Thursday, October 28, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 1:10-24

The Text:

10 Ἄρτι γὰρ ἀνθρώπους πείθω ἢ τὸν θεόν; ἢ ζητῶ ἀνθρώποις ἀρέσκειν; εἰ ἔτι ἀνθρώποις ἤρεσκον, Χριστοῦ δοῦλος οὐκ ἂν ἤμην. 11 Γνωρίζω γὰρ ὑμῖν, ἀδελφοί, τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τὸ εὐαγγελισθὲν ὑπʼ ἐμοῦ ὅτι οὐκ ἔστιν κατὰ ἄνθρωπον• 12 οὐδὲ γὰρ ἐγὼ παρὰ ἀνθρώπου παρέλαβον αὐτὸ οὔτε ἐδιδάχθην, ἀλλὰ διʼ ἀποκαλύψεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. 13 Ἠκούσατε γὰρ τὴν ἐμὴν ἀναστροφήν ποτε ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ, ὅτι καθʼ ὑπερβολὴν ἐδίωκον τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἐπόρθουν αὐτήν, 14 καὶ προέκοπτον ἐν τῷ Ἰουδαϊσμῷ ὑπὲρ πολλοὺς συνηλικιώτας ἐν τῷ γένει μου, περισσοτέρως ζηλωτὴς ὑπάρχων τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων. 15 Ὅτε δὲ εὐδόκησεν [ὁ θεὸς] ὁ ἀφορίσας με ἐκ κοιλίας μητρός μου καὶ καλέσας διὰ τῆς χάριτος αὐτοῦ 16 ἀποκαλύψαι τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα εὐαγγελίζωμαι αὐτὸν ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, εὐθέως οὐ προσανεθέμην σαρκὶ καὶ αἵματι 17 οὐδὲ ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα πρὸς τοὺς πρὸ ἐμοῦ ἀποστόλους, ἀλλὰ ἀπῆλθον εἰς Ἀραβίαν καὶ πάλιν ὑπέστρεψα εἰς Δαμασκόν. 18 Ἔπειτα μετὰ ἔτη τρία ἀνῆλθον εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα ἱστορῆσαι Κηφᾶν καὶ ἐπέμεινα πρὸς αὐτὸν ἡμέρας δεκαπέντε, 19 ἕτερον δὲ τῶν ἀποστόλων οὐκ εἶδον εἰ μὴ Ἰάκωβον τὸν ἀδελφὸν τοῦ κυρίου. 20 ἃ δὲ γράφω ὑμῖν, ἰδοὺ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ ὅτι οὐ ψεύδομαι. 21 Ἔπειτα ἦλθον εἰς τὰ κλίματα τῆς Συρίας καὶ τῆς Κιλικίας• 22 ἤμην δὲ ἀγνοούμενος τῷ προσώπῳ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Ἰουδαίας ταῖς ἐν Χριστῷ. 23 μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες ἦσαν ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει, 24 καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸν θεόν.

v11 γάρ vs. δέ. Almost balanced textual support. One suspects the meaning is not overly affected by the variation.

v15 ὁ Θεός has numerous textual witnesses, but importance texts omit it. It probably should be omitted, since its insertion is explicable by a desire to bring out the implied subject of εὐδόκησεν. Its omission, conversely, would be difficult to explain.

v18 Κηφᾶν is supported by strong textual witnesses, while Πέτρον is almost certainly a later substitution of the more familiar Greek name for the apostle. Such a variation occurs several later times in the epistle, which I will simply note without comment.

Translation:

10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I still were pleasing men, I would not be a slave of Christ. 11 For I make known to you, brothers, the gospel proclaimed by me, that it is not merely human in nature; 12 For neither did I receive it from men nor was taught it, but through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you heard my way of live formerly in Judaism, that I persecuted the church of God in an extreme manner and attempted to destroy it, 14 and was advancing in Judaism beyond many of the cohort of my generation, being an extreme zealot for my ancestral traditions. 15 But when [God], having set me apart from my mothers womb and calling me through his grace, 16 revealed his son in me, so that I might preach him among the nations [Gentiles], I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those apostles that precede me, but I departed into Arabia and returned again to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to pay an inquiring visit to Kephas and I stayed with him fifteen days, 19 but another of the apostles I did not see except Jacob the brother of the Lord. 20 which things I write to you, see! before God, I am not lying. 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; 22 I was unknown by face to the churches of Judaea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing that the one formerly persecuting them not preached the Faith which formerly he sought to destroy, 24 and they glorified God because of me.

