The Epistles of Paul - Galatians Part 2: The Works of the Law

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The Epistles of Paul - Galatians Part 2: The Works of the Law

In Galatians chapter 1 Paul had begun to establish his credentials and his authority as a preacher of the Gospel of Christ. Here he shall continue to do this, and he did it because, as we shall see here in this chapter, he is addressing the Judaizers who had obviously infiltrated among the Galatians in order to bind them to the circumcision and other rituals of the Old Testament law. Ostensibly, these Judaizers had credentials of their own, and therefore Paul, writing in opposition to them, was compelled to present the evidence of his own legitimacy.

At Galatians 1:18 Paul spoke of his time in Jerusalem as described at Acts 9:26, where he had said “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to relate an account to Kephas, and remained with him fifteen days”. Here Paul is talking about his visit to Jerusalem in Acts Chapter 15, then he continues in Galatians chapter 2 and says:

1 Then after fourteen years I had again gone up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titos along also; 2 and I had gone up after a revelation, and laid upon them the good message which I proclaim among the Nations, but privately to those of repute, lest in any way I strive, or have strived, in vain.

Paul must be referring to the events described by Luke in Acts chapter 15, and especially at Acts 15:12 where Luke wrote: “Then all the multitude was silent, and they heard Barnabas and Paul relating as many signs and wonders as Yahweh had done among the Nations through them.”

It is recorded in Acts chapter 15 that while in Antioch, Paul and Barnabas were teaching former pagans converted to Christianity that they did not have to be circumcised and follow the other rituals of the laws of Moses, but that “some had come down from Judaea teaching the brethren that if you would not be circumcised in the custom of Moses, you are not able to be saved”. Then we see it recorded in Acts 15:2 that “Then upon there coming no little discord and debate by Paul and Barnabas against them, they ordered Paul and Barnabas and some of the others among them to go up to Jerusalem to the ambassadors and elders concerning this debate.” Once the apostles arrive in Jerusalem, the debate continues, as we read in Acts 15:5: “Then there arose some who were persuaded by the sect of the Pharisees, saying that it is necessary to circumcise them and to instruct them to keep the law of Moses.”

Therefore, as it is further recorded in Acts chapter 15, after hearing Paul and Barnabas the apostle James responded in agreement with them. From Acts 15: “13 And after their silence Iakobos responded saying 'Men, brethren, you listen to me! 14 Sumeon has declared just how at the first Yahweh considered to take from among the Nations a people in His Name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree just as it is written: 16 After these things 'I shall return' and 'I shall rebuild the tent of David which has fallen and I shall rebuild its ruins and I shall set it up again, 17 that those remaining of men seek Yahweh, and all the Nations whom have My Name labeled upon them, says Yahweh doing these things 18 known from of old.' 19 On which account I judge not to trouble those from among the Nations who turn to Yahweh, 20 but to enjoin them to abstain from things polluted by idols and from fornication and from that which is strangled and from blood. 21 For Moses from generations of old has those who are proclaiming him in each city in the assembly halls, being read each and every Sabbath.'”

Later, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 21 at verses 20 through 22, it is clear that Paul and James had a disagreement over whether going forward the Judaeans, those who are born to parents in the law, should be brought up under the rituals of the law. However there was never any dispute concerning those who were not Judaeans. Ostensibly, in spite of the agreement which the apostles had come to which is recorded in Acts chapter 15, there were still Judaizers coming out from Judaea who sought the contrary and had maintained the same attitude seen with these earlier Judaizers at Antioch in Acts 15:5.

3 Yet not even Titos who with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised 4 by those privily introduced false brethren, such who infiltrate to spy out our freedom which we have in Christ Yahshua, in order that they may enslave us; 5 to whom not even for a minute did we yield in subjection, at which the truth of the good message would persevere for the sake of you.

The Greek phrase πρὸς ὥραν, which is here “for a minute”, in our modern English idiom may just as well be read “for a second”. The word ὥρα (Strong's # 5610), which is also the origin of the Latin word hora and our English word hour, did not at that time exclusively denote an exact segment of the day, but was also used to mean “any time or period, whether of the year, month, or day...a part of the year, a season...a part of the day” (Liddell & Scott).

Titos is not at all referred to by that name in the Book of Acts, although Paul mentions his presence with him several times in his second epistle to the Corinthians. He is also ostensibly the same Titos seen in 2 Corinthians, and who is the recipient of the epistle addressed to Titos. In the past I have imagined that this Titos is the same man whom some of the better manuscripts identify as Titios Ioustos, or in the King James Version only as Justus, at Acts 18:7. This is a possibility, however if it is true then it would mean that Paul knew Titios Ioustos long before Paul had arrived in Corinth, where Ioustos was living when Paul began his ministry there. So the two individuals are not necessarily the same person, but the possibility does indeed exist.

