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Galatians 3 New English Translation (NET Bible)

Justification by Law or by Faith?

You[a] foolish Galatians! Who has cast a spell[b] on you? Before your eyes Jesus Christ was vividly portrayed[c] as crucified! The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law[d] or by believing what you heard?[e] Are you so foolish? Although you began[f] with[g] the Spirit, are you now trying to finish[h] by human effort?[i] Have you suffered so many things for nothing?—if indeed it was for nothing. Does God then give[j] you the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law[k] or by your believing what you heard?[l]

Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,[m] so then, understand[n] that those who believe are the sons of Abraham.[o] And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel to Abraham ahead of time,[p] saying, “All the nations[q] will be blessed in you.”[r] So then those who believe[s] are blessed along with Abraham the believer. 10 For all who[t] rely on doing the works of the law are under a curse, because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not keep on doing everything written in the book of the law.”[u] 11 Now it is clear no one is justified before God by the law, because the righteous one will live by faith.[v] 12 But the law is not based on faith,[w] but the one who does the works of the law[x] will live by them.[y] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming[z] a curse for us (because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)[aa] 14 in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles,[ab] so that we could receive the promise of the Spirit by faith.

Inheritance Comes from Promises and not Law

15 Brothers and sisters,[ac] I offer an example from everyday life:[ad] When a covenant[ae] has been ratified,[af] even though it is only a human contract, no one can set it aside or add anything to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant.[ag] Scripture[ah] does not say, “and to the descendants,”[ai] referring to many, but “and to your descendant,”[aj] referring to one, who is Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: The law that came 430 years later does not cancel a covenant previously ratified by God,[ak] so as to invalidate the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise, but God graciously gave[al] it to Abraham through the promise.

19 Why then was the law given?[am] It was added[an] because of transgressions,[ao] until the arrival of the descendant[ap] to whom the promise had been made. It was administered[aq] through angels by an intermediary.[ar] 20 Now an intermediary is not for one party alone, but God is one.[as] 21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God?[at] Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.[au] 22 But the scripture imprisoned[av] everything under sin so that the promise could be given—because of the faithfulness[aw] of Jesus Christ—to those who believe.

Sons of God Are Heirs of Promise

23 Now before faith[ax] came we were held in custody under the law, being kept as prisoners[ay] until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 Thus the law had become our guardian[az] until Christ, so that we could be declared righteous[ba] by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.[bb] 26 For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith.[bc] 27 For all of you who[bd] were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave[be] nor free, there is neither male nor female[bf]—for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants,[bg] heirs according to the promise.


