Galatians 2:2 (Corrected - I hope)

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at
Sat Aug 26 08:18:44 EDT 2000

At 5:34 PM -0400 8/25/00, RHutchin at wrote:
>Galatians 2:2--
>As a matter of exegesis, it would appear that Paul is not saying that he has
>doubts about the validity of the gospel he is preaching but that the
>acceptance of circumcision by the church as a condition of salvation (an
>error in Paul's mind) would compromise the gospel that he has preached,
>effectively nullifying it, with the result that all he had accomplished would
>then have been in vain.
>My questions.  I know what I want the Greek text to say, but does the Greek
>text actually support me in the above conclusion?  If yes, how would I argue
>that it does?  If no, what conclusion does the text support?

Interesting comment, that first one! There are passages where I'd like the
Greek to say something quite other than what I know very well it does say!
And also, of course, there are passages where I have no clear idea what the
Greek text is saying.

Although the context of this account of Paul's trip to Jerusalem and
discussion with the "pillars" of the community there does involve the
question of circumcision and conformity of Gentile converts to the Torah,
there is certainly no explicit mention of that here in what seems to me to
be a straightforward statement. The question, I guess, is how much we are
entitled to read between the lines--and sometimes I think we have to make
intelligent guesses at what is to be read between the lines. For my part I
DON'T think any question regarding circumcision constitutes a reason why
Paul says he conferred with the "pillars." Rather, I think he tells of this
conference precisely to indicate that no such understanding about a
requirement of circumcision came into play in the discussion with the
"pillars." The question of circumcision and its necessity was raised, if I
read vs. 4 rightly, by persons whom he calls PAREISAKTOUS YEUDADELFOUS and
played no role in the initial discussions he held with the "pillars."

>On - MH PWS EIS KENON TRECW H EDRAMON - AT Robertson describes it as
>"Negative purpose with the present subjunctive (TRECW) and then by a sudden
>change the aorist indicative (EDRAMON), as a sort of afterthought or
>retrospect.  Could someone translate that into 8th grade English so I might
>understand it?

I'm not sure I'd call this present subjunctive TRECW (of course, the form
could be indicative, but it probably is subjunctive, given the introductory
MH) as a negative purpose clause so much as a "fear/anxiety" clause
(formally, there wouldn't be any difference in the elements of a negative
purpose or a fear clause): "lest I be running fruitlessly" or "for anxiety
that I might be running fruitlessly." Then the aorist indicative EDRAMON
shifts into the construction of a contrary-to-fact clause, expressing
anxiety over what Paul's past actions MAY have been: "lest I had run
fruitlessly" or "for anxiety that I had run fruitlessly."

Now, this still demands reading between the lines. If we take what's said
on the surface as a precise account of what Paul actually DID feel at the
time he consulted with the Jerusalem "pillars," then we'll have to concede
that he took seriously the possibility that his missionary activity was
"not kosher" and even that it HAD all been a waste of time and effort. On
the other hand, I personally think it is more likely that Paul is engaged
here in an enterprise of political pragmatism. Despite the fact that he
feels very strongly (as made clear in chap. 1) that his own apostolic
status and authority depend upon the revelation he received and not upon
any certification by any human authority, whether of an individual or of a
group such as the Jerusalem apostolic authorities, nevertheless Paul is
profoundly concerned for the UNITY and UNANIMITY of apostolic authorities
regarding the evangelistic mission which they and he are both engaged in:
he doesn't want to be working at cross-purposes with them; all things being
equal, he wants to have an amicable understanding between all who are
engaged in and supportive of the evangelistic mission about what the gospel
is and what it implies. He doesn't say that this was his concern (what the
gospel is and what it implies), and yet the reason why he offers this
anecdote must, it seems to me, be that he always has been concerned that
there be a clear and shared understanding of what the gospel is and what it
implies. And I think he's saying that there were no differences between
himself and the "pillars" emerging from that original conference that he
held with them. The tensions arose afterwards and were instigated by
individuals (the PAREISAKTOI YEUDADELFOI) in whom Paul recognized
absolutely no legitimate authority.

That's a pretty long answer to your question. In sum, I don't think that
the question of circumcision enters directly into the conference Paul says
in this verse that he held with the "pillars"--I think rather that he
reports this conference in order to indicate that the circumcision issue
was raised illegitimately, only afterwards and by persons who had no
legitimate authority.

I should add that I don't think any of this runs counter to what Braulio
Barillas has said, but although I think I understand his Spanish, I
wouldn't want to claim any certainty that I have understood him rightly.


Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649
cwconrad at

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