It is evident that where Paul said “then after fourteen years I had again gone up to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titos along also”, that he must have been referring to the events of Acts chapter 15 because he and Barnabas had also split right after that time, as it is recorded in Acts 15:39, and had gone their separate ways. Where Titos accompanied Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, there were certainly others as well, including Luke himself, but Luke had only written that “Paul and Barnabas and some of the others among them” had made the trip, as we see in Acts 15:2.

So here in Galatians Paul gives us two periods of time, where we see that three years had transpired between his conversion on the road to Damascus and his first appearance in Jerusalem, a period which covers only some of the events recorded in Acts chapter 9, and then there is a period of fourteen years which can either include or which can be added to those first three, since Paul's language is ambiguous. So there are either fourteen years between Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus and his going to Jerusalem recorded in Acts chapter 15, or there are seventeen years if his intent is to add the fourteen years mentioned here to the first three years rather than considering them inclusively. However the events can be dated, and we learn that the total time could only have been fourteen years, and not seventeen.

We know, for instance, that Paul's sojourn in Corinth, where he spent a year-and-a-half, could have ended no later than 52 AD, because that is when the term of Gallio had ended, the proconsul of Achaia who is mentioned in Acts 18. We wrote the following when we had presented our commentary on Acts chapter 18:

There was an inscription found at Delphi in Greece and first published in 1905, which is now known as The Gallio Inscription. This inscription represents part of a letter from the emperor Claudius concerning Gallio himself, written in 52 AD, and establishes with certainty that Gallio was proconsul of Achaia in 51-52 AD. His term, according to several scholars of the period, very likely began in the summer of 51 AD. This accords with the general narrative of Acts and of Paul's chronology as it was transmitted in the epistle to the Galatians, which puts the Acts chapter 15 visit to Jerusalem at about 47 AD.

Luke chapter 3 informs us that the ministry of Yahshua Christ began in the 15th year of Tiberius Caesar, from which we can reckon it to have begun in the late summer or perhaps early fall of 28 AD. Having had a ministry of three-and-a-half years, which is determined from the recounting of the Passover feasts mentioned in the Gospel of John and also from other sources, the Crucifixion most likely took place in the Spring of 32 AD.

Therefore we do not have enough time for the events of Paul's ministry to consume 17 years between the crucifixion and the events of Acts chapter 15, and then according to the narrative of Acts chapters 15 through 17, at least a couple of additional years to the beginning of his 18-month sojourn in Corinth, which must have begun no earlier than either mid 49 and no later than early 50 AD [for Gallio to be in office towards the end of the 18 months]. This is especially true since after the first Christian Pentecost, the stoning of Stephen and then the events on the road to Damascus which led to Paul's conversion probably require at least a year to have transpired as they were described. But if we understand Paul's 14 years as being inclusive of the first 3 year period which he mentions here, and we understand that Paul was converted in 33 or maybe 34 AD, everything falls into place and the events described in Acts chapter 15 very likely took place in 47 AD.

This also establishes the fact that this letter to the Galatians, and Paul's subsequent visit to Galatia anticipated here, must have been written not only after the events of Acts chapter 15, but also after Paul had an opportunity to visit Antioch once again. This we shall see in the balance of this chapter.

6 Now from those reputed to be something, whatsoever they were then makes not one difference to me. Yahweh does not receive a man’s stature, therefore to me those of repute are conferred nothing.

The Greek word πρόσωπον (Strong's # 4383), is “the face, visage, countenance...one’s look...outward appearance, beauty” (Liddell & Scott), and therefore it is stature here. It refers to the look of a man, or to his status in life, and not to the person himself.

Paul’s adversaries in Acts 15 were not James and Peter, but the Judaizing Pharisees which we had seen mentioned in verses 2 and 5 of that chapter. Yet here Paul certainly seems to say that even if James and Peter, “those reputed to be pillars” as he calls them here in verse 7, had supported the Pharisees in the matters which had been disputed there, Paul would not have capitulated to them and violated the meaning of the Gospel as he had come to understand it.

7 But on the contrary, having seen that I have been entrusted with the good message of the uncircumcised, just as Petros of the circumcised, 8 (He who has been operating within Petros for a message of the circumcised, has also operated within me for the Nations,)

The word rendered as message in verse 8 is the Greek word ἀποστολή (Strong's # 651), which can refer to either the message or to the mission of the person bearing the message, so it is apostleship in the King James Version.

Here Paul informs us that instead of supporting the Judaizing Pharisees, “on the contrary”, as he puts it, the apostles accepted his position as being the legitimate position, and offered him their friendship.

Quite often, the critics of Paul of Tarsus portray the division which is described here as a two-party division, or Paul versus the so-called “real Christians” who were the apostles in Jerusalem. In fact, it is clear from the records that there were three parties involved, Paul and Barnabas and those who were with them, and then the Judaizing Pharisees, and then the original apostles who were called to intervene and after investigating the matter they chose the side of Paul. Therefore it was a three party division which quickly melted into two parties, and only the critics of Paul are left on the side of the Pharisaical Jews!

