Monday, December 31, 2012

Psalm 2

I suggested in the last psalm that 1 & 2 function as an introductory pair. In such a pairing, psalm 2 introduces us to a second major theme of the whole book of Psalms: the Davidic King. While it is unlikely that David wrote all the psalms, there is a sense in which they are all psalms ‘of David’, because the Davidic king is never far from view. Nowhere is this more evident in Psalm 2.

The psalm falls neatly into 4 sections. In vv1-3 we hear the plot against the Davidic King, which is equally a conspiracy against God. The close relationship between God and his Anointed is seen in v2. To some extent, this was always Israel’s situation – surrounded by hostile enemies.

The second section (4-6) gives us a heavenly perspective: God himself mocks their pitiful attempts at rebellion, but his mockery is matched with wrath.

The third section (7-9) shifts speakers briefly to the King himself, who then declares God’s decree. The relationship between the King and God is expressed with a unique sonship. The words, “You are my Son” are to be read declaratively – they enact what they proclaim, so that the King becomes the adopted son of God. Furthermore, as God’s unique son, the King is promised a universal rule and power to destroy the rebellious rulers.

The final section includes a summons to wisdom, this time not generic like psalm 1, but addressed to rebellious rulers who are warned to make their peace with and submit to the King, the Son, or else.
The psalm itself is not overly difficult. Yet it throws up all sorts of questions. It is very difficult to fit the psalm historically to any particular king. Rather it seems to function both idealistically, and then prophetically. First, it represents an idealisation of Israel’s situation – the king as God’s appointed ruler, subject to hostile forces, but God himself has established him and will guarantee his ultimate triumph. To the extent that the history of Israel and Judah ultimately fails in this regard, the Psalm talks on a prophetic force. If not this anointed king, then who?

The New Testament doesn’t invent messianic expectations, but it does reflect a world in which messianic expectations are both developed and widely-understood. At what point Psalm 2 became a part of those hopes is difficult to say. The NT has no qualms about reading this psalm as straightforwardly applicable to Jesus.

The NT applies it in 3 ways.
1. In Acts 4:25-26 the apostolic prayer cites this psalm, and applies it to the conspiracy of Herod, Pontius, and both Jews and Gentiles against Jesus as God’s predestined plan. The apostles understand this psalm to prophetically depict the opposition to God’s Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and to apply to the aftermath of the crucifixion, the state of the church.
2. Psalm 2:7 is both explicitly (Act 13:33, Heb 1:5, 5:5) and implicitly (2 Pet 1:17, Mt 3:17, 17:5) applied to Jesus as the unique Son. This goes beyond the language of ‘Son of God’, which seems both in the OT and NT to refer to the King of Israel, to an ontological relationship of Father-Son[1].
3. Rev 12:5, 19:15 picks up the language of ruling the nations with a rod of iron (Ps 2:8-9) and apply it to Jesus. To the extent that this is unfulfilled now, it holds out a prophetic promise referring to the second coming.

A psalm for the church. 
As we sing and pray this psalm, we are reminded that the time of the church in this world is rarely, if ever, one of triumph or dominance. Our situation is much like that of idealised Israel – surrounded by foes in rebellion against God and against his Anointed. The promises to that King find their fulfilment in Jesus, and so in the face of ongoing suffering and persecution we look to the faithfulness of God to fulfil his words, and the return of Christ in all his glory. The final words of the psalm contrast and complement those of Psalm 1:1, 6. Blessing is found in the wisdom of the Lord’s instruction, and refuge in the Son. Destruction awaits the wicked and the rebellious.

[1] ‘Son of God’ is rarely, even in the NT, stating that Jesus is God’s Son, in theological and trinitarian terms. Rather, its primary significance seems to be in denoting Jesus as the Anointed King of Israel. The language of ‘Father’, and of ‘Son’ without further qualification, is more than enough to establish the trinitarian formulation of the Father, Son and Spirit.

Resolutions, 2013

People are generally negative to resolutions these days. In the past I have skirted this by not calling NY resolutions 'resolutions', but this is probably just skirting the issue with semantics. I have many goals for this year, but here are 5 daily disciplines I have decided on. And started, because one of the best tips for keeping resolutions is to start them before you hit Jan 1.

Daily Bible Reading & Prayer. I went up and down on this in 2012. The first half of the year was good, the second half not so good. Now is a good time to recommit.

Daily Patristic Reading: the aforementioned Read the Fathers. It's a 7 year programme, so no slacking off here.

Daily Gaelic study. There are zero external factors that will make Gaelic learning easier, or necessary, so I need to be on my own case about this.

Daily Hamstring stretches.I have had tight hamstrings since forever, despite a reasonable degree of flexibility everywhere else. Enough is enough. This year is a year for stretching hamstrings and dramatically altering my ability to bend at the waist. I think it will also help my L-Sit which is currently woeful.

Write 2 chapters of my thesis. The danger with a possibly 8 year doctoral program is that real progress can slow to nothing. This year I'm committed to writing 2 chapters of it. That likely means daily reading and writing.

There we go. 5 disciplines for the new year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Psalm 1

The first psalm, paired with psalm 2, stands at the start of the book and offers a kind of frontispiece to the book as a whole. In this psalm, much like the start of the book of proverbs, a contrasting picture is constructed of the wise man and the foolish man, though wisdom and folly themselves are not mentioned.

The blessed man is the one who avoids the wickeds’ counsel, and instead finds his source and root and delight in the Torah of God. The natural consequence, we are told, is abundance and stability, as depicted in v3. In contrast, the wicked are like chaff (v4), both unfruitful and unstable. The natural sequence for the wicked is given dramatic climax in vv5-6, being both unfruitful and unstable, they ‘will not stand in the judgment’, and ultimately their way perishes. This is because the “the Lord knows the way of the righteous”.

It is God’s personal, intimate acquaintance, an active knowing, that establishes the righteous.
In many ways this psalm invites us, the reader, to follow the path of the blessed man, and the key focal point of action is v2, the delight and meditation upon the Torah. Although Psalms is a book of ‘wisdom literature’, it never holds wisdom in tension with Law, but refers us again and again to the Law as the revelation of God and basis of relation with him. Furthermore, the canonical structure of Psalms into 5 ‘books’ invites us to contemplate Psalms itself as a book of ‘Law’, it is instruction in the life of the worshipper.

