On The Necessity of Knowing Greek

I’ve been engaged in a good bit of sermon preparation this week, trying to make sure I’m staying about three weeks ahead of myself. Last evening, I decided to re-read the Greek text for the sermon I’ll be preaching on the 10th of June. While reading Galatians 1:6-10, a particular portion of the text sort of jumped out and grabbed me. I’m going to provide both the Greek text of the Nestle-Aland 27th edition and my translation as well.

Θαυμάζω ὅτι οὕτως ταχέως μετατίθεσθε ἀπὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ] εἰς ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον, ὃ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο, εἰ μή τινές εἰσιν οἱ ταράσσοντες ὑμᾶς καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ. ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρ᾽ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. ὡς προειρήκαμεν καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω· εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρ᾽ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω. Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel –  not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell!  As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell!  Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ!

The relevant phrase here is found in the last half of v. 7: καὶ θέλοντες μεταστρέψαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ, which I’ve translated as  “…and want to distort the gospel of Christ.” To be perfectly honest, I’ve read this text over a dozen times, and felt pretty happy with that translation, until I noticed something last evening.

When any form of the verb θέλω [thelõ] (note the verb in red above) is followed by an infinitive (marked by burgundy above), it begins to have a slightly different connotation. Generally speaking the verb θέλω [thelõ] means “to want/desire”. But when it’s followed by the infinitive, it also carries the idea of “take pleasure in”.

Here the infinitive verb is μεταστρέψαι [metastrepsai], taken from the verb μεταστρέφω [metasrephõ], which means “to alter the state or condition of something. When you jam these two words together, here is what Paul is driving at: the Judaizers in Galatia take pleasure in so altering the gospel that they have turned it on it’s head, and fundamentally altered it’s character.

Now that’s an interesting thought, isn’t it? It sounds similar to Paul’s indictment in Romans 1:32 – “Although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also heartily approve of those who practice them.”

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"I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve." (Romans 16:17-18) Please read "The Comments Policy."

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