The Right Things You Want to Do A Note on Galatians 5,17d

J. Lambrecht

Gal 5,13–6,10 is usually taken as the parenetic section of the letter. Verses 13-24 can be considered as its first unit. In v. 13a ("For you were called to freedom") Paul more or less repeats what he has already said in v. 1a: "For freedom Christ has set us free". In v. 1 he had continued: "Stand fast, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery", i.e, do not become subject to the law (cf. 4,21). The continuation in v. 13, however, is different, although the freedom’s opposite, the theme of "slavery", is likewise repeated: "only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love become slaves to one another". The term "flesh" appears, and mutual service, love of neighbor is seen as a curb on any kind of wrongly-understood freedom. In vv. 14-15, then, this love of neighbor is further inculcated. In vv. 16-24 Paul calls for a life by the Spirit; he radically opposes "flesh" and "Spirit" (cf. 4,29 and, more especially, 3,3b: "Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?").

As is well known, within Gal 5,16-18 verse 17 defies any easy interpretation. This is the literal translation of the passage:

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, but the Spirit against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing whatever you would.
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

According to v. 17 flesh and Spirit are at war; their desires are opposed to each other. This situation seems to cause a stalemate "so that you cannot do whatever you want". Yet in v. 16 Paul is definitely urging the Galatians; he visibly takes for granted the possibility of the Christians’ choice for a life guided by the Spirit: you certainly will not (ou0 mh/ strong negation) yield to the covetousness of the flesh. The same applies to v. 18. How then must v. 17 be understood within its immediate context? Not so long ago John M.G. Barclay wrote: "In fact this clause is generally acknowledged to be one of the most difficult in the whole letter" 1.

1. A First Comparision

Several solutions to the difficulties in v. 17 have been proposed. However, before presenting a survey of the main interpretations, it may prove useful initially to compare Gal 5,17 with the somewhat similar passage Rom 7,15b-16 2.

Gal 5,17

17a h9 ga\r sa\rc e0piqumei= kata\ tou= pneu/matoj,
17b to\ de\ pneu=ma kata\ th=j sarko/j,
17c tau=ta ga\r a0llh/loij a0nti/keitai,
17d i3na mh\ a4 e0a\n qe/lhte tau=ta poih=te.

Rom 7,15bc-16ab

15b ou0 ga\r o4 qe/lw tou=to pra/ssw,
15c a0ll' o4 misw= tou=to poiw=.
16a ei0 de\ o4 ou0 qe/lw tou=to poiw=,
16b su/mfhmi tw=| no/mw| o3ti kalo/j.

As can been seen Gal 5,17d is very similar to Rom 7,15b. Both clauses have a negation: see mh/ and ou0. Both display a similar construction: a4 tau=ta and o4tou=to. In each the resumptive demonstrative pronoun 3 takes up the preceding relative pronoun which lacks determination. Moreover, the two clauses utilize the verb qe/lw in a relative subclause. Finally, the verb poie/w in Gal 5,17d is almost certainly the equivalent of pra/ssw in Rom 7,15b (cf. 7,16a.19 and 20 with poie/w).

There are, of course, major differences, too. In Gal 5,17d the negative purpose clause introduced by i3na mh\ depends on v. 17c and thus completes this clause which itself explains (ga/r) v. 17ab. The ga/r-clause of Rom 7,15b, however, is the first half of a co-ordinated sentence (ou0 a0lla/) that rounds off v. 14: "I am carnal, sold under sin". Moreover, in Gal 5,17d the subjunctive (a4 e0a\n) qe/lhte points to a general possibility, a future eventuality ("what you would" or – better? – "whatever you would"); in Rom 7,15b, however, by means of an indicative Paul speaks of what actually happens in the present (I do not do "what I want": o4 qe/lw). We should also mention the use of the first person singular in Rom 7,15b-16b whereas in Gal 5,17 the third person is employed in the three first clauses while in the fourth (v. 17d), quite suddenly, the second person plural appears and is found throughout the surrounding verses 16 and 18.

