What Others have Written About Galatians – Joseph Turmel

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by Neil Godfrey

Joseph Turmel, alias Henri Delafosse

The previous post presented a historical Dutch language criticism of Galatians and here I offer a sceptical analysis from France. I have selected from Henri Turmel’s discussion those paragraphs that address Galatians 1-2, — as per my earlier explanation. In my coming post on J.C. O’Neill’s detailed discussion, both Bergh van Eysinga and Turmel are overlooked in the historical survey of criticism. O’Neill pulls back hard on the reins of those critics who have doubted the historical Paul wrote the bulk of our epistle. But before that post, here is Turmel’s take. Note how different are the interpretations of these verses.

Turmel follows Alfred Loisy in the view that the Paul of Acts is closer to the historical Paul than the Paul of the epistles. The Galatian apostle is a Marcionite.

The original text (French) is from

Turmel, Joseph. La Seconde Épître Aux Corinthiens, Les Épîtres Aux Galates, Aux Colossiens, Aux Ephésiens, À Philémon: Traduction Nouvelle Avec Introduction Et Notes. Paris: Rieder, 1927. — pages 67-73

I have made it available on archive.org.

As for the archive.org project itself, please do add your signatures to the petition in their legal battle.

Paul’s words are in italics.

The Marcionite writing is in straight characters.

The Catholic redaction is small type.

3. Paul as an apostle to the Gentiles.

I pass to the long piece which goes from I, 8 to III, 5 and, among the assertions which one meets there, I note first of all those which relate to the apostolate of Paul. According to I:16 Paul was charged with announcing the Son of God “among the Gentiles”. According to II, 2, he explained to the Christians in Jerusalem the gospel he was preaching “among the Gentiles”. The notables recognized that the gospel (II, 7) had been entrusted to him “for the uncircumcised”. Therefore (II,9) it was agreed that Paul and Barnabas would address “the Gentiles”. In a word, Paul is the apostle of the Gentiles.

Let us now open Acts. Paul, immediately after his conversion (IX, 20) preaches in the synagogues of Damascus. Later (XIII, 5) he announces the word of God in the synagogues of Salamis of Cyprus. In Antioch of Pisidia (XIII, 14) he preaches in the synagogue. Driven out of Antioch he goes to Iconium and there again (XIV, 1) he goes straight to the synagogue. But there are cities where the Jews are not numerous enough to have a synagogue. Such is the case of Philippi. What does Paul do? He conjectures that, if there is no synagogue, there must at least be a modest oratory, and that this oratory must be placed near a watercourse where ablutions can be performed. When the Sabbath arrived (XVI, 13), he went to the small river that flowed near the city. There he finds women gathered. He speaks to them and one of them, Lydia, “a God-fearing woman”, is baptized with her family. In Thessalonica “the Jews,” says the author of Acts (XVII, 1), “had a synagogue.” Paul enters it and for three Sabbaths he speaks in it. Chased out of Thessalonica, he went to Beroea and went to the synagogue (XVIII, 10) to exercise his apostolate. In Athens, in Corinth, it is again in the synagogue (XVII, 17; XVIII, 4) that he speaks. And it is also in the synagogue of Ephesus (XVIII, 19; XIX, 8) that, during his two stays in that city, he preaches Christ.

It is true that in three places (XIII, 46; XVIII, 7; XXVIII, 28) he threatens the Jews to turn away from them and to turn to the pagans; but it is recognized that these threats belong to interpolated texts and do not deserve to be taken into consideration1 . It is also true that in Athens, after several weeks’ contact with the philosophers who swarmed the city and whose life was lived in the square, Paul spoke before a pagan audience which listened to him with excited curiosity. But this exceptional case aside, the fact remains that the apostle, wherever he went, carried out his propaganda in the synagogues or, as in Philippi, in places that served as synagogues. His listeners were partly Jews and partly proselytes. The latter were not always circumcised, which explains the case of the Galatians who were won over by Paul to the Christian cause while they were still uncircumcised, but they were affiliated with Judaism, they had ceased to belong to the pagan religion. Paul evangelized the Jewish world and its dependencies; he did not evangelize the Gentile world. And the long section of the Epistle to the Galatians that presents him as the apostle of the Gentiles is a fiction devoid of reality.

