But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:8 NASB
Contrary – There is a marginal note concerning the translation of this preposition (para) in the NASB. There should probably be a marginal note in every English translation. That’s because the preposition para is usually found in spatial contexts (like “out of” or “from” or “along side”). The marginal note reads that this preposition in Galatians might be translated “other than” or “more than.” This recognizes the use of the preposition with a certain kind of Greek noun (called the accusative) where the meaning shifts from spatial to comparative. But it still takes the context to translate the word as “contrary.” It could just as well be that Paul meant “a gospel more than” or “a gospel other than.” The idea that this alternative good news must be against the first declaration is interpretive license. All that is really required is that it be different.
Why is this important? Because Paul is reflecting and alluding to a very old declaration of the Tanakh found in Deuteronomy 12:32. “Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.” In Hebrew (the Hebrew text is 13:1), the negative is lo, the strongest possible sense of “not.” In fact, the Hebrew text says more than “whatever I command you.” It says, “kol-hadavar”. All the words (things). You shall remove nothing. You shall add nothing. Isn’t this precisely what Paul says? Paul, the rabbinic Pharisee, knew that the revelation given to Moses was untouchable. It cannot be changed! No matter who says so. In fact, if Paul actually proclaimed a message more than or other than the revelation given to Moses, he would have uttered a curse on himself in the eyes of every Jew and every Gentile proselyte in Galatia. Does that make any sense to you?
Today we Christians are quick to apply Paul’s pronouncement to Mormons who believe that an angel from heaven provided a “new” revelation to Joseph Smith. We quickly point to Paul’s statement when we encounter Muslims who believe that a spirit revealed “new” material to the prophet Mohammed. But we don’t think that Paul’s proclamation actually applies to us! We think that somehow Paul’s reference to Moses’ warning can’t be true of “Christians” in spite of the fact that we have certainly added to and taken away from the revelation given to Moses. Somehow we think that Paul would not have included “believers” who worship on Sunday, celebrate Christmas and Easter, eat whatever they wish, tithe to an organized religion and pay little if any attention to ritual purity requirements. We think that “Jesus” changed all this. But if He did, wouldn’t He also be under the curse? If Jesus actually preached a gospel that was more than or other than God’s revelation to Moses, would Jesus Himself be accursed? You can’t have it both ways. Either Paul curses himself and Yeshua and all the others who were supposed to have converted to Christianity, or Paul held that same revelation as Moses and it is we who have changed it.
Forget Maroni and Mohammed. Let’s begin with Moses. Does Paul expect us to set aside Moses’ warning or does Paul intend us to adhere to it? It’s really that simple. Who is accursed now?
Topical Index: contrary, para, more than, other than, Deuteronomy 12:32, Galatians 1:8