The main difference, however, is the function of these clauses in their respective contexts, i.e., in the line of thought. In Rom 7,13-25 Paul depicts the inner split in the "I". This "I" knows what is good, wants to do what is right and in its inmost self delights in the law of God. But evil lies close at hand; the "I" does the very thing it hates. The "I" does not understand its own actions. In utter powerlessness and despair Paul exclaims: "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death"? (v. 24). In Romans 7 he most probably depicts the pre-Christian situation, the unredeemed state of the Jew and perhaps anyone’s condition without Christ 4. In Gal 5,13–6,10, on the other hand, Paul addresses his Christians in Galatia; he exhorts them. In 5,17d he does not explicitly say whether it is good or evil – or both – that they are unable to do; at any rate, they appear to be incapable of performing a desired act. The opposition between flesh and Spirit seems to aim at this: (literally) "in order that whatever you want (to do), these things you do not do" 5.

Up to this point our findings are rather disturbing. In the context of Romans 7, where a preconversion situation is described, Paul admits that the inmost self of the human person wants to do what is right (vv. 18-23) and that his mind agrees that the law is good (v. 25), although this person is sold under sin (v. 14) and as a matter of fact serves "the law of sin" (v. 25). In Galatians 5–6, in a context of parenesis meant for the Christians in Galatia, the reader quite unexpectedly comes across 5,17 in which verse, if the above interpretation is accepted, Paul points to a hopeless blind alley, a dead-end. Within the Christian there is, according to v. 17, a fierce opposition put up by the lusting flesh and a Spirit which is just as insistent; there appears to be no way out. The reader asks: does the Spirit, after all, not prevail?

2. Several Proposals

In Gal 5,17c ("for these are opposed to each other") tau=ta resumes the desiring of the flesh and that of the Spirit (see v. 17ab). Flesh and Spirit, or more concretely, their desires, are in conflict with each other. The aim of that conflict, or its result, is that "you Galatians" cannot do whatever you wish to do (v. 17d). In recent exegesis four main lines of interpretation can be distinguished 6.

a. A Stalemate between Flesh and Spirit

According to this interpretation, the most obvious sense of v. 17d taken in itself is, it would seem, that one is unable to follow either the urging of the flesh or that of the Spirit. Flesh and Spirit frustrate each another; the consequence is a stalemate: no possibility of acting according to either one of these powers, of really and fully obeying either the flesh or the Spirit 7. Yet for a Christian such a stalemate is the admission of defeat; there can be, after all, no victory of the Spirit over the flesh.

Verse 17, however, should not be isolated; it cannot be explained without its context. So most commentators consider what Paul says in this verse as an exaggeration for the sake of warning. Paul entreats the Galatians: "Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" (v. 16). The Christians, however, should not be nave; as long as they are in the body and live on earth the struggle will prove difficult. In each Christian, flesh and Spirit are diametrically opposed and do battle with each other. Therefore, the Galatians should take into account the all too real "not yet" of the eschatological reservation. What they can be assured of, however, is the fact that if they allow themselves to be led by the Spirit, they will not be under the domination of the law (cf. v. 18) 8. Quite the contrary, through love of neighbor they will fulfil the whole law (cf. v. 14). True, according to this explanation the content of "whatever you would" in v. 17d is both good and evil; in its very wording the verse indicates a blockage. It is claimed, however, that one should not take v. 17d literally. What Paul says here is meant to emphasize the dangers of Christian moral life in this world and to add a motivating force to his exhortation, forceful as it is.

For M.-J. Lagrange pneu=ma in v. 17 is not the Spirit of God (cf. 4,6) but the renewed spirit, i.e., the human spirit transformed by the divine Spirit. The contrast between flesh and spirit is a contrast within the human being; the opposition must be situated on the same level. In Catholic theology that spirit is termed "grace". In people on earth, Christian people

included, too, fleshly tendencies and spiritual aspirations are continually in conflict 9. A difficulty with this proposal is that it assumes a change from God’s Spirit as described in 4,6 (and probably also in 5,16.18.22 and 25) to the human spirit in 5,17, although, of course, the presence of the Spirit in us cannot but transform our spirit 10.