However Paul is also asserting that whatever the outcome of the dispute in Antioch and Jerusalem, which is described in Acts chapter 15, he was resolved that he was going to maintain his position. [It is incredible that the critics of Paul who claim to the Identity Christians slander Paul as a Jew, when Paul was the only apostle on record actively defending Christians against the Judaizers.]

9 and knowing the favor being given to me, Iakobos and Kephas and Iohannes, those reputed to be pillars, had given right hands of fellowship to me and to Barnabas, that we are for the Nations, and they for the circumcised; 10 only that we should remember the poor, the same thing which I had then been anxious to do.

The Codex Alexandrinus lists only James and John in verse 9, where the 3rd century papyrus P46 has James and Peter and John, and the Codex Bezae (D) has Peter and James and John (which seems to be a result of Roman propaganda); the text follows the Codices Sinaiticus (א), Vaticanus (B), Ephraemi Syri (C), Freerianus (I 016), and the Majority Text.

The commission which Paul is referring to here, received by himself and Barnabas, is mentioned even earlier in the accounts in Acts. First, we see at the very end of Acts chapter 11: “27 And in those days prophets came down from Jerusalem into Antiocheia. 28 And there arose one of them named Hagabos who indicated through the Spirit that a great famine is going to come upon the whole inhabited world, which happened in the time of Klaudios. [Claudius was emperor from 41 to 54 AD. Herod Agrippa I, the Herod of Acts chapter 12, died in the Spring of 44 AD.] 29 Then of the students, just as anyone prospered, each of them set aside for supplies to send to those brethren dwelling in Judaea, 30 which they then did, sending to the elders by the hand of Barnabas and Saulos.” Then we see at the very end of Acts chapter 12: “25 And Barnabas and Saulos returned to Jerusalem [from Antioch] completing the supply, taking along with them Iohannes who is called Markos.” [So this very likely happened in 44 AD shortly after Herod died.] This seems to be what Paul is referring to here in Galatians chapter 2 where he says in verse 10 “only that we should remember the poor, the same thing which I had then been anxious to do”, and then we read in the very next verse, the beginning of Acts chapter 13: “1 And there were throughout the assembly which was in Antiocheia prophets and teachers, namely Barnabas and Sumeon who is called 'Niger' and Loukios the Kurenaian, and Manaen a childhood companion of Herodas the tetrarch, and Saulos. 2 And upon their performing services for the Prince and fasting, the Holy Spirit spoke: 'Now set apart for Me Barnabas and Saulos for the work which I have called them.' 3 Then fasting and praying and laying the hands upon them they released them.” This is where the ministry to the uncircumcised is begun by Paul and Barnabas, but the “work [for] which I have called them” must have already been determined, as well as the agreement among the original apostles, as Barnabas and Saul are connected to the account given in Acts chapter 11 where Peter professes the realization that the Nations should receive the Gospel of Christ (cf Acts 11:21-26).

Now concerning his interactions with the other and original apostles, everything which Paul had discussed here in the epistle to the Galatians thus far had clearly transpired during or prior to the events which are recorded in Acts chapter 15. We see that it is recorded in Acts 15:2 that “Then upon there coming no little discord and debate by Paul and Barnabas against them [meaning the Judaizers from Judaea], they ordered Paul and Barnabas and some of the others among them to go up to Jerusalem to the ambassadors and elders concerning this debate.” Now if any of the original apostles were in Antioch, the wording would have had to have been different with the situation. Yet the wording here and in subsequent portions of the chapter infers that Peter, who was the first of the apostles to speak in relation to this dispute, was one of the elders in Jerusalem that the apostles were sent to. So the events described by Paul here in verse 11 of Galatians chapter 2 could not have taken place before this dispute was settled which is recorded in Acts chapter 15, where Paul says:

11 But when Kephas [D and the MT have “Peter”; the text follows א, A, B, C, and H] had come to Antiocheia, I had confronted him personally because he was condemning himself: 12 for before some who were [P46 has “one who was”] to come from Iakobos, he [P46 has “they”] had eaten in common with the Nations, but when they came [P46, א, B, and D have “he came” (P46 is consistent with its previous variation in this verse, while א, B, and D are not); the text follows A, C, H, and the MT] he withdrew and separated himself, being in fear of those of the circumcised; 13 and also the rest of the Judaeans had acted with him, so that even Barnabas had been led away by them in hypocrisy.

These events which Paul describes here are not recorded in the Book of Acts, or anywhere else. But we do learn from the account at the end of Acts chapter 15, and especially from Acts15:35, that after returning from Jerusalem to Antioch, that Paul and Barnabas had indeed spent a considerable time there before Barnabas sailed to Cyprus with Mark, and Paul had departed with Silas for Syria and Cilicia and points further west. We are only told up to this point that Paul had a disagreement with Barnabas over the value of Mark to the ministry, and that for that reason they each went their own way, which is recorded in Acts 15:37-39. This is all that we see recorded, and so far as we can tell from Luke's language in Acts chapter 16, seeing that he was with Paul then, Luke was also very likely here with Paul in Antioch to record whatever had transpired.