This psalm leads us to Jesus in three ways. Firstly, in the New Testament the Law finds an ultimate fulfilment in Christ. As Christians we do not ‘follow’ the Law, per se, but find in Christ the final revelation of God and the basis of relation with him. So our invitation is to delight and meditate on Christ, and when we do study the Torah, we do so in the light of Christ its fulfilment.

Secondly, the source of our fruitfulness and stability is Christ himself. When we consider the agricultural metaphors of John 15 and Romans 11:16-24, our flourishing, vitality, and rootedness all depend upon a living connection to Jesus himself, the true branch.

Thirdly, who is the truly blessed man? It is Jesus himself. As this psalm presents us with a paradigm for living, Jesus has lived it. He delighted and meditated upon God’s Law, he avoided the way of the wicked, he was like a tree, abundant and stable, and ultimately he is the one who stands in the judgment, so that the righteous are vindicated and the wicked perish.

So let’s take this invitation, let’s delve into the psalms, and delight in God’s Word to us, and dwell upon it richly, in imitation and union of our Lord Jesus, and follow him to find the source of life and blessing.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reading the Fathers, a 7 year journey

I'm a bit late with posting this, it popped up on my feeds while I was travelling, and I didn't have a good chance to post about it. Here's a chance to schedule your own reading of the church fathers, in the ANF/NPNF series.

It's 7 pages a day, for 7 years, which seems like a very long time, but I suspect that committing and embarking on such a reading odyssey will cultivate a reading habit that will last a long time.

The schedule kicked off on Dec 2, so if you join now, you're a little behind. I recommend two approaches to that. (1) Sit down and just have a big old reading session, or two, and catch right up straight away. (2) Ignore what you've missed.

So, here's the link I first found out from, from Credo.

And here's the link to the main site, with further links for twitter, rss feeds, google calender, and the text for each day: Read the Fathers.

Time to get reading.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Psalms, a (long) devotional series

After 2 refreshing weeks in Australia, and 1 week back in Mongolia without Internet, it looks like I am back into the swing of (some) things. I have in mind to finish of my very drawn out Galatians notes, and to begin some stuff on psalms, as below.

An Introduction

My motivation for beginning the writing of this series is simple. I have preached on a handful of psalms over the years, as any preacher ends up doing, and I am often challenged by the history of the church and the testimony of believers as to how encouraging and comforting the book of Psalms was. I have also been lively engaged by the tradition of the Free Church and its practice and theology of singing the Psalms, and only the Psalms, during worship. Although I ultimately disagree with a Psalms-only approach to church worship practice, I have benefited greatly by such dialogue. And yet, I have never found the Psalms ‘easy’, or that they spoke very quickly or directly to me.

That so, I set myself to not only read the Psalms regularly and devotionally, but to spend a full 3 years, taking a psalm a week, to really spend time with. To do some exegetical work, some hermeneutical reflection, and to make some notes.

To begin, I want to help you understand the framework I’m coming from. Psalms are a peculiar book, and a number of factors shape my reading.

Psalms are both God’s inspired Word to us, and they are our words to God. Indeed, they are God’s Word given to us to speak back to God. They are the expression of faith and worship in the Old Covenant, but they remain so for New Covenant believers. They are fundamentally the Psalms of the King, and the King is the leader of God’s People. In the structure of the Canon, Psalms point us to Christ, both prophetically, themetically, and typologically. Only as we understand Psalms as the Psalms of Jesus can we begin to understand what the Psalms might mean for us as New Covenant believers.

That is a highly condensed summary of my theological basis for reading Psalms. To expand:
Psalms are the inspired Word of God. Like the rest of the Scriptures, they communicate God’s revelation of himself to us. They are written through human authors and agency, but God is their ultimate author. As such, when we read a Psalm, we are hearing God reveal to us himself, ourselves, and his divine plan of salvation.
Psalms are God’s Word given to us to speak back to Him. Unlike other books of the Bible, the Psalms are primarily addressed to God. And so they are human words directed to God. This dual direction of God’s revelation to us but also our relation to him give the Psalms a rather unique aspect of revelation. As we understand the Psalms, we understand how God wants us to speak and relate to him. This is not exhaustive, nor is it unconditioned by the historical context of the Psalms, but it is real and relevant and we ought to take heed.

Psalms function within the Old Testament canon as both prayer and song book for believers. This means that if we are to understand the life and worship of those under the Mosaic covenant, we ought to apply ourselves to understanding Psalms. It also means some of what Psalms expresses is not directly convertible to our situation. We will need to think first about how the Mosaic Law finds its fulfilment in Christ, in order to see how parts of the Psalms apply to us as those under the new covenant in Christ.

I have been convinced, primarily by Michael Lefebvre, that the whole of the book of Psalms belongs in a sense to the King of Israel. That he exists as the author, direct or delegated, of the psalms, and that as such the psalms are the book of the King, and that King is the Worship Leader of Israel.

The Psalms are the Psalms of Jesus. As the ultimate King of Israel, and the center of the Bible’s story of redemption, all Scripture is about Jesus, and the Psalms are no exception. The Psalms speak of Christ prophetically, thematically, and typologically. If we have not understood how a Psalm leads us to Jesus, I don’t think we’ve understood the Psalm as Christian readers.

Finally, we are believers in Christ, and so it is that Christocentric reading that allows us, makes possible for us, an application that is genuinely applicable, not a wrenching out of context, not a moral lesson, not a platitude of poetry, and not an Old Testament application, but a genuine meaning for the Christian believer in the here and now.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Logos, Logos 5, and why their sales model frustrates me to no end

I really like Logos, but I find their marketing and sales model frustrating. In this post I am basically going to talk about how and why I dislike it. So, let's be clear, I really like Logos, but this post will be mostly critical. I will probably write a complementary post soon about things Logos does really well. And when I do upgrade, I'll write a review of Logos 5.

Not that long ago Logos released a major platform upgrade, moving from Logos 3 to 4. They were basically incompatible, and Logos 4 was a huge step forward. In the last week Logos has released a new version, Logos 5, which is receiving a whole bunch of positive reviews. I will probably upgrade at some time, mainly since it doesn't really pay to fall behind an upgrade curve on software you regularly use.

