The Letter to the Galatians

Chapter 1

Blaine Robison, M.A.

15 September 2019; Revised 29 December 2021

Chapter  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6


Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Other Scripture quotations may be taken from different Bible versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, MW, OJB, & TLV. Quotations marked with the initials "BR" indicate the translation of the commentary author.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.

Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance reference numbers are identified with "SH" for Hebrew and "SG" for Greek.

Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).

Methodology: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy.

See the article Introduction to Galatians for background information on the letter.


Introduction, 1:1-5

Paul's Rebuke, 1:6-10

Paul's Story, Part 1, 1:11-17

Paul's Story, Part 2, 1:18-24


Paul begins his letter to the congregations in Galatia somewhat in the normal manner of his later correspondence, but he quickly launches into a rebuke of the leaders for tolerating the Judaizer distortion of the Messianic message of salvation. Since Paul was the one who brought the good news to these congregations during his first Diaspora journey he reminds them by way of an autobiographical narrative of how he came to be called by Yeshua and the nature of the revelation he received from his Lord. Particular points of the past include his life as a Pharisee before Yeshua, the persecution he instigated against disciples of Yeshua, his supernatural meeting with Yeshua, his initial ministry in Damascus and the Nabataean Kingdom, his first meeting with the chief apostles and then his retirement to his home in Cilicia.

Introduction, 1:1-5

1 Paul, an apostle, not from men nor through a man, but through Yeshua the Messiah and God the Father, the One having resurrected him from death,

Paul: Grk. Paulos, from the Latin cognomen or surname Paulus, meaning small or humble. He no doubt engages in a word play on this meaning of his name when he said, "I am the least of the apostles" (1Cor 15:9). The name Paulos first appears in Acts 13:9. The name Paulus was probably taken from the patron who made Roman citizenship possible for Paul's father or grandfather (see Acts 22:28). Paul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia to a traditional Jewish family belonging to the tribe of Benjamin, and given the Hebrew name Sha'ul, "Saul" (Acts 9:11; Php 3:5). Paul received advanced education under the tutelage of Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 5:34; 22:3), a leader in the Sanhedrin and a preeminent scholar.

According to the Talmud Gamaliel provided his many students with instruction in Greek wisdom and philosophy as well as Torah (Baba Kamma 83a; Sotah 49b). Paul was a devout Pharisee all his life (Acts 23:6; 26:5; Php 3:5). He was complicit in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58), and then he instigated a terrible persecution against disciples of Yeshua (Acts 8:1-3). Paul's early actions indicate that he had a formal position among the Judean and temple leaders and had authority to put followers of Yeshua in prison (cf. Acts 26:10). Paul was called personally by Yeshua to be an apostle and to proclaim the good news to the nations and the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15). For a biography of Paul see my web article The Apostle from Tarsus.

Paul's use of his Roman name is in keeping with Jewish practice of that time. It was not uncommon for Jews to have two names, a Hebrew name used with family and a Gentile name used in the Diaspora (Gittin 11b; Stern 267). However, the OJB consistently uses Sha'ul instead of Paul, and adds the title "Rav" in direct violation of Yeshua's instruction (Matt 23:8). Stern also uses Sha'ul in the CJB in order "to highlight the Jewishness of the New Testament and its major figures" (267). Certainly Paul did not give up his Hebrew name nor did he stop living as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; Php 3:5). Using his Roman name did not make him less of a Jew.

an apostle: Grk. apostolos, one sent as an agent. The term was used in Greek and Roman culture for a delegate, ambassador, envoy, messenger, emissary or official representative. Apostolos occurs one time in the LXX where it translates shaluach, Qal pass. part. of the verb shalach (SH-7971), "sent," of Ahijah the prophet (1Kgs 14:6). Josephus uses apostolos one time of a group of Jewish ambassadors sent to Rome to complain about the appointment of Archelaus (Ant. XVII, 11:1). Apostolos appears in no other early Jewish literature, but it is grounded in Jewish culture in the office of shaliach. In first century Judaism a shaliach acted as an official messenger or a proxy for and with the full authority of the sender (Ber. 5:5). The shaliach's mission was "limited in scope and duration by definite commission and terminating on its completion" (DNTT 1:128).

In the Besekh the term "apostle" is specifically applied to the original Twelve disciples (Matt 10:2), then Mattathias (Acts 1:26), and Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua (Gal 1:19). The apostles of Yeshua were so named because they had "seen the Lord," i.e., they were witnesses of his resurrected form (John 20:25; Acts 9:27; 1Cor 9:1; 15:5-9; 1Jn 1:1). Messianic Jewish versions prefer "emissary" to "apostle," because of its association with Christianity. Messianic Jewish writers also refer inappropriately to Paul as "Rabbi Sha'ul." In the first century a rabbi was not a congregational shepherd, but the title of a Sage or Torah scholar, such as Hillel and Shammai. In obedience to Yeshua's directive (Matt 23:8-9) Paul never used this title of himself and rejected the idea of being the head of a Jewish party or academy (1Cor 1:11-17).

Other Messianic leaders recognized Paul's status as an apostle (Acts 14:14; cf. Gal 2:9; 2Pet 3:2, 15) and Paul repeatedly reminded congregations of his office (Rom 1:1; 1Cor 1:1; 2Cor 1:1; Eph 1:1; Col 1:1; 1Th 2:6). The Jewish men Yeshua appointed clearly chose this Greek word to identify themselves and elevated its meaning at the same time. An apostle of the King of Israel is no minor office. All the apostles were Jews. The apostles had the authority to proclaim the good news, determine orthodox doctrine, impose requirements based on application of Torah ("bind and loose," Matt 16:19; 18:18), and provide oversight to the congregations they founded (cf. 1Cor 14:37). The apostolic office ceased to exist with the death of John and those Christian leaders in following centuries who sought to lay claim to the title did not deserve to bear it.

not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. The negative particle introduces a digression, what Le Cornu calls a typical midrashic associative technique, to explain what he means by declaring his title of apostle. from men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, used here of an adult male. In the LXX anthrōpos translates three Hebrew words: (1) adam, SH-444, a human male (e.g., Gen 1:26-27); (2) ish, SH-376, adult male or husband (Gen 2:23-24) and (3) enosh, SH-582, man or mankind (Ps 8:4-5) (DNTT 2:564). Some versions opt for a gender neutral translation with "human authority" or "human beings," but most versions have "men."

Paul's office of apostle was not received by corporate action, such as the appointment of Matthias by the apostles (Acts 1:23-26) or the appointment of the first deacons by the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 6:3). nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. through: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express (1) instrumentality; through, by means of; or (2) causality; on account of, because of. The first usage applies here. a man: Grk. anthrōpos. The repetition of "man" constitutes a play on words that would distinguish levels of authority. There was not an individual man who appointed Paul as an apostle, such as the high priest who gave him authority to persecute followers of Yeshua (Acts 9:1-2).

but: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. through: Grk. dia. Yeshua: Grk. Iēsous, a transliteration of the Hebrew name Yeshua ("Jesus" in Christian Bibles). Yeshua is a contraction of the Hebrew name Y’hoshua ("Joshua"), which means "YHVH [the LORD] is salvation" (BDB 221). The meaning of his name is explained to Joseph by an angel of the Lord, "You shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins" (Matt 1:21). For more information on the meaning our Lord's name, his Jewish identity, and his principal titles see my web article Who is Yeshua?

the Messiah: Grk. Christos (from chriō, to anoint), the expected fulfiller of the hopes of Israel for an end-time deliverer, the Messiah. Christian versions translate the title as if it were a last name. Jewish translators of the LXX chose Christos to render Heb. Mashiach (SH-4899), Anointed One, and in so doing infused new meaning into the Greek word. Mashiach is used in the Tanakh for the Messiah (Ps 2:2; Dan 9:25-26) and this usage defined the term among Jews in the first century. Thus, "Messiah" has special meaning as the hope of Israel, the One who would deliver his people and establish his kingdom. The word "Christ" used by Christians has an alien and even negative meaning to Jews (Stern 1-2). For a discussion of Jewish hope and expectation of the Messiah see my article The Messiah.

Paul stresses here as in his defense sermons and other letters that he received his commission to be an apostle directly from Yeshua while en route on the King's Highway to Damascus to arrest disciples of Yeshua. See my commentary on Acts 9:1-6, 10-18. Paul was transformed by that personal revelation and the healing of the Holy Spirit. While Christian commentators typically say that Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles, the Lord's commission was for Paul to take the good news of salvation to the nations and to the sons of Israel (Acts 9:15), which he immediately began to fulfill (Acts 9:20).

and: Grk. kai, conj. that marks a connection or addition. Kai has three basic uses: (1) continuative – and, also, even; (2) adversative – and yet, but, however; or (3) intensive – certainly, indeed, in fact, really, verily, yea (DM 250f). The first use applies here. Kai is used in the LXX to translate the vav (ו) character added to words for conjunctive effect. There are over 50 conjunctions in biblical Greek, but kai is by far the most common in the Besekh, occurring over 9,000 times (BibleHub). The excessive use of conjunctions is evidence of either an original Hebrew text or Jewish Greek. See my note on the significance of conjunctions in the Besekh.

