Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 2:1-10

The Text:

1 Ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ συμπαραλαβὼν καὶ Τίτον• 2 ἀνέβην δὲ κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν• καὶ ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον. 3 ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ Τίτος ὁ σὺν ἐμοί, Ἕλλην ὤν, ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι• 4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους, οἵτινες παρεισῆλθον κατασκοπῆσαι τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἡμῶν ἣν ἔχομεν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἡμᾶς καταδουλώσουσιν, 5 οἷς οὐδὲ πρὸς ὥραν εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ, ἵνα ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διαμείνῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 6 Ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι, - ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει• πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει - ἐμοὶ γὰρ οἱ δοκοῦντες οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο, 7 ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον ἰδόντες ὅτι πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας καθὼς Πέτρος τῆς περιτομῆς, 8 ὁ γὰρ ἐνεργήσας Πέτρῳ εἰς ἀποστολὴν τῆς περιτομῆς ἐνήργησεν καὶ ἐμοὶ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, 9 καὶ γνόντες τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι, δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας, ἵνα ἡμεῖς εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, αὐτοὶ δὲ εἰς τὴν περιτομήν• 10 μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι.

πάλιν ἀνέβην in v1 has both early and diverse attestation. The reverse order is supported by mainly Western texts. In any case the significance would be virtually zero.

In v5 several texts omit οἷς, which grammatically smoothes the text; omission of οὐδέ on the other hand, might harmonise Paul’s yielding with Act 16:3 (so Metzger conjectures), but would run directly contrary to Paul’s Galatian argument.

v9 the reading of the names is altered in some texts, with the more familiar Πέτρος substituted for Κηφᾶς, and brought to the front for prominence.

Translation:

1 Then after 14 years I again went up to Jerusalem, taking with me Barnabas and Titus; 2 I went up in accordance with a revelation; and I presented to them the gospel which I preach among the nations, privately to those that seemed good, lest somehow I am running or have run in vain. 3 but not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised; 4 now on account of the snuck-in pseudo-brothers, who snuck in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us, 5 to whom not even for an hour did we yield to subjugation, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 But from those that seemed to be something – whatever they were formerly matters nothing to me (God does not judge men at face-value) – for those who seemed to be regarded added nothing to me, 7 but rather seeing that I have been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision just as Peter of the uncircumcision, 8 for the One operating through Peter for the apostolate of the uncircumcised worked also through me to the nations; 9 and knowing the grace that was given to me, Jacob and Kephas and John, those seeming to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we unto the nations, and they unto the circumcision; 10 only that we should remember the poor , which this very thing I was eager to do.

Comments:

The temporal sequencing of Paul’s autobiographical material continues with the initial Ἔπειτα. The 14 year gap between Paul’s first initial visit, and this second visit again confirms Paul’s autonomous gospel ministry. Commentators divide over whether this visit accords with Acts 15, Acts 11, or another occasion altogether. Given that the council in Acts 15 provides a clear statement of Gentile law-observance, it seems odd that Paul would not cite nor bring that letter to bear on the Galatian scenario if this visit coincided with the Acts 15 narrative. For this reason I am inclined to see this visit as either corresponding to the Acts 11 visit, or another unspecified visit to Jerusalem.

Paul cites three different reasons for his visit to Jerusalem on this occasion. Firstly, it is in accordance with a revelation. Paul does not identify whether this revelation in particular was given to him directly. In any case, it grounds Paul’s movements in God’s activity and purpose. Secondly, he presents to ‘them’ his gospel, in conjunction with the third reason, to ensure his gospel work wasn’t in vain.
Understandably, it can seem that Paul’s presentation of his gospel to the Jerusalem leaders is to gain their approval, but broader considerations render this unlikely. Paul has been arguing for the God-revealed autonomous nature of his gospel. He doesn’t personally need the Jerusalem leaders’ approval or blessing. No, rather Paul’s presentation of his gospel is to confirm the unity of his gospel with the Jerusalem leaders, the Jewish-apostolate, and so to reject claims that Paul’s gospel work was half-done, which left open a path for his Judaising opponents to sneak in and ‘complete’ Paul’s gospel work.

At this point attention to pronouns becomes more necessary. I think a good case can be maintained that the language of ‘we’ throughout most of Galatians refers to Jewish-background believers in Christ, while ‘you’ has in view Gentile-background believers, i.e. the Galatians. So Paul notes that Titus, though a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. The Jerusalem church did not require entrance and observance of Torah from a Gentile-believer.

The grammar of 4-6 is somewhat discontinuous. All of verse 4 prepares for verse 5, so that Paul’s refusal to yield is the main concept. The false-brothers of verse 4 are the Jerusalem counterparts to the opponents in Galatia – Judaising believers who seek Torah-observance. The ‘our liberty’ in v4 refers to the very liberty that even Jewish-background believers in Christ have, a freedom from the Law which Paul will elaborate latter in the epistle. Yet Paul’s defence of his liberty has the Gentiles in view – v5. Gentile freedom from Law-observance depends upon Jewish freedom from the same.

In verse 6 Paul notes that the Jerusalem leaders added nothing additional to his gospel. This matches his purpose in coming to Jerusalem – to attest to the agreement in gospel proclamation between his gospel and their gospel, so that the unity of the gospel might be established, not so that Paul’s gospel might be approved. Thus Paul defends both the autonomy of his gospel and its congruity with the other apostles’ message.

Paul’s repeated disavowal of respect for status in these verses also deserves some comment. The δοκεῖν language should not be treated as suggesting insincerity, as if Paul were saying ‘those who seemed to be something (but aren’t)’. This is an English connotation to the language of ‘seeming’ that does not apply in the Greek. Paul’s point is probably rather that, being unacquainted with the Jerusalem church, these were those who did indeed appear to him to be important and proven leaders. Yet he also makes the point that ‘whatever they were formerly matters nothing to me’. The presence of the word ποτε suggests that Paul’s disconcern for their status has more to do with their former way of life, indeed all our former ways of life, than present reality. His aside that πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει draws from Dt 10:17, with some minor alterations. The concept is prominent elsewhere in James, in referring to God’s impartiality.

Verses 7-8 then concentrate on the difference between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders. The expressions τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας and τῆς περιτομῆς should be understood as the receivers of that gospel proclamation, so that Paul’s apostolate extends to the Gentiles, whereas Peter’s focuses on the Jews. This division of mission fields is confirmed in v9, with the right hand of fellowship, given to Paul and Barnabas, for their Gentile-mission work. The final comment of v10 may sound like an addition to Paul’s teachings, but Paul emphasises that it is already his own concern. There is some debate about who ‘the poor’ are, whether the marginalised in Jewish society, or the economic sufferers in the Jerusalem church, or the poor in general as an expression of Christian faith. In light of the ethical dimensions of later Galatians, I would suggest that it is the economically poor within the Christian community, and in light of the historical factors particularly those suffering in connection with the Jerusalem church.

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