  1. Galatians 3:1 tn Grk “O” (an interjection used both in address and emotion). In context the following section is highly charged emotionally.
  2. Galatians 3:1 tn Or “deceived”; the verb βασκαίνω (baskainō) can be understood literally here in the sense of bewitching by black magic, but could also be understood figuratively to refer to an act of deception (see L&N 53.98 and 88.159).
  3. Galatians 3:1 tn Or “publicly placarded,” “set forth in a public proclamation” (BDAG 867 s.v. προγράφω 2).
  4. Galatians 3:2 tn Grk “by [the] works of [the] law,” a reference to observing the Mosaic law.
  5. Galatians 3:2 tn Grk “by [the] hearing of faith.” Because the genitive noun πίστεως (pisteōs, “of faith”) is impersonal here, an objective genitive was preferred rather than a subjective genitive. See also v. 5.
  6. Galatians 3:3 tn Grk “Having begun”; the participle ἐναρξάμενοι (enarxamenoi) has been translated concessively.
  7. Galatians 3:3 tn Or “by the Spirit.”
  8. Galatians 3:3 tn The verb ἐπιτελεῖσθε (epiteleisthe) has been translated as a conative present (see ExSyn 534). This is something the Galatians were attempting to do, but could not accomplish successfully.
  9. Galatians 3:3 tn Grk “in/by [the] flesh.”
  10. Galatians 3:5 tn Or “provide.”
  11. Galatians 3:5 tn Grk “by [the] works of [the] law” (the same phrase as in v. 2).
  12. Galatians 3:5 tn Grk “by [the] hearing of faith” (the same phrase as in v. 2).
  13. Galatians 3:6 sn A quotation from Gen 15:6.
  14. Galatians 3:7 tn Grk “know.”
  15. Galatians 3:7 tn The phrase “sons of Abraham” is used here in a figurative sense to describe people who are connected to a personality, Abraham, by close nonmaterial ties. It is this personality that has defined the relationship and its characteristics (BDAG 1024-25 s.v. υἱός 2.c.α).
  16. Galatians 3:8 tn For the Greek verb προευαγγελίζομαι (proeuangelizomai) translated as “proclaim the gospel ahead of time,” compare L&N 33.216.
  17. Galatians 3:8 tn The same plural Greek word, τὰ ἔθνη (ta ethnē), can be translated as “nations” or “Gentiles.”
  18. Galatians 3:8 sn A quotation from Gen 12:3; 18:18.
  19. Galatians 3:9 tn Grk “those who are by faith,” with the Greek expression “by faith” (ἐκ πίστεως, ek pisteōs) the same as the expression in v. 8.
  20. Galatians 3:10 tn Grk “For as many as.”
  21. Galatians 3:10 tn Grk “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things written in the book of the law, to do them.”sn A quotation from Deut 27:26.
  22. Galatians 3:11 tn Or “The one who is righteous by faith will live” (a quotation from Hab 2:4).
  23. Galatians 3:12 tn Grk “is not from faith.”
  24. Galatians 3:12 tn Grk “who does these things”; the referent (the works of the law, see 3:5) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  25. Galatians 3:12 sn A quotation from Lev 18:5. The phrase the works of the law is an editorial expansion on the Greek text (see previous note); it has been left as normal typeface to indicate it is not part of the OT text.
  26. Galatians 3:13 tn Grk “having become”; the participle γενόμενος (genomenos) has been taken instrumentally.
  27. Galatians 3:13 sn A quotation from Deut 21:23. By figurative extension the Greek word translated tree (ζύλον, zulon) can also be used to refer to a cross (L&N 6.28), the Roman instrument of execution.
  28. Galatians 3:14 tn Or “so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus.”
  29. Galatians 3:15 tn Grk “brothers.” See note on the phrase “brothers and sisters” in 1:11.
  30. Galatians 3:15 tn Grk “I speak according to man,” referring to the illustration that follows.
  31. Galatians 3:15 tn The same Greek word, διαθήκη (diathēkē), can mean either “covenant” or “will,” but in this context the former is preferred here because Paul is discussing in vv. 16-18 the Abrahamic covenant.
  32. Galatians 3:15 tn Or “has been put into effect.”
  33. Galatians 3:16 tn Grk “his seed,” a figurative extension of the meaning of σπέρμα (sperma) to refer to descendants (L&N 10.29).
  34. Galatians 3:16 tn Grk “It”; the referent (the scripture) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The understood subject of the verb λέγει (legei) could also be “He” (referring to God) as the one who spoke the promise to Abraham.
  35. Galatians 3:16 tn Grk “to seeds.” See the note on “descendant” earlier in this verse. Here the term is plural; the use of the singular in the OT text cited later in this verse is crucial to Paul’s argument.
  36. Galatians 3:16 tn See the note on “descendant” earlier in this verse.sn A quotation from Gen 12:7; 13:15; 17:7; 24:7.
  37. Galatians 3:17 tc Most mss (D F G I 0176 0278 1505 M it sy) read “ratified by God in Christ” whereas the omission of “in Christ” is the reading in P46 א A B C P Ψ 6 33 81 1175 1241 1739 1881 2464 co. The shorter reading is strongly supported by the ms evidence, and it is probable that a copyist inserted the words as an interpretive gloss. However, this form of the “in Christ” expression is somewhat atypical in the corpus Paulinum (εἰς Χριστόν [eis Christon] rather than ἐν Χριστῷ [en Christō]), a fact which tempers one’s certainty about the shorter reading. Nevertheless, the expression is used more in Galatians than in any other of Paul’s letters (Gal 2:16; 3:24, 27), and may have been suggested by such texts to early copyists.
  38. Galatians 3:18 tn On the translation “graciously gave” for χαρίζομαι (charizomai) see L&N 57.102.
  39. Galatians 3:19 tn Grk “Why then the law?”
  40. Galatians 3:19 tc For προσετέθη (prosetethē) several Western witnesses have ἐτέθη (etethē, “it was established”; so D* F G it Irlat Ambst Spec). The net effect of this reading, in conjunction with the largely Western reading of πράξεων (praxeōn) for παραβάσεων (parabaseōn), seems to be a very positive assessment of the law. But there are compelling reasons for rejecting this reading: (1) externally, it is provincial and relatively late; (2) internally: (a) transcriptionally, there seems to be a much higher transcriptional probability that a scribe would try to smooth over Paul’s harsh saying here about the law than vice versa; (b) intrinsically: [1] Paul has already argued that the law came after the promise (vv. 15-18), indicating, more than likely, its temporary nature; [2] the verb “was added” in v. 19 (προσετέθη) is different from the verb in v. 15 (ἐπιδιατάσσεται, epidiatassetai); virtually all exegetes recognize this as an intentional linguistic shift on Paul’s part in order not to contradict his statement in v. 15; [3] the temper of 3:1-4:7 is decidedly against a positive statement about the Torah’s role in Heilsgeschichte.
  41. Galatians 3:19 tc παραδόσεων (paradoseōn; “traditions, commandments”) is read by D*, while the vast majority of witnesses read παραβάσεων (parabaseōn, “transgressions”). D’s reading makes little sense in this context. πράξεων (praxeōn, “of deeds”) replaces παραβάσεων in P46 F G it Irlat Ambst Spec. The wording is best taken as going with νόμος (nomos; “Why then the law of deeds?”), as is evident by the consistent punctuation in the later witnesses. But such an expression is unpauline and superfluous; it was almost certainly added by some early scribe(s) to soften the blow of Paul’s statement.
  42. Galatians 3:19 tn Grk “the seed.” See the note on the first occurrence of the word “descendant” in 3:16.
  43. Galatians 3:19 tn Or “was ordered.” L&N 31.22 has “was put into effect” here.
  44. Galatians 3:19 tn Many modern translations (NASB, NIV, NRSV) render this word (μεσίτης, mesitēs; here and in v. 20) as “mediator,” but this conveys a wrong impression in contemporary English. If this is referring to Moses, he certainly did not “mediate” between God and Israel but was an intermediary on God’s behalf. Moses was not a mediator, for example, who worked for compromise between opposing parties. He instead was God’s representative to his people who enabled them to have a relationship, but entirely on God’s terms.
  45. Galatians 3:20 tn The meaning of this verse is disputed. According to BDAG 634 s.v. μεσίτης, “It prob. means that the activity of an intermediary implies the existence of more than one party, and hence may be unsatisfactory because it must result in a compromise. The presence of an intermediary would prevent attainment, without any impediment, of the purpose of the εἶς θεός in giving the law.” See also A. Oepke, TDNT 4:598-624, esp. 618-19.
  46. Galatians 3:21 tc The reading τοῦ θεοῦ (tou theou, “of God”) is well attested in א A C D (F G read θεοῦ without the article) Ψ 0278 33 1175 1241 1505 1739 1881 2464 M lat sy co. However, P46 B d Ambst lack the words. P46 and B perhaps should not to be given as much weight as they normally are, since the combination of these two witnesses often produces a secondary shorter reading against all others. In addition, one might expect that if the shorter reading were original other variants would have crept into the textual tradition early on. But 104 (a.d. 1087) virtually stands alone with the variant τοῦ Χριστοῦ (tou Christou, “of Christ”). Nevertheless, if τοῦ θεοῦ were not part of the original text, it is the kind of variant that would be expected to show up early and often, especially in light of Paul’s usage elsewhere (Rom 4:20; 2 Cor 1:20). A slight preference should be given to the τοῦ θεοῦ over the omission. NA28 rightly places the words in brackets, indicating doubts as to their authenticity.
  47. Galatians 3:21 tn Or “have been based on the law.”
  48. Galatians 3:22 tn Or “locked up.”
