This blog continues with my notes on translating Galatians.
You daft Galatians, who has enchanted you? With your own eyes you saw Jesus Messiah clearly depicted on the execution stake! Let me ask just one thing: did you get the Spirit by doing the prescribed actions of the Law or by trusting the message you heard? Are you daft enough to start with Spirit and finish with Flesh? Have you received so many benefits without a result – if there really is no result? The One who provides you with the Spirit and does deeds of power amongst you, does he do so by the prescribed actions of the Law or by trust in the message you heard?
Abraham “put his trust in God” and it was “added to his account as good behaviour.” So you can understand that people of trust are children of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would make the Gentiles right through trust, gave Abraham a foretaste of the joyful news in the words, “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you.” So then people of trust are blessed along with Abraham, the one who trusted.
The Scots word “daft” seems preferable to foolish, stupid, witless, etc. as it retains a note of exasperated affection for the Galatians. The centre of Paul’s theology is the crucified Messiah. Here I’ve departed from the root “cross” (Latin: crux) in favour of “execution stake” which is more precise. The “trust” Paul advocates is trust in the executed Messiah. Paul again refers to the erga of the Law, the actions it prescribes, contrasting them with the akoes pisteos, trustful hearing of the message. He knows they started by responding to God’s spirit; will they end up with an operation on their flesh, namely foreskin- snipping?
The verb paschein which I have translated “received benefits” is more commonly rendered, “endured so much”, but it has a positive as well as a negative meaning, which seems appropriate, as Paul goes on to mention those benefits, namely the gifts of the Spirit and “deeds of power” that is, acts of healing. Could these have come through obedience to the Law, he asks.
Then as in the letter to Romans he turns to the father of Jewish faith, Abraham. This is always a way of using his opponents’ weapons against them. He highlights the scriptural evidence for Abraham’s trust in God, who commanded him to leave home and journey to an unknown land. True children of Abraham Paul argues, are those who trust God rather than those who obey a religious Law of which Abraham knew nothing. Gentiles who trust in God are the true Jews! It’s an outrageous and radical assertion, which rests on Paul’s own journey: obedience to the Law turned him into a bigoted thug; while trust in the executed Jesus put him on the way to rightness.
Paul also grabs for his mission the scripture which says that in Abraham “all nations will be blessed.” The Hebrew for nations (goyim) is the same as for Gentiles, and is so translated into the Greek ethne. God’s partnership with the Jewish people was always a way by which God would restore all his/ her human children to his/her family. For Paul, that promise is fulfilled specifically in his mission. He understands his own life as a crucial part of God’s creative work, which is an astonishing conviction.