I own an Original Languages Library with Logos. This is a set that fit me very nicely, I tend to use Logos for more scholarly-line work, I want access to primary texts, language resources, and commentaries in the more technical end of the spectrum. Logos 5 offers 6 levels of product: Starter, Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Portfolio. Here's how I view them:

Starter: something for those on the cheap. Good for bible study leaders, etc..
Bronze: something for Elders, pastors of small churches with small budgets
Silver/Gold: something for pastors of middle to large churches, people with some cash.
Platinum/Diamond/Portfolio: people who have someone else paying for their resources.

Sadly, Original Languages has disappeared, I presume it has in some sense been rolled into the middle products.

Now, probably what I dislike the most is the way Logos bundles things. In this case, bundling two separate things unhelpfully: features + products.

Starter: bare bones + 207 books worth $3500+ in print.
Bronze: includes the new features of Timeline, Sermon Starter, 426 books worth $8000+ in print
Silver: also includes the new feature of Clause Search, 699 books worth $13000+ in print
Gold: a few more features, 1037 books worth $20000+
skip a few..
Portfolio: 53 features, 2563 books worth $75000+

(dollar amounts are AUD)

One great feature of Logos is that you don't lose things - once you've bought a resource/book, you keep it whether you are upgrading or 'down'-grading. That said they are here bundling features with product. But you can buy product individually or in smaller bundles, as far as I can tell you can't buy features in any way.

Now the second bundling thing I dislike is this: bundles work best when they are a synergistic bunch of books/products that you would want together. The bundles in the base package aren't really like that: they are huge bundles of books that I would never buy in print, probably never read, and many of them are of lesser quality. Short of getting Platinum/Diamond/Portfolio level packages, most of the decent resources in terms of books are not included. So you not only pay more to get more  resources, you have to pay more to get better resources.

Essentially this is junk-bundling. If you want more and better resources/products, you need to snap up the junk with it, and there is a lot of junk in my opinion. That's both junk that's costing me money, and it's junk that costs my hard-drive space. But not only do you need to buy up junk to get to the good stuff, you have to buy junk to get features. That's because no base product lets you get hold of new features without going up tiers and gobbling up junk.

One thing I do appreciate is that Logos does individualised discount calculations. It works out what you own and gives some kind of discount, in theory so you aren't paying over for things you already have. I'm not sure this always computes for the best, but it's certainly better than no-such policy.

Now you get a sense of why the disappearance of OL package is also a bad move. That was a package that fit a niche where you got features, good resources, and didn't get a bundle of junk. Perfect for people like me, who want more tools for their own research, less guides for putting together teaching materials from someone else's study.

TL, DR: Don't bundle features with product, don't bundle junk before quality.


1. So I'm told that at a future point that it will be possible to get features without them being tied to products/base packages necessarily. That is a very good thing.


A minimal crossgrade option is in the works. Taking a read of that post is very enlightening and personally I am encouraged both by the sentiments and intentions expressed therein.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Some thoughts on the city of Babel

I was struck by two thoughts from a sermon on Sunday. Here is the first of these.

I noted a little nuance of the Babel story that I had not picked up before. Those of you who have heard me talk about either the kings & priests theme, or about Eden, will be familiar with one aspect of the Biblical story that I talk a bit about. In quick summary, Adam and Eve have both kingly (representative rule), and priestly (representative presence) roles, which are mandated in Gen 1, and manifested in the Garden, and would have, sine lapso, seen them extended God’s rule and presence throughout the earth through multiplication and the spread of humanity, which would, I argue, involve the spread of the Garden itself. The fall disrupts but does not destroy that plan, but it becomes the ongoing work of the people of God, as kings and priests.

One aspect of this is the contrast pairs of going/gathering, garden/city, and garden/desert that weave through the Bible. Between Eden and Eschaton there is no permanent gathering of God’s people, only gathering that leads to further going. Mission and church are mutually intertwined, but church always leads to mission, until one day there is no more mission, only church.

Likewise, since losing the garden, we have been making cities, gathering in human structures that are ambiguous at best. Revelation also resolves the contrast pair of Eden/Jerusalem by offering a Jerusalem-Eden, a Garden City.

What was interesting to note, in yesterday’s sermon, was a reference to Gen 11, the tower of Babel story, being contextualised by the Noah story. Specifically post-flood Noah and his family are given the “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” command again, Gen 9:1, 7. In Gen 11 these migratory fledgling nations do not scatter, but gather, and build not only the tower, which we all remember, but “a city and a tower”. Their gathering, I would argue, is one more proto-attempt to ‘return to the garden’, figuratively speaking. That is, to resist the scattering of God, deny his mission, and build a human paradise. In Gen 6:6 I would suggest, tentatively, that there is an echo of God’s deliberation in Gen 3, having eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil, what next? SO too, “this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” It’s easy to hear this as God’s narcissistic ego getting in the way, and trying to put humanity down, but the thrust of the Gen 3 deliberation is that if, having eaten of the FTKGE, they go on to eat of the tree of life, that will be bad for humanity. A charitable reading here would see the same, if humanity in its present state, builds this city, it will be bad for humanity.

Note what you may never have noticed, in v8. “So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city”. It’s not the tower, but the city, that is mentioned in the last analysis. This self-salvation attempt is abandoned, and the people are scattered, because it is not then, not now, that a city will be built. Only, in the long view, through the death of Christ, can people be gathered back to the Garden, into a new city, to be scattered no more.

This passage is also the reason, theologically speaking, Esperanto will always fail. The confusion of the languages is, in anticipation, reversed at Pentecost, but not by unity of language, only by the miraculous speaking of tongues. Then, in Revelation, we get a vision of the heavenly community, the eschatological gathering, of every language and tongue. But that is almost another theme...

Friday, September 07, 2012

4 Things I’m excited about this week

1. Guild Wars 2
I am mostly a single-player computer game player, I am too lazy and socialisation-avoidant to pursue a lot of multiplayer things. So the only MMORPG I ever really played was Guild Wars 1, partly because it was pretty cheap by the time I got into it, partly because they have a non-subscription model of payment, and I won’t play subscription games (I can understand the rationale for subscription games, from the publishing side, but from the player side it just makes it a more unhealthy addiction).
Anyway, I have been pretty excited about GW2 for about the last year or so, because everything I ever heard about it was amazing. And it released about 2 weeks ago, and I have been enjoying it greatly ever since (well, I did play in some of the late open beta testing as well). I particularly like that it’s a game that
rewards, and never penalises, cooperation
has a fairly friendly player base (that I’ve encountered)
has amazing gameplay and visuals
has jumping puzzles! that work!

