Saturday, January 29, 2011

Galatians 1:11-24, How Paul Became an Apostle (The Study of Galatians)

     11 For I make known to you, brothers, the gospel which was preached by me is not a product of man24 . 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me by25 the revealing of Jesus Christ26.
     13 For you heard of my former manner of life in the Jewish faith, that I was persecuting the church of God beyond measure and was trying to destroy it27, 14 and I was advancing in the Jewish faith above many contemporaries28 among my own people, being even more of a fanatic29 than they were of my forefathers’s tradition. 15 But when [God]30, who set me apart from my mother’s womb31 and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal32 his son in me, so that I might preach him among the gentiles, I did not immediately consult with other people33, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to the apostles before me34, but went into Arabia and returned again to Damascus.
     18 First of all35 , after three years36, I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas37 and stayed with him fifteen days, 19 but I didn’t see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. 20 Now in what I am writing to you, I swear before God38 that I am not lying39. 21 Then40, I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 But I was unknown by sight41 to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 But they were only hearing continually42, “The one who persecuted us once is now preaching the faith that he once tried to destroy”. 24 And they were glorifying43 God because of me.


Paul continues to go to great links to prove that he didn't receive the Gospel that he preached from the first eleven Apostles, nor any one else.  He explains that he had received it by God's revealing "his son in me".  Paul preached the Gospel for three years before he even went up to see any of the Apostles in Jerusalem.  He also makes it very clear that when he finally made the trip to Jerusalem, he only met with Peter and James, the Lord's brother who was also over the Church in Jerusalem.  This is a hint that Paul may have already known that there were people in James' Church who believed in continuing the practice of the Jewish Law.  As we go forward, they is evidence that these "believers" may have had some influence on the early Apostles.  At least we know that they did on Peter!  Paul made it a point not to see the people in that Church who would have been against the way he preached.  This must have been one of the accusations that these people made against Paul when they visited his Churches in Galatia: that he had spoken to them and he also believed as they did.  Paul says that is not true in his letter.  

24 κατὰ ἄνθρωπον (a product of man) 

Greek: “according to man”. In other words, a man didn’t come up with what Paul preached. This would have included Paul.

25 δι ̓ (by) 

or “through”.

26 δι ̓ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (by the revealing of Jesus Christ)

ἀποκάλυψις is “apocalypse” in english and is also the name of our final book in the New Testament. It is traditionally translated as “revelation”, but it really means “the revealing”. God revealed his son in Paul; both outwardly, as Paul saw Jesus on his way to Damascus, and inwardly, as Paul was completely transformed as the Spirit of God filled him.

Paul’s gospel is based on “the revealing of Jesus Christ” in him. In other words, Paul found out who Jesus really was; that he truly was “the anointed one”.

27 ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν (was trying to destroying it)

or “was trying to lay it waist”. This verb was commonly used to refer to a city that was being sacked.  Paul was attacking the church of God in order to bring it down and lay it waist.

28 συνηλικιώτας (contemporaries) 

They would have been people that were the same age or close to the same age as Paul.

29 ζηλωτὴς (a fanatic) 

or “a zealous person”.

30 [ὁ θεὸς] (God)

[ὁ θεὸς] is in brackets because it may not be original to the text. Original or not, God is the subject of the sentence whether implied or originally placed. I left it in if for no other reason than clarity.

31 ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου (who set me apart from my mother’s womb)

This passage shows Paul’s jewishness as he used a common phrase from the Old Testament here. In this case, he is paraphrasing from the Septuagint which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament. The phrase can mean either “since I was born” or “since before I was born”. It is probably the latter as that is how it is applied in the Old Testament.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5

32 ἀποκαλύψαι (to reveal) 

ἀποκαλύπτω (apocalypto) means “to reveal” or “to unveil”. The noun form of the verb is used in verse 12 (ἀποκάλυψις). See note 24.

33 σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι (other people) 

Greek: “flesh and blood”. A Jewish idiom for mankind or human.

34 πρὸ ἐμοῦ (before me)

Referring to the Apostles that were first commissioned by Jesus; the twelve (eleven). This phrase should not be regarded as to “rank” as πρὸ ἐμοῦ is temporal as it relates to time. Paul was just stating that the “eleven” were commissioned before he was. That doesn’t make them of a higher rank as Paul was commissioned directly, in person, by the Lord himself. I’ve often wondered if Paul was God’s true replacement for Judas. Matthias was chosen by lot (Acts 1:26), but Paul was chosen by God.

35 Ἔπειτα (First of all)

Greek: “then”. “a point of time following another point”. This word is used to set up various points in a discussion. “First...then...and finally...” Paul uses this word three times (1:18, 1:21, and 2:1) and is setting up his defense of how he became an apostle and proving that his gospel was from no other person, including the Apostles.

36 Paul was preaching his gospel three years before ever visiting the leaders in Jerusalem.

37 Κηφᾶν (Cephas) 

Peter. Κηφᾶς is the transliterated Aramaic word for “rock”.

38 ἰδοὺ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ (I swear before God) 

Greek: “behold, before God”.

39 Apparently, the “apostles” from Jerusalem had told the people in the churches of Galatia that Paul had gotten all of his information from the apostles in Jerusalem. Paul is now going to extreme measures to prove that this accusation is false.

40 ”Then”. See note 32. The next event occurs.

41 τῷ προσώπῳ (by sight)

Greek: “by face”. In other words, the people of those churches wouldn’t recognize Paul even if they saw him.

42 ἀκούοντες ἦσαν (they were continually hearing) 

ἦσαν (were) is in the imperfect which carries a “continual” aspect. It could be translated: “they kept on hearing”.

43 ἐδόξαζον (they were glorifying)

ἐδόξαζον also is in the imperfect. It basically means that the people (they) would glorify God every time they heard of things that Paul was doing.

The Greek

11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπ ̓ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον· 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην ἀλλὰ δι ̓ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 Ἠκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ, ὅτι καθ ̓ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν, 14 καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου, περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων. 15 Ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ 16 ἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα εὐαγγελίζωμαι αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, εὐθέως οὐ προσανεθέμην σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι 17 οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους, ἀλλὰ ἀπῆλθον εἰς Ἀραβίαν καὶ πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα εἰς Δαμασκόν. 18 Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε, 19 ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου. 20 ἃ δὲ γράφω ὑμῖν, ἰδοὺ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι. 21 Ἔπειτα ἦλθον εἰς τὰ κλίματα τῆς Συρίας καὶ τῆς Κιλικίας· 22 ἤμην δὲ ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Ἰουδαίας ταῖς ἐν Χριστῷ. 23 μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες ἦσαν ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει, 24 καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸν θεόν.


  1. The hermeneutic of conflict. I have written a piece of historical fiction, and I'm currently working on a theological paper, and both deal extensively with the conflict in the early church between James, the brother of Jesus, and Paul over the issue of Torah observance by Gentiles. I believe this conflict is a hermeneutic by which we can read Paul and also the gospels. Click on my name for more info about the novel, "A Wretched Man, a novel of Paul the apostle".

  2. Thank you Mr. Holmen. I'm going to get a copy of your book. I'm convinced that there was a big problem between the Jerusalem church and Paul. I'm also convinced that the Jewish people ultimately rejected Christianity due to the fact that they really thought that a Christian had follow the Jewish law.