We have already compared the chronology and the records of Acts with all of the comments regarding the events related by Paul in regards to his ministry found up to this point in his epistle to the Galatians. Here it is evident, that up through Acts chapter 15 Paul had the revelation that the formerly pagan Christians, upon turning to Christianity, should not take upon themselves the rituals found in the law of Moses. With this the apostles agreed in Acts chapter 15.

However it is also evident, in Acts chapter 16, that up to this point Paul has not developed the idea that the Judaeans themselves should also cease from the rituals of the law, as we see it recorded in Acts chapter 16 that Paul had circumcised Timothy, as it is recorded in the opening verses of Acts chapter 16, where we read that “1 And then they arrived in Derbe and in Lustra. And behold, there was a certain student there with the name Timotheos, a son of a faithful Judaean woman, but of a Greek father, 2 who was accredited by the brethren in Lustra and Ikonion. 3 And Paul desired for him to depart with him, and taking him he circumcised him on account of the Judaeans who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

So, as he describes here in Galatians chapter 2, if Paul had confronted Peter in Antioch before this point in his ministry where he circumcised Timothy, he would have been a hypocrite for having circumcised Timothy. But there is no indication in Acts chapter 15 that Paul had already developed the idea that Judaeans should part from the rituals of the law, and then in Acts chapter 16 Paul made certain to have Timothy circumcised because his mother was a Judaean, and on account of the Judaeans. So Paul must have developed the idea that Judaeans should also depart from the works of the law at a time later than the sojourn in Antioch recorded in Acts chapter 15, and the encounter where Timothy was circumcised as it is recorded in Acts chapter 16.

Furthermore, as in Galatians chapter 4 Paul reflects back on his having been to Galatia in the past, where he said he had preached the Gospel, and since the first record of his being in Galatia is in Acts 16:6, then this epistle must have been written after the events which are recorded in Acts 16:6.

In Acts chapter 21, in an account which transpired over ten years after the account in Jerusalem recorded in Acts chapter 15, we see that same fear of the circumcision in James, at Acts 21:18-26, which Paul exhibited in Acts chapter 16. Only in Acts chapter 21, at verses 20-22, we see it being acknowledged that Paul was teaching Judaeans to depart from the rituals of the law. Therefore the events described here, where Paul relates his confrontation with Peter, must have taken place some time after the circumcision of Timothy, and before Paul wrote this epistle.

There is evidently only one opportunity left in Paul's ministry for that. In Acts chapter 18, Luke is not with Paul, for Paul had left Luke behind in Philippi after his arrest which is recorded in the latter parts of Acts chapter 16. Yet, although none of the details of his stay are recorded in Acts, in chapter 18 it is mentioned that Paul once again visits Antioch, and for the last time. This is the only opportunity he had in which to meet Peter as he describes having confronted him in here Galatians chapter 2. Evidently he also saw Barnabas here, as we see in Galatians 2:13. We also see in Acts 18:23 that Paul had spent “some time” in Antioch on this visit, which could be days or weeks, or even months: there is no telling.

It is also apparent, although it cannot be asserted with absolute certainty, that it is here in Antioch that Paul wrote this epistle to the Galatians. Paul says in chapter 4 (4:20) of this epistle “I have desired to be present with you even now, and to change my tone, because I am perplexed with you”, and he indeed goes on to visit them after leaving Antioch, which is only briefly recorded in Acts 18:23. Aside from expressing his desire to visit the Galatians later on in chapter 4, Paul says here in verse 11 of this chapter: “But when Kephas had come to Antiocheia”, as if he was still in Antioch when he wrote those words. This must be contrasted to the statement in verse 6 where Paul reflects back by saying “whatsoever they were then”, speaking of the past. This may be dismissed as being circumstantial, however for the many other reasons given here, I feel safe in asserting that the epistle to the Galatians was written at the time that Paul was in Antioch as it is recorded in Acts 18:22, and that is also when the confrontation with Peter must have occurred.

14 But when I had seen that they did not walk uprightly, according to the truth of the good message, I had said to Kephas [D and the MT have “Petros”; the text follows P46, א, A, B, C, and H] before them all: If you, being a Judaean, live like a foreigner and not like a Judaean [P46 wants “and not like a Judaean”], how do you compel the Nations to imitate the Judaeans?

As Paul had said above in verse 12, Peter “had eaten in common with the Nations” until “some who were to come from Iakobos”, meaning that some men sent by James had come to Antioch, upon which Peter “withdrew and separated himself, being in fear of those of the circumcised”. This James was the brother of Jude and both were the half-brothers of Christ through their common mother. It is these men to whom Paul refers as “the brethren of the Lord” at 1 Corinthians 9:5. Each of these men also wrote epistles which are found in the New Testament. James was one of the original 12 apostles listed by Matthew (chapter 10) and Luke (chapter 6) as James son of Alphaeus, but he is not mentioned by name in the Gospel of John.

