Category Archives: Galatians

Marius Victorinus on Christ as Liberator

Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pan...
Hagia Sophia ; Empress Zoë mosaic : Christ Pantocrator; Istanbul, Turkey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is from the first Latin commentary on Paul’s works, specifically at Galatians 2.20–21:

But as I now live in the flesh, I live in the faith of God and Christ. This is truly to live spiritually: that although one lives in the flesh, one does not live on account of the flesh or based on the flesh. Rather, one lives to God and to Christ by faith in them. This is what it means to live spiritually: to meditate on Christ, to speak of him, to believe him, to direct one’s desires toward him; to flee the world, to expel from one’s mind all things which are in the world. This is what it means to live by faith: to hope for no other good than what is from Christ and from God. This is what it means to live in the faith of God and Christ, who loved me and handed himself over for my sake. Let us keep this worthy act in mind, so that we live in him through faith—in him, who to hand over so great a gift to us would give himself to death and the cross for our sake, and in so doing liberate us from our sins.

Next he adds in this manner:

I am not ungrateful to God’s grace (2: 21), so that, God having redeemed me through Christ and Christ having handed himself over for my sake, I would return to the hope of the Law—all the hope I have in Christ being disregarded—and would believe myself to be justified based on the works of the Law. That would be ungrateful to the one who did so much for me, who for my sake would put himself in the line of fire in order to liberate me from my sins by taking their penalties upon himself.

That last line is a killer.

Some writers on Galatians 3.13 and the curse

Justin the Philosopher
Justin the Philosopher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am doing some work on Galatians 3.13 in early Christian writers. I’ve included Philo and the Epistle of Barnabas in here as well for various reasons. They, like Paul, are interpreting Deuteronomy 21.22. The others are interpreting Paul.

St. Ambrose:

As, then, He was made sin and a curse not on His own account but on ours, so He became subject in us not for His own sake but for ours, being not in subjection in His eternal Nature, nor accursed in His eternal Nature. “For cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Cursed He was, for He bore our curses; in subjection, also, for He took upon Him our subjection, but in the assumption of the form of a servant, not in the glory of God; so that whilst he makes Himself a partaker of our weakness in the flesh, He makes us partakers of the divine Nature in His power. But neither in one nor the other have we any natural fellowship with the heavenly Generation of Christ, nor is there any subjection of the Godhead in Christ. But as the Apostle has said that on Him through that flesh which is the pledge of our salvation, we sit in heavenly places,9 though certainly not sitting ourselves, so also He is said to be subject in us through the assumption of our nature.1

St. Athanasius:

And thus much in reply to those without who pile up arguments for themselves. But if any of our own people also inquire, not from love of debate, but from love of learning, why He suffered death in none other way save on the Cross, let him also be told that no other way than this was good for us, and that it was well that the Lord suffered this for our sakes. 2. For if He came Himself to bear the curse laid upon us, how else could He have “become a curse,” unless He received the death set for a curse? and that is the Cross. For this is exactly what is written: “Cursed is he that hangeth on a tree.” 3. Again, if the Lord’s death is the ransom of all, and by His death “the middle wall of partition” is broken down, and the calling of the nations is brought about, how would He have called us to Him, had He not been crucified?2

St. John Damascene:

CHAPTER XXV

Concerning the Appropriation.

It is to be observed that there are two appropriations: one that is natural and essential, and one that is personal and relative. The natural and essential one is that by which our Lord in His love for man took on Himself our nature and all our natural attributes, becoming in nature and truth man, and making trial of that which is natural: but the personal and relative appropriation is when any one assumes the person of another relatively, for instance, out of pity or love, and in his place utters words concerning him that have no connection with himself. And it was in this way that our Lord appropriated both our curse and our desertion, and such other things as are not natural: not that He Himself was or became such, but that He took upon Himself our personality and ranked Himself as one of us. Such is the meaning in which this phrase is to be taken: Being made a curse for our sakes.3

The Epistle of Barnabas:

