Galatians words and notes (1)

[This is the 3rd in a series on Paul’s letter to the Galatians.]  wpid-2013-02-19_17-22-52_366.jpg

One means of getting a handle on the content of a letter is to examine it for recurring words and themes.  For example:  the words law and faith are clearly very significant here.

Below are some notes on frequently used words.  The definitions given here are minimal; the specific contexts are always important in determining more specific meanings.  The word counts were software-based and relatively scientifically sound; the selection of words was perhaps more biased, although I don’t think I’ve omitted any highly significant, recurring words in the letter.

Greek Rough definition Found in Galatians
δικαιο* / dikaio*
to justify
2:16-17; 3:8; 3:11; 3:24; 5:4 (10x total, including below)
δικαιοσύνη / diakiosune
2:21; 3:6; (3:11 dikaios); 3:21; 5:5 (10x total, including above)
νόμο* / nomo*
2:16; 2:19; 2:21; 3:2; 3:5; 3:10-13; 3:17-19; 3:21; 3:23-24; 4:4-5; 4:21; 5:3-4; 5:14; 5:18; 5:23; 6:2; 6:13 (23-25x total)
πίστ* / pist*
Noun form 1:23; 2:16; 2:20; 3:2; 3:5; 3:7-9; 3:11-12; 3:14; 3:22-26; 5:5-6; 5:22; 6:10

Verb form 2:7; 2:16; 3:6; 3:22 (participles 2:16, 3:6) (20x total)

ζῇ -zao / ze – zao
life, live, and cognates
2:14; 2:19-20; 3:11-12; 5:25 (10+x)
ἔργων / ergon
2:16; 3:2; 3:5; 3:10; 5:19; 6:4 (7x)
ἐπαγγελία / epangellia
3:14; 3:16-19; 3:21-22; 3:29; 4:23; 4:28 (9x total — all in chs. 3, 4; 17x in Gal and Rom combined; 13x in Hebrews, 52x total in NT — more than half the NT uses are in Gal, Rom, and Heb.)
ἐλεύθερ* / eleuther *
2:4; 3:28; 4:22,23,26,30,31;  5:1,13  (9x total)

Here are some miscellaneous textual notes, selected from my gleanings:

  • 1:3 — grace and peace — xaris is Christian; eirene is Jewish.  This pairing, presumably owing to the ethnic dichotomy in the Galatian churches, also appears in the letter’s conclusion (peace 6:16, grace 6:18)
  • 1:1-5 — is all one sentence
  • 1:6 — amazed/surprised — element of intense unbelief (perhaps could be as much “disgusted” as “surprised”?)
    • metatisthese
      • deserting Him — not defection from mere custom or creed; present tense (defection is not complete, i.e., not in perfect tense)
      •  “quickly deserting”  — support for earlier dating of letter.  Gk. is colorful — used of military revolt, change of attitude
      •  verb is in middle voice, therefore, Galatians are responsible, although there’s evidence of outside influence (said to be in the middle between the active and the passive voices because the subject often cannot be categorized as either agent or patient but may have elements of both.  (Wiki)
  • 1:13 — “church of God” may stand in opposition to the succeeding mentions of Judaism
  • 3:1 — second aorist (basic, single-instance-focus past tense) passive indicative of prograpw, old verb meaning “to write beforehand,” to set forth by public proclamation,” “to placard, to post up.”  This last idea is found in several papyri (Moulton and Milligan’s Vocabulary) as in the case of a father who posted a proclamation that he would no longer be responsible for his son’s debts.  Grapw  was sometimes used in the sense of painting, but no example of prograpw with this meaning has been found unless this is one.  With that idea, it would be to portray, to picture forth — a rendering not very different from placarding. 
  • 3:3 — nun sarki epiteleisqe? — “are you now perfected in the flesh?  There is a double contrast between enarxamenoi above (having begun) and epiteleisqe (finishing), and also between “Spirit” (pneumati) and flesh (sarki). There is keen irony in this thrust (Robertson).
  • 3:29 — Although word order is not often important in Greek, since the word “promise” figures in significantly in chs. 3-4, I couldn’t resist this:  κατ επαγγελιαν κληρονομοι  — “according to promise heirs.”  Promise is emphasized in this section of the letter.  The compound word “heirs” would have some legal import, using nomoi (law).
  • 4:12-20  No grammatical marker (no alla or de) appears in the text at 4:12 to indicate that we should set off 12 from for 11 to any significant degree.  Witherington does not believe this passage was written by a “crazed” Paul “going off”; it’s just a different kind of argument, within the “proving” of the probatio.
  • 4:12 verb is present middle imperative, “Keep on becoming as I am.”  Paul will not give them over, afraid though he is.  Paul a

    ssumes (a subset of) the addressees were not like him, i.e., they were then observing Jewish calendar and dietary laws, and seem to have been contemplating circumcision as necessary.

  • There are three vocative-case (rare in NT) instances of the word “brothers” in Gal: 4:12, 1:11, 5:13.  For investigation:  what case are

    4:28, 4:31 6:1, and why would Paul have employed vocative  in the first three?


For more detailed insight into the minutiae of Galatians words, try Robertson’s Word Pictures, available free on the WWW.


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