Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Exegetical notes on Galatians 3:1-14

Text

3:1 ῏Ω ἀνόητοι Γαλάται, τίς ὑμᾶς ἐβάσκανεν, οἷς κατʼ ὀφθαλμοὺς Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς προεγράφη ἐσταυρωμένος; 2 τοῦτο μόνον θέλω μαθεῖν ἀφʼ ὑμῶν• ἐξ ἔργων νόμου τὸ πνεῦμα ἐλάβετε ἢ ἐξ ἀκοῆς πίστεως; 3 οὕτως ἀνόητοί ἐστε, ἐναρξάμενοι πνεύματι νῦν σαρκὶ ἐπιτελεῖσθε; 4 τοσαῦτα ἐπάθετε εἰκῇ; εἴ γε καὶ εἰκῇ. 5 ὁ οὖν ἐπιχορηγῶν ὑμῖν τὸ πνεῦμα καὶ ἐνεργῶν δυνάμεις ἐν ὑμῖν, ἐξ ἔργων νόμου ἢ ἐξ ἀκοῆς πίστεως;
6 Καθὼς Ἀβραὰμ ἐπίστευσεν τῷ θεῷ, καὶ ἐλογίσθη αὐτῷ εἰς δικαιοσύνην• 7 γινώσκετε ἄρα ὅτι οἱ ἐκ πίστεως, οὗτοι υἱοί εἰσιν Ἀβραάμ. 8 προϊδοῦσα δὲ ἡ γραφὴ ὅτι ἐκ πίστεως δικαιοῖ τὰ ἔθνη ὁ θεὸς, προευηγγελίσατο τῷ Ἀβραὰμ ὅτι ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν σοὶ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη• 9 ὥστε οἱ ἐκ πίστεως εὐλογοῦνται σὺν τῷ πιστῷ Ἀβραάμ.
10 Ὅσοι γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν, ὑπὸ κατάραν εἰσίν• γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὃς οὐκ ἐμμένει πᾶσιν τοῖς γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά. 11 ὅτι δὲ ἐν νόμῳ οὐδεὶς δικαιοῦται παρὰ τῷ θεῷ δῆλον, ὅτι ὁ δίκαιος ἐκ πίστεως ζήσεται• 12 ὁ δὲ νόμος οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ πίστεως, ἀλλʼ ὁ ποιήσας αὐτὰ ζήσεται ἐν αὐτοῖς. 13 Χριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ τῆς κατάρας τοῦ νόμου γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα, ὅτι γέγραπται• ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου, 14 ἵνα εἰς τὰ ἔθνη ἡ εὐλογία τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ γένηται ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ἵνα τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν τοῦ πνεύματος λάβωμεν διὰ τῆς πίστεως.

Translation:

3:1 O foolish Galatians, who ensorcelled you, to whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly displayed as crucified? 2 This alone I desire to learn from you: did you receive the spirit by works of the law or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you thus foolish, having begun by the spirit you now finish by the flesh? 4 have you suffered such great things in vain? If in fact in vain. 5 Then the one who furnishes to you the spirit and [who] works miracles among you, [is it] by the works of the law or by the hearing of faith?
6 Just as Abraham believed God and it was credited to him unto righteousness,a 7 know then that those who are of faith, these are the sons of Abraham. 8 For the Scripture foreseeing that God justifies the nations by faith, fore-evangelised to Abraham that all the nations will be blessed in youb 9 so that those of faith are blessed together with the believing Abraham*. 10 For as many are of works of the law, they are under curse; for it is written ‘Accursed is everyone who does not cleave to all the things written in the book of the law to do them’c. 11 that no one is justified by law before God is plain, because the one righteous-by-faith will lived; 12 but the law is not by faith, but the one doing these things will live by theme. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law [by] becoming curse for you, because it is written: accursed is everyone hung upon a treef, 14 so that the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations in Christ Jesus, so that we might receive the promise of the spirit through faith.

a Gen 15:6, b Gen 12:3 c Dt 27:26 d Hab 2:4 e Lev 18:4 f Dt 21:23

Commentary:

The foolishness of the Galatians that leads of v1 is not necessarily a slight on the Galatians’ intelligence, but is referred by the question ‘who ensorcelled you?’ to an external agent – they have been tricked, bewitched, hoodwinked. The gravity of such deception is brought home by the fact that Jesus Christ was publicly displayed before their eyes as crucified. As Galatians it is unlikely that any at all were present to visually witness the crucifixion, but the declaration of the gospel has displayed before them this truth, and now they are being tricked as to its consequences.

