Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 16 December 2019; Revised 4 September 2020
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 Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at EarlyJewishWritings.com. 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 BibleHub.com. 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.
Foolishness in Galatia, 3:1-5
Faithfulness of Abraham, 3:6-9
Fate of Legalism, 3:10-14
Future Hope in Messiah, 3:15-18
Fiduciary Role of Torah 3:19-24
Faithfulness of Yeshua, 3:25-29
Chapter Three continues Paul's rebuke of the toleration of legalistic doctrine of the Judaizers in all four congregations of Galatia, while at the same time offering a high view of the purpose of the Torah. Paul employs rabbinic style discourse with considerable use of Tanakh passages to support his reasoning, which demonstrates that he writes to people who know the Scriptures. Christian interpretation has traditionally viewed Paul's rhetoric as contrasting personal faith versus "works of the Law" as the means of salvation. However, Paul in no way disparages the Torah or implies that it ceased to have authority. When he speaks of "works" he means legalistic observance of Pharisee traditions. Paul's essential point is that salvation is the result of Yeshua's faithfulness, not our faith.
Foolishness in Galatia, 3:1-5
1 O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you? Before whose eyes Yeshua the Messiah was publicly portrayed as having been crucified.
O: Grk. Ō, the last letter of the Greek alphabet, but used here as an interjection. When the address is intended to carry special force the inflectional particle omega ("ō") is used (DM 71). The special usage of the omega letter with vocative case nouns is found in both classical Greek writings and Jewish literature (BAG). foolish: Grk. anoētos, adj., voc., not thought on, not understood, pertaining to being without sense; mindless, dense, unintelligent, unwise. Galatians: pl. of Grk. Galatēs, voc., inhabitant of the Roman province of Galatia. The noun occurs only here in the Besekh. Galatia included the districts of Paphlagonia, Pontus Galaticus, Phrygia Galatica, Lycaonia Galatica, and Pisidia. See the map here. For a history of Galatia, see the summary at UNRV.
Initial 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. Having expressed his astonishment by labeling the offenders in the Galatian congregations as "foolish," Paul proceeds to pose six confrontational questions to expose the inherent fallacy in Judaizer doctrine.
who: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun indicating interest in establishing something definite; who, which, what, why. bewitched: Grk. baskainō, aor., give the evil eye to, fascinate, bewitch, overpower. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. The confrontational question is not to be taken literally, since Paul knew who had gone to Galatia spreading the heresy of salvation by circumcision. Propagating the Judaizer doctrine was equivalent to the casting of spells, thus causing confusion.
Before: Grk. kata, prep. that generally expresses measure and the idea of something associated with or lining up with something else in terms of manner, direction, reference, position, or the like; down, against, according to. whose: 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. eyes: pl. of Grk. ophthalmos, the physical organ of sight, eyes. The phrase "before whose eyes" refers to the constituents of the Galatian congregations.
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.
was publicly portrayed: Grk. prographō, aor., may mean (1) to write in a time that is prior; or (2) set forth for general notice, to placard. The second meaning applies here and no doubt alludes to the sign that Pilate had posted on the cross of Yeshua (John 19:19). as having been crucified: Grk. stauroō, perf. pass. part., cause to undergo physical crucifixion; crucify. In the LXX the verb occurs only in Esther 7:9 to render Heb. talah (SH-8518), to hang, used in reference to the execution of Haman. The Judean authorities did not personally crucify Yeshua, but their decision to hand over Yeshua to Pilate made them responsible. For a description of Yeshua's crucifixion see my note on Mark 15:13. Paul affirms that he had shared the graphic details of Yeshua's sacrificial death fulfilled as prophesied in Scripture.
The Textus Receptus following many MSS, mostly late and none before the 5th c., inserts "not to obey the truth" after "bewitched you." Metzger says the phrase was borrowed from 5:7 (524). The phrase is included in several versions (DRA, JUB, KJV, NKJV, WEB, YLT).
2 This only I wish to learn from you: did you receive the Spirit from works of legalism, or from hearing of faithfulness?
This: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun signifying a person or thing set forth in narrative that precedes or follows it; this. only: Grk. monon, adv. marking a narrow limitation; merely, just, only. I wish: Grk. thelō, pres., to have a desire for something or have a purpose for something; will, wish, desire. to learn: Grk. manthanō, pres. inf., to acquire knowledge, whether through instruction or receipt of information or through example and experience; learn. In the LXX manthanō mostly translates Heb. lamad (SH-3925), grow accustomed to, make oneself familiar with, learn (Deut 4:10) (DNTT 1:484). from: Grk. apo, prep. used generally as a marker of separation, here denoting causal origin; from. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. Paul poses another confrontational question.
did you receive: Grk. lambanō, aor., 2p-pl., to lay hold of by actively accepting what is offered, take or receive. the Spirit: Grk. ho pneuma (for Heb. ruach, Resh-Vav-Chet), wind, breath or spirit; here referring to the Holy Spirit. Pneuma is used for the human spirit and transcendent beings (Matt 8:16; Heb 1:14), particularly the Spirit as God's self-expression (Gen 1:2; Mark 1:10). Paul alludes to the fact that disciples in Pisidian Antioch had been filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52). The Spirit was also active in Iconium and Lystra enabling Paul to perform signs and wonders (Acts 14:3, 9). from: 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). works: pl. of Grk. ergon may mean (1) task assignment; (2) deed, action or (3) a work or product. The second meaning applies here.
of legalism: Grk. nomos (from nemō, distribute; 'that which is generally recognized as customary') may mean either (1) a principle or standard relating to behavior or (2) codified legislation, i.e. law. In the LXX nomos translates torah, which means "direction," "teaching" or "instruction" (BDB 435f). In the Tanakh torah not only refers to commandments, statutes and ordinances decreed by God and given to Moses, but also custom or manners of man, e.g. direction given by priests (Deut 24:8; 33:10). Torah sets forth the way to live in an ethical and moral way in order to enjoy life to the full and to please God. In normal Jewish usage in the first century the term Torah could mean the commandments given to Israel at Sinai and Moab (Matt 12:5; John 8:5) or the entire Pentateuch (Matt 22:40; John 1:45).
Interpreting nomos to mean the Torah in this verse presents a conundrum, because Paul clearly uses nomos in a negative sense. Christian versions translate nomos as "the law" or "the Law," even though there is no definite article, by which they intend the code of 613 commandments (Torah) given at Sinai and Moab and recorded in Exodus through Deuteronomy. The phrase "works of the Law" is generally treated in Christian interpretation as performing commandments set forth in this code. Perfect obedience of all 613 commands would be required to be considered righteous, which is impossible to achieve. So, Yeshua eliminated the requirement by canceling the Torah and Christian scholars quote Romans 10:4 as support. However, the Christian paradigm ignores Yeshua's own statement that he did not come to abolish the Torah (Matt 5:17). In fact, Yeshua rebuked anyone who would even venture such a false proposition (Matt 5:19).
Paul's negative use of nomos is not an indictment of the commandments God gave to Israel through Moses. In later writings Paul demonstrates a very high view of the Torah and its continuing authority (Rom 7:12, 14; 8:4; 15:4; 1Tim 1:8; 2Tim 3:16-17). The phrase ergōn nomou is in the genitive case, which hints at Paul's intention. In Greek the genitive case is the case of definition or description and is adjectival in function (DM 72). The genitive qualifies the meaning of an associated noun and would ordinarily be translated literally with "of."
Given the heresy that sparked the controversy, Paul likely uses nomos here to mean customs of the Pharisees, especially those actions of which one would boast (Luke 18:11-12). These Pharisee expectations created unreasonable burdens on people (Matt 23:4; Acts 15:10). A perfect example is the thirty-nine categories of work prohibited on the Sabbath (Shabbath 73a). The CJB translates the phrase ergōn nomou as "legalistic observances of Torah commands" and the TLV has "deeds based on Torah." I have sought to simplify the meaning of nomos here with "legalism." For a detailed discussion of Pharisaic legalism see my article Law vs. Legalism.
or: Grk. ē, conj. used to denote an alternative. from: Grk. ek. hearing: Grk. akoē may mean (1) hearing as a sensory faculty or (2) that which is heard; fame, report, rumor, message, proclamation. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX of Isaiah 53:1 akoē renders Heb. shemua (SH-8052), a report delivered by a messenger. Paul uses the noun to allude to his own proclamation of the good news of Yeshua. of faithfulness: Grk. 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 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. Paul alludes to the faithfulness of Yeshua as he mentioned in the previous chapter. The faithfulness of Yeshua was manifested by his obedience to the Father's will of serving as an atoning sacrifice (Rom 4:25; 8:3; 2Cor 5:21).
3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in Spirit, are you being perfected now in flesh?
Are you: 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). 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. foolish: Grk. anoētos, adj. (from noeō, "not thought on, not understood"), being without sense; mindless, dense, foolish, unintelligent. Having begun: Grk. enarchomai, aor. part., to begin, make a beginning, commence. in Spirit: Grk. pneuma. See verse 2 above. Paul alludes to the new birth, being born from above by the Holy Spirit. are you being perfected: Grk. epiteleō, pres. pass., 2p-pl., to finish what has begun; complete, perfect.
now: Grk. nun, adv., marker of time in the present; now or just now. in flesh: Grk. sarx, often of the tissue that covers the skeleton, but also has a variety of figurative uses. The noun is used here to emphasize human or mortal nature, with its limitations apart from divine influence. Some commentators interpret Paul's use of sarx here to mean a carnal observance (Barnes, Ellicott, Gill, Poole). Barnes offers the pejorative interpretation of sarx as "observance of the carnal rites of the Jews." Poole says similarly, "carnal ordinances imposed on the Jews." As a theological word of Christianity "carnal" means worldly appetites, sold out to sin and thus hostility to God (HBD). The Jews had no carnal rites! The ceremonies conducted at the Temple in Jerusalem were mandated by God.
To label Jewish rites as carnal is to accuse God of being the author of sin. Circumcision was not a carnal act, but a covenantal requirement of all Jews. The customs of the Pharisees, while certainly picayune, functioned as an ethical framework to be obedient to God's commandments. Ridderbos offers a better interpretation of sarx, that it is simply human nature in itself, the human without the strength and power of God. The term is not opposed at this point to the Spirit as Paul depicts in 5:16-18. So, Paul uses sarx here in the sense of human effort. Paul's sarcastic question accuses the foolish ones of an attempt at self-atonement, as if circumcision and keeping Pharisee customs could substitute for Yeshua's atoning sacrifice on the cross.
4 Did you suffer so many things in vain, if indeed also in-vain?
Did you suffer: Grk. paschō, aor., 2p-pl., to experience something, but often with a negative connotation in association with physical pain or ill treatment; suffer. so many things: pl. of Grk. tosoutos, demonstrative pronoun used to express intensity relative to something mentioned in context. in vain: Grk. eikē, adv., without sufficient reason or good cause, to no purpose. if: Grk. ei, conj., a contingency marker, generally used to introduce a circumstance assumed to be valid for the sake of argument. indeed: Grk. ge, an emphatic particle with focus on the preceding words; assuredly, at least, indeed. also: Grk. kai, conj. in vain: Grk. eikē.
In Luke's narrative Paul and Barnabas suffered persecution at the hands of unbelieving Jewish leaders in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:50), in Iconium (Acts 14:2) and in Lystra (Acts 14:19). Paul implies that disciples in those cities also suffered trials and troubles, either coincidentally with his persecution or after his departure from the area. So, why embrace the Judaizers who believed the same as the persecutors of the disciples?
5 Therefore, the One supplying to you the Spirit and working miracles among you, was it from works of legalism or from hearing of faithfulness?
