“I wish those who trouble you would cut themselves off!” — Galatians 5:12

Galatians 5:12 (NKJV)

12 I could wish that those who trouble you would even cut themselves off! 


The phrase “cut themselves off” has been interpreted as Paul praying that they would kill themselves! That’s absurd.


Reading in context of the whole Book would reveal how that some Jews had told the Galatian Christians that faith in Christ was not enough to be saved. They were told that they needed to also obey the Law and be circumcised (which means to cut off the foreskin away from the sexual organ) to be saved (works). Paul’s argument in the entire Book is that this was not true. (See Galatians 5:1-6)


The phrase “cut themselves off” in the NKJV prevents us from getting a clear picture of Paul’s point (it is euphemistic). Going back to the Greek would help. The Greek word there is “apokopto” which means to amputate, mutilate or castrate. It means to cut off one’s body part or limb. So Paul is exaggerating here, with an element of sarcasm. He is saying:


“Those who trouble you (the Galatian Christians) to get circumcised, let them go a step further and completely castrate themselves!”


Other translations bear this out clearly:


Galatians 5:12 (NIV)

12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go THE WHOLE WAY and EMASCULATE themselves!


Galatians 5:12 (ASV)

12 I would that they that unsettle you would EVEN GO BEYOND CIRCUMCISION. 


Galatians 5:12 (CEV)

12 I wish everyone who is upsetting you would not only get circumcised, but would CUT OFF MUCH MORE!


Galatians 5:12 (Good News Translation)

12 I wish that the people who are upsetting you would GO ALL THE WAY; let them go on and castrate themselves!


That’s is, those who claim to uphold the custom of circumcision so much should even go ahead to become eunuchs. Why stop at circumcision alone? Of course, this is a hyperbole (or exaggeration) with a bit of sarcasm to show Paul’s frustration and reveal their hypocrisy.


So the Apostle Paul didn’t pray that they be cut off or die like many have interpreted Gal. 5:12 to mean. This is why going back to the original Greek/Hebrew is very important. Know your languages well. Many fall into error in Bible interpretation simply because they don’t understand the languages in which the Bible was written!


(For a detailed study on this, get the sermon “Coals of Fire: How to pay back your enemies” by Pastor Josh Banks)


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2021.


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