This blog continues my notes on translating Galatians
GALATIANS 5: 7
You were running well; who cut you off from trusting the truth? This distrust does not come from the One who is calling you. A tiny piece of leaven ferments the whole lump of dough. I trust in the Lord that you you will not disagree with my view, and that the man who is bothering you, whoever he is, will accept the judgement. As for me, if – as they say-I still preach snipping, why am I still persecuted? But that option removes the offensive obstacle of the cross. I wish those who are stirring you up would cut it off completely!
The Greek verbs Kopto (with its derivatives) meaning cut or snip, and Katargeo meaning to remove or to sever are repeated in this chapter, showing either Paul’s visceral disgust with snipping, or his rhetorical suggestion that cutting off the foreskin = being cut off from Messiah. There is also in the first few sentences above a play on the Greek verb Peitho, to persuade, to trust, which reminds the Galatians that this whole matter is an issue of trust or persuasion.
The argumentation here is incoherent, jumping from one point to another, perhaps an indication of Paul’s anger. The “snippers” are cutting people off from the truth, by persuading them to distrust the joyful news they have received. Even if the number persuaded by the snippers is small, they will act like yeast in dough. Paul trusts that the Galatians will see it his way and impose jis judgement on any snipper. Because Paul was a Pharisee, he once approved snipping, but he angrily rejects the accusation that he still does so.
Almost as a throw-away remark he states the basis of his thinking: being snipped to become Jews removes the offensive obstacle (Greek: skandalon) of the crucified messiah. This shameful death, under condemnation by the Law, can be left behind as a historical accident by those who see faith in Jesus as a form of Judaism, but for Paul it is the centre of his faith in Jesus, the greatest demonstration of Jesus’ faithfulness to the forgiving love of God. It is offensive because it refuses what people expect from religion, namely supernatural power and wisdom, but requires a complete reformation of life. This message is more fully set out in the first chapter of the first letter to Corinthians.
From this profound theology, Paul returns to his anger, suggesting that the “snippers” would be better to go the whole hog and cut the penis off altogether. This is not the language we expect of a saint, but it gives us an insight into the tough, proud, tetchy, side of Paul’s character, balancing his open warmth and wisdom. After all, he’s a man with leather – working skills, as well as a Torah scholar, someone who can mingle with all races and conditions of people, a “diamond geezer” rather than a plaster saint.