God: Grk. theos. In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is. The deities of all other religions and cults are the product of Satan-inspired imagination. the Father: Grk. patēr, normally of a male biological parent or ancestor, but frequently in reference to God, which emphasizes both his activity as creator and sustainer. In the LXX patēr translates ab ("av"), which generally occurs in the human sense, but also of God as father in relation to Israel (Ex 4:22) (DNTT 1:616f). In the Besekh the capitalized "Father" is a circumlocution for the God of Israel. While God gave physical life to mankind (cf. Acts 17:28), he is only Father in a spiritual and covenantal sense in relation to Israel. God's paternal relationship to Israel is affirmed many times in the Tanakh (e.g., Ex 4:22; Deut 1:31; 8:5; 32:6; Isa 43:6; 63:16; 64:8; Jer 3:19; 31:9; Hos 1:10: Mal 1:6; cf. 2Cor 6:18).

the One: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. Among Jews "The One" was a circumlocution for God (cf. Ps 3:3; 37:24; Isa 40:26; 45:7; 49:7; Amos 9:5-6; John 1:33; 6:46; 7:18; 11:27; 12:45; 15:21; Acts 10:42; Rom 5:17; 2Cor 4:6). having resurrected: Grk. egeirō, aor. part., to rise or raise, and used here to mean to recall the dead to life. him from death: Grk. nekros, adj., may be used as (1) a noun, corpse or (2) adj., without life in the physical sense, being dead. The term, of course, applies to Yeshua's body not his spirit. Although nekros lacks the definite article most versions render the term as a noun "the dead," which may imply be misleading. When people die the spirit goes either to Heaven or Hades (Luke 16:22).

Many Christians believe that Yeshua went to Hades after he died and was resurrected from there as declared in the Apostles' Creed. However, Scripture does not say anywhere that Yeshua descended into Hades, which is a place of torment and punishment and the abode of demons and fallen angels. (For this unbiblical claim see my article Is the Apostles' Creed Apostolic?) Paul means "death" as a condition or state. Several versions render nekros here as "death" (CEV, ERV, GNB, ICB, NMB, WE). Paul makes the point, which is uniformly and consistently declared in the Besekh, that God the Father resurrected Yeshua from death (Acts 2:32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 37; 26:8; Rom 4:24-25; 7:4; 8:11; 10:9; 1Cor 6:14; 15:15; 2Cor 4:14; 5:15; Eph 1:20; Col 2:12; 1Th 1:10; 2Tim 2:8). Yeshua did not resurrect himself.

2 and all the brothers with me, to the congregations of Galatia:

and all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. Le Cornu notes that the "all" is unique in Paul's letters (Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:2, 2Cor 1:1; Php 1:1; 1Th 1:1). the brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc., lit. "of the same womb," and in secular Greek meant a male sibling; brother. In the Jewish context the term primarily refers to blood siblings or fellow Israelites. In the LXX adelphos translates Heb. ach (SH-251), a male sibling (Gen 4:2; 20:5), a male relative of the same tribe (Gen 13:8; Num 16:10) or the people of Israel (Ex 2:11; 4:18). with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. me: Some commentators as Ridderbos assume that Paul means his fellow-workers on the second journey (Silas, Timothy and Luke) and the letter was written from Corinth.

In my view the letter was more likely written from Syrian Antioch and the expansive phrase "all the brothers with me" alludes to fellow apostles, prophets and teachers in that congregation (cf. Acts 13:1; 15:35). Writing the letter from Antioch before commencement of the second journey seems most likely since the letter mentions no co-laborers by name anywhere in the letter and alludes to his first journey and the Jerusalem conference. In addition, on his second journey Paul shared the letter from the Jerusalem conference with the congregations in Galatia (Acts 16:4). The strife in the Galatian congregations over the Judaizer heresy would not likely have occurred after delivery of the apostolic decrees. Stern and Le Cornu interpret the phrase as a source of endorsement for Paul's authority and instruction.

to the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia, assembly, gathering, meeting, or congregation, used here to denote a grouping of Yeshua's disciples. The term occurs primarily in the Besekh for an assembly of Yeshua followers. In the LXX ekklēsia translates the Heb. qahal (DNTT 1:292-295), which means assembly, convocation, or congregation (BDB 874). In the Tanakh qahal denotes the people of God in a corporate sense, often in the context of being gathered for worship or instruction (Deut 4:10; 31:30; Ps 35:18). Christian Bibles unanimously translate ekklēsia in this verse as "churches." The word "church" is clearly an ecclesiastical term of Christianity. (See my background note on this subject here.) Messianic Jewish versions avoid use of the word "church." The CJB has "Messianic communities," the TLV has "Messiah's communities," and the MW has simply "communities." I prefer "congregation," which incorporates both organic and organizational characteristics and is more neutral in tone than "church."

of Galatia: Grk. Galatia, a large Roman province in central Asia Minor, comprising the districts of Paphlagonia, Pontus Galaticus, Phrygia Galatica, Lycaonia Galatica, and Pisidia. The noun occurs only four times in the Besekh (also 1Cor 16:1; 2Tim 4:10; 1Pet 1:1). See the map here. For a history of Galatia, see the summary at UNRV. Apostolic ministry in the province of Galatia occurred in the cities of Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe, during the first evangelistic journey of Paul and Barnabas into the Diaspora c. 46-48 AD. The trip was recorded by Luke in Acts 13 and Acts 14. Membership of these congregations included traditional Jews, Hellenistic Jews, proselytes and formerly pagan Gentiles.

3 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Yeshua the Messiah,

Grace: Grk. charis may mean (1) disposition marked by inclination to generosity, frequently unmotivated by the worth of the recipient; favor, grace; or (2) a benefit conferred freely as an expression of good will; favor, grace, beneficence, blessing. In the LXX charis occurs only in the accusative form of charin about 190 times of which only about 75 have a Hebrew equivalent. Of those charin primarily translates Heb. hēn (SH-2580), favor, grace or acceptance (DNTT 2:116). Wishing God's favor upon someone was a typical Hebraic greeting, but considering what follows Paul hints at important theological truth. Salvation is totally the result of God's grace. to you: 2p-pl. pronoun. The plural pronoun takes in all the believers in the four cities and contiguous districts of Galatia.

and peace: Grk. eirēnē (for Heb. shalom), peace, which may be in reference to (1) a state of harmony as a result from cessation of hostilities, whether in political or personal relationships; or (2) a state of well-being, used Hebraically as a greeting or as characteristic of the Messianic age and divine favor. In the LXX eirēnē translates Heb. shalom (SH-7965), peace, generally denoting (1) personal welfare, health, or prosperity; (2) peace and tranquility in the community; or (3) contentment, peace, and friendship in human relations. Both Greek and Hebrew terms emphasize a state of relationship rather than an emotional condition. The greeting of peace was customary in Jewish correspondence (cf. 2Macc 1:1). Le Cornu notes that "grace and peace" appear together in the Aaronic blessing (Num 6:24-26).

from: Grk. apo, prep., from, away from, and here denotes origin. God the Father: See verse 1 above. and our: 1p-pl. pronoun. Lord: Grk. kurios may mean either (1) 'one in control through possession,' and therefore owner or master; or (2) 'one esteemed for authority or high status,' thus lord or master. In the LXX kurios occurs over 9,000 times, the great majority of times to replace Heb. YHVH (DNTT 2:511). Kurios was the principal title by which disciples addressed Yeshua during his earthly ministry. Paul likely meant kurios in the sense of Heb. adôn, because Yeshua is the owner-master of his disciples. Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 1 above. The greeting of this verse is not just a formality, but an expression of God's will for His people.

Textual Note

Bible versions are divided between having the possessive pronoun "our" modify "Father" (AMP, CJB, ESV, GNB, NABRE, NASB, NCV, NIV, NRSV) and modify "Lord" (ASV, AMPC, CEV, CSB, GW, KJV, NOG, NEB, NKJV, NJB, NLT, RSV). TLV has the pronoun modifying both "Father" and "Lord," which does not conform to the Greek text. Both readings have strong support in MSS. The committee that produced the Nestle text chose to modify "Father" but gave the reading a "C" rating, meaning they had great difficulty deciding between the alternatives (GNT 648). Metzger says the Bible Society committee favored "our Father" because it accords with Paul's usage elsewhere (Rom 1:7; 1Cor 1:3; 2Cor 1:2; Eph 1:2; Php 1:2; Phm 1:3) (520).

An underlying assumption is that the letter to the Galatians was written after the Thessalonian and Corinthian letters. However, "our Lord" is supported by the earliest MSS, p46 (about 200), and p51 (about 400), as well as Vaticanus (4th c.) the Vulgate (4th c.) and Syriac (3rd/4th c.). Galatians was Paul's first letter and therefore it is unnecessary to assume he was imitating a formula he used in later letters.

4 the One having given himself for our sins so that He might deliver us out of the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

the One: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. See verse 1 above. having given: Grk. didōmi, aor. part., generally to give something to someone, often with the focus on generosity, but may be used to mean bestow, hand over, impart, entrust, yield, put, or sacrifice (BAG). himself: reflexive pronoun. The opening clause affirms that Yeshua went to the cross voluntarily (cf. John 10:11, 17-18; 14:28-31; Gal 2:20; Eph 5:2; Php 2:8; 1Tim 2:6; Titus 2:15). Paul's descriptive language of Yeshua giving himself contrasts with the prediction of Yeshua that he would be "delivered" (betrayed and handed over) to the authorities (Mark 9:31; 10:33) and the rhetoric of other apostles who accused the Judean leaders of unlawfully taking Yeshua's life (Acts 2:23; 3:14-15; 4:10; 7:52; 10:39).

for: Grk. huper, prep., lit. "over, above," used to express a stance of concern or interest relating to someone or something. With the genitive case of the noun following the preposition emphasizes a supportive aspect; for the advantage of, in behalf of, in the interest of. our: 1p-pl. pronoun, which identifies Paul with the letter's recipients, but also the "sons of Israel" who received the promise of redemption (cf. Matt 15:24; Luke 1:68; 24:21; Acts 13:23; Rom 11:26). sins: pl. of Grk. hamartia may refer to (1) a behavioral action, a misdeed that creates liability, every departure from the way of righteousness; (2) the result of sinning or the condition of being sinful; or (3) an invasive evil power. Hamartia is the dominant word for sin in the Besekh (DNTT 3:577).