2. Keyman
I am usually pretty loath to just promote products and companies. I don’t really like spamming my twitter feed with retweets and ads for other people, mainly because I don’t myself want to read such things. But this week I’m endorsing Keyman Desktop 8. I think I’ve written about Keyman before on this blog, but I really do like it a great deal. I use it for typing a number of languages, and I love that I can just set up hotkeys, and switch between languages with a single set of button-presses; It’s helped me learn to touch type Ancient Greek, and Mongolian, and it also gets you into using unicode fonts rather than those older fonts that are not unicode (I don’t know what they are called, but they never convert well!).

3. GMB
I’m in a bit of a spruiking mood today, so let me keep talking about companies that deliver products I love and enjoy. Gold Medal Bodies produces, hmm, gymnastics-based fitness programs with instructional videos? I think that is a fair description. I was lead to check them out after learning a bunch of parkour from the Tapp brothers (who are pretty good, though I don’t really like their style of marketing), and getting a link to GMB’s yoga stuff. it was about this time that I was becoming more interested in gymnastics-based things, and GMB fit the bill perfectly. Here’s why they are great:
They know what they are talking about!
The quality of their instructional materials is excellent
Their programs are well laid out, the progressions are manageable, and they are written for ordinary people, not elite athletes
They are super friendly, and the support is fantastic.

4. The Atlantic Gaelic Academy
Last year I signed up, a little bit spur-off-the-moment, with the AGA to take an online class in Gaelic. It emerged as the best option for continuing to develop my Gaelic, and slotting in at Intermediate 2 level worked out really well. It gave me both some extra structure to my studies, and a lot more speaking practice than I’ve probably ever had. I do have some minor criticisms of their program, but nothing I want to share here (if you’ve listened to any of my language-learning rants, you’ll know where I’m coming from). Instead I want to focus on the positives! They are pretty well organised, have great tutors, and are really committed to teaching and propagating the Gaelic language. The sheer fact that I can take a class from Mongolia in Gaelic over the internet is truly a modern marvel, and so I’m extra excited for the new academic year starting shortly, in which I’ll be diving into Advanced Level 1.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Frustrations with learning Gaelic

I enjoy learning Gaelic greatly; 'tis a beautiful language and not as difficult as people make out (I think this is true of all languages). But learning a minority language outside its spoken home is difficult, and despite a certain kind of 'wealth', Gaelic is poorly resources in many ways.

To illustrate, let me explain my current level and frustrations. I have a pretty decent grasp of Gaelic grammar, and I can read not too badly. I can easily work my way through one of Ruaridh's Litreachan do Luchd-Ionnsachaidh, and with a bit of effort, I can read standard Gaelic texts. I sometimes get held up by vocabulary, but that is just a matter of dictionary work, and sometimes idiomatic phrases are difficult to figure out, but it's okay.

The great difficulty I have is listening and speaking, of course. And the 'wealth' of bbc resources don't exactly help. It's frustrating that iplayer is not available outside the UK, though of course there are ways around this. But then there is the second frustration that even if one can access iplayer for BBC Alba, a large portion of Gaelic programs are not available online anyway. Ironically, I was doing an old SQA paper for one of the lower levels, and it had an 'interview' text with a Gaelic speaker in Italy who kept up by watching Gaelic televison on the internet - not just a made up text but a virtual impossibility.

So 'Letters to Learners' is still the best thing going, text + audio for over 50hrs of listening. But then one is just listening to a single speaker, which isn't ideal. This is the great frustration - a need for more comprehensible input, more exposure to spoken Gaelic.

There are at least, now, some half-decent courses for self-study, but they are not particularly up to date. Teach Yourself Gaelic is still a standard, but hasn't changed much  for many years; Colloquial Scottish Gaelic isn't bad. Gaelic in 12 weeks is more of an intense primer in Gaelic grammar than a course.

I had a great year studying with the Atlantic Gaelic Academy. So there are at least some better distance options emerging. SMO courses remain prohibitively expensive for those outside the UK.

So those are my current frustrations. I mean, to be expected for anyone studying a minority language outside its homeland, but still frustrating. I think part of my frustration is that there is a wealth of fluent material for Gaelic speakers on the BBC sites, and there's a lot of basic learner stuff, but the 'intermediate' field is more like a wasteland. Bridging the gap is difficult.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

4 Things I'm excited about this week

1. Where are your keys?

I've blogged a lot about this in the past few months. I am continually excited when I think about how this approach can facilitate and accelerate learning, and how it might be used for minority and endangered languages. Check it out, get excited, and start 'playing'.

2. Save the Supers
Thanks to Felicia Day, I discovered Save the Supers, which is a fun little web series which features super heroes and their daily grind. Also puns.

3. Foreign Language Text Reader
is a handy little program that lets you read texts in a language that you are, say, learning, and tag every word with (i) a definition, and (b) a rating on how well you know it. It also colour codes the text. It's an easy way to create a kind of ultimate reader's version of everything you are reading, since it will save vocabulary across texts for the same language. I've been using it for Gaelic lately, but I have it lined up for Mongolian, Greek, Latin, etc.. There are a few things I'd like to change - for example sometimes a word is not the unit I need to tag, but a phrase.

4. Duolingo
Duolingo has been out of beta for a little while now, but perhaps you didn't hear about it. It's not as great as, say, playing WAYK to learn a language, but it is a great system for ticking some time away learning (at present) Spanish, German, French, and soon to be Portuguese. I think the crowd-sourcing of translations is a great idea, but it needs a little tweaking.

This might become a regular feature, who knows?