  49. Galatians 3:22 tn Or “so that the promise could be given by faith in Jesus Christ to those who believe.” A decision is difficult here. Though traditionally translated “faith in Jesus Christ,” an increasing number of NT scholars are arguing that πίστις Χριστοῦ (pistis Christou) and similar phrases in Paul (here and in Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16, 20; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:9) involve a subjective genitive and mean “Christ’s faith” or “Christ’s faithfulness” (cf., e.g., G. Howard, “The ‘Faith of Christ’,” ExpTim 85 [1974]: 212-15; R. B. Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ [SBLDS]; Morna D. Hooker, “Πίστις Χριστοῦ,” NTS 35 [1989]: 321-42). Noteworthy among the arguments for the subjective genitive view is that when πίστις takes a personal genitive it is almost never an objective genitive (cf. Matt 9:2, 22, 29; Mark 2:5; 5:34; 10:52; Luke 5:20; 7:50; 8:25, 48; 17:19; 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; 12; 3:3; 4:5, 12, 16; 1 Cor 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor 10:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 2:5; 1 Thess 1:8; 3:2, 5, 10; 2 Thess 1:3; Titus 1:1; Phlm 6; 1 Pet 1:9, 21; 2 Pet 1:5). On the other hand, the objective genitive view has its adherents: A. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulations in Paul,” NovT 22 (1980): 248-63; J. D. G. Dunn, “Once More, ΠΙΣΤΙΣ ΧΡΙΣΤΟΥ,” SBL Seminar Papers, 1991, 730-44. Most commentaries on Romans and Galatians usually side with the objective view. sn On the phrase because of the faithfulness of Jesus Christ, ExSyn 116, which notes that the grammar is not decisive, nevertheless suggests that “the faith/faithfulness of Christ is not a denial of faith in Christ as a Pauline concept (for the idea is expressed in many of the same contexts, only with the verb πιστεύω rather than the noun), but implies that the object of faith is a worthy object, for he himself is faithful.” Though Paul elsewhere teaches justification by faith, this presupposes that the object of our faith is reliable and worthy of such faith.
  50. Galatians 3:23 tn Or “the faithfulness [of Christ] came.”
  51. Galatians 3:23 tc Instead of the present participle συγκλειόμενοι (sunkleiomenoi; found in P46 א A B D* F G P Ψ 33 1739 2464 al), C D1 0176 0278 1175 1505 M have the perfect συγκεκλεισμένοι (sunkekleismenoi). The syntactical implication of the perfect is that the cause or the means of being held in custody was confinement (“we were held in custody [by/because of] being confined”). The present participle of course allows for such options, but also allows for contemporaneous time (“while being confined”) and result (“with the result that we were confined”). Externally, the perfect participle has little to commend it, being restricted for the most part to later and Byzantine witnesses.tn Grk “being confined.”
  52. Galatians 3:24 tn Or “disciplinarian,” “custodian,” or “guide.” According to BDAG 748 s.v. παιδαγωγός, “the man, usu. a slave…whose duty it was to conduct a boy or youth…to and from school and to superintend his conduct gener.; he was not a ‘teacher’ (despite the present mng. of the derivative ‘pedagogue’…When the young man became of age, the π. was no longer needed.” L&N 36.5 gives “guardian, leader, guide” here.
  53. Galatians 3:24 tn Or “be justified.”
  54. Galatians 3:25 tn See the note on the word “guardian” in v. 24. The punctuation of vv. 25, 26, and 27 is difficult to represent because of the causal connections between each verse. English style would normally require a comma either at the end of v. 25 or v. 26, but in so doing the translation would then link v. 26 almost exclusively with either v. 25 or v. 27; this would be problematic as scholars debate which two verses are to be linked. Because of this, the translation instead places a period at the end of each verse. This preserves some of the ambiguity inherent in the Greek and does not exclude any particular causal connection.
  55. Galatians 3:26 tn Or “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”
  56. Galatians 3:27 tn Grk “For as many of you as.”
  57. Galatians 3:28 tn See the note on the word “slave” in 1:10.
  58. Galatians 3:28 tn Grk “male and female.”
  59. Galatians 3:29 tn Grk “seed.” See the note on the first occurrence of the word “descendant” in 3:16.
New English Translation (NET)

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Galatians 3 New International Version (NIV)

Faith or Works of the Law

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?[a] Have you experienced[b] so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”[c]

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”[e] 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”[f] 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”[g] 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”[h] 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

The Law and the Promise

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,”[i] meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.

19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.

21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Children of God

23 Before the coming of this faith,[j] we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.


  1. Galatians 3:3 In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.
  2. Galatians 3:4 Or suffered
  3. Galatians 3:6 Gen. 15:6
  4. Galatians 3:8 Gen. 12:3; 18:18; 22:18
  5. Galatians 3:10 Deut. 27:26
  6. Galatians 3:11 Hab. 2:4
  7. Galatians 3:12 Lev. 18:5
  8. Galatians 3:13 Deut. 21:23
  9. Galatians 3:16 Gen. 12:7; 13:15; 24:7
  10. Galatians 3:23 Or through the faithfulness of Jesus … 23 Before faith came
New International Version (NIV)

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