O senseless Galatians!: The Greek word for “senseless” (a·noʹe·tos) does not necessarily mean that the Galatian Christians lacked intelligence. In this context, it refers to “unwillingness to use one’s mental faculties in order to understand,” as one lexicon puts it. Paul had just reminded the Galatian Christians that they had been declared righteous, not because they had kept the Mosaic Law, but because they had faith in Jesus Christ. (Ga 2:15-21) Jesus had freed them from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law. (See study note on Ga 2:21.) Foolishly, some Galatians were forsaking that precious freedom and were returning to an obsolete Law that could only condemn them. (Ga 1:6) By exclaiming “O senseless Galatians!” Paul rebuked them for taking this step backward.
Galatians: Apparently Paul here refers to the Christians in the congregations located in those southern parts of Galatia where he had preached.—See study note on Ga 1:2.
has brought you under this evil influence: The expression is translated from the Greek verb ba·skaiʹno, used only here in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The term was sometimes used to mean “to bewitch” or “to put a spell on,” which is how many English Bibles render this word. However, in ancient Greek, that verb also had a figurative meaning, so it did not always signify that a magical power was at work to mislead someone. Paul uses the term in the broader sense of leading others astray and wrongly influencing them. He is vividly characterizing the negative influence of those who were trying to mislead the Galatians.
After starting on a spiritual course: Lit., “After starting in spirit.” The Christians in Galatia had started to grow toward spiritual maturity. At the beginning of their course, they were acting in harmony with God’s holy spirit and following its guidance.
are you finishing on a fleshly course?: Lit., “are you being completed in flesh?” “After starting on a spiritual course,” the Galatian Christians were now being influenced by men who were not guided by God’s spirit, especially those who advocated circumcision and strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. (Ga 3:1; 5:2-6) Such “a fleshly course” could result in their failing to attain spiritual maturity and could endanger their prospects for eternal life.—Ga 6:8.
Jehovah: In this quote from Ge 15:6, the divine name, represented by four Hebrew consonants (transliterated YHWH), occurs in the original Hebrew text. (See App. C1 and C2.) Existing Greek manuscripts have the word The·osʹ (God) here, perhaps reflecting the term used at Ge 15:6 in available copies of the Septuagint. This usage may explain why most translations use “God” here. However, the original Hebrew text from which this quotation is taken contains the Tetragrammaton, and therefore the divine name is used here in the main text. The whole phrase taken from Ge 15:6 is also quoted at Ro 4:3 and Jas 2:23.
sons of Abraham: The covenant of circumcision was originally made with Abraham. Apparently, “the false brothers” were arguing that Christians would be “sons of Abraham” only if they kept the Law. (Ga 2:4; 3:1, 2; Ge 17:10; see Glossary, “Circumcision.”) However, Paul explains that true “sons of Abraham” are those who adhere to faith, that is, those who have faith like that of Abraham.—Ga 3:9; see study note on Ga 3:29.
who had faith: In this verse, the Greek word pi·stosʹ, rendered “who had faith,” describes someone who puts trust in, or who has faith in, someone or something. It could also convey the meaning “faithful.”—See study note on 2Co 6:15.
it is written: “Cursed is everyone who”: Paul here quotes De 27:26, which shows that if the Jews violated the Law that they agreed to follow (Ex 24:3), they would come under the curses written in it. The word “cursed” (Greek, e·pi·ka·taʹra·tos) refers to being condemned by God. (See Glossary, “Curse.”) Paul showed that all the Jews needed to be redeemed not only from the sin of Adam but also from the curse of the Law.—Ro 5:12; Ga 3:10-13; see study note on Ga 3:13.
the righteous one will live by reason of faith: Paul quotes from Hab 2:4 when he emphasizes that faith in Christ Jesus—not works of the Mosaic Law—is the true basis on which Christians can be declared righteous.—Ro 10:3, 4; see study notes on Ro 1:17.
becoming a curse instead of us: The Mosaic Law stated that those who were under that covenant and who violated its laws would be cursed. (See study note on Ga 3:10.) In this verse, Paul quotes De 21:22, 23, which shows that the bodies of those who were “accursed of God” were hung on stakes. So Jesus had to be hung on a stake as a cursed criminal to benefit the Jewish people. He assumed the full weight of the curse that the Law imposed on them. His death thus enabled any Jew who chose to put faith in him as the Messiah to be relieved of that curse. Paul’s point here may echo Jesus’ words to the Pharisee Nicodemus.—See study note on Joh 3:14.
