Galatians 3:19 is  the verse that is probably quoted  more often than  any other in an attempt to prove that the laws concerning sacrifices  were not a part of the original law of God:

"What, then, was the purpose of the law?  It was added because of transgressions  until the Seed to whom the promise  referred  had come. The law was put into effect through angels by a mediator" (NIV).

It  has been taught for a long time that the 'added law'  of Galatians is the sacrificial system, and encompasses all of the other laws God instructed Moses to give to the people.  Jeremiah 7:21-22 is often quoted as additional proof of this  teaching.  But, do these scriptures actually say that the sacrificial system was an addition to the original law?  

Both the  New International Version and the King James Version of the Bible have translated the Greek word 'prostithemi' as 'added'. However, is this really the meaning that God inspired the apostle Paul to communicate? This study will show that the  important meaning of Galatians 3:19 has little to do with the exact  translation  of the Greek word 'prostithemi', but it has a lot to do  with the promises  and the covenant that God made with  Abraham  and  his descendants.  A  closer look at Galatians 3:19 will  show  that  the apostle  Paul  intended something quite different from what most translations of the Bible communicate through their use of the word 'added'.


The Good News Bible:   

"What,  then,  was the purpose of the Law?  It  was  added in order to show what wrongdoing is,  and  it  was meant  to last until the coming of Abraham's descendant,  to whom the promise was made.  The Law was handed down by angels,  with a man acting as a go-between."

Williams  translation:  

"Then what about the law?   It was added later on to increase transgressions, until the descendant to whom the promise was made should come,  enacted through the agency  of angels in the person of an intermediary."

Beck translation:  

"Why, then, was the Law given? It was added to arouse transgressions until the Descendant would come to whom the promise  was made.  And it was given through angels in the hands of a mediator."

The Living Bible:  

"Well then,  why were the laws  given?   They were  added after the promise was given,  to show men how  guilty they  are of breaking God's laws.   But this system of law was to last only until the coming of Christ,  the Child to  whom  God's  promise  was made.  (And there is this further  difference.   God gave  his laws to angels to give to Moses,  who then gave them to the people."

After reading the various translations of this verse, it is  apparent that these  laws  were given to make the people aware that  they  were sinners, to show them what sin is,  and to convict them of their sins. As the Beck translation shows, the law was like a stick with  which a  trainer stirs up a sleeping wild animal to show how uncontrollable and dangerous the animal really is.


"The  children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire,  and the women knead their dough, to make cakes to the queen of  heaven,  and to pour out drink offerings to other gods, that  they may provoke me to anger . . .. Therefore this says the  Lord  God; Behold, my anger and my fury shall be poured out upon this place, upon  man, and upon beast, and upon the trees of the  field,  and upon the fruit of the ground; and it shall burn, and shall not be quenched" (Jer.7:18,20 KJV).

Verses 18-20 show that when the people worshiped the queen of heaven and offered sacrifices to her, God became  very angry with them and instructed Jeremiah to warn them that if they would not repent and changes their ways, he would destroy their land.

Jeremiah 7:21 and 30

To  fully  understand the message Paul tries to convey in Galatians 3:19, we must first understand what God says in Jeremiah 7:21 and 30:

"This  is  what the Lord Almighty, the God of  Israel,  says:  Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and  eat the meat yourselves!" (Jer.7:21 NIV).

The  context of Jeremiah chapter seven is one of condemnation  of the Israelites for their departure from worshiping the true  God and  their pollution of his altar with sacrifices to false  gods. God tells the Israelites that the sacrifices they offered were not the  ones he had sanctioned; these offerings to false  gods  were theirs—not his—because he had no part in them.

"For the children of Judah have done evil in my sight, says  the Lord:  they  have set their abominations in the  house  which  is called by my name, to pollute it" (Jer.7:30 KJV).

Jeremiah 7:22

Because Jeremiah  7:22 is used to support the  teaching  that  the sacrificial law was added after God became aware  of the Israelite's proclivity to disobey him, it is important to carefully analyze this verse to see if this teaching has any merit:

"For  I spoke not to your fathers, nor commanded them in the  day that  I brought them out of the land of Egypt,  concerning  burnt offerings  or  sacrifices" (Jer.7:22 KJV).

Although God spoke to the Israelites "in the day" he brought them out of Egypt, he did not speak to them concerning the sacrifices at that time.

