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Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Galatians 3



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Verse 1

Who did bewitch you? (τις υμας εβασκανενtis humas ebaskaneṅ). Somebody “fascinated” you. Some aggressive Judaizer (Galatians 5:7), some one man (or woman). First aorist active indicative of βασκαινωbaskainō old word kin to πασκωphaskō (βασκωbaskō), to speak, then to bring evil on one by feigned praise or the evil eye (hoodoo), to lead astray by evil arts. Only here in the N.T. This popular belief in the evil eye is old (Deuteronomy 28:54) and persistent. The papyri give several examples of the adjective αβασκανταabaskanta the adverb αβασκαντωςabaskantōs (unharmed by the evil eye), the substantive βασκανιαbaskania (witchcraft).

Before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified (οις κατ οπταλμους Ιησους Χριστος προεγραπη εσταυρωμενοςhois kat' ophthalmous Iēsous Christos proegraphē estaurōmenos). Literally, “to whom before your very eyes Jesus Christ was portrayed as crucified.” Second aorist passive indicative of προγραπωprographō old verb 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. ΓραπωGraphō was sometimes used in the sense of painting, but no example of προγραπωprographō 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. The foolish Galatians were without excuse when they fell under the spell of the Judaizer. ΕσταυρωμενοςEstaurōmenos is perfect passive participle of σταυροωstauroō the common verb to crucify (from σταυροςstauros stake, cross), to put on the cross (Matthew 20:19), same form as in 1 Corinthians 2:2.

Verse 2

This only (τουτο μονονtouto monon). Paul strikes at the heart of the problem. He will show their error by the point that the gifts of the Spirit came by the hearing of faith, not by works of the law.

Verse 3

Are ye now perfected in the flesh? (νυν σαρκι επιτελειστεnun sarki epiteleisthė). Rather middle voice as in 1 Peter 5:9, finishing of yourselves. There is a double contrast, between εναρχαμενοιenarxamenoi (having begun) and επιτελειστεepiteleisthe (finishing) as in 2 Corinthians 8:6; Philemon 1:6, and also between “Spirit” (πνευματιpneumati) and flesh (σαρκιsarki). There is keen irony in this thrust.

Verse 4

Did ye suffer? (επατετεepathetė). Second aorist active indicative of πασχωpaschō to experience good or ill. But alone, as here, it often means to suffer ill (τοσαυταtosauta so many things). In North Galatia we have no record of persecutions, but we do have records for South Galatia (Acts 14:2, Acts 14:5, Acts 14:19, Acts 14:22).

If it be indeed in vain (ει γε και εικηιei ge kai eikēi). On εικηιeikēi see note on 1 Corinthians 15:2; note on Galatians 4:11. Paul clings to hope about them with alternative fears.

Verse 5

Supplieth (επιχορηγωνepichorēgōn). It is God. See note on 2 Corinthians 9:10 for this present active participle. Cf. Philemon 1:19; 2 Peter 1:5.

Worketh miracles (energōn dunameis). On the word ενεργων δυναμειςenergeō see note on 1 Thessalonians 2:13; note on 1 Corinthians 12:6. It is a great word for God‘s activities (Philemon 2:13). “In you” (Lightfoot) is preferable to “among you” for ενεργεωen humin (1 Corinthians 13:10; Matthew 14:2). The principal verb for “doeth he it” (εν υμινpoiei) is not expressed. Paul repeats the contrast in Galatians 3:2 about “works of the law” and “the hearing of faith.”

Verse 6

It was reckoned unto him for righteousness (ελογιστη εις δικαιοσυνηνelogisthē eis dikaiosunēn). First aorist passive indicative of λογιζομαιlogizomai See note on 1 Corinthians 13:5 for this old word. He quotes Genesis 15:6 and uses it at length in Romans 4:3. to prove that the faith of Abraham was reckoned “for” (eis good Koiné{[28928]}š idiom though more common in lxx because of the Hebrew) righteousness before he was circumcised. James (James 2:23) quotes the same passage as proof of Abraham‘s obedience to God in offering up Isaac (beginning to offer him). Paul and James are discussing different episodes in the life of Abraham. Both are correct.

Verse 7

The same are sons of Abraham (ουτοι υιοι εισιν Αβρααμhoutoi huioi eisin Abraham). “These are.” This is Paul‘s astounding doctrine to Jews that the real sons of Abraham are those who believe as he did, “they which be of faith” (οι εκ πιστεωςhoi ek pisteōs), a common idiom with Paul for this idea (Galatians 3:9; Romans 3:26; Romans 4:16; Romans 14:23), those whose spiritual sonship springs out of (εκek) faith, not out of blood. John the Baptist denounced the Pharisees and Sadducees as vipers though descendants of Abraham (Matthew 3:7; Luke 3:7) and Jesus termed the Pharisees children of the devil and not spiritual children of Abraham (not children of God) in John 8:37-44.

