Bible blog 2201

This blog continues my notes on translating Galatians

Galatians 3: 21,22

So is the Law contrary to the promises? Far from it! In fact, if a Law which could create life had been given, putting people right would indeed come from the Law. But scripture has admitted no escape from the net of sin, with the result that the promise could be given to people who trust, through the faithfulness of Jesus Messiah.

Paul argues that the Law is not opposed to the promises precisely because it is unable to offer what they offer: the gift of life from God, to a humanity which is incapable of perfect obedience to the Law. I have translated the Greek sunenkleio in a negative rather than positive sense, noting that it can used of capturing fish in a net. Most translators translate the Greek pisteos Iesou Christou as “faith in Jesus Christ” which is a possible but not necessary translation. I have taken it as meaning the faith or faithfulness OF Jesus which is the more common meaning of the genitive case of the noun. Clearly Paul is also standing up for faith or trust IN Jesus, but he understands this as a human response to Jesus’ faithfulness, in his life and especially his death, to God his father and to his human brothers and sisters.

Galatians 3: 23 -29

Before the arrival of trust, we were confined by Law, kept under lock and key until trust would eventually be revealed. So the Law was like the slave who cares for children, until Messiah came, so that we could be put right by trust. But now, with the arrival of trust, we are no longer under that guardian slave; for you are all children of God, through your trust in Messiah Jesus: those of you who were baptised into Messiah have clothed yourselves with Messiah. So there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female for all of you are one in Messiah Jesus. And if you belong to Messiah, you are Abraham’s “descendant”, the heirs named in the promise.

Paul compares the Law to the Greek paedagogos, a trusted (male) slave who looked after the  children of the household and assisted with their education. With coming of Jesus, the children of the family are granted his adult trust in the Father and take upon themselves the dignity and freedom of adult children. In Jesus, the promised “descendant” of Abraham, they are the true heirs of God’s promise: “in your descendant all the nations will be blessed.”

Paul’s language is very vigorous here. The Jewish faith in Torah is sharply reconfigured as a time of confinement and discipline, as a mere preparation for the time of trust when Messiah Jesus would re-introduce human beings to their divine father, a relationship open to all people, in which they are clothed in the character of Jesus. This brief treatment of the theme of the theme of being God’s children is expanded in the next section. Here we should note that “being put right” involves something beyond all expectation: adoption as God’s children. My translation of the Greek pistis as “trust” rather than “faith” emphasises the relational nature of “being put right.”


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