Bible blog 2192

Apologies to all readers of this blog. My family has been hit by illness which has demanded all my attention. I’ve missed my writing and some of you have been kind enough to tell me you missed it also.

I ‘ve decided to resume it today, although I may not manage it every day. 

Translating Galatians

My previous two blogs have dealt with the first ten verses of the letter.

Verse 11: For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the joyful news announced by me is not of human origin.

The greek gnorizo means to make known, certify, declare. It puts the reader into a passive role vis a vis Paul’s joyful news.

“brothers and sisters” is a modern inclusive language version of Paul’s adelphoi, brothers. The change is justified because we know his readers were men and women, but it does not translate his masculinist language. It’s possible that he uses it simply as communicating affection, in which case we might translate, “my dears.”

Paul actually says that the joyful news has been “joyfully newsed” to the Galatians. It’s impossible to translate it literally into English.

“Of human origin” translates Greek “kata anthropos” which means according to, after, emanating from. The editors of the New Testament used it to designate the authors of the four gospels, kata Markon etc. Unlike me, Paul seems to have believed in direct transmission from God. As he insists that his message is directly from Jesus, we either have to accept it or call Paul a liar or interpret his words. I can accept that Paul did not take anything from authorised communicators of the joyful news, but I assume he did receive from others sources. First of all, from Jesus in his lifetime. I guess Paul as a young pharisee in training would have heard of Jesus and perhaps heard him. Secondly he would have known Jesus’ fate and the claims about his resurrection. Thirdly, he would have learned about Jesus from the believers he persecuted, not only through their words, but also through their readiness to suffer for their faith in him. This last source is never mentioned by Paul, yet it he must have  known it, so we should ask why he denies it.

verse 12: For I neither received it nor was taught as tradition it but it came to me through a disclosure of Jesus Christ. I have added the words “as tradition” because Paul is making a contrast between his experience of Jewish faith (and perhaps some believers’ experience of faith in Jesus) , and his own unique experience. The Greek apokalupsis which I translate as disclosure, is traditionally translated as revelation. Paul may mean that Jesus appeared to him with this joyful news, or that an encounter with Jesus is the joyful news. In both cases however the disclosure presumably takes place “in Paul” and we only have his word for it that it has any reality beyond his experience. We should be aware that when Paul says his joyful news came from no other person, he means it came from himself. There can be no disclosure without a person to whom it is disclosed, so Paul’s claim to divine knowledge should be handled with caution.

verse 13: For you have heard of my former lifestyle in Judaism, how excessively I persecuted  and laid waste the Assembly of God, and advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, in my unbounded passion for my ancestral traditions.

The Greek anastrophen means habit of living, usual behaviour, and is precisely translated by the ugly modern word lifestyle. The Greek says Iudaismos, Judaism, which modern translators often avoid because readers may assume it refers to modern Judaism. Readers are not so daft, so I’ve kept it. Paul is honest about what he did: dioko means to persecute and portheo means to ravage, lay waste, destroy. But he deprives his readers of any detail of his life as a persecutor. He does however tell us that his passion for ancestral tradition was perisoteros, that is unbounded, beyond limit. We might use this word to describe a modern fundamentalist.

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