Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

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Gregory Hartzler-Miller
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Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller » February 3rd, 2019, 7:50 pm

Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Traditionally, Gal. 3:3b has been understood as a question: “Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being perfected in the flesh?” Immediate context seems to support that reading. This traditional reading suggests a dim view of being “perfected in the flesh.”

Alternatively, In Phil., where the same verbs appear together, Paul presents a very positive image of his “life in the flesh.”

Phil. 1:6 πεποιθὼς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ ἐναρξάμενος ἐν ὑμῖν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐπιτελέσει ἄχρι ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ·

Phil. 1:22 εἰ δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί, τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου…

In Gal. Paul presents a similarly positive view of his “life, now, in the flesh.”

Gal. 2:20 ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός· ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ Υἱοῦ τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ.

With Paul’s life “now” in the flesh as a model for imitation, it would seem to me that Gal. 3:3b might have been intended, not as a question, but rather as a statement: “...you are now being perfected in the flesh.”

This is in line with δύναμις ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελεῖται (“power made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. 12)

Your thoughts?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 3rd, 2019, 8:46 pm

Regardless of what Paul may say in other contexts, in the immediate context of Gal 3, the perfecting in the flesh refers to circumcision, and that is not so positive for Paul with regard to Gentiles.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Gregory Hartzler-Miller
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Re: Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller » February 5th, 2019, 12:37 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 3rd, 2019, 8:46 pm
Regardless of what Paul may say in other contexts, in the immediate context of Gal 3, the perfecting in the flesh refers to circumcision, and that is not so positive for Paul with regard to Gentiles.
In Chapter six, the opponents who would compel the Galatians to be circumcised do seem to be trying to "perfect" the Galatians "in the flesh."
6:12-13 “It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh (ἐν σαρκί) who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh (ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ).”

But in the immediate context of 3:3, I don’t see the "perfecting in the flesh" referring to circumcision. The emphasis is not on "works of the law" (implying circumcision in 3:2 and 3:5), but on benefits of belief vis-a-vis Paul's alternative to circumcision of the flesh-- the path of "crucifixion of the flesh" modeled in his own life "in the flesh" and in the life of Jesus.

2:20a I have been crucified with Christ.
3:1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified
3:3 Are you so foolish? ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε
3:4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain.

If ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε is understood as a positive statement, and νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε refers to their having "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (5:24), then 3:3 matches the pattern in 3:1 where Paul calls the Galatians "foolish" and then makes a statement in favor of the way of crucifixion, a path they ought to be well aware of.

If ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε is a statement, then it also accounts for the mention of the Galatian audience's suffering in the next verse. "Crucifixion" implies lingering death and, of course, suffering. Paul seems to be saying that if they were to accept being circumcised, they would nullify the benefits of the suffering they have already experienced on the path of "crucifixion of the flesh." The suffering of “being perfected in the flesh” through "crucifixion of the flesh" is not in vain.

Am I missing something?
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Post by Stephen Carlson » February 5th, 2019, 3:26 am

The Galatians are being foolish by finishing in the flesh what they've started in the spirit. In the letter, it is clear that they are getting (or trying to get) circumcised. I can't see how it's a positive statement, and I don't understand your proposed alternative, particularly what getting "perfected in the flesh" is supposed to refer to.
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Stephen C. Carlson, Ph.D.
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Gregory Hartzler-Miller
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Re: Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller » February 6th, 2019, 7:38 am

Delete post.
Last edited by Gregory Hartzler-Miller on February 6th, 2019, 8:03 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Gregory Hartzler-Miller
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Re: Gal. 3:3b ... ἐναρξάμενοι Πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε

Post by Gregory Hartzler-Miller » February 6th, 2019, 7:51 am

Stephen Carlson wrote:
February 5th, 2019, 3:26 am
The Galatians are being foolish by finishing in the flesh what they've started in the spirit. In the letter, it is clear that they are getting (or trying to get) circumcised. I can't see how it's a positive statement, and I don't understand your proposed alternative, particularly what getting "perfected in the flesh" is supposed to refer to.
In my proposed alternative, the Galatians are foolish for turning away from the Gospel. When he was in Galatia, Paul had presented the Gospel to them by the life he lived "in the flesh" (2:20) and by portraying Christ crucified before their eyes (3:1). The life the apostle lived "in the flesh" (together with the image of Christ crucified) was supposed to provide their model for getting "perfected in the flesh," that is, for finishing the process that had begun at the point when they heard with faith and received the Spirit (3:3b).
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