Wednesday, November 24, 2010

From an Iraq veteran

Due to my breakdown, my platoon sergeant, my chaplain, and my first sergeant go to bat for me and go talk to the sergeant major to get me to move to chaplain assistant. So I get moved from my mortar platoon to chaplain assistant, which was probably the best move they could ever make. I was able to get the chaplain’s assistant work done pretty much before day ended, and bought a computer, and started writing out my conscientious objection application. My claim was, I’m a Christian. Jesus said love my enemy. How can I not do what he says and still call him Lord?

A full interview can be read at the war project.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Work completed

It's always fulfilling to complete some work. I've recently finished up doing a big of translation which you can read about here on the Great Stemma. A small contribution to a far greater project.

My thesis is done, and should be submitted in the next few days.

At a bit of a loss - working on a few small things, trying to get that PhD thesis proposal together, and interviewing for a few jobs.

Augustine on why not to be boring

Rhetoric, after all, being the art of persuading people to accept something, whether it is true or false, would anyone dare to maintain that truth should stand there without any weapons in the hands of its defenders against falsehood; that those speakers, that is to say, who are trying to convince their hearers of what is untrue, should know how to get them on their side, to gain their attention and have them eating out of their hands by their opening remarks, while these who are defending the truth should not? That those should utter their lies briefly, clearly, plausibly, and these should state their truths in a manner too boring to listen to, too obscure to understand, and finally too repellent to believe? That those should attack the truth with specious arguments, and assert falsehoods, while these should be incapable of either defending the truth or refuting falsehood? that those, to move and force the minds of their hearers into error, should be able by their style to terrify them, move them to tears, make them laugh, give them rousing encouragement, while these on behalf of truth stumble along slow, cold and half asleep?

De Doctrina Christiana IV.2.3. Translation by Edmund Hill.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 2:11-21


11 Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν Κηφᾶς εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην, ὅτι κατεγνωσμένος ἦν. 12 πρὸ τοῦ γὰρ ἐλθεῖν τινας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβου μετὰ τῶν ἐθνῶν συνήσθιεν• ὅτε δὲ ἦλθον, ὑπέστελλεν καὶ ἀφώριζεν ἑαυτὸν φοβούμενος τοὺς ἐκ περιτομῆς. 13 καὶ συνυπεκρίθησαν αὐτῷ [καὶ] οἱ λοιποὶ Ἰουδαῖοι, ὥστε καὶ Βαρναβᾶς συναπήχθη αὐτῶν τῇ ὑποκρίσει. 14 ἀλλʼ ὅτε εἶδον ὅτι οὐκ ὀρθοποδοῦσιν πρὸς τὴν ἀλήθειαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, εἶπον τῷ Κηφᾷ ἔμπροσθεν πάντων• εἰ σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ὑπάρχων ἐθνικῶς καὶ οὐχὶ Ἰουδαϊκῶς ζῇς, πῶς τὰ ἔθνη ἀναγκάζεις ἰουδαΐζειν; 15 Ἡμεῖς φύσει Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἐθνῶν ἁμαρτωλοί• 16 εἰδότες [δὲ] ὅτι οὐ δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ἐξ ἔργων νόμου ἐὰν μὴ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, καὶ ἡμεῖς εἰς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐπιστεύσαμεν, ἵνα δικαιωθῶμεν ἐκ πίστεως Χριστοῦ καὶ οὐκ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου, ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων νόμου οὐ δικαιωθήσεται πᾶσα σάρξ. 17 εἰ δὲ ζητοῦντες δικαιωθῆναι ἐν Χριστῷ εὑρέθημεν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἁμαρτωλοί, ἆρα Χριστὸς ἁμαρτίας διάκονος; μὴ γένοιτο. 18 εἰ γὰρ ἃ κατέλυσα ταῦτα πάλιν οἰκοδομῶ, παραβάτην ἐμαυτὸν συνιστάνω. 19 ἐγὼ γὰρ διὰ νόμου νόμῳ ἀπέθανον, ἵνα θεῷ ζήσω. Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι• 20 ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ, ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός• ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί, ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ. 21 Οὐκ ἀθετῶ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ• εἰ γὰρ διὰ νόμου δικαιοσύνη, ἄρα Χριστὸς δωρεὰν ἀπέθανεν.