Exegetical Notes on Galatians 4:21-5:1



21 Λέγετέ μοι, οἱ ὑπὸ νόμον θέλοντες εἶναι, τὸν νόμον οὐκ ἀκούετε; 22 γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Ἀβραὰμ δύο υἱοὺς ἔσχεν, ἕνα ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης καὶ ἕνα ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας. 23 ἀλλʼ μὲν ἐκ τῆς παιδίσκης κατὰ σάρκα γεγέννηται, δὲ ἐκ τῆς ἐλευθέρας διʼ ἐπαγγελίας. 24 ἅτινά ἐστιν ἀλληγορούμενα· αὗται γάρ εἰσιν δύο διαθῆκαι, μία μὲν ἀπὸ ὄρους Σινᾶ εἰς δουλείαν γεννῶσα, ἥτις ἐστὶν Ἁγάρ. 25 τὸ δὲ Ἁγὰρ Σινᾶ ὄρος ἐστὶν ἐν τῇ Ἀραβίᾳ· συστοιχεῖ δὲ τῇ νῦν Ἰερουσαλήμ, δουλεύει γὰρ μετὰ τῶν τέκνων αὐτῆς. 26 δὲ ἄνω Ἰερουσαλὴμ ἐλευθέρα ἐστίν, ἥτις ἐστὶν μήτηρ ἡμῶν· 27 γέγραπται γάρ·
εὐφράνθητι, στεῖρα ἡ οὐ τίκτουσα,
ῥῆξον καὶ βόησον, ἡ οὐκ ὠδίνουσα·
ὅτι πολλὰ τὰ τέκνα τῆς ἐρήμου
μᾶλλον ἢ τῆς ἐχούσης τὸν ἄνδρα.
28 Ὑμεῖς δέ, ἀδελφοί, κατὰ Ἰσαὰκ ἐπαγγελίας τέκνα ἐστέ. 29 ἀλλʼ ὥσπερ τότε ὁ κατὰ σάρκα γεννηθεὶς ἐδίωκεν τὸν κατὰ πνεῦμα, οὕτως καὶ νῦν. 30 ἀλλὰ τί λέγει ἡ γραφή; ἔκβαλε τὴν παιδίσκην καὶ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς· οὐ γὰρ μὴ κληρονομήσει ὁ υἱὸς τῆς παιδίσκης μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἐλευθέρας. 31 διό, ἀδελφοί, οὐκ ἐσμὲν παιδίσκης τέκνα ἀλλὰ τῆς ἐλευθέρας.
5 Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε.


21 Tell me, you who wish to be under the Law, do you not heed the Law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one from the slavegirl and one from the free-woman. 23 But the one from the slavegirl is born according to the flesh, but the one [born] of the free-woman through promise. 24 Which things are allegorical: for these are two covenants, one from Mount Sinai born unto slavery, which is Hagar. 25 And the Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; it corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is enslaved with her children. 26 But the above-Jerusalem is free, which is our mother: 27 for it is written:

               Rejoice, barren woman who does not bear,
                 Burst and cry out, woman who does not birth;
               Because many are the children of the desolate
                 More than those of she who has a man.”[2]

28 But you, brothers, are children of promise according to Isaac. 29 But just as then the one born according to the flesh persecuted the one [born] according to the Spirit, so also now. 30 But what does the Scripture say? Cast out the slavegirl and her son; for the son of the slavegirl will not inherit with the son of the free.[3] 13 Wherefore, brothers, we are not children of the slavegirl but of the free-woman. 5:1 In freedom Christ has set us free: stand then and do not again be ensnared to the yoke of slavery.


Paul’s use of what is often called an allegorical reading of the Hagar/Ishmael/Isaac narrative is the ground for considerable debate and argument. Before approaching it, it is worth locating his treatment of it within the flow of the letter itself. Just as the previous section ends with Paul seemingly throwing his hands up in despair, Paul again redoubles his efforts to persuade his audience. In v21 Paul lines up his target again, Galatian believers who are being swayed to take up Law-observance. He raises a line of argument that cannot be prima facie set aside – if they want to be under the Law, they need to listen to the Law itself, and so Paul’s argument in this section relies entirely upon uncontroverted Scripture, the narrative of Genesis with an interlude from Isaiah.

v22 refers to no particular passage of scripture, but the narrative of Genesis 16 sets up the situation. Abram, having failed to secure a child by his wife Sarai, is offered Sarai’s Egyptian servant, Hagar, as a surrogate. Hagar bears a son, Ishmael, but in chapter 17 the reader discovers that such an attempt to fulfil God’s promise of a son is not God’s plan for the fulfilment, and that the line of promise, and the covenant with Abraham, will pass to Isaac, who will be Sarah’s son.

So Paul sets up the significant data with the brief statement that Abraham had two sons, even though Genesis 25:1-6 indicates further children born to Keturah, who alternatively is named wife and concubine. For the purposes of the narrative, only the two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, are in view.

In v23 Paul offers up what is the key distinction between Ishmael and Isaac, at least according to the narrative here employed. Ishmael is born according to the flesh, the son of a slavegirl. ‘Flesh’ here reads as ‘in the natural way’, but the contrast is not with ‘spiritual’ in an incorporeal sense, but with the child of the promise. So the dichotomy set up is between flesh and promise.  At this point Paul says these things are ‘allegorical’. There are X good reasons for understanding Paul to mean ‘typological’.

1.      The word ‘allegorical’ here is probably better translated ‘figurative’. Our understanding of allegory represents a later delineation of figurative language into categories that Paul probably did not work with. Despite Paul’s immense learning, it seems unlikely that he was trained in classical rhetoric per se, and so the distinction between typology and allegory is not relevant to understanding what Paul would have meant by ‘allegory’.
2.      Typology is distinct from allegory in two main features. Firstly, it is grounded in historical events, so that if you change the history, the meaning of the figure changes. Allegory is not so bounded – if you want to change the meaning of the figure, you can change the story that the allegory rests upon. Secondly, typology depends upon the historical narrative already having been given meaning. Arguable, the narrative of freedom and slavery, promise and flesh, subsists in the Genesis narrative before Paul provides a Christocentric interpretation of the same.
3.      No less a figure than Chrysostom declares that this is typology, and that Paul simply didn’t know what he was saying. This is an appeal to authority, but a worthy one. If anybody understands the difference between typology and allegory, it’s Chrysostom.

A fourth argument, which is not really an argument for it being typology, but an argument from mistaken conclusions, is that if Paul is using allegory, either (a) Paul is using what we consider an illegitimate exegetical technique (and so either we are wrong or he is wrong), or (b) Paul is using a legitimate exegetical technique, which legitimates allegorical readings for us and basically throws off the limits. The key difference between typology and allegory is precisely that typology is a figurative reading that has a number of constraints inherent in it, which allegory does not.