In the LXX hamartia translates Heb. chata (SH-2398), miss, go wrong, lapse, sin (Gen 20:6; 39:9) and avon (SH-5771), iniquity, guilt, punishment for iniquity (Gen 15:16). Throughout Scripture sin as a behavior is a violation of God's written commandments (Rom 3:20; 5:13; 7:7). The degree of intentionality is not a factor in defining sinful behavior. Le Cornu notes that the declaration "given for our sins" echoes Isaiah 53:5, "He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities" (NASB). Paul affirms that Yeshua was a sinless sin offering whose death accomplished atonement (cf. Rom 6:10; 1Cor 15:3; 1Pet 2:24; 3:18). Moreover, Yeshua's sacrifice not only atoned unintentional sins typically cleared on Yom Kippur, but also intentional sins and capital crimes as Paul declared in his sermon in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:38).

Some Christians have erroneously concluded on the basis of 2Corinthians 5:21 that Yeshua became sinful on the cross. The reason for this mistaken belief is the failure of standard Christian Bibles to accurately interpret the Hebrew theology of that verse with the rest of Scripture. In the Tanakh the Hebrew word chata (rendered by Grk. hamartia in the LXX) may mean either "sin" or "sin offering" (BDB 308). A few versions do have "sin offering" in that verse (CJB, MRINT, NLT, The Message, the OJB and the TLV. Yeshua as the unblemished Lamb of God, bore our sins as a sin offering. He did not become sinful (cf. John 1:29; 9:16; Rom 8:3; 1Cor 5:7; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26; 9:26; 1Pet 1:19; 2:24; 1Jn 3:5; Rev 5:12).

so that: Grk. hopōs, conj. used to indicate purpose, objective or an end in view; in order that, so that. He might deliver: Grk. exaireō, aor. mid. subj., may mean (1) remove from a place, e.g., bodily organ, take out, extract; or (2) in an extended sense of removing from peril, deliver or rescue. The second meaning applies here. us: 1p-pl. pronoun, used in reference to followers of Yeshua. out of: Grk. ek, prep. used to denote exit or separation from something with which there has been a close association, lit. "out of, from within" (Thayer). the present: Grk. enistēmi, perf. part., be present or be here. In this context the verb is a simple reference to contemporary life.

evil: Grk. ponēros, adj., evil, bad, and here means that which is marked by deviation from an acceptable moral or social standard, particularly as prescribed by God in His Word; evil, wicked. In the LXX ponēros translates Heb. ra, which can mean evil, bad or of little value (DNTT 1:565). In the Tanakh ra is used to describe both that which is ethically evil (Deut 1:35; 4:25) and something that is unpleasant, disagreeable or injurious (e.g. Deut 22:14; 28:35; Isa 3:11).

age: Grk. aiōn, an extended period of time, here signifying a segment of extended time determined by qualifiers as present or future; age. In the LXX aiōn translates Heb. ōlam (SH-5769; BDB 761), "long duration, antiquity or futurity," first in Genesis 3:22. Olam is also used adverbially to mean "for ever, for all time," (Gen 9:12), as well as ancient time (Gen 6:4; 49:26), and indefinite futurity (Deut 15:17). Time is an integral component of the triune universe that God created (Gen 1:1). The Hebrew term ōlam is generally concerned with the duration of time in relation to something specific, such as a man's life (DNTT 3:827).

In the Besekh Yeshua and the apostles generally speak of two specific ages – the present age (Heb. olam hazeh; Matt 28:20; Mark 10:30; Titus 2:12) and the age to come (Heb. olam haba; Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5). We may say that the present age is evil because the world lies in the power of the evil one (2Cor 4:4; 1Jn 5:19). Yeshua's death was intended to not only provide atonement but deliverance from Satan's power.

according to: Grk. kata, prep. used to denote agreement or conformity to a standard. the will: Grk. thelēma, may mean (1) that which is to be carried out according to wish or purpose, will; or (2) the act of willing, will or desire. The first meaning applies here. of our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 1 above. and: Grk. kai, conj. Father: Grk. patēr. See verse 1 above. The expression "will of God" in this context refers to God's sovereign will as it relates to fulfilling covenantal promises. See my web article The Will of God.

5 to whom be the glory into the ages of the ages, amen.

to whom be: relative pronoun, referring to God the Father. the glory: Grk. doxa originally meant opinion, conjecture, praise or repute in secular Greek in regard to what one thought about a person or thing. In the LXX doxa translates Heb. kabod (pronounced "kah-vohd"), "abundance, honor, glory" (SH-3519; BDB 458). Kabod does include the meanings of dignity of position, reputation of character and the reverence due to or ascribed to someone, and is frequently used for the honor brought or given to God (e.g., Ps 29:1; Isa 42:12). In the Besekh doxa is a continuation of the underlying Hebrew concept (DNTT 2:45).

into the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn. of the ages: pl. of Grk. aiōn. See the previous verse. In Hebrew thought historical time was divided into ages, perhaps coinciding with the great covenants that God made with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Israel and David (Eccl 1:10; Rom 16:25; 1Cor 2:7; 10:11; Eph 3:9; Col 1:26; Titus 1:2; Heb 9:26). Yeshua and the apostles speak of two specific ages – the present age (Matt 28:20; Mark 10:30; Titus 2:12) and the age to come (Matt 12:32; Mark 10:30; Heb 6:5). The phrase is used here to denote ages that will continue without end. Most versions translate the phrase as "forever and ever."

amen: Grk. amēn transliterates the Heb. ’amen, an adverb meaning "verily" or "truly" (BDB 53), which Stern clarifies as "it is true, so be it, or may it become true" (26). The Heb. root verb aman means to confirm or support. The normal use in Scripture for amēn is as a response to a statement a speaker has just made. The first occurrence of amēn in the Tanakh is Deuteronomy 27:15-26 where it occurs 12 times as a response of the people to the announcement of curses. Only three times in the Tanakh is amēn self-initiated as part of a benediction (Ps 41:14; 72:19; 89:53). Stern suggests the "amen" is intended to prompt a congregational response, but given what Paul is about to say, it is more likely the "amen" serves simply as a conclusion to his benediction.

In later letters Paul will including thanksgivings in relation to the congregation to which he writes (cf. Rom 1:8-10; 1Cor 1:4-6; Php 1:3-5; Col 1:3-5; 1Th 1:2-4; 2Th 1:3-5; 2Tim 1:3-5). While thanksgiving could have been expressed for faithful disciples in Galatia, the confrontational rhetoric to follow makes such compliments inappropriate to his purpose. The congregational elders had clearly failed to repel the Judaizer heresy.

Paul's Rebuke, 1:6-12

6 I am astonished that so quickly you are deserting from the One having called you in the grace of the Messiah to a different 'good-news,'

I am astonished: Grk. thaumazō, pres., be extraordinarily impressed; to wonder, be amazed, astonished, impressed, surprised. The verb serves as an overt rhetorical mark of irony (Le Cornu). In this context the amazement may express hurt or disapproval, but certainly is intended to establish a basis for reprimand that will instill a sense of shame. that: Grk. hoti, conj. used to link elements of instruction or narrative, here to introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of the preceding verb. so: Grk. houtōs, adv. used to introduce the manner or way in which something has been done or to be done; thus, in this manner, way or fashion, so. quickly: Grk. tacheōs, adv., putting into effect with rapidity; quickly, at once, without delay.

The opening clause points back to the time since the people in the Galatian congregations had become followers of Yeshua. Moreover, the phrase alludes to the fact that Paul had been among the Galatian congregations not so long ago, no more than two or three years previous. He may have hoped to shock his readers into recognizing their spiritual peril. you are deserting: Grk. metatithēmi, pres. mid., may mean (1) make a change in position, either in the sense of spatial movement or transference of allegiance; or (2) cause to be different. The first meaning is intended here, referring to a negative change in commitment away from God. The word was used of desertion or revolt in a military or political defection (Rienecker). Paul's accusation is reminiscent of God's charge that the ancient Israelites turned away from Him to idols (cf. Ex 32:8; Deut 9:16; Jdg 2:17).

from: Grk. apo, prep. See verse 3 above. the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun, a circumlocution for the Holy One. having called: Grk. kaleō, aor. part., to call and may mean (1) express something aloud; (2) summon or invite; or (3) identify by name or give a name to. The second meaning applies here. The aorist tense points back to the time when the Galatians received the good news. you: Grk. humeis, 2p-pl. pronoun. in: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position within, but it also governs other categories, such as means, agency, cause and associated aspects. In context the preposition may be translated "among, at, by, in, on, near, with." Here the preposition marks a condition or state (Thayer). the grace: Grk. charis. See verse 3 above. of Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 1 above. In other words, they were invited to participate in the grace of God mediated through Yeshua. to: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit.

a different: Grk. heteros, adj., dissimilarity of one item relative to another, whether generically or qualitatively; other, another or different. The rabbis used a similar term for those who had rejected to receive traditions (Rienecker). good-news: Grk. euangelion, glad tidings or good news. Christian versions translate the term as "gospel." Given the origin of "gospel" in Old English ("gōd-spell"), many Jews regard the word as a term of Christianity. In the LXX euangelion translates besorah, which may mean either a reward for good news (2Sam 4:10) or glad tidings (2Sam 18:20, 22). Paul means the phrase "a different good-news" in a sarcastic sense, because its content, as stated in Acts 15:1, totally misrepresented the truth. The Didache (c. 100 AD) affirms such conduct as the mark of a false apostle,

"Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turns and teaches another doctrine to the destruction of this, hear him not." (Didache 11:2)

7 which is not another, except there are some troubling you and intending to change the good news of the Messiah.

which: relative pronoun referring back to the "different good-news" in the previous verse. is: Grk. eimi, pres., to be, a function word used primarily to declare a state of existence, whether in the past ('was, were'), present ('are, is') or future ('will be'), often to unite a subject and predicate (BAG). not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; not. another: Grk. allos, adj., used to distinguish from one or more other entities; other (of two), another. except: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." The words limit what went before (Ridderbos). there are: Grk. eimi, pres. some: pl. of Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun, a certain one, someone, anyone, anything. troubling: Grk. tarassō, pres. part., caused to be in a disturbed state, to shake back and forth, agitate. The verb depicts agitators who generate confusion and turmoil (Le Cornu).

you: 2p-pl. pronoun; i.e., members of the Galatian congregations. and intending: Grk. thelō, pres. part., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to change: Grk. metastrephō, aor. inf., cause to change from one thing to another; change, pervert, turn. The infinitive looks toward the end result and the aorist tense indicates a complete and thorough change (Rienecker). the good news: Grk. euangelion. See the previous verse. of the Messiah: See verse 1 above. The "good news of the Messiah" alludes to the message of the deeds, death and resurrection of Yeshua. The good news of the Messiah that Paul presented to Jewish audiences contained these elements.