With this we should notice that Peter had never played the role of pope which the Roman Catholic Church much later and quite falsely ascribes to him, and from Acts chapter 15 we should also see that while Peter spoke first in response to Paul and Barnabas, James had the last word there as well. Therefore it seems that while there certainly is no Christian pope, James seems to have been the dominant personality among these apostles.

In spite of what James said about the converts of the Nations in Acts chapter 15, over ten years later, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 21 at verses 18 through 24, it is clear that James had maintained that the Judaeans must continue to keep the law of Moses, where Paul visits James in Jerusalem in 58 AD and Luke wrote: “18 And on the next day Paul went in with us to Iakobos (James), and all the elders were present. 19 And greeting them he explained about each one of those things which Yahweh had done among the Nations through his ministry. 20 And those hearing it extolled Yahweh and said to him: 'You consider, brethren, how many myriads there are among the Judaeans who are believing, and all being zealous of the law. 21 And they are informed concerning you, that you teach departure from Moses for the Judaeans throughout all the Nations, saying for them not to circumcise the children nor to walk in the customs. 22 So what is it? By all means they shall hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do this which we say to you. There are among us four men having a vow upon themselves. 24 Taking them you must be purified with them and pay the expense for them that they shave their heads, and all shall know that that which they are informed concerning you is nothing, but that you yourself also walk in line keeping the law.'” This seems to be the origin of the Judaean Christians later known as Ebionites. There in Acts chapter 21, it is evident that Paul complied with James' wishes, ostensibly since he recognized that James was his elder. But Paul certainly did not agree with James in his epistles. (The apostle James was slain by the Sadducees immediately after the death of the Roman Procurator Festus, in 62 AD.)

So as late as 58 AD James was insisting that Judaeans who turned to Christ should continue to keep the law. But the Judaeans of the time were strictly keeping the law as we read it in Genesis chapter 17: “14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.” We see this in practice in the opening verses of Acts chapter 11, of events which had transpired while Paul was still in Tarsus [so this cannot be what Paul refers to here in Galatians chapter 2], where after Peter had converted the Roman household of Cornelius we read “1 And the ambassadors and the brethren who were throughout Judaea heard that the nations also accepted the Word of Yahweh. 2 Then when Petros went up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him 3 saying that 'You went in with uncircumcised men and ate together with them!'” Therefore, we see that the law precluded Judaeans from having any community whatsoever with the uncircumcised, and later in Acts chapter 15 all the apostles had agreed that the pagans of the Nations turning to Christ should not be circumcised. But keeping the law, James and all those in Jerusalem, even though they were professing to be Christians, would therefore not even eat with any of those dispersed Israelites of the nations turning to Christ since they were not being circumcised. This situation clearly creates a paradox, and Paul realized that.

At some point in his ministry after he had circumcised Timothy, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 16, and before he returned to Antioch as it is recorded in Acts 18:22, Paul had realized that neither should Judaeans keep the circumcision or the other “works of the law”, as he called the rituals and other ceremonial aspects of the law of Moses. While it cannot be established with certainty, this revelation seems to have come to Paul while he was in Corinth, where he had met Aquila and Priscilla, who were Judaean Christians who had been at Rome for some time before being compelled to depart under the edict of Claudius (Acts 18:1). We may even infer that meeting them had actually led to Paul's revelation concerning Judaeans and the works of the law. Paul's first two surviving epistles were written to the Thessalonians while he was in Corinth, and they do not reflect any debate concerning the law. Paul's third surviving epistle is this epistle to the Galatians which was written after he had departed from Corinth, and while he had already been to Antioch, as we contend here that this epistle was written during Paul's sojourn there which is recorded in Acts 18:22. Even later, when writing to the Romans (while he was in the Troad, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 20), Paul made it a point in the opening chapters of his epistle to explain that those who would be justified by God are those who lived by the faith in Christ, and not by the law, as he quoted Habakkuk and said “as it is written, 'But the just will live by faith.'”

As we had often explained during our presentation of the Book of Acts offered here two years ago, the Book of Acts records a religious transition from the rituals of Moses to the Faith in Christ, and from the dispensation of the Levitical priesthood to the reconciliation of dispersed Israel. One cannot understand the full course of the transition without first understanding the chronology of Paul's epistles in relation to the accounts of the Book of Acts. Paul must have realized that there could not be two separate bodies of Christ, if Israel and Judah were ever to be made into one stick, as the prophet Ezekiel describes. Therefore once we understand what Paul meant by the term “works of the law”, we can see that Paul's position was the correct position when it is compared to the words of the prophets, especially in places such as Daniel chapter 9, Ezekiel chapter 37, and in Habakkuk.

