Who bewitched you? Galatians 3:1
There are certain Biblical truths that can be added after every verse in the Bible, like the refrain “for his mercy is unchanging for ever.” found after each of the 26 statements in Psalm 136. The call “…to obey the truth…”, found in Galatians five verse seven is such a statement. It can be added almost anywhere and it would not be deemed wrong or false. Yet it is not necessary to add it to any statement God did not let be written down in the original autograph.
On the other hand there are statements that, superficially seen, seem to be lacking its second part, either not being written in the first place, or got left out by some mistake. If one finds a comparable “complete” statement a few verses down the road, it might be tempting to transpose that second part of the statement and make complete the previous statement.
Is this what possibly had happened causing the variation between the KJV and the NKV in Galatians three verse one? (The words in bold are lacking in modern versions of the Bible)
KJV: “O foolish Galatians, who bewitched you not to obey the truth, to whom before your eyes Jesus Christ was written among you crucified?”
NIV: “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.”
This variation was not created by modern translators of the Bible – for centuries it is found in manuscripts. Yet, as with any variation in manuscript evidence, the translator has to make a decision of which variation has the greatest possibility to render the original autograph. So let us put ourselves in their shoes and, with open minds and sound reasoning apply the criteria available and see whether we could make an informed decision based on the three criteria available.
1. External evidence:
First we look at the manuscripts through the ages, available to us.
The version found in the KJV is found in three uncial Greek manuscripts: Ephraeni Rescriptus (±450 A.D.), Athous Lavrencis (±890 A.D.) and codex 0278 (±950 A.D.) It is also found in most of the later minuscule manuscripts, all written later than ±900 A.D.
The 1592 Latin Clementina-Vulgate, to this date the official version accepted by the Roman Catholic Church also has this version. It was most probably altered according to the printed Greek text of Desiderius Erasmus. One Syrian manuscript (616 A.D.) as well as some of Jerome’s manuscripts (†420 A.D.) also have this insert.
The version found in the NIV agrees with the following Uncial codices: Sinaiticus (±350 A.D.), Alexandrinus (±350 A.D.), Vaticanus (±350 A.D.), Claromontanus (±550 A.D.), Augiensis (±850 A.D.) and Boernerianus (±850 A.D.). It is also found in the following Minuscule manuscripts, dated after 900 A.D., nos. 33, 81, 630, 1739 and a few more.
In antique translations this rendering agrees with most of the old Latin manuscripts as well as the older versions of the Vulgate. So also in the Syrian Peshitta, (±350-650 A.D.), the Coptic Text (±350 A.D.) and the remaining of Jerome’s manuscripts. Jerome was the person responsible for the original Latin Vulgate.
Prior to the year 800 A.D. we are therefore faced with only one Greek manuscript with the KJV – version compared with four with the NIV – version as well as much stronger evidence in antique translations.
Purely based on manuscript evidence, it seems as though the version without these words has a much stronger case to reflect the original autograph.
2. Internal evidence.
The second criterion is to search the epistle to the Galatians itself for a possible explanation for the origin of the variation. These words had either been deliberately been removed from the original or added to it, depending on what version the autograph had! Even like today, any words missing from a rendering of the Scriptures, is most alarming. Only on very firm and sound grounds would a scribe remove words from the Bible. But an elaboration, especially if it contains a general truth, would be more easily accepted. In Galatians five verse seven we find a verse that compares closely with Galatians three verse one :” You were running well; who held you back that you do not obey the truth?” This clause printed dark, perfectly fits the second part of chapter three verse one: “Who bewitched you…” That some scribe transposed it to this location and thereby also harmonized these verses, is quite understandable. On the other hand it is unthinkable that anybody would break a perfect harmonizing like this and remove these words without no obvious reason, if in fact the original had been with this clause!.
This points to the original of Galatians three rather to be without this clause than with it.
3. Intrinsic evidence.
The third criterion we have is to look at the context.
At the beginning of Galatians three Paul attends to the question whether the Galatians had received the Holy Spirit by obeying the law, or by believing Jesus Christ who had been clearly portrayed as crucified before their very eyes. They had been so sure of the truth, and now they were confused. Who then had bewitched them? The clause “that you do not obey the truth… “ fits perfectly at this point.
In chapter five verses one to six Paul opposes the old dispensation of the law and circumcision against the new dispensation of freedom and no circumcision. He cautions the Galatians not to be led from “faith and love” and be brought under the yoke of slavery again. And then follows verse seven: ” You were running well; who held you back that you do not obey the truth?” Here the call to obey the truth fits perfectly, since it involves a direct contrast.
In both chapters three and five this clause fits like a glove. Therefore the intrinsic evidence does not help us to get any closer to a final choice.
In both chapters three and five this clause fits as well as the refrain in psalm 136. Yet there are two variations. Both could not be rendering the original autograph! One represents a deviation from what God originally let Paul write down. A choice has to be made!
Most of the Greek manuscripts as well as ancient translations favour chapter three without this clause. It is unthinkable that a scribe would deliberately remove such a truth if it had in fact been in the source from which he was working! Yet it is quite understandable that someone would transpose this clause from chapter five and create a beautiful harmony.
These are the facts. If you were the translator, which version would you choose? Which has the greater chance to render what God intended in the first place?
Please leave your opinion at the bottom of this page.
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