• The promises of the Messiah God made to the patriarchs, Israel and David have now been fulfilled with the coming of Yeshua (Acts 13:23, 32-35; 26:6-7, 22).

• Yeshua was rejected by Israel's leaders (Acts 13:27-28).

• Yeshua was crucified according to the purpose of God and buried in a tomb (Acts 13:28-29; 26:23).

• God resurrected Yeshua from death and he appeared afterwards to his disciples (Acts 13:30-31; 26:23).

• Yeshua was exalted to the right hand of God and given the name "Lord" (Acts 13:34).

• There is salvation in no one else, so all who hear the message should repent for the forgiveness of sins and be immersed (Acts 13:38-39; 26:18-20).

The good news Paul presented to ignorant Gentiles, as set forth in Acts 14:15-17 and Acts 17:24-31, include these elements:

● The God who made the heavens and the earth and all things in them does not dwell in temples made with hands.

● The living God made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.

● The living God has given to all people life and breath and all good things, including rains from heaven and fruitful seasons.

● The living God has always desired for people to seek Him, since He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist.

● The living God overlooked the past times of ignorance, but is now declaring that all people everywhere should repent.

● The living God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man, Yeshua of Nazareth, whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.

8 But even if we or a 'messenger from heaven' should proclaim a good news to you alongside of what we proclaimed to you, let him be accursed.

But: Grk. alla, conj. even if: Grk. kai ean. The words introduce a hypothetical situation. we: 1p-pl. pronoun. The pronoun may include Barnabas or the apostles generally. or a messenger: Grk. angelos, 'one sent,' a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos translates Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). The decision to translate malak or angelos as angel or messenger (i.e., human) relies primarily on the context, and here the term would refer to a human. from heaven: Grk. ouranos refers to the area above the earth that encompasses three areas: (1) the atmosphere, (2) interstellar space and (3) the transcendent dwelling-place of God (Ps 148:1-4; cf. 2Cor 12:2). In the LXX ouranos translates Heb. hashamayim (SH-8064, lit. "the heavens") (DNTT 2:191).

should proclaim a good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. subj., to announce the good message, normally of God's salvation to "not-yet-believers." In the LXX euangelizō stands for Heb. basar, to publish or bring news or a report, whether good or bad (DNTT 2:108-109). The aorist subjunctive points to a single act. to you: 2p-pl. pronoun. alongside of: Grk. para, prep., close beside, alongside of. A number of versions translate the preposition as "contrary" to give the impression of contradicting or even denying. Rather, Paul depicts the heresy as adding to the truth that which is untrue. what we proclaimed: Grk. euangelizō, 1p-pl. aor. mid. to you: 2p-pl. pronoun. Paul alludes to his proclamation of the good news in Galatian cities as recorded in Acts 13 and 14.

let him be: Grk. eimi, pres. imp. See the previous verse. accursed: Grk. anathema, that which has been cursed or pledged to destruction (HELPS). In the LXX anathema regularly translates Heb. cherem (SH-2764), what is banned, first in Leviticus 27:28 (DNTT 1:413). To be accursed alludes to the Torah provision that people could be put under a ban for utter destruction and so could not be redeemed. This provision was for someone who impeded or resisted God's work and was therefore considered to be accursed before God, such as the seven tribes of Canaan (Num 21:2-3; Deut 7:2; 1Sam 15:3) and idolaters (Ex 22:20; Deut 13:12-16). Le Cornu likens the defection of the Galatians to the sin of Achan who rebelled against God by taking what God had banned, and thereby came under the ban himself (Josh 7:1-20).

Additional Note

The almost universal translation of angelos as "angel" presents a serious contradiction. None of the heavenly host would dare to proclaim a different message (e.g., Rev 14:6) and Paul would not dare to pronounce a curse on any of the heavenly host (e.g., Jude 1:8). Cohen notes the literal meaning of "messenger" and points out the Torah warning of false prophets who mislead people (cf. Deut 13:1-6). Synagogues in the first century had a pulpit minister known as "the angel of the congregation" (Lightfoot 2:90-91; Moseley 9). Also, Yeshua addressed the seven letters in Revelation to the angelos or messenger over each congregation. So, a "messenger from heaven" is an idiomatic expression for someone who would claim "God revealed to me" (cf. Col 2:18). There may be those who claim the prophetic gift in congregations, but disciples are to judge what they hear by Scripture (1Cor 14:29).

9 As we have said before and now again I say, if anyone proclaims a good-news to you alongside of what you received, let him be accursed.

As: Grk. hōs, adv. used here in a comparative sense; just like, similar to. we have said before: Grk. proslegō, perf., 1p-pl., to say beforehand, to say previously. The verb points back to the ministry of the first Diaspora journey and the plural form includes Barnabas. The perfect tense points to the abiding authority of that which was said (Rienecker). and now: Grk. arti, adv. expressing concurrence of event with time viewed as present, (just) now. again: Grk. palin, adv. with focus on a repetitive occurrence; once more, again. I say: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative. The direct address is intended to emphasize the instruction given as contrasted with the teaching of the Judaizers.

if anyone: Grk. tis, indefinite pronoun. The words introduce a hypothetical situation that excludes no one. proclaims a good-news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. See the previous verse. to you: 2p-pl. pronoun. alongside of: Grk. para, prep. See the previous verse. what: relative pronoun. you received: Grk. paralambanō, aor., 2p-pl., to receive from someone. The verb alludes to the message Paul proclaimed in the Galatian cities. let him be accursed: See the previous verse. The double pronouncement of a curse asserts the authority to bind that Yeshua conveyed to his apostles (Matt 16:19; 18:18).

10 For now am I seeking approval of men or God? Or am I seeking to please men? If yet I were pleasing men, I would not be a servant of Messiah!

For: Grk. gar, conj., a contraction of ge ("yet") and ara ("then"), and in a broad sense means "certainly it follows that; for." The conjunction has four uses: (1) explanatory, (2) expressive of astonishment, (3) causal and, (4) inferential. The second use is intended here. now: Grk. arti, adv. See the previous verse. am I seeking approval: Grk. peithō, pres., to persuade or be persuaded of what is trustworthy; to win the favor of someone. of men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. Paul did not seek public popularity. or: conj. that introduces an alternative. God: See verse 1 above. The rhetorical question implies he prefers the approval of God (cf. 1Th 4:1; 2Tim 2:4). Or am I seeking: Grk. zēteō, pres., to seek, here in reference to searching for ways to satisfy an interest.

to please: Grk. areskō, pres. inf., give pleasure or gratification by meeting needs or interests. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. Paul could never be accused of seeking the approval of other apostles (cf. 2Cor 11:5; 12:11; 1Th 2:6). If: Grk. ei, conj. that introduces a statement considered valid for the sake of argument. yet: Grk. eti, adv. expressing a continuance of an action or circumstance; yet, still. I were pleasing: Grk. areskō, impf. men: pl. of Grk. anthrōpos. Paul repeats this claim of not pleasing men in another letter (1Th 2:4), but in another he says he endeavors to please men (1Cor 10:33). In the former he means he refuses to satisfy opponents of Yeshua by being silent about him and in the latter he seeks to please men in the sense of not violating ethnic or cultural norms that would give people an additional reason not to listen.

I would: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated. not: Grk. ou, adv. be: Grk. eimi, impf. mid. See verse 7 above. a servant: Grk. doulos can mean either slave or servant, and in Greek and Roman culture viewed as owned property totally and unquestioningly at the behest of the owner. In the LXX doulos translates the Heb. ebed, which did include the meaning of doulos but with a much broader application. In the Tanakh ebed is especially used of household servants, those who worked for the King and those who served God, especially service in the temple (DNTT 3:593). of Messiah: See verse 1 above.

The great Hebrew and Jewish heroes of the faith considered themselves servants of God the King and it was considered a high honor for a person to be called a servant of God. Abraham was the first to use this title (Gen 18:3; 26:24), but the most frequent usage is in relation to Moses (Ex 4:10; Deut 34:5). Others called "servant of the Lord" include Isaac (Gen 24:14), Jacob (Deut 9:27), Job (Job 1:8), Caleb (Num 14:24), Joshua (Josh 24:29), Samson (Jdg 15:18), Samuel (1Sam 3:10), David (2Sam 3:18), Elijah (2Kgs 9:36), Jonah (2Kgs 14:25), Hezekiah (2Chr 32:16), Nehemiah (Neh 1:11), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Zerubbabel (Hag 2:23), Daniel (Dan 6:20) and all the Hebrew prophets (Jer 25:4).

In his earthly ministry Yeshua was the preeminent servant of the Lord (Php 2:7), but other notable spiritual leaders are named, including Miriam (Luke 1:38), Simeon (Luke 2:29), Phoebe (Rom 16:1), Apollos (1Cor 3:5), Timothy (Php 1:1), Epaphras (Col 1:7), Tychicus (Col 4:7), Jacob (Jas 1:1), Peter (2Pet 1:1), Judah (Jude 1:1), and John (Rev 1:1). Paul repeatedly referred to himself in his letters as a servant of Messiah (Rom 1:1; 1Cor 4:1; 2Cor 11:23; Php 1:1; Titus 1:1), which means that he is Yeshua's authorized agent and to him alone is he accountable (cf. Rom 14:4; 1Cor 4:4; 1Th 2:4).