a stake: See study note on Ac 5:30.
a covenant: The Greek word di·a·theʹke is used 33 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures, always in the sense of “a covenant” or an “agreement.” (Mt 26:28; Lu 22:20; 1Co 11:25; Ga 3:17; 4:24; Heb 8:6, 8; 10:16, 29; 12:24) A number of Bible translations render the Greek word di·a·theʹke as a person’s “will,” or testament, in this verse. However, in view of the immediate context in which God’s covenant with Abraham is discussed (Ga 3:16-18), the rendering “covenant” seems appropriate in this verse also.—See study note on Ga 3:17.
the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his offspring: Under inspiration, Paul identifies Jesus Christ as the primary part of the offspring of Abraham. (The Greek word sperʹma, literally “seed,” is often rendered “offspring” in connection with Jehovah’s promises about the Messiah. See App. A2.) After the rebellion in Eden, Jehovah promised that a “woman” would produce an “offspring” who would crush the head of the serpent, Satan. (Ge 3:15) Jehovah’s covenant with Abraham stated that his offspring would bring blessings to mankind. (Ge 12:1-3, 7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:15-18; 24:7; Ga 3:8) God also revealed that the offspring would be a descendant of King David of the tribe of Judah, which was true of Jesus. (Ge 49:10; Ps 89:3, 4; Lu 1:30-33; see study note on your descendants . . . your offspring in this verse.) At Ga 3:26-29, Paul indicates that in the spiritual fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, there would be a secondary part of Abraham’s offspring.—See study note on Ga 3:29.
It does not say: Or possibly, “He does not say.” In Greek, the reference could be either to the scripture that Paul is quoting or to God. The implied subject is “it,” referring to the scripture that Paul is quoting. However, it is possible to understand that “He,” referring to God, is the subject of the sentence.
your descendants . . . your offspring: Lit., “your seeds . . . your seed.” Paul refers to God’s promises to Abraham and his “offspring.” (Ge 12:7; 13:14, 15; 17:7; 22:17, 18; 24:7) In those promises regarding Abraham’s “offspring” (lit., “seed”), the Hebrew and Greek terms used are in the singular form. However, they often refer to such offspring in a collective sense. Here, Paul contrasts the Greek word sperʹma in plural (rendered “descendants”) with the singular form (rendered “offspring”). He makes this distinction to show that when speaking of the blessings to come through Abraham’s offspring, God made primary reference to one person, namely, Christ. The promise that all the families of the earth would be blessed by means of Abraham’s “offspring” could not have included all of his descendants, since the offspring of his son Ishmael and those of his sons by Keturah were not used to bless humankind. The promised offspring was to come through Isaac (Ge 21:12; Heb 11:18); then the line of descent was narrowed down to Isaac’s son Jacob (Ge 28:13, 14), then to the tribe of Judah (Ge 49:10), and then to the line of David (2Sa 7:12-16). Jesus was a descendant of Abraham, from that one line, or family. (Mt 1:1-16; Lu 3:23-34) Therefore, the Jews in the first century C.E. were actually looking for one person to come as the Messiah, or Christ, as the deliverer. (Lu 3:15; Joh 1:25; 7:41, 42) They also thought that they, Abraham’s literal offspring, would be the favored people and as such God’s children.—Joh 8:39-41.
430 years: Paul here refers to the time that elapsed between the making of the Abrahamic covenant and the Mosaic Law covenant. It seems that the covenant between Jehovah and Abraham took effect in 1943 B.C.E. when Abraham and his family crossed the Euphrates River on their way to Canaan, the land that God had promised to their descendants. (Ge 12:4, 5, 7) This apparently took place on the 14th day of the month later known as Nisan. That conclusion is based on Ex 12:41, which states that Jehovah freed his people from Egyptian bondage “430 years” later, in 1513 B.C.E., “on this very day.”
the covenant: Or “the agreement.” (See study note on Ga 3:15 and Glossary, “Covenant.”) The first-century Christians would have seen the Greek term for “covenant” in the Septuagint as the rendering of the Hebrew term berithʹ. That term occurs more than 250 times in the Hebrew Scriptures in the sense of a “covenant” or an “agreement.”—Ex 24:7, 8; Ps 25:10; 83:5, ftn.; see study note on 2Co 3:14.