Therefore: Grk. oun, an inferential conj., which is used here to indicate a conclusion connected with data immediately preceding, "so, therefore, consequently, then." the One: Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a circumlocution for God. supplying: Grk. epichorēgeō, pres. part., give, grant, supply, provide (perhaps lavishly), or furnish. to you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. the Spirit: Grk. ho pneuma. See verse 2 above. The phrase "One supplying the Spirit" could refer to the Father (Luke 11:13; John 14:26) or the Son (John 15:26), probably the former. Luke also mentions the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on disciples in Galatia (Acts 13:52).
and: Grk. kai, conj. working: Grk. energeō, pres. part., may mean (1) to be vigorous in pursuit of an objective; be active, work, operate; or (2) to bring about; work, produce, effect. The second meaning applies here. miracles: pl. of Grk. dunamis, from dunamai, the quality or state of being capable, here as an exhibition of a singular capability, a powerful or wondrous deed or miracle. The creation scientist, Dr. Henry Morris, offers the helpful distinction between creation miracles, which he calls Grade A miracles, that require setting aside the laws of science, and providential miracles, or Grade B, that intervene in and manipulate existing natural processes (BBMS 81f). By definition only God can perform creation miracles. Most of the miracles recorded in the apostolic narratives, especially those of healing, are Grade B. The creation miracles are often called "signs and/or wonders."
among: Grk. en, prep., generally used to mark position within, but it 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 position with the sense "in the presence of" (Thayer). you: Grk. humeis. At the Jerusalem conference Paul and Barnabas recounted that they had performed signs and wonders during their first journey (Acts 15:12). Luke only recorded one creation miracle that took place in Galatia, the healing of the crippled man in Lystra (Acts 14:10). However, the plural noun dunamis likely intends a number of providential miracles that occurred during Paul's Galatian ministry.
was it from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. works of legalism: Grk. ergon nomos. See verse 2 above. The very suggestion that a miracle could result from keeping a Pharisee custom is laughable. or: Grk. ē, conj. from: Grk. ek, prep. hearing of faithfulness: Grk. akoē pistis. See verse 2 above. Paul repeats the confrontational question in verse 2 above with a modification of the premise. The previous form of the question mentioned receiving the Spirit, but here Paul adds the fact that by the power of the Spirit he had performed miracles in Galatia. The messengers of Yeshua performed miracles in his name, not their own, and in so doing validated the truth of the good news. The Judaizers produced no such effects to validate their teaching.
6 Just as Abraham "trusted God, and it was credited to him for righteousness,"
Just as: Grk. kathōs, adv. Abraham: Grk. Abraam, a transliteration of Heb. Avraham, a personal name. The first Hebrew patriarch, he became the prime example of trusting faithfulness. He was the son of Terah, a descendant of Noah's son, Shem (Gen 11:27). He grew up in Ur of the Chaldees, a prominent Sumerian city. He was known at the beginning as Abram ("father is exalted"), but his name was changed subsequently to Abraham ("father of a multitude") (Gen 17:5). Abraham was living in Haran when God called him to migrate to Canaan, and during his sojourn there God spoke to him and established a covenant with him. For more information on the great patriarch see my web article The Story of Abraham.
Paul then quotes from Genesis 15:6. trusted: Grk. pisteuō, aor., to have confidence in the reliability or trustworthiness of some thing or someone. In the Besekh the verb often has the sense of a personal trust in God's power and His nearness to help. In the quoted passage from the LXX pisteuō translates Heb. aman (SH-539), to be reliable, to stand firm, trust, believe, be faithful. The Hebrew verb is perfect tense (Owens 55), denoting a completed action. The verb describes a heart response of believing-trust that motivated a lifetime of faithfulness. Abraham is often criticized by Christian interpreters because of assumed inconsistency, bad judgment or outright misconduct. However, no criticism can be found in Scripture of Abraham's actions and Abraham never did anything that was later prohibited in Scripture.
God: Grk. ho theos, God or god, which must be determined from the context. In secular Greek writings a number of deities, always represented in anthropomorphic form, were called theos. In ancient polytheistic culture theos was not one omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Creator and ruler of the universe as described in Scripture (Gen 1─3; John 1:1-3). In the LXX theos primarily renders the name of the Creator God Elohim (2568 times), but sometimes YHVH (300 times) (DNTT 2:67-70). The only God in existence is the God who created the heavens and the earth out of nothing (Gen 1:1) and who chose Israel out of all the nations on the earth for a covenantal relationship (Ex 19:5; Isa 44:6; 45:5-6; 46:9). In the Besekh theos is used overwhelmingly for the God of Israel. The God of Israel is the only God there is.
and: Grk. kai, conj. it was credited: Grk. logizomai, aor. pass., to count or calculate in a numerical sense, but also used fig. with the idiomatic meaning of infer, conclude, presume, to think upon, or ponder. In the quoted passage from the LXX logizomai translates Heb. chashav (SH-2803), to think or account, which is used in the sense of to estimate value or to calculate or compute something, to think in a certain way, to consider (BDB 362). The Hebrew verb is consecutive imperfect (Owens 56), which indicates a repetitive action. to him: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. for: Grk. eis, prep. that focuses on entrance, frequently in relation to direction and limit, and may be translated as "into, to, toward, for, among" as the context requires. Here the preposition complements the verb to indicate completion of the verbal action.
righteousness: Grk. dikaiosunē, a state that is in accord with standards for acceptable or anticipated behavior, uprightness, righteousness, justice. In the LXX dikaiosunē normally renders Heb. tsedaqah (SH-6666), first used in Genesis 15:6 of Abraham's faithfulness being considered as righteousness. The noun is often used to describe the character of God (Ps 5:8; 35:24; Isa 5:16; 42:21; Jer 9:24), as well as the Davidic king, the Messiah (Ps 72:1; Jer 23:5) (DNTT 3:354). In the Tanakh the concept of tsedaqah refers to right or ethical character and behavior that is in keeping with the covenantal relationship with God.
Paul does not imply that the righteousness of Abraham was only a status imputed to him by God. Rather, God considered Abraham to be actually righteous. God could make this determination because Abraham's believing-trust led him to be faithful in obeying specific personal and covenantal instructions (Gen 12:1, 4; 13:14-18; 15:1-6, 9-10; 17:9-12, 19, 23; 21:4), as well as in keeping all of God's ethical and moral commandments (Gen 26:5).
7 know, then, that those from faithfulness, these are sons of Abraham.
know: Grk. ginōskō, pres. imp., to know, used here in the sense of forming a judgment or drawing a conclusion. In the LXX ginōskō renders Heb. yada, which in most occasions refers to a personal knowledge, whether of knowing persons or knowing by experience, as well as knowing by learning from a teacher (DNTT 2:395). then: Grk. ara, conj., a marker of inference based on a preceding matter or statement; so, then. that: Grk. hoti, conj., is used to (1) define a demonstrative pronoun; that; (2) introduce a subordinate clause as complementary of a preceding verb; (3) introduce a direct quotation, functioning as quotation marks; and (4) indicate causality with an inferential aspect. The second usage applies here. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a relative pronoun.
from: Grk. ek, prep. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 2 above. The noun is used here not of Yeshua's faithfulness, but the response of people to the good news of Yeshua. The attribute of faithfulness is at the heart of what it means to be a disciple of Yeshua. Being faithful means that the disciple has an unwavering commitment of loyalty to Yeshua, regardless of opposition or temptation, as well as a commitment to obey all that Yeshua had commanded his disciples (Matt 28:20). See my article Disciples of Yeshua.
these: pl. of Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. sons: Grk. huios, generally a male offspring or descendant and used (1) to identify direct paternity; (2) to mean not the actual father but a more distant ancestor; or (3) to mean in a broader sense of having the characteristics of. The third usage applies here. In the LXX huios renders Heb. ben (SH-1121, "son," "son of"), which has the same range of meaning. of Abraham: See the previous verse. Abraham, of course, had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac (Gen 25:9), but in the Besekh the description is used by Paul in Pisidian Antioch of Abraham's biological descendants through Isaac (Acts 13:26). The majority of disciples in Galatia were Jewish, but there were many Gentiles and Paul could consider them also as sons of Abraham in a spiritual sense.
Being identified as a "son of Abraham" is a high honor. Of interest is that Yeshua described Zacchaeus as a "son of Abraham" (Luke 19:9), even though he was unjustly maligned for collecting taxes on behalf of the Romans and defamed by Christian interpreters as a crook. See my article The Defamation Against Zacchaeus. Women are not barred from this honorific. Yeshua identified a godly woman afflicted by Satan for eighteen years as a "daughter of Abraham" (Luke 13:16), because she remained faithful to God in spite of her physical suffering. Being a son or daughter of Abraham implies that the person manifests the character and faithful conduct of Abraham. Anyone that just "believes in Jesus" and goes on sinning (Rom 6:1) cannot claim to be a son of Abraham.
8 Then, the Scripture having foreseen that from faithfulness God acquits the nations, foretold the good news to Abraham, that, "All the nations will be blessed in you."
Then: Grk. de, conj. the Scripture: Grk. ho graphē, writing, and in the Jewish context and apostolic usage meaning the sacred Hebrew Bible (24 books) referred to by the acronym "Tanakh," and corresponding to the Christian Old Testament (39 books). The term "Scripture" summarizes the body of literature containing God's inspired, infallible, inerrant words penned by over 25 writers, from Moses to Malachi. The Tanakh reveals God's plan for a Messianic Savior and salvation. This is the only Bible Yeshua and the apostles knew and as Scripture they upheld its authority over the philosophies and traditions of men.
having foreseen: Grk. prooraō, aor. part. (from pro, "before" and horaō, "see"), properly, see before or "ahead of time," generally about the Lord's revelation that enables someone to foresee (HELPS). that: Grk. hoti, conj. See the previous verse. The conjunction is used here to introduce a clause that complements the verb "having foreseen." from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 2 above. This faithfulness is of Yeshua. God: Grk. theos. See verse 6 above.
acquits: Grk. dikaioō, pres., may mean (1) verify to be in the right; or (2) put into a condition or state of uprightness. The great majority of Bible versions translate the verb dikaioō here with "would justify," which can be misleading for two reasons. First, the verb is present active, but "would justify" is future subjunctive, which introduces an element of contingency or potential. Paul affirms that God always acquits on the basis of His faithfulness. Second, "justified" can misrepresent what God actually does. In the LXX dikaioō renders Heb. tsadaq (SH-6663), a verb with two categories of meaning: (1) as a condition or character quality, be in the right, be just or righteous (Gen 38:26), and (2) in the administration of justice, to declare right, to vindicate, or prove right, to acquit or be acquitted, or to be cleared of wrongdoing (Ex 23:7) (DNTT 3:355).
The Hebrew and Greek verbs function as a word picture of a trial with a heavenly Judge and a righteous standard against which people are evaluated. One case before the court is an innocent person wrongly accused. The outcome of that trial vindicates the person's character and he is acquitted. Throughout the Tanakh the verb tsadaq occurs only in this vindication scenario. In other words the person is actually righteous and the verb describes the defense of that person's character. The same usage of dikaioō may also be found in the Besekh (Matt 11:19; 12:37; Luke 7:29; 10:29; 16:15; Rom 3:4; 4:2; 1Cor 4:4; 1Tim 3:16).
However, in most instances in the Besekh dikaioō is used to depict a different trial in which the accused is guilty. The defendant before the bar of God is definitely a sinner, a law-breaker. No witnesses and no evidence can be presented to demonstrate innocence. Acquittal is not deserving, but yet in response to humble confession and repentance God, the Supreme Judge, offers mercy and forgiveness, and then grants pardon, release from condemnation and cancellation of the deserved punishment, thereby creating a relationship of favor with God (Rom 4:5; 5:1; 8:1-2; 1Cor 6:11; Gal 2:16-17; 3:8, 11, 24; 5:4; Titus 3:7). Yeshua uses dikaioō to make this point in the story of the humble tax collector (Luke 18:13-14).
Paul does not confuse dikaioō with the terms that describe spiritual birth and regeneration (John 3:5-7; 2Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Eph 1:5; Col 2:13) and sanctification of the heart by the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16; 1Cor 6:11; 1Th 5:23; 2Th 2:13; Titus 3:5). However, the judicial act of God to cancel the sin debt admits the believer into the company of the righteous and calls the redeemed person to a life of righteousness (Rom 4:25; 6:17-18; 10:8-9; 2Cor 5:21; Gal 5:5).
What might be described as the first work of grace is not complete and final, but the entry point of a new relationship. God desires His people to be holy (Eph 5:27; Col 1:22). A new heart provides the motivation for becoming righteous, but the divine work to make someone fully righteous does not occur in a moment of time. Righteousness is something to be pursued (1Tim 6:11; 2Tim 2:22; cf. Matt 5:6). See my note on the doctrine of justification in relation to Paul's sermon in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:38-39).
the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos, humans belonging to a people group distinguished by language and culture. In the LXX ethnos generally renders 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; cf. Acts 10:22). In the Besekh the plural form of ethnos is generally used to mean non-Israelite peoples or Gentiles (e.g., Matt 6:32; Luke 12:30; Acts 4:25; 13:48; 22:21). The plural form includes those nations identified by names and borders in which Jews also dwelled (cf. Matt 28:19; Luke 24:47; Acts 14:16; 17:26).
foretold the good news: Grk. proeuaggelizomai, aor. mid., announce good news in advance. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. to Abraham: See verse 5 above. that: Grk. hoti. The conjunction is used here to introduce a direct quotation, functioning as quotation marks. Paul then quotes from Genesis 12:3. All: pl. of Grk. pas, adj., comprehensive in scope, but without statistical emphasis; all, every. the nations: pl. of Grk. ethnos. will be blessed: Grk. eneulogeō, fut. pass., to confer benefits on, or to bless. In the quoted verse eneulogeō translates Heb. barak (SH-1288), to kneel or bless. in: Grk. en, prep. you: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. The singular pronoun refers to Abraham.