Paul's Story, Part 1, 1:11-17

11 For I make-known to you, brothers, the good news having been proclaimed by me, that it is not according to man.

This verse commences an autobiographical section that extends to the end of the next chapter. For: Grk. gar, conj. I make-known: Grk. gnōrizō, pres., to share information about something; make known, inform about. to you: 2p-pl. pronoun. brothers: pl. of Grk. adelphos, voc. See verse 2 above. Danker suggests that the plural vocative case (direct address), which occurs 9 times in this letter, can serve in the collective sense of "brothers and sisters" given that Paul is addressing the entire constituency of the congregations. The amount of hortatory material would surely include the women and a number of versions translate the noun as "brothers and sisters" (CEB, CSB, GW, NOG, NIV, NLT, NRSV, NTE, TLV). It is noteworthy that Paul called the readers of this letter "brothers," in spite of the fact that some of them had fallen prey to the Judaizer heresy.

the good news: Grk. euangelion. See verse 6 and 7 above. having been proclaimed: Grk. euangelizō, aor. pass. part. See verse 8 above. Le Cornu comments that the passive form of the verb emphasizes that while Paul faithfully transmitted the good news, it did not originate with him. by me: Paul alludes to the fact that he had assumed the leadership role when the first journey moved into Galatia and he was the primary speaker (cf. Acts 14:12). that it is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 7 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. according to: Grk. kata, prep. man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. The noun alludes to man-made conditions for salvation.

12 For I neither received it from a man, nor was I taught, but through a revelation of Yeshua the Messiah.

For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 10 above. The conjunction has an explanatory function here. I: Grk. egō, pronoun of the first person. neither: Grk. oude, adv. received: Grk. paralambanō, aor. See verse 9 above. it: The pronoun refers back to the "good news" mentioned in the previous verse. Paul affirmed clearly what he had received in his letter to the congregation in Corinth: "3 For I delivered to you in the foremost what I also received, that Messiah died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was resurrected the third day according to the Scriptures" (1Cor 15:3-4 BR).

from: Grk. para, prep. a man: Grk. anthrōpos. See verse 1 above. Paul's comment was not intended to discount the role of Ananias who acted as an appointed prophet to report to Paul what Yeshua had said (Acts 9:15; 22:15). Paul's authority to proclaim the good news came from Yeshua himself. nor: Grk. oute, conj. was I taught: Grk. didaskō, aor. pass., to teach or instruct. In the LXX didaskō occurs about 100 times and is used primarily to translate Heb. lamad (SH-3925), exercise in, learn, teach (Deut 4:1; Ps 119:99).

In its LXX usage the verb does not primarily denote communication of knowledge and skills (e.g., 2Sam 22:35), but means chiefly instruction in how to live (e.g., Deut 11:19; 20:18) (DNTT 3:760). Paul's message of the Messiah was not the fruit of Rabbinic tradition, including the teaching of his mentor Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). Paul had probably heard the message of the Messiah when Peter addressed the Sanhedrin (Acts 3–5), and certainly in Stephen's defense sermon (Acts 7), but he had firmly rejected it.

but: Grk. alla, conj. through: Grk. dia, prep. a revelation: Grk. apokalupsis, making fully known, uncovering, disclosure or revelation. In the Besekh the term is implicitly linked with divine plan, purpose or action. Metaphorically apokalupsis is a disclosure of truth or instruction concerning divine things previously unknown. of Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 1 above. Paul credits Yeshua as the sole source for the revelation of God's plan of redemption for Israel and the nations that occurred on the King's Highway and in Damascus (Acts 9:3-17). The mention of revelation probably also includes the heavenly vision he received in the Jerusalem Temple after his trip to Damascus (Acts 22:17-21; 26:19-20).

While Paul may have heard the good news proclaimed previous to the Damascus Road experience, he did not believe it until his personal encounter with Yeshua. For Paul embracing the good news was a supernatural experience enabled by the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18), whose ministry it is to convince unbelievers of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-11).

13 For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, that according to extremism I was persecuting the congregation of God, and destroying it.

For: Grk. gar, conj. The conjunction has an explanatory or even causal function here, to introduce why the good news did not originate from a human source and why a special revelation was necessary for him to become a follower of Yeshua. you heard: Grk. akouō, aor., 2p-pl., to hear, and as a reference to a past event to receive information aurally, hear, hear about. In the LXX akouō consistently stands for Heb. shama, which not only means to apprehend, but also to accept and to act upon what has been apprehended (DNTT 2:173). The Galatians could have heard the following information from Paul's own lips and even from the Judaizer missionaries.

of my: Grk. emos, first person pronoun, my, mine. former: Grk. pote, particle, at one time or other, at some time, formerly. way of life: Grk. anastrophē, movement here and there among people, or outward behavior based on inner beliefs. in: Grk. en, prep. Judaism: Grk. Ioudaismos, a term that connotes the distinctive ways and manners, customs and beliefs of the Judean people (Cohen). The term first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26). In that original context of the second century B.C. "Judaism" was defined in opposition to Hellenistic philosophy and influence. To live as a Jew meant observing the Sabbaths, keeping God's prescribed festivals, following strict rules of cleanliness and diet, and circumcising their children.

Christians tend to think of Judaism as a singular entity in the first century, whereas there were in reality many "Judaisms." Research indicates that there were some twenty-six to thirty different Jewish denominations in the first-century, including Boethusians, Genistae, Galileans, Samaritans, Hellenists, Herodians, Essenes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Zealots (Moseley 1). Josephus describes the last four in this list as the major parties (Ant. XIII, 5:9; XVIII, 1:1-6; Wars, II, 8:1-14). Paul clearly associates the term with his devotion to Phariseeism, which emphasized not only obedience to Torah commandments, but also observance of traditions developed by the Jewish Sages. In his former life, he had no room for a Galilean messiah.

Paul repeats this same claim to common knowledge to King Agrippa, "Indeed then, all the traditional Jews know my manner of life from youth, from its beginning having taken place among my nation and in Jerusalem" (Acts 26:4 BR). His upbringing in Judaism (c. AD 5–23) likely corresponded to the pattern described in the Talmud, "five years of age for Scripture, ten for Mishnah, thirteen for commandments, fifteen for talmud" (Avot 5:21). The Mishnah ("repetition") refers to verbal teaching by repeated recitation of sacred duties and traditional law based on interpretations of Torah (Jastrow). Mishnah texts may be found here. Having this basic learning Paul at the age of 13 years and one day became bar mitzvah, "son of the commandment" (Kiddushin 63b). He was then fully accountable as an adult to the penalties of sins prescribed by Torah.

The devotion to talmud ("learning, study") at age 15 was an important milestone. Advanced education fulfilled the dictum, "Appoint for yourself a teacher" (Avot 1:6). Not all Jewish boys had this privilege as it meant being admitted to the school of a scholar or notable Sage. Paul was selected to receive his training from Gamaliel the Elder (Acts 5:34; 22:3), the grandson of Hillel the Elder, a Pharisee leader in the Sanhedrin and a preeminent scholar. The term of study would have lasted at least until age 18. Paul was very proud of this association and it was probably through such schooling that he became a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). For an overview of Paul's early years see my article The Apostle from Tarsus.

that: Grk. hoti, conj. according to: Grk. kata, prep. extremism: Grk. huperbolē, state or circumstance beyond a limiting point or degree; beyond measure, exceedingly. The noun clearly has a negative connotation in this context. Paul could have been labeled an "ultra-orthodox Pharisee." The mention of his "former life" does not mean that after the Messiah's revelation Paul quit living as a traditional Jew and Pharisee (cf. Acts 22:3; 23:6; 1Cor 9:20; 10:32-33; Php 3:5). He openly describes his religious motivation that prompted his previous opposition to the Messianic movement, but he does not explain the root of his malevolence. His adversarial actions were clearly "over the top" and his actions amounted to a personal vendetta.

I was persecuting: Grk. diōkō, impf., may mean (1) to make to run or flee, put to flight, drive away; or (2) in any way whatever to harass, trouble, molest one; pursue, hunt, persecute. Paul did both of these things (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2). In the LXX diōkō is used primarily of pursuit by hostile soldiers (Ex 15:9), or by anyone whose intentions are hostile (Gen 31:23), and translates several Hebrew verbs, but chiefly radaph (SH-7291), to pursue, chase or persecute (DNTT 2:805). Paul confesses the truth and will later admit to Timothy of being a blasphemer, persecutor and violent aggressor (1Tim 1:13).

the congregation: Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 2 above. of God: See verse 1 above. Noteworthy is the use of "God" rather than "Yeshua." The congregation of which Paul speaks was the assembly of followers of Yeshua originally in Jerusalem and then scattered into the Diaspora because of persecution. The constituency of the original "congregation of God" was almost entirely Jewish. Paul alludes to the fact that the Yeshua movement had become the true worshipers of God and the faithful remnant having received the benefit of the New Covenant through the blood of Yeshua (cf. Matt 21:43; Luke 20:16; John 4:21-24; Acts 20:28; Rom 9:6, 27; 11:5-7; 2Cor 3:12-14; Heb 10:26-31).

and destroying: Grk. portheō, impf. (from perthō, "to ravage"), aor. part., annihilate, destroy, lay waste, plunder, ravage, ruin (LSJ). The verb occurs only three times in the Besekh (Acts 9:21 and verse 23 below), all of which refer to the persecution instigated by Paul. In Greek literature the verb was used of soldiers ravaging a city (Rienecker). The verb is used of Antiochus Epiphanies plundering Jerusalem and killing Jews (4Macc 4:23; 11:4). Josephus uses the verb for the ravaging of Jerusalem by the Babylonians (Ant. X, 8:2) and the Romans laying waste to villages around Masada (Wars, IV, 7:2). it: personal pronoun; i.e., the congregation. Paul's extreme reaction to the Messianic movement began in AD 31 with the stoning of Stephen in which he participated (Acts 7:51-60).