Paul’s questions in v2-3 rest on the principle that the way we begin the Christian life is the manner in which we continue it. It does not start on one basis and continue on another, but has a cohesive shape to it. And so Paul frames the question in those terms – how did these believers commence the Christian life (marked by the reception of the Spirit)? Paul knows that the answer to this is ‘by the hearing of faith’. The options for rendering both ‘hearing’ and ‘faith’ are various, Fung listing at least 8 combinations of active and passive senses in his commentary. For my part I read them as a passive sense of ‘hearing’ (what is heard’), and an objective genitive, so that the import of the phrase is the content of the hearing – the message of the Faith. The Galatian believers received the spirit when they heard (and believed) the gospel proclamation. They did not receive the spirit by performing works of the law (a point the Jewish-background believers in Galatia would well know). Why then (v3), would they think that they ought to continue (‘finish’) and complete the Christian life ‘by flesh’. The contrast between law and faith in v2 and flesh and spirit in v3 is meant to be parallel, but not identical. It is the work of the spirit to produce faith, and the one who has faith lives by the spirit, not under law. The one under law lives life apart from the spirit, and so entirely in the flesh. Attempting to live under the law, in the flesh, can only be a life lived in vain, since that was their previous way of life that leads to death.

I have already expressed my view that ‘works of the Law’ will not work in the NPP way, and so repeat here that its sense is that ‘it expresses Torah-obedience within a Mosaic covenant context’. Paul is not opposed to works, but to works of the law, rather than works of the Spirit. Works in the first sphere are under a curse, because they are (a) not unto justification, (b) no one does them anyway, while the works of the Spirit are the grace and faith lived out in the believer.
Introduced in v4 is a further question, that relates to that aspect of Christian life linked with suffering, and so with perseverance. If they are attempting to go back under law, and live by the flesh, then their suffering will indeed have been in vain.

The particle ‘then’ in v5 ought not be read as following directly on as a logical consequence of v4, but as a continuance of the series of questions, referring to the work of God amongst them, and whether (again) such work is instrumentally related to Torah-performance or to faith in the gospel.

The καθώς that introduces the citation links it immediately with 3:1-5, and the implied comparison is between the Galatians’ reception of the Spirit and Abraham’s being reckoned righteous. The premises then include the work of the Spirit in Abraham, and the exclusive dichotomy between faith and works. I agree with Martyn that the verse is distinctly Paul’s, given its use in Romans (though for slightly different purposes). Paul thus in this verse establishes the connection between faith – hearing – Spirit-reception. The textual form of the citation is almost identical to the LXX except for the dislocation of Abraham’s name. To the extent that we can read the Judaizers’ argument out of the text, it seems that they are preaching a need to become ‘sons of Abraham’ in order to receive the blessings. Part of the effect of citing Genesis 15 is that it is both post-promises, and pre-circumcision.

The second thesis that Silva identifies lies in vv7, 9, that the sons of Abraham are those of faith, and these in turn are blessed along with Abraham. Verse 7 is emphatic in its identification of the sons of Abraham, and probably represent Paul’s counter-claim to the opponents’ appeal to the Galatians to become ‘sons of Abraham’ (i.e., sons of the Covenant). There is a sense of status associated with the use of ‘sons’ over against ‘children’.