7.7-10: But the other one—what must they do with it? Accursed, saith He, is the one. Give heed how the type of Jesus is revealed. And do ye all spit upon it and goad it, and place scarlet wool about its head, and so let it be cast into the wilderness. And when it is so done, he that taketh the goat into the wilderness leadeth it, and taketh off the wool, and putteth it upon the branch which is called Rachia, the same whereof we are wont to eat the shoots when we find them in the country. Of this briar alone is the fruit thus sweet. What then meaneth this? Give heed. The one for the altar, and the other accursed. And moreover the accursed one crowned. For they shall see Him in that day wearing the long scarlet robe about His flesh, and shall say, Is not this He, Whom once we crucified and set at nought and spat upon; verily this was He, Who then said that He was the Son of God. 10For how is He like the goat?4

I find this interesting, since Barnabas is applying the Day of Atonement sacrifice to Christ, rather than the Passover lamb. Thus, he seems to interpret “curse” in this light, so that Jesus is bearing our sins.

St. Justin Martyr:

‘As God ordered the sign to be made by the brazen serpent,’ I went on, ‘and yet is not guilty [of the crime of making graven images], so in the Law a curse is placed upon men who are crucified, but not upon the Christ of God, by whom are saved all who have committed deeds deserving a curse.’5

Philo:

On Posterity of Cain and his Exile, VIII. (24) On this account it is written in the curses contained in scripture, “Thou shalt never rest; nor shall there be any rest for the sole of thy foot.” And, a little afterwards, we read that, “Thy life shall hang in doubt before them.”8 For it is the nature of the foolish man, who is always being tossed about in a manner contrary to right reason, to be hostile to tranquillity and rest, and not to stand firmly or with a sure foundation on any doctrine whatever. (25) Accordingly he is full of different opinions at different times, and sometimes, even in the same circumstances, without any new occurrence having arisen to affect them, he will be perfectly contrary to himself,—now great, now little, now hostile, now friendly; and, in short, he will, so to say, be everything that is most inconsistent in a moment of time. And, as the law-giver says, “All his life shall hang in doubt before him;” having no firm footing, but being constantly tossed about by opposing circumstances, which drag it different ways. (26) On which account Moses says, in another place, “Cursed of God is he that hangeth on a tree;” because what he ought to hang upon is God.

But such a man has, of his own accord, bound himself to the body, which is a wooden burden upon us, exchanging hope for desire and a perfect hope for the greatest of evils; for hope, being the expectation of good things, causes the mind to depend upon the bounteous God; but appetite, creating only unreasonable desires, depends on the body, which nature has made to be a sort of receptacle and abode for the soul.6

Martyrdom of Polycarp:

2.3 And giving heed unto the grace of Christ they despised the tortures of this world, purchasing at the cost of one hour a release from eternal punishment. And they found the fire of their inhuman torturers cold: for they set before their eyes the escape from the eternal fire which is never quenched; while with the eyes of their heart they gazed upon the good things which are reserved for those that endure patiently, things which neither ear hath heard nor eye hath seen, neither have they entered into the heart of man, but were shown by the Lord to them, for they were no longer men but angels already.

  1. Ambrose of Milan, “Exposition of the Christian Faith,” in St. Ambrose: Select Works and Letters (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. H. de Romestin, E. de Romestin, and H. T. F. Duckworth; vol. 10; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1896), 10306.
  2. Athanasius of Alexandria, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in St. Athanasius: Select Works and Letters (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. Archibald T. Robertson; vol. 4; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1892), 449
  3. John Damascene, “An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith,” in St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. S. D. F. Salmond; vol. 9b; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 9b71.
  4. Joseph Barber Lightfoot and J. R. Harmer, The Apostolic Fathers (London: Macmillan and Co., 1891), 275–276.
  5. Thomas B. Falls with Justin Martyr, The First Apology, The Second Apology, Dialogue with Trypho, Exhortation to the Greeks, Discourse to the Greeks, The Monarchy or The Rule of God (vol. 6; The Fathers of the Church; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948), 298.
  6. Charles Duke Yonge with Philo of Alexandria, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 134.