12 τινας ; τινα – the manuscript support for the former is strong and diverse, and the former reading is more logical in the context.

12 ἦλθον ; ἦλθεν – the manuscript support is slightly more even on this variation, but the former reading is preferable, matching the τινας of the preceding.


11 But when Kephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was condemned. 12 for before the coming certain men from Jacob he ate together with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those of the Circumcision. 13 and the remaining Jews joined him in hypocrisy, so that even Barnabas was lead astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not dealing straight in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Kephas before all, “If you, being a Jew, do not live in a Jewish manner, why do you compel the nations to Judaise? 15 We by nature are Jews and not sinners of the Nations; 16 but knowing that a human being is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by the works of the law all flesh will not be justified. 17 But if we are found to be seeking to be justified in Christ and are ourselves sinners, then is Christ a servant of sin? Not so! 18 For I, through the law, died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been co-crucified with Christ; 20 and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me; what I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God that loved me and gave himself on my behalf. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God: for if through the law came righteousness, then Christ died vainly.


In verse 11 we have both the continuations of Paul’s temporally marked biographical defence, but also the introduction of a new sequence. Peter comes to Antioch, and there is a division between Peter and Paul, which Paul goes on to relate. Paul gives the reason for his strong opposition – Peter ‘was condemned’. This may be understood as ‘Peter stood condemned’ by his actions. Paul then explains the basis for Peter’s condemnation in verse 12. His former practice was to share table-fellowship, to eat, with the Gentile believes (with ‘the nations’), an action that Paul understands as being in line with the Gospel message. And, indeed, Peter does too, based upon Acts at least. Yet a new party comes to Antioch, ‘certain men from Jacob (James)’. While Peter and James certainly represent a Christianity more deeply embedded in Jewish cultural practices, it is a mistake to overread this diversity. Debate continues about how we should understand the relationship between these men and James himself. Are they authorised? Do they represent James and James’ position? Acts 15 suggests not. On this basis, I am inclined to see the party as a group associated with James’ more Jewish Christian practice, but more conservative than James himself, and not an authorised delegation by any means. They have some association with James and represent themselves as coming from him.

Paul makes Peter’s very separation a gospel-issue. That is the basis of Paul’s condemnation of Peter. Not that eating with Jews, or eating according to Jewish food laws, is wrong. But that to do so in a context that separates oneself from Gentile believers carries a communication: that they do not have genuine fellowship together.

So much so, that verse 13 introduces the language of hypocrisy. Peter’s actions are out of line with his own beliefs. No doubt that if questioned, Peter’s response would be some kind of accommodation-line. The point here is that in seeking not to offend the Jewish faction, Peter is in fact undermining the gospel message by cutting off the Gentile believers.

So Paul confronts Peter in v14, as he observes that there practice does not align with ‘the truth of the Gospel’. His question highlights Peter’s hypocrisy: since Peter is a Jew, and is free from the Law and so regularly eats and lives like a Gentile, how can he in fact force Gentiles to live in a Jewish manner? This is the outcome of Peter’s withdrawal – it sends the message that Gentile believers will need to ‘Judaise’ in order to have full insider-status in the new Christian movement. Even though Peter himself makes no move to ‘compel’ the Gentiles, his actions are tantamount to the same.

