Bible Study that Doesn't Suck: Galatians



Additional Resources:

* Laquer, Thomas, Making Sex: Body and Gender From Greeks to Freud

* Trans Bible Stories - Bible Study that Doesn't Suck


Galatians Notes:

Likely written between 40 and 60 AD - Papyrus 46, the earliest reasonably complete version available to scholars today, dates to approximately AD 200, approximately 150 years after the original was presumably drafted.[4]


Paul’s writing’s are older that the gospel texts which were through to be written around 70 – just as the temple is being torn down. Paul writes before the destruction of the Temple.

Galatians is often referred to as "Luther's book," because Martin Luther relied so strongly on this letter in all his preaching, teaching and writing against the prevailing theology of his day. While this book brought many wonderful insights on forgiveness and equality, it also was the basis for Luther’s unjust anti-semitism that we must speak to and renounce.


Rhythm of Paul’s letters –

grace and peace - Here’s what I think you’re doing wrong - Here’s a lesson so you can do right - The Good News is that God loves everyone no matter what and you really cannot screw up Jesus’ saving acts.


Damage has been done when people read from just a portion of the letter and use it to tell people they are bad and that God does not love them. Ken Stone – Safer texts

I believe reading the whole text is important, because it teaches us how to regulate our emotions. Yes, we are judgemental people – who over time remember that God loves everyone equally. We cannot stop in chapter 2. The gift of Paul is teaching how to bend the arch toward justice.

Chapter 1:

10 Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant[c] of Christ.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer makes this question the center of his ethics – What is God calling me to do?

Paul is a convert – doesn’t have direct conversation with Jesus – except through a miraculous appears on a road. Prior to conversation Paul was and oppressor – he, like Augustine, is a new convert sharing opinion widely – he is not mature in his faith. Some believe that Paul created the church communities in Galatia and that they strayed from his teachings in his absence.

“13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me,[e] so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie! 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, 22 and I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea that are in Christ; 23 they only heard it said, “The one who formerly was persecuting us is now proclaiming the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Chapter 2:

Context is violence from many directions. Romans persecute people who are circumcised – some Jewish Christians condemn those who are not.

15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is justified[d] not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.[e]

Crucial point in Lutheran theology.

19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; 20 and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,[g] who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification[h] comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.

Luther – we are saved or we call God a liar. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Christ the Center – If Christ dies in the past there is nothing we can do to screw it up.

Chapter 3:

Paul’s grumpiness is typically about people living embodied lives. Or “living by the flesh” as he calls it. Paul earnestly believed that Jesus was returning soon and it would be better if you ignored your body.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not observe and obey all the things written in the book of the law.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law; for “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”[b] 12 But the law does not rest on faith; on the contrary, “Whoever does the works of the law[c] will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”— 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Greek word for crucifixion is derived from the word scandal.

The anti-semitism of Luther is not in Paul’s letter

My point is this: the law, which came four hundred thirty years later, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance comes from the law, it no longer comes from the promise; but God granted it to Abraham through the promise.

Equality in Christ – good news for those who have been told they are less because of their sex, gender, sexual orientation or gender identities:

27 As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring,[k] heirs according to the promise.


Chapter 4: Slaves to Sin

9 Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits?[e]

The question here is crucial for sexuality and gender liberation – does this deliverance from God make us free – or make us need to follow the law even more strictly in thanks to God

Bonhoeffer explains that this covering of Christ makes us free from and free for our neighbors.

Paul has an unknown ailment –

13 You know that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel to you; 14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.

Some have said Paul has a leg issue – others imagined Paul as gay – I think Paul has an issue with his eye sight – because he wrote in larger letters than others and he says “had it been possible, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.

Paul’s allegory of Sara and Hagar is problematic – this division of which children of God are the most favored. Texts like this were preached to slaves in the US to argue God wanted them to remain as slaves. We must reject interpretations like Paul’s. Slavery is not something God wants. Even though Paul is talking about being enslaved to sin – we must proclaim this.

Chapter 5: answer to the previous problem is in the opening to chapter 5

1 For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

The numbering of chapters is arbitrary – I can’t help but wonder if this is placed in the next chapter to make slaves less likely to read this. There is no good reason for this to be separated here and it should be connected to chapter 4 when read in public.

2Listen! I, Paul, am telling you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 Once again I testify to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obliged to obey the entire law.

Gospel -centered ethic encouraged by Paul

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters;[c] only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence,[d] but through love become slaves to one another. 14 For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Paul’s problematic list:

19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21 envy,[e] drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

Chapter end – again if people stop reading here it is problematic

Chapter 6:

2 Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill[b] the law of Christ.

10 So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

Also - 7 Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.

14 May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which[c] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For[d] neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything! 16 As for those who will follow this rule—peace be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.

17 From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body.

©2019 by the Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer