In Galatians 5:12, Paul says. "As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!" I looked at the Greek word for emasculate and it meant to cut off or amputate. I guess Paul is playing off the word and meaning of circumcision to describe what he wishes those false teachers who preach circumcision would do to themselves. Do you think what he said was kind of harsh? Just a couple of verses before, he had talked about "faith expressing itself through love" as the only thing that counted. And here he's saying he wishes these false teachers would mutilate themselves! Is Paul speaking with the love of Christ and through the Holy Spirit in this particular instance? I know we need to watch out for false teachers, but are we not supposed to bless even our enemies? I am quite troubled by this passage. -- James (Vancouver)

Yes, strong words indeed! Of course he had already used even stronger language back in chapter 1. Of the false teachers--who were setting aside the grace of Christ and insisting that one must become a Jew before becoming a Christian -- he said Anathema esto. That is translated, "Let him be accursed," or something to that effect. You are right, Paul is using strong language in this passage.

But should we not interpret the nuance of his words in light of the strong words of Jesus (Matthew 23)? Or the words of the Lord in many of the oracles of the prophets? I think we tend to equate strong language with lack of love. (And more and more so in liberal western society with each subsequent generation.) But is this necessarily so? Don't convictions and genuine care, in some cases, prompt strong words and passionate proclamations?

My position: Yes, Paul is speaking with the love of Christ. (And perhaps Jesus might have been even more upset at these false teachers!) Paul is speaking through the Holy Spirit. While the lives of the apostles were not always in line with the gospel (e.g. Galatians 2:11), we can be confident that their words in inspired scripture are.

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