It is unclear when the speech of Paul shifts from historical recollection of conversation with Peter to epistolary discourse with the Galatians, but it is certainly not before v15. The ‘we’ of v15 follows (or establishes, if you prefer), the distinct referents of we vs. you in the letter. We, referring at least to Paul and Peter, but by implication other Jewish-background believers, is used to distinguish Peter and Paul from ‘Gentile sinners’. Paul asserts this as a statement of who they are ‘by nature’. They were born as Jews and so were not unclean Gentiles. And yet, even being such Jews, Paul adds the participial phrase of v16, ‘knowing that a human being is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ’. Paul here states the key theological principle that drives both his rebuke of Peter, and his argument within Galatians. He draws upon Psalm 143:2, with a shift from πᾶς ζῶν to πᾶσα σάρξ, but more importantly adds ἐξ ἔργων νόμου. The future tense δικαιωθήσεται may refer to a decisively eschatological justification, rather than a generic one. This will have important theological implications.

Immediately then we enter into two significant debates. The first is concerning the phrase ἐξ ἔργων νόμου works of the Law. For my part I am unpersuaded by the arguments of the NPP to understand this as something like ‘Jewish boundary markers of ethno-religious identity’. It certainly fails to function that way in Galatians. Neither should it be pushed to a generic ‘legalism.’ Rather, it expresses Torah-obedience within a Mosaic covenant context, which appears to be what the Judaising-teachers in Galatia are pushing for.

The second is debate over the meaning of ‘righteousness’ and ‘justify’ language. Again, I find the NPP unpersuasive. That, a la Wright, justification should be redefined in largely covenant-inclusion terms seems to make a nonsense of justification language at all. I stand with a traditional stream that sees ‘to justify’ to have legal connotations, and to include the idea of declaring and so performatively making right. More on this to come.

v16 then expresses Paul’s conviction, from the scriptures, that a human being is not (and cannot) be right before God through obedience to the Law, but can be so justified, can be so right, through faith in Jesus Christ. (In some instances, I suppose one might take ‘faith of Jesus Christ’ to refer to Jesus’ faithfulness, but I find this position also unconvincing). The fact that Peter and Paul both know this, is why they, as Jews, trusted in Christ – there was no salvation for them through the (works of the) Law. Paul is tripley emphatic here: he first declares what ‘we’ (Jewish believers) know [justification through faith not works of law], then declares that they believed in Christ so that [justification through faith not works of law], because [justification through faith not works of law]. Peter and Paul are in agreement that one has to stop ‘doing’ the Law.

In v17 Paul raises the question: if as believers in Christ and no longer Law-observers, we are ‘sinners’, in that same old covenant sense that Paul raises back in v15, does this in fact make the Messiah a servant or minister of sin? Paul’s emphatic μὴ γένοιτο not only rules this out, but is an expression of its absurdity. v18 gives the reason. ‘sinner’ in the ‘Gentile sinner’ sense is an empty term – it’s been robbed of its meaning by the coming of the new covenantal reality. Rather, to go back to the Law, to the old covenantal reality, would in fact make Paul a transgressor. In reestablishing the Law as a principle for life and obedience before God, the inevitable outcome is sin by the standard of the Law, and so condemnation by the Law. Implicit in Paul’s argument is that Peter’s choice to withdraw from Gentile company and meals, is based on an observance of the Law not only not necessary any more, but in fact a return to it undoes and undermines the Gospel freedom that faith in Christ brings.

The final three verses shift to a very personal note as Paul relates his own salvific existential reality. The Law was the means of Paul’s death insofar as he was condemned by the Law, because the Law is a mechanism of death. The Law produces neither righteousness or life with respect to God. It isn’t designed to do so. And yet, Paul’s death to Law through Law iis the means for life – only through dying to the Law can the Jewish Paul live unto God. Paul immediately links such Law-death to the crucifixion. Paul’s co-crucifixion with Christ is his objective union and participation in Christ precisely and predominately in the Cross event which is the ground of justification. There is no justification without union with Christ. This union and identification is so complete that Paul in verse 20 can state that it is no longer the “I” that lives. There is a kind of ego-death for the Christian, which I believe Paul generalises in 5:17. Who then lives in Paul? None other than the Messiah. And yet Paul does not deny that there is a ‘Paul’ who carries out an existence, ‘life in the flesh’, but that life is entirely by faith, nor is it any generic faith, but a very specific faith in the Son of God (royal-messianic language) who loved Paul even to the point of substitionary death. Paul is caught up in the overwhelming experience of his own reception of grace: the King loved me and died for me: the new life is the life united to the rised Christ. All this to say that Paul’s gospel does not nullify God’s grace, even the gracious gift of the Law. Paul would in fact be nullifying the grace of God if he demanded Torah-observance. And yet, if Torah-observance could in fact bring righteousness, if the Law was a mechanism for righteousness and life, then Christ and his death was pointless, unneccesary. And so Paul prepares to move into the third chapter, wherein he will go head to head with the Judaising teachers about their vain gospel which renders Christ’s death useless.

