Bible blog 2204

This blog continues my notes on translating Galatians

Galatians 4: 8

In the past, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to entities that are not divine by nature. Now that you know God, or better, are known by God, how can you turn back again to the feeble and impoverished basic rules, out of a wish to slave for them once more?

Yes, you’re observing days and months and seasons and years!

I tremble for you, in case all my work with you is wasted.

Paul continues to use his Judaistic vocabulary when writing about the faith of Gentile people. Before, they did not know God; now they do. To trust in Messiah Jesus is knowledge of God, but Paul emphasises also that the believer is known by God, because the Hebrew verb to know indicates an intimate relationship. He again uses the Greek stoicheia, the basic rules of the universe, to describe a category of spiritual forces which includes the Jewish Torah Law. He insists that none of these are divine, including the powers the Galatians once served when they did not know God. In this argument he comes perilously close to putting heathen deities and the Torah on the same level. Special days, weeks etc are presumably those of Judaism.

Be like me, dear ones, as I have become like you, outside the Law. You have never wronged me. You know that I preached the joyful news to you the first time because of a physical illness. You did not despise or reject the nuisance of my frailty, but welcomed me like an angel of God, indeed like Messiah Jesus himself! Where did that happiness go? For I promise you that you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me, if you could. So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? They are fussing over you, but not for any good reason: they want to cut you off from me, so that you can fuss over them. ( yes, it’s aways nice to be fussed over for a good reason, and not only when I’m present with you.) My children, with whom I’m now in labour again until Messiah takes shape in you! How I wish I were present with you and able to take a different tone; for I’m at a loss with you. 

The words “outside the law” above, have been added by me, as an interpretation of what Paul is writing. Paul did not put himself outside the law when preaching the joyful news to Gentiles, but when he decided to stop persecuting the assemblies of Jesus and put his trust in the crucified One. He believes his mission is part of the decisive moment planned by God when all nations will receive the blessing promised to Abraham, thus perfecting God’s creation. He’s not just fretting over a minor difference in theology.

Paul mentions a physical illness, literally, an infirmity of the flesh. From the mention of his hosts wanting to give him their eyes, I conclude that his affliction was a problem with his eyesight, perhaps as a result of travelling through the salt lakes of Galatia, where the glare can be destructive. The care offered by his converts in Galatia established the affection in which he holds them, even if it is an exasperated affection. Paul’s emotional appeal here is unusually direct: “they” that is, the people who are teaching a Judaized version of the joyful news, are accused of a spurious affection designed to gain allegiance to their teaching. The Greek verb zeloo can mean any form of passionate or eager attention (zeal). Here the most likely meaning is to “fuss over, to make much of someone.” Paul compares himself to a mother in labour, to give birth to his Galatian converts; and he adds the image that he hopes they will be pregnant with Messiah Jesus! His language is that of any exasperated parent, Greek aporeo, I am at a loss with you.



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