The second scriptural citation, in v8, has a number of distinctive features. Firstly, Paul personifies scripture in a rare way. Secondly, he characteristically pre-empts the reading of the verse, with his phrase ‘God justifies the Gentiles by faith’. The use of προευηγγελίσατο is also remarkable, underlying the continuity of the Gospel with the OT scriptures, so that whatever discontinuity Paul asserts later, it cannot be read as fundamental disjunction between the scriptures and the new revelation in Christ. The citation itself conflates Gen 12:3/18:18:

Gen 12:3 καὶ εὐλογήσω τοὺς εὐλογοῦντάς σε, καὶ τοὺς καταρωμένους σε καταράσομαι, καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν σοὶ πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς.

Gen 18:18 Αβρααμ δὲ γινόμενος ἔσται εἰς ἔθνος μέγα καὶ πολύ, καὶ ἐνευλογηθήσονται ἐν αὐτῷ πάντα τὰ ἔθνη τῆς γῆς.

cf. also Sir 44:21 διὰ τοῦτο ἐν ὅρκῳ ἔστησεν αὐτῷ ἐνευλογηθῆναι ἔθνη ἐν σπέρματι αὐτοῦ, πληθῦναι αὐτὸν ὡς χοῦν τῆς γῆς καὶ ὡς ἄστρα ἀνυψῶσαι τὸ σπέρμα αὐτοῦ καὶ κατακληρονομῆσαι αὐτοὺς ἀπὸ θαλάσσης ἕως θαλάσσης καὶ ἀπὸ ποταμοῦ ἕως ἄκρου τῆς γῆς.

The replacement of αἱ φυλαί with τὰ ἔθνη is not exceptionally significant, except that it reinforces the Gentile-focus of Paul’s argument. The parallel with Sirach 44:21 is also not particularly illuminating, except for the way in which Sirach speaks of ἐν σπέρματι αὐτοῦ which links with Paul’s further argument.

That v8 functions as a ground for the thesis of v7, 9 depends upon Paul’s assertion concerning v8 that the Gentiles blessing comes about in Abraham, in conjunction with the identification of the sons of Abraham with those of faith, not the descendants according to the flesh. Indeed, if the blessing of the Gentiles was for those according to the flesh, then the blessing of Abraham would never come to Gentiles per se, since covenantal incorporation would always be necessary. The first participial phrase may suggest (qua Kern), that Abraham is being viewed here as a Gentile.

Verse 9 summarises 6-8, with its result clause, that (a) those of faith (v7) are (b) blessed (v8) (c) along with believing Abraham (v6). There exists a unity with Abrhahm that is prior to Moses, and that unity is by faith. There is a translation conundrum over the phrase σὺν τῷ πιστῷ Ἀβραάμ, whether it is best rendered ‘with believing Abraham’, ‘with faithful Abraham’, ‘with Abraham by faith’. The insertion of τῷ πιστῷ between the preposition and the name seems to rule out the last of the three options, despite Kern’s backing. That the unity exists by faith can be established on other grounds. The second option seems over-nuanced – Abraham’s faithfulness in this context is exactly in believing the promise(s) given to him.

Silva splits 10 into 10a and b, identifying 10a as the 3rd thesis, and 10b as the grounds. Again, Paul pre-empts the interpretation of his citation, with the principle that ‘for as many as are of the works of the law, are under a curse.’ Comparing verse and source:

10 Ὅσοι γὰρ ἐξ ἔργων νόμου εἰσίν, ὑπὸ κατάραν εἰσίν• γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὃς οὐκ ἐμμένει πᾶσιν τοῖς γεγραμμένοις ἐν τῷ βιβλίῳ τοῦ νόμου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτά.
Dt 27:26 Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ἄνθρωπος, ὃς οὐκ ἐμμενεῖ ἐν πᾶσιν τοῖς λόγοις τοῦ νόμου τούτου τοῦ ποιῆσαι αὐτούς, καὶ ἐροῦσιν πᾶς ὁ λαός Γένοιτο.