b. Fleshly Desires

A number of interpreters prefer to take the expression "whatever you would" as pointing to the evil desires of the flesh: even Christians are tempted over and over again; even they may want to follow the cravings of the flesh. Paul does not repeat the verb e0piqumei= in v. 17b. This verb, it is argued, should not be supplied since in v. 17a it is used in a negative sense ("to lust"). As in Rom 7,7-8 it most probably refers to fleshly sinful "covetousness" 11. The presence of Spirit in the Christians strongly opposes the flesh. This opposing drive frustrates those fleshly desires on the condition, of course, that one "walks by the Spirit" or "is guided by the Spirit": see vv. 16 and 18 12. It must be recognized that this understanding does fit the context of 5,13-24. In v. 17 itself, however, there is nothing which indicates the victorious action of the Spirit. The verb e0piqume/w of v. 17a is mentally supplied almost spontaneously in v. 17b 13 and, therefore, in both clauses its meaning is most probably neutral ("to desire"). Moreover, it would be rather strange that what the Galatian Christians want is always evil and wrong. Are we, therefore, left with the mutual opposition of flesh and Spirit as defended in the first proposal? The answer is: not necessarily.

c. Spirit-Inspired Wishes

Some commentators take the expression "whatever you would" the other way round: it perhaps refers to the good desires, to the urging of the Spirit. In their view Paul can hardly assume that, with its opposite desires, the flesh makes the activity of the Spirit unsuccessful since the immediate context militates against such an understanding. The repeated exhortations force us to suppose that a life guided by the Spirit must and can be lived in a Christian community 14. But then the question should be asked again: does this approach take into account the outright opposition present in v. 17?

d. A Structureless Existence

In his valuable monograph Obeying the Truth John M.G. Barclay proposes to understand a4 e0a\n qe/lhte as "(doing) whatever you want". By this expression Paul means a "structureless existence" 15. However, since the Christians "are caught up into a warfare which determines their moral choices" such an existence is no longer possible. The Galatians cannot go from the flesh to the Spirit and back from the Spirit to the flesh. They must take sides. Or better, "they are already committed to some forms of activity (the Spirit) and against others (the flesh)" 16. More than the written context it is Christian life itself that shows the way out. This interpretation brings us back to the comprehensive understanding of "whatever you would" in v. 17d: "structureless" means good or evil, right or wrong.

3. What You Want to Do

In Gal 5,16b the ou0 mh/ construction is almost certainly not the equivalent of an imperative 17. With this emphatic negative the construction expresses the result if the imperative of v. 16a is obeyed: walk by the Spirit, and thus you will in no way yield to the desires of the flesh. Verse 17 contains two ga/r clauses. The first one ("for the flesh desires against the Spirit", v. 17a) grounds the whole of v. 16; more specifically, by pointing to the "desiring" activity of the flesh, it provides the reason why the Galatians must "walk by the Spirit" 18. Verse 17b adds the antithetic remark introduced with de/: "but the Spirit against the flesh". The secondga/r clause 19 further explains v. 17ab: for these (i.e., flesh and Spirit) oppose each other lest you do whatever you wish. (v. 17cd) 20. It would seem that the i3na mh\ e0a\n + subjunctive clause 21 directly depends on v. 17c, not on the whole of v. 17abc. It is not immediately clear whether v. 17d still possesses a purpose force ("in order that") or, more probably, simply points to the result ("so that") 22. Verse 18 consists of a conditional period: "but if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law". This last expression, u(po\ no/mon, probably indicates the law obligations which, according to Paul, no one is able to carry out and which therefore lead to transgressions and sin, condemnation and curse (cf., e.g., 3,10 and Rom 3,19-20 and 23) 23.

A. Vanhoye stresses that a4 e0a\n qe/lhte means "’whatever’ you would" 24. He explains the content of such a "wanting" as containing both good and evil: "il nostro sogno sarebbe di poter soddisfare tutti i nostri impulsi successivi, il desiderio di vivere comodamente e il desiderio di essere generosi, il desiderio dei piaceri di ogni genere, sessuali, sensuali, e il desiderio della gioia spirituale e dell’amore puro" 25. One is inclined, however, to ask whether the claim regarding the a1n (or e0a/n) with the subjunctive can be pressed here. True, by itself such a construction points to the future 26 and, therefore, the matter remains indeterminate and universal. Does it necessarily mean "whatever" or "whatsoever"? To be sure, the relative pronoun a# is without antecedent. Moreover, the resumptive demonstrative pronoun tau=ta does not exclude a possible universal sense in the previous clause. However, in addition to Rom 7,15c Paul employs the construction with an indeterminate relative pronoun and subjunctive, followed by a resumptive pronoun, in two more passages, namely in Gal 6,7: o4 e0a\n spei/rh|, tou=to kai\ qeri/sei, and in 1 Cor 16,3: ou4j e0a\n dokima/shte, tou/touj pe/myw. "Whatever" and "whoever" may be a correct rendering, yet in both cases the indeterminate and general character of the relative pronoun should not be unduly emphasized. The translation "what" (or "that which") in Gal 6,7 27 and "(those) who" in 1 Cor 6,7 is equally appropriate. The same, I presume, applies to Gal 5,17d 28.