Verse 8

Foreseeing (προιδουσαproidousa). Second aorist active participle of προοραωprooraō The Scripture is here personified. Alone in this sense of “sight,” but common with λεγειlegei or ειπενeipen (says, said) and really in Galatians 3:22 “hath shut up” (συνεκλεισενsunekleisen).

Would justify (δικαιοιdikaioi). Present active indicative, “does justify.”

Preached the gospel beforehand (προευηγγελισατοproeuēggelisato). First aorist middle indicative of προευαγγελιζομαιproeuaggelizomai with augment on αa though both προpro and ευeu before it in composition. Only instance in N.T. It occurs in Philo. and Schol. Soph. This Scripture announced beforehand the gospel on this point of justification by faith. He quotes the promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:3; Genesis 18:18, putting παντα τα ετνηpanta ta ethnē (all the nations) in Genesis 18:18 for πασαι αι πυλαιpāsai hai phulai (all the tribes) of the earth. It is a crucial passage for Paul‘s point, showing that the promise to Abraham included all the nations of the earth. The verb ενευλογεωeneulogeō (future passive here) occurs in the lxx and here only in N.T. (not Acts 3:25 in correct text).

In thee (εν σοιen soi). “As their spiritual progenitor” (Lightfoot).

Verse 9

With (συνsun). Along with, in fellowship with.

The faithful (τωι πιστωιtōi pistōi). Rather, “the believing” (cf. Galatians 3:6).

Verse 10

Under a curse (υπο καταρανhupo kataran). Picture of the curse hanging over them like a Damocles‘ blade. Cf. Romans 3:9 “under sin” (υπ αμαρτιανhuph' hamartian). The word for “curse” (καταραkatara) is an old one (καταkata down, αραara imprecation), often in lxx, in N.T. only here and Galatians 3:13; James 3:10; 2 Peter 2:14. Paul quotes Deuteronomy 27:26, the close of the curses on Mt. Ebal. He makes a slight explanatory modification of the lxx changing λογοιςlogois to γεγραμμενοις εν τωι βιβλιωιgegrammenois en tōi bibliōi The idea is made clearer by the participle (γεγραμμενοιςgegrammenois) and βιβλιωιbibliōi (book). The curse becomes effective only when the law is violated.

Cursed (επικαταρατοςepikataratos). Verbal adjective from επικαταραομαιepikataraomai to imprecate curses, late word, common in lxx. In N.T. only here and Galatians 3:13, but in inscriptions also (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 96). The emphasis is on “continueth” (εμμενειemmenei) and “all” (πασινpāsin).

Verse 11

In the sight of God (παρα τωι τεωιpara tōi theōi). By the side of (παραpara) God, as God looks at it, for the simple reason that no one except Jesus has ever kept all the law, God‘s perfect law.

Verse 12

The law is not of faith (ο νομος ουκ εστιν εκ πιστεωςho nomos ouk estin ek pisteōs). Law demands complete obedience and rests not on mercy, faith, grace.

Verse 13

Redeemed us (ημας εχηγορασενhēmas exēgorasen). First aorist active of the compound verb εχαγοραζωexagorazō (Polybius, Plutarch, Diodorus), to buy from, to buy back, to ransom. The simple verb αγοραζωagorazō (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Corinthians 7:23) is used in an inscription for the purchase of slaves in a will (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 324). See also Galatians 4:5; Colossians 4:5; Ephesians 5:16. Christ purchased us from the curse of the law (εκ της καταρας του νομουek tēs kataras tou nomou). “Out from (εκek repeated) under (υποhupo in Galatians 3:10) the curse of the law.”

Having become a curse for us (γενομενος υπερ ημων καταραgenomenos huper hēmōn katara). Here the graphic picture is completed. We were under (υποhupo) a curse, Christ became a curse over (υπερhuper) us and so between us and the overhanging curse which fell on him instead of on us. Thus he bought us out (εκek) and we are free from the curse which he took on himself. This use of υπερhuper for substitution is common in the papyri and in ancient Greek as in the N.T. (John 11:50; 2 Corinthians 5:14.).