Timeline of Galatians from St. Irenaeus to St. Jerome

Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on...
Saint Augustine of Hippo, a seminal thinker on the concept of just war (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry for this, but I want to put it out there for a few reasons.

  1. It helps me in working through this dissertation thing so I don’t have to keep notes scattered around
  2. I’m asking for your help in finding anyone I have missed.

I am writing a section on Galatians in patristic thought, limiting it it c. St. Augustine (don’t worry, the “Sts” are dropped in the official document) because St. Augustine is the one I blame for changing a few things which leads us away from being able to read  better St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians.

Three early Christian apologists, one of them a saint, used Galatians but did not write a commentary:

  • St. Irenaeus (130–202, Lyons (modern France)) used it against Marcion while shedding light on budding theological developments, such as Mariology and atonement.
  • Tertullian (160–220, Carthage, northwestern Africa) uses it heavily against Marcion mainly because Marcion saw Galatians as the premier charter for his Christianity. I think Tertullian’s skills as a debater are masterful, and indeed he was a wonderful master debater as he allows Marcion is almost right in some of his interpretation but reminds the gnostic fellow St. Paul was among the Apostles and never separated, so to force a separation between them or between them and Abraham is to read it wrongly.
  • Clement of Alexandria (150–215, from Alexandria (Egypt)) uses Galatians only briefly to chide Marcion, but includes Valentinus as well. Clement, a wonder mind, uses Galatians to construct ethical behavior, argue that sex is allowable, and to place Greco-Roman philosophy on par with the Law of Moses, which is to say, they both led to Christ, who is the summation of both right philosophy and the Law.

You will note these three, while existing in three different geographical areas, all wrote concurrently.

Origen (182–254) is the first to write a commentary, but it is lost.

There are four commentaries, two by Church Fathers, one unknown, and one by a new convert, likewise coming to be around the same time.

  • St. Jerome (347–420) composes one (I haven’t read it yet, but early research says he preserves a lot of Origen’s commentary in his own).
  • St. Augustine (354–430)
  • Gaius Marius Victorinus, late 4th century. He converted c355, carrying with him his neoplatonic roots, something we see during this time.
  • Ambrosiaster (c.366–384). No one knows who wrote it, with it originally attributed to St. Ambrose.

I’ll post the unedited section later, when I am finished summarizing the commentaries.

Good Stuff from St. Irenaeus on St. Paul (inspiration, rhetoric)

Irenaeus compiled a list of apostolic successi...
Irenaeus compiled a list of apostolic succession, including the immediate successors of Peter and Paul” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Holy cow. I love this sort of stuff.

St. Irenaeus is fighting off Marcion and attempting to explain some things about St. Paul’s writing. Here, he cites Galatians 3.19. The Iion from Lyons writes,

From many other instances also, we may discover that the apostle frequently uses a transposed order in his sentences, due to the rapidity of his discourses, and the impetus of the Spirit which is in him. An example occurs in the [Epistle] to the Galatians, where he expresses himself as follows: “Wherefore then the law of works? It was added, until the seed should come to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator.” For the order of the words runs thus: “Wherefore then the law of works? Ordained by angels in the hand of a Mediator, it was added until the seed should come to whom the promise was made,”—man thus asking the question, and the Spirit making answer. (Adv. Haer. 3.7.2)

I see a few things:

  • St. Paul writes haphazardly “due to the rapidity of his discourses, and the impetus of the Spirit.”

Notice the collision of human and divine. After St. Irenaeus notes why St. Paul is writing in such a way — and why it is often confusing, the word order is messed up, etc… — he offers a correction. 

Second,

    • St. Irenaeus sees a dialogue in Galatians.

Some of us have noted that this seems to be St. Paul’s style in various other books, notably Romans. This would be a very small snippet of this, but St. Irenaeus noticed it and that is a big [Joe Biden] deal.

 

is Galatians written against the Roman imperial cult?