But there is also another dynamic which is evident in Paul's writing here. He is explaining that he had scolded Peter for having been eating with the uncircumcised and ceasing to do so once certain men had come to him from James. Then he says “If you, being a Judaean, live like a foreigner and not like a Judaean, how do you compel the Nations to imitate the Judaeans?” The Greek word for “live like a foreigner” is ἐθνικῶς, which means “to act like those of the nations”. Then below in verse 16 Paul infers that the Judaeans should know “that a man is not deemed righteous from rituals of law”. With this, Paul is actually inferring that the true Judaeans who have turned to Christ have abandoned the rituals of the law, and that those who insist on maintaining the rituals of the law are therefore acting like foreigners, and are not true Judaeans.

15 We, Judaeans by nature, and not wrongdoers from the Nations,

The last clause may have been rendered “wrongdoers [or sinners] of the Nations”. Paul is saying that the true Judaeans are not sinners, but that the sinners are from among the Nations. Of course, all men are sinners, however the Israelites of Judaea keeping the law had propitiation for their sin until the passion of the Christ, and then upon turning to Christ He became their propitiation for sin. Furthermore, people who were never under the Old Covenant cannot sin, because as Paul explained in Romans, sin is not accounted where there is no law, and the law was given only to the children of Israel. The language Paul uses here further helps to establish that by “the Nations”, Paul is referring to the nations of the dispersions of the children of Israel, who abandoned the covenant to which they were bound and who therefore were considered sinners, because they had no propitiation for their sin until they had turned to Christ. In this context, only they could be considered “sinners of the Nations” since there is no Scriptural application for anyone else.

16 knowing that a man is not deemed righteous from rituals of law, if not through the faith of Yahshua Christ,

So as Paul asserts, the true Judaeans of his time should know that a man cannot be found righteous by the law. The last clause of this passage may have been rendered “if perhaps not through the faith of Yahshua Christ”, where Paul seems to be explaining that if a man is not deemed righteous in Christ, neither can he be deemed righteous by the rituals, or the works, of the law. In other words, with the advent of Christ there is no longer any propitiation for those keeping the law of Moses. Continuing verse 16:

we then have relied in Christ Yahshua in order that we would be deemed righteous from the faith of Christ, and not from rituals of law, since not any flesh shall be deemed righteous from rituals of law.

And here Paul once again asserts that true Judaeans, relying in Christ, no longer relied on the rituals of the law, of which circumcision was a part. Therefore Paul is not considering to be true Judaeans any of those in Judaea who had not turned to Christ and who would claim to be keepers of the law for their justification. The words of Christ in the Gospel and in the Revelation inform us of this same thing.

As for no flesh being justified by the law, we may read from Psalm 143, which is a prayer of David: “1 Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. 2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” No man may be justified without the mercy of Yahweh found in Christ. Every man requiring the mercy of God for justification, should indeed be humble before God and men.

In the Book of Enoch, in chapter 80 of the edition by Richard Laurence, the prophet is depicted as relating the instructions which he had received to his own son Methuselah, and the text says in verse 8: “And they said unto me, Explain everything to Mathusala thy son; and inform all thy children, that no flesh shall be justified before the Lord; for He is their Creator.”

In the Christogenea New Testament, the Greek word ἔργον (Strong's # 2041) is everywhere translated literally as either a work or a deed, except where Paul is explicitly referring to “the works of the law” where 16 times plural forms of the word ἔργον are translated as rituals (in phrases such as τὰ ἔργα νόμου), all of which are in the epistles to the Romans (3:20, 27, 28; 4:2, 6; 9:11, 32; 11:6), Galatians (2:16 [thrice]; 3:2, 5, 10) and Hebrews (6:1; 9:14). Paul, in the context of each of those passages, certainly means to refer to those rituals which the law prescribed in ordinances and which have been done away with in Christ (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 9:1-10).

The remarks made by Joseph Thayer in his Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament show that Thayer did not realize this application, because his explanations of ἔργον under these passages are odd considering the context in which the word appears in these cases. He basically only says that “in Paul's writings ἔργα νόμου, [are] works demanded by and agreeing with the law”, citing many of these same passages we have cited. By saying “agreeing with” in his definition, Thayer creates his own anti-nomian religion, because Paul never disagreed with the law. But Ferrar Fenton in his translation of the Bible did fully realize that the references made by Paul to “works of the law” were references to the prescribed rituals of the Old Testament, and his translation reflects that realization.

In the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text there are several Hebrew words which are often translated into the English versions as work or service, however for this discussion none of them are important. But by examining the language of the Septuagint, we can indeed see precisely what Paul had meant by the phrase “works of the law”.

Where the King James Version at Numbers 3:7 has the words “the service of the tabernacle”, it reads in the Greek of the Septuagint: τὰ ἔργα τῆς σκηνῆς, or “works of the tabernacle”. Similar phrases appear in the King James Version in Numbers 4:4, and at Numbers 4:30 and 4:39 where the same word often translated as service is work instead. In both places the Septuagint Greek has the phrase τὰ ἔργα, or “the works” (ἔργα is a plural form of ἔργον). We see the Greek word ἔργον three times in the Septuagint at Numbers 4:47 where the King James Version has “From thirty years old and upward even unto fifty years old, every one that came to do the service (τὸ ἔργον) of the ministry (τῶν ἔργων), and the service (τὰ ἔργα) of the burden in the tabernacle of the congregation”, and the words were spoken in reference to all the things which the priests did in the temple, pertaining to the rituals of the law.

