Who is "him who called you" referred to by Paul in Galatians 1:6?

6I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— ESV

Various translations imply the referent is God, often by the the use of the title "Him", however other are ambiguous, and leave open the possibility that Paul is referring to a missionary or even himself as in verse 11:

11For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. ESV

  • 1
    Interesting. Gal. 5:8 uses similar language. (Also 1 Thes 5:24, although there the referent is clearer than it is in the Galatians passages.)
    – Susan
    Commented Jul 6, 2015 at 11:50

2 Answers 2


The referent of the phrase "Him who called you"could potentially be answered in several ways.

(1)It could refer to Paul himself. He (along with Barnabas) was the missionairy who came to Galatia preaching the gospel. he was the instrument God used to awaken faith in the Galatians, see Acts 16:16.

However Paul makes it clear in v8, he himself was not the standard by which the situation in Galatia was to be judged. "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (Gal 1:8 NKJ)" Paul was concerned that they were deserting him, or any other human leader - something far greater is at stake here.

(2) Another possible interpretation, adopted by Calvin and many scholars since, holds that “the one who called” refers to Jesus Christ1. This is certainly a possible reading since many of the earliest manuscripts do not contain the qualifying genitive “of Christ,” following the word “grace”2

Whilst it is the case that by following the false teachers the Galatians were going against the work of Christ thus making him and his cross “of no value" (5:2). However, Paul links this desertion to the person of God.

(3) In Paul’s writings “he who calls” is synonymous with God, as can be seen in Paul’s other uses of it in Galatians (1:15; 5:8; but see also Rom 4:17; 9:12; 1 Thess 2:12; 5:24).

Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb and called me through His grace, (Gal 1:15 NKJ)

Galatians 5:8 This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you. (Gal 5:8 NKJ)

The Galatians were deserting the God. therefore the referent of the phrase "Him who called you" seems to be best understood as being God.


1 Calvin writes "Let it be carefully observed, that we are removed from Christ, when we fall into those views which are inconsistent with his mediatorial office; for light can have no fellowship with darkness......From Christ, who called you by grace. Others read it, “from him who called you by the grace of Christ,” understanding it to refer to the Father; but the reading which we have followed is more simple." [Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 29-30)]

2 Metzger writes, "The Committee found it difficult to decide whether transcriptional probabilities or external evidence should be allowed the greater weight in choosing among the five variant readings. On the one hand, the absence of any genitive qualifying ἐν χάριτι (P46vid G Hvid itg, ar Marcion Tertullian Cyprian Ambrosiaster Marius Victorinus Lucifer Ephraem Pelagius) has the appearance of being the original reading, which copyists supplemented by adding Χριστοῦ (P51vid א A B Ψ 33 81 614 1739 vg syrp, h, pal copbo goth arm al), or Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (D itd syrh with *), or Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (copsa Jerome), or θεοῦ (7 327 336 Origenlat Theodoret). On the other hand however, a majority of the Committee was unwilling to adopt a reading that is supported by only part of the Western tradition; therefore it was decided to print Χριστοῦ on the strength of its strong external support, but to enclose the word within square brackets out of deference to its omission by P46vid and certain Western witnesses." [Metzger, B. M., United Bible Societies. (1994). A textual commentary on the Greek New Testament, second edition a companion volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th rev. ed.) (pp. 520–521). London; New York: United Bible Societies.] Comfort also states "If 'Christ' or 'Jesus Christ' or 'God' had originally been in the text why would any scribe have deleted them, this is likely that the shorter reading, having early (P46vid) and diverse support is the original..."[Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary, Tyndale 2008, (p558)


In regard to τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς “the one who called you” in Galatians 1:6, D. Francois Tolmie says:

“As a rule, Paul uses this expression to refer to God, but it could also refer to himself in this case …”

D. Francois Tolmie, Persuading the Galatians: A Text-centred Rhetorical Analysis of a Pauline Letter, 2005, pp39-40.

For those who are enamored with this alternate reading, I suggest looking at every occurrence of the word group: καλέω, κλῆσις, κλητός in the traditional Pauline corpus and find an example with pattern: article+(καλέω | κλῆσις | κλητός) where Paul fills the agent role. Lowering the standard and disregarding the presence or absence of the article, I wasn't able to find Paul as an agent with a member of this word group, but there may be one I overlooked. On the other hand we find numerous examples where [ὁ] θεὸς “God” is the implied or explicit agent as in the following:

2Th. 2:13 Ἡμεῖς δὲ ὀφείλομεν εὐχαριστεῖν τῷ θεῷ πάντοτε περὶ ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοὶ ἠγαπημένοι ὑπὸ κυρίου, ὅτι εἵλατο ὑμᾶς ὁ θεὸς ἀπαρχὴν εἰς σωτηρίαν ἐν ἁγιασμῷ πνεύματος καὶ πίστει ἀληθείας, 14 εἰς ὃ [καὶ] ἐκάλεσεν ὑμᾶς διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἡμῶν εἰς περιποίησιν δόξης τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.

