was on the death and resurrection of Christ, not the Torah (Schreiner 2001, 22-25). In 1 Corinthians 15:3b (CSB), Paul says “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” Again, in Acts 13:37-39 (CSB), Paul gives his message of the Gospel to Pisidian Antioch in Galatia. There he tells them that God raised Jesus from the dead, unlike David, to justify those that could not be justified under Moses. This was Paul’s Gospel.
This seems like a good spot to wrap-up our study in Galatians this week. I apologize for the long wait on this passage. Galatians, it would seem, has become a very difficult book to study. As you can, hopefully, see in this post. Next week we will finish this portion of the text by looking at who the troublemakers are in the churches of Galatia. Till next time, please subscribe, like, comment, and share.
The Bearded Scholar
Boice, James Montgomery. 1976. “Galatians.” In Expositor’s Bible Commentary With the New International Version: Romans through Galatians. Vol. 10. 407-508. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelien. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Crossan, John Dominic and Jonathan L. Reed. 2004. In Search of Paul: How Jesus’s Apostle Opposed Rome’s Empire with God’s Kingdom, a New Vision of Paul’s Words and World. New York: Harper San Francisco.
George, Timothy. 1994. Galatians. Vol. 30. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Hays, Richard B. 2000. “Letter to the Galatians.” In The New Interpreter’s Bible: General Articles and Introduction, Commentary, Reflections for each Book of the Bible Including the Apocrypha/Deuterocanonical Books in Twelve Volumes. Vol 11. Edited by Leander E. Keck. Nashville: Abingdon Press.
Luter, A. Boyd. 2016. “Grace.” In Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Martin, Ralph P. and Julie WU. 2002. “Galatians.” In Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Romans, Galatians. 100-134. Edited by Clinton E. Arnold. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Martyn, J. Louis. 2008. Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 33A. Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven; London: Yale University Press.
Morwood, James. 2001. Oxford Grammar of Classical Greek. New York: Oxford University Press.
Osborne, Grant R. 1991. Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Schreiner, Thomas R. 2001. Paul Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. Downers Grove, IL: InterVaristy Press.
Seal, David. 2016. “Euangelion.” In Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Smith, Zachary G. 2016. “Gospel Genre.” Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry, David Bomar, Derek R. Brown, Rachel Klippenstein, Douglas Mangum, Carrie Sinclair Wolcott, Lazarus Wentz, Elliot Ritzema, and Wendy Widder. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
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