    1. Loisy, Les Actes des apôtres, p. 541, 692, 938


1.Paul an apostle not from men or by man, but through Jesus Christ and God the father who raised him from the dead, 2 and with me all the brethren in the churches of Galatia, 3 Grace and peace be yours from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this evil age according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

6 I marvel that you are so quickly turning away from him who called you to the grace of Christ for another gospel. 7 Not that it is another gospel, but there are those who trouble you and want to overthrow the gospel of Christ.


8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you any other gospel than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so now I say again: If anyone preaches to you a gospel other than that which you have received, let him be accursed. 10 Now shall I plead my cause before men, or before God? Or am I trying to please men? If I still pleased men, I would not be the servant of Christ. 11 I inform you, brothers, that the gospel which I preach is not of man. 13 For I received it not from man, nor was I taught by man, but by revelation from Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard how I formerly behaved in Judaism, how I persecuted excessively and ravaged the church of God. 14 I surpassed in Judaism many of those of my age and my race because of the immoderate zeal that I had for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when it pleased him who distinguished me from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, 16 to reveal his son in me to proclaim him among the Gentiles, immediately I consulted neither flesh and blood, 17 and I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I departed for Arabia and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then1 after three years I went up to Jerusalem to meet Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw no other of the apostles except James the brother of the Lord. 20 What I write to you, behold, I declare before God that I do not lie. 21. Then I went to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was unknown to the churches of Judea which are in Christ. 23 Only they had heard it said: He who formerly persecuted us now proclaims the faith which he fought against. 24 And they glorified God in me.

1. Catholic interpolation intended to magnify Peter whom Paul wants to get to know, more precisely whom he wants to “contemplate”. It contradicts the context in which Paul displays his disdain for those who “appeared to be something.”

4. Paul is dead to the law.

In the same piece in which he claims the title of apostle to the Gentiles, Paul solemnly declares that the law no longer means anything to him. And he gives to his declaration this sharp turn (II, 19):

Through the law I died to the law that I might live for God.

Now, according to the Acts (XVIII, 18), before leaving Corinth, Paul took the Nazirite vow, which involved shaving his head. Upon arriving in Jerusalem (XXI, 26), he completed his vow in the temple accompanied by four indigent Nazirites, and it was in the midst of these sacred exercises that he was arrested by the Jews. But that is not all. In the epistle, Paul insists on behaving as a man dead to the law, and he refuses (II, 3) to allow his Greek companion Titus to be circumcised. However, in Acts XVI, 3, we see him circumcising Timothy, who, being the son of a Greek father, had not been circumcised. The two stories of Titus and Timothy have always puzzled exegetes. Nevertheless, until our time, it was believed that, with goodwill, they could be reconciled with each other. Today, it is acknowledged that they contradict each other,1 and that one of them was entirely invented to counteract the other. It is said that the fiction lies in the account of Acts, whose author intended to neutralize the text of the epistle. However, it is accepted that Paul indeed took the Nazirite vow.2 This concession is enough for us. The man who performed in the temple the rites imposed on a Nazirite could very well have circumcised Timothy, and there is no reason why he would have obstinately refused to circumcise Titus. In any case, he did not consider himself dead to the law; he did not believe that death to the law was an indispensable condition for life with God. Here again, the text of the epistle belongs to the realm of fiction, and the apostle it depicts has nothing in common with the historical Paul. 

    1. Loisy, p. 620.
    2. Id. p. 796.

5. God revealed his son to Paul.

The dissertation from I, II-III, 5 is not by Paul. Who is its author? Let’s see where it leads. Its author, who is dead to the law in order to live for God, adds that he was crucified with Christ and lives by the life of Christ. This mystical theology is exactly the same as we encountered in the Epistle to the Romans1. There too, we learned that the Christian grafted onto Christ dies with Christ and lives by the life of Christ. Now, we know that the section Ro., V-VIII was written by a disciple of Marcion.

1. L ‘Epître aux Romains, p. 29.

The dissertation from 1,11-III, 5 is of Marcionite origin. This origin gives us the key to various details that until now had remained mysterious. It specifically explains the revelation that Paul boasts about and the disdain he shows for the apostles. The Son of God whom Paul preaches is the good God, the God who came to earth to rescue men from the empire of the creator God, but whom men, blinded by the latter, did not receive or, which amounts to the same thing, did not understand. Therefore, it was not from human teaching that Paul could know this God. He would have always been ignorant of Him without a revelation. He received this blessing. God revealed His Son to him, meaning He revealed Himself with the ethereal garment He wore during His time on earth.

