PAUL’S HANDWRITING

Everybody knows that St Paul had oddly large handwriting, don’t they? It was sufficiently large that he felt he had to point it out to the Galatians. Some have surmised that it was something to do with his poor eyesight. But did he have unusual handwriting? Or poor eyesight? Really? The Mouse has always wondered why Paul felt he had to refer to it at all.

Galatians 6:11, New International Version:

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Galatians 6:11, Holman Christian Standard Bible:

Look at what large letters I use as I write to you in my own handwriting.

This verse appears straight after a very serious discussion about living our Christian lives “in the Spirit” and not “sowing to the flesh,” and about “doing good to all, particularly members of the family of faith.” It is then followed by a reprise of Paul’s earlier points about circumcision, leading to boasting “of your flesh.”

Hardly an appropriate place to stick a comment about his handwriting, but most translations have some reference to large handwriting – which doesn’t fit at all comfortably here. The verse adds nothing to the discussion, as it completely ignores the context.

Galatians 6:11, Darby Bible Translation:

See how long a letter I have written to you with my own hand.

Here we see that John Nelson Darby has a rather different take on the Greek, reading πηλίκος (pēlíkos) as “long” rather than “large” as most translations do.

Thayer’s Greek Lexicon however, renders the meaning as “how great, how large,” and “how distinguished.” So we can see that Paul is actually pointing out how eminent, noble or important is the letter he’s sent.

γράμμα (grámma), which is variously translated as (large) “letters” actually means “a letter” or “writings,” but not letterforms, so we know that it has to refer to the letter itself or the writings in it, and not to the actual characters written, so here Darby is right.

What Paul is actually doing here is bringing to their attention the weightiness of the contents of the letter and its immediate application to the Galatians (and to us): we must deny our flesh in all its forms, particularly with reference to circumcision and the law, or we will “reap corruption” and shipwreck our faith.

Galatians 6:11, The Mouse Companion Version (MCV):

See how serious is this letter that I’ve written to you.

The idea that he used his own hand to write is silly, as nothing could be written in those days without using somebody’s hand, but since χείρ (cheír) (hand) primarily means ‘power’ or ‘agency,’ he’s not even differentiating this letter from others he’s written using a scribe and not his own hand, he simply means it’s a letter from him, personally.

Bless you folks, Geoff  >ᴥ<

 

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