Double Chiasm in Galatians 2? Perhaps…

Rick and I were discussing the structure of Galatians 2 in light of a blog post by Peter Leithart here. I adopted the slightly re-worked translation of v.16 from that post along with some slight changes which I think are merited in each case. For example, the ESV’s triple redundancy of “believing in Christ” in parts E, F and E’ is too much for me to swallow. I also prefer to use “Torah” instead of “law”, because it focuses the reader into what I think Paul is talking about, namely, the Mosaic administration of the Covenant of Grace. Also, where Paul uses the Greek word for “flesh” I think it should always be translated “flesh” because of the rich contextual meaning which is stuffed into that word in Paul’s writings as a whole and in this letter in particular.

I have laid out what I believe to be a particularly neat chiastic structure in verses 14b-18, and possibly 18-21 below.

A: If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew,

B: how can you force Gentiles to live like Jews?

C: We ourselves are Jews by nature and not “Gentile sinners”

D: yet we know that the “man of the works of Torah” is not justified

E: except through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ,

F: so we also have believed in Christ Jesus,

E’: in order to be justified by the faithfulness of Christ

D’: and not by works of Torah, because by works of Torah no flesh will be justified.

C’: But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be “sinners”, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not!

B’: For if I rebuild what I tore down,

A’: I prove myself to be a transgressor.


A/A’: Peter proves himself to be a “transgressor” (A’) in his initial “[tearing] down” of the Torah regulations when he “though a Jew, lived like a Gentile” (A)

B/B’: Then Peter, out of fear, “rebuilt” (B’) Torah regulations relating to his table fellowship with Gentile Christians, when he forced them to “live like Jews” (B).

C/C’: The key word here is “sinners”. In a Christ-ministered justification, both “Jews by nature” and “Gentile sinners” (C) are shown to be “sinners” (C’) in need of the grace of God. In Galatians language, is Christ a “minister of sin”? By no means! (See Romans for a detailed analysis of this particular question, though with slightly different context and wording!)

D/D’: A “man of the works of the Torah” (D) would mean, especially in context, a circumcised-in-the-flesh man, i.e. a Jew,  will not be justified by virtue of that status. Because, no “flesh” will be justified by “works of the Torah”. Fleshly circumcision is of no value in the courtroom of God, being a “man of the works of the Torah” is not how God intends to justify His people.

E/E’: Justification through/by the faithfulness of Christ.

F: The real crux of the whole section is that justification is by believing in Jesus!


At the functional end of the first chiasm, a new one sprouts!



A: a) For if I rebuilt what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. b) For through the Torah I died to the Torah that I might live to God.

B:  I have been crucified with Christ.

C: a) It is no longer I who live, b) but Christ who lives in me.

C’: a) And the life I now live in the flesh b) I live by the faithfulness of the Son of God,

B’: who loved me and gave himself for me.

A’: a) I do not nullify the grace of God, b) for if justification were through the Torah, then Christ died for no purpose.

A/A’: If you rebuild what you tore down, you nullify the grace of God! (A/A’ a)). The key word in b) is “through”. Through the Torah there is no justification, but there is death. We die to the Torah, and the purpose is so that we can live to God (A b)) If justification was through the Torah, then Christ’s death was “for no purpose” (A’ b)), instead of having the purpose of “[living] to God”. If

B/B’: To be “crucified with Christ” is the “reason” that the atonement is effective for believers. Only by being “in Christ” can we “impute ourselves dead to sin” because we are united with Him in His death on the cross. In other words, the expression of His faithfulness, of his great love is His giving of Himself for me in crucifixion, was so that I can be crucified with Him, and reckon myself dead to the Torah of sin and death and alive in the Spirit of life and righteousness.

C/C’: The life that Paul lives “in the flesh”, i.e. as a Jew, (C’ a) is not his own life (no boasting in the flesh), because that fleshly identity was already crucified with Christ (C a)). His life is rather Christ’s life, i.e. resurrection/new creation life (C b)), which is only possible, or is summarily comprehended as, the “faithfulness of the Son of God” (C’ b)) even unto the death of the cross, that God would exalt Him in resurrection and ascension.


If you have any nitpicks or serious issues with this structural breakdown, let me know. I would love the input. I am a little shaky in how Paul structures the second section (or if it is legitimate to have the first section bounded how I have it here!).

Your comments and corrections are appreciated.

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