A number of distinctive elements are apparent. Silva highlights that Paul retains the two instances of πᾶς which the LXX adds to the MT, and that his variation in the first instance suggests it is not unintentional. Secondly, and more interestingly, is the change from ‘of the Law’ to ‘in the book of the Law’. The effect of this change is to expand the reference from a specific part of the law, which Dt 27:26 has in view, to the Law as a whole. Silva suggests that the phrase may be taken from Dt 30:10, and on this basis I think it’s fair to say that Paul is not unfaithful in his reading of the text at this point.

One must still wrestle with the difficulty that Martyn et alii raise, that Paul seems to read the verse against its plain meaning. Surely, one would think, the curse of the Law is for those who don’t keep the Law, which is what it seems to be saying. Silva identifies the argument’s assumed premise as ‘all are disobedient’, which he recognises as a disputed premise. The contrast between οἱ ἐκ πίστεως and οἱ ἐξ ἔργων is surely not to be by-passed. For Paul’s citation here speaks of πᾶς, but his application concerns ὅσοι ἐξ ἔργων. Non-proselyte Gentiles would certainly be a hard category to fit into οἱ ἐξ ἔργων, and so his argument demands a reading in terms of Jewish observers of the Law apart from faith. It is thus, not those who observe or do not observe the Law (both failing), nor even those who suppose themselves to be observing the Law, but all those under the Law who fall equally under its curse. In this vein, I find myself concluding that v10 has a primary redemptive-historical reference to Jews under the old covenant.

Sanders would raise a different issue: that failing in the Law was not such a big deal, one would offer the appropriate sacrifices. The curse in view is probably to be linked to the larger redemptive-historical picture, and so to the Deuteronomic curses for covenant failure which for Israel lead to exile and judgment, to the extent that v10 represents individual curse, it is because the story of Israel’s failure is paradigmatic for individual covenant failure, exile, and judgment.
Silva identifies 11a as the fourth thesis, which complements thesis 3. The grounds for this thesis is the citation from Hab 2:4. Martyn argues that this verse, as with Gen 15:6, is part of Paul’s scriptural ammo, and given that these two verses are the only 2 OT texts that bring together faith and righteousness, it seems likely. Silva sees part of the function of 11 as to identify Paul’s opponents as οἱ ἐξ ἔργων and not οἱ ἐκ πίστεως, in conjunction with v10’s condemnation of those ἐξ ἔργων under the Law.

The citation itself is problematic, the MT reading ‘but the righteous one by his faith will live’, which LXX takes as ‘my faith’ with μου which Paul excludes from his citation. Some have argued that Paul deliberately ambiguates the faith on view, but if so he is only doing so by bringing it closer to the MT. More likely, the context of Paul’s argument itself adequately resolves the question of the faith in view, the believer’s. Whether the ἐκ πίστεως be attached to ‘the righteous one’ (so Fung), or ‘will live’, is almost incidental, since even the latter reading must relate eschatological enlivenment to faith, correlated elsewhere with justification. Whether one could in fact keep the law thus becomes irrelevant, because it is the righteous one, who is so by faith, that will live.]

Silva spends some time (802) defending Paul’s use of Habakkuk contextually, against the reading that Habakkuk 2:4 has only in view the faithfulness of the Law-keeper, ‘for Habakkuk, there was no such dichotomy between faith and faithfulness as we often assume’.

Concerning v12, Silva reads this as the stated premise for thesis 4 (v11a), along with the grounds for that premise. This reading incorporates the fourth citation under the third, seeing Lev 18:5 as a proof of Paul’s justification-by-faith reading. This is a long way from Martyn, who basically sees Lev 18:5 as a proof against Paul’s justification by faith, which Paul raises only to discount as false!
The adjustments made to the text from Lev 18:5 are slight, and not dramatically interesting. They are almost all occasioned by the new context of the verse and the removal from the original context, grammatically rather than theologically. More difficult is the theology of Paul’s argument. Again he seems to be reading the verse over and against the Law itself from which he quotes. Fung, rightly, recognises that ‘while the goal envisaged is the same, faith and law appear as two diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive principles.’ And yet, this must raise some questions. Is the goal of the law faith by works? And if so, hasn’t Paul done either violence to the context of Lev 18:5, which seems to have more to say than a Torah-based works-righteousness, or else violence to the scriptural canon, in rendering Lev 18:5 false, as Martyn argues.

