Gal 2: Are they whom they seem?

From: Ward Powers (
Date: Sat Mar 04 2000 - 07:14:06 EST

B-Greekers all,

In Galatians DOKEW is used five times, once (6:3) as an indicative active
present verb, and four times as a present active articular participle,
third plural (all in chapter 2: verses 2, 6 (twice), and 9). In 6:3 it is
used of someone who thinks he is something that he is not. That is, of a
seeming which is incorrect, mistaken, or in error.

In my Greek Bible Study group, we have been meditating upon its meanings in
its four occurrences in Galatians 2. Are they all of a kind? Or do they
have different significance in their different contexts?

Bauer's discussion of DOKEW covers instances where (e.g., like Gal 6:3) the
subject seems to be something which he is not, and also instances where the
people in question are what they seem, which Bauer describes as "be
influential, be recognized as being something, have a reputation".

What I am asking is whether in Galatians 2 Paul is recognizing people for
what they are, or is (to the contrary) throwing doubt upon their reputation
(or indicating that he himself has some doubt about it). Or does the
intended meaning switch between these two possibilities within the first 9
verses of this chapter?

In 2:2 Paul says that on a visit to Jerusalem he put his gospel KAT' IDIAN
DE TOIS DOKOUSIN, privately before those who seemed [to be leaders]. Is
Paul recognizing them as leaders, or giving voice to his actual doubt as to
whether they really merited this reputation? [Note that though the NIV and
NRSV both put in "leaders" here, there is no word for "leaders" in the
Greek - you have to get this out of DOKEW.]

In 2:6 Paul says APO DE TWN DOKOUNTWN EINAI TI (and from those who seem to
be something) - but what they actually were makes no difference to him, for
God shows no partiality - EMOI GAR hOI DOKOUNTES OUDEN PROSANEQENTO (for
the ones who seem [to be something] added nothing to me). Here Paul appears
to be expressly denying that the people to whom he refers are what they
"seem" or "are reputed" to be, because he makes the distinction between
what they DOKEW and what they actually were.

Now for the crunch. In 2:9 Paul refers to James, Cephas and John as hOI
DOKOUNTES STULOI EINAI ([those] who appear to be, or are reputed to be,
pillars). Does this wording (and use of DOKEW) indicate that Paul felt
uncertain whether or not he could actually accord to these men that
appelation of being pillars? Presumably this encounter occurred prior to
Peter's visit to Antioch (2:11ff.), and the visit also of those who claimed
to come from James of Jerusalem (2:12), when Paul withstood Peter to his
face over the question of eating with Gentiles, because "he was clearly in
the wrong" (NIV, 2:11).

Here's a possible scenario. The men who went down from Jerusalem to Antioch
and taught the brothers that they must be circumcized according to the
custom of Moses, with whom Paul and Barnabas disputed vehemently (Acts
15:1-2a) are identical with the "certain people who came from James" of Gal
2:12a. Paul had the testimony of these people that they came "from James",
which made Paul wonder about the orthodoxy in the gospel of the leadership
of the mother church in Jerusalem. This doubt was further reinforced by the
conduct of Peter, who separated himself from the Gentile believers for fear
of the circumcision party (2:12b).

And it is at this time that he learns that the circumcision party, the
Judaizers, have also been undermining the pure gospel which he had taken to
the Galatians. He dashes off the Letter to the Galatians denouncing this
"other" gospel, no matter who it is who is behind it (Gal 1:6-9) - i.e.,
even if it appears to come with the endorsement of the mother church in

So when he is writing this letter he does not know where the Jerusalem
church, and its leadership, actually stand in regard to the purity of the
gospel message. These doubts about the leadership in Jerusalem surface in
his use of DOKEW in chapter 2 (as outlined above). These Jerusalem leaders
had agreed that Paul was entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised
Gentiles just as Peter had been for the circumcised Jews (2:7-8) - but are
these now turning out to be two DIFFERENT gospel messages (1:7-9)?!?

So the Epistle to the Galatians is written and despatched. Then Paul and
Barnabas and some other representatives of the Antioch church go up to
Jerusalem (Acts 15:2b-3). They were cordially welcomed (Acts 15:4) - but
they did not know at that point what sort of a reception they were going to
get for their view of the gospel, or what view the Jerusalem leadership
would adopt when the circumcision party laid it on the line (Acts 15:5).

In the event Peter gave his support to Paul and Barnabas, and then James
weighed in with his judgement (DIO EGW KRINW, 15:19) to the same effect.
Thus Paul was able to endorse the Jerusalem leadership and to promulgate
their decisions on the churches of Galatia (Acts 16:4).

Now, this scenario can be held independently of what one thinks of the
meaning of DOKEW in Galatians 2. But my question is: is it valid to
understand DOKEW in this chapter in the way that I have done? Or am I
resting more weight upon it than it can bear? And, are there any factors in
the Greek of this chapter which can throw light upon this situation?

How does it seem to you?



Rev Dr B. Ward Powers Phone (International): 61-2-9799-7501
10 Grosvenor Crescent Phone (Australia): (02) 9799-7501
SUMMER HILL NSW 2130 email:
AUSTRALIA. Director, Tyndale College

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