The content of a# in v. 17d remains general and vague, even if, as we believe, that content is positive. Moreover, the present tense of the verb in the subjunctive (a4 e0a\n) qe/lhte points to continuation in the future; by itself the verb qe/lw may have either a neutral or a negative or a positive direct object. All this is true. In Gal 5,17d, however, Paul speaks to the Galatians in the second person plural "what you want". One can, it would seem, correctly assume that as Christians they want and wish to do what is right, not "whatsoever they would".

This is confirmed by the parallel passage in Romans 7, even though here the "I" is not yet a Christian. There can be no doubt that in Rom 7,15.18.19 and 21 the "I" wants what is good and right: see a0gaqo/n (v. 19) and to\ kalo/n (v. 21). The "I" delights in the law of God (v. 22). With regard to evil (kako/n, v. 21) Paul explictly states that he does not want it: see ou0 qe/lw in vv. 16.19 and 20. Because of the presence of the relative pronoun taken up by the determinative pronoun (see also ga/r) Rom 7,19 is very instructive: ou0 ga\r o4 qe/lw poiw= a0gaqo/n, a0lla\ o4 ou0 qe/lw kako\n tou=to pra/ssw 29. Even the preconversion "I" only wants to do what is good 30. Earlier in Rom 7,15-16, the context fills the double indeterminate o# unequivocally with two opposing ideas: wanting what is good, not wanting what is wrong. The "I" wants only what is right.

What is then the flow of thought in Gal 5,16-18? After the commandment and the ensuing assurance of v. 16, the grounding clause of v. 17a emphasizes the fact that in their Christian existence, as long as they live in the body, the desires of the flesh remain dangerously active 31. Verse 17b then completes the one-sided picture of v. 17a: there is, of course, also the contrastive urging of the indwelling Spirit. In v. 17cd Paul adds: the opposition of flesh and Spirit is so strong that – without a determined resolution 32 – "you Galatians" would not be able to do the good you want to do. However, if you are really led by the Spirit, you are not under the law and everything will be all right (cf. v. 18 with de/ at the beginning). According to this paraphrase verse 17 functions as a stern warning. The motivating clause of v. 17a introduces a rather abstract anthropological consideration which is further worked out in v. 17bc. For a moment, as it were, Paul forgets the Christian moral choice which the Galatians are supposed to renew. Just as in 6,8, so also in 5,17abc the third person is used. It is only at v. 17d that Paul returns to the second person and makes the Galatians realize what would happen without a positive choice and the necessary inward discipline, without the personally accepted effective guidance of the Spirit: you would be unable to do the good you – even as ordinarly human beings, but certainly as Christians – want to do 33.

In sum, I think that the third proposal of part II of this note should be explained along the lines suggested in part III 34. We can be permitted, I believe, to suppose that the Spirit-filled Christians in Galatia want to do the right things. To be sure, they are in need of admonition and exhortation. In a realistic way Paul reminds them of their somewhat fragile condition. He points to the eschatological tension between the "already" and the "not yet", between the indicative and the imperative. They are still in the body; they yet live in this world. Some of these Gentile Christians are attracted to the "works of the law". But, as Paul has been arguing at great length in this letter, that is not a solution. On the contrary, the Spirit alone constitutes the really "empowering presence" 35. Therefore, "if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (v. 25). It would seem that Gal 5,17, properly understood, fits very well into this context of admonition.


We can assume that the Spirit-filled Christians in Galatia want to do the right things. To be sure, they are in need of admonition and exhortation. In a realistic way Paul reminds them of their somewhat fragile condition. He points to the eschatological tension between the "already" and the "not yet", between the indicative and the imperative. They are still in the body, yet they live in this world. Some of these Gentile Christians are attracted to the "works of the law". But, as Paul has been arguing at great length in this letter, that is not a solution. On the contrary, the Spirit alone constitutes the really "empowering presence". Therefore, "if we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (v. 25). It would seem that Gal 5,17, properly understood, fits very well into this context of admonition.


