Does it refer to sharing one’s goods with a preacher, as some translations make it seem, or to joining in in doing good, as the Greek text indicates?
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Galatians 6:6 is an interesting verse. It has been translated in dramatically different ways. Can we find out what the apostle Paul actually said and meant? Let us take a closer look at that passage.
Compare these translations:
Galatians 6:6 The one who is taught the message must share his goods with the teacher. (HCSB)
Galatians 6:6 Let him who is taught the word, become a partaker with him who teaches all good things. (LAM)
Galatians 6:6 Let him being taught the word participate with him teaching in all good things. (SMITH)
One translation says, “must share his goods with the teacher”, while another one says, “participate with him teaching in all good things”. So, what should one think of that verse – really what was the apostle Paul saying?
Before going into the wording in the Greek text of that passage, let us first consider a number of other things.
Many older translations have in that verse the word “communicate”. That is copied from the Catholic Vulgate version where the Latin text has communicet, a form of the old Latin verb communico which was used in many different meanings, such as “share”, “discuss” and “join in with”.
The apostle Paul wrote in Greek. The Greek text of that verse talks about “joining in, in all that is good/upright”. What did he refer to – really what was he talking about? For viewing Galatians 6:6 from the right angle, it can be good to first consider how Paul lived and acted; that makes it easier to see what the correct translation might be.
• In Corinth, Paul worked, as a tent-maker. That was his occupation, see Acts 18:1–3. Those who carefully study all of 1 Corinthians 9, can see that he did not live at the cost of others, and that he noted, in that regard, “it were better for me to die than that any man should take this rejoicing from me”. – The article nma050.htm has some notes on 1 Corinthians 9:14–18.
• Even in Thessalonica, Paul supported himself, and so did his companions. 2 Thessalonians 3:8, “nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you” (ESV01). The article nma030.htm has more on that passage and matter.
• In Ephesus, it was the same. Acts 20 records how Paul, when he spoke to the elders from Ephesus, reminded them that they knew that he had always supported himself through manual work. He told those elders to copy his example in that regard. The article nma020.htm has more on this.
So, what about Galatia – how did Paul act there? Did he ask the saints in that town to “share their goods” with him, as some bible-translators have made it seem?
It is true that sometimes when Paul was in prison or sick so that he could not work, he received aid from certain people. But, Galatians 6:6 has nothing to do with that. The following takes a closer look at that verse and its context.
Here is the Greek wording of verse 6, with phrase translations:
Galatians 6:6 koinôneitô de (let take part, or, let join in) ho katêchoumenos (the one who is instructed) ton logon (the word) tô katêchounti (with the instructor) en pasin agathois (in all [that is] good/upright)
A literal translation of verses 4, 5 and 6 is something like this:
Galatians 6:4 But let each man prove his own work, and then he will have the boast in himself alone and not in someone else, 5 for every man shall bear his burden. 6 Let the one who is instructed in the word, join in with the instructor, [a] in all that is good. [b]
a Verse 6, “join in with”. The Greek text has koinôneô. Here is what the OLB Greek-English lexicon has on that word:
1) to come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner
2) to enter into fellowship, join one’s self to an associate, make one’s self a sharer or partner
Here is the entry on the verb koinôneô in ‘Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon’ by Liddell and Scott (Clarendon Press, 1889):
1. to have or do in common with, have a share of or take part in a thing with another, τινός τινι Xen.
2. κ. τινός to have a share of or take part in a thing, Trag., Xen.
3. κ. τινι to have dealings with or intercourse, Ar., Plat.
4. rarely c. acc. rei, κ. φόνον τινι to commit murder in common with him, Eur.
5. absol. to share in an opinion, to agree, Plat.:— to form a community, Arist.
b Verse 6, “in all that is good” – the Greek wording is en pasin agathois. The word en means “in”, pasin means “all”. The word agathois (agathos) is an adjective, referring to such qualities as “good”, “upright”, “honourable” and so on. (That word appears even in verse 10, in connection with doing good.)
