Galatians 5:12 KJB “I would THEY WERE EVEN CUT OFF which trouble you.”
NIV - “As for those agitators, I wish THEY WOULD GO THE WHOLE WAY AND EMASCULATE THEMSELVES!”
ESV, Jehovah Witness NWT - “I wish those who unsettle you WOULD EMASCULATE THEMSELVES!”
NASB - “I wish that those who are troubling you WOULD EVEN MUTILATE THEMSELVES.”
So also read the Jehovah Witness New World Version, the Holman Standard “GET THEMSELVES CASTRATED!”, RSV, NRSV, the Message, ISV, NET “would go so far as to CASTRATE THEMSELVES!”
The Catholic Connection
The older Douay Rheims of 1582 read like the KJB with “I would THEY WERE CUT OFF those who are troubling you.”
Then the 1950 Douay, the 1970 St. Joseph NAB and the New Jerusalem 1985 all unite to say “I wish THEY WOULD CASTRATE (MUTILATE) THEMSELVES!”
But now the 2009 Catholic Public Domain Version has come out and they have toned it back to read: “And I wish that those who disturb you WOULD BE TORN AWAY.”
Agreeing with the sense of the King James Bible reading are Wycliffe 1395 - “I would THEY WERE CUT AWAY which disturb you” (modern spelling), Tyndale 1525 “I wolde to God THEY WERE SEPARATED FROM YOU which trouble you.”, Coverdale 1535 - “Would God THEY WERE ROOTED OUT FROM AMONG YOU, which trouble you.” (modern spelling), the Geneva Bible 1587 - “Would to God THEY WERE EVEN CUT OFF, which do disquiet you.”, the Douay Rheims 1582, The Beza New Testament 1599, The Bill Bible 1671, Whiston’s N.T. 1745, Wesley’s N.T. 1755 “I would they were cut off”, Worsley N.T. 1770 - "I wish THEY WERE EVEN CUT OFF FROM YOUR COMMUNION, that make such disturbance amongst you.”, Thomas Haweis N.T. 1795, The Improved N.T. 1809, The Revised Translation 1815 - "I would they were EVEN CUT OFF (from the communion of the church), who trouble you.", Webster’s Translation 1833, the Living Oracles 1835, The Pickering N.T. 1840, The Hussey N.T. 1845 - "were cut off" Footnote - "judicially excluded from your society", The Morgan N.T. 1848 - "I have wished those troubling you TO BE EXPELLED.", Etheridge Translation 1849, The Hewett N.T. 1850, The Commonly Received Version 1851 - "were cut off", The Boothroyd Bible 1853, the Julia Smith Translation 1855, the Emphatic Diaglott New Testament 1865 - “I wish even they shall be cut off those overturning you.”, Calvin Translation 1856, Sawyer N.T. 1858, The Revised N.T. 1862, American Bible Union N.T. 1865, The Smith Bible 1876, The Sharpe Bible 1883, The Clarke N.T. 1913, Lamsa’s translation of the Syriac 1933 - “I wish those who are troubling you WOULD BE EXPELLED.”, the Aramaic Bible in Plain English “But I would also that those who trouble you would be cut off.”, The Basic English Bible 1965, KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Third Millennium Bible 1998, Apostolic Bible Polyglot English - “Ought that THEY SHALL BE CUT OFF the ones overthrowing you.”, The Word of Yah 1993, The Third Millennium Bible 1998, God's First Truth 1999 - "I would to God THEY WERE SEPARATED FROM YOU which trouble you.", The Tomson N.T. 2002 - "were CUT OFF which trouble you.", The Faithful N.T. 2009, The Bond Slave Version 2009, The Conservative Bible 2010, The Hebraic Transliteration Scripture 2010 - "I would they WERE CUT OFF which trouble you.", The Work of God's Children Bible 2011, The Interlinear Hebrew-Greek Scriptures 2012 (Mebust) - "I wish that they were even CUT OFF which trouble you.", The Pioneer's N.T. 2014
An odd one - Rotherham’s Emphasized bible 1902 - “Oh! that they would even LEAVE OFF IN DISMAY, who are unsettling you!”
Commentators as well as the Translations are all over the board on what this verse means and how it should be translated. Different views have been held throughout the centuries.
Some argue that the Greek verb used here is in what is called the Middle Voice and therefore should be translated “would cut themselves off”. The NKJV translates it this way.
If this is your concern, then I suggest you Google the Greek middle voice, often referred to a “the Middle-Passive Voice”, and learn of its history and use. All bible translations often translate the middle voice as a passive verb, and many Bible translators, who knew a lot more Greek than you or I ever will, have translated it as a passive - “were cut off.”
Many solid Bible commentators agree with the sense found in the King James Bible that the apostle wished these false teachers would be cut off from the fellowship of the believers and excluded from their assemblies. This ties in perfectly with many passages in the Old Testament where those who violated God's laws were "to be cut off from Israel." or "cut off from the congregation" See Exodus 12:15, 19.
Among these are Martin Luther (who wrote a whole commentary on the book of Galatians), John Calvin, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Adam Clarke, Albert Barnes, and John Wesley.
Some of them (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, Barnes) directly commented on the idea proposed by some that the apostle wished that they would castrate themselves, (as many modern versions teach) and they reacted with horror in their rejection of this view.
Adam Clarke - And the whole passage is so parallel to that, 1 Cor. 5:6-7, that I think there can be no reasonable doubt of the apostle‘s meaning: Let those who are unsettling the Church of Christ in your district be excommunicated; this is my wish, that they should no longer have any place among you.”
