Outreach Israel Ministries and Messianic Apologetics need your help as we enter into 2020, and the third decade of the Twenty-First Century. This new decade is going to see the Messianic movement have theological and spiritual issues thrust upon it that most are not ready for. We have been preparing for this time for the past several years, and now it is time for us to speak out.
Our overarching ministry theme for this next decade is: How do we not lose the next generation?
Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Messiah will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every person who receives circumcision, that one is a debtor to do the whole Torah (Galatians 5:2-3, PME)
Many English versions render Galatians 5:3 as something like “under obligation” (NASU), “obligated” (NIV, ESV), or “bound” (RSV). It may be said that the rendering of opheiletēs as “debtor” (KJV/NKJV, YLT, ASV, LITV) is required because of how Galatians 5:2 previously uses ouden ōphelēsei as “no profit,” an obvious wordplay. The rendering of “debtor” also has to be kept in mind in view of the loss of salvation posited in Galatians 5:4 following. Opheiletēs is specifically “a debtor” (LS, 580), akin to “one who is in debt in a monetary sense,” as well as “one who is guilty of a misdeed, one who is culpable, at fault,” “in relation to God, sinner” (BDAG, 742-743). This is a negative, not a positive condition.
Paul’s word here can be very confusing if the result of the action described is not kept in view: a falling away from grace (Galatians 5:4). How would the non-Jewish Believers in Galatia being circumcised as proselytes merit this condition? By making themselves “debtor[s] to do the whole Torah” (Galatians 5:3), and thusly subjected to the curse of the Torah, from which the work of the Messiah has released the redeemed (Galatians 3:13). New proselytes to Judaism were supposed to be made aware of penalties to be incurred from Torah violation (b.Yevamot 47a-b). It is also not at all difficult to see how Jewish authorities circumcising new proselytes, would make them swear some sort of an oath of allegiance to keep all the Torah, and if broken be subjected to its curse—something having been performed by the returned exiles in Nehemiah 10:28-29, as well as having been required by the new members of the Qumran community (1QS 5.7-13).
Far from God’s Torah being a debt to the redeemed in Yeshua, they are to fulfill it via the supernatural compulsion of the Holy Spirit, with its penalties having been remitted (cf. Romans 8:1-4). For the Galatians to turn Torah-keeping into some debt with penalties via proseltization, such would be tantamount to claiming that Yeshua’s grace and mercy were insufficient to be redeemed and reckoned as God’s own, and for them to return to a curse that He had broken over all who receive Him.