Galatians 1–Examining Jim Staley’s ‘Understanding’

galatianswordsBefore we get started looking at verses along with Mr. Staley, let’s examine more of his introductory statements.  Staley asks (paraphrased) ‘does it make sense that “supposedly pagan Gentiles”, 100,000 pagans in Ephesus alone, would stop what they are doing, repent, and follow a Jewish rabbi (Jesus) who died for your sins on the word of another Jewish rabbi (Paul)?’

Jim says “it makes a lot more sense that these quote “Israelite Gentiles” knew exactly who their lineage was and they knew exactly what he was talking about and it became really good news” because “they had the way to come back to the (Mosaic/old-ed) covenant”.

In essence, for Jim, the gospel is the good news of how Israel, the lost 10 tribes that Jesus was sent to redeem and retrieve, is able to get back into the Mosaic Covenant.

While this may make “a lot more sense” to Jim Staley, this is not the teaching of the Bible–that those who Paul is preaching to are exclusively “lost” Israelites–and it is particularly not stated in Galatians. In fact Galatians makes quite clear that Gentiles and “the circumcised” (Jews or Israel, see explanation below) are NOT the same:

Gal 2:7, “I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been to the circumcised

Gal 2:8, “Peter in his apostleship to the circumcised effectually worked for me also to the Gentiles

Gal 2:9, “…so that we might go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

Gal 2:12, “he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.”

Who are “the circumcised”?  Paul says of himself in Phil 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews”.  In Rom 15:8 he writes For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.”  Can it be argued that “the circumcised” are not synonymous with “Israel”?

Moreover, Paul used the terms “Israel”, “Israelite” and “Jew” interchangeably, while Staley separates them into “two houses”, Judah and Israel (also sometimes called “Ephraim” for one of the sons of Joseph).  Paul is of the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1, Phil 3:5), one of the two tribes making up the southern kingdom of Judah, the “Jews”, but also identifies himself as an “Israelite” (Rom 9:3,4; 11:1).  In Chapters 9, 10 and 11 of Romans he refers to “Israel” separate from the Gentiles (Rom 11:25) while Staley explains that “Israel” are now actually Gentiles, because this is vital to his entire doctrinal construct.  He bends scripture to support his doctrine rather than his doctrine to align with scripture.galatia

In Galatians 2:15 Paul unequivocally identifies himself as a Jew: We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles”.  So Paul in his writings has called himself both a Jew and a member of Israel; apparently he “lives” in both houses.   Although Paul makes quite clear the Gentiles/uncircumcised are other than the Jews/Israel, Staley says we can’t even understand Galatians unless we understand to whom it was written:  Out of covenant Israelites desperate to know how they might get into covenant with YHWH.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, let’s go back to Galatians 1 with Staley: Before beginning he explains that he will be reading from the NIV and sometimes the KJV.  More on the choice of translations later, but in the very first verse Staley, while reading the from the NIV replaces “Jesus” (Greek: Iesous) with “Yeshua” and Christ (Greek: Christos) with “Messiah” (an Anglicized version the Hebrew Mashiach).

There are two issues with these substitutions; the first is that he had just finished stating he would be reading from the NIV but then immediately substitutes words used by the NIV.  He does this repeatedly throughout his study.  Moreover, worse than substituting words as he is reading (how is the viewer to know this is happening unless they have open an NIV bible and are following along?) Jim adds words that are not there to cause the text to align with his views.  I will point out some occasions of this as we proceed.

The second issue is the choice of substitutions he makes: “Yeshua” for Iesous and “Messiah” for Christos.  Paul could have easily used the Hebrew versions himself since he no doubt knew Hebrew, having studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and can be seen speaking it when defending himself in court (Acts 21:40-22:1), but he did not. Why?

Why, especially if the people he was sent to were the scattered Israelites who wanted back into the Mosaic covenant? He did not because the New Testament (other meaning: covenant) was new—the gospel, the good news, is now going out to the entire world.  It is spread beyond Israel and the Jews into the entire world—read John 3:16 again!

The New Testament changed languages for a purpose:  Jesus is not referred to in the NT as “Yeshua” (I am not debating what His fellow Jews called Him) but Iesous and He is not referred to as “Mashiach” but Christos, “anointed one”, nor is “God” referred to as “YHWH” but Theos, consistently, by multiple Jewish authors.  There is a huge transition, from old covenant to new, from law to grace, from flesh to spirit, and a change in language is part of this.  So Staley’s use of “Yeshua” and “Messiah”, though accurate and acceptable on one level communicates his utter lack of understanding of the big picture.paul

In reading Galatians 1 Staley zooms right by verses 6-10, which states the whole purpose of the book: to refute those trying to distort the truth of the gospel, the good news, trying to “spy out our liberty we have in Christ Jesus” (2:4)

In v14 Mr. Staley makes a distinction between “ancestral traditions” and “the law”, as does Jesus in Mt 15:2 and Mk 7:3, but is that what is meant here?  From other Pauline writings we find that the word “traditions” (Greek: paradosis) does not always carry a negative connotation (1 Cor 11:2, 2 Thes 2:15 for example). In the context of this book, those zealous for “ancestral traditions” includes the “party of the circumcision” (2:12)—Staley agrees, but who is this group? We will discuss that in depth next time.

Look at verse 15:  Paul contrasts his calling in “grace” with the “zeal for ancestral traditions” in v14—what is the opposite of grace elsewhere? The Law. What does that do to the meaning of “ancestral traditions”? Again, missed or ignored by Staley.

We will pick up with Galatians 2 in the next article.

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