When Paul received his revelation, he at first avoided all contact with the apostles, who were men of flesh and blood, in that they believed in a carnal Christ destined to raise up the kingdom of David. His apostolate was carried out in Arabia and then in Syria and Cilicia. However, after fourteen years he went to Jerusalem. He would never have made this decision on his own, but a revelation forced him to do so. To obey God’s command, Paul went to Jerusalem and evangelized the Christian community there. He was the one who acted as an apostle, for he presented his gospel (II, 2), the gospel he had received from God, but nothing was presented to him, no attempt was made to instruct him (II, 6b). The three “pillars” of the Jerusalem community, James, Cephas and John, believed in his mission; they promised him to cooperate in his work among the circumcised and asked him to help them materially. The results of Paul’s apostolate in Jerusalem were therefore consoling. Unfortunately, they did not last. James returned to his carnal dreams, and Peter did not have the courage to resist him. Needless to say, everything in this account is fictitious except for the trip to Jerusalem and the collection for the poor, and these two facts have been distorted (the collection is presented as a help requested by the apostles).

II. Then, at the end of fourteen years, I went up again 1 to Jerusalem with Barnabas, having also taken Titus with me. 2 I went up there by virtue of a revelation and expounded to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, especially to those who were most respected, so that they would not run or have run in vain. 2. 3 But Titus who was with me and yet was a Greek, was not even forced to be circumcised, 4 because of the false brothers who had slipped in among us to invade the freedom we have in Christ Jesus, in order to enslave us . 5 We did not yield to them even for a moment in the spirit of submission, that we might maintain the liberty of the gospel among you. 6 But on the part of those who appeared to be something – what they may have been in the past does not matter to me: God is no stranger to persons – therefore those who were the most seeing that the gospel had to me entrusted for the uncircumcised as he was entrusted for the circumcised to Peter, 8 for he who worked in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcised worked in me for the apostleship of the Gentiles, 9 and knowing the grace which had given me was granted, James, Cephas and John who were considered as pillars, gave me and Barnabas their hands as a sign of association so that we were for the pagans and they for the circumcised. 10 But they asked us to remember the poor, which I hastened to do. considered taught me nothing. 7 But, on the contrary, seeing that the gospel was entrusted to me for the uncircumcised as it was entrusted to Peter for the circumcised, 8 for he who worked in Peter for the apostleship of the circumcised worked in me for the apostleship of the Gentiles, 9 and knowing the grace that had been given to me, James, Cephas and John, who were considered as pillars, gave me and Barnabas their hands as a sign of association so that we would be for the Gentiles and they for the circumcised. 10 But they asked us to remember the poor, which I hastened to do.

1. Particle added by the Catholic editor who interpolated I, 18-20. The Marcionite editor obliged by Acts XI, 30; XII, 25 of leading Paul to Jerusalem did everything necessary so that the dignity of the apostle did not suffer. 

2. Catholic addition which safeguards the primacy of the apostles. It contradicts the context in which Paul claims to have his gospel from heaven.

11 But when Cephas came to Antioch I resisted him to his face because he was reprehensible. 12. For before the coming of some from James he ate with the Gentiles. But after their arrival he withdrew and kept away for fear of the circumcised. 13 The other Jews concealed with him so that Barnabas himself was carried away by their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they were not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live as the Gentiles and not as the Jews, how can you constrain – do you want to Judaize Jews? 15 We are Jews by birth and not sinners among the Gentiles. 16 Now knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Christ Jesus, we also have believed in Christ Jesus in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law 1. 17 But if seeking to be justified by Christ we also are found sinners, is Christ then the minister of sin? Far from it1. 18 For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I constitute myself a transgressor. 19 For by the law I died to the law that I might live unto God. 20 I am crucified with Christ. I live, but it is not me, it is Christ who lives in me. Now that I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not reject the grace of God, for if righteousness is obtained by the law Christ and therefore died in vain.

1. This piece has its climax in 17 which responds to the same spirit as Ro. III, 5 and came from the same pen. See L ‘Epître aux Romains, p. 47.


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