the covenant previously made by God: This refers to the covenant that God made with Abraham. That covenant apparently went into effect in 1943 B.C.E. when Abraham crossed the Euphrates River. (Ge 12:1-7) The Law covenant that was made 430 years later, in 1513 B.C.E., did not invalidate, or negate, the Abrahamic covenant but was added to it. It directed the people toward the offspring of Abraham, Jesus Christ.—Ga 3:15, 16; see study note on Ga 3:24.
was added: The Greek word rendered “was added” is apparently used by Paul to express the temporary nature of the Mosaic Law, especially when compared with the more enduring Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment regarding the promised “offspring.”—Ge 3:15; 22:18; Ga 3:29.
to make transgressions manifest: Paul shows that a major purpose of the Mosaic Law was “to make transgressions manifest,” exposing Israel and all mankind as imperfect sinners before God. (For a comment on the Greek word for “transgression,” see study note on Ro 4:15.) The Law clearly spelled out the full range and scope of sin. Paul could therefore say that it caused trespassing and sin to “increase” in that so many acts and even attitudes were now identified as sinful. (Ro 5:20; 7:7-11; see study note on 1Co 15:56; compare Ps 40:12.) All those who tried to follow the Law found themselves legally convicted by it because it showed up their sinfulness. Its sacrifices continually served to remind them of their sinful state. (Heb 10:1-4, 11) All men needed a perfect sacrifice that could completely atone for their sins.—Ro 10:4; see study note on the offspring in this verse.
transmitted through angels: The Hebrew Scriptures do not specifically indicate that angels transmitted the Law covenant. However, the inspired statement found here—as well as the statements recorded at Ac 7:53 (see study note) and Heb 2:2, 3—makes that clear. Apparently, Jehovah authorized angels to speak as his representatives to Moses and then to give Moses the two tablets of the Testimony. (Ex 19:9, 11, 18-20; 24:12; 31:18) Still, Jehovah was the actual Lawgiver, and Moses was His appointed mediator of the covenant between God and Israel.
a mediator: The unnamed mediator was Moses. He acted as the intermediary between Jehovah and the nation of Israel for establishing a covenant, or a legally binding agreement, between God and the nation. (See Glossary, “Mediator.”) The Greek word me·siʹtes, translated “mediator,” occurs six times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. (Ga 3:19, 20; 1Ti 2:5; Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24) It is a legal term. According to one lexicon, it means “one who intervenes between two, either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or to form a compact [that is, an agreement], or for ratifying a covenant.” In mediating the Law covenant, Moses helped the nation of Israel to keep the covenant and to receive its benefits. For example, Moses officiated at the inauguration of the covenant. (Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:18-22) He installed the priests and put the work of the priesthood into operation. (Le 8:1-36; Heb 7:11) He also conveyed a body of more than 600 laws to the Israelites and pleaded that Jehovah spare them from punishment.—Nu 16:20-22; 21:7; De 9:18-20, 25-29.
there is no mediator when just one person is involved: Paul is discussing the covenant that Jehovah made with Abraham. Jehovah made this covenant or promise, and it was up to Him to fulfill it. He set forth no conditions that Abraham had to meet. (Ga 3:18) On the other hand, the Law covenant involved two parties. It was made between Jehovah and the nation of Israel, with Moses as mediator. (See study note on Ga 3:19.) The Israelites agreed to the terms of the covenant, making a sacred promise to obey the Law.—Ex 24:3-8; Ga 3:17, 19; see Glossary “Covenant.”
God is only one: Greek manuscripts read “God” here, but a few translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew and other languages use the divine name. Paul’s statement echoes the words of De 6:4, which reads: “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” Jesus quotes from De 6:4, as recorded at Mr 12:29. (See study notes.) Paul alludes to the same scripture at Ro 3:30 and 1Co 8:4.
custody of sin: The Greek verb rendered “handed . . . over to the custody of” means “to enclose together; to hem in,” implying that there is little or no prospect of escape. In its literal sense, it could refer to catching fish by enclosing them in a net. (Lu 5:6) The word vividly conveys the idea that imperfect humans are trapped in their sinful state. Paul says that “the Scripture handed all things,” that is, all the descendants of sinful Adam and Eve, “over to the custody of sin.” The Scripture, which contained the Law, clearly showed how sinful each human is in God’s eyes. (See study note on Ga 3:19.) Only Christ could offer hope of escape from this terrible custody.
before the faith arrived: That is, the faith in Jesus Christ.
