CMI Hermeneutics Assignment

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Andrew Hodge                                                                                          7th June 2005

The hermeneutic of Galatians 2:20

Focusing on Paul’s public rebuke of Peter, in defence of the Gospel.

Presented, abridged, to the Adult Bible Class, Grace Gospel Community Church

Sunday 5th June 2005



The Bible

            It is no longer sufficient to say “I believe the Bible”. The challenges that the Word has faced in the past several decades now requires a believer to affirm that he believes in the verbal, plenary, infallible, unlimited inerrancy of the Bible.

“Verbal” emphasises that the words themselves were inspired, not just the thoughts, thus preventing the writer from having freedom to choose the words he might have preferred.

“Plenary” is required in order to include all of the words, no exceptions.

“Infallible” is necessary. Because every word was inspired by God, every word carries the authority of God.

“Inerrancy” provides the link between the accuracy of the words and the authority of the message, disallowing the possibility of errors and maintaining infallibility.

“Unlimited” is needed to maintain the extent of infallibility. The Scriptures are not scientific, historical, genealogical or psychological textbooks but where those subjects are addressed the Word is completely accurate. In any case, it is a nonsense to accept a concept of “limited errancy” which implies that the Word is actually errant, but not completely so.1

The New Testament

            The book of Galatians is written in the context of the Dispensation of Grace to saved Church members who have the continuous indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. It is therefore expected that the Word addressed to them will be understood by them in its entirety in their unique cultural context.

The Writer

            Paul (Galatians 1:1) with input from “all the brethren which are with me” (Gal 1:2).

 Paul was proud of his Jewish heritage and was highly educated, well acquainted with the views of the Judaisers, a Pharisee, and on the basis of his knowledge an effective persecutor of the early Christians; a proficient linguist being able to directly communicate to the majority of the peoples visited by him as a missionary; and completely single minded concerning the preservation and preaching of the pure Gospel as communicated to him directly by God Himself.

            The book is written in koine Greek, the “lingua franca” of the day.

The brethren with Paul in verse 2 are the elders in Antioch if he was writing to the Churches in the Southern Galatian region, and possibly Barnabas and others if writing to the North of the (Roman) province. In either case, they are probably known to his readers and mentioned to add weight to his doctrinal arguments.

1Adapted from Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. What You Should Know About Inerrancy. Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998, c1981 ch2

The Addressees

            There is debate over exactly which Churches of Galatia Paul was referring to as noted above. In my view it is likely that he was writing to the Southern Galatian churches he had previously founded with Barnabas on the first missionary journey and for whom he had special concern (Acts 13, 14, 16 Galatians 4:12-20). An exhaustive examination of the arguments for and against this view can be accessed in ISBE (Galatians, Epistle to the).1

Occasion, Purpose and Date

            Since Paul’s first visit to the Galatians, men had arisen among them, possibly saved, demanding that circumcision was necessary for salvation and that the ceremonial law of Moses be maintained (Gal 4:9-10, Gal 5:1-6). They were really demanding that Gentiles become converted to Judaism in order to be Christians. They were unable to keep the law themselves and wanted to have control over the congregation (Gal 6:13), seeking to escape from the “offence” of the cross (Gal 6:12).

            “Following Jewish customs and traditions and observing Jewish religious laws was a normal way of life for Jewish Christians, whether they were Jews by birth or through conversion. For them, belief in Jesus as the Messiah of Jewish expectation enhanced, but did not replace, their Judaism. Christianity was not regarded as a religion distinct from Judaism but rather as the truest form of Judaism. These Jewish Christians had all been circumcised as infants, or upon conversion to Judaism, and they also practiced the kosher dietary laws and rules of ritual purity prescribed in Mosaic legislation and rabbinic tradition.”2

            Galatians 2:20 is contained in a passage (Gal 2:11-21) where Paul recounts an occasion in Antioch some time earlier when he openly chastises the apostle Peter for publicly acting as if he agreed with similar Judaisers in forcing the Gentile Christians to keep the ceremonial Law, when the Gospel gave freedom from this unnecessary burden.

