Galatians 5:3 (NKJV)

3 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.

It seems in the above text Paul is referring to the debtor (Delinquent,morally transgressor(against God)

But in Romans Paul seems to be referring to an ower to do good & to minister rather than a transgressor, is he using the same word in the same sense as in Galatians or is it a secular usage.The emphasis is mine

Romans 1:14 (NKJV)

14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. 15 So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also.

  • it means same thing: just obligation. Moral obligation.
    – Michael16
    Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 8:07

1 Answer 1


ὀφειλέτης does not mean someone who is delinquent or who is a moral transgressor. Further, it doesn't really mean someone who owes a monetary debt - that word is χρεοφειλέτης, I think.

It simply means someone who is obliged to someone else for something. In the United States we have an old expression, "Much obliged" that is used sometimes in place of "Thank you". There is also a 19th century expression, "Sir (or Madam), I am in your debt" that is a very formal way of saying thank you. In modern-day Portuguese, the phrase commonly used to mean "thank you" literally means "obliged" - "Obrigado".

The way to understand Galatians 5:3, I think, is to read the verse as, "Every man who becomes circumcised that he is obliged keep the whole law." This is along the lines of how the ESV ("...is obligated to keep...") and NASB ("... is under obligation to keep ...") translate ὀφειλέτης.

In Romans 1:14, the word is used more in the thankful sense described above (e.g. Much obliged, Port. obrigado).

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