Friday, April 2, 2010


Galatians 4-6

Chapter four continues the discussion from chapter three about the inheritance of the promise to Abraham. He tells the Galatians that when "the heir is a child, he is no diffeent from a slave" because he is controlled by guardians and trustees, and that "we in slavery under the basic principles of the world" until that time when "God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons..." So, he tells them, they are no longer slaves but sons and heirs to the promise. When the "did not know God," they were "slaves to those who by nature are not gods." He asks why they would turn back to those times, and asserts that he is "perplexed about you!" He continues the heir analogy by discussing Sarah and Hagar, and how Isaac was heir to the promise and Ishmael was not, how "one covenant is from Mount Sinai [Hagar] and bears children who are to be slaves...but the Jerusalem that is above [Sarah] is free, and she is our mother." He tells them that they, "like Isaac, are children of promise."

In chapter five, he tells the Galatians not only that "Christ has set us free," but that "if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all." Those "who are trying to be justified by law...have fallen away from grace." He tells thems that the "were called to be free," and encourages them to love one another, not to keep "biting and devouring each other." They must "live by the spirit" rather than "gratify[ing] the desires of the sinful nature, for the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit." The acts of the sinful nature, he says, are obvious, and then lists many, and warns that "those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." The fruit of the spirit, on the other hand, he also lists and says that "against such things there is no law" and that "since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."

In chapter six, he instructs them to "restore...gently" someone caught in sin, but also to "watch yourself, or also may be tempted." He tells them to carry one another's burden and "fulfill the law of Christ." He warns them that "if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself." Finally, he apparently wrote the last part himself instead of dictating, because he comment on "what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!" And tells them, again, that "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation."

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • I've looked at a couple of things discussing the timing of this epistle, and its relationship to the first council in Jerusalem, and I don't know what the consensus position is. I can see it either pre-or-ante-dating, though it seems to me more likely that it predates it. Afterwards, it seems that there would like be less concern over the issue of circumcision, and that Paul might have referenced that decision in his letter. But I'm not at all certain.
  • The whole epistle is, in fact, an argument against circumcision. Not, I think, for any inherent problems with the procedure, but to avoid the symbolic victory it would represent for that faction preaching that Christians must also be followers of the Mosaic law. That was a pressing concern, a major issue, and circumcision was one of, if not the single, most visible symbol of the two different positions.

Proverbs 19:1-14

Verses 5 and 9 here are almost identical: "A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who pours out lies will - not go free (5)/perish (9)." This is related to what I saw as the most prominent theme in chapter 18, and which we see again at the start of 19, "the tongue has the power of life and death..."

Proverbs 19

1 Better a poor man whose walk is blameless
than a fool whose lips are perverse.

2 It is not good to have zeal without knowledge,
nor to be hasty and miss the way.

3 A man's own folly ruins his life,
yet his heart rages against the LORD.

4 Wealth brings many friends,
but a poor man's friend deserts him.

5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who pours out lies will not go free.

6 Many curry favor with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of a man who gives gifts.

7 A poor man is shunned by all his relatives—
how much more do his friends avoid him!
Though he pursues them with pleading,
they are nowhere to be found. [a]

8 He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
he who cherishes understanding prospers.

9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who pours out lies will perish.

10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—
how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

11 A man's wisdom gives him patience;
it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

12 A king's rage is like the roar of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.

13 A foolish son is his father's ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.

14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,
but a prudent wife is from the LORD.

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