15 Lesson Fifteen: Galatians 6:11-18

Instructions: Translate the Greek text with help from the reader notes. Complete the MYON (Make Your Own Note) and Discussion Questions if you desire.

11 Ἴδετε πηλίκοις ὑμῖν γράμμασιν ἔγραψα τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί. 12 Ὅσοι θέλουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί, οὗτοι ἀναγκάζουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι, μόνον ἵνα τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ Χριστοῦ μὴ διώκωνται. 13 οὐδὲ γὰρ οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι αὐτοὶ νόμον φυλάσσουσιν ἀλλὰ θέλουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι, ἵνα ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ καυχήσωνται. 14 Ἐμοὶ δὲ μὴ γένοιτο καυχᾶσθαι εἰ μὴ ἐν τῷ σταυρῷ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, δι᾽ οὗ ἐμοὶ κόσμος ἐσταύρωται κἀγὼ κόσμῳ. 15 οὔτε γὰρ περιτομή τί ἐστιν οὔτε ἀκροβυστία ἀλλὰ καινὴ κτίσις. 16 καὶ ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν, εἰρήνη ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ. 17 Τοῦ λοιποῦ κόπους μοι μηδεὶς παρεχέτω· ἐγὼ γὰρ τὰ στίγματα τοῦ Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῷ σώματί μου βαστάζω. 18 Ἡ χάρις τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ μετὰ τοῦ πνεύματος ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί· ἀμήν. SBLGNT

6:11

[SN] Ἴδετε (AAM2P LF: ὁράω): Although imperatival forms of ὁράω are often used as interjections (cf. 1:20 ἰδοὺ; 5:2 Ἴδε), in this case we have a true imperative verb, i.e., a regular command for Paul’s readers to examine something.

[LN, SN] Πηλίκοις (NPD LF: πηλίκος, -η, -ον) is an interrogative adjective best translated “how/what large” and functions attributively in relation to γράμμασιν. Though the adjective probably refers to the large size of Paul’s handwriting, indicating his agitated emotional state, it is possible to understand πηλίκοις in a more metaphorical sense, i.e., “great” vis-á-vis magnitude or importance (cf. Heb 7:4, the only other NT occurrence).

[LN] Γράμμασιν (NPD LF: γράμμα) refers to “letters” of the alphabet.

[SN] The phrase πηλίκοις . . . γράμμασιν is a #dative of material, while τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί is a #dative of means. These two functions are similar, with the difference being whether the dative refers to the means (or “tool”) used (“by my hand”) or the material produced (“what large letters”).

[SN, TN] There is debate as to whether ἔγραψα (AAI1S LF: γράφω) is an #epistolary aorist or an ordinary aorist. Essentially, the debate boils down to the following options: (1) ἔγραψα, as an #epistolary aorist, refers temporally to the Galatians’ perspective as hearers of the letter, and as such refers only to 6:11f. as having been written by Paul (“I am writing with my own hand”). In this view, Gal 1:1–6:10 was dictated to a scribe, with Paul taking up the pen in 6:11. (2) As an ordinary aorist, ἔγραψα looks back over the entire letter (“I have written with my own hand”); in this view, Paul himself wrote all of Galatians. Part of the difficulty here is knowing whether Paul’s usage of πηλίκοις refers to the size of his handwriting or the magnitude/importance of his γράμμασιν, and if the former, we cannot know which aorist is in use without the #autograph.

6:12

[LN] Ὅσοι is a #comparative pronoun best translated here “as many as.”

[LN, SN] Εὐπροσωπῆσαι (AAN LF: εὐπροσωπέω) is a #hapax legomenon that means “to make a good showing” (cf. the related noun πρόσωπον, “face,” which occurs three times in Galatians: 1:22; 2:6, 11). The infinitive here is #complementary, completing or explaining the content of the main verb θέλουσιν.

[SN] Ἐν σαρκί should likely be understood here to express #sphere, possibly #means: given the following reference to circumcision (ἀναγκάζουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι), the Galatians’ literal “flesh” seems to be in view.

[SN] Οὗτοι is the subject of ἀναγκάζουσιν and refers to the previous relative clause (Ὅσοι θέλουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι ἐν σαρκί) as its antecedent.

[SN] Οὗτοι ἀναγκάζουσιν ὑμᾶς περιτέμνεσθαι might best be understood as a parenthetical aside, meaning the adverb μόνον modifies the verbal phrase θέλουσιν εὐπροσωπῆσαι. If this is the case, the following #purpose clause explains why those pushing circumcision “want to make a good showing.”

[SN] Τῷ σταυρῷ is a #causal dative.