Personally, I can only find the resolution in the hidden premise that it is not the failure of the Law, but the failure of Law-observers, that renders this verse intelligible in context. For Paul, there is indeed a theoretical life through Law-observance, but this is in reality unobtainable, not because of the Law’s deficiency, but the Flesh’s. The Law is quite right to say that the one who does these things will live by them, but we are quite wrong to suppose that any of us can do so. This, I would argue, is further reinforced by comparison with Paul’s triangulation of Law/Sin/Grace in Romans 7. I would posit an implicit reference then to the righteousness of Christ, which is both by his faith, and his faithfulness, expressed in perfect and active obedience to the Torah. For, in Paul’s curse language, otherwise the Christ himself would be under the Curse of the Law, since he was under the Law and did not keep it.

In v13 Paul’s use of Dt 21:23 raises a number of issues. Firstly, he alters κεκατηραμένος to ἐπικατάρατος, aligning his citation with 3:11. This raises the question to what extent it is valid to identify the curse of Dt 27:26 with 21:23. Secondly, Paul omits ὑπὸ θεοῦ from his citation, almost certainly intentional, but with what intention? Silva suggests he may simple be trying to avoid an unnecessary distraction to his main argument. Fung suggests he is avoiding the implication that Christ was cursed by God because of its theological import. This, I suspect, comes closer to the truth, but needs more nuancing, because in becoming ‘a curse’ for us he was, in some sense cursed by God, so that Paul’s omission carries more refinement than simple avoidance of the plain text. Indeed, as Silva posits, perhaps Paul simply doesn’t wish to draw out the cursed yet not cursed distinctions.

This is Silva’s fourth thesis and grounds, and its relation to the preceding is slightly discontinuous. That is, having to some extent resolved the faith/law dichotomy by divorcing the blessing from the Law and attaching it to faith, and aligning the curse with the Law and the inevitable failure to keep it, Paul re-orients the reader to the only means of escaping the curse of the Law, the Cross.
The double-barrelled purpose clause of v14 completes the argumentative flow of Gal 3:6-14.

Following Kern, we read these two clauses consecutively, so that the initial result if the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, which in turn leads to the reception by (Jewish believers) of the promise of the Spirit through faith. That these two elements are not exclusive should be already apparent by the way Paul has linked Abrahamic blessing with reception of the Spirit in 3:1-5, 6-9.
The argument of those who want to read Galatians apocalyptically, at this point insists upon the salvation-historical logic of the Judaizers, who trace Abrahamic lineage through the Mosaic Law and so regard incorporation into the covenant people a necessary pre-condition of receiving the Abrahamic blessing. Over against this, Paul relativises and polemicises against the Law, instead treating the punctiliar and cosmically invasive event of the Christ’s crucifixion. To this point, though, Paul has not spoken concerning the Law’s role, and so it is too soon to disregard any salvation-historical element to his OT usage. His treatment of the sons of Abraham, faith, Law, and curse, are all predicated on a different reading of redemptive history, not the absence of one, as is seen in the second half of the chapter.

It is worth noting the flow of thought here: Jesus became a curse for those under the law, which leads the gentiles to inherit the blessing of Abraham by Christ, which leads to the Jews entering the eschatological inheritance; the blessing/promise is the Spirit: the Spirit is how we enter and continue in the Christian life. cf. 3:8 both justification and the Spirit appear to be hand-in-hand the content of the promise/blessing. v14 is the exposition of Christ’s redeeming work in v13.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Electronic version of my Master's Thesis now online

Having submitted the hardbound copies of my MTh thesis, I have also uploaded an electronic version to the web. It is released under a Creative Commons Attribution - NonCommercial - No Derivation licence, as outlined in the appendix or online here

The thesis is downloadable here:
Pro-Nicene Hermeneutical Techniques in the preaching of John Chrysostom: A case study of the homilies on John, 2011.