What follows is an unedited portion of my dissertation. In the larger context, I am trying to establish that the particular image for the death of Christ would have been known by the people(s) of Galatia. In the end, I believe the image would have been, but the use of an image does not mean St. Paul was writing against the image, rather, like others, he was using the image familiar to others — an image that carried significant weight. Admittedly, I am more surprised over the connection between Galatians and the Celts, not the mention human sacrifice. 

The Pergamon Altar in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin
The Pergamon Altar in the Pergamonmuseum in Berlin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recent Scholarship on The Imperial Cult and Galatians

With the act of the devotio seemingly drawn from Roman sources, it behooves me to mention the current state of scholarship around the imperial cult and the Epistle to the Galatians. While I will not pass judgment on the rise and use of Empire as a lens in reading the New Testament, mainly in American scholarship, one must remember the use of an image found in other cults does not mean Paul is using it to counter or otherwise overtake he previous cult. While devotio as an image is one primarily associated with Roman imperial ideology, I maintain this does not mean Paul used it as an argument against Rome. However, it is necessary to examine recent scholarship, if for nothing else but to show Paul’s audience would have at least known the religious and political implications of the image.

In the recent decade, there have been two major works examining the connection of the imperial cult to the epistle. The first is Galatians Re-Imagined by Brigitte Kahl, a work removing the Judaism of Paul’s opponents, replacing it with a juxtapose against Roman views of law and order.[1] The second work, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, sees the argument of Galatians something akin to a civic rebellion.[2] Rather than delve into the merits and conclusions of their argument, I will examine their evidences of the imperial cult with the corollary that context does not mean argument, rather only serves as an allowance for the use of known images.

Kahl avoids the distinction between North and South as the province of the letter, going much further and connecting it to the whole of the Gaul-Galatia bloodline. She bases this on history as well as the linguistic plight in not separating the Gauls inhabiting the area now known as France and the descendants of the Celtic diaspora occupying an area in Asia Minor as well as a post-Constantinian interpretative strategy she abhors. After promoting her view by using binaries and other linguistic turns, Kahl finally delves into re-imagining Galatians. She removes the Jewish ethnocentrism that is the usual exegetical framework only to replace it with the visual images of the Great Altar of Pergamon.[3] Because of this, she is able to then compare each statement by Paul against Roman images of somewhat equal standing. For instance, God is juxtaposed against the Emperor while the freedom promised by the Gospel is contrasted with Roman (and not Jewish) law. Of course, as usual with Empire critics, “gospel” becomes solely the answer to the Emperor’s news of victory. Kahl adds to the discussion of the possible imperial cult in Galatians only what we already know, that as a Roman province, it was prevalent; however, she does add the ability to see cultic images in Galatians, even if the caol áit are too thin.

One particular image is the use of gladiatorial games as a form of human sacrifice. As often is the case, Kahl begins with the Great Altar where the images of human sacrifice are explicit and then moves to Galatians. She notes the arena is bereft of the usual connotations of ritual sacrifice such as the absence of priests and the need for the community to be reconciled with the deities. However, what are present are segregated spaces, a well-regulated public stage, mythological overtones of blood, and the act of a sacrifice meant to bind the community together. She notes, “the games can be seen to have a cathartic effect by vicariously eliminating violence and evil dwelling not only outside but also inside the social body, for example, in terms of slave or gladiatorial rebellions, treachery, and civil wars (emphasis mine).”[4] The battle becomes a sacrifice to purify the community of violence, reuniting the community after a struggle. That the Galatians were not foreign to human sacrifice is forever recorded by Diodorus.[5] The act of human sacrifice had become abhorrent to the Romans, but was still welcomed and proclaimed among the Galatians.[6]