While Christians take the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3 to apply to all peoples on the earth, the LXX makes clear that the promise was first to the direct descendants of Abraham who would enter the land.
LXX Genesis 12:3, "And in you all the families [Heb. mishpachah, family; Grk. phulē, tribe] of the land [Heb. adamah, ground, land; Grk. gē] will be blessed."
This was an important reminder to the Galatian congregations since their constituency was primarily Jewish, and the Gentiles in those congregations are only blessed because of the covenantal promise to Abraham.
9 So then, those from faithfulness are blessed along with faithful Abraham.
So then: Grk. hōste, conj. which connects cause to necessary effect and emphasizes the result; so that, therefore, so then, so as to. those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a relative pronoun. from: Grk. ek, prep. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 2 above. Paul alludes to those acquitted, Jews and Gentiles, because of the faithfulness of Yeshua and then are faithful to him. are blessed: Grk. eulogeō, pres. pass., may mean (1) to invoke divine favor; or (2) to express high praise, to bless, to offer a blessing. The first meaning applies here. The corresponding Heb. verb barakh denotes an endowment of favor or beneficial power (cf. Gen 1:28), ordinarily transmitted from the greater to the lesser, here from God to man.
along with: Grk. sun, prep. used to denote association or close identification. faithful: Grk. pistos, adj., may mean (1) characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; or (2) believing or trusting with commitment. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX pistos translates the participle of the Heb. verb aman (SH-539), made firm or sure, lasting (first in Num 12:7). Abraham: See verse 6 above. Paul alludes to the promise given to Abraham that in him all his descendants and all the nations of the earth would be blessed because of his faithfulness and that of his Messianic Seed (Gen 12:3; 18:8; 22:18).
Fate of Legalism, 3:10-14
10 For as many as are from works of legalism are under a curse, for it is written that, "Cursed is everyone who is not continuing all things having been written in the book of the Torah, to do them."
Paul introduces another logical fallacy of the Judaizer doctrine. 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 fourth use is intended here. as many as: Grk. hosos, correlative pronoun signifying maximum inclusion; how much, how great, how many, as many. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. works of legalism: Grk. ergōn nomou. See verse 2 above. This is the third mention of the expression in this chapter.
are: Grk. eimi, pres. under: Grk. hupo, prep., may be used to indicate (1) agent or cause; by; (2) a physical or social position that is relatively lower; (3) time, equivalent to 'about;' or (4) being subject to the power or authority of another. The fourth meaning applies here. a curse: Grk. katara, imprecation or curse, which refers to the content of a curse. In the LXX katara translates the Heb. qelalah (SH-7045; BDB 887), curse, first in Genesis 27:12. In the Torah the term is generally of a divine pronouncement of judgment on prohibited behavior a curse (e.g., Deut 11:26-29; 30:1-19).
for: Grk. gar, conj. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass. part., to write or inscribe as a physical act, generally in reference to a document. The phrase "it is written" is the standard formula in the Besekh for attesting an assertion of truth and divine inspiration of Scripture, normally followed by a quote from the Tanakh. Portions of Torah were written on tablets (Ex 32:15), but mostly scrolls were used (Ex 24:4; Deut 17:18; 25:58; Josh 1:8; 1Sam 10:25; Jer 36:4). that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 7 above. The conjunction is used here to introduce a direct quotation, functioning as quotation marks. Paul then quotes from Deuteronomy 27:26.
Cursed: Grk. epikataratos, adj., under divine judgment due to curses being invoked upon someone. In the LXX epikataratos translates Heb. arar (SH-779), to curse, first in Genesis 3:14. The term appears first in the Besekh where Pharisees asserted that the common people were accursed because the did not know Torah (John 7:49), i.e., because they did not observe Pharisee customs. is everyone: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 8 above. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 1 above. is not: Grk. ou, adv., a particle used in an unqualified denial or negation; no, not. continuing: Grk. emmenō, pres., abide in a fixed place, which may have geographical emphasis or the sense of persistence in something, which is the intention here.
all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. things: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having been written: Grk. graphō, pl. perf. pass. part. Paul's use of the past tense participle alludes to the fact that Moses wrote the Pentateuch and reflects traditional Jewish belief in verbal inspiration of the Tanakh, i.e., "God spoke and Moses wrote" (e.g., Ex 17:14; 19:7; 21:1; 24:4; 34:27; Deut 4:44; 31:9). in: Grk. en, prep. the book: Grk. biblion, a book, a scroll or a document. The noun is the diminutive form of biblos, derived from an older form bublos, which originally meant the papyrus plant, or its fibrous stem, that was exported to Greece through the port of Byblos in Syria where the plant was prepared.
In the LXX biblion translates Heb. sēpher, which was used for anything that has been written, such as a scroll, book, writing, letter, diary, or a legal document. Biblion is also used in the LXX for individual books of Scripture (Dan 9:2), but most importantly as a solemn expression for the Torah (Deut 17:18; 28:58; cf. Heb 9:19). of the Torah: Grk. nomos. See verse 2 above. The mention of "book" indicates that Paul intends nomos here to refer to the Torah, specifically Deuteronomy. to do: Grk. poieō, aor. inf., a verb of physical action that may refer to (1) producing something material; or (2) to be active in bringing about a state of condition. The second meaning applies here. The infinitive expresses purpose. them: pl. of Grk. autos, personal pronoun, which alludes to the commandments of the Torah.
According to Jewish tradition there are 613 commandments in the Torah, first mentioned by Rabbi Simlai (3rd cent. A.D.) (Makkot 23b), but the traditional enumeration of the commandments is attributed to Moses Maimonides, the Medieval historian and scholar. The warning of Deuteronomy 27:26 is one of the many curses pronounced on Mount Ebal (Deut 27:15-26; 28:15-68) that would come about if Israel flagrantly disobeyed all the commandments of God given at Mount Sinai and the supplemental commandments given in Moab. Paul realized that the legalism of the Judaizing Pharisees resulted in being accursed because they were selective in the commandments they chose to obey (cf. Matt 15:1-7; 23:23).
Thus Paul points out that if the Judaizers are going to insist that Gentile believers be circumcised and keep all Pharisee traditions, then they must also keep all 613 commandments given by God. Some of the commandments, such as those requiring the circumcision of infants, the mezuzah on doors and the kosher diet, were only intended for Israel to mark the nation as "holy to ADONAI," which is evident by the use of "for you." or "to you" (e.g., Ex 31:13-14; Lev 11:4-38; 16:29-31; 20:25-26; Deut 6:9; 11:20). Then the commandments requiring animal sacrifices would be problematic. Keeping the "whole law" would mean that animal sin offerings were still required, but to do so would be tantamount to rejecting the atonement provided by Yeshua's death.
Moreover, a very important commandment pertained to the prophet to come who would be like Moses (Deut 18:15). That prophet was to be obeyed. That prophet was Yeshua (Acts 3:17-26; 7:37). Yeshua instructed his apostles to make disciples that would obey everything that he had commanded (Matt 28:20). Yeshua never required Gentile believers to be circumcised and keep Pharisee customs. Since the Judaizers rejected Yeshua's instruction, they were automatically accursed.
Now: Grk. de, conj. that: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 7 above. by: Grk. en, prep. legalism: Grk. nomos. See verse 2 above. no one: Grk. oudeis, adj., used to indicate negation of a person or thing as actually existing at a given place or moment. The adjective rules out by definition and leaves no exceptions (HELPS). is acquitted: Grk. dikaioō, pres. pass. See verse 8 above. before: Grk. para, with the root meaning of beside (DM 108), conveys association between persons, things, or circumstances, which may denote (1) a point of origin, from; or (2) a close association or proximity, with, beside, in the presence of. The second usage applies here. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. is evident: Grk. dēlos, adj., evident or clear to the mind. that: Grk. hoti, used here to make an inference by a direct quotation of Habakkuk 2:4.
the righteous: Grk. dikaios, adj., being in accord with God's covenantal standards expressed in Torah for acceptable behavior, upright or just. In the LXX dikaios renders Heb. tsaddiq ('just or righteous' BDB 843). In Scripture a just person is one who is blameless or innocent of wrongdoing, one who follows the ethical and moral demands of Torah. The KJV translates the adjective as "the just." will live: Grk. zaō, fut. mid., to live, to be possessed of vitality, to exercise the functions of life (Mounce). from: Grk. ek, prep. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 2 above. Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:4 to support his argument in which the LXX says,
"ὁ δὲ δίκαιος [but the righteous] ἐκ [out of] πίστεώς [faithfulness] μου [my] ζήσεται [will live]."
Paul quotes the LXX exactly, but omits the personal pronoun "my." The LXX shows that God’s faithfulness is the focus in Habakkuk 2:4, which is Paul's point here as indeed throughout the letter, as well as in Romans 1:17 where he repeats the principle. All Bible versions apparently rely on the Masoretic Text for this passage, which has the third person masculine singular of emunah, "his faithfulness" (Owens 4:870), and which these versions take to mean the righteous man's faith[fulness]. There are two alternatives for explaining this discrepancy.
The first alternative is that the MT is defective. Generally not considered by commentators is that the MT originated with Rabbi Akiva in the early second century and in his hatred of apostolic teaching he superintended the editing of the Hebrew Tanakh to remove support for Messianic prophecies or so at least the Hebrew text would not agree with what was being quoted in apostolic writings which relied on the LXX. (See Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History, and Daniel Gruber, Rabbi Akiba's Messiah: The Origins of Rabbinic Authority, 1999). The MT of Habakkuk 2:4 could then reflect Akiva's theology of a man creating righteousness by his own faithfulness to a system of works.
The second alternative is that the MT actually supports the LXX. Kohlenberger's interlinear gives this literal translation: "y'cheyeh [he-will-live] b'emunah'to [by-faith-of-him] v'tzadiq [but-righteous]," or "the righteous man will live by the faithfulness of him." The reason that Bible versions miss the point is because of how Habakkuk 2:3 is commonly translated.
"For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end - it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay." (ESV)
The Hebrew text of Habakkuk 2:3 actually has masculine singular verbs, "He will come" and "He will not delay" (Owens 4:870). Translating these verbs as neuter (as Owens and Bible versions do) obscures the focus on God as the originator of the action. God is going to do something; the "something" won't happen by itself. (Pasteur refuted the theory of spontaneous generation.) In context then, the righteous person will live because of the faithfulness of the One who would come and not delay. This promise is the foundation of Paul's argument.
12 And legalism is not from faithfulness; on the contrary, "the one having done these things will live by them."
And: Grk. de, conj. legalism: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 2 above. With the definite article ("the law") Paul could mean "the law of the Pharisees." is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 10 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 2 above. Paul could mean that salvation by rule-keeping denies salvation by God's faithfulness to His covenantal promises. Considering the passage he now quotes he makes a different observation. Keeping Pharisee traditions should not be confused with loyalty to the God of Israel manifested by keeping the Ten Commandments. Yeshua drew a sharp contrast between these two approaches to meeting God's expectations (cf. Matt 15:1-6).
on the contrary: Grk. alla, conj., adversative particle used adverbially to convey a different viewpoint for consideration; but, on the other hand. Paul then states a general principle of the Torah that is expressed in various passages (Lev 18:5; 25:18; Deut 4:40; 8:1; 30:16). the one: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. having done: Grk. poieō, aor. part. See verse 10 above. these things: 3p-pl. Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Paul uses the plural pronoun to refer to the commandments of Torah, specifically God's ethical and moral expectations, rather than the extensive set of Pharisee rules.
will live: Grk. zaō, fut. mid. See the previous verse. by: Grk. en, prep. them: 3p-pl. Grk. autos. From the viewpoint of the Torah obedience to God's commandments would result in a good, peaceful and prosperous life full of blessing in the land of promise (Deut 28:1-14). However, God warned Israel that failure to obey His expectations would result in judgment (Deut 28:15-68; 30:17-18). The future tense of "live" could also point to the final salvation experienced in the Kingdom to be established in the return of Yeshua.
