"I found a few mistakes in your answer about Galatians 5:12"


Hi there,

I was doing a little research into Galatians 5:12, where Paul wishes that those who unsettle the Galatians would emasculate themselves. I came across your article, "In Galatians 5:12, is Paul actually wishing that some would emasculate themselves?"

Thank you for the article, I appreciate you taking the time to write it. However, I would like to point out that you did make a mistake, with regards to this text:

"One of the Hebrew words, karath, that apokopto is used to translate, could also be used to refer to emasculation, as seen in Deuteronomy 23:1, "He who is emasculated by crushing or mutilation shall not enter the assembly of the LORD." However, the translators of the Septuagint did not chose to use apokopto in this context."

The English text that is Deuteronomy 23:1 is actually found in the Septuagint in 23:2 - this is because Deuteronomy 22:30 is found in 23:1 in the Septuagint (the split between chapter 22 and 23 is one verse different in the LXX compared with the English). The Septuagint does indeed use apokopto in 23:2, as does Philo when he quotes that verse.

You also said: "Experts in the Koine Greek do agree that apokopto can include the action of making a man a eunuch, based on its usage in other documents."

The BDAG (basically the most comprehensive lexical work done on the New Testament and other early Christian literature, which includes many references to extra biblical literature), says that private parts are implied. Basically, what that means is that if apokopto has a subject (i.e. a hand, a foot, a beard, etc.), it means to cut that off, but if it has no subject then cutting off the "private parts" is implied. This can be seen by the translation of similar verses in the Septuagint where the Hebrew reads "cut off" (as in separate), the Septuagint uses words different to apokopto. Where it means to cut off a body part then apokopto is used.

Galatians 5:12 is the only instance in the New Testament where apokopto is used without a subject (it is in the middle voice, which implies doing something to oneself, so the verb has no subject), and Deuteronomy 23:1 (LXX 23:2) is translated using apokopto, which in Hebrew clearly refers to castration. These two things give strong weight, along with such usage in extra biblical literature (as documented in BDAG) that Paul does indeed that those unsettling the Galatians would indeed emasulate or castrate themselves.

I do not intend to be critical, but rather I noticed this error and thought that I should bring it to your attention, as this does indeed take weight away from the conclusion.


I'm certainly not immune from making mistakes, as many of my friends who send me notes about grammatical errors in my writings will attest. But I would like to point out that my answer did not state that Deuteronomy 23:1 was numbered as such in the Septuagint. I talked about how Deuteronomy 23:1 in our Bibles was translated in the Septuagint. Things are confusing enough without introducing two numbering systems.

I do have a copy of "A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature." It is one of the experts that I was alluding to. However, it does not say that when there is no subject that castration is always implied.

Private part implied make a eunuch of, castrate (Lucian, Eunuch. 8; Cass. Dio 79, 11; Dt 23:2; Philo, Leg. All. 3, 8, Spec. Leg. 1, 325; Theoph. Ant. 3, 8[p. 222, 3]) mid.

I take it that Bauer is saying that when the context implies that it is private parts that are being cut off, the proper translation is "make a eunuch of" or "castrate" when apokopto is in the middle voice. I agree that castration could possibly be what Paul was implying, but since he did not so state, it should not be assumed as fact. There are other possible implications and those should not be thrown out. In dealing with implications, it is better to consider how it lines up with other statements to find the most likely meaning. A dictionary, which the BDAG is, merely gives you the possible range of meaning. The author does give you his opinion as to what he thinks the meaning is in a particular verse, but it isn't hard evidence. It is merely an expert's thoughts on the matter.

My objection to many of the modern translations of this verse is that they removed the implication and make it appear that it is positively saying castration, when in fact it does not. A good translation should reflect the original text and not what the translator is guessing the author meant, no matter how confident of his guess he might be.

The conclusion remains the same in any regards. Paul made it clear that he was talking figuratively and so it should be understood. He did not state what ought to be cut off and so it should remain.