As you can see, Paul was talking about goodness – doing good – and not about “sharing one’s goods with a preacher”. The Greek text of that verse does not contain any word for “goods”.
In short, Paul was telling the saints in Galatia to copy his example and join in with him, in doing good.
Galatians 6:10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. (ESV01)
“Let us do good”: Just as in verse 6, even here the word for “good” is in the Greek text agathos. – Some translations have “do good works” or “practice good works”, which is a bit clearer.
Again, the meaning of the Greek text of verse 6 is something like “let the one who is instructed in the word, join in with the instructor, in doing good”. (Literally, “in all [that is] good”.) And again, it was a matter of copying an example, acting the same way as the one who set the example.
Here, it is important to know the example which Paul and his companions set. One facet of their example was that they proclaimed the Good Tidings for free. Another facet was that they provided aid to people in need. Paul and others arranged collections of aid to poor saints, and for instance Paul provided aid to people even from his own income (he worked as a tent-maker). Consider these passages:
Galatians 2: […] 9 even James, and Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, having perceived the favor granted to me, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we, indeed, should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision; 10 requesting only, that we would remember the poor, which very thing I had also been diligent to do. (LO, highlighting added)
(Verse 9, Cephas = the apostle Simon Peter.)
Acts 20:35 I have shown you in everything, that by working hard like this, we must support the infirm and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that he said that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (BPT)
(That was Paul talking to certain elders, reminding them of the example he had set. The article nma020.htm has more on Acts 20:35 and its context, and even on 2 Corinthians 9:7 which refers to good works, a collection of relief aid.)
Here is more of the context of Galatians 6:6:
Galatians 6:3 For if any man claims himself to be something, while he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each man prove his own work, and then he will have his boast in himself alone, and not in someone else, 5 for every man shall bear his burden. [c] 6 Let the one who is instructed in the word, join in with the instructor, in doing good. [d] 7 Do not be deceived. God is not mocked: For whatever a man shall sow, that also shall he reap. 8 For he who sows to his own flesh, [e] shall reap corruption of the flesh. But he who sows to the Spirit, [e] shall reap everlasting life through the Spirit. 9 And let us not lose heart in doing good, for if we do not faint, in due time we shall reap. [f] 10 So, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, and especially to those of the household of faith. (BPT)
c Verse 5, “every man shall bear his burden” – actually, it appears that Paul meant that all were to do their part, in doing good (such as helping the needy). See verse 10 above.
d Verse 6, “in doing good” – literally, “in all [that is] good”.
e Verse 8, “sowing to one’s own flesh” versus “sowing to the Spirit”. The context, including verse 10, indicates that this refers to doing good (such as, helping the poor and needy). See also note [f], below.
f Verse 9, “in due time we shall reap” – what did Paul refer to? The context indicates that he was talking about doing good in the meaning aiding the poor. So, he probably referred to the fact that in the end, there is a reward for those who do that. See for instance Matthew 10:42 and 25:37–40. – Let us consider another passage where Paul used the words “sow” and “reap”, and where the context is good works, that is, a collection of relief aid to the benefit of poor saints in Jerusalem. We read:
2 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. (NKJV)
Again, that refers to a collection of relief aid to poor saints in Jerusalem. That is what the words “God loves a cheerful giver” refer to. The article nma020.htm has more on that passage and its context.
Concerning good works, see also the articles nma070.htm and nga080.htm.
See also the “recommended reading” section, below.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
Some notes on 1 Corinthians 9:14–18. → nma050.htm
On the example the apostle Paul set, for others to imitate. → nma030.htm
Acts 20:35 – what the apostle Paul meant when he reminded the elders from Ephesus that it is more blessed to give than to receive. → nma020.htm
How the saints took care of the elderly and the poor. → nma070.htm
Religion must not be skin-deep only. Believers must take the matters of faith seriously. → nba110.htm
What does the word “righteous” really mean? What does the Bible say about righteousness? → nga080.htm
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