13 Messiah redeemed us from curse of the Torah, having become a curse for us, because it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree,"
Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 1 above. redeemed: Grk. exagorazō, aor., (from ek, "out from" and agorazō, "purchase in the market"), in Classical Greek literature meant to buy in a commercial sense for one's use; thus, take full advantage of, seizing a buying-opportunity (HELPS). Mounce has (1) to buy out of the hands of a person; to redeem, set free (here and Gal 4:5); and (2) to rescue from loss or misapplication (Eph 5:16; Col 4:5). The verb does not occur in the LXX or any other Jewish literature, but BAG and Thayer note that the verb was used by two Greek historians. Polybius (208-125 BC), used the verb in the commercial sense of buying boats (The Histories, Book 3, 42.2). Diodorus Siculus (90-30 BC) used the verb to mean "purchase a maidservant from her master for marriage" (Library of History, Book XXXVI, 2.2).
Paul's use of the verb is another testament to his knowledge of Greek vocabulary and indicates that he was probably familiar with the Greek histories. The use of the verb by Diodorus would appeal to Paul, because of its connection to marriage. Paul will later build on the concept of divine marriage and Yeshua as the sacrificial bridegroom (Eph 5:23-32). Of interest is that Paul does not use lutroō, to release or redeem by paying a ransom, as in Titus 2:14 in regard to Yeshua's atoning sacrifice. us: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The plural pronoun means "us Jews" or "us Israelites." from: Grk. ek, prep. the curse: Grk. ho katara. See verse 10 above. of the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 2 above. The noun refers here to code of commandments given to Israel.
Stern offers the interpretation that Yeshua redeemed those who trust in him from the curse pronounced in the Torah at Deuteronomy 27–28. However, "curse" is singular, not plural. God pronounced almost 100 curses in Deuteronomy 27–28 that would come upon Israel for disobedience. In contrast Christian interpreters typically understand the "curse of the Torah" as the dominion of the Mosaic law. The antinomian gospel says, "It's a curse to have to live by God's commandments." However, the Torah was not a curse, but a blessing. The Torah code of commandments was really designed as a curse containment system. Considering the end of this verse the "curse of the Torah" must be the curse of death pronounced on Adam and his seed because of sin (Gen 3:17-19; cf. Rom 5:14; 1Cor 15:22).
having become: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. part., to transfer from one condition to another, which may be expressed in one of three ways: (1) come into being by birth or natural process, be born; (2) exist through application of will or effort by a person; be made; or (3) undergo change or development; come to be, become, take place, happen. The third meaning applies here. a curse: Grk. katara. for: Grk. huper, prep. that denotes extending a benefit, emphasizing here a replacement aspect; in place of, instead of, in the name of. us: Grk. hēmeis. because: Grk. hoti, conj. See verse 7 above. The conjunction is used here to denote causality. it is written: Grk. graphō, perf. pass. See verse 10 above. Paul then offers a midrashic translation of the middle clause of Deuteronomy 21:23.
Cursed is: Grk. epikataratos, adj. See verse 10 above. The LXX has the verb kataraomai, to curse, followed by "under God" (hupo theou). everyone: Grk. pas, adj. See verse 8 above. hanging: Grk. ho kremannumi, pres. mid. part., to hang, hang up or suspend, which translates Heb. talah (SH-8518, to hang) in the quoted passage. Paul adds the definite article, lit. "the one hanging." The verb is used elsewhere of the execution of Yeshua (Acts 5:30; 10:39). Hanging was one of the four approved methods of capital punishment among the Jews (Sanh. 7:1).
on: Grk. epi, prep. a tree: Grk. xulon, a product of a fibrous plant, a growing tree, but also anything made of wood, including an instrument of punishment, such as a gallows or a stake on which a criminal was impaled, a gibbet or the cross-bar of a crucifixion stake (LSJ). Xulon occurs 20 times in the Besekh, five of which refer to the implement of Yeshua's execution (Acts 5:30; 13:29; Gal 3:13; 1Pet 2:24). In the LXX xulon translates Heb. ets (SH-6086), tree, first in Genesis 1:11. The Hebrew word ets is also used to mean a gallows or gibbet on which someone is hung (Gen 40:19, 23; Deut 21:22; Josh 8:29; 10:26; Esth 2:23; 7:9-10) and the LXX renders ets with xulon in those passages. Death was by strangulation.
Paul presents the axiomatic statement as possessing great theological import for the suffering of the Messiah on a Roman cross. By surrendering himself to the death normally accorded a criminal Yeshua took the curse of death on himself in order that his people might be freed from the curse God imposed on sin (Gen 3:17-19). Stern notes that the idea that the Messiah can be cursed contradicts some traditional Jewish notions about the Messiah, but the idea of a Messiah who suffers in sympathy and in company with the people of Israel is well known in Judaism. Yeshua's suffering on the cross went beyond sympathy to be substitutionary (cf. Isa 53:5-6, 10). The crucifixion of Yeshua represented the power of God for salvation (1Cor 1:18) and reconciliation between God and man (Eph 2:16). The cross of Messiah accomplished full atonement (Col 2:14).
14 in order that the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations in Messiah Yeshua, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faithfulness.
in order that: Grk. hina, conj. used to add an idea that completes an intention expressed, in order that, so that, that. the blessing: Grk. eulogia may mean (1) expression of high commendation, praise; or (2) bestowal of favor, blessing. The second meaning applies here. In the LXX eulogia translates Heb. b'rakhah (SH-1293; BDB 139), a blessing, often a wish prayer for God's favor manifested by prosperity and other practical benefits (e.g., Gen 27:28-29; 39:5). The term is most often used of blessing conveyed from God to man (Ex 32:29). of Abraham: See verse 6 above. The phrase "blessing of Abraham" first appears in Genesis 28:4, where it represents the covenantal promise of the land of Canaan to the descendants of Isaac and Jacob.
However, the "blessing of Abraham" also included the promise that Jacob would become an assembly of nations (LXX Gen 28:3, sunagōgas ethnōn). The blessing of Abraham is to be grafted into Jacob in order to receive the favor of God. might come: Grk. ginomai, aor. mid. subj. See the previous verse. to the nations: pl. of Grk. ho ethnos. See verse 8 above. Paul alludes to the covenant God made with Abraham in which he was promised to be the means for blessing to the nations (Gen 12:3; 17:4-5; 18:18; 22:18). The covenantal promise was repeated to Isaac (Gen 26:4) and Jacob (Gen 27:29; 35:11).
in: Grk. en, prep. Messiah Yeshua: See verse 1 above. Christian commentators interpret the "blessing of Abraham" as "justification by faith," but this viewpoint ignores the use of "blessing" in the context of the covenant God made with Abraham (Gen 12:3) before God ever declared the patriarch to be righteous (Gen 15:6). Abraham received this blessing because he was faithful in obeying God's commandments (Gen 26:4-5). However, the "blessing of Abraham" was to be provided through his Seed, the Messianic deliverer (Gen 22:16-18), as Paul will go on to elucidate.
so that: Grk. hina. we might receive: Grk. lambanō, aor. subj., 1p-pl. See verse 2 above. the promise: Grk. epangelia, promise, especially associated with God's covenantal promises to Israel. A promise from God is a guaranteed assurance. of the Spirit: See verse 2 above. Paul echoes the words of Peter in his Pentecost sermon, "Therefore having been exalted to the right of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out this that you both see and hear" (Acts 2:33 BR). The promise of the Spirit does not refer to a promise made by the Spirit, but the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Yeshua.
through: Grk. dia, prep. used as a prefix to a statement, which may express instrumentality or causality; here the former. faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 2 above. The noun with the definite article could mean "the faithful one," and function as a reference to Yeshua (verse 2 above). Salvation was made possible by Yeshua's faithfulness. The reference could also be of the Father, whom Yeshua said would send the Comforter in his name (John 14:26). Bible interpreters typically assign the pistis here to followers of Yeshua, but such an application requires that pistis mean more than just "faith" as commonly translated. The 120 disciples in the upper room did not receive the Spirit because they had "faith" that the Spirit would come, but because they were faithful in following the instructions of Yeshua (Acts 1:4; 2:1).
Future Hope in Messiah, 3:15-18
15 Brothers, I speak according to man: no one annuls even a testament of man having been confirmed, or adds to it.
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 renders 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). 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. A number of versions translate the noun as "brothers and sisters" (AMP, CEB, CSB, GW, NOG, NCV, NIV, NLT, NRSV, NTE, TLV).
Some versions have "brethren" (AMPC, ASV, KJV, NASB, NKJV, RSV, YLT), which can have the neutral meaning of "fellow members." Many versions have "brothers" (CJB, DLNT, ESV, HCSB, ICB, ISV, LEB, TLB, MEB, NABRE, NEB, NJB, NLV, RGT, WEB, WE), which would be more appropriate considering the confrontational nature of this letter. The direct address would include the elders of the congregations as well as prominent male leaders. 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.
I speak: Grk. legō, pres., to make a statement or utterance, whether mentally, orally or in writing, and often used to introduce quoted material. The focus of the verb may be declarative, interrogative or imperative. In the LXX legō renders Heb. amar (SH-559), to utter, say, shew, command or think. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 1 above. Here the preposition expresses the idea of something associated with or conforming to a standard. man: Grk. anthrōpos, human being, man or mankind, used here of mankind. In the LXX anthrōpos renders three Hebrew words (adam, ish, and enosh), generally of an adult male, husband or mankind (DNTT 2:564). The phrase "I speak according to man" is idiomatic for "I speak in terms of normal human relations" (AMP), and alludes to what is customary in the culture.
no one: Grk. oudeis, adj. See verse 11 above. annuls: Grk. atheteō, pres., may mean (1) to set aside as unworthy of consideration, and in a legal sense to invalidate, nullify or set aside; or (2) in relation to a person to reject, not recognize or break faith (BAG). The first meaning applies here. even: Grk. homōs, adv., considering another aspect; at the same time, all the same, yet, but yet, nevertheless, even. a testament: Grk. diathēkē, a formal arrangement for disposing of something in a manner assuring continuity. In the Besekh the term is used to mean (1) direction for disposal of earthly possessions after death, last will and testament (Heb 9:16-17); or (2) a covenant initiated by God with ones He favored (Rom 9:4). The first meaning applies here.
Stern inaccurately translates the noun as "oath," but Paul uses the term in this verse in accordance with contemporary convention. Such a declaration may be written or oral, as in a death bed declaration. The testament only takes effect after the death of the testator. In the LXX diathēkē translates Heb. b'rit (SH-1285), agreement, alliance, or compact initiated by men with men, or a covenant initiated by God (first in Gen 6:18) (DNTT 1:365). B'rit is never used of a testament because there was no need in Israelite society for one to be made. God decreed how inheritance would be distributed (Num 27:7-11; Deut 21:15-17).
of man: Grk. anthrōpos. The qualification "of man" indicates the testament Paul mentions is a legally enforceable will. having been confirmed: Grk. kuroō, aor. part., to give assurance, used here as a legal term meaning to ratify, or validate. Once a last will and testament was confirmed as legitimate, it was duly enforced. or: Grk. ē, conj. adds to it: Grk. epidiatassomai, pres. mid., make an additional testamentary disposition, furnish with additions. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. Paul alludes to the fact that no person could seek to modify a testament based upon a claim of what the testator really intended.
16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his Seed. It says not, "and to seeds," as of many, but as of one, "and to your Seed," who is Messiah.
Now: Grk. de, conj. the promises: pl. of Grk. epangelia, promise, especially associated with God's covenantal promises to the patriarchs and to Israel. A promise from God is a guaranteed assurance. were spoken: Grk. ereō, aor. pass., inform through utterance, here denoting speech completed. to Abraham: See verse 6 above. Paul affirms that God spoke directly to Abraham in verbal communication, which occurred on several occasions (Gen 12:1, 7; 13:14; 15:1, 5; 17:1; 18:13, 20, 26; 22:1-2). God made promises to Abraham on four occasions. The first time was when God called Abraham to leave Haran (Gen 12:2-3). God promised that He would make Abraham into a great nation, He would bless those who blessed Abraham and curse those who cursed him, and in Abraham all the families of the earth would be blessed.