The persecution against the disciples of Yeshua erupted in spite of the advice of Gamaliel, Paul's former teacher, to leave the Yeshua movement alone (Acts 5:38-39). The persecution did not have the sanction of the Sanhedrin, and was no doubt fueled by the hatred of men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Acts 6:9), of which Paul was likely a member. Yet, the Sanhedrin did nothing to prevent mistreatment of members of Yeshua's congregation. Paul was then given authority to drag followers of Yeshua from their homes and put them in prison (Acts 8:3). Afterward "breathing threats and murder against disciples," he obtained letters of authority from the high priest to arrest disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:1-2). He was totally committed to wiping out the Messianic movement (Acts 9:21).

14 And I was advancing in Judaism above many contemporaries in my nation, being exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

And: Grk. kai, conj. I was advancing: Grk. prokoptō, impf., move forward in a condition or circumstance; go ahead, advance, make progress. The verb originally meant to cut one's way forward (LSJ). in: Grk. en, prep. Judaism: Grk. Ioudaismos. See the previous verse. above: Grk. huper, prep. See verse 4 above. many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj., extensive in scope, whether in quantity or quality. contemporaries: pl. of Grk. sunēlikiōtēs, a person of one's own age group. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. in: Grk. en, prep. my: first person pronoun. nation: Grk. genos, "line of descent," used here to mean a people group with common experience and shared interests; people, nation.

being: Grk. huparchō, impf., to function or be in a state as determined by circumstance; to be or exist. The imperfect tense denotes continuous action in past time. The force of the verb in this context is to point out an existence different from his life as a follower of Yeshua. exceedingly: Grk. perissōs, adv., extraordinary in number, size or quality; greatly, exceedingly, abundantly, vehemently. zealous: Grk. zēlōtēs, one who is passionately devoted to a person or a thing. A few versions interpret the noun as "fanatical zeal" (GW, NOG, Phillips). Cohen comments that the language of "zeal" had currency in first-century Jewish circles; the revolutionaries whom Josephus calls "Zealots" probably depicted themselves as zealots for God and Torah, inspired by such verses as Numbers 25:11 and 1Kings 19:10, 14.

of the traditions: pl. of Grk. paradosis, tradition, whether long-standing or current. The term refers here to customary practices intended to fulfill Torah commandments. of my: first person pronoun. fathers: pl. of Grk. patrikos, paternal, belonging to ancestors, equivalent to handed down by or received from one's fathers. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. The phrase "traditions of the fathers," synonymous with "traditions of the elders" (Matt 15:2; Mark 7:3, 5), alludes to the teachings and practices of Pharisees, which they attributed the great Jewish Sages and whom they referred to as "fathers" (cf. Matt 23:9). Josephus writes, "the Pharisees have delivered to the people a great many observances by succession from their fathers, which are not written in the laws of Moses" (Ant. XIII, 10:6).

Paul was apparently among those Pharisees who gave greater authority to man-made traditions than the written Word of God, and placed greater value on legalistic customs over the needs of people, which Yeshua strongly rebuked (Matt 15:6; 23:13-33). The Pharisees had viewed Yeshua as a sinner for impugning their sacred traditions (John 9:16, 24). Paul's self-description of "advancing beyond his contemporaries" does not relate to his persecution of followers of Yeshua, but of his devotion to Phariseeism. He could be alluding to his standing in the academy of Gamaliel where he no doubt distinguished himself as a superior student, perhaps graduating magna cum laude.

The student of Gamaliel excelled so much and was so well-respected that he was given a formal position among the Judean leaders. In his last defense speech Paul comments that he "cast a vote against" the Messianic believers to put them to death (Acts 26:10). The verbal phrase does not mean simple concurrence with a vote, but membership in a group that makes decisions by voting. This group might have been the Small Sanhedrin or the Temple ruling council, considering his age ("young man," Acts 7:58). To have such an important position Paul would have been at least thirty at the time.

15 But when the One having separated me from the womb of my mother and having called me by His grace, was pleased

But: Grk. de, conj. used to indicate (1) a contrast to a preceding statement or thought; (2) a transition in presentation of subject matter; or (3) a connecting particle to continue a thought (Thayer). The first meaning applies here. when: Grk. hote, temporal adv., at which time. the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as demonstrative pronoun and circumlocution for God. See verse 1 above. having separated: Grk. aphorizō, aor. part., to select or separate, used here to mean set apart for a special purpose. In the LXX aphorizō occurs about 50 times and translates a dozen different Hebrew words, most with the connotation of consecrating, dividing, separating or setting apart (DNTT 1:472). Relevant to Paul's usage, the verb occurs in passages of consecrating Aaron and his sons as priests (Ex 29:24, 26-27; Lev 10:15; Num 8:11).

me: first person pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 4 above. the womb: Grk. koilia, abdomen, here the female reproductive organ. of my: first person pronoun. mother: Grk. mētēr (for Heb. ima) refers to a biological female parent, although occasionally the word is used for someone who served as a surrogate mother or was like a mother. Gill notes that the name of Paul's mother was given as Theocrita. Paul's specific use of the verb aphorizō in connection with "the womb" occurs in the LXX only in Exodus 13:12 of devoting the first offspring of every womb to ADONAI. Thus, Paul was consecrated to ADONAI because he was the firstborn of his mother. In this parental act of complying with the Torah Paul recognized the sovereign plan of God at work.

and: Grk. kai, conj. having called: Grk. kaleō, aor. part., to call, used here in the sense of soliciting participation. Isaiah (Isa 49:1) and Jeremiah (Jer 1:5) were also called "from the womb," but Paul makes no claim to be equal to those great prophets. me: first person pronoun. by: Grk. dia, prep. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. grace: Grk. charis. See verse 3 above. Paul was fully cognizant that he obtained salvation solely by an act of God's grace. The resurrected Yeshua had accused Paul of unlawful persecution (Acts 9:5). Under the Torah making a false charge to put an innocent person to death is itself a capital crime deserving of death (Ex 23:7; Lev 24:17; Num 35:30-31; Deut 19:16-20; cf. Acts 26:10).

Thus, Paul repeatedly declares himself a beneficiary of God's grace (Rom 1:5; 5:2; 12:3, 15:15; 1Cor 3:10; 15:10; Gal 2:9; Eph 3:7-8; 1Tim 1:13-15). was pleased: Grk. eudokeō, aor., to be well pleased, to consider something beneficial and therefore worthy of choice, and then to take delight in that choice. The verb actually introduces a sentence that continues in the next verse and explains the cause of God's pleasure.

16 to reveal His Son in me in order that I might proclaim Him in the nations, immediately I consulted not flesh and blood,

to reveal: Grk. apokaluptō, aor. inf., to cause to be fully known, to reveal, disclose or make known. In the LXX of Isaiah 53:1 apokaluptō translates Heb. galah (SH-1540), to uncover or remove. The verb often occurs to denote truth or facts divinely hidden for a time and then revealed to those whom God chose to receive the truth. His: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Son: Grk. ho huios, a male offspring or descendant, whether by direct birth or by remote ancestry. The term is also used in the broader sense of having the characteristics of. In the LXX huios translates Heb. ben (SH-1121, "son," "son of"), which has the same range of meaning. Yeshua constantly referred to God as his Father to which the Pharisees vehemently objected (John 5:18). The phrase "His Son" occurs ten times in Paul's letters and alludes to Yeshua's title "Son of God."

For Jews during this time "son of God" was used as a title for the promised human descendant of King David (2Sam 7:12), the Messiah, who would establish and rule over the Kingdom of God on earth (Luke 1:31-35; John 1:17, 41, 49; 11:27). "Son of God" was a title of the Davidic king inasmuch as the king functioned as God's regent on earth and was vested with God's authority. Thus, after his transformation Paul declared to the Jews in Damascus that Yeshua was the Messiah and Davidic King of Israel (Acts 9:20-22). In contrast Christianity has traditionally restricted the meaning of the title "Son of God" to deity, the second person of the Trinity. However, the title embraces the fullness of the incarnation (Php 2:5-8).

in: Grk. en, prep. me: first person pronoun. The phrase "in me" implies spiritual and mental insight, but also alludes to a life change as a result of the revelation of Yeshua while en route to Damascus. See my commentary on Acts 9:3-9. God's pleasure was derived from being able to reveal in glorious fashion Yeshua, the Son of God, to the malevolent unbelieving Pharisee, to bring light to his darkened soul and persuade him of the error of his ways. in order that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. I might proclaim: Grk. euangelizō, pres. mid. subj. See verse 8 above. Him: Grk. autos, i.e., Yeshua. in: Grk. en. the nations: pl. of Grk. ho ethnos, humans belonging to a people group.

In the LXX ethnos generally translates Heb. goy (SH-1471; pl. goyim), "nation, people" (DNTT 2:790). The term ethnos is first used in Genesis 10 to describe the list of seventy nations, then of descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:2) and then even more specifically of Israel (Ex 19:6; Deut 4:6; Ps 106:5; Isa 9:1). The plural form of ethnos is often used in the Besekh to mean non-Israelite peoples or Gentiles (e.g., Matt 6:32; Luke 12:30; Acts 4:25; 13:48; 14:27; 22:21), but also national populations that included Jews (Matt 12:21; 24:14; 28:19; Acts 10:35; 17:26). The plural ethnos can also mean "the uncircumcised," which included both Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews (Gal 2:9). Paul refers to the commission given to him by Yeshua, "to bear my name before nations, and both kings and sons of Israel" (Acts 9:15). Paul's ministry was to be fulfilled primarily in the Diaspora rather than the land of Israel.

immediately: Grk. eutheōs, adv., immediately, forthwith, or right away. The adverb is a dramatic device that energizes the narrative, often shifting the reader's attention to another scene. The adverb introduces what Paul did not do, which might have been expected under the circumstances. I consulted: Grk. prosanatithēmi, aor. mid., to put oneself upon another by going to him, i.e. to commit or betake oneself to another for the purpose of consulting him, hence, to consult, to take one into counsel (Thayer). not: Grk. ou, adv. flesh: Grk. sarx, flesh, often of the tissue that covers the skeleton, but also has a variety of figurative uses. and: Grk. kai, conj. blood: Grk. haima, the fluid that circulates in the principal vascular system of human beings and vertebrate animals, blood.