It is at this point in the passage that Paul’s manoeuvre seems most audacious. He identifies the two sons with two covenants, and the natural ‘lining up’ of types here would seem to be: Isaac -> Moses/Sinai -> Law -> Jews/the free over against Ishmael -> not-Jerusalem -> excluded from Law -> Gentiles/slaves. But this is decidedly not how Paul lines up the patterns here. Instead, he aligns Hagar with Mount Sinai, slavery, Arabia, and the present Jerusalem. Paul’s radical re-ordering of the figurative reading suggests that physical, earthly, fleshly Jerusalem, because of its Law-obedience, and because of its Christ-rejection, is the figurative covenant of slavery. This, of course, picks up the earlier thrust of the letter that identifies being under the Law as being enslaved to and by the Law.

On the other hand, the true descendants of Isaac, the sons of Abraham, are not the physical descendants of Abraham, who show themselves to be slaves by their slavery to the Law, but are the children of promise. And, as we have seen in chapter 3, it is those ‘of faith’ that are the children of the promise, the children of Abraham. Paul establishes, now figuratively, the superiority and priority of the promise over the Law, and so the free over the slaves. This argument is grounded in the Law, and so those who desire to be under the Law ought to listen!

Part of the genius of Paul’s argument is to make a distinction between physical, earthly, temporal Jerusalem, which the line of logic might lead one to think should be the one aligned with freedom, and the ‘Jerusalem from above’. Rather, it is the present temporal Jerusalem that has rejected the promise, rejected the fulfilment of the covenant, and so remains under slavery. The heirs of promise and covenant both have been translated to the children of promise, the sons of Abraham who are so by faith.

The quotation of Isaiah 54:1 identifies the Galatian believers as the spiritual offspring promised to Jerusalem, but the figurative/spiritual reality of Jerusalem. The link here is with Sarah’s barrenness, which fits a regular theme of the barren woman who is given a miraculous child (Sarah being but the first, but cf. Rebekah in Gen 25:21, Rachel in Gen 30:1, Hannah, and typologically speaking Mary). There is ironic and paradoxical fulfilment that the barren woman produces far more children than the married, fruitful woman.

In v28 Paul brings the discussion back to his audience. By sympathetically identifying them as children of promise, of the lineage of Isaac (spiritually speaking, at the least), he accomplishes two things. Firstly, nothing is lacking in their present spiritual condition, and so nothing is gained by going ‘under the Law’. That measure would not gain them status as children of promise or descendants, by covenant incorporation, of Isaac. Rather, it would effect the opposite, they would lose their status as children of promise, by becoming instead children of slavery, and figuratively speaking would place themselves outside the line of blessing/promise that reaches back to Isaac. Secondly, Paul presumes so as to persuade. By identifying them in such a manner, he presumes that they will indeed reject the persuasions of the Judaisers.

Going on, Paul draws them into the typological circumstance, though his means of doing so are not readily reconcilable with the Genesis narrative. According to v29 Ishmael persecuted Isaac, and the same situation obtains today. How and where does Ishmael do this? It seems likely that Paul is drawing upon interpretive traditions regarding Gen 21, where Ishmael is said to be ‘laughing’ (Gen 21:9). This might be taken, as some have, to mean that Ishmael was ‘mocking’ Isaac. Alternatively, there is the suggesting that in ‘laughing’ Ishmael is usurping Isaac’s place. Regardless, Paul understands the circumstances to be an attempt by Ishmael to supplant Isaac, and that it corresponds to the present Galatian situation. His response is to creatively draw upon the 21:10, the words of Sarah to Abraham, and treat them as an impersonal (read: divine) mandate. While it would not be obvious from a reading of the Genesis 21 narrative that this is how they are to be understood, the flow of redemptive history in that book gives them a warrant as part of God’s purpose and plan, which leaves space and blessing for Ishmael, but by no means offers him as a partner in the promise and the covenant – it is all through Isaac.

So too, the Galatians ought to cast out the Judaisers. Insofar as Paul applies the figurative meaning of the narrative, the Galatian community of believers should be read of those who are in slavery, not children of promise, fleshly, and in fact persecuting them. Paul’s summation in v31 returns again to the subject of identity, but now inclusively, ‘we’, are the children of the free-woman. v31 should be read in conjunction with 5:1, which picks up the preceding as the basis for its injunction to stand firm, and not submit to slavery. No one who is freed desires, or should, go back to slavery, and Paul sees this as categorical in the case of those liberated by Christ. The very goal of that liberation is a freedom that is to be lived qua freedom, and so the desire to return to the Law, return to slavery, is antithetical to everything Christ has accomplished.

[2] Isa 54:1
[3] Gen 21:10

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Renaissance Man-ing up

I have been thinking a little bit lately about achievements, goals, and the 'renaissance man' ideal. I think that ideal is in many ways defunct, partly because of its underlying social reality having evaporated centuries ago, partly because our knowledge base makes unattainable the kind of true universal and deep knowledge that someone like da Vinci had. But one should also ask why one would seek to have such a broad-spanning knowledge. That is another question for another time.

Anyway, I have been pondering my own life, and how I'm going. This is a bit like writing a resume for awesome, so if it sounds like boasting, it's because that's what listing one's accomplishments always sounds like.

Education: I hold 3 bachelor degrees, 1 in philosophy, 2 with honours (creative arts & theology); I also hold a Graduate Diploma in Classical Languages, a Graduate Certificate in the same (a separate university), and a MTh in early church history. I'm currently at work on a PhD. I also managed to fit in a trade certificate in fitness.

Goals: I aim to finish the PhD in less than 6 years, and then I will contemplate either writing research articles, or possible pursuing formal studies in Gaelic.

Languages: I have over 7 years of formal study in Latin and Greek, and can speak half-decent Latin, while reading both languages at a high level, and occasionally writing the same. I have a self-estimated CEFR level of B1/2 in Scottish Gaelic, and probably a B1 in Mongolian. I have a grammatical knowledge, but not a working fluency, in ancient Hebrew.

Goals: I aim to improve Gaelic and Mongolian to C1/C2. I also aim to continue to improve my written Latin and Greek, and spoken Latin into the Bs. I further aim to master simple German (A2)

Humanities: I studied literature, literary theory, philosophy, ancient history, classics, and theology, and have a solid grasp in these fields.

Goals: Consider taking some free online courses in art history, music appreciation, and social sciences.

