3:2 Beware of the dogs,2 beware of the evil workers, beware of those who mutilate the flesh!3 3:3 For we are the circumcision,4 the ones who worship by the Spirit of God,5 exult in Christ Jesus, and do not rely on human credentials6
sn Dogs is a figurative reference to false teachers whom Paul regards as just as filthy as dogs.
tn Grk “beware of the mutilation.”
tn There is a significant wordplay here in the Greek text. In v. 2 a rare, strong word is used to describe those who were pro-circumcision (κατατομή, katatomē, “mutilation”; see BDAG 528 s.v.), while in v. 3 the normal word for circumcision is used (περιτομή, peritomē; see BDAG 807 s.v.). Both have τομή (the feminine form of the adjective τομός [tomos], meaning “cutting, sharp”) as their root; the direction of the action of the former is down or off (from κατά, kata), hence the implication of mutilation or emasculation, while the direction of the action of the latter is around (from περί, peri). The similarity in sound yet wide divergence of meaning between the two words highlights in no uncertain terms the differences between Paul and his opponents.
tc The verb λατρεύω (latreuō; here the participial form, λατρεύοντες [latreuontes]) either takes a dative direct object or no object at all, bearing virtually a technical nuance of “worshiping God” (see BDAG 587 s.v.). In this text, πνεύματι (pneumati) takes an instrumental force (“by the Spirit”) rather than functioning as object of λατρεύοντες. However, the word after πνεύματι is in question, no doubt because of the collocation with λατρεύοντες. Most witnesses, including some of the earliest and best representatives of the Alexandrian, Western, and Byzantine texts (א* A B C D2 F G 0278vid 33 1739 1881 𝔐 co Ambr), read θεοῦ (theou; thus, “worship by the Spirit of God”). But several other important witnesses (א2 D* P Ψ 075 365 1175 lat sy Chr) have the dative θεῷ (theō) here (“worship God by the Spirit”). 𝔓46 is virtually alone in its omission of the divine name, probably due to an unintentional oversight. The dative θεῷ was most likely a scribal emendation intended to give the participle its proper object, and thus avoid confusion about the force of πνεύματι. Although the Church came to embrace the full deity of the Spirit, the NT does not seem to speak of worshiping the Spirit explicitly. The reading θεῷ thus appears to be a clarifying reading. On external and internal grounds, then, θεοῦ is the preferred reading.
tn Grk “have no confidence in the flesh.”