The  key  to understanding this verse is the Hebrew  word for  'day' in verse 22 which, is 'yom'. It can mean 'a day', 'a year' or 'some indeterminate period of time'.

The biblical record of the Israelite's exodus from Egypt clearly shows that the day (i.e., period of time) that is referred  to in  verse 22 cannot refer to the exact day that the  children  of Israel left Egypt, the day they camped  near the Red Sea, or the day they camped at  Succoth after crossing the Red Sea.

If a specific day is being referred to in verse 22, it is most likely that the  time the Israelites camped at the waters of Marah, which was three days after the crossing of the Red Sea, or the time they arrived at Mount Sinai three months  later (Ex.19:1). It is during these times that God offered the Israelites an agreement that contained the Ten Commandments and the  condition  of obedience to his voice (i.e., obedience to  whatever  he asked them to do):

"But  I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be  your  God and  you will be my people. Walk in all the ways I  command  you, that  it  may  go  well with you. But  they  did not  listen. . ." (Jer.7:23-24 NIV).

"If you will diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord  your God, and will do that which is right in his sight, and will  give ear  to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I  will put none  of these diseases upon you, which I have brought  upon  the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that heals you" (Ex.15:26 KJV).  See also Ex.chps.19-20.

This study has already shown that during Moses' first forty  days  and nights  on  Mount Sinai, he received the  sacrificial  system  of worship.  From what God said from Mount Sinai, it should be very clear  that he has an overall plan for  humanity  that includes his  whole law—the commandments,  judgments, statutes and the sacrificial system. See Lev.chps.1-7.

The law of God does not consist of independent parts; God's law is a system of interdependent laws. Within these laws the  way to  secure  salvation and eternal life is revealed (2.Tim.3:15). It  is this whole body of law that will again be instituted after the  return of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the Kingdom of God  upon the  earth. See Ezk.chps.42-46 and our study  papers concerning the sacred  observances,  festivals, and  sacrifices  after  the return of Christ.


It is important to remember that one reason the present  belief  concerning Galatians  3:19 came about is that most theologians and  Bible scholars understood  that the Ten Commandments were not canceled when  Christ was crucified. However, they did not clearly  understand the eternal nature of God's law and its prophetic relationship to the Messiah. Moreover, they did not know what the law that was to   last  until the Seed (the Son of God) came was;  therefore, they put forth the theory that the added law must have been the sacrificial system and the other laws that God spoke to Moses.

In order get a better  understanding of  Galatians 3:19 it is necessary to  establish the context in which Paul makes the  statement  about  the law that some feel was added:

"Now  the  promises were made to Abraham and  his  descendants. . . What  I mean is this: the covenant that was confirmed  before  of God  in  Christ, the law, which was introduced four hundred  and thirty  years after this, cannot set aside this covenant. For  if the inheritance depends upon the law, then it no longer  depends upon  the  promise;  but God in his grace  gave  it  to Abraham" (Gal.3:16-18 Para.).

These verses show that the context of Galatians 3:19 is within a review of the promises and covenant that God made with Abraham and his descendants.

While studying the writings of Paul, notice that he  emphatically states that the Ten Commandments are holy, just, and good, and that they are the spiritual part of God's law. See Rom.chp.7.  

It  is also evident from the scriptures that Paul, the  rest  of the  apostles, and Christ kept the Ten Commandments and other laws of God.

Another important thing to keep in mind is  that  the breaking of the Ten Commandments constitutes sin (1.Jn.3:4),  and that  the Ten Commandments are not in question in  the Book  of Galatians. What is in question is the method by which a  person becomes justified or declared righteous in the eyes of God—through grace or the law?

The following are two translations of what Galatians 3:19 states concerning the reason God gave the law:

Both of these translations show that the purpose of the law spoken of here is to show people their sins. Moreover, Paul brings out this point when he says, "By the law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom.3:20).

The most important question to be answered surrounding  Galatians chapter three does not concern the exact translation of the Greek word  'prostithemi' ('added' or  'repeated') in verse 3; it concerns the reason  that  the law was added or repeated. However, if the word added is replaced with 'repeated', a huge difference in meaning is revealed.

We  know  that God gave Adam and Eve the   Ten  Commandments  and other  laws after they disobeyed him and ate of the tree  of  the knowledge  of good and evil,  because both Abel  and Cain offered sacrifices (Gen.4:4-7). Moreover,  Cain  sinned (Gen.4:8), and sin is the violation of any law of God (1.Jn.3:4).  Additionally Abraham obeyed God's law (Gen.26:5).