[GMN] Διώκωνται is PPS3P (LF: διώκω).

6:13

[SN] The substantival participle οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι (PMPMPN or PPPMPN LF: περιτέμνω) can be read as either passive or middle voice. The passive voice would be rendered as “those who are circumcised” and would designate the group belonging to the “circumcision party.” The middle voice would be rendered as “those who circumcise (others).” Taking into account the connection with φυλάσσουσιν and surrounding context, most translate it with the passive voice.

[SN] Αὐτοί is an intensifying adjective which adds emphasis to οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι (“not even the circumcised themselves . . .”).

[SN, GMN] Ἵνα . . . καυχήσωνται (ADS3P LF: καυχάομαι) comprises a standard #purpose clause, i.e., it explains why οἱ περιτεμνόμενοι want the Galatians to be circumcised.

[SN] The construction ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ expresses either #reference or #cause for the boasting of Paul’s opponents (καυχήσωνται). Additionally, it is tempting to read undertones of #sphere here (cf. 6:12), but the placement of the phrase within a #purpose clause more readily lends itself to the former options.

[SN] Paul’s choice to use ὑμετέρᾳ over ὑμῶν should lead us to read the construction ἐν τῇ ὑμετέρᾳ σαρκὶ somewhat more forcefully (cf. 6:11 τῇ ἐμῇ χειρί “by my own hand”).

6:14

[SN] It is possible to read the pronoun ἐμοὶ as a #dative of possession or an #ethical dative (this category reads like a dative of reference and would best be translated “as far as I am concerned” or “as for me”). Either way, the pronoun emphatically specificies the one (Paul) to whom the following statement applies (i.e., μὴ γένοιτο καυχᾶσθαι . . . Χριστοῦ).

[SN] Μὴ γένοιτο (AMO3S LF: γίνομαι): The #optative mood is not common in the New Testament (it only occurs about seventy times). This particular pairing of the verb with μή, however, appears semi-frequently in Paul’s writings and expresses emphatic negation (cf. 2:17; 3:21).

[SN] Καυχᾶσθαι (PMN LF: καυχάομαι) functions here as a #substantival infinitive, i.e., it is the subject of the verbal phrase μὴ γένοιτο and should be translated as “may boasting never happen.”

[SN] Δι᾽ οὗ: The antecedent of the pronoun is most likely τῷ σταυρῷ, meaning that the prepositional phrase would express #means.

[SN] Ἐμοὶ and κόσμῳ should both be read as #datives of reference.

[GMN] Ἐσταύρωται is RPI3S (LF: σταυρόω).

[GMN] Κἀγὼ is an occurrence of #crasis between καὶ and ἐγώ.

[SN] Κἀγὼ κόσμῳ: The verb in this clause is omitted, but a second occurrence of ἐσταύρωται is implied.

6:15

[SN] Οὔτε . . . οὔτε forms a “neither . . . nor” construction.

[SN, LN] The indefinite pronoun τί (NSN) is a #predicate nominative best translated “anything.”

MYON [SN] What is the subject of the verb ἐστιν?

6:16

[LN] Τῷ κανόνι (MSD LF: κανών) refers to a reed or some other object used as a measuring stick. In a more metaphorical sense, it refers to a rule/principle or a point of reference that may be used as a standard. It occurs four times in the NT (see 2 Cor 10:13, 15–16).

[SN] Τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ is a #dative of rule (“in accordance with this standard”) or #reference.

[LN] Στοιχήσουσιν (FAI3P LF: στοιχέω) denotes ordering one’s life, especially in accordance with some type of standard (cf. 5:25 and note).

[SN, LN] The clause εἰρήνη ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ does not have a verb. Because of the limiting sense of the previous clause (ὅσοι . . . στοιχήσουσιν), either an #optative or future indicative form of εἰμί or γίνομαι (cf. στοιχήσουσιν) should be assumed: “May peace and mercy be upon them” or “Peace and mercy will be upon them.”

6:17

[SN] As an adjective, τοῦ λοιποῦ (MSG LF: λοιπός, -ή, -όν) refers to the “rest” or “remaining” of something. However, Paul frequently uses it adverbially, as with the #adverbial accusative (cf. 2 Cor 13:11; Phil 4:8, “finally”). Here, τοῦ λοιποῦ functions as a #genitive of time (see also Eph 6:10), which describes the type of time during which the following exhortation is to apply (lit., “During the remaining [time],” i.e., “From now on”).

[LN, SN] Κόπους (ΜPA LF: κόπος) here refers to “troubles” or “distress.” Elsewhere it can also refer to labor or toil, as it does in its verbal form in 4:11. It is the direct object of the main verb παρεχέτω.