            The purpose of Paul writing to the Galatians was therefore threefold: first to establish his credentials as an apostle (Gal 1:10-2:14), second to defend the doctrine of justification by faith alone (Gal 2:15-5:6), and third to warn the church about reversion to Judaism (Gal 5:7-6:17).

The presumed date of the writing is 50 or 51 AD, prior to the severe persecutions that the Christians would soon experience, making Galatians possibly the first letter that Paul wrote.

The key words of this book are faith; grace; liberty; the Cross. The key verse is Galatians 5:1 “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”3

All of these observations set the scene for the exegesis of 2:20.

1”The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia”  Geoffrey W. Bromiley, General Editor;  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan Volume 2 1982 pp 380-381

2Elwell, Walter A., and Philip Wesley Comfort. Tyndale Bible Dictionary. Tyndale reference library, Page 753. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 2001.

3The Holy Bible : King James Version. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.







The Passage Galatians 2:11-21

            Paul confronts Peter over his hypocrisy regarding his preferential treatment of Judaisers because of his “fear” of them; they may have been his friends from Jerusalem and he did not want to offend their practices. This episode occurred in Antioch, the time unspecified, but may have been after Paul’s visit to Jerusalem on account of famine (Acts 11:27-30), or after the council in Jerusalem described in Acts 15:1-35, where incidentally Peter gave a stirring defence of the true Gospel based on his own experience, proving that Jews and Gentiles were all equal in the sight of God (Acts 15:7-11)!

            Paul was very right to criticise Peter in public because Peter’s actions had so misled people as to the truth of the Gospel that even Barnabas was led astray (Galatians 2:13). “It was a stinging rebuke. Peter’s response is not recorded. He stood condemned. He was acting contrary to his own convictions, was betraying Christian liberty, and was casting a slur on fellow believers.”[1] Perhaps Peter was too ashamed to offer any response.

            There is debate as to whether much of this passage (vv 14-21) was delivered to Peter in public, or whether Paul is using these verses to present the doctrinal truths of Peter’s error. I believe the former in the light of the continuity of the passage which gives no reason to suspect that Paul turned away from Peter to address another audience (as he does in the verse immediately following - Gal 3:1).

V11 When Paul visited Jerusalem after his conversion, after Barnabas’ introduction and support on account of Paul’s previous reputation as Saul, Peter greeted Paul with “the right hand of fellowship” (Gal 2:7-9 cf Acts 9:26-28). Both these leading evangelists respected each other’s work and reputation, but when it came to protecting the truth of the Gospel, Paul stands up to rebuke his colleague and brother in Christ “because he was to be blamed”.

V12 “Because of the vision Peter had received at the house of Simon the tanner (Acts 10:9-15, 28), he felt free to eat with the Gentiles, and did so on a regular basis. While it lasted, this was a beautiful demonstration of the unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ.”[2]

The men of the “circumcision party” that had come from Jerusalem were almost certainly not sanctioned in their belief by James, although it is likely they came out of his congregation.

            The imperfect verb tenses in this verse (“withdrew and separated” -  ‘hupestellen kai aphorizen’) imply a slow and gradual withdrawal by Peter from the company of the Gentiles.  His fear [(“phoboumenos” is from “phobeo” 1b3 to fear (i.e. hesitate) to do something (for fear of harm)].[3]

V13 Peter, Barnabas and all the Jewish Christians present were tainting the Gospel by their behaviour. This was therefore not a small issue and Paul is righteously angry.

V14 Peter acts contrary to his own conviction, betrays Christian liberty and casts a slur on those who maintained the truth.

