Consider the letter from Paul to the Galatians. Its authenticity is not in question: theistic, agnostic, and atheistic scholars all accept that this letter was written by Paul to a people group in the Galatian/Phrygian region, which is now part of Turkey. A large but not overwhelming number of text scholars favor an early authorship date of ~48CE, but it could have been written as many as seven years later.
The letter packs a punch, and several themes and emphases quickly rise to the surface. Supporting one of the themes, three verses—1:12, 1:16, and 2:2¹—are tied together by a specific word. In any normal letter or other piece of literature, a reader expects such connections, but especially in the case of scripture, from which tiny excerpts are routinely purloined from context without regard for the whole, it is good to point out this type of thing. One of the three verses contains a problematic phrase, well known for its ambiguity. The elusive final words of Galatians 1:12 (αποκαλύπσις ιεσόυ χριστόυ | apokalupsis iesou christou) are often given as “revelation of Jesus Christ.” At least three translation possibilities exist, however:
1: “Jesus Christ’s revelation” (or revelation of Jesus Christ)—a simple possessive
2: “revelation from Jesus Christ”—showing the source of the revelation rather than its ownership
3: “revelation that is Jesus Christ”—identifying the revelation as Jesus
[Thirty-one English translations from published Bibles are included as a footnote.² Most of these have opted for either option 1 or option 2.]
At this juncture in my study, I would like to hazard a guess at the import of these three verses, all within the context of Paul’s narrative (1:11 through most or all of chapter 2). I suggest that the three verses interrelate, overlapping one another. Here are the three, with possible meanings:
For I did not receive it from a human source and I was not taught it, but it came by a revelation from Jesus Christ. (1:12, HCSB)
(Perhaps “revelation” there has meaning #2 as its primary one, as translated by the HCSB and many other versions, albeit with meaning #1 underlying.)
[God] . . . was pleased 16 to reveal His Son in me (1:15b-16a, HCSB)
(1:16 implies something more along the lines of meaning #3 and is not ambiguous, comparatively speaking.)
I went up [to Jerusalem] according to a revelation (2:2, HCSB)
(2:2 is clearly an example of meaning #2.)
Taken together, and considering the narrative of 1:11-2:21 overall, the ideas are complementary: this Jesus, Who revealed Himself personally (#3) to Saul on the road to Damascus, also revealed (#2) a kind of good news, being simultaneously the Source (#2) and Possessor (#1) of that good news Himself. This complementary overlap does not necessarily dictate one meaning over the other in 1:12, but the three revelation references do strongly suggest Paul’s sense and personal experience of Jesus. I have also been thinking about related reference(s) to Paul’s eyes and will take that up in a future post.
A serendipitous aside: the phrase found in Gal 1:12 closely resembles the title of the “book” of Revelation. That document, although famously symbolic, was not penned to make anything seem mysterious. After all, a revelation reveals something, as opposed to concealing it! And I can well imagine that Paul felt Jesus was anything but concealed during and after that personal encounter on the dusty road to Damascus. Jesus was revealed to him, and that revelation was the basis of the gospel for which Paul lived afterward.
¹I am not asserting that these three rhetorically/conceptually related texts are the only ones to be considered in this regard.
² Comparison of 31 English versions: Gal 1:12b
AMP | I received it through a [direct] revelation of Jesus Christ.
ASV 1901 | it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
AV | by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
CEB | I It came through a revelation from Jesus Christ.
CJB | it came through a direct revelation from Yeshua the Messiah.
CSB | it came by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
DLNT | I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
ESV | I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
EXV | ·Jesus Christ showed it to me [L by a revelation of/from/about Jesus Christ; Acts 9].
GW | I didn’t receive it from any person. I wasn’t taught it, but Jesus Christ revealed it to me.
HNV | it came to me through revelation of Yeshua the Messiah.
ICB | Jesus Christ showed it to me.
ISV | it was revealed to me by Jesus the Messiah.
LB | For my message comes from no less a person than Jesus Christ himself, who told me what to say.
MEV | neither was I taught it, except by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
MSG | I got it straight from God, received the Message directly from Jesus Christ.
NET | For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ
NASB95 | I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
NIrV | Instead, I received it from Jesus Christ. He showed it to me.
NIV | I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
NIV84 | I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.
NJB | it came to me through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
NLT | Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.
NRSV | I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
RSV | it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
VOICE | I was gifted with this message as Jesus the Anointed revealed Himself miraculously to me.
WE | it was Jesus Christ who showed it to me.
WEB | it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
YLT | nor was I taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ,