As I study and learn and attempt to teach, I often preserve notes in documents on my hard drive, or within my Logos Bible software, or in my Google Drive “cloud” documents, or in the margins of Bibles and other books. Another part of my process often involves writing on this blog. I started this kind of documenting, I think, back in 2009 during a study of Philemon. It is in this same vein that I share some things I’m presently learning in Galatians. This is the last of three commentary posts that offer miscellaneous textual insights from chapters 1 and 2.(The first two posts are here and here.) Whether I’m on target in this instance or that, I hope other students will be spurred to dig into the text.
In 2:1-2 I find the suggestion of a symmetric structure. For sake of illustration to the majority of my readers I’ll attempt a partially awkward paraphrase that points this up:
A¹ the gospel that I proclaim among the gentiles, in order to make sure that I was not running, or had not run, in vain.
Moving from the outside in, the fourteen years (above, A) may be seen as explained or elaborated on by Paul’s activities (in A¹), i.e., time spent among the gentiles, that is, the reader should remember that it was a long time that Paul was in gentile lands and not in Jerusalem. The Greek verb in B is the same as the verb in C. The verb in B¹ is a different word but only by two letters: anethén vs. anethebén, but the similarity might not be significant since there are quite a few words that begin and end with the same letter combinations. The point of emphasis would be in C, which is the 3rd mention of revelation in Galatians, and that is why I’ve added the word “remember,” because the idea seems contextually emphatic. On the matter of revelation/revealing, please see this prior post. I think that essay particularly makes for worthy devotional pondering (even if it’s not great reading undergirded by solid research).
2:5-7 contains some interesting possibilities. Note the relationships shown by the color coding below:
5 we did not submit to them even for a moment,
so that the truth of the gospel might always remain with you.
6 And from those who were supposed to be acknowledged leaders
(what they actually were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)
—those leaders contributed nothing to me.
On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised,
just as Peter for the circumcised
Peter is one of them. The “you (all)” group being addressed with reference to the gospel would be the uncircumcised gentile Galatians. The leaders are presented a bit ironically. In context, the center of the center is probably not so much a dismissive “I don’t even care about them” as a putting-in-proper-perspective of the Jerusalem apostles. Combined with the elusive, idiomatic expression about partiality that has been translated many different ways (see this site), it seems more a matter of saying that Peter and the others had no bearing on what Paul was doing—and, as the Weymouth translation puts the idiom, “God recognizes no external distinctions” after all. That, after all, is one of the principal themes of Galatians, and it will show up in the famous 3:28-29 and, in the specific matter of circumcision as an external distinction.
I noticed the above on my own, but I am not very confident about it. On this page (not my own work) the structure is expanded, and the center is the same.
2:14-2:19 appears to employ a chiastic structure; the inner focal point is faith in Jesus Christ (v16). The fact that a chiastic structure might overlap the beginning of what I’ve identified as a transitional passage (2:15-21) might lead one to question whether a section indeed starts in v15. If I had to choose here between rhetorical structure and chiastic structure (and I don’t think I do have to choose), I would tend to prioritize the integrity of the rhetoric. It is also bears mention that if a chiasm spans verses 14-21, it adds weight to the thought that verses 15-21 continue the narration of the dialogue between Paul and Peter. In other words, this structure supports the idea that Paul’s conversation with Peter didn’t stop in v14.
2:19-2:21 may also have a centered, symmetric structure. This chiasm is less convincing to me than in 2:14-19, but if it were intentional, one focal point is that Christ lives in Paul (v20). This insight calls to mind the earlier mentions of Jesus’ having been revealed in Paul (1:12, 1:16).
If any of this has whetted your appetite, please see this post on the structure of 1:10. It is also rather technical exegetical work—beyond my qualifications, really—but this kind of thing is loads of fun (really!) to dig into.
Finally—and here I mean finally in the sense of summing up the bulk of chapters 1 and 2 for now, but not forever (sort of like Paul’s use of a summation word in Philippians 3:1, right in the middle of his letter)—I want to mention Paul’s eyes and the Damascus Road revelation experience of Acts 9/Gal 1. Taking this up will require a good deal more study of syntax, idioms, grammar, vocabulary, and more, but I am thinking that the infirmity to which Paul refers in Gal 4:12-15 could have been a visible remnant of the revelation and blindness from about 15 years prior (1:12, 1:16). If so, the “marks of Jesus” of Gal 6:17 could refer to the same condition of the eyes—perhaps some scar tissue or red marks or scaly eyelid skin or something. If I’m onto anything at all here, it would tend to heighten the already-high emotional sense of this letter: the nature and content of Paul’s gospel are inextricably associated with the revelation of Jesus Christ to him, and any remaining physical manifestations on his body would have been seen by the Galatians when Paul first preached to them. This reality would make the Galatians’ abandonment of the pure gospel message all the more unexpected, ironic, and tragic from Paul’s point of view (and my own!). How could they abandon the message delivered by one who had so obviously received it directly from Jesus?
The above is pretty speculative at this point, and I have loads more study ahead before reaching any sort of conclusion. In a week or three, perhaps I will have some gleanings to share from 2:15-21 (which is substantially transitional, not passively so) and beyond.