This blog continues my notes on translating Galatians
My dears, if people are caught out in some fall from grace, those of you who have an understanding should restore them with a gentle attitude, keeping an eye on yourselves, in case you are tempted as well.
”Lift one another’s loads” and so fulfil the law of Messiah.
If you think you’re quite something when you’re nothing, you’re fooling yourself; but each of you should put your own work to the test. Then you can be pleased with yourself as you are and not in comparison with someone else. For “everyone must shift his own ballast.”
Paul’s pastoral wisdom, which is both gentle and robust is clearly seen here. I have translated the Greek paraptoma as “fall from grace”, because it literally means a fall or slip. The usual translation is trespass or wrong-doing.
“Those who have an understanding” The Greek is pneumatikos, usually translated “those who are spiritual” which might seem right in a religious context, but is used in normal Greek with reference to rational behaviour: hence “understanding.”
The warning against drifting into sin is particularly appropriate for those who think they have understanding.
The apparently contrary injunctions about loads and weight I see as quotations which would be known to the readers. They may both be sayings of Jesus himself: the first commanding practical compassion and the other personal responsibility for one’s own life. Paul is advocating a clear- eyed self-discipline.
Students of the message are to share their resources with their teachers. Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for “you will reap whatever you’ve sown.” So the one who sows in the field of flesh and blood will reap decay; while the one who sows in the field of the spirit, will reap the life of the age to come. Let’s not “grow weary in well-doing” for we shall reap, if we don’t weaken. So then, while it’s the right season, let’s do good to all people, and especially to those in the household of faithfulness.
The remarks on teachers may refer to Paul himself or, as is more likely to the teachers who were entrusted with the task of passing on to converts the church’s memory of Jesus and information about church assemblies. The warning about reaping and sowing applies immediately to those who spend resources to support their teachers, and those who spend it on themselves; but also by implication to those who favour snipping and those who stand for the freedom of Jesus.
The “right season” for caring is now, before the time of harvest.
See with what huge letters letters I’m writing to you, with my own hand!
Those who are pressing you to be snipped want to make a good show in flesh and blood, with the one aim of not being troubled by the execution stake of Messiah. And in fact those who’ve been snipped don’t fully observe the Jewish Law themselves, but they want you to be snipped, so that they can boast of your flesh and blood Jewishness.
God forbid that I should boast of anything except the execution stake of our Lord Jesus Messiah, by which the world has been killed off for me, and I for the world. For neither snipping nor foreskins is the issue, but new creation.
Those who’ll march to this rule, peace and mercy upon them and upon God’s Israel!
From now on let nobody give me grief, for I bear on my body the brand- marks of Jesus.
May the kindness of the Lord Jesus Messiah be with your spirit, my brothers and sisters. Amen.
At this point I conjecture that Paul takes up the stylus from his scribe to whom he has been dictating the letter. He does so as a sign of authenticity and seriousness. He wants his readers to be reminded of his personal presence with them and of his function as an emissary of Messiah Jesus. He associates the realm of the flesh and blood self with “boasting” Greek, kauchema, a species of human arrogance and self- assertion, which Paul sees as the root of evil. Pride in “flesh and blood” of any sort, as with the practice of circumcision, is teetering on the verge of evil.
Paul states that his own boasting is only in the crucified Messiah Jesus, in union with whom he is dead to worldly things and values. It is clear to him, as a man dead to the world with Jesus, that the only issue is new creation, that is, a new form of living in the power of Jesus’ resurrection. He does not describe this new creation any further at this point but we can remember his words that people of faith are no longer slaves but children of God, who can call God their Abba, their dear father. One day, he says in Romans 8, the whole creation will share this freedom.
The rule to which faithful people march is Greek kanon, which is literally a ruler or measuring tape, but comes to mean any rule, standard or principle.
One can interpret the sentence beginning “From now on” as a flash of anger, but it is more likely a example of Paul’s boasting in the execution stake of Jesus. Brand marks were cut or pricked on the bodies of slaves as signs of ownership. The Messiah’s emissary, whose body bears more painful marks than those of circumcision, has a defiant dignity. This contrast is a fitting end to a passionate argument.