That hangeth on a tree (ο κρεμαμενος επι χυλουho kremamenos epi xulou). Quotation from Deuteronomy 21:23 with the omission of υπο τεουhupo theou (by God). Since Christ was not cursed by God. The allusion was to exposure of dead bodies on stakes or crosses (Joshua 10:26). ΧυλονXulon means wood, not usually tree, though so in Luke 23:31 and in later Greek. It was used of gallows, crosses, etc. See note on Acts 5:30; note on Acts 10:39; and note on 1 Peter 2:24. On the present middle participle from the old verb κρεμαννυμιkremannumi to hang, see Matthew 18:6; Acts 5:30.

Verse 14

That upon the Gentiles (ινα εις τα ετνηhina eis ta ethnē). Final clause (ιναhina and γενηταιgenētai aorist middle subjunctive).

That we might receive (ινα λαβωμενhina labōmen). Second final clause coordinate with the first as in 2 Corinthians 9:3. So in Christ we all (Gentile and Jew) obtain the promise of blessing made to Abraham, through faith.

Verse 15

After the manner of men (κατα αντρωπονkata anthrōpon). After the custom and practice of men, an illustration from life.

Though it be but a man‘s covenant, yet when it hath been confirmed (ομως αντρωπου κεκυρωμενην διατηκηνhomōs anthrōpou kekurōmenēn diathēkēn). Literally, “Yet a man‘s covenant ratified.” On ΔιατηκηDiathēkē as both covenant and will see note on Matthew 26:28; note on 1 Corinthians 11:25; note on 2 Corinthians 3:6; notes on Hebrews 9:16. On κυροωkuroō to ratify, to make valid, see note on 2 Corinthians 2:8. Perfect passive participle here, state of completion, authoritative confirmation.

Maketh it void (ατετειathetei). See note on Galatians 2:21 for this verb. Both parties can by agreement cancel a contract, but not otherwise.

Addeth thereto (επιδιατασσεταιepidiatassetai). Present middle indicative of the double compound verb επιδιατασσομαιepidiatassomai a word found nowhere else as yet. But inscriptions use διατασσομαι διαταχισ διαταγη διαταγμαdiatassomaiεπιdiataxisδιαταχειςdiatagēdiatagma with the specialized meaning to “determine by testamentary disposition” (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East, p. 90). It was unlawful to add (epi) fresh clauses or specifications (diataxeis).

Verse 16

But as of one (αλλ ως επ ενοςall' hōs Ephesians' henos). But as in the case of one.

Which is Christ (ος εστιν Χριστοςhos estin Christos). Masculine relative agreeing with ΧριστοςChristos though σπερμαsperma is neuter. But the promise to Abraham uses σπερμαsperma as a collective substantive and applies to all believers (both Jews and Gentiles) as Paul has shown in Galatians 3:7-14, and as of course he knew full well Here Paul uses a rabbinical refinement which is yet intelligible. The people of Israel were a type of the Messiah and he gathers up the promise in its special application to Christ. He does not say that Christ is specifically referred to in Genesis 13:15 or Genesis 17:7.

Verse 17

Now this I say (τουτο δε λεγωtouto de legō). Now I mean this. He comes back to his main point and is not carried afield by the special application of σπερμαsperma to Christ.

Confirmed beforehand by God (προκεκυρωμενην υπο του τεουprokekurōmenēn hupo tou theou). Perfect passive participle of προκυροωprokuroō in Byzantine writers and earliest use here. Nowhere else in N.T. The point is in προpro and υπο του τεουhupo tou theou (by God) and in μεταmeta (after) as Burton shows.

Four hundred and thirty years after (μετα τετρακοσια και τριακοντα ετηmeta tetrakosia kai triakonta etē). Literally, “after four hundred and thirty years.” This is the date in Exodus 12:40 for the sojourn in Egypt (cf. Genesis 15:13). But the lxx adds words to include the time of the patriarchs in Canaan in this number of years which would cut the time in Egypt in two. Cf. Acts 7:6. It is immaterial to Paul‘s argument which chronology is adopted except that “the longer the covenant had been in force the more impressive is his statement” (Burton).

Doth not disannul (ουκ ακυροιouk akuroi). Late verb ακυροωakuroō in N.T. only here and Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13 (from αa privative and κυροςkuros authority). On καταργησαιkatargēsai see 1 Corinthians 1:28; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:26.

Verse 18

The inheritance (η κληρονομιαhē klēronomia). Old word from κληρονομοςklēronomos heir (κλεροςkleros lot, νεμομαιnemomai to distribute). See Matthew 21:38; Acts 7:5. This came to Israel by the promise to Abraham, not by the Mosaic law. So with us, Paul argues.

Hath granted (kecharistai). Perfect middle indicative of charizomai It still holds good after the law came.