V15 Paul addresses those who were Jews by birth, although both Jews and Gentiles are saved by faith in exactly the same manner

V16 Paul uses “we” to include Peter and the Jewish Christians as well as himself in the group who know they are saved by faith and not by the works of the law. “Remember what happened to you”, Paul urges, “justification is by faith and not by works” (although they all seemed to have forgotten this fact). The consequence of breaking the law was death; life could only be had if the consequences of the law were not in force

V17,18 Paul’s opponents had argued that as justification by faith eliminated the law, that sinful living was encouraged by eliminating the concept of ‘punishment’. This line of argument made Christ an encourager of sinful behaviour because the justified person could do as he pleased, and we cannot avoid the fact that we frequently exercise our sin nature. God forbid, says Paul; I am just proving that I am still a sinner if I sin; I do not cast any slur on the perfect work of Christ.

V19 Paul distinguishes himself from Peter, contrasting what he did with the law compared to what Peter did with the law: Paul was dead to the law so that he was in a proper position to live unto God. Peter was bound by the law so that he was not free to live unto God. The law of itself brings only death, not life. See Romans 6:1-6 for a full exposition of this.

V21 Paul asserts that he cannot set aside the grace of God – it is essential for the righteousness of salvation – because if righteousness came by the law and not by grace, then the death of Christ was a supreme mistake.

The Verse Galatians 2:20

“I” - not he, we or they. This is an intensely personal doctrinal statement and can only be made by an individual who truly is saved and is living his life with Christ. It is not a statement that can be made by anyone about someone else

“am” this verb is in the perfect tense. As an illustration: a woman may have been born as Miss Jones and she remains as Miss Jones until she marries and becomes Mrs Smith. She was in a continuous state of maidenhood until the event of marriage placed her into another continuous state. Paul says that he was born as Saul and remained so until his salvation event put him into the continuous state of being saved. The English may therefore be rendered as “I have been (and still am) crucified”.

“crucified”  Paul describes his relationship with the law in terms of a death and a resurrection. The believer is united to Christ in both His death and resurrection.   Crucifixion invariably results in death. Paul was not only alive at this time, but it is known that he had not personally been crucified in the past – so in what sense is Paul dead? Is this a statement of fact or figurative language?

It is clear from other God-inspired writings of Paul that this is a statement of fact:

 Romans 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.[4]

Colossians 2:20 Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,[5]

See also Romans 8:36, Colossians 3:3 and 2Timothy 2:11.

It is clear from these verses that Paul is referring to the death of the sin nature within him so that he is no longer a slave to sin, but now has the freedom to be a slave to Christ instead. It should be noted that Paul is not claiming to be sinlessly perfect – see Romans 7:9-23.

“nevertheless I live” ie in spite of the fact that I am dead, I am alive. “live” is a verb in the present tense and in the active voice; this is something that is occurring now to Paul himself, as a result of the death that has occurred in him in the past

“yet not I but Christ liveth in me” In what sense is Paul now alive? Although he goes on in the same verse to describe his physical existence, he is very clear at this point to emphasise that it is Christ who is alive in him, not himself, because he is actually dead – illustrating the truth of 2Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new”.[6]

His new spiritual life in Christ gives him a completely new perspective as he experiences God and His creation around him. Paul has made the choice to place Christ on the throne of his life, with the intention of eliminating the need for Paul to make further choices - Christ Himself directing and empowering all that he thinks and does.

“liveth” is also an active verb, present tense demonstrating the immediacy of Christ to Paul – a happening thing, right now.

“and the life which I now live in the flesh” Paul comes back to the practicalities of the present – he knows that he must be heavenly minded or he will indeed be of no earthly use – but he must live in the world while not being of it. He does have a body of flesh and he does live in a physical world and his ministry is to the physical and spiritual needs of the human beings around him. “live” in this phrase remains active voice, present tense.

“I live”  also active voice, present tense

“by the faith of the son of God” as it has in the KJV. Most modern Bibles (eg ESV, GNT, The Message, NAB, NASB, NASB95, NCV, NLT, WuestNT, NKJV, NIV, NRSV) use “faith in the son of God”. The ASV equivocates, but the Darby, the International Standard Version and the Young’s Literal Translation all agree with the KJV. Is this a hair-splitting issue?