Martin Luther - “Paul, I suppose, is alluding to the rite of circumcision. As if he were saying to the Galatians: "The false apostles compel you to cut off the foreskin of your flesh. Well, I wish they themselves were utterly cut off by the roots."
Paul does right to curse these troublers of the Galatians, WISHING THAT THEY WERE CUT OFF AND ROOTED OUT OF THE CHURCH OF GOD and that their doctrine might perish forever. Such cursing is the gift of the Holy Ghost. Thus Peter cursed Simon the sorcerer, "Thy money perish with thee." Many instances of this holy cursing are recorded in the sacred Scriptures, especially in the Psalms, e.g., "Let death seize upon them, and let them go down quick into hell." (Psalm 55:15)
John Gill on Galatians 5:12 - “I would they were even cut off which trouble you. These words are a solemn wish of the apostle's with respect to the false teachers, or an imprecation of the judgment of God upon them; THAT THEY MIGHT BE CUT OFF OUT OF THE LAND OF THE LIVING by the immediate hand of God, that they might do no more mischief to the churches of Christ: this he said not out of hatred to their persons, but from a concern for the glory of God, and the good of his people. The word here used answers to the Hebrew word and which is often made use of by the Jews in solemn imprecations; we read (o) of a righteous man, , "that cut off his children"
John Gill continues - “So the apostle here might wish that the mouths of these false teachers were stopped, their notions refuted, that they might give them no more trouble; to which agrees the Arabic version; "they that trouble you I wish they were dumb"; or that their mouths were stopped, as such vain talkers should be; see Titus 1:10 or the sense of the apostle is, that it was his will and desire that THESE MEN SHOULD BE CUT OFF FROM THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH; with which views he mentions the proverbial expression in Galatians 5:9 with which compare 1 Cor. 5:6 or that they would cut themselves off, by withdrawing from them, going out from among them”
Barne’s Notes on the N.T. - “I would they were even CUT OFF - THAT IS, AS I UNDERSTAND IT, FROM THE COMMUNION OF THE CHURCH. So far am I, says Paul, from agreeing with them, and preaching the necessity of circumcision as they do, that I SINCERELY WISH THEY WERE EXCLUDED FROM THE CHURCH as unworthy a place among the children of God. For a very singular and MONSTROUS INTERPRETATION OF THIS PASSAGE, the learned reader may consult Koppe on this verse. TO MY AMAZEMENT, I find that this interpretation has also been adopted by Robinson in his Lexicon, on the word ἀποκόπτω apokoptōI will state the opinion in the words of Koppe. “Non modo circumcidant se, sed, si velint, etiam mutilant se - ipsa genitalia resecent.” = “ not only will be circumcised themselves, but, if they wish, even mutilate themselves - that is, the genitals should be cut back.” THE SIMPLE MEANING IS, I THINK, THAT PAUL WISHED THAT THE AUTHORS OF THESE ERRORS AND DISTURBANCES WERE EXCLUDED FROM THE CHURCH."
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown - “were even cut off — even as they desire your foreskin to be cut off and cast away by circumcision, so WOULD THAT THEY WERE EVEN CUT OFF FROM YOUR COMMUNION, being worthless as a castaway foreskin. The fathers, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, and Chrysostom, explain it, “Would that they would even cut themselves off,” that is, cut off not merely the foreskin, but the whole member: if circumcision be not enough for them, then let them have excision also; AN OUTBURST HARDLY SUITABLE TO THE GRAVITY OF THE APOSTLE. But Galatians 5:9-10 PLAINLY POINT TO EXCOMMUNICATION AS THE JUDGMENT threatened against the troublers: and danger of the bad “leaven” spreading, as the reason for it.”
Matthew Henry - “he wishes that they were even cut off--not cut off from Christ and all hopes of salvation by him, but cut off by the censures of the church, which ought to witness against those teachers who thus corrupted the purity of the gospel. Those, whether ministers or others, who set themselves to overthrow the faith of the gospel, and disturb the peace of Christians, do thereby FORFEIT THE PRIVILEGES OF CHRISTIAN COMMUNION AND DESERVE TO BE CUT OFF FROM THEM."
John Wesley - “I would they were even cut off - FROM YOUR COMMUNION; CAST OUT OF YOUR CHURCH, that thus trouble you.”
William Burkitt Commentary - “The apostle's meaning is, "That it were very fit, were it seasonable, that those which had thus seduced them, SHOULD BE EXCOMMUNICATED AND CUT OFF FROM THE CHURCH'S COMMUNION.
Where note, 1. How implicitly and interpretatively St. Paul compares these seducers to rotten members, which are and ought to be cut off, lest the gangrene overspread the whole body: I would they were cut off; implying, that like rotten members they deserved it, and the church's safety called for it, would her then circumstances admit of it.
Note, 2. That in the very expression here used by St. Paul, of cutting off, there seems to be an allusion to the practice of circumcision, which is a cutting off the foreskin of the flesh, and throwing it away.
Now, says the apostle, I wish that these Judaizing teachers, that urge you to be circumcised, that is, to cut off and cast away the foreskin of your flesh, I wish that they might be cut off as superfluous flesh, and cast out of the fellowship and communion of the church.”
Matthew Poole Commentary - “And it is not improbable that the apostle here spake by the Spirit of prophecy, as knowing God would cut them off.”
People’s N.T. Commentary - “I would they were even cut off. These men are seeking to make the mark of bondage by cutting your flesh… I take it that he means "CUT THEMSELVES OFF FROM THE CHURCH SO AS TO HAVE NOTHING MORE TO DO WITH IT."
All bibles do not teach the same things, in literally hundreds of verses. Get yourself the King James Bible, the Bible God has set His mark of approval on like no other, and you will never go wrong.
All of grace, believing the Book.
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