Galatians 2:2 (Corrected - I hope)

Mike Sangrey mike at
Sat Aug 26 11:46:57 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?

Carl Conrad <cwconrad at> said:
>  I personally think it is more likely that Paul is engaged here in an
> enterprise of political pragmatism. [referring to Paul's statement of
> "lest I had run fruitlessly" or "for anxiety that I had run
> fruitlessly."]

Carl balances this statement with:
>  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.

I personally like Carl's emphasis on the "UNITY and UNANIMITY"; however,
I'd like to suggest a slightly different way of coming at it than
by appealing to a "political pragmatism."  Perhaps I'm being overly
sensitive, but I can't help think the people of the 1st century would
have been very sensitive to "political pragmatism", too.

I think Paul was asking for some coaching.  He was very strongly sure of
his starting point and just as firmly sure of the goal; but, the race
from start to finish may not be his best effort.  Had he run rightly?
Was he running rightly?  It was a PROCESS discussion and not a DEFINITION

I think in understanding this text we need to keep in mind that whether
to circumcise or not was NOT a simple question to the 1st century
Christian Jew.  God had been pretty clear for a couple of thousand
years; why change now?  So, theologically, there was a VERY large issue.
Also, how to deal in Paul's time, right here, right now (as it were),
with the correct answer to that question was not all that easy either.
Should there be an initial compromise and then, over time, move the
fledgling church to a mature understanding?  Should there be a very clean
break?  If a clean break, is that applicable in all situations? These
were questions with large implications.  There were strong arguments on
both sides and there was more than one side.  One group in particular
had the wrong starting and ending point all together and that furthered
the polarization.

But, Paul informs the Galatian readers, not even in this situation did
those whose reputations place them as pillars vote for circumcision when
it was argued for by others.  Others, who Paul here characterizes as
`YEUD'-ADELFOUS, that is, false brothers.  A clean break was mandated
given the high degree of risk if a clean break was not done.  The Galatian
controversy is strong evidence they were right.

I think Paul is actually being very cautious and clever here; and, at
the same time, making it clear he is NOT being political.  He uses a
strange way of describing the Jerusalem Apostles: "reputed to be pillars."
He doesn't want to appear as if he is wielding political power to bring
the Galatians into line.  Pardon me, but he is not "kissing-up" or
"brown-nosing". (And I don't mean to imply Carl was suggesting such,
he wasn't--I'm just being very clear.)

Why?  That would not give the Gospel its rightful place as absolute
truth.  The Gospel stands true no matter what anyone thinks or decides.
The Galatian controversy was not a question of political power; it was
a question of what it meant to live out the Gospel of the Messiah.
In that 1st century environment of political shenanigans, bringing
political pressure would have called into question the very nature of
the Gospel itself--its freedom.  My wife is reading "The Flames of Rome"
by Maier.  And based on that book I think I can easily suggest that the
last thing any Apostle would want to suggest was political maneuvering
by authorities, supposed or otherwise.  There was to not even be the
least hint of manipulation.  The Gospel was the authority here.

However, he also want to convey a unified front, a UNITY and UNANIMITY
as Carl has put it.

So, Paul very carefully constructs his argument to convey the later
without conveying a pragmatically political stance.  He was, in effect,
running a race, a race through a mine field of Israel's history,
the current political milieu, and the radical reformulation Jesus
had advocated.  Was his running of that race bearing the right fruit?
And that, I think, is the reason for what appears to be odd wording when
in fact it is very careful wording.

Well, that's my opinion, I hope that helps answer the question.

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