Preaching the Sufferings

In Galatians 3:1, we read:

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly exhibited as crucified! (NRSV)

Virtually all modern translations have translated the verse the same way, that Paul preached the mechanics of Jesus’ crucifixion so compellingly it was like going to an IMAX theater.


But Paul wasn’t eloquent. He wasn’t capable of giving his hearers a show-stopping performance of the crucifixion.

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. (1 Cor 1:17)

For they say, “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (2 Cor 10:10)

The Greek word προεγραφη carries two meanings.

BDAG: (1) to write in advance or before, write beforehand; (2) to set forth for public notice

Liddell, Scott: (1) write before or first; (2) to set forth for public notice

The primary definition is found in Romans 15:4, Ephesians 3:3, and Jude 4. The translators made a judgment call to use the secondary definition, but the primary definition should be preferred because it is consistent with the rest of scripture

You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was written beforehand as having been crucified.
— Smythean Translation

In other words, the crucifixion was prefigured in the Old Testament and that is what Paul had demonstrated to the Galatians. This is consistent with Paul’s own testimony.

To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would take place: that the Messiah must suffer, and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles. (Acts 26:22)

After they had set a day to meet with him, they came to him at his lodgings in great numbers. From morning until evening he explained the matter to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the law of Moses and from the prophets. (Acts 28:23)

Paul didn’t go around showing a movie of the crucifixion. He showed his hearers how the crucifixion and the spiritual side of Jesus’ sufferings had been prefigured in books such as Jonah, Isaiah, Psalms, even Deuteronomy.

When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land that the LORD your God is giving you for possession. Deuteronomy 21: 22, 23)

Many bulls encircle me, strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. (Psalm 22:12, 13)

Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)

Jesus himself also said this.

Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. (Luke 24:25)

This translation of Galatians 3:1 shows how Paul’s preaching was the platform for receiving God’s Spirit and the working of miracles.

The only thing I want to learn from you is this: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? . . . Well then, does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Galatians 3:2, 5)