 It  is  very important to understand  that  Israel's  descendants  forgot  God's laws while they sojourned in Egypt.  They had  even forgotten which day was the Sabbath. Therefore, God had to show  them which day it was by a special miracle (Ex.16). The laws that they forgot included laws that dictated how to establish and maintain a harmonious  relationship  with God through the sacrificial system.  Therefore,  at Mount  Sinai, God  repeated his laws to them for the  purpose  of showing  them what sin is. Moreover, he explained how to perform  the sacrificial system in order to remove physical defilement and atone  for their sins so that these sins could be set aside and hidden from his view.

Another  important point is that, in Galatians chapter three,  Paul  refers  to the law that was a part of the  first  covenant with  national Israel, which would last until  Christ came and offered his life as the perfect  sacrifice for those who would accept it as having the power to remove their sins and erase the death penalty that hung over their heads as  a result of the many times they had violated the law of God.

See  our study paper concerning the first and  second  agreements with Israel and the agreement with those who are called to salvation during the gospel age.

In  Galatians  3:19, Paul  says something that is  understood  by very  few people.  He says that the law would last until  Christ  came.  The question is what law would only last until Christ came?

The Ten Commandments are holy  and  spiritual (Rom.7:14)  and cannot be done away with. Moreover, they were never in  question and they  were being practiced by the apostles and the early church; therefore,  logic  should tell us that whatever law would only last  until  Christ came must have been something other  than  the  Ten Commandments.

It can only be assumed that, Because Paul  referred  to  the first agreement God made with national Israel, whatever  law was  to last until Christ came concerns the terms and  conditions of this first agreement.

When the first agreement  with ancient Israel and  the prophecies  about  its cancellation are examined, it can be found that the  only thing  canceled and changed has to do with the method by which a person establishes and maintains a harmonious relationship with God (i.e., how one obtains justification).

"Behold,  the  days come, says the Lord, that I will make  a  new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers  in the day  that I took them by the hand to bring them out  of  the land  of  Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I  was  a husband to them, says the Lord:  But  this shall be the covenant that I will make with the  house of Israel; After those days, says  the Lord, I will put my law in their inward  parts, and write it in their hearts; and  will  be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer.31:31-33 KJV).

A new agreement was necessary, because the Israelites broke the first one; moreover, the new agreement would become a part of each individual child of God.


"Wherefore when he comes into the world, he says, Sacrifice  and offering  you would not [don't want], but a body have you prepared  me: In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you have had no pleasure.

"Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of  me,) to do your will, O God. Above when he  said,  Sacrifice and  offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin you  would  not [don't want], neither had pleasure therein; which are  offered  by the law;

"Then said he, Lo, I come to do your will, O God.  He takes  away the  first, that he may establish the second.  By the which  will we  are  sanctified  through the offering of the  body of  Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb.10:5-10 quoted from Psalm 40:6-8).

The writer to the Hebrews tells us that Christ was the perfect sacrifice  and that, through him, the first agreement was  canceled in favor of a far better one. And under this new  agreement,  a person can be set apart for a holy purpose  through  his sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin:

"For  by  one offering he has perfected for ever  them  that  are sanctified" (Heb.10:14 KJV).

By Jesus Christ's perfect sacrifice a person is now able to stand before God the Father as a righteous, sinless individual.

The major difference between the terms and conditions of the  old and  the new agreements with national Israel has to do  with  the method  by which a person becomes justified  before God  the Father.

Why  did  the first agreement with national Israel have  to  end? The first agreement had to end because, in order to  be   declared  righteous  in  God's eyes under the  first  agreement,  a person had to do all of the things contained in the law:

"And  it  shall  be our righteousness,  if we observe to  do  all these  commandments before the Lord our God, as he has  commanded us" (Deut.6:25 Para.).

Speaking  of everyone, except Jesus Christ, Paul said  that  all have  sinned and found to be unworthy of the glory of  being  able  to perfectly  keep  the Law of  God  on  their own. See Rom.3:23.

As we know, the sacrifice of the blood of bulls and goats  cannot take  away  sins  (Heb.10:4). So, the  sacrifices  that  were offered before the advent of Christ could not take away  sins; they were inadequate.