Gill comments that it was usual with Jews to call men, in distinction and opposition to God, "flesh and blood." Having received the supernatural revelation of Yeshua on the King's Highway and a direct commission from the Lord for apostolic ministry Paul did not believe he needed anyone's advice or approval to act on his commission. Of interest is that Luke reported that after his sight was healed Paul remained among the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:19) and then used the adverb eutheōs to say that immediately Paul began to proclaim Yeshua in the local synagogues (Acts 9:20).

17 nor went up to Jerusalem to the apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia and again returned to Damascus.

nor: Grk. oude, conj. See verse 1 above. went up: Grk. anerchomai, aor., to go up or come up from a lower place to a higher. The verb emphasizes the change in topography and elevation from Damascus to Jerusalem. to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim (SH-3389), which means "possession" or "foundation of peace" (BDB 436). Hierosoluma is one of two forms of Jerusalem in Greek, the other being Ierousalēm. The spelling of Hierosoluma used for the city in the Roman province of Judea is found in the secular writings of Strabo and Dio Cassius and the Jewish writings of Philo and Josephus (BAG).

Situated in the Judean hill country 2500 feet above sea level the city covered seven mountains: Mount Zion, Mount Ophel, Mount Moriah, Mount Bezetha, Mount Acra, Mount Gareb, and Mount Goath (Neil 289). Jeremias estimated the resident population of the city in the time of Yeshua at about twenty–five to thirty thousand (252). For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. Jerusalem is the city God favors above all other cities and the focus of His covenantal faithfulness (Ezek 5:5; Zech 2:8). Jerusalem figured prominently in Messianic expectation (Isa 59:20; 62:11; Zech 9:9) and is the "city of the great king" (Matt 5:35).

to: Grk. pros, prep., lit. "near or facing" (DM 110), and in composition may be translated as 'at,' 'to,' 'towards' or 'with.' the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos. See verse 1 above. before: Grk. pro, prep. indicating precedence, and used here to indicate "earlier than." me: first person pronoun. The phrase "the apostles before me" may refer to the Twelve as constituted in Acts 1 or the chief apostles, Peter, Jacob (the half-brother of Yeshua) and John. In this statement Paul recognizes their authority derived from Yeshua, yet in Paul's mind they are equals. He did not view himself as subordinate to them. but: Grk. alla, conj. The conjunction introduces what Paul did after his initial proclamation of Yeshua in Damascus. I went away: Grk. aperchomai, aor., to be in movement from a position with or without mention of a destination; to go away, depart or leave.

into: Grk. eis. Arabia: Grk. Arabia, from Heb. Arab, SH-6152, "a desert plateau, steppe" (BDB 787). Arabia is mentioned several times in the Tanakh (1Kgs 10:15; 2Chr 9:14; Isa 21:13; Jer 25:24; Ezek 27:21). The Roman government identified three locations with the name of Arabia: Arabia Petraea, Arabia Deserta, and Arabia Felix (Gill). Josephus places Arabia to the east of Perea, the country beyond Jordan that also borders on Judea, the capital of which was Petra (Ant. XIV, 1:4; Wars, III, 3:3). Paul does not use the Roman names to precisely locate his destination, but he most likely meant Arabia Petraea. See the map here.

Pliny the Roman historian also used Arabia Petraea for the territory that divided Judea from Egypt, i.e. the Sinai peninsula (Natural History, Book V, Chap. 12). In the Bible "Arabia" refers generally to the territory of the Transjordan and the Negev (Cohen; Atlas 89). Some speculate that Paul may have journeyed as far south as Mount Horeb as Elijah did (1Kgs 19:8). Given the biblical use of Arabia Paul probably alludes to the Nabataean Kingdom, which included the Sinai peninsula south of Idumea, land east of the Decapolis and the Tetrarchy of Philip. For the history of the Nabataeans see the article at

The Nabataean Kingdom was at the height of its power under Aretas IV (9 BC‒AD 40), mentioned by Paul in another letter (2Cor 11:32). Arabia Petraea was conveniently close to Syria. Even so this was a large territory in which to travel. Luke and Paul are silent on the route of travel and cities visited. There is no indication that the hiatus of Paul in Arabia for at least two years was a religious retreat to prepare for future ministry. There were Jewish communities in Arabia as evidenced by the presence of their citizens at Peter's Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:11).

The existence of Jewish settlements in Arabia may also be inferred from the Mishnah (Shabbat 6:6, 144b; Oholoth 18:10). Considering Paul's personality and the divine commission, his sojourn was probably spent visiting synagogues (cf. Acts 9:20), and proclaiming the good news of Yeshua. Paul could have also brought the message of Yeshua to the Arabians themselves, who were descendants of Ishmael (Josephus, Ant. I, 12:2). It is very likely that the congregations in Arabia later reported by Eusebius (Church History VII, Chap. 5; VIII, Chap 12) began as a result of Paul's ministry.

Such a lengthy evangelistic campaign could not have been carried out alone, and he must have had one or more assistants as he did on later journeys in the Diaspora. It would be natural that Ananias, a veteran evangelist from the mission of the Seventy and witness to Paul's call and commission, accompanied him for some part of that ministry.

and: Grk. kai, conj. again: Grk. palin, adv. See verse 9 above. returned: Grk. hupostrephō, aor., to go back to a position, to return or turn back. to: Grk. eis, lit. "into." Damascus: Grk. Damaskos, a transliteration of Heb. Dammaseq, a very ancient city (cf. Gen 14:15) located in a fertile plain northeast of Mt. Hermon and about 60 miles east of Sidon, the Mediterranean port city. Its geographical location enabled Damascus to become a dominant trading and transportation center. Its major exports included a patterned cloth called "damask" (Ezek 27:18). Three major caravan routes passed through Damascus. The city owed its prosperity to two rivers, the Abana and the Pharpar (2Kgs 5:12). Through its history the city because of its strategic location was dominated by the major empires. See a summary of the ancient city's history here.

Noteworthy is the fact that Paul does not describe his ministry in Damascus after his return, the plot by local Jewish leaders to kill him or the dramatic rescue that enabled his escape. See my commentary on Acts 9:23-25.

Paul's Story, Part 2, 1:18-24

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to make acquaintance with Kefa, and I remained with him fifteen days.

Then: Grk. epeita, adv. with the idea of addition as a component; thereupon, then. after: Grk. meta, prep. used to mark association or accompaniment, or as here sequence or position; after, behind. three: Grk. treis, adj., the number three. years: pl. of Grk. etos, a period of twelve months. The start point for the time reference is Paul's commission from Yeshua to be an apostle (AD 32), so three years would mean the year 35. The time reference also coincided with Paul's escape from Damascus. I went up: Grk. anerchomai, aor., 1p-sing. See the previous verse. to: Grk. eis, prep. Jerusalem: See the previous verse.

to make acquaintance with: Grk. historeō, aor. inf., get to know or learn by inquiring; to gain knowledge by "visiting" which conducts "a full interview" (HELPS). The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Luke's narrative of Paul's return to Jerusalem is recorded in Acts 9:26-30. According to Luke, Barnabas facilitated the introduction of Paul to the chief apostles. Paul states here that his purpose for going to Jerusalem was to meet the chief apostle, whom he did not know personally. Paul did not go to Jerusalem to report to higher authorities or to study under the great apostles, but to collaborate with fellow apostles.

Kefa: Grk. Kēphas ("rock"), a transliteration of the Hebrew name Kęfa ("kay-fah," "rock"), the name given Simon son of Zebedee by Yeshua (John 1:42). Kēphas is translated in the Greek by Petros, "Peter." Besides the verse in John, the Greek name Kēphas appears only 8 other times in the Besekh, all in two letters of Paul (1Cor 1:12; 3:22; 9:5; 15:5; Gal 1:18; 2:9, 11, 14). For a summary of Kefa's life and ministry see my article Simon Peter: Fisherman-Apostle. and: Grk. kai, conj. I remained: Grk. epimenō, aor., to continue or persist in a local position; remain, stay. with: Grk. pros, prep. generally used in marking a destination or goal, here as a marker of close association; at, close by, near or with. him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun, i.e. Peter.

fifteen: Grk. dekapente, adj., the number fifteen. days: pl. of Grk. hēmera, day, refers here to the civil or legal day that included the night. Paul may imply that he and Peter shared lodging, but he does not mean that he restricted his time to being solely with Peter. Luke says that Paul spent some of his time speaking boldly about Yeshua and debating with Hellenized Jews, trying to convince them of the good news (Acts 9:28-29). Luke's account does not give the time period of Paul's stay in Jerusalem, but it was cut short by an attempt on his life.