These are only a few examples, and there are many others throughout the Old Testament Scriptures. For instance, in Brenton's English Septuagint we read in 2 Chronicles 23:18: “And Jodae the priest committed the works of the house of the Lord into the hand of the priests and Levites, and he re-established the courses of the priests and Levites which David appointed over the house of the Lord, and he appointed them to offer whole-burnt-offerings to the Lord, as it is written in the law of Moses, with gladness, and with songs by the hand of David.” So the works, τὰ ἔργα, of the house of the Lord are the rituals which the priests performed in the temple.

If the usage in the Septuagint of the word ἔργον, which is in the plural works, is not enough to prove that by “works of the law” Paul was referring only to the temple rituals and ceremonial ordinances of the law, there is further and contemporary evidence in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It can be established with all certainty that the writings of the Qumran sect found in the Dead Sea Scrolls were made during the period of Roman occupation in Judaea and prior to the final revolt of Jerusalem resulting in the destruction of the temple, which was between 65 BC and 65 AD. We have established that Paul was writing this epistle shortly after 52 AD, and therefore the Qumran scrolls almost certainly predate Paul's epistles.

Presenting part 4 of our presentation of Paul's epistle to the Romans here last Spring, we said the following:

… in the Dead Sea Scrolls, there is a phrase which is a title for one of the more widely known scrolls usually identified as 4QMMT. This Scroll is sometimes called “The Sectarian Manifesto”, as it is in The Dead Sea Scrolls, A New Translation, by Wise, Abegg and Cook. In that volume, in an introduction to 4QMMT (which consists of the Dead Sea Scrolls fragments 4Q394 through 4Q399) the book says that “In all of antiquity only the Sectarian Manifesto and Paul's letters to the Galatians and Romans discuss the connection between works and righteousness.” Of course, we would assert that while it was not phrased in the same manner, a major component of the ministry of Christ had the purpose of illustrating that same distinction, as well as the epistle of James. The introduction in the book, found on page 454, continues by explaining that MMT, for the Hebrew words Miqsat Ma‘ase Ha-Torah, is “an acronym from the Hebrew words meaning 'some of the works of the Law'”. The subject of the scroll is, of course, the rituals of the law. Therefore we see that the phrase Ma‘ase Ha-Torah, or “works of the law”, was used by others at a time nearly contemporary to that of Paul in relation to the rituals of the Old Testament law.

One place in the prophets where it is explicitly explained that the Messiah would do away with these works of the law is in Daniel chapter 9. There in a Messianic prophecy we read of the purpose of Yahweh explained to Daniel for Jerusalem that “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” Then it says in verse 27: “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”, whereby we see that the Old Testament sacrifices became invalid in Christ. The covenant being confirmed was the New Covenant promised in Jeremiah chapter 31 and in Ezekiel chapter 37.

From Ezekiel 37:26: “26 Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore.” Similar language prophesying a new covenant is found elsewhere in the words of that prophet.

From Jeremiah chapter 31, a passage which Paul quoted in his epistles to the Romans and the Hebrews: “31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

So the dispensation of the law would change and the rituals and the laws in ordinances described as the “works of the law” would no longer be required of the children of Israel. Paul explains in Romans chapter 7 how Yahweh had released Israel from these things, where he wrote “2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. 3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. 4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”

The fulfillment of Daniel chapter 9 becomes manifest in Romans chapter 7, where it is realized that Yahweh God dying in Christ has freed Israel from the law to which the nation had been bound since Exodus chapter 19, and therefore in this manner did He Himself “finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness”. The children of Israel all sin, but they have an intercessor in Christ, as the apostle John explains in his first epistle, and as Paul also explained in Romans, where there is no law, sin is not accounted. So the children of Israel are no longer condemned by the letter of the law.

That by the phrase “works of the law” Paul referred only to those rituals and ceremonies conducted by the Levitical priests is also evident in his explanation in the epistle to the Hebrews that Christ is a priest “after the order of Melchizedek”, and that “the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law”, as he asserts at Hebrews 7:12. But the commandments of the law have not changed, and Christ Himself professes that “if you love Me, keep My commandments”, which is something which Paul had also taught frequently in his epistles.

Therefore, anyone who asserts that there is a requirement or that any ritual is necessary for the salvation of the children of Israel is a liar and a Judaizer, and that would include not only the sacrifices, but other rituals such as circumcision, water baptism or even any of the Catholic so-called sacraments. All rituals and ceremonial requirements for the propitiation of sin or the perceived attainment of righteousness are done away with in Christ. The history of Old Testament Israel should be sufficient evidence that man cannot propitiate God through rituals, and neither can he save himself by his own devices. However we shall never learn the lesson until we first learn to reject all of the lies of the Jews.