Absolutely not. Paul is either saying that the faith he has is Christ’s and was given him by Christ Himself, or that the faith he has is self-generated, self-sustained and effective because of his own effort. The modern versions appear to take the latter view, and I was unable to determine from the original language texts that there was a difference on account of source ( Elzevir/ Textus Receptus 1624, Westcott and Hort 1881, Nestle-Aland v27/UBS v4 1966) although a number of these sources in my electronic library are not accented. I had assumed that the use of an original language text different from those used for the KJV might have explained this change. I could not confirm this and it may therefore be that the interpreters/compilers of the modern texts exercised their sin natures and wanted to claim the faith that they had been given as their own.

Of interest is that the Newberry Interlinear which uses the Stephens Textus Receptus 1550 Greek text (and which was available to the KJV translators) displays this phrase of Galatians 2:20 as follows: “….but that which now I live in flesh, I faith I live, that of the Son of God…..”   The word “that” in the last phrase is feminine in gender, matching the gender of “faith” in the preceding phrase; and the immediately following “of” is masculine connecting “faith” as a characteristic of “the son of God”.

This to my mind says that the faith we have is Christ’s faith, not my faith.

n       In any case, the doctrine that faith, including “saving” faith, comes from God is explicitly taught elsewhere in Paul’s writings and there is no need to base this doctrine on an interpretation that might be disputed. The most conclusive is Hebrews 12:2  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;” (if one accepts that Paul was the writer of Hebrews) and Romans 12:3 “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberlya, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” [7]

Galatians 2:16 corroborates this view by stating that we are “..justified by the faith of Jesus Christ..”  because we  “..believed in Jesus Christ..”  that we  “..might be justified by the faith of Christ…” In this verse, Paul first states that only Christ and not the law gives life; second that we need knowledge of what Christ did for us (and that we deserve to be dead because of our innate sinfulness); and third that Christ applies His life to us by giving us His faith.

See also Romans 3:22, 1 Corinthians 2:5 and 12:8-9, Galatians 3:22, Ephesians 3:12 and 6:23, Philippians 3:9. Ephesians 2:8 also supports this doctrine because although the “that” of 8b applies to the gift of 8c (not to the faith of 8a), God’s gift is the grace and by extension the faith to receive it.

Faith is given to us and should be used in the same way as muscles – first created by God, then required to be exercised by us, which results in God giving more.

“who loved me” active voice, aorist tense. Christ’s action for me on the cross was because He chose to do it, and it only required to be done once

“and gave Himself for me” again active voice, aorist tense. Christ’s love for Paul, for me, for all humanity - all sinners - was sufficient to offer Himself to His Father as a sacrifice that they both knew was the only one which would completely satisfy the Father’s demand for justice for our sin. It is also an act that confirms to us that if Christ was willing to go that far, He can certainly take us through the trials of our current lives.

Without that satisfaction, the wall between Jew and Gentile could not be broken down; humanity could not have any opportunity to be saved, sanctified and justified; and because of which, Peter did not have to fall back on the Law to prop up his religion. All humanity is made equal in its individual need for salvation, and all the saved of humanity can achieve all the promises of God because of the presence of the indwelling Christ.

Paul has encapsulated in this passage, and particularly within 2:20, the reasons why Peter was in the wrong, and why the letter to the Galatians was necessary in the first place.

Finally it must be remembered that Peter and Paul were fundamentally in agreement over the issue of the Judaisers. Peter had temporarily forgotten, on account of peer pressure, that his behaviour would harm the importance of the Gospel. In addition to expressing his doctrine correctly before this episode, he later praised Paul for his zeal in upholding the truth (2 Peter 3:15).

Galatians 2:20 is one of my favourite life verses and it has been a pleasurable labour to make these observations.


[1]Walvoord, John F., Roy B. Zuck, and Dallas Theological Seminary. The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1983-c1985.

[2]Ibid p594

[3]Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Test of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed., G5399. Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996.

[4] The Holy Bible : King James Version. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[5] The Holy Bible : King James Version. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

[6] The Holy Bible : King James Version. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

a soberly: Gr. to sobriety

[7] The Holy Bible : King James Version. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1995.

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