There  were two necessary changes that had to be made in  the agreement  with national Israel in order to fulfill the  promises that God had made with the Patriarchs and to  accomplish the salvation of humanity.

First, in order for a person to remain sinless before God, there needed to be a perfect sacrifice to atone for  sins and  to remove the record of these sins forever.

Second, there needed to be a change made in the hearts, minds, and spirits of people so that they would have the desire to keep the law of God.

Both  of the conditions for these necessary changes were  met  by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Through his sacrifice,  he paid the penalty for the sins of humanity and provided a way  for a person to become totally sinless. Because  God's  spirit-presence  can  only dwell where there is sinlessness, a  person could only become  sinless after the sacrifice  of  Christ, which made it possible for the power of God to transform the sinless person into a new creation,  through  the placing of the law of God into a person's very being, which causes a change in the heart, mind, and spirit.

This  is  why a new agreement was necessary. The  old  method  of justification  by works was only to last until Christ  came, when everyone could be justified (declared righteous) by belief in the perfect atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The  events of the Passover and the Day of Pentecost in  30  A.D. canceled the first agreement with national Israel and ushered  in a  new agreement with all of humanity. This new agreement is a  part of  the plan of God for the salvation of humanity, which was  conceived  long before the foundation of the earth and the  creation of humanity. See Matt.26:27-28; 1.Cor.11:25.

The  method  by  which people were to be able  to  establish  and maintain  a  harmonious relationship  with  God (justification, through the  performance of physical works)  was only  to  last until  the Creator God himself could come to make  the  necessary change in the agreement with the Patriarchs, Israel, and the rest of  humanity.

GALATIANS 3:21-29 Paraphrased

In verse 21 Paul says that the law is righteous  (Ps.119:137-144), but  the people failed in their attempt to  keep  the law, because they were weak:

"Is the law against the promises that God gave to Abraham that we could  be  justified by our belief in him [Jesus  Christ]?   Paul answers:   God forbid:  for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been  by the law. But the scripture has concluded all under sin, that the  promise by  faith  of Jesus Christ might be given to them  that  believe" (vs.21-22).

Paul  explains  that the scriptures say that all have  failed  in their  own attempts to keep God's law and to be righteous in  his eyes.  And  the reason for this failure is that God  made  humans subject to sin so that no one could ever be justified  by  one's own efforts; therefore, they would have to look to the promise  of becoming righteous through faith in Christ.

"But  before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut  up  to the faith which should afterwards be revealed" (v23).

Paul said that, before Christ came,  we were all held prisoner  by the law and were all awaiting death. We were in prison, because the law requires death  for  the  breaking of God's law.  Because all  people have broken  the  law, all come under the death penalty.   But  Christ came  and revealed a way to be set free.  All a person has to  do is believe in the atoning power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and one can be set  free from the penalty of eternal death,  because Christ paid the penalty by standing in the place of humanity and accepting their punishment.

"Wherefore  the law was our schoolmaster to bring us  to  Christ, that we might be justified by faith" (v24).

The law taught what was right and wrong.  But, it also held humanity  captive until Christ came so that we could be  justified by his blood; thus, we could be justified by faith.

"But  after faith came, we are no longer under the  schoolmaster" (v25).

After Christ came and revealed how we could be justified by faith in  him, we were no longer under the death penalty that  the  law (the  schoolmaster)  had invoked. We were acquitted  of  our crimes and set free, through the redeeming blood of Christ.

"For  you are all the children of God by faith in  Christ  Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put  on Christ" (vs.26-27).

After baptism into the Family of God, a person is given  the spirit of Christ, which dwells within them; therefore, that person has also been clothed with the life of Christ himself.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, . . . bond nor free, . . . male  nor female:  for  you  are all one in Christ Jesus.  And  if  you  be Christ's [accept  him], then you are Abraham's seed,  and heirs according  to  the promise [the promises that God gave to Abraham]" (vs.28-29).


This  study  has shown that the sacrifices and the laws that  God gave  to Moses are the Laws of God, and these laws did not originate from Moses.  Moreover, they are not an added law, as the King James  Version  and several other modern versions of Galatians 3:19  seem to  indicate. However, these laws were all given as a  whole, each one is dependent on the other, and each one has its place in  the plan that God has for the benefit and salvation  of  mankind.

By V. O. Jones and B.L. Cocherell, file b4w7