1 J.M.G. BARCLAY, Obeying the Truth. A Study of Paul’s Ethics in Galatians (Studies of the New Testament and its World; Edinburgh 1988) 112. Cf. In-Gyu HONG, The Law in Galatians (JSNTSS 81; Sheffield 1993) 185: "This verse has been a vexing problem to many interpreters. Here scholarly opinions differ considerably". Regarding the context Hong notes: "The flesh appears to be a personified power that works against the Spirit ... For Paul, existence under the flesh is compatible with existence under the law ..., for subjection to the flesh causes man to break the law and thereby brings him under the bondage of the law" (87; cf. 166 and 175-176). According to J. BLIGH, Galatians. A Discussion of St Paul’s Epistle (London 1969) 446, v. 16 is the equivalent of a conditional sentence ("If you walk by the Spirit, you will not fulfil the lust of the flesh") and is clearly parallel to v. 18 ("If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law").

2 For a comparison see, e.g., P. ALTHAUS, " ‘... Dass ihr nicht tut, was ihr wollt’ (Zur Auslegung von Gal. 5, 17)", TLZ 76 (1951) 15-18; O. MODALSKI, "Gal. 2,19-21; 5,16-18 und Rm. 7,7-24", ThZ 21 (1965) 22-37, esp. 29-37; and, in a rather original way, H.D. BETZ, Galatians (Hermeneia; Philadelphia 1979) 278-281 (see our note 5).

3 In German: "anaphorisches Demonstrativ".

4 Cf. J. LAMBRECHT, The Wretched "I" and Its Liberation (Louvain Theol. & Past. Monogr. 14; Leuven 1992).

5 BETZ, Galatians, 279-280, detects two "wills", in Romans 7, in Gal 5,17 even three (the "I", the "Spirit" and the "flesh"). For Betz the anthropological theory in Gal 5,17 – basically pre-Pauline in origin – is not integrated into the soteriological context of vv. 16 and 18 and, therefore, "it must be taken for what it says: the human body is a battlefield on which the powers of the flesh and the Spirit fight against each other, so that the human will is disabled from carrying out its intentions" (280-281). Furthermore, Romans 7 is not simply the working out of Gal 5,17. "... we should assume that Paul’s theological thinking did not stop between the letters, that because of new situations he encountered and new insights he gained, new efforts were required to state his position" (280).

6 For a more detailed survey and bibliographical references, see BARCLAY, Obeying the Truth, 110-119; cf. also F.J. MATERA, Galatians (Sacra Pagina; Collegeville 1992) 206-207.

7 Cf. E. DE WITT BURTON, The Epistle to the Galatians (ICC; Edinburgh 1921, repr. 1968) 300-302: "Does the man choose evil, the Spirit opposes him; does he choose good, the flesh hinders him" (302); BETZ, Galatians, 279-281 (but see note 5); J. ROHDE, Der Brief des Paulus and die Galater (THNT; Berlin 1989) 234-235; R.N. LONGENECKER, Galatians (Word; Dallas, TX 1990) 245-246; A. VANHOYE, La lettera ai Galati. Seconda parte (Rome 31997) 221-222 (see our quotation in note 24); J.D.G. DUNN, The Epistle to the Galatians (Black’s NT; London 1993) 297-300: "... those things you want are associated with the desirings of both flesh and Spirit" (299). See also ALTHAUS, "... Dass ihr nicht tut, was ihr wollt", 15-16, who clearly describes (but rejects) "das jeweilige Wollen des Menschen" (15) and lists German exegetes who defend this majority opinion (Bengel, B. Weiss, Zahn, Schlatter, Oepke, Lietzmann, Schlier).

8 Cf. F. MUSSNER, Der Galaterbrief (HTKNT; Freiburg – Basel – Wien 1974) 375-378: The flesh and the Spirit "kmpfen im Menschen um den Menschen. Der Mensch ist jedoch den beiden Mchten nicht einfach ausgeliefert; das ‘Begehren’ des Geistes bzw. des Fleisches stellt ihn vielmehr in eine Entscheidungssituation, in der er jeweils aufgerufen ist, ‘das zu tun’, wozu er getrieben wird. Wre der Mensch machtlos zwischen beide Mchte gestellt und wre er das nur passive Kampffeld zwischen Fleisch und Geist, dann htten der Imperativ des Apostels in V 16 ... und die Aussage des V 18 keinen Sinn" (377-378).

