Added Law of Galatians 3:19

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

"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 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 the meaning God inspired the apostle Paul to communicate? This chapter 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 much 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 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 on this place, on man, and on beast, and on the trees of the field, and on 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 change 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 about 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 on you, which I have brought on the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that heals you" (Ex.15:26 KJV). See also Ex.chps.19-20.

This chapter 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.

God's law 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 on the earth. See Ezk.chps.42-46 about the commanded observances, festivals, and sacrifices after Christ returns.


It is important to remember that one reason an erroneous belief about 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 which law was to last until the Seed (the Son of God) came; 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 which 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 on the law, then it no longer depends on 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 Christ, Paul, and the rest of the apostles 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 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 God's eyes—through grace or the law?

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

    • Beck translation: "It was added to arouse transgression;"
    • Good News translation: "It was added in order to show what wrongdoing is."

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, which means 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.4:7-8), 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 important to understand that Israel's descendants forgot most of 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 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 God laws.

In Galatians 3:19, Paul says something which 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.7:12-14) 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 of God's children.


"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 I said , 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 don't want, neither had pleasure therein; which are offered by the law;'

"Then he said , 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 KJV Para., 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 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 God's law.

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, and place God's law 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 God's plan 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.

In Galatians 3:21-22, 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" (Gal.3: 21-22 Para.).

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 their own effort; 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" (Gal.3:23 Para.).

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" (Gal.3:24 Para.).

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" (Gal.3:25 Para.).

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" (Gal.3:26-27 Para.).

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, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise [the promises that God gave to Abraham]" (Gal.3:28-29 Para.).


The law and the sacrificial system, which the Creator God gave to Moses to instruct the Israelites to obey and practice were God's laws, 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 B.L. Cocherell and V.O. Jones b4w4