Justin K. Hardin’s work fleshes the imperial cult out, adding another dimension. Hardin writes, “It is clear that often the public worship of the emperor, rather than supplanting the local pagan religions in the Greek East, was simply amalgamated with it.”[7] Galatia was a unique province within the Roman Empire. Augustus colonized both north and south, although the southern portion of the province required quelling (c. 5 BCE).[8] Because of this, unlike other Greek ruling cults brought in with various new rulers, the Roman imperial cult began by Augustus, moved into all realm of the public and private life exactly because it was designed too.[9] It “superseded traditional religious worship with a uniform system of religious devotion” binding the colonized lands with the Emperor, rather than other forms of Roman religion. While the people inhabiting the province of Galatia had long roots back to Gaul, with those roots transporting and preserving their native religion, their indigenous deities and temples were replaced (at least in importance) with the Roman ritualistic caste. For instance, Pessinus, while often thought to be the temple of Cybele (who will factor into our discussion later) is devoted instead to the Roman cult.[10] While this substitution took place, the people of the province were able to avoid assimilation. Even at the Pessinus temple, Celtic priests still performed rituals making use of both Rome and indigenous cultic aspects.[11]

While both Kahl and Hardin go one to reinterpret Galatians in light of the surrounding, provincial, imperial cult they see, they both fail to make use of the non-assimilationist stance held by the non-Jewish population of Galatia. If the native religion could prevent assimilation, then it is more than likely the Jews (with their imperial protection) would not feel the overall pressure as both Kahl and Hardin suggest they do, even a new sect within Judaism. However, what both show is that the imperial cultic images were prevalent in Galatia while not acting as a major threat and at times were themselves transformed to aid the local religion. This allowed other images to be used in dialogic currency. Further, while Hardin does not focus on it, Kahl does mention the very visual presence of human sacrifice in the public arena, and it is a sacrifice used for both civic and cultic binding. Finally, neither sees the death of Christ as any particular theological or ideological turn in Paul’s letter. It is imply another part.

[1] Brigitte Kahl, Galatians Re-Imagined: Reading With the Eyes of the Vanquished (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010).

[2] Justin K. Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul’s Letter (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008).

[3] For instance, Kahl attempts to compare Paul’s prologue (Galatians 1.1–9) with the physical image of the Great Altar (246–47). It is based on the imagery of war and wrestling.

[4] Kahl, Re-imagining Galatians, 163.

[5] Kahl connects the human sacrifices of the Gauls/Galatians to the sacrificial act of sacking Rome as well as the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi (42–3). Of a particular note is the sacrifice of a Galatian man and woman (as well as Greek pairing) twice in Rome during the Second Punic War in a devotio meant to save the city from devastation. Hannibal, the threat to Rome, never managed to sack Rome, but would soon find Carthage itself sacrificed to the gods in the place of Rome. See James Smith Reid, “Human Sacrifices at Rome and Other Notes on Roman Religion,” in Journal of Roman Studies. Vol. 2. (1912), 34­–52 and Zsuzsanna Várhelyi, “The Specters of Roman Imperialism:The Live Burials of Gaulsand Greeks at Rome,” Classical Antiquity. Vol. 26. (2007), 277–304.

[6] Kahl suggests Nero reenacted the return to human sacrifice on behalf of easing social tension and creating a new social order (or city, in this case) when he charged the Christians with setting Rome on fire (296).

[7] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 40. Unlike either the Roman imperial cult or the indigenous Celtic cults, Judaism was not local, but rather focused back to Jerusalem.

[8] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 49, 56.

[9] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 47.

[10] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 41. See also Marc Waelkens, “The Imperial Sanctuary at Pessinus: Archaeological, Epigraphical and Numismatic Evidence for Its Date and Identification.” Epigraphcia Anatolica, Vol 7 1986, 37–72; and, John Devreker, Thoen Hugo, and Vermeulen Frank, “The Imperial Sanctuary at Pessinus and its Predecessors: A Revision.” Anatolia Antiqua, Tome 3, 1995. 125-144.

[11] Hardin, Galatians and the Imperial Cult, 69. Hardin mentions the use of sacrifices performed by the priests, much as Kahl above. What not as clear as Kahl, Hardin notes that the Temple had as part of its complex a Roman-style arena. These priests would provide gladiatorial games and other hecatombs during their tenure, allowing the priest to offer sacrifices that combined civic and cultic intents. See Stephen Mitchell, “Galatia under Tiberius,” Chiron, Vol 16., 1986, 17–33.