17 Now if seeking to be deemed righteous in Christ we ourselves are also found to be wrongdoers, then [here the manuscripts are divided between ἄρα (686, “then”) and ἆρα (687, an interrogatory particle expecting a negative answer), see Thayer, ἆρα, 2] is Christ a minister of failure? Certainly not!

Here Paul's words are in accordance with those of the apostle John found in 1 John chapter 2: “1 My children, I write these things to you in order that you do not do wrong. And if one should do wrong, we have an Advocate with the Father: the righteous Yahshua Christ. 2 And He is a propitiation on behalf of our errors; yet not for ours only but for the whole Society.” And of course, since only the children of Israel were ever under the law, only the children of Israel could be referred to as being forgiven of sin. Now under the New Covenant, the law is only written on the hearts of the children of Israel, those of the houses of Israel and Judah. So John talks about not only the Judaeans, but for all of the “children of God scattered abroad”, as he refers to the ancient dispersions of the Israelites in his Gospel, in John 11:52, which are those Nations of the seed of Abraham that Paul describes in Romans chapter 4 and 1 Corinthians chapter 10.

18 For if I again build these things which I have destroyed, I continue a transgressor myself.

If Paul abandons the righteousness which is in Christ for the persuasion that he could be justified by the rituals of the law, then he remains a sinner since there is no more justification in the law. As it says in Habakkuk chapter 2, in a passage which Paul had later quoted in Romans chapter 1: “3 For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry. 4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.” Habakkuk had received those words as an answer to a prayer in which he had said “Therefore the law is slacked, and judgment doth never go forth”, where he also described the unrighteous sacrifices being made in Jerusalem. So Yahweh's answer to that prayer is that “the just shall live by his faith”, and not by the righteousness found in the law.

19 For I through law have died in law, in order that in Yahweh I shall live. I have been crucified with Christ. 20 Now I live no longer, but Christ lives in me. And that I now live in flesh, in faith I live: in that of the Son of Yahweh [P46, B, and D have “of Yahweh and Christ”; the text follows א, A, C, and the MT], who having loved me then surrendered Himself on my behalf.

In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 Paul had written “14 For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15 And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” Likewise, Paul had written in Romans chapter 6: “1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? 3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: 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. 7 For he that is dead is freed from sin. 8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

The understanding which Paul exhibits in these chapters is derived from the words of the prophets in places such as Hosea chapter 13, where Yahweh says that “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death”, from Isaiah chapter 53 where he says “4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”, and from Isaiah chapter 54 where we read “5 For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6 For the LORD hath called thee [meaning Israel] as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. 7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.”

However all of this can only be understood in the light of the other Messianic prophecies, such as those of Isaiah chapters 7 and 9 where it says: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” [which means God walks with us] and “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.”

When we put all of these Messianic prophecies together, including those from Daniel chapter 9, we can only come to the conclusion that Yahweh God Himself became incarnate on earth as Yahshua Christ, and died as the Husband in order to free Israel the wife from the judgments of the law as Paul had explained in Romans chapter 7. Because He died to preserve Israel from a judgment of death, all Israel should consider themselves dead with him, as Paul also asserts, which is in accord with the prophecy of Hosea where it is said that “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died” (Hosea 13:1) and also in Isaiah where Yahweh said “And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand” (Isaiah 28), and again “Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money” (Isaiah 52). Therefore in the prophets, all of the children of Israel were accounted dead in the law, and they only have life by the mercy which is in Christ. This is what Paul was explaining to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians and others: all of whom were Israel “according to the flesh”, but none of whom were ever Jews, who were Israel in name only because they were mostly converted Edomites.

21 I would not refuse the favor of Yahweh; if righteousness is through law, then Christ has died for no purpose.

As it says in Isaiah chapter 45: 17 Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end…. 19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right…. 23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. 24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.” All of the seed of Israel shall be justified, even though when these words were spoken they were being put off in punishment and alienated from their God.

So the children of Israel failed to be justified by the law, yet they would find reconciliation to God and justification in Christ, as Paul explains in Romans chapter 3: “23 for all have done wrong and fall short of the honor of Yahweh; 24 being freely accepted by His favor, through the redemption that is at the hands of Christ Yahshua; 25 whom Yahweh set forth as a propitiation through faith in His blood, for a display of His justice by means of the pretermission of forthcoming errors” and then he says “28 We therefore conclude by reasoning a man to be accepted by faith apart from rituals of the law.”

But because justification is apart from the law, that does not mean that we should disregard the law, as Christ had said, “If you love Me, keep My Commandments”, Paul concludes: “31 Do we then nullify the law by faith? Certainly not! Rather we establish the law.” The apostle John was teaching the same thing in different words, in 1 John chapter 2.

The Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, together with the understanding that by “works of the law” Paul was referring to the rituals and ceremonial ordinances through which Israel had sought justification and failed, and not to the commandments themselves which Paul consistently upheld, completely vindicate all of the positions on sin and the law which were set forth by Paul of Tarsus.

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