19 But I saw none other of the apostles, except Jacob, the brother of the Lord.

But: Grk. de, conj. I saw: Grk. horaō, aor., to perceive physically with the eye, or in a fig. sense to experience something or to have extraordinary mental or inward perception. none: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 1 above. other: Grk. heteros, adj. See verse 6 above. of the apostles: pl. of Grk. apostolos. See verse 1 above. except: Grk. ei mē, lit. "if not." Jacob: Grk. Iakōbos is a Grecized form of Iakōb ("Jacob"), which transliterates the Heb. Ya'akov ("Jacob"), "James" in Christian versions. Barker commits the faux pas of saying, "Strangely, no one is named James in the Old Testament" (161). Actually, there is no one named "James" in the New Testament either. The son of Isaac held great honor among the people of Israel and so it is not surprising that five different men bear this name in the Besekh.

the brother: Grk. adelphos. See verse 11 above. of the Lord: Grk. kurios. See verse 3 above. "Lord" is used here as a substitute for Yeshua. Paul makes an important statement here. This "Jacob" is the son of Joseph of Nazareth and half-brother of Yeshua. Yeshua had four half-brothers: Jacob, Judah, Joseph and Simon (Matt 13:55), as well as at least two unnamed half-sisters (Matt 13:56). Nothing is known of these siblings in the apostolic narratives but that they were the children of Miriam and Joseph and resided in Nazareth. Contrary to the Catholic tradition that Yeshua was the only child Miriam ever bore, Matthew (13:55), Mark (6:3), Luke (Acts 1:14) and Paul use adelphos (lit. "of the same womb," a male sibling) and not suggenēs ("connected by lineage, relative") to describe the relationship between Yeshua and his brothers.

According to Hippolytus (170-236, On the Seventy Apostles), Jacob was one of the seventy men Yeshua sent out to announce the Kingdom of God (Luke 10:1-11). Yeshua made a personal appearance to Jacob after his resurrection (1Cor 15:7) and then Jacob was among the disciples filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:14). At some point Jacob became the leader in the Jerusalem congregation, which Luke recognizes in his narrative (Acts 12:17; 15:12). Jacob also wrote a letter of encouragement and exhortation to Messianic Jews in the Diaspora, which is included in the Besekh. For more on the background and life of Jacob, son of Joseph and Miriam, as well as the literary history of how "Jacob" came to be "James," see my article The Letter of Jacob: Introduction.

20 Now what I write to you, behold, before God that 'I am not lying.'

Now: Grk. de, conj. what: pl. of Grk. hos, relative pronoun used to give significance to the mention of a person, thing, or piece of information that precedes; who, which, what, that. I write: Grk. graphō, pres., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. to you: pl. pronoun of the second person. behold: Grk. idou, aor. imp., demonstrative interjection (derived from eidon, "to see"), that arouses the attention of hearers or readers. The Greek verb, like its corresponding Heb. word hinneh (SH-2009, e.g., Gen 1:29), serves to enliven divine monologues and narratives, particularly as a call to closer consideration and contemplation of something, to introduce something new or to emphasize the size or importance of something; (you) see, look, behold (BAG).

before: Grk. enōpion, prep., from a word meaning "facing" with the basic idea of being 'in sight of' or 'in the presence of.' God: See verse 1 above. Since God is omnipresent and omniscient He is always aware of our thoughts and actions. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 6 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce a quotation, presented as one might declare under oath in a legal proceeding. I am not: Grk. ou, adv. lying: Grk. pseudomai, pres. mid., to state what is false, to willfully misrepresent the facts. Paul affirms that his autobiographical narrative contains no embellishments or misleading statements. He does not imply that he recounts everything that could be known (and Luke will later record), but that what he does write is the unvarnished truth.

21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

Then: Grk. epeita, adv. See verse 18 above. I went: Grk. erchomai, aor., to come or arrive with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. According to Luke's narrative "the brothers," i.e. leaders of the Jerusalem congregation escorted Paul from Jerusalem to Caesarea so that he could return home. See my commentary on Acts 9:30. into: Grk. eis, prep. the regions: pl. of Grk. klima, a small geographical division, district, or territory. The description indicates travel by land. The mention of regions indicates travel by land. of Syria: Grk. Ho Suria, a Roman imperial province, bounded on the north by the Taurus and Amanus ranges, on the east by the Euphrates and Arabia, on the south by Galilee, and on the west by Phoenicia and the Mediterranean. Antioch was the capital.

and: Grk. kai. Cilicia: Grk. Ho Kilikia, a Roman province bounded on the north by Cappadocia, Lyesonia and Isauria, on the south by the Mediterranean, on the east by Syria, and on the west by Pamphylia. Its capital, Tarsus, was the birthplace of Paul. Cilicia and Syria actually formed one Roman province. Paul would end up spending ten to twelve years in Cilicia before rejoining Luke's narrative in Acts Chapter Eleven. Paul does not explain what he did in those intermediate years, but given his commission from Yeshua he would have kept on proclaiming the good news and planting congregations as he did in Arabia. Luke's narrative of the second Diaspora journey mentions congregations in Cilicia (Acts 15:23, 41).

22 And I was unknown by face to the congregations of Judaea, the ones in Messiah,

And: Grk. de, conj. I was: Grk. eimi, impf. mid. See verse 7 above. unknown: Grk. agnoeō, pres. pass. part., to be without personal knowledge of something; be ignorant, be uniformed. by face: Grk. prosōpon, the front part of the human head, by which someone is identified, but used here in the sense of personal encounter. to the congregations: pl. of Grk. ekklēsia. See verse 2 above. of Judaea: Grk. Ioudaia, a transliteration of the Latin provincial name of Iudaea. In the LXX Ioudaia translates Heb. Y'hudah ("praised," SH-3063), Judea or the Kingdom of Judah, first in Ruth 1:1. The territorial name of Ioudaia could refer to:

(1) the historic territory of that lay between Samaria on the north and Idumea on the south. Judea was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and the east by the Jordan River (Acts 1:8). (See the map.) (2) the Roman province of Judaea formed in AD 6, comprised of Samaria, Judea and Idumea with its capital at Caesarea (Acts 2:9; 10:37). (See the map.) The second meaning is most likely intended here.

the ones: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. in: Grk. en, prep. Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 1 above. The phrase "the ones in Messiah" denote Jewish assemblies that were Messianic, which included congregations in Sychar (Acts 8:5), Caesarea (Acts 8:40; 18:22), Lydda (Acts 9:32) and Joppa (Acts 9:38, 43). Paul speaks of these congregations as they existed in AD 31, and of which he had no part in planting.

23 but they were only hearing that 'the one formerly persecuting us, the faithful which formerly he was destroying, is now proclaiming the good news.'

but: Grk. de, conj. they were: Grk. eimi, impf., 3p-pl. See verse 7 above. only: Grk. monon, adv. marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. hearing: Grk. akouō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 6 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce the following quotation. the one: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. formerly: Grk. pote, adv. See verse 13 above. persecuting: Grk. diōkō, pres. part. See verse 13 above. us: pl. pronoun of the first person. the faithful: Grk. ho pistis (from peithō, "to persuade, be persuaded"), incorporates two primary facets of meaning, first that which causes trust and faith, i.e., faithfulness or reliability, and second, trust or confidence in an active sense (BAG).

In the LXX pistis is used two times to render Heb. emun, 'faithfulness' (SH-529; BDB 53; Deut 32:20; Prov 13:17). Over 20 times pistis translates Heb. emunah, firmness, steadfastness, or fidelity (SH-530; BDB 53), mainly of men's faithfulness (1Sam 26:23; 2Kgs 12:15; 22:7; Jer 5:1, 3; 7:28; 9:3; Hos 2:20), but also of God's faithfulness (Ps 33:4; Lam 3:23; Hab 2:4). The LXX usage emphasizes that the intended meaning of pistis is faithfulness. So in this context "ho pistis" does not stand for religious belief or doctrine, but qualifies the pronoun "us." The object of Paul's destructive campaign was the congregation of Messiah (verse 13 above), those living as faithful disciples of Yeshua.

which: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 20 above. formerly: Grk. pote. he was destroying: Grk. portheō, impf. See verse 13 above. is now: Grk. nun, adv., marker of time in the present; now or just now. proclaiming the good news: Grk. euangelizō, pres. part. See verse 16 above. Those who heard the story of Paul were completely amazed that someone so bent on the destruction of the Messianic movement should now be one of its strongest and most ardent advocates.

24 And they were glorifying God in me.

And: Grk. kai, conj. they were glorifying: Grk. doxazō, impf., enhance esteem or reputation through word (of praise) or action to honor. In the LXX doxazō translates Heb. navah (SH–5115), to beautify, adorn with praises (Ex 15:2), but principally kabad (SH–3513), to be weighty, to be honored or praised (Lev 10:3; Ps 15:4). God: See verse 1 above. in: Grk. en, prep. me: pronoun of the first person. When the news of Paul's transformation reached the Judean congregations disciples in one accord blessed God. Their praise would be mixed with relief that God had put an end to Paul's persecution.

Works Cited

Atlas: Oxford Bible Atlas, Second Edition. ed. Herbert G. May. Oxford University Press, 1974.

BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.

Barker: William P. Barker, Everyone In the Bible. Fleming H. Revell Co., 1966.

BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.

Cohen: Shaye J.D. Cohen, Annotations on "Galatians," Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.

DM: H.E. Dana & Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament. The Macmillan Co., 1955.

DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.

Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.

GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]

HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at

Jeremias: Joichim Jeremias, Jerusalem in the Time of Jesus. Fortress Press, 1975.

Le Cornu: Hillary Le Cornu and Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians. Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry (Israel), 2005.

Lightfoot: John Lightfoot (1602-1675), A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1859 ed.), 4 Vols. Hendrickson Pub., 1989. Online.

LSJ: Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (1889). rev. by Sir Henry Stuart Jones. Clarendon Press, 1940. Online

Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.

Moseley: Ron Moseley, Yeshua: A Guide to the Real Yeshua and the Original Church. Lederer Books, 1996.

Neil: James Neil, Palestine Explored. James Nisbet & Co., 1882.

Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.

Ridderbos: Herman N. Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia. William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1953. (New International Commentary on the New Testament)

Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vol. Zondervan Pub. House, 1980.

Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.

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