9 M.-J. LAGRANGE, Eptre aux Galates (EB; Paris 1918, repr. 1950) 147-148: "Il y a donc entre les facults humaines et l’Esprit de Dieu ce moyen terme qui est l’esprit particip, et que la thologie catholique nomme la grce. C’est ici le sens le plus naturel, puisque les puissances sont affrontes dans l’homme" (147).

10 For the human spirit, see the closing verse "your spirit" (Gal 6,18).

11 Cf., e.g., B. CORSANI, Lettera ai Galati (Genova 1990) 353: "Sarebbe per lo meno singolare che Paolo usasse questo verbo per un soggetto comme to\ pneu=ma".

12 G.W. HANSEN, Galatians (IVP NT Commentary Series; Downers Grove, IL 1993), 170-171: Spirit-led Christians do not indulge their sinful nature (v. 13) nor gratify its desires (v. 16); they do not do the evil things they want to do; they are not "left without moral direction to do whatever they want" (171). This would also seem to be the position of CORSANI, Galati, 353-355 (esp. 355).

13 Cf. DUNN, Galatians, 297: "to supply ‘fights’ ... is unwarranted".

14 See, more particularly, ALTHAUS, "... Dass ihr nicht tut, was ihr wollt" (with references to Luther and Calvin). R. BULTMANN, "Christus des Gesetzes Ende" (1940), in IDEM, Glauben und Verstehen II (Tbingen 1952), 46, n. 6 (this interpretation "ist wohl vorzuziehen"); MODALSKI, "Gal. 2,19-21; 5,16-18", 30. D. LHRMANN, Der Brief an die Galater (Zrcher Bibelkommentare; Zrich 1978) 88-89, translates: "was ihr (eigentlich) wollt" (88) and comments: "ber das Gesetz kommt der Mensch gerade nicht zur erhofften Identitt mit sich selbst" (89). U. BORSE, Der Brief an die Galater (RNT; Regensburg 1984) 194-196, provides a rather loose paraphrase as translation: "damit ihr (eben) das tut, was ihr nicht wollt" (194); he explains and defends his version by referring to Romans 7 (195-196).

15 BARCLAY, Obeying the Truth, 115. The Christians are not free "to live however they like", "to do whatever they want" (112). Cf. MATERA, Galatians, 207: "the dangerous position of libertinism, doing whatever they want".

16 BARCLAY, Obeying the Truth, 115. "The warfare imagery is invoked not to indicate that the two sides are evenly balanced" (ibid.). Cf. MATERA, Galatians, 199-220 and 206-207; HANSEN, Galatians, 168-172 (but see also note 12); HONG, The Law, 185-186.

17 Cf. BARCLAY, Obeying the Truth, 111, n. 10.

18 In this reading the causal (and warning) force of ga/r is expressed in the first clause and not, as often in a (me\n) ga/rde/ construction, in the second clause. Cf. M. ZERWICK, Biblical Greek (Rome 1963), nos. 474-477.

19 The variant reading de/ for this second ga/r is almost certainly secondary. According to MUSSNER, Galaterbrief, 176, n. 16, ga/r is "sicher ursprnglich".

20 See LONGENECKER, Galatians, 245: "The neutral plural pronoun tau=ta (these things,’ ‘these entities’) refers back to ‘the flesh’ and the ‘the Spirit,’ treating them now more as ‘things’ or ‘entities’ than personal forces".

21 See LONGENECKER, Galatians, 245: "The neutral plural pronoun tau=ta (these things,’ ‘these entities’) refers back to ‘the flesh’ and the ‘the Spirit,’ treating them now more as ‘things’ or ‘entities’ than personal forces".

22 See ZERWICK, Biblical Greek, nr. 352; BARCLAY, Obeying the Truth, 112, who quotes C.F.D. MOULE, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge 21959) 142, describing the "Semitic mind" as "notoriously unwilling to draw a sharp dividing line between purpose and consequence". Often the terms "telic" and "ecbatic" are used. To see in v. 17d a divine intention, as ROHDE, Galater, 234 ("von Gott her bezweckt") does, is most probably misguided.