Sciences: A weakness! I studied advanced math at high school, but nothing much since.

Goals: Look for and take some free courses in basic physics, math, biology, chemistry, etc.. Have a working knowledge of the foundations of these sciences.

Physical fitness: I studied Kung Fu for 10 years, Krav Maga for 2, and have undertaken some training in acrobatics and parkour. In younger years I also studied ballroom dancing. I lifted weights seriously for 2 years, and competed in a powerlifting competition, managing a 2xBW deadlift, a 1.66xBW squat, and a BW benchpress as my PBs in my lifting career.

Goals: Continue current gymnastics based workouts, aiming towards a number of strength and agility goals, e.g. planche, iron cross, backbend walkover, back handspring.

Arts: I can play bass guitar, and I used to write poetry?

Goals: start writing poetry again. Consider taking bass skills to a new level.

Social: I am a comfortable and strong public speaker.

Goals: Work on informal socialisation and 'networking'.

Achievements: I think this is an area for focus over the next decade or two. I feel like I should do a few things and leave some contributions to the world. I would like to write a few books, but I am not quite sure yet about what I would like to write.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Trinity & Subordinationism

It's a trend in contemporary theology to (a) claim that the doctrine of the Trinity supports complementarianism, (b) claim that the doctrine of the Trinity supports egalitarianism, (c) claim that the doctrine of the Trinity can't be used for either of these claims.

I've lately been reading Kevin Giles, The Eternal Generation of the Son, which for the most part is a solid defence of the doctrine of EGS. He's quite right, in my opinion, to tackle head-on evangelical scholars who reject this doctrine. The quality of evangelical scholarship in understanding this doctrine is half the problem. For example, Giles references Grudem, and Grudem treats the topic in an appendix (6) to his Systematic Theology, in which Grudem stunningly shows a degree of historical and doctrinal ignorance that is appalling.

However, Giles has a second agenda, which sits less comfortably. He regularly points out that the Father and Son are co-equal in essence and in authority. Now, this is quite true, but the second half of that statement hinges upon the Father and Son sharing all things, so this includes them sharing all works, all glory, all power, all knowledge, etc.. Giles, in singling out authority, is leading up to a claim that to assert the position of "eternal functional subordination" is to be neo-Arian.

The problem with Giles' argument is that it shares an Arian assumption. Among anti-Nicene proponents of the Fourth century a major presupposition was that if Jesus is inferior in any way, he cannot be God. The counter argument of pro-Nicenes at this point is that Jesus' apparent inferiority is distinctly related to the Economy, that is to the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Jesus is the sent Christ, the one who gives up the form of God and takes Humanity, and in his Humanity is subject to the Father.

But, the Nicene defence sets an important precedent - differentiation of role is no bar to equality of status. Christ submits to the Father but is equal and one with the Father.

Now, whether that holds in an eternal, not just an economic sense, is the debated point. But Giles' argument hinges upon the Arian presupposition, that inferiority of role cannot coincide with equality of status. This, of course, is the presupposition that many egalitarians hold - if there is real equality of status between men and women, then there cannot exist any inferiority of role. That is simply not a justifiable proposition based on the Nicene defense of the Son's self-humiliation.

I'm unconvinced by a doctrine of eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, but I don't think complementarianism needs such a doctrine to support itself. I do think the doctrine of the Trinity sheds important light on how we may think about status, role, and ontology, which sheds indirect light on how we think about gender roles. Without the Dispensation of the Son's self-humiliation, we could never expect humans to accept inferiority of role, without acknowledging inferiority of being. Christ makes possible submission, since it is of God to humble oneself.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Strategising for multiple language learning

Most people, probably myself included, should not tackle multiple languages at once. But that is not always practical, and sometimes we just can't be convinced otherwise. Here is my strategy on dealing with this.

Firstly, you have finite time. It may not be possible to do all that you want.

My own situation is that I have 4 languages 'on the boil': Latin, Greek, Gaelic, and Mongolian. Each of these has a different context, which shapes my approach. Latin and Greek I have studied a lot, but have little spoken opportunities. My need in these languages is more of an 'upkeep/slow progression' type. Mongolian is conditioned by having 3hrs of class, 5 days a week, and living in a country where it is the everyday language. Gaelic is a language I am passionate about, somewhat independent in learning, and aiming for more and more input.

One phenomenon I am seeking to avoid, and cultivate its converse, is that of having a space in the brain that is 'foreign language', where all L2s get dumped. That just leads to a lot of codeswitching problems. Instead, when working on a language, I want it to be its own discrete system, and I want to learn in that language and function in it as much as possible.

For this reason, I subdivide my day to transition from one language to another. I spend some time each morning with Greek and Latin, just reading and sometimes listening. Before Mongolian class I transition, by going over vocabulary, doing homework, etc. By the time I get to class I want spontaneous Mongolian bubbling in my head. When I come home from class, I try to transition to Gaelic, and actually expunge Mongolian from my active mental space. Again, some vocabulary, some reading, exercises, listening, etc., to work on that language.

This approach provides bigger segments of a day functioning or focusing on individual languages, rather than a more chop-and-change approach. It also tries to avoid moving from one language to another too 'quickly', but sets up more definite transition times.

All in all I am finding this more helpful than my previous approaches, which involved alternate days for some languages, or a little bit of everything in the morning.

Hilary, De Trinitate, X.71

The Father is besought for us, He speaks for us: may all this lead us to believe and confess! The answer of the Glorifier is granted not to the prayer for glory, but to the ignorance of the bystanders: must we not then regard the complaint of suffering, when He found His greatest joy in suffering, as intended for the building up of our faith? Christ prayed for His persecutors, because they knew not what they did. He promised Paradise from the cross, because He is God the King. He rejoiced upon the cross, that all was finished when He drank the vinegar, because He had fulfilled all prophecy before He died. He was born for us, suffered for us, died for us, rose again for us. This alone is necessary for our salvation, to confess the Son of God risen from the dead: why then should we die in this state of godless unbelief? If Christ, ever secure of His divinity, made clear to us His death, Himself indifferent to death, yet dying to assure that it was true humanity that He had assumed: why should we use this very confession of the Son of God that for us He became Son of Man and died as the chief weapon to deny His divinity?