Some recent blog posts on the debate over 2:16 faith in Christ/Christ's faithfulness. I am in substantial agreement.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Tasks for Nov & Dec

Well, my master's thesis is virtually complete. This morning I sent through a final draft to my supervisor, and pending a nod of approval from him, I'll print it up and submit it, probably next week now. I had hoped to submit this very week, but I feel it would be slightly foolish to submit a thesis without my supervisor looking at the final draft first.

The job front is still pending, but things are looking brighter. More on that when things are clearer.

That leaves about 6 weeks before the end of the year. And a few projects to tidy up:

* Gregory reader. I've let it slide the last couple of months, but I'm planning to pick it up again and put in the effort. I could at least have the reader done with vocab, if not grammatical commentary, by the end of the year, and release a Beta version with just the vocab helps.

* Find a PhD topic. I need to reignite that conversation, and do some more research in the field, in order to formulate something both interesting, researchable, and acceptable to the university.

* I'd like to finish up the Galatians series. These are exegetical notes that came out of an MA subject I audited, and it would be good to get through the book.

* Still tidying up a few pieces of Latin translation for a project. And then need to prepare for the Latin Summer School in January as well.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Publish. verb. to make something public.

The irony of publishing today is that publishing does anything but make something public.

With the invention of the printing press, ‘publishing’ became a live possibility. That is, a means for the mass reproduction of written material was available, and in conjunction with the Reformation and related social and religious changes, put to great effect. Writers could, with the proper backing, produce a text and see it promulgated to all and sundry. It was possible for private discourse to become public propaganda (in the most beneficent sense of the word).

As publishing developed it became more and more a means to share – to share ideas and information. How else would you get your ideas into the hands of others interested to read them and hear them, short of going in person to speak?
Eventually you get the advent of periodicals and journals. Regular publications designed to highlight and desseminate worthy writings on a particular topic. Now ‘to publish’ means to have a piece deemed worthy by the editors, or peer-review, of being given a hearing. A form of censorship and vetting enters the process. And not necessarily a bad one. The control of publishing is also a filter for garbage, provided the filter can be trusted.

But we now live in a world where academic publishing does anything but make knowledge public. That is, the cost of subscriptions continues to increase, and journals become harder to access, and copyright is locked up and articles remain hidden behind fireways and pay-walls, and all this made sense in an older world, but this is the world of the internet. This is the age when someone can publish something online, public for anyone who can get hold of a computer with a connection (admittedly a small percent of the population, yet a staggeringly large small-percent).

So now the cost of academics choosing to publish in elitist journals, with commercially-driven pricing agendas, is not to spread their ideas, but to refuse to spread their ideas. ‘Publish or perish’ actually means ‘play the prestige game’ of elitest academic publishing. What good is another academic tome selling for $200? It will only be bought by libraries and borrowed by a handful of people. What good is an article that is published 3 years later than it was relevant, in a journal only those with access to wealthy libraries can read? When this kind of work could be freely and publicly published for all? Sure, we can quibble about the value of peer-review (though even in the hard sciences peer-review is not always all it makes itself out to be – there are personal and political agendas there too) and filtering the garbage, But if a work is good enough to stand on its own, then readers should be critical enough to come to their own determinations and conclusions. It is the task of the student and reader to assess their sources thoroughly.

Knowledge wants to be free. Ideas live by copying. No-one loses from free information, except the gatekeepers of dead media.