NRSV 2Th. 2:13   But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. 14 For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Suppression of Divine agent where [ὁ] θεὸς “God” is assumed:

In Paul the article + participle of καλέω without an expressed agent is not ambiguous as to agency. Suppression of the Divine agent when it can be assumed from the context is very common, not only in Paul. In following example the “call” doesn’t have an explicit agent but it can be supplied from the context.

Rom. 9:11 μήπω γὰρ γεννηθέντων μηδὲ πραξάντων τι ἀγαθὸν ἢ φαῦλον, ἵνα ἡ κατ᾿ ἐκλογὴν πρόθεσις τοῦ θεοῦ μένῃ, 12 οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων ἀλλ᾿ ἐκ τοῦ καλοῦντος, ἐρρέθη αὐτῇ ὅτι ὁ μείζων δουλεύσει τῷ ἐλάσσονι, 13 καθὼς γέγραπται· τὸν Ἰακὼβ ἠγάπησα, τὸν δὲ Ἠσαῦ ἐμίσησα.

Rom. 9:11 (NRSV) Even before they had been born or had done anything good or bad (so that God’s purpose of election might continue, 12 not by works but by his call) she was told, “The elder shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.”

Note "his call" where his is an NRSV +(plus) not represented in the greek vorlage.

“Paul can omit the word ‘God’ because in his usage the participial ὁ καλέσας or ὁ καλῶν is a standard term for God (Rom. 4:17; 9:12; Gal. 1:15; 5:8; 1 Thess. 2:12; 5:24). For Paul, ‘calling’ is a fundamental element of God’s nature.”

G. Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel: An Exposition of Galatians (trans. D. Green; Fortress, 1985), 46

Alford notes that the Syriac along with Luther, Calvin and some others understood the agent as Christ but he disagrees with them.

τοῦ καλέσ. ὑμ.] not to be taken with χριστοῦ, as Syr., Jer., Luth. (gives both constructions, but prefers this), Calv., Grot., Bengel, &c., nor understood of Paul, as al. and recently by Bagge,—but, as almost always with the Apostle (see note on Romans 1:6), of God the Father see ver. 15; and cf. Romans 8:30; Romans 9:24, Romans 9:25: 1Corinthians 1:9; 1Corinthians 7:15, 1Corinthians 7:17: 1Thessalonians 2:12: 2Thessalonians 2:14: 2Timothy 1:9. Also 1Peter 5:10).

H. Alford, Greek Testament

While searching for the citation from Ebling I found a recent thesis:

Paul’s astonishment that the Galatians so promptly turned “from the one45 who called you in grace” ( πὸ τοῦ καλέσαντος ὑμᾶς ἐν χάριτι [Χριστοῦ])46 has a complement only nine verses later, in that Paul was “called through [God’s] grace” (καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ).47 Paul’s phrasing is intentional: it creates an identification between the Galatians and Paul, an essential move for Paul’s presentation of himself as a paradigm.48 Yet, if καλέω means calling to a vocation for Paul, it cannot mean this for the Galatians. The Galatians’ calling is mentioned three times: they were “called in grace” (1.6), “called for freedom” (ἐπ᾿ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἐκλήθητε; 5.13; cf. 5.1), and the “persuasion” currently thwarting them from “obeying the truth” is “not from the one who calls you” (ἐκ τοῦ καλοῦντος; 5.8).49 For the Galatians, calling is set in opposition to “turning...to another gospel” and slavery through law-observance. The Galatians are gentile sinners (2.15) whose lives before Christ were defined by serving false-gods (4.8-9). Yet, the Gentiles enter a story where the law has come to an end because of the Christ-event (2.18-20; 3.23-26).50

MCFARLAND, ORREY,WAYNE (2013) The God who Gives: Philo and Paul in Conversation , Durham theses, Durham University. Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/9409/

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