Verse 19

What then is the law? (τι ουν ο νομοσti oun ho nomoṡ). Or, why then the law? A pertinent question if the Abrahamic promise antedates it and holds on afterwards.

It was added because of transgressions (των παραβασεων χαριν προσετετηtōn parabaseōn charin prosetethē). First aorist passive of προστιτημιprostithēmi old verb to add to. It is only in apparent contradiction to Galatians 3:15., because in Paul‘s mind the law is no part of the covenant, but a thing apart “in no way modifying its provisions” (Burton). ΧαρινCharin is the adverbial accusative of χαριςcharis which was used as a preposition with the genitive as early as Homer, in favour of, for the sake of. Except in 1 John 3:12 it is post-positive in the N.T. as in ancient Greek. It may be causal (Luke 7:47; 1 John 3:12) or telic (Titus 1:5, Titus 1:11; Judges 1:16). It is probably also telic here, not in order to create transgressions, but rather “to make transgressions palpable” (Ellicott), “thereby pronouncing them to be from that time forward transgressions of the law” (Rendall). ΠαραβασιςParabasis from παραβαινωparabainō is in this sense a late word (Plutarch on), originally a slight deviation, then a wilful disregarding of known regulations or prohibitions as in Romans 2:23.

Till the seed should come (αχρις αν ελτηι το σπερμαachris an elthēi to sperma). Future time with αχρις ανachris an and aorist subjunctive (usual construction). Christ he means by το σπερμαto sperma as in Galatians 3:16.

The promise hath been made (επηγγελταιepēggeltai). Probably impersonal perfect passive rather than middle of επαγγελλομαιepaggellomai as in 2 Maccabees 4:27.

Ordained through angels (διαταγεις δι αγγελωνdiatageis di' aggelōn). Second aorist passive participle of διατασσωdiatassō (see note on Matthew 11:1). About angels and the giving of the law see Deuteronomy 33:2 (lxx); Acts 7:38, Acts 7:52; Hebrews 2:2; Josephus (Ant. XV. 5. 3).

By the hand of a mediator (εν χειρι μεσιτουen cheiri mesitou). Εν χειριEn cheiri is a manifest Aramaism or Hebraism and only here in the N.T. It is common in the lxx. ΜεσιτηςMesitēs from μεσοςmesos is middle or midst, is a late word (Polybius, Diodorus, Philo, Josephus) and common in the papyri in legal transactions for arbiter, surety, etc. Here of Moses, but also of Christ (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24).

Verse 20

Is not a mediator of one (ενος ουκ εστινhenos ouk estin). That is, a middleman comes in between two. The law is in the nature of a contract between God and the Jewish people with Moses as the mediator or middleman.

But God is one (ο δε τεος εις εστινho de theos heis estin). There was no middleman between God and Abraham. He made the promise directly to Abraham. Over 400 interpretations of this verse have been made!

Verse 21

Against the promises (κατα των επαγγελιωνkata tōn epaggeliōn). A pertinent question again. Far from it (μη γενοιτοmē genoito).

Which could make alive (ο δυναμενος ζωοποιησαιho dunamenos zōopoiēsai). First aorist active infinitive of ζωοποιεωzōopoieō late compound (ζωοςzōos alive, ποιεωpoieō to make) verb for which see note on 1 Corinthians 15:22. Spiritual life, he means, here and hereafter.

Verily (οντωςontōs). “Really” (cf. Mark 11:32; Luke 24:34). Condition and conclusion (αν ηνan ēn) of second class, determined as unfulfilled. He had already said that Christ died to no purpose in that case (Galatians 2:21).

Verse 22

Hath shut up (συνεκλεισενsunekleisen). Did shut together. First aorist active indicative of συνκλειωsunkleiō old verb to shut together, on all sides, completely as a shoal of fish in a net (Luke 5:6). So Galatians 3:23; Romans 11:32.

Under sin (υπο αμαρτιανhupo hamartian). See υπο καταρανhupo kataran in Galatians 3:10. As if the lid closed in on us over a massive chest that we could not open or as prisoners in a dungeon. He uses τα πανταta panta (the all things), the totality of everything. See Romans 3:10-19; Romans 11:32.

That (ιναhina). God‘s purpose, personifying scripture again.

Might be given (δοτηιdothēi). First aorist passive subjunctive of διδωμιdidōmi with ιναhina f0).

Verse 23

Before faith came (προ του ελτειν την πιστινpro tou elthein tēn pistin). “Before the coming (second aorist active infinitive of ερχομαιerchomai definite event) as to the Faith” (note article, meaning the faith in Galatians 3:22 made possible by the historic coming of Christ the Redeemer), the faith in Christ as Saviour (Galatians 3:22).