Comments:

Although some read πείθω and ἀρέσκειν as having virtually the same force, I think it better to give each an independent force. So Paul raises the question about (a) persuading, and (b) pleasing, and implies a dichotomy between the two. Is the object of his persuasive efforts God or men? The second clause of 10, ‘or do I seek to please men?’ along with the answer in 10c, resolves the rhetorical questions. Paul isn’t making a rhetorical defence before God, since he has no need to persuade God nor purpose in doing so, but rather seeks to please God. On the other hand, his persuasive attempts are directed towards human beings, which is why he doesn’t seek to please human beings. In 10c Paul suggests that service (slavery) to Christ, necessarily rules out pleasing men. This verse sets up the tone of the rest of the passage, which will launch into Paul’s defence of his gospel and apostleship.

v11 then functions as a topic sentence, about the nature and origin of Paul’s gospel. It is not κατὰ ἄνθρωπον, ‘according to men’, which should probably be understood as ‘being human in nature and characteristics’. The reason for its non-human character is, v12, its non human origins – neither received (the passing on of tradition) from a human being, nor taught it, but by a direct, supernatural revelation whose agent and source if Jesus Christ.

Paul’s backing (γὰρ) for the radical nature of this revelation is point to his former way of life ‘in Judaism’. However we want to read the parting of the ways, Paul is prepared to see his former life as part of a distinct religious identity of ‘Judaism’. There is real irony that to ‘advance in Judaism’ was to ‘persecute τὴν ἐκκλησίαν τοῦ θεοῦ, a phrase which has the Jewish identity of ‘Israel’, but which Paul now situates as ‘God’s assembly’. To advance in Judaism was to persecute the Israel of God (cf. 6:16). Though I would be reluctant to assert any literary or direct connection, the zeal for τῶν πατρικῶν μου παραδόσεων matches well with Jesus’ own engagement with the Pharisaical schools, as in Mark 7:1-23.

The construction of v15 is odd, partly because the flow of thought introduced by ‘but when God was pleased...’ is interrupted by an extended description of God in terms of Paul’s setting-apart from the womb and calling. The phrase is drawn from Isaiah 49:1, with further correspondence to Jeremiah 1:5, and situates Paul’s calling in terms of the Old Testament prophets. What other category for calling would Paul have drawn upon? For this reason, I cannot sanction interpretations that want to deny a conversion experience to Paul in place of a ‘calling’ experience. Paul’s radical then/now Judaism/Christ constructions rules out a purely intra-Judaism development.

The nature of Paul’s calling is specified in v16, to preach the gospel to the nations. Nations here should be understood in its typical sense, ‘Gentiles’, hence my inclusion in brackets. Thus, Paul’s calling and conversion to some extent coincide. Whether v16 ἐν ἐμοί is to be taken as ‘in me’, as the location of the revelation, or else instrumentally ‘by me’, to Paul’s ongoing revelation of the Christ through his preaching, is open to debate. Though Paul’s ongoing preaching is logically dependent upon the revelation of the Christ to him.

Paul now emphasises the autonomy of his initial period. He did not ‘consult with flesh and blood’ – reinforcing his earlier comment in v12, about the non-human origin and teaching of his gospel. v17 likewise disassociates his gospel activity from the Jerusalem-apostles Rather, Paul went to Arabia (i.e. the Nabataean kingdom), and specifically Damascus.

The three year gap before Paul visits Jerusalem gives his gospel and apostleship a ‘distance’ from the Jerusalem apostles which serves as Paul’s defence of its independence. He does not deny dealing with the Jerusalem apostles, but is keen to delineate his autobiography in terms that demonstrate that independence. So, v18, he mentions his visit to Kephas (Peter), which lasted 15 days, and involved no other major Jerusalem identities beyond Jacob (James), the brother of Jesus. v20 is a meta-comment upon the narrative itself – Paul draws attention to his self-disclosure and attests to his truthfulness. v21-24 summarise events beyond that initial visit – his return into Syria and Cilicia, the fact that he was not acquainted in person with Judean churches, and they praised God.

We might also note that Paul’s visit to Jerusalem here is informal. There is not delegation, no officiality, just Paul coming to Jerusalem and meeting two Christian leaders. He is again emphasising that he didn’t ‘get’ his gospel on this occasion. Indeed, cross-checking with Acts reveals his prior gospel ministry. Secondly, ‘the Faith’ in v23 is a remarkably Christian expression, since Christianity as a religion is built upon ‘Faith’. To speak of other religious traditions as ‘faiths’ is to import a key Christian distinctive into them, that is not necessarily present. So Paul can speak of preaching the Faith in a unique sense of the word. This section, 1:11-24, repeatedly hammers the defence of the source of Paul’s gospel and Paul’s apostleship.

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