The second time (Gen 13:14-17) God promised that all the land Abraham could see and walk through would belong to him and his "seed" (descendants) forever, i.e., the land of Canaan, and Abraham's "seed" would be as the dust of the earth. The third time (Gen 15:1-21) occurred when Abraham expressed concern for an heir and God promised Abraham an heir from his body, "seed" as the stars in the sky, and all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates, including the land of Canaan, for his descendants. The fourth time (Gen 17:1-8) God made the promise of an heir more specific by declaring that a son would be born of Sarah and he would be named Isaac. God also promised Abraham that he would be the father of a multitude of nations and that the land of his sojourning belonged to his "seed."
and: Grk. kai, conj. to his: Grk. autos, personal pronoun. Seed: Grk. sperma may refer either to the source (e.g. seed, semen) or the product of propagation (e.g., posterity, descendant). In the LXX sperma renders Heb. zera, sowing, seed for crops, semen, posterity, descendants or mankind collectively (SH-2233; BDB 282), first in Genesis 1:11. The singular sperma/zera can have a collective meaning. In the context of promises God made to Abraham, the mention of zera occurs ten times (Gen 12:7; 13:15, 16, 17; 15:5, 18; 17:7-8; 21:12; 22:17-18), all singular, which many Bible versions translate as plural "descendants." Since Paul does not provide the full quotation from Genesis the specific passage he had in mind is a matter of conjecture.
From a prophetic point of view every use of zera in these passages of covenantal promises could have a dual meaning, both the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob and one particular offspring. The specific promises related to the zera are these:
● The zera will be given the land of promise as an everlasting possession (Gen 12:7; 13:15; 17:8).
● The zera will be as the dust of the earth, which cannot be counted (Gen 13:16).
● The zera will be as the stars of heaven, which cannot be counted (Gen 15:5).
● The zera is/are the beneficiary of an everlasting covenant (Gen 17:7).
● The zera will be the offspring of Isaac (Gen 21:12).
● The zera will be as great (Heb. rabah, become many, much or great) as the stars of heaven and the sand of the seashore (Gen 22:17). Bible versions translate rabah as "multiply."
● The zera will possess the gates of his enemies (Gen 22:17).
● In the zera of Abraham all nations will be blessed (Gen 22:18).
It says: Grk. legō, pres. See the previous verse. Paul refers to the written Scripture. not: Grk. ou, adv. and: Grk. kai. to seeds: pl. of Grk. sperma. as: Grk. hōs, adv. of: Grk. epi, prep., lit. "upon." many: pl. of Grk. polus, adj. but: Grk. alla, conj. as: Grk. hōs. of: Grk. epi. one: Grk. heis, the cardinal number one. and: Grk. kai. to your: Grk. su, pronoun of the second person. Seed: Grk. ho sperma. In the LXX the specific construction tō spermati sou in relation to covenantal promises occurs specifically in Genesis 12:7; 13:15, 17; 15:18; 17:8 and 22:18. The last mention is probably the one Paul had in mind. who: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. Messiah: See verse 1 above.
Each of the promises made concerning the zera can pertain to the Messiah. First, the land of promise certainly belongs to the Messiah whose return is focused on the land of Israel and whose reign will be headquartered in Jerusalem. Second, the hyperbole of the zera being as the stars of heaven, the dust of the earth and sand of the seashore loses its meaning if the point was simply to assure Abraham of innumerable descendants when in reality descendants can be counted. The three products of creation represent the glory and power of God. Third, the promise of possessing the gates of enemies is spoken of an individual. The word "enemies" (Heb. oyeb) has a third person masculine singular suffix. Yeshua fulfilled this promise (cf. Matt 16:18; 1Cor 15:25; Col 2:15). Fourth, the atonement of Yeshua provides blessing to all nations (John 3:16).
17 But this I say: the covenant having been previously established by God, afterwards four hundred and thirty years having come, legalism does not annul so as to terminate the promise.
But: Grk. de, conj. this: Grk. houtos, demonstrative pronoun. I say: Grk. legō, pres. See verse 15 above. the covenant: Grk. diathēkē. See verse 15 above. In the context of this verse Paul uses the term to mean the covenant God made with Abraham. Stern again inaccurately translates the noun as "oath," but he does so based on his contention that b'rit can never be translated as "will" and that a will is one-sided, but a covenant is two-sided (696). The LXX usage of diathēkē for b'rit may seem strange God obviously cannot die. Perhaps the translators considered that at the heart of the divine-human covenant God was making a sacrifice of himself, by offering grace instead of wrath, mediated by the sacrificial and substitutionary offering of animals to expiate sin. God's covenant can be like a testament.
· Like a testament God made His covenants unilaterally and God alone set the terms. There was no negotiation to reach a mutually agreeable result. In this sense the divine covenants are one-sided.
· Like a testament God's covenant with Abraham and Israel is the expression of His will concerning His property (His people). After all, the concept of being "holy to ADONAI" (Ex 19:6) means to be His property.
· Like a testament God's covenant provides an inheritance for His people and instructions for distribution of that inheritance.
· Like a testament which requires a judicial act to enforce its terms, God acts as judge to enforce the terms of His covenant.
having been previously established: Grk. prokuroō, perf. pass. part., to establish beforehand, confirm or ratify previously. The verb occurs only here in the Besekh. by: Grk. hupo, pres. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. afterwards: Grk. meta, prep., may be used to (1) mark association or accompaniment; with, amid, among; or (2) mark position or sequence of time, after, behind. However, meta can also be used adverbially to mean "afterwards" (LSJ), which most likely Paul's intention here. The preposition introduces a significant time reference a Jewish audience would immediately understand.
four hundred: Grk. tetrakosioi, adj. (from tetra, "four" and hekaton, "a hundred"), the number four hundred. and: Grk. kai, conj. thirty: Grk. triakonta, adj., the number thirty. years: pl. of Grk. etos, a period of twelve months. having come: Grk. ginomai, aor. part. See verse 13 above. Paul alludes to the prophecy given to Abraham that "your seed will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, and they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years" (Gen 15:13 TLV). However, Moses later gave the time as "thirty and four hundred years" (Ex 12:40). Stephen also mentioned this time period in his defense sermon, although he specified four hundred years (Acts 7:6). For an explanation for the difference of these two numbers see my note The 400-Year Sojourn.
legalism: Grk. nomos. See verse 2 above. Note the absence of the definite article. Christian versions have "the Law," but Stern translates the noun as "the legal part of the Torah." However, God's moral code of commandments existed from the beginning (cf. Gen 2:9, 17; 6:5; 26:5) and was not instituted for the first time 430 years after Abraham. Bible versions uniformly translate this verse to interpret the period of 430 years as the time between the promises made to Abraham and when "the Law" was given at Sinai. I have translated the verse according to its grammatical construction. The point of mentioning 430 years is that the lengthy oppression did not nullify the promises made to Abraham.
does not: Grk. ou, adv. annul: Grk. akuroō, pres., cause to be no longer in force; repeal, annul, invalidate. so as: Grk. eis, prep., lit. "into." to terminate: Grk. ho katargeō, aor. inf., cause to become ineffective or inoperative in various aspects; nullify, terminate. The infinitive is used here to denote a result. the promise: Grk. epangelia. See the previous verse. The promise to which Paul alludes is of the Seed, the Messiah and the atonement he provided. If the 430 years of oppression did not nullify the promise God made to Abraham, legalism certainly would not either.
18 For if the inheritance is from law, it is no longer from a promise. But God has granted it to Abraham through a promise.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 10 above. if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 4 above. The double conjunction occurs 37 times in the Besekh, all but four in the letters of Paul, which is used to introduce the premise of a rhetorical argument. The premise may state a generally accepted principle or the position of an opposing party. the inheritance: Grk. ho klēronomia, a share in what is passed on by a testator, inheritance. In the LXX klēronomia translates Heb. nachalah (SH-5159), possession, property, inheritance. In the Torah the term "inheritance" has two primary uses. First, inheritance was God's covenant promise to give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham through Isaac, making God the testator (Ex 32:13; Deut 4:38). The land was always seen as a possession and heritage given by God.
The second use introduced in the Torah is the concept of the covenant people being a personal possession or inheritance for God Himself (Ex 15:17; Deut 4:20; 9:26; 32:9), a theme echoed in the Psalms (Pss 28:9; 33:12; 68:10; 74:2; 78:62, 71; 79:1; 94:5, 14; 106:5, 40) and the Prophets (Isa 19:25; 47:6;63:17; Jer 2:7; 10:16; 12:7-9; 16:18; 50:11; 51:19; Micah 7:14, 18; Joel 2:17; 4:2). In this context Paul emphasizes the first use of inheritance, which Christianity has historically denied (cf. Rom 9:3-4).
is from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. Some versions have "based on." law: Grk. nomos. See verse 2 above. The lack of a definite article and the negative use of the term points to law as a system. Stern translates the noun as "the legal part of Torah." Paul emphasizes the matter of origin and states the obvious. Inheritance comes from a person, not law, and in this specific matter the inheritance of the land was provided by God, not Moses. Paul then states the natural conclusion of the hypothetical premise. it is no longer: Grk. ouketi, adv., indicates cessation of an activity or condition, no longer, no more. from: Grk. ek, prep. a promise: Grk. epangelia. See verse 16 above. Paul then provides an explanation that clarifies his conclusion.
But: Grk. de, conj. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. has granted it: Grk. charizomai, perf. mid., may mean (1) to grant as a favor, to give graciously to; or (2) to discharge from obligation. The first meaning is intended here. to Abraham: See verse 6 above. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 14 above. a promise: Grk. epangelia. The Judaizer doctrine essentially ignored the covenantal promises made to Abraham. Paul argues that the promise of the land was not based on keeping a legalistic code. Indeed God gave Abraham no conditions on the future fulfillment of covenantal promises. Conversely, God made promises to Abraham because he had been faithful to keep God's commandments (Gen 26:5).
Fiduciary Role of Torah 3:19-24
19 Why then the Torah? It was added on account of transgressions until that the Seed should come, to whom the promise had been made, having been arranged through messengers by the hand of an intermediary.
Why: Grk. tís, interrogative pronoun. See verse 1 above. Paul poses a question that might have been presented by a Judaizer opponent. then: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 5 above. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 2 above. The presence of the definite article likely intends the body of instructions God gave to Israel. The written Torah may be divided into different codes or types of law. Long before the time of Moses God revealed commandments that revealed His expectations of Mankind (Gen 1:26-30; 2:17-25; 3:16-19; 4:6-7, 11-12; 6:3-7, 18; 9:5-8; 18:20; 20:3; 26:5, 10). "Creation law" established the institution of marriage, government and basic justice standards (cf. Matt 19:4-6; Rom 1:18-20; Eph 5:22-33).
Talmudic sages counted 613 commandments in the Torah: 365 negative commandments that defined acts from which to abstain and 248 positive commandments that defined acts of duty and righteousness. (Makkot 23b). The body of Torah instructions can be divided into four codes: the holiness code, the righteousness code, the atonement code and the justice code.
● The holiness code, which comprises over half of the commandments in the Torah, details requirements for worship, Sabbath observance, the priesthood, offerings, circumcision, annual feasts, dietary rules, and distinctive religious customs that mark Israel as a people "holy to the Lord."
● The righteousness code includes those commandments that prohibit harmful conduct toward others in the community or mandate conduct that strengthen the cohesiveness of families and societal relationships.
● The atonement code, which details requirements various kinds of sacrificial offerings (burnt offering, guilt offering, sin offering) to cleanse or remove the defilement of the Holy Place caused by sin and permit God to continue dwelling among His people (Lev 10:17).
● The justice code provides for actions to be taken by individuals and the community whenever any of the commandments were broken (e.g., Ex 22-23).
It was added: Grk. prostithēmi, aor. pass., to put to or to add to, i.e., to join to or gather with. The code of commandments was added to preexisting commandments known since creation (cf. Gen 26:5). on account of: Grk. charin, prep. (from charis, grace), accounting for an observation. HELPS clarifies that the preposition properly means favor which furnishes the reason to take action, for this cause, for the sake of, by reason of, on account of. transgressions: pl. of Grk. parabasis, diversion from a path; transgression, violation. The noun refers to a willful act and not a mistake of ignorance. In the LXX parabasis occurs only in Psalm 101:3 to translate the participle of Heb. sut (SH-7750), to swerve or fall away. In that context the noun refers to someone who performs wicked acts.
The wording of the rationale for giving of the Torah may seem strange. Paul says something similar in Romans 5:20, "Now Torah came so that the trespass might increase" (BR). Paul certainly does not mean that God cruelly created more prohibitions just to have more sins to condemn people with. Conversely, where there is no prohibition neither is there violation (Rom 4:15), because sin is only defined by Torah (Rom 3:15), not by man. God had cursed mankind because of Adam's sin (Gen 3:17) and mankind continued to manifest a sinful inclination (Gen 6:5). The commandments and statutes of God that Abraham knew (Gen 26:5) functioned as a curse containment system. But God added more commandments at Sinai. Why?
Le Cornu comments that Paul's question anticipates the question and answer given by the Sage, R. Meir, "Why was the Torah given to Israel? Because they are impetuous" (Beitzah 25b). In other words the transgressions of the Israelites were many and they required discipline. God did describe the Israelites as "obstinate" (Ex 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deut 9:6, 13; 31:27). Stern suggests that a key purpose of the commandments was to make the Israelites aware of their guilt for sins in order to motivate repentance, seeking God's mercy, and trusting Him. Yet, Paul's rationale could also represent purpose (Ridderbos). As explained in Romans the Torah reveals the sinfulness of sin (7:7). People would realize that more of their behaviors were sinful than they previously thought.
The noun "transgressions" could easily be "transgressions of Egypt." God not only wanted to take His people out of Egypt, but He wanted to remove Egypt from His people. The religion and cultural values of Egypt were highly offensive to God (Lev 18:3). Viewed negatively the Torah was added to restrain the Israelites from the idolatry and vices of the Egyptians. Viewed positively God wanted to define what behavior would characterize a righteous people and a people devoted to God (Deut 4:8; 6:25). Even further God imposed requirements that would mark Israel as a nation "holy to ADONAI" and a light to the nations (Isa 42:6; Acts 13:47).
until: Grk. achri, adv., a function word signifying an interval between two points with focus on continuity, here of an extension in time; until. The adverb introduces a parenthetical thought. that: Grk. hos, relative pronoun. See verse 1 above. the Seed: Grk. ho sperma. See verse 16 above. Paul uses the noun as an allusion to the Messiah promised by the covenant God made with Abraham. should come: Grk. erchomai, aor. subj., 'to come or arrive' with focus on a position from which action or movement takes place. about whom: Grk. hos. The pronoun refers to Yeshua. the promise had been made: Grk. epangellomai, perf. pass., to promise something in the sense of a commitment.
Some versions interpret this clause to mean that the Torah was only to be in force until the coming of the promised Seed (AMPC, CEV, ERV, GNB, NLT, TPT, WE). Some Christian commentators reinforce this interpretation by citing Romans 10:4 as proof that Yeshua ended the authority of the Torah. Yet, nowhere in the covenantal promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is there a promise to cancel the requirement to keep God's commandments. Yeshua himself strongly rebutted this false teaching (Matt 5:17-19), as does Paul (Rom 3:31; 7:12). The coming of the Seed did not do away with the Torah but provided a final remedy for the transgressions. As Paul would later write to the Roman congregation:
For the Torah being powerless, in that it was weakened through the flesh, God did. Having sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for a sin offering, He condemned sin in the flesh. (Rom 8:3 BR)
The Torah did not provide atonement for deliberate transgressions. A sin offering, including those on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), only atoned for sins that were unintentional or committed accidentally (Lev 4:2-3; Heb 9:7). The promised Seed would atone for all the transgressions for which the Torah provided no remedy (Acts 13:38-39).
having been arranged: Grk. diatassō, aor. part., to make appropriate arrangement for securing an objective; give orders to, prescribe, arrange, take care of. The verb is a technical term for the carrying out of laws and ordinances (Ridderbos), thus the verb points back to the giving of the Torah. through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 14 above. angels: pl. of Grk. angelos, which means one sent, a messenger, whether human or heavenly (BAG). In the LXX angelos renders Heb. malak, which means messenger, representative, courier or angel (DNTT 1:101f). Angels are depicted in Scripture as ministering spirits (Heb 1:14), and of the seven archangels Gabriel (Dan 8:16; 9:21) and Michael (Dan 10:13, 21; 12:1) are identified as acting on behalf of Israel. See my web article The Host of Heaven.
The presence of heavenly messengers at the giving of the Torah was also declared by Stephen in his defense sermon (Acts 7:53), which Paul heard. The Torah does mention the presence of angels at Sinai:
ADONAI came from Sinai; from Seir he dawned on his people, shone forth from Mount Paran; and with him were myriads of holy ones; at his right hand was a fiery law for them. (Deut 33:2 CJB)
The Sages noted that the Torah was not given to the ministering angels to observe and keep (Berachot 25b; Yoma 30a; Kiddushin 54a), so the role of angels in transmitting God's commandments to Israel is debatable. Stern notes that while the idea of angelic mediation of the Torah was widespread in rabbinic midrashic literature, one medieval Jewish work strongly rebuts the idea:
"When [God] gave the commandments on Mount Sinai, at first he uttered them loudly all at once, as it is said, 'And God spoke all these words [simultaneously], saying, … ' (Exodus 20:1). Then [the angel] Mikha’el said, 'He will commission me to explain his words.' And [the angel] Gavri’el said, 'He will commission me to explain them.' But as soon as he continued, saying, 'I am ADONAI your God' (Exodus 20:2), they said, 'As He gives His children the Torah He is committing His commandments, fully explained, directly to His son Israel." (Pesikta Rabbati 21:5, quoted by Stern 246)
The translation of some versions might give the impression that the angels themselves "ordained" the commandments (ASV, KJV, NASB, NRSV, RSV). However, there is no angelic pronouncement equivalent to "Thus says the LORD" and nowhere does the Torah say that angels gave commandments directly to the Israelites. Moses simply reported that angels were with ADONAI on Sinai. Moses could have received the ministry of angels, just as Yeshua received the ministry of angels in the wilderness (Matt 4:11). Since God provided detailed instructions for the construction of the tabernacle and all its contents, angels could have assisted in this communication.
by: Grk. en, prep. the hand: Grk. cheir, the anatomical limb of the hand. The noun is probably used figuratively of authority. of an intermediary: Grk. mesitēs (from mesos, middle), one who intervenes between two, and in secular Greek culture might mean an arbitrator, mediator or umpire who served to (1) guarantee the performance of all the terms stipulated in an agreement; or (2) to restore peace between two parties, especially as it fulfills a compact (HELPS). Some versions add the name of Moses (CEV, ERV, EXB, GW, ICB, TLB, MSG, NCV, NOG, NLV, NLT, TPT), even though his name does not appear in the Greek text of the verse.
In the LXX mesitēs appears only in Job 9:33 for Heb. mokiah, participle of makach (SH-3198), to decide, adjudge, or prove (DNTT 1:373). In the context of Job's speech he uses the term to mean an umpire who can lay hold of two conflicted parties to settle the matter between them. In Israelite culture there was no provision for such an office. The Torah gave the role of intermediary between God and the nation to the priests and later to the prophets. The Torah also provided for the appointment of judges to settle disputes. Later Jewish law provided a system to settle civil disputes in which the litigants would each choose an arbitrator and the two arbitrators would choose a third. Then the three arbitrators would hear the case and decide the settlement (Sanh. 3:1).
This term mesitēs occurs six times in the Besekh, all in Paul's letters. In his later letters Paul specifically applies this role to Yeshua (1Tim 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Yet, the common translation of "mediator" can be misleading. In modern law a mediator is a neutral conciliator or peacemaker who helps parties arrive at a voluntary settlement of disputed issues. A mediator has no power to enforce the agreed settlement. Moses was not a neutral mediator, but he did act as the nation's representative before God and God's representative before the nation.
With the assumption that mesitēs refers to Moses, then the phrase en cheiri mesitou may allude to the LXX translation en cheiri Mōusē of the Hebrew phrase b'yad Mosheh, "by the hand of Moses" (Ex 9:35; 34:29; 35:29; Lev 8:36; 26:46; Num 4:37, 45, 49; 9:23; 15:23; 16:40; 27:23; 36:13). In four of those passages b'yad Mosheh is preceded by the phrase al pee YHVH, "according to the command of ADONAI" (Num 4:37, 45, 49; 9:23). In a synagogue Sabbath service the Torah scroll is held aloft and the congregation says aloud:
V'zot hatorah asher sam Mosheh, leef-nay b'nay Yisrael al pee Adonai b'yad Mosheh. (Siddur 445)
"This is the Torah that Moses set before the children of Israel, at the command of ADONAI, by the hand of Moses." (BR)
The phrase al pee ADONAI is lit. "from the mouth of ADONAI," and combined with b'yad Mosheh illustrates the principle of verbal inspiration of much of the Torah (Ex 20:1; cf. John 9:29). Moses did not invent the commandments set forth in Exodus through Deuteronomy; they were revealed to him by God. The Hebrew affirmation that "God spoke and Moses wrote" contradicts the view of modern liberal scholarship that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, but that it was the product of later generations that synthesized oral tradition. Portions of Torah were written on tablets (Ex 32:15), but mostly scrolls were used (Ex 24:4; Deut 17:18; 25:58; Josh 1:8; 1Sam 10:25; Jer 36:4).
20 Now the intermediary is not of one, but God is one.
Now: Grk. de, conj. the intermediary: Grk. ho mesitēs. See the previous verse. The definite article gives significance to the noun. is: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. not: Grk. ou, adv. of strong negation. of one: Grk. heis, the primary number one. but: Grk. de. God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. is: Grk. eimi, pres. one: Grk. heis. Commentators agree that the meaning of this verse is obscure. Boice notes that there have been over 250 interpretations of it, but Stern raises to number to 300 different interpretations. It's not immediately clear whether the first clause pertains to an individual or a role. Some commentators think Paul alludes to Moses, but he does not name the intermediary. The second clause appears to be an allusion to the Torah declaration, "Hear, Isra’el! ADONAI our God, ADONAI is one" (Deut 6:4 CJB).
Most commentators explain Paul's intention by saying that an intermediary (mediator) does not serve one party, but two. In a secular setting a mediator necessarily mediates between two parties, both of whom desire to affect the final outcome. Moses served God and he served Israel. Stern notes that Moses acted as intermediary between God and the Israelites because they were afraid of hearing from God directly (Ex 20:19). But, as explained in the note on the previous verse, Moses was not a neutral mediator. The first clause could allude to a practice in Jewish culture. Jewish law provided a system to settle civil disputes in which the litigants would each choose an arbitrator and the two arbitrators would choose a third. Then the three arbitrators would hear the case and decide the settlement (Sanh. 3:1). No dispute was to be settled by one arbitrator.
In contrast to the role of Moses as an intermediary, God’s promises to Abraham were not "mediated." The unconditional nature of God's promises make them superior to law. God's intention was to bless the nations through the Seed of Abraham, so that the God of Israel is also the same God of the Gentiles (Rom 3:29). While God imposed circumcision on the descendants of Abraham and even on Gentiles that wanted to participate in Passover, God never required circumcision of Gentiles to receive the blessing of salvation provided by the Seed of Abraham.
21 Is the Torah then against the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law being able to impart life had been given, certainly righteousness would have been from law.
Is the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 13 above. The presence of the definite article and positive use of the noun indicates its use for the code of commandments given to Israel. then: Grk. oun, conj. See verse 5 above. against: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 15 above. Here the preposition expresses opposition. the promises: pl. of Grk. epangelia. See verse 16 above. of God: Grk. ho theos. See verse 6 above. May it never be: Grk. mē ginomai, aor. mid. opt., lit. "may it never take place." The optative mood expresses a wish and in Hebrew is the most intense wish for negation. The wish declaration occurs 15 times in the Besekh, all but one in the letters of Paul. The declaration also occurs four times in the LXX (Gen 44:7; Josh 22:29; 24:16; 1Macc 9:10). The first occurrence in the Besekh, Luke 20:16, was spoken by adversaries of Yeshua, among whom Paul may have been present at the time.