Two thoughts on 'the social network'

The wife and I watched 'the social network' on Saturday. It's a passable movie. It's worth keeping in mind that it's not only fictional, but the work of a team that doesn't want to let truth get in the way of story. That said there are two lines in the movie worth reflecting on.

1. "A guy who makes a new chair doesn't owe money to everyone who ever built a chair."

This is the essence of the case against intellectual property. What is it to own an idea? You can't control it, you can't exclude people from using it, there's no physical means of doing so. It's not a 'thing'. And IP by nature must be copied to be shared. But copies don't dilute in value. If I take your idea of a chair, I haven't taken anything from you. You aren't short the idea of the chair. Want to be the only guy in town making chairs? Sure, but let's not call it property.

Much as movie-Zuckerburg is unlikeable, he's at least right on this, even if the scriptwriters missed the biggest point of their film.

2. There's a line in the film, I haven't found it online, but it's the moment when Zuckerburg talks about "taking the whole college experience and putting it online", and I think it's linked to the relationship-status epiphany.

Here's the biggest secret about facebook - the biggest game on facebook is not farmville, it's facebook. facebook is the game. or, college is the game. or, high school is the game. or, social networking *is* the game. Do you see that? That high-school in micro, and then college for a bunch of people, is actually about a social game in which the nebulous contest is for popularity, but not necessarily in a crass 'I have the most friends' kind of way, but in a thousand subtle interactions, attempts to gain status, steal status, improve status, and network ourselves into being liked. The initial shifts to make facebook first available to school students, and then to the world, essentially began to replicate the social games we play in those institutional environments, and make them shape our whole life. it's not that we wouldn't play if we weren't on facebook - we were already playing. facebook just took that, put it online, quanitified a few aspects, added some nifty coding and algorithms to play by, and we're a generation hooked on playing. life is a game, and facebook is its virtual mirror.

The inside is the outside is the inside.

I imagine, and not entirely without reason, that there was a time when nothing was ‘private’, except maybe the goings on inside your head. Life was lived mostly in the open, communities were small, kinship-related, and so people knew everybody in their vicinity, and so everyone knew, to some extent, what everyone was like, and what everyone was up to.

But then our civilisations grew up. Villages turned into towns turned into cities. People stopped living in family compounds, and began to live in family units, and very recently, alone. What went on inside a property wasn’t known to those on the outside. And not only did we create the ‘private’, but we enshrined it as a right – the right not to have others know.

And yet now, in the most isolated time in history, technology is turning it all on its head again. The nature of the internet, and the spawning of social networking, is restructuring our society. People are giving up their privacy for connection. Once you share on the internet, you have shared with everybody. It’s there, always, for everyone to see, despite what ‘privacy’ settings you have. And as other technology invades our society – device tracking, proliferation of cctv, integration of databases, consumer profiling – the internet becomes the gateway to a kind of public life many of aren’t even aware we’re having.

Whether this is good or bad remains to be seen. What it does mean is that we will need to make a psychological shift: the private is public again. In fact, we are better off assuming that all our life is public. Despite society’s late 20th century rejection of public or social morality, I suspect the internet will mean the end of private morality in one sense, and the rebirth of a public morality, though of a very different kind in this post-Christendom context. The censure and judgment of online life will become, in its own way, the social ostracism and exclusion of many far earlier close-knit public communities.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Exegetical notes on Galatians 2:1-10

The Text:

1 Ἔπειτα διὰ δεκατεσσάρων ἐτῶν πάλιν ἀνέβην εἰς Ἱεροσόλυμα μετὰ Βαρναβᾶ συμπαραλαβὼν καὶ Τίτον• 2 ἀνέβην δὲ κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν• καὶ ἀνεθέμην αὐτοῖς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ὃ κηρύσσω ἐν τοῖς ἔθνεσιν, κατʼ ἰδίαν δὲ τοῖς δοκοῦσιν, μή πως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω ἢ ἔδραμον. 3 ἀλλʼ οὐδὲ Τίτος ὁ σὺν ἐμοί, Ἕλλην ὤν, ἠναγκάσθη περιτμηθῆναι• 4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους, οἵτινες παρεισῆλθον κατασκοπῆσαι τὴν ἐλευθερίαν ἡμῶν ἣν ἔχομεν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα ἡμᾶς καταδουλώσουσιν, 5 οἷς οὐδὲ πρὸς ὥραν εἴξαμεν τῇ ὑποταγῇ, ἵνα ἡ ἀλήθεια τοῦ εὐαγγελίου διαμείνῃ πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 6 Ἀπὸ δὲ τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι, - ὁποῖοί ποτε ἦσαν οὐδέν μοι διαφέρει• πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει - ἐμοὶ γὰρ οἱ δοκοῦντες οὐδὲν προσανέθεντο, 7 ἀλλὰ τοὐναντίον ἰδόντες ὅτι πεπίστευμαι τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας καθὼς Πέτρος τῆς περιτομῆς, 8 ὁ γὰρ ἐνεργήσας Πέτρῳ εἰς ἀποστολὴν τῆς περιτομῆς ἐνήργησεν καὶ ἐμοὶ εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, 9 καὶ γνόντες τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι, Ἰάκωβος καὶ Κηφᾶς καὶ Ἰωάννης, οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι, δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ καὶ Βαρναβᾷ κοινωνίας, ἵνα ἡμεῖς εἰς τὰ ἔθνη, αὐτοὶ δὲ εἰς τὴν περιτομήν• 10 μόνον τῶν πτωχῶν ἵνα μνημονεύωμεν, ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι.

πάλιν ἀνέβην in v1 has both early and diverse attestation. The reverse order is supported by mainly Western texts. In any case the significance would be virtually zero.

In v5 several texts omit οἷς, which grammatically smoothes the text; omission of οὐδέ on the other hand, might harmonise Paul’s yielding with Act 16:3 (so Metzger conjectures), but would run directly contrary to Paul’s Galatian argument.

v9 the reading of the names is altered in some texts, with the more familiar Πέτρος substituted for Κηφᾶς, and brought to the front for prominence.


1 Then after 14 years I again went up to Jerusalem, taking with me Barnabas and Titus; 2 I went up in accordance with a revelation; and I presented to them the gospel which I preach among the nations, privately to those that seemed good, lest somehow I am running or have run in vain. 3 but not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised; 4 now on account of the snuck-in pseudo-brothers, who snuck in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might enslave us, 5 to whom not even for an hour did we yield to subjugation, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. 6 But from those that seemed to be something – whatever they were formerly matters nothing to me (God does not judge men at face-value) – for those who seemed to be regarded added nothing to me, 7 but rather seeing that I have been entrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision just as Peter of the uncircumcision, 8 for the One operating through Peter for the apostolate of the uncircumcised worked also through me to the nations; 9 and knowing the grace that was given to me, Jacob and Kephas and John, those seeming to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, so that we unto the nations, and they unto the circumcision; 10 only that we should remember the poor , which this very thing I was eager to do.


The temporal sequencing of Paul’s autobiographical material continues with the initial Ἔπειτα. The 14 year gap between Paul’s first initial visit, and this second visit again confirms Paul’s autonomous gospel ministry. Commentators divide over whether this visit accords with Acts 15, Acts 11, or another occasion altogether. Given that the council in Acts 15 provides a clear statement of Gentile law-observance, it seems odd that Paul would not cite nor bring that letter to bear on the Galatian scenario if this visit coincided with the Acts 15 narrative. For this reason I am inclined to see this visit as either corresponding to the Acts 11 visit, or another unspecified visit to Jerusalem.

