Galatians Chapter One

 

1:6, 7 - I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.

 

Comments:  By his “astonishment,” taken to be rhetorical, we learn that Sha'ul has invested previous time and effort in these Gentile believers, perhaps having visited them twice before finally penning this letter around A.D. 55 or 56.[1]  The villains of the piece, identified variously as “Agitators,”[2] “Judaizers,”[3] “Legalizers,” or “Influencers”[4] have succeeded in persuading the new Gentiles that covenant-standing (read in Christian parlance as “saved”) was not granted via faith in Yeshua alone, but rather, conversion to Judaism was needed to finalize the membership.  Sha'ul saw this persuasion and its apparent successful campaign as a “deserting of the one who called you,” namely, the Mashiach.  Because this new, errant theology (that Gentiles must become Jews before they can achieve full and lasting covenant status by God, viz, be saved) ran counter to the genuine Good News (that in Messiah both Jew and Greek are on equal covenant footing) Sha'ul refers to this as “another Gospel” (Greek eujaggevlion, yoo-angelion=news of good), which is really not good news when compared to the Truth.  Pertinent for our study is the historical fact that the 1st century Judaisms were not teaching salvation by following Torah (as the later emerging Church might assume).  The “other gospel” that gave Sha'ul such consternation was the prevailing proto-rabbinic view that only Isra'el alone shared a place in the World to Come, that is, only Jews were granted covenant membership.  In this view Gentles must convert before they were considered full-fledged members.  In this view Torah was not the means of salvation; “works of the Torah” (defined elsewhere in this commentary) were the prerequisite to “salvation.”  In this view Torah helped to maintain membership granted to native born and proselyte alike.  I, Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy, personally disagree with the central tenets of this view.

 

1:13 - For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.

 

Comments:  It is critical to a proper understanding of Sha'ul that we recognize the syntax of the Greek of this verse.  The word order shows that “former” modifies the phrase “life in Judaism” and not “previous Judaic life” as some might presume.  The careful observation is made to show a shift within the paradigms of Judaism and not outside of them.  Paul did not leave Judaism for a new religion called Christianity.  What he did do was switch party lines, from a non-believing Jewish Pharisee, to a believing (in Yeshua) Pharisee, all within the confines of 1st century Judaism.  Tim Hegg states it well,

 

We should note carefully that that word “former” (potev, pote, which, when functioning as a particle means “once, formerly) functions to modify the word “manner of life” (ajnastrofhv, anastrophe, “lifestyle”).  It does not imply that Paul formerly lived within Judaism but that as of the time he wrote the Galatians, he was no longer living within Judaism.  What he is contrasting is his personal “halachah” before and after his faith in Yeshua as Messiah, not his former life in Judaism as opposed to his present life apart from Judaism.[5]

 



[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament, Commentary to the Book of Galatians (AMG Publishers, 1991), p. 613.

[2] A handful of Bible translations use “agitators” for those whom Paul wishes would emasculate themselves in Gal. 5:12 where the Greek has ἀναστατοῦντες.

[3] Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary (TSBD): #Ioudai?zein, ee-oo-daizein=to adopt Jewish customs and rites, imitate the Jews, Judaise.

[4] “Influencers” is a term coined by Mark Nanos, and popularized by Tim Hegg.

[5] Tim Hegg, A Study of Galatians (torahresource.com, 2002), p. 30.