We were kept in ward under the law (υπερ νομον επρουρουμεταhuper nomon ephrouroumetha). Imperfect passive of προυρεωphroureō to guard (from προυροςphrouros a guard). See note on Acts 9:24; note on 2 Corinthians 11:32. It was a long progressive imprisonment.

Unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed (eis tēn mellousan pistin apokaluphthēnai). “Unto the faith (Galatians 3:22 again) about to be revealed.” Mellō and the first aorist passive infinitive (regular idiom).

Verse 24

Our tutor unto Christ (παιδαγωγος υμων εις Χριστονpaidagōgos humōn eis Christon). See note on 1 Corinthians 4:15 for the only other N.T. example of this old and common word for the slave employed in Greek and Roman families of the better class in charge of the boy from about six to sixteen. The paedagogue watched his behaviour at home and attended him when he went away from home as to school. Christ is our Schoolmaster and the law as paedagogue kept watch over us till we came to Christ.

That we might be justified by faith (ινα εκ πιστεως δικαιωτωμενhina ek pisteōs dikaiōthōmen). This is the ultimate purpose of the law as paedagogue.

Now that faith is come (ελτουσης της πιστεωςelthousēs tēs pisteōs). Genitive absolute, “the faith (the time of the faith spoken of in Galatians 3:23) having come.”

Under a tutor (υπο παιδαγωγονhupo paidagōgon). The pedagogue is dismissed. We are in the school of the Master.

Verse 26

For ye are all sons of God (παντες γαρ υιοι τεου εστεpantes gar huioi theou este). Both Jews and Gentiles (Galatians 3:14) and in the same way “through faith in Christ Jesus” (δια της πιστεως εν Χριστωι Ιησουdia tēs pisteōs en Christōi Iēsou). There is no other way to become “sons of God” in the full ethical and spiritual sense that Paul means, not mere physical descendants of Abraham, but “sons of Abraham,” “those by faith” (Galatians 3:7). The Jews are called by Jesus “the sons of the Kingdom” (Matthew 8:12) in privilege, but not in fact. God is the Father of all men as Creator, but the spiritual Father only of those who by faith in Christ Jesus receive “adoption” (υιοτεσιαhuiothesia) into his family (Galatians 3:5; Romans 8:15, Romans 8:23). Those led by the Spirit are sons of God (Romans 8:14).

Verse 27

Were baptized into Christ (εις Χριστον εβαπτιστητεeis Christon ebaptisthēte). First aorist passive indicative of βαπτιζωbaptizō Better, “were baptized unto Christ” in reference to Christ.

Did put on Christ (Χριστον ενεδυσαστεChriston enedusasthe). First aorist middle indicative of ενδυωenduō (νω̇nō). As a badge or uniform of service like that of the soldier. This verb is common in the sense of putting on garments (literally and metaphorically as here). See further in Paul (Romans 13:14; Colossians 3:9.; Ephesians 4:22-24; Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:14). In 1 Thessalonians 5:8 Paul speaks of “putting on the breastplate of righteousness.” He does not here mean that one enters into Christ and so is saved by means of baptism after the teaching of the mystery religions, but just the opposite. We are justified by faith in Christ, not by circumcision or by baptism. But baptism was the public profession and pledge, the soldier‘s sacramentum, oath of fealty to Christ, taking one‘s stand with Christ, the symbolic picture of the change wrought by faith already (Romans 6:4-6).

Verse 28

There can be neither (ουκ ενιouk eni). Not a shortened form of ενεστιenesti but the old lengthened form of ενen with recessive accent. So ουκ ενιouk eni means “there is not” rather than “there cannot be,” a statement of a fact rather than a possibility, as Burton rightly shows against Lightfoot.

One man (ειςheis). No word for “man” in the Greek, and yet ειςheis is masculine, not neuter ενhen “One moral personality” (Vincent). The point is that “in Christ Jesus” race or national distinctions (“neither Jew nor Greek”) do not exist, class differences (“neither bond nor free,” no proletarianism and no capitalism) vanish, sex rivalry (“no male and female”) disappears. This radical statement marks out the path along which Christianity was to come in the sphere (ενen) and spirit and power of Christ. Candour compels one to confess that this goal has not yet been fully attained. But we are on the road and there is no hope on any way than on “the Jesus Road.”

Verse 29

If ye are Christ‘s (ει δε υμεις Χριστουei de humeis Christou). This is the test, not the accident of blood, pride of race or nation, habiliments or environment of dress or family, whether man or woman. Thus one comes to belong to the seed of Abraham and to be an heir according to promise.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Galatians 3:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

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