Paul could have said that the Torah in fact reiterated the promises given to Abraham (Ex 2:24; 6:6-8; 32:13; 33:1; Lev 26:42; Num 32:11; Deut 1:8; 6:10; 9:5; 18:15). For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 10 above. if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 4 above. For the use of the double conjunction see verse 18 above. a law: Grk. nomos. Paul uses the noun in a generic sense. "Pick a law, any law." being able: Grk. ho dunamai, pres. pass. part., the quality or state of being capable, often as an exhibition of a singular ability such as performing a miracle. A participle is a verbal adjective, so Paul uses the verb as a hypothetical defining characteristic of law. to impart life: Grk. zōopoieō, aor. inf., cause to be alive, make alive, give life to, generally with a focus on existence transcending the merely physical.
had been given: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass., 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). In the LXX didōmi generally renders Heb. natan (SH-5414, first in Gen 1:29), to give, put or set, with the same range of meaning (DNTT 2:41). Natan is also used of causing something miraculous (Ex 7:9; Deut 6:22; 13:1; 1Kgs 13:3; Isa 8:18). Rienecker observes that the purpose of the laws given to Israel was not to create life but to provide a rule of life in the promised land. certainly: Grk. ontōs, adv. (the adverbial form of eimí, "to be"), in every sense of the word, really be or exist as reality; unquestionably, really, certainly, truly. righteousness: Grk. ho dikaiosunē. See verse 6 above. Paul affirms that righteousness results from spiritual life.
would: Grk. an, a disjunctive particle that nuances a verb with contingency or generalization; would, ever, might, in that case, anyhow. HELPS says the particle indicates what could occur under certain conditions, and the context determines the limits of those conditions. The particle is often not translated. have been: Grk. eimi, impf. See verse 3 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. law: Grk. nomos. The noun is used here as a system. Paul presents his argument as we might say "tongue in cheek," since the idea of a law generating spiritual life is utterly ludicrous.
22 But the Scripture imprisoned all things under Sin, so that the promise from the faithfulness of Yeshua the Messiah might be given to those trusting.
But: Grk. alla, conj. See verse 12 above. the Scripture: Grk. ho graphē. See verse 8 above. imprisoned: Grk. sugkleiō, aor., to confine, enclose, hem in or shut in without means of escape. all things: neut. pl. of Grk. ho pas, adj. See verse 8 above. The KJV/NKJV has just "all." Many versions have "all things," but an equal number of versions have "the whole world." Considering the rest of the clause the neuter form of the adjective can include the physical universe, human beings and institutions of mankind. under: Grk. hupo, prep. See verse 10 above. The preposition is used here to mean being subject to the power or authority of another.
Sin: 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. In Greek culture hamartia meant to miss the mark, to fail, be mistaken. A mistake is the result of ignorance. Hamartia could mean anything from stupidity to law-breaking (DNTT 3:577).
In the LXX hamartia translates a range of Hebrew words for guilt and sin, particularly 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). Thus, ignorance of God's laws is no excuse and the degree of intentionality does not determine whether an act is a sin. Indeed, the Torah recognizes that a transgression could be unintentional, a sin of error or inadvertence (Lev 4:1-3, 27-28; 5:18; Num 15:22-29). In Scripture hamartia does not include the imperfections that separate humanity from divinity, "falling short of the glory" (Rom 3:23).
Paul likely intends the noun here as a personification, as he will later do in Romans (5:12; 6:2, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 17, 18, 20, 22; 7:11, 17, 25; 8:2, 10). A personification is the attribution of human characteristics to a thing or abstraction. Personifications are common in Hebraic-Jewish literature. The first personification in Scripture is of sin when God says to Cain, "sin [chata, a feminine noun] is crouching at the door; and its [her] desire is for you, but you must master it [her]" (Gen 4:7). As a personification hamartia is an oppressive master. The world lies in the power of the evil one (2Cor 4:4; 1Jn 5:19).
so that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 14 above. the promise: Grk. ho epangelia. See verse 14 above. Paul refers to the promise of the Seed of Abraham. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. the faithfulness: Grk. pistis. See verse 2 above. of Yeshua the Messiah: See verse 1 above. might be given: Grk. didōmi, aor. pass. subj. See the previous verse. to those: pl. of Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. trusting: Grk. pisteuō, pres. part. See verse 6 above. The last clause of the verse refers back to the "promise of the Spirit" mentioned in verse 14 above. The faithfulness of Yeshua made possible the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on his faithful disciples.
23 Now before that faithfulness was to come, we were being held in custody, having been imprisoned under legalism until his faithfulness being about to be revealed.
Now: Grk. de, conj. before: Grk. pro, prep., with the genitive pronoun following indicating precedence, either (1) spatially, 'ahead, before,' (2) of time, 'earlier than, before' or (3) in rank, before or above. The second meaning is intended here. that: Grk. ho, definite article, but used here as a demonstrative pronoun. The verse begins with the word order of pro ho de. Most Bible versions ignore the pronoun use of ho, but some versions translate it as "this." faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 2 above. Christian versions translate the noun as "faith" or "the faith" and the phrase points to the time before the salvation given in Messiah was revealed as the object of faith (Rienecker). Stern translates the noun as "trusting faithfulness," apparently taking the phrase as autobiographical.
Considering the verb that follows and the repetition of the noun in the verse, it is much more likely that the phrase points to the singular faithfulness of Yeshua. was to come: Grk. erchomai, aor. inf. See verse 19 above. The infinitive expresses purpose and anticipates the totality of Yeshua's fulfillment of Messianic prophecy from birth to resurrection. N.T. Wright translates the first clause as "before this faithfulness arrived." we were being held in custody: Grk. phroureō, 1p-pl. impf. pass., may mean (1) maintain official watch to guard against escape; (2) provide security for, to protect against harm; or (3) hold in custody, detain, confine. Rienecker believes the second meaning is intended whereas Danker says the third meaning is intended here.
The verb was used in Greek culture of being guarded or held in confinement by soldiers, especially to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight (Thayer). Bible versions are divided over the translation of phroureō, some treating it as making a positive affirmation about the Torah, that of guarding (AMPC, CEB, DARBY, TLB, NIRV, NRSV, TLV). Most versions treat the verb as expressing a negative circumstance, with "confined," "held captive," or "held in custody." Considering the verb that follows Paul clearly had a negative situation in mind.
having been imprisoned: Grk. sugkleiō, aor. part. See the previous verse. This verb clarifies the meaning of the previous verb. under: Grk. hupo, prep. See verse 10 above and the previous verse. The preposition bears a sense of oppression. legalism: Grk. nomos. See verse 2 above. The lack of a definite article and the pejorative reference indicates nomos is used here of legalism. until: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 6 above. The preposition is used here of a temporal limit. his faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. Again, the presence of the definite article points to the singular faithfulness of Yeshua in being an atoning sacrifice.
being about: Grk. mellō, pres. part., a future oriented verb with a pending aspect, being in the offing, be about to, be going to. to be revealed: Grk. apokaluptō, aor. pass. 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.
Paul's assessment of legalism is reminiscent of Peter's condemnation of legalism at the Jerusalem Conference, "Now, therefore, why are you testing God to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" (Acts 15:10). Paul the Pharisee makes a powerful admission. After his encounter with Yeshua and the scales fell from his eyes, Paul realized the meaninglessness of the legalistic system he had been living under. However, realizing that legalism was an intolerant slave-master did not cause Paul to abandon Judaism and a Torah-observant lifestyle. His freedom in Messiah made him a better Jew.
24 so that the Torah became our guardian into Messiah, in order that from his faithfulness we might be acquitted.
so that: Grk. hōste, adv. See verse 9 above. the Torah: Grk. ho nomos. See verse 13 above. The presence of the definite article and positive use of the noun indicates its use for the code of commandments given to Israel. became: Grk. ginomai, perf. See verse 13 above. The verb depicts the transformation of the Torah into a legalistic system by the forerunners of the Pharisees. our: Grk. hēmeis, pl. pronoun of the first person. The pronoun intends "us Jews." guardian: Grk. paidagōgos, a guardian or guide. A slave was employed in Greek and Roman households to have general charge of a boy in the years from about 6 to 16, watching over his outward behavior and attending him whenever he went to school and came home (Rienecker). The term did not denote a classroom teacher (Grk. didaskalos). The term does not appear in the LXX, but Josephus uses the term in Cain's rebuttal to God that he was not his brother's keeper (Gen 4:9; Ant. I, 2:1).
The use of the term "guardian" represents the Pharisee view on the development of their traditions. The first words of Mishnah Avot ("Fathers") are:
Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Synagogue. The latter used to say three things: Be patient in the administration of justice, rear many disciples, and make a fence round the Torah.” (Avot 1:1)
Stern comments that the Torah spoken of as being transmitted is the Oral Torah; thus handed down it is regarded as unchangeable (241). The "fence" of rules and customs was intended to prevent inadvertent violation of the written Torah. The original intention for the development of the traditions was good, but by Paul's time the system of rules had become oppressive. The same process of pietistic code development has also occurred in Christianity. Various denominations and churches have developed their manuals of discipline and list of rules expected of members as evidence of devotion to Yeshua. The danger of rules is that they can become a prison, hindering love of neighbor and stifling spiritual life.
into: Grk. eis, prep. Messiah: Grk. Christos. See verse 1 above. Paul insists that the Torah as given by God had a high purpose. Not only did the Torah prescribe the requirements to enjoy a good life, but it also prophesied the coming of the Messiah and revealed his redemptive work in the celebration of the appointed times. Moreover, Paul's life as a Pharisee brought him into contact with the Messiah. in order that: Grk. hina, conj. See verse 14 above. from: Grk. ek, prep. See verse 2 above. his faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 2 above and the previous verse. we might be acquitted: Grk. dikaioō, aor. pass. subj. See verse 8 above. The subjunctive mood points to an action purposed and therefore potential. We can be freed from the condemnation of sin because of Yeshua's faithfulness in taking our sin upon himself.
Faithfulness of Yeshua, 3:25-29
25 Now his faithfulness having come, we are no longer under a guardian.
Now: Grk. de, conj. his faithfulness: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 2 and 22 above. Paul refers to the faithfulness of Yeshua. having come: Grk. erchomai, aor. part. See verse 19 above. The great redemptive work of God in Yeshua has been completed. we are: Grk. eimi, 1p-pl. pres. See verse 3 above. Considering the rest of the verse the subject of the verb implies the Messianic Jews, but the principle also has application to Messianic Gentiles. no longer: Grk. ouketi, adv. See verse 18 above. under: Grk. hupo, prep. See verse 10 above. a guardian: Grk. paidagōgos. See the previous verse. Paul does not mean that disciples of Yeshua are no longer obligated to obey God's commandments. Rather, disciples are freed from the constraints of Phariseeism and specifically the demands of the Judaizers.
26 For you are all sons of God through trusting faithfully in Messiah Yeshua.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 10 above. you are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 8 above. Paul intends all the disciples of Yeshua in the congregations of Galatia. sons: pl. of Grk. huios. See verse 7 above. The noun is used in a figurative sense. of God: Grk. theos. See verse 6 above. The idiomatic expression Heb. benê ha-Elohim occurs five times in the Tanakh, first identifying human men (Gen 6:2, 4), and then in reference to angels (Job 1:6, 2:1; 38:7). In the Torah the nation of Israel is designated the "son of ADONAI" (Ex 4:22-23), but more specifically the Israelites as participants in the covenant with God were marked as "sons of ADONAI" (Deut 14:1). The title would have had special meaning to the Jewish recipients of Paul's letter.
In the Besekh the expression Grk. huioi theou occurs five times (Matt 5:9; Luke 20:36; Rom 8:14, 19 and here), and denotes those who manifest the character of God and seek to please Him. In Romans the "sons of God" are led by the Spirit and will share in the resurrection. Parallel idioms help clarify the meaning: "sons of the Most High" (Luke 6:35; John 10:34); "sons of the Father" (Matt 5:45); "sons of the kingdom" (Matt 13:38), and "sons of light" (John 12:36). The descriptor "sons of God" is a status of those associated with and devoted to the true Son of God. To be called a "son of God" is a high honor. And, because it is a status women, too, can be "sons of God."
through: Grk. dia, prep. See verse 14 above. Here the preposition denotes means. trusting faithfully: Grk. ho pistis. See verse 2 above. A few versions have "believing" (GW, NOG, NIRV), but "faith" is not a "belief about." "Faith" encompasses both trust and faithfulness. The TLV has "trusting" and the CJB has "trusting faithfulness." in: Grk. en, prep. Here the preposition marks position. Messiah Yeshua: Grk. Christos Iēsous. See verse 1 above. The status of "son" is maintained by spiritual constancy.
27 For as many as were immersed into Messiah have put on Messiah.
For: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 10 above. as many as: Grk. hosos, correlative pronoun. See verse 10 above. The pronoun corresponds to the emphatic "all" in the previous verse. The use of the rhetorical premise "for as many as" in verse 10 introduced a logical fallacy, but here introduces glorious truth. were immersed: Grk. baptizō, aor. pass. 2p-pl. (from baptō, to immerse or plunge), to dip, soak, or immerse into a liquid. Christian Bibles translate the verb as "baptized" whereas Messianic Jewish versions render the verb as "immersed." In the LXX baptō is used to translate the Heb. taval (SH-2881, to dip, immerse) 13 times, whereas baptizō occurs three times in relation to water: 2Kings 5:14 (re: Naaman); Sirach 34:25; and Judith 12:7.