Paul cites three different reasons for his visit to Jerusalem on this occasion. Firstly, it is in accordance with a revelation. Paul does not identify whether this revelation in particular was given to him directly. In any case, it grounds Paul’s movements in God’s activity and purpose. Secondly, he presents to ‘them’ his gospel, in conjunction with the third reason, to ensure his gospel work wasn’t in vain.
Understandably, it can seem that Paul’s presentation of his gospel to the Jerusalem leaders is to gain their approval, but broader considerations render this unlikely. Paul has been arguing for the God-revealed autonomous nature of his gospel. He doesn’t personally need the Jerusalem leaders’ approval or blessing. No, rather Paul’s presentation of his gospel is to confirm the unity of his gospel with the Jerusalem leaders, the Jewish-apostolate, and so to reject claims that Paul’s gospel work was half-done, which left open a path for his Judaising opponents to sneak in and ‘complete’ Paul’s gospel work.

At this point attention to pronouns becomes more necessary. I think a good case can be maintained that the language of ‘we’ throughout most of Galatians refers to Jewish-background believers in Christ, while ‘you’ has in view Gentile-background believers, i.e. the Galatians. So Paul notes that Titus, though a Greek, was not compelled to be circumcised. The Jerusalem church did not require entrance and observance of Torah from a Gentile-believer.

The grammar of 4-6 is somewhat discontinuous. All of verse 4 prepares for verse 5, so that Paul’s refusal to yield is the main concept. The false-brothers of verse 4 are the Jerusalem counterparts to the opponents in Galatia – Judaising believers who seek Torah-observance. The ‘our liberty’ in v4 refers to the very liberty that even Jewish-background believers in Christ have, a freedom from the Law which Paul will elaborate latter in the epistle. Yet Paul’s defence of his liberty has the Gentiles in view – v5. Gentile freedom from Law-observance depends upon Jewish freedom from the same.

In verse 6 Paul notes that the Jerusalem leaders added nothing additional to his gospel. This matches his purpose in coming to Jerusalem – to attest to the agreement in gospel proclamation between his gospel and their gospel, so that the unity of the gospel might be established, not so that Paul’s gospel might be approved. Thus Paul defends both the autonomy of his gospel and its congruity with the other apostles’ message.

Paul’s repeated disavowal of respect for status in these verses also deserves some comment. The δοκεῖν language should not be treated as suggesting insincerity, as if Paul were saying ‘those who seemed to be something (but aren’t)’. This is an English connotation to the language of ‘seeming’ that does not apply in the Greek. Paul’s point is probably rather that, being unacquainted with the Jerusalem church, these were those who did indeed appear to him to be important and proven leaders. Yet he also makes the point that ‘whatever they were formerly matters nothing to me’. The presence of the word ποτε suggests that Paul’s disconcern for their status has more to do with their former way of life, indeed all our former ways of life, than present reality. His aside that πρόσωπον [ὁ] θεὸς ἀνθρώπου οὐ λαμβάνει draws from Dt 10:17, with some minor alterations. The concept is prominent elsewhere in James, in referring to God’s impartiality.

Verses 7-8 then concentrate on the difference between Paul and the Jerusalem leaders. The expressions τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τῆς ἀκροβυστίας and τῆς περιτομῆς should be understood as the receivers of that gospel proclamation, so that Paul’s apostolate extends to the Gentiles, whereas Peter’s focuses on the Jews. This division of mission fields is confirmed in v9, with the right hand of fellowship, given to Paul and Barnabas, for their Gentile-mission work. The final comment of v10 may sound like an addition to Paul’s teachings, but Paul emphasises that it is already his own concern. There is some debate about who ‘the poor’ are, whether the marginalised in Jewish society, or the economic sufferers in the Jerusalem church, or the poor in general as an expression of Christian faith. In light of the ethical dimensions of later Galatians, I would suggest that it is the economically poor within the Christian community, and in light of the historical factors particularly those suffering in connection with the Jerusalem church.

Still at the drawing board

With the PhD application. My 1 Peter proposal was considered a bit too broad-ranging and theological.

I'm not really sure what else to go with at the moment. I'd really like a fairly defined body of texts, sermons preferably, by a single author, which have theological significance, that can be studied in a history-oriented department.