handed over into custody: Paul has just shown that humans are in “the custody of sin.” (See study note on Ga 3:22.) In this verse, he uses the same Greek word (rendered “handed over into custody”) to emphasize a different point. The Israelites were being guarded by the Mosaic Law, and that Law guided them “to the faith [in Christ] that was about to be revealed.”
our guardian leading to Christ: The Greek word for “guardian” (pai·da·go·gosʹ) that Paul used in this illustration literally means “child leader” and may also be rendered “tutor.” The word is used only at Ga 3:24, 25 and 1Co 4:15, where Paul compared Christian ministers to such guardians. (See study note on 1Co 4:15.) With this beautiful metaphor, Paul likens the Mosaic Law to a guardian, or tutor, who would daily accompany a young boy to school. Such a guardian was not the actual teacher; rather, he was responsible for protecting the boy, for helping him to adhere to the standards of the family, and for administering discipline. Similarly, the Mosaic Law strictly upheld God’s standards and helped the Israelites to see that they were sinful, incapable of keeping the Law perfectly. Humble ones who accepted the guidance of this “guardian” understood that they were in need of the Messiah, or Christ, God’s only means of salvation.—Ac 4:12.
now that the faith has arrived: Jesus is the only person who fulfilled the Law perfectly. So Paul could say that the faith—that is, perfect faith—had arrived. By fulfilling the Law, Jesus gave his followers the opportunity to have an approved standing with Jehovah God. He thus became the “Perfecter of our faith.” (Heb 12:2) Christ would be with his disciples “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things” (Mt 28:20), so there is no need to go back to the care of the guardian. (See study note on Ga 3:24.) Using this reasoning, Paul makes the point that the Mosaic Law became obsolete with the arrival of this perfected faith based on Jesus Christ.
baptized into Christ: This expression shows that anointed Christians enter into a special relationship with their Lord when they are anointed, or baptized with holy spirit. They become part of the “one body,” the congregation of anointed ones; Jesus Christ is the head of that body. (1Co 12:13; Mr 1:8; Ac 1:5; Re 20:6; see study note on Ro 6:3.) At 1Co 10:2, Paul uses a similar illustration, saying that a people can be “baptized into” a leader or liberator.—See study note on 1Co 10:2.
have put on Christ: Or “have clothed yourselves with Christ.” The Greek verb also occurs at Col 3:10, 12. One lexicon says that this expression means “to become so possessed of the mind of Christ as in thought, feeling, and action to resemble him and, as it were, reproduce the life he lived.” In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the same Greek verb in a similar expression.—See study note on Ro 13:14.
neither Jew nor Greek: The term “Jew” refers to those of Jewish descent, the Israelites. (See Glossary, “Jew.”) The term “Greek” is apparently used here in a broader sense to represent all non-Jewish peoples, or Gentiles. (See study note on Ro 1:16.) Thus, from God’s standpoint, it is no longer natural descent from Abraham that determines who are “really Abraham’s offspring.” There is no distinction based on race or nationality because God’s people “are all one.” (Ga 3:26-29; Col 3:11) God shows his impartiality by choosing a new nation, “the Israel of God,” which is made up of both Jews and Gentiles. (Eph 2:11-18; see study note on Ga 6:16.) It was fitting for Paul to emphasize this truth to Christians in the province of Galatia, where there was a mix of Jews, Greeks, Romans, and local peoples.
neither slave nor freeman: A “slave” was an individual who was owned by a fellow man. A “freeman” was one who was born free, possessing full rights of citizenship. (See Glossary, “Freeman; Freedman.”) From God’s viewpoint, there is no difference between a Christian who was a slave and one who was a freeman. All Christians have been bought with Jesus’ precious blood and are slaves of God and of Christ Jesus.—1Co 7:22 (see study note), 23; 1Pe 1:18, 19; 2:16.
you are really Abraham’s offspring: The primary part of the offspring of Abraham is Christ. (Ge 22:17; see study note on Ga 3:16.) Paul here indicates that others who “belong to Christ” are added as a secondary part of “Abraham’s offspring” (lit., “Abraham’s seed”). (Mr 9:41; 1Co 15:23) This secondary part will be made up of 144,000 spirit-anointed Christians. (Re 5:9, 10; 14:1, 4) Some of those Christians are natural Jews, but most are from the Gentile nations.—Ac 3:25, 26; Ga 3:8, 9, 28.