In Scripture baptizō never means a rite performed by sprinkling or pouring water on someone, nor is it presented as a sacrament that itself imparts salvation grace to the penitent. Rather immersion is a testimony of identification with the Messiah. Paul's representation of baptizō as burial and resurrection (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12) is a graphic illustration of the procedure and meaning of the act. The passive voice of the verb (which denotes receiving action) does not mean that anyone personally put hands on the immersion candidates and pushed them under the water as occurs in the Christian ritual. Three important elements define immersion in Jewish culture.
First, immersion was (and is) self-immersion, as in the story of Naaman. The body of water must be deep enough that by squatting one is fully submerged. No one touches the one immersing and no one needs to put the penitent under for it to be valid. Second, Jewish immersion is gender-specific. That is, men are not present when women immerse and vice versa for the sake of modesty (Gerim 60b). Third, among Jews ablutions of all kinds are not performed by people under bar/bat mitzvah age when a boy or girl became fully accountable to the Torah. In the apostolic narratives only those who repented, i.e. adults, immersed themselves. (See Ron Moseley, The Jewish Background of Christian Baptism.)
The subject of the verb is the pronoun "as many as." Luke's narrative of Paul's first Diaspora journey does not report any immersions in the cities where the good news was proclaimed. This omission is strange considering the previous mention of immersions in Acts (2:41; 8:12-13, 16, 38; 9:18; 10:48). Luke's reporting may have been influenced by Paul's philosophical approach to ministry, as he later declared, "For the Messiah did not send me to immerse, but to proclaim the good news" (1Cor 1:17 CJB). Such a singular perspective does not mean there were no immersions in Galatia. Luke reports that disciples had been made in Pisidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (Acts 13:52; 14:20-22). Yeshua set forth the goal of disciple-making as teaching immersed believers to obey everything he had commanded. So an "unimmersed disciple" is a contradiction in terms.
into: Grk. eis, prep. See verse 6 above. The use of eis emphasizes the entry into a relationship. Messiah: Grk. Christos, the Jewish Messiah. See verse 1 above. have put on: Grk. enduō, 2p-pl. aor. mid., provide covering, to clothe and wear. Messiah: This is a powerful word picture and in context depicts a complete association and identification with Yeshua. The implication is clear. Nothing needs to be added to immersion to confirm a person's spiritual status before God. If a Gentile has put on Messiah, he does not need to be physically circumcised, because he manifests circumcision of the heart (cf. Rom 2:29). By the same token for the Jew to put on Messiah means freedom from the oppression of Phariseeism.
28 There is not traditional Jew nor Hellenistic Jew, there is not slave nor free, there is not male nor female, for you all are one in Messiah Yeshua.
There is: Grk. eni, pres., be in, be present, there is. not: Grk. ou, adv. See verse 10 above. Most versions translate the adverb as "neither." Being followed by another negative, the negation is strengthened. The phrase "there is neither" is a statement of fact rather than a possibility (Robertson). traditional Jew: Grk. Ioudaios, Jew, Jewish, Jewess or Judean (BAG). Danker notes that the term may be used as an adjective (Judean, Jewish) or a noun (Jew, Judean). Ioudaios designates a person by belief and practice (cf. John 4:9). In the first century the term was used to distinguish "devout" (Torah/tradition-observant) Jews from non-observant Jews (Acts 2:5). The Essenes and Samaritans, who were of Israelite descent, did not identify themselves as Ioudaios, because they rejected the legalism of the Pharisees and the tyranny of the Sadducees that ran the Temple.
Indeed the noun Ioudaismos, "Judaism," first appears in the Maccabean writings for a way of life opposed to Hellenism and devoted to observance of Torah laws (2Macc 2:21; 8:1; 14:38; 4Macc 4:26), and then used by Paul to describe his religion before his encounter with Yeshua (Gal 1:13-14). Moreover, the tenets of their religion were governed by the Great Sanhedrin and the Pharisees, whose traditions they followed (cf. Matt 23:2-3; Mark 7:3; Acts 10:28). Traditional Jews revered Moses (John 9:28-29; Acts 6:11) and recognized the authority of the written Torah (John 7:23; Acts 21:20) and the traditions of the Sages (Matt 15:2; Gal 1:14; Col 2:8). Traditional Jews of Galatia are mentioned as receiving the good news in the account of Paul's ministry in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:14, 43) and Iconium (Acts 14:1).
nor: Grk. oude, conj., negative particle that links a negative statement as complementary to a preceding negative; neither, not even, nor. Hellenistic Jew: Grk. Hellēn, lit. "Hellene" or "Hellenist," and may mean (1) a person who spoke or wrote Hellenistic Greek; or (2) a person of Hellenistic culture as opposed to traditional Israelite culture (BAG). My translation of "Hellenistic Jew" is based on history and usage of the term in the Besekh. After Alexander the Great (356−323 BC) conquered the world he and his successors sought to assimilate people in all the nations in the Greek way of life. All who spoke the Greek language and adopted or accommodated Greek culture in varying degrees were counted as Hellenist (DNTT 2:124). All the lexicons recognize that Hellēn is a cultural term and not restricted to persons born to ethnic Greek families or Gentiles in general.
Yet, the lexicons inexplicably exclude Israelites from this definition and assume that Ioudaios is the only Greek word that can refer to Jews. This omission reflects a major blind spot in Christian scholarship. Almost all Bible versions translate the noun here as "Greek," although a few have "Gentile" (CJB, GNB, NIRV, NIV, NLT, NMB) or "non-Jew" (MSG, TPT). Hellēn literally means "Hellenist," and a Hellenist might be a Gentile or he might be a descendant of Jacob. Of interest is that the CJB translates the plural form of the same noun (Hellēnés) in John 7:35 and in John 12:20 as "Greek-speaking Jews." DHE has a marginal note on the latter passage that Hellēnés may mean "Hellenistic Jews" (384). Why is that definition not applied here?
There were thousands of Hellenistic Jews in the Diaspora and there was considerable diversity in their lifestyle and religion. They could be uncircumcised and live like Gentiles, ascetic like the Essenes, or devout worshippers and Torah-observant as the Greek-speaking Jews that Luke describes in Acts 6:1. For a detailed discussion of the term Hellēn and the arguments for the usage of Hellēn in the Besekh representing "Hellenistic Jews" see my article Hellenism and the Jews. Hellenistic Jews are mentioned as receiving the good news in the account of evangelistic ministry in Iconium in southern Galatia (Acts 14:1).
there is: Grk. eni, pres. not: Grk. ou. slave: 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). Slavery is the abrogation of personal autonomy and the subordination to the will of another. The economies of ancient empires were based on slave labor and slavery typically occurred as a result of being captured in war and then sold. Legally a slave had no rights. Hebrew culture was different from pagan nations in that slavery was most often a form of indentured servitude.
Hebrew slaves were either purchased outright (Ex 12:44; 21:2, 7; Lev 19:20; 22:11; 25:44) or acquired as a result of having to pay a debt (Ex 21:7; Lev 25:39, 47; Matt 5:25-26). All slaves were considered property, but Hebrew slaves were treated more as trusted employees (Lev 25:40). The Torah specifically required Israelites to remember how they were treated as slaves in Egypt (Deut 5:15; 15:15) and treat their slaves justly (Deut 5:14; Lev 25:43). Paul, writing to congregations in the Diaspora where Roman laws of slavery prevailed gave instructions to slaves for their service (Eph 6:5-8; Col 3:22-25) and to masters for their treatment of slaves (Eph 6:9; Col 4:1). He did advise disciples who were slaves to seek freedom if possible (1Cor 7:21; cf. Deut 23:15-16).
nor: Grk. oude. free: Grk. eleutheros, adj., enjoying freedom from constraint, free or independent, non-slave status. The noun was also applied to freed slaves, who then became clients of their former masters. What separates a free person from a slave is independence. To the average person the right to manage one's own life as one chooses is the essence of freedom. there is: Grk. eni, pres. not: Grk. ou. male: Grk. arrēn, adj., male as distinguished from female. nor: Grk. kai, conj. female: Grk. thēlus, adj., properly, a woman with nursing breasts, "one who gives suck" (HELPS). The distinction between masculine and feminine genders was established in creation (Gen 1:27). The male and female genders are imprinted in the human DNA and regardless of modern perverted thinking, there is no additional gender, and no one can change their God-given gender.
for: Grk. gar, conj. See verse 10 above. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. all: pl. of Grk. pas, adj. See verse 8 above. are: Grk. eimi, pres. See verse 3 above. one: Grk. heis, the primary number one. in: Grk. en, prep. See verse 5 above. Messiah Yeshua: Grk. Christos Iēsous. See verse 1 above. Paul does not mean that these demographic and ethnic categories ceased to exist. Rather, being immersed into Messiah has robbed these categories of the power to divide. All members of the Body of Messiah regardless of background and social status share the covenantal blessings of God. The Body of Messiah is the one community on earth where people of all ethnic cultures, languages and nationalities may worship and fellowship together in harmony because of their love of and devotion to Yeshua.
29 And if you are of Messiah, then you are a seed of Abraham, heirs according to promise.
And: Grk. de, conj. if: Grk. ei, conj. See verse 4 above. you: Grk. humeis, pl. pronoun of the second person. are of Messiah: Grk. Christos, the promised Jewish deliverer. See verse 1 above. The hypothetical premise extends the argument of the previous verse. then: Grk. ara, conj. See verse 7 above. you are: Grk. eimi, 2p-pl. pres. See verse 3 above. a seed: Grk. sperma. See verse 16 above. of Abraham: Grk. Abraam. See verse 6 above. The description of "a seed of Abraham" would apply literally and spiritually to Messianic Jews and spiritually to Messianic Gentiles, because of being grafted into the "olive tree" of Israel and included in the commonwealth of Israel.
heirs: pl. of Grk. klēronomos refers to that which is apportioned, an inheritor in a legal sense, heir. More frequently the word means to be a recipient of a share in something, with focus on experience of divine conferral of promised benefits. according to: Grk. kata, prep. See verse 1 above. promise: Grk. epangelia. See verse 16 above. Since the Messiah is the promised Seed of Abraham, all who are immersed into Yeshua are considered sons of Abraham (verse 7 above) and receive the blessings of redemption, victory over Satan and a share in the Messianic Kingdom. We are joint-heirs with Yeshua (Rom 8:17). The promise will be fully realized when Yeshua returns.
Rienecker correctly notes that a Gentile disciple of Yeshua does not receive the specific land promises of Abraham. Nevertheless, the promise of the land to Jacob's descendants remains in force. Paul will later affirm, "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him [Yeshua] is the yes" (2Cor 1:20 BR). The modern institution of the State of Israel and the return of many thousands of Jews to the land have fulfilled the ancient promise.
Barnes: Albert Barnes (1798-1870), Notes on the Whole Bible (1834). Baker Book House, 1949. Online.
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.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
Boice: James Montgomery Boice, Galatians. Expositor's Bible Commentary, Vol. 10. Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp., 1989-1999.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981.
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.
DHE: The Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels: A Hebrew/English Translation. Heb. trans. Franz Delitzsch; English trans. Aaron Eby & Robert Morris. Vine of David Publishers, 2011.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 vols., ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Pub. House, 1975.
Ellicott: Charles John Ellicott (1819–1905), Commentary for English Readers (1878). Online.
Gill: John Gill (1697-1771), Exposition of the Entire Bible. Online.
HELPS: Gleason L. Archer and Gary Hill, eds., The Discovery Bible New Testament: HELPS Word Studies. Moody Press, 1987, 2011. (Online at BibleHub.com)
Le Cornu: Hillary Le Cornu and Joseph Shulam, A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians. Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry (Israel), 2005.
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.
Mounce: William D. Mounce, Mounce Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament. 2011. Online.
Owens: John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament, 4 vols. Baker Book House, 1989.
Poole: Matthew Poole (1624–1679), A Commentary on the Holy Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 1985. Online.
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.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson (1863-1934), Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 Vols. Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997)
Siddur: Rabbi Nosson Scherman, The Complete ArtScroll Siddur, Mesorah Publications, 2001.
Stern: David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. Jewish New Testament Publications, 1996.
Thayer: Joseph Henry Thayer (1828-1901), Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament. Harper Brothers, 1889.
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