[LN] Παρεχέτω (PAM3S LF: παρέχω) means “to cause” or “to give.”

[LN, TN] Τὰ στίγματα (NPA LF: στίγμα) refers to “marks” or “scars” on the body. It is possible that the practice of branding slaves with the marks of their owners is alluded to here (cf. 1:10, where Paul refers to himself as a “slave of Christ”).

[SN] Without knowing exactly to what τὰ στίγματα refer, it is difficult to know the precise syntactical function of τοῦ Ἰησοῦ. It is probably best to treat it as a #descriptive genitive and translate the phrase straightforwardly as “marks of Jesus.”

[SN] Ἐν τῷ σώματι expresses #sphere.

[SN] Βαστάζω (PAI1S) is the main verb for the explanatory clause introduced by γάρ. This is its fourth and final occurrence in Galatians (cf. 5:10; 6:2, 5).

6:18

[SN] Like the opening benediction in 1:3, this verse contains no verb. It is possible to translate without the use of a verb, or the reader may supply an optative form of εἰμί or γίνομαι.

[TN] Πνεύματος (NSG LF: πνεῦμα): Here, as in the benedictions of Phlm 25, Phil 4:23, and 2 Tim 4:22, this noun is used in reference to the human spirit. It is used also in the benediction of 2 Cor 13:13, but in reference to the Holy Spirit.

[TN] The appearance of ἀδελφοί (MPV LF: ἀδελφός) in a Pauline benediction goes against Paul’s normal practice (but cf. Eph 6:23). It is possible that Paul’s use of kinship language here is meant to soften his tone after such a forcefully worded letter.

Discussion Questions (6:11–18)

[6:16] Depending on whether we understand the last καὶ in 6:16 to be adverbial (“indeed”) or connective (“and”), τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ could refer either to ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν or to a separate group. Which is more likely?

[6:17] How does Paul’s use of βαστάζω elsewhere in Galatians (cf. 5:10; esp. 6:2, 5; see also Rom 11:18; 15:1) compare to his usage in this verse?

[Gal 5–6] The noun πνεῦμα occurs frequently in the last two chapters of Galatians. How should one discern when Paul refers to the Holy Spirit or the human spirit? What clues should we look for in the Greek text (where capitalization did not figure into this)?

Word Study: Σάρξ (“flesh”)

Meaning and Usage of Σάρξ

The noun σαρξ has a range of meanings in ancient writings. The literal meaning involves the muscular part of a human or animal. It is also used in reference to sacrificed animals and as a general term for fish and small animals. The word for flesh, σάρξ, is distinct from the word for body (σῶμα), but it came to signify the whole body. It could also be used for the “flesh” of fruits and trees.[1] In the writings of Epicurus, σάρξ is capable of experiencing hot, cold, fear, and also sorrow, pleasure, and especially desire. Platonic thought characterized Epicureans as tending to licentiousness and the passions as interfering with the freedom of the soul.[2]

In the LXX as in Homer, σάρξ generally appears in the plural form except where it refers to a body part. It refers both to human and animal tissue and to individuals or groups. It can characterize a relationship, as in Genesis, where Eve is flesh of Adam’s flesh, and Jacob is of Laban’s flesh (Gen 2:23; 29:14).[3] It may emphasize the non-divine or ephemeral nature of the being (Deut 5.26; Isa 40.6).[4] We also find it with reference to the muscular tissue of the body (Isa 31:3), the person, groups of people or animals (Ps 78:39; Isa 40:5), blood relationships (Judg 9:2), and human existence in general (Isa 40:6). This term is also associated with circumcision as a mark of God’s covenant with Israel, as in Genesis 17:11.[5] Sometimes texts treat the “flesh” as reflecting the human as fallible and prone to illness, distress, and the passions. In the Dead Sea Scrolls, σάρξ refers to the body as vulnerable to sickness and blows.[6] The flesh could be portrayed as corruptible, powerless, with defective understanding, or subject to divine will. In the Jewish Pseudepigrapha, σάρξ can refer to a person, distinct from God and subject to the judgment of God. The spirits of angels and the flesh of women have giants as their progeny (1 Enoch 15:4). Philo has a generally negative view of σάρξ, teaching the importance of self-mastery and freedom of will in spite of the limitations of the flesh.

