Gal 3:28 – Restored Poetry and Purposes in Barnstone’s Translation
In an earlier post, I wanted to propose that Paul uses Greek, makes it creative poetry, to emphasize his points of inclusivity and of egalitarianism in one of his epistles. These are the Greek lines of what we call Galatians 3:28. They sound — and appear on a page — certain ways to show — perhaps — as much as to tell.
In this post, I’d like to come at this same idea, of the humanitarian politics of Paul, by examining how Willis Barnstone translates the Greek lines. Barnstone seeks to restore from the Judaisms in the New Testament that are pre-Christian or neo-Christian. The tension he finds in Paul’s letter to friends in Galatia is one in which, on one hand, the “Greek input was dominant in culture, philosophy, and rhetoric” and the Jewish input, on the other hand, was dominant in a different culture and in theology, particularly, in this case, in the theologies of “Messianic Jews” (both those who considered Jesus, or Yeshua, the Messiah and those who saw Messiah as yet to come).
We understand, since Barnstone’s translation is wanting to restore, that things have shifted since Paul first wrote what he wrote. And we get the sense, given the tension noted, that things were already shifting in some rather dynamic and radical ways for Paul and his readership. The radical distinctions made between Greeks and Jews, between slave owners and slaves, and between the sexes are erased in Galatians 3:28, by the Greek lines of poetry.
Barnstone, in English translation, uses the word female. He, in a footnote on that English word, writes of “women.” It’s a quirky little thing about English, how fe-male is marked, and so is wo-man. In Greek, the binary is not so pronounced in the morphology or the phonology. Paul writes of two kinds — ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ — as not, one the subset or the marked version of the other. But rather he’s using Greek just to say there is no difference in his theology between the two. There can’t be hierarchy where there is no difference. So, I just want to show what Barnstone does with this, how he brings across what Paul has written into restored English that lets Paul say what he would say (as a “Greek-speaking Jew, … [one of] the evangelists”). There’s much to glean from the translation and the footnotes, so I’ll present these without further comment (and look forward to reading what you might think, if you offer comments):