Plural Personal Pronouns in Galatians
by Bob Myhan
Is Paul writing to a collectivity of “churches” or to a plurality of “churches”? The plural “you” [as opposed to “thee”] indicates the latter.
Jesus “gave Himself for our sins.” Did Jesus give Himself for the sins of the churches or for the sins of the individuals who make up the churches? It is obviously the latter. Jesus “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age.” Deliver “us congregations” or deliver “us individuals”? It is obviously the latter.
The “you” who were “turning away so soon” were the same “you” who had been “called…in the grace of Christ.” Were they “called” as congregations or as individuals? It is obviously the latter.
Were the false teachers in Galatia troubling the churches collectively or distributively? They were troubling them distributively by demanding that the men [individuals] submit to physical circumcision (see Acts 15:19-24; Galatians 2:1-3; 5:1-6; 6:12,13).
The gospel was preached to them as individuals, not as churches.
Here, Paul makes it clear that he is writing to the individuals who make up the churches.
Paul had “persecuted the church of God” by persecuting the members of “the church of God” (see Acts 8:1-3). Thus, “church of God” is distributive.
In what sense was Paul “unknown by face to the churches of Judea”? Surely, it was in the sense that he was “unknown by face” to those who made up those churches. Notice the “us” in what they were hearing (v. 23). Had he “persecuted us” churches or “persecuted us” individuals? It was obviously the latter (see again Acts 8:1-3).
We shall reap as individuals not as congregations (see Romans 14:12; II Corinthians 5:10).
The first person plural pronoun always includes the speaker/writer. Paul was not a congregation but an individual. Thus the “we” and “us” are referring to individuals rather than to congregations.
Were they trying to “compel you” churches “to be circumcised” or trying to “compel you” individuals “to be circumcised”? Again, it is obviously the latter.