- Hilary of Poitiers, "On the Trinity", trans. E. W. Watson et al., in , vol. 9a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume IX: St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus ( ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace;New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 202.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Exegetical Notes on Galatians 4:12-20



12 Γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ, ὅτι κἀγὼ ὡς ὑμεῖς, ἀδελφοί, δέομαι ὑμῶν. οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε· 13 οἴδατε δὲ ὅτι διʼ ἀσθένειαν τῆς σαρκὸς εὐηγγελισάμην ὑμῖν τὸ πρότερον, 14 καὶ τὸν πειρασμὸν ὑμῶν ἐν τῇ σαρκί μου οὐκ ἐξουθενήσατε οὐδὲ ἐξεπτύσατε, ἀλλὰ ὡς ἄγγελον θεοῦ ἐδέξασθέ με, ὡς Χριστὸν Ἰησοῦν. 15 ποῦ οὖν μακαρισμὸς ὑμῶν; μαρτυρῶ γὰρ ὑμῖν ὅτι εἰ δυνατὸν τοὺς ὀφθαλμοὺς ὑμῶν ἐξορύξαντες ἐδώκατέ μοι. 16 ὥστε ἐχθρὸς ὑμῶν γέγονα ἀληθεύων ὑμῖν; 17 ζηλοῦσιν ὑμᾶς οὐ καλῶς, ἀλλὰ ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν, ἵνα αὐτοὺς ζηλοῦτε· 18 καλὸν δὲ ζηλοῦσθαι ἐν καλῷ πάντοτε καὶ μὴ μόνον ἐν τῷ παρεῖναί με πρὸς ὑμᾶς. 19 τέκνα μου, οὓς πάλιν ὠδίνω μέχρις οὗ μορφωθῇ Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν· 20 ἤθελον δὲ παρεῖναι πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἄρτι καὶ ἀλλάξαι τὴν φωνήν μου, ὅτι ἀποροῦμαι ἐν ὑμῖν.


12 Become as I, because I also [became] as you, brothers, I beg you. You did me no harm; 13 You know that it was on account of [the] weakness of the flesh that I preached-the-gospel to you in the first instance, 14 and you did not despise1 me nor disdain your trial in my flesh, but received me as an angel2 of God, as Christ Jesus. 15 Where then is your [former] state-of-blessedness? For I testify to you that if able, having plucked out your eyes, you would have given them to me. 16 So I have become your enemy, speaking the truth to you? 17 For they are zealous of you, not in a good way, but they wish to shut you out, so that you might envy them. 18 It is good to be sought always in a good way and not only in my being present with you. 19 My children, whom I am again giving birth to until Christ shall be formed in you: 20 I wished to be present with you now and to change my [tone of] voice, because I am at a loss in your case.

1 more literally: spit out, a superstitious sign of rejection
2 angel, or messenger.


A key question as v12 begins is the ‘what’ that Paul became? The context persuades me that in light of the preceding discourse about sons, slaves, and the Law, Paul’s implication is that he became ‘like a Gentile Sinner’, in being freed from the Law. In effect he stepped outside the ‘Law-experience’, and entered into a entirely new category of existence. That realm of existence is Christ, who has fulfilled the Law, so that this new form of existence is not ‘outside the Law as transgression’ but ‘outside the Law as beyond something rendered obsolete by perfection of its telos’. Ultimately, Paul’s exhortation rests upon the deeply problematic move of why they would try and step inside the Law-experience, when this is part and parcel of what Christ has set them free from.

Paul links his exhortation to the past relationship between himself and the Galatian believers. He mentions in turn: that there is no disruption of relationship at least on his part – he does not feel wronged or alienated by them. Furthermore, he recollects to them the circumstance of his first coming to them and the occasion of his (relatively) prolonged stay, namely some kind of physical ailment. Despite speculation, the text and Paul remain silent on its exact nature. The focus rather of Paul’s account is on the quality of their reception. In v14 he offers a powerful identification, in that to receive Paul, insofar as he is an agent of gospel preaching, is to receive Christ. This accords well with ambassadorial representation, cf. for example 2 Corinthians 5:20.
The formerly blessed and beneficient welcome is then contrasted, in v15, with their inexplicable change of conduct. Previously the extent of their love for Paul was unbounded, now it appears to have been utterly reversed. Paul locates the reason for this not so much in the Galatian believers, to whom he is appealing, but in outsiders, the Judaisers, whom he excludes from both his target audience and from consideration. Essentially Paul is engaging in a rhetorical tactic (and I mean no disparagement by this, only observation) of trying to re-align this group of believers with himself and the true gospel, but disassociating them from the alternate group of teachers, whose ‘gospel’ Paul has already rejected, and which he perceives to be an abomination that will lead believers to hell.

This is not merely or only a theological alignment question, but a profoundly personal one. Formerly they showed a deep and personal affection for Paul. Paul now raises the compelling question, is his speaking of the truth the basis for their becoming hostile to him? The implicit claim is that speaking truth ought never to be such grounds.

In v17 Paul moves back from the personal to the theological, but without leaving the personal behind. He highlights the opponent’s zeal, or desire, for the Galatian believers, but suggests that it is not a wholesome one. That by apparently ‘including’ them by the extension of Mosaic law code, they in effect exclude them, so that they become second-tier believers, Gentiles who might ‘envy’ true-born Jews. The outcome of the opponents’ zeal is to deprive these very believers of the benefits of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Rather, Paul says, there is a good way to be ‘sought’, to be desired, to be included, and this is not circumscribed by Paul’s own physical presence. Paul considers, given the events in Galatia, that he is again trying to ‘give birth’ to them, that Christ may be formed in them. The interrupt caused by his opponents and its grave effects on this group of believers is so severe that Paul depicts his strivings on their behalf as tantamount to needing to be (re-)converted, because of the deficiency of their grasp on the gospel; their willingness and gullibility in being deceived by the false gospel is evidence that in a real sense Christ is not (fully) formed in them.

And so Paul expresses throughout this passage and especially in v20 a real sense of aporia, he is at a loss as to what to do with them, how to persuade them, why they have been taken in, why they have turned hostile. For those who grasp to gospel and its implications, there is a profound ‘why’ that finds no answer, when considering those who turn away, or pervert the gospel itself. Paul’s own personal desire is for physical presence (to deal with this in person) but also to change his tone, that this wasn’t a problem he needed to address, but he cannot simply ignore or diminish its importance, it must be dealt with.