Σάρξ in the New Testament

Σάρξ occurs seventy-five times in the New Testament outside of Paul’s writings, primarily in the singular. It occurs in the plural once in James (5:3) and seven times in Revelation (17:16; 19:18 [5x], 21), with these latter occurrences in reference to eating human (and horse) flesh. While Paul often contrasts the flesh with the (Holy) Spirit, in Matthew and Mark the flesh is weak compared to the (human) spirit, which refers to the part of a human being’s will that cannot overcome the weakness of the flesh (Matt 26:41; Mk 14:38). John refers to the separate wills of the flesh and of mortals (John 1:13). In the Gospel of John and Revelation, flesh pertains to the earthly sphere, which is inadequate and temporary but not sinful. In John, the term refers to the inability to understand the things of God, as well as to the flesh of the incarnate Christ, as in John 6:63.[7]

Σάρξ in Paul

In Paul’s writings, the word σἀρξ and its cognates occur more than seventy times. Of these, eighteen occurrences are in Galatians and twenty-six in Romans. The range of meaning  fits Jewish thought in general, but of course Paul offers his own theological perspective as a believer in Jesus. For Paul, flesh can be the muscular component of human beings, as in his “thorn in the flesh,” probably a physical ailment (2 Cor 12:7), or it can include the whole human person in all their dimensions. Σάρξ can be used to refer to the whole of humanity and also to Israel specifically.

Theologically, Paul underscores how σἀρξ is subject to temptation, sin, and death. In Romans, Paul describes the flesh as subject to sinful passions (7:5) and sold under sin (7:14), claiming that “nothing good dwells in my flesh” (7:18). For Paul, σἀρξ can also refer to the earthly sphere, which is limited and provisional and has as its opposite the heavenly sphere. Here a person exists as a creature and has the possibility of living for Christ. For Paul, the problem with the flesh is that it can be prioritized over God, Christ, or the Spirit, with whom it is often contrasted (Rom 8:13).

Σάρξ in Galatians

Galatians showcases the variety of meanings of σἀρξ in Paul. Frequently it is related to the Law and to sin/passion(s) or contrasted with the Spirit and the freedom or life that the Spirit brings. In Gal 1:16, Paul tells the Galatians that he did not immediately consult “flesh and blood”; here the expression refers to mortals. In 2:16, Paul explains that by the works of the Law “all flesh” will not be justified (i.e., humanity). In 2:20, σἀρξ is the sphere in which Paul lives (i.e., the “bodily” sphere), now by faith in Christ as opposed to the Law. In 3:3, Paul contrasts σἀρξ with the Spirit, the latter being the means of Christian growth. In 4:13–14, Paul refers to his own weakness of the flesh (ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς), which would reasonably have caused the Galatians to despise him. In 4:23 and 29, Paul appeals to Genesis, referring to Ishmael as born of the flesh, while Isaac was born of the Spirit.[8] Whereas Isaac was a God-given miracle (“of the Spirit”), Ishmael was the result of human choices (expressed by σἀρξ). These parallel the two covenants: one of the Law, leading to slavery, and the other of the Spirit, leading to freedom.

The word σἀρξ occurs six times in chapter five. Freedom is not to be “an opportunity for the flesh,” which here represents self-indulgence (5:13). Verses 16 and 17 contrast the flesh with the Spirit. Flesh is the human sphere of influence, including the tendency of humanity toward sinfulness. Paul uses the phrase “the works of the flesh,” which entail a representative list of thirteen vices. These “works of the flesh” are contrasted with the fruit of the Spirit, a corresponding virtue list. The Spirit is of God and is the sphere into which humans come through faith in Christ. In a visceral metaphor in 5:24, those who are of Christ “crucify the flesh” with its accompanying passions.[9]

In chapter six, there are four occurrences of σἀρξ. Two are in 6:8, where Paul contrasts sowing into the “flesh” (which results in a harvest of corruption) with sowing into the Spirit (which leads to a harvest of eternal life). The reference in 6:12 is to those who want to look good “in the flesh,” i.e., according to earthly/material(istic) estimations. In verse 13, Paul accuses his competitors of wanting to boast in the σἀρξ of the Galatian believers, which is why they are pressuring the Galatians to be circumcised. Paul’s use of the word σἀρξ in Galatians reflects a wide range of possible uses of the word but emphasizes the contrast between the choice to remain rooted in carnal attitudes and behaviors versus choosing the things of the Spirit through faith in Christ. (Jana Whitworth)


  1.       TDNT, 7.100–101.
  2.       TDNT, 7.104.
  3.       T. Muraoka, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (Louvain: Peeters, 2009), 617.
  4.       Muraoka, Lexicon of the Septuagint, 618.
  5.       See Martyn, Galatians, 291.
  6.       TDNT, 7.110.
  7.       TDNT, 7.142.
  8.       Andrew A. Das, Galatians (St. Louis, MO: Concordia, 2014), 493.
  9.       Das, Galatians, 587.

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