23 See, e.g., J. LAMBRECHT, Pauline Studies (BETL 115, Leuven 1994) 271-298: "Curse and Blessing: A Study of Galatians 3,10-14".

24 VANHOYE, Galati, 221-222: "occorre tradurre con precisione h ean thelte; non significa semplicemente ‘ci che volete’, ma ‘tutto ci che vorreste’ (an con il congiuntivo ha questo senso)" (221). No doubt "vorreste" is the correct translation of the construction. In Paul’s text, however, there is neither pa/nta ("tutto") nor a4tina (cf. 5,19).

25 Ibid., 221.

26 Cf. J.H. MOULTON, A Grammar of New Testament Greek. Vol. III: Syntax (by N. TURNER; Edinburgh 1963) 106-110; A.T. ROBERTSON, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (London 1914) 957: "The subjunctive with the indefinite relative ... is futuristic", and hence indeterminate and universal.

27 See the opposition between "sowing to the flesh" and "sowing to the Spirit" in Gal 6,8, but there is no stalemate. The two results are indicated: "reaping corruption" and "reaping eternal life". Compare the indicative in Gal 6,12: o3soi qe/lousin ou[toi.

28 MATERA, Galatians, 199, translates "so that you cannot do whatever you want". He brings together five English translations: "to prevent you from doing what you would" (RSV); "to prevent you from doing what you want" (NRSV); "so that you may not do what you want" (NAB); "so that what you will do you cannot do" (NEB); "so that you cannot do what you want" (REB) ( 199-200). All have "what". Equally the Lutherbibel translates: "so dass ihr nicht tut, ‘was’ ihr wollt", and the Einheitsbersetzung: "so dass ihr nicht imstande seid, das zu tun, ‘was’ ihr wollt".

29 Cf. also Gal 2,18: ei9 ga\r a4 kate/lusa tau=ta pa/lin oi9kodomw=. K. BEYER, Semitische Syntax des Neuen Testaments (Studien zur Umwelt des Neuen Testamentes 1; Gttingen 1962) 171, writes about the resumptive demonstrative pronoun in the accusative: "Hier handelt es sich wohl um einen Grzismus, da dies im Semitischen ganz selten ist" (see also p. 175).

30 On the difference between Rom 7 and Gal 5, see J.M.S. BALJON, Exegetisch-kritische verhandeling over den brief van Paulus aan de Galaten (Leiden 1889) 243: "Daar is de nou=j gebonden onder de macht van de sa/rc. Hier evenwel niet. Hier is alleen strijd". Cf. ALTHAUS, "... Dass ihr nicht tut, was ihr wollt", 16-18: "Das Subjekt des ‘was ihr wollt’ ist der von Gott geschaffener Mensch... Die Erlsung des Menschen durch den Geist Jesu Christi knpft an die Schpfung ... an" (18).

31 Paul seems to refer to the deficiencies in the Galatian churches (see, e.g., 5,15), but any Christian reader of this text recognizes the inner conflicts and the all too frequent moral defeats.

32 This idea is not to be found in v. 17 itself but must be mentally supplied because of the immediate context.

33 Cf. A. OEPKE, "Irrwege in der neueren Paulusforschung", TLZ 77 (1952) 449-458, answering Althaus (see our note 2): As long as one remains between the two forces one does not do what one "eigentlich, seiner schpfungsgemssig gesetzten und vom Geist erneuerten Natur nach" (458) wills. See also the rather free rendering in the Gute Nachricht Bibel: "so dass ihr von euch aus das Gute nicht tun knnt, das ihr doch eigentlich wollt". H.M. RIDDERBOS, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia (NICNT; Grand Rapids 1953, reprint 1974) 203-204, likewise sees the content of "what you want to do" as positive ("by virtue of the new man" in the Christians). Yet as far v. 17 is concerned he speaks of "an irreconcilable conflict", of the fact that Christian life, too, "is subject to a penetrating, internal dualism. Still, this is not the last thing that can be said of the matter. It is not passivity but action that is in order...". Ridderbos then refers to vv. 16 and 18.

34 See note 14 (cf. especially the strong defense by Althaus almost 50 years ago).

35 Cf. the title of G. FEE’s book: God’s Empowering Presence. The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA 1994).