Paul’s Anger – Reading Galatians post-Fundamentalism

I’ve chided my brother the Apostle Paul for the past few weeks for his uncontrollable temper in dealing with the Galatians. And I laughed this morning when he urged his audience to use gentleness in dealing with those in sin. I have suggested that the best way to read Galatians was in fact the way Luther did it – with beer. Stone cold dead drunk.

But, we were discussing it today, and the reason for Paul’s anger hit me. Stone cold hit me.

It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5.1)

Paul was coming from a sect he believed was enslaving. We see this in later treatments of the Pharisees in the Gospels, but for now, Paul believes that the whole of the Law’s physical (ritualistic) requirements were enslaving the Gentiles to whom Christ has set free. I don’t want to get into NPP v. Luther, PSA v. CV; however, I understand his anger.

Paul was reacting against the enslaving power he saw in his former life – he was reacting against himself.

As one who has come from Fundamentalism, I know the feeling. I know the feeling when someone insists that we read Scripture only one way because that is the way they believe authority will be upheld. Or when we must dress a certain way, or when this or that is what is needed to be a real Christian. A real Christian… is no longer about faith in/of Christ, but about finding approval in the eyes of the mortal beholders.

Paul’s wrath is surely felt against those who would bring circumcision to the Galatians and perhaps unjustly in some cases; yet, I know that when I run into fundamentalists, especially those who insist on evangelizing others, of spreading fear, shame, and bondage, my anger gets the best of me. Not because I am weak and temperamental, but because I know the oppression that comes with fundamentalism, and I know the freedom that comes with real faith. When I sees others attempting to enslave the free, my blood boils.

So, maybe I need not be too concerned with my brother Paul’s anger, for the most part – knowing that if I had the chance, I would be just as angry against fundamentalists as well.

Does Paul ride the Greco-Roman (bi)cycle?

In Galatians 1.4 Paul writes,

τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν, ὅπως ἐξέληται ἡμᾶς ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν,

What about this present age?

The common concept of conflagration would see ages recycle, usually accompanied by some sort of fire. Very mythological here. We should remember that Paul is not a dispensationalist. No, not because the term is anachronistic and created by a Darby, but because Paul is smarter than that. But, think about what this present age could me to Roman readers.

If there another age after this one where the blood of Christ is not sufficient, or perhaps done with?

I know… I know… But Paul was a Roman!

And, don’t give me that — heaven is an age garbage. Ages end, dude.


Some quick thoughts on the Historical Paul

Did Luke theologize Paul’s blindness? Hang on, let me flesh this out.

First, Galatians 4.13-15. Here, he says the Galatians would have ripped out their eyes for him. Later in the chapter, he signs the letter with a very large signature. He was, perhaps, going blind.

Now, remember the conversion story of Paul in Acts 9. If Acts is written long after Paul’s death, and with the same theological motivation the Evangelists applied to Jesus, then is it possible that Luke takes the known disability of Paul and theologizes it inside the conversion story?

Anyone have any scholarly articles on this?

Was Paul’s early Christology Arian?

First, read Isaiah 9.5 in the Septuagint:

because a child was born for us,
a son also given to us,
whose sovereignty was upon his shoulder,
and he is named Messenger of Great Counsel,
for I will bring peace upon the rulers,
peace and health to him

Now, read Galatians 4.14

Instead, you welcomed me as though I were an angel of God, as though I were Christ Jesus himself

So, Jesus was a messenger of God? Umm….


English: Postage stamp depicting Martin Luther...

English: Postage stamp depicting Martin Luther, the initiator of the Protestant Reformation (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, this week, THE Sunday School class will begin to read Galatians. This is an important book to the Protestant Reformation, no doubt, given Luther’s love affair with it. However, it is early in Paul’s career, written during what we might suggest is Paul’s more zealous moments. He is brash, rude, and crude in this letter, often going the distance to humiliate and belittle his enemies. There is no sauve approach to the rhetoric as we see in Philippians, coming at the end of his career. Instead, he is brutal, up front, and angry.

One of the hallmarks of this letter is Paul’s insistence that he has no need to please men; yet, he his opening salvo is about gaining acceptance as one approved among men — namely Peter, James, and John. Specifically, Paul cares a great deal how James sees him, and he should since James is the brother of Jesus. Peter, on the other hand, gets a rebuke from Paul for what appears to be a hypocritical method of eating with Jew and Gentile.

Paul is careful, in my reading, to not elevate himself above Peter, but only to remind Peter of his previous statements and actions. Paul is not above Peter, only the casual witness.

One of the things I’m struggling with is the chronological reading. Borg suggests that it is possible Galatians comes after 1 Corinthians but before Romans. I see some connection here with Romans, where as 1 Thessalonians has some connection to 1 Corinthians. Who knows… maybe the pen didn’t change.

But, reading Galatians is like reading a man who should have counted to ten before he began to write. 10 10′s, as a matter of fact. Paul is angry. Upset. How dare Jews try to get Gentiles to become Jewish.

Anyway… how do you read Galatians?

Enhanced by Zemanta

Thoughts on Galatians

Well, school is back in session, therefore, I will post what I write there here, for the most part. There will be no reposting of what others have said, etc… First up was to respond to a line in this book regarding Galatians,

There is a move in Galatians to address the ethnocentric motivations of the ‘Judaizers’ which existed in the early Messiah-believing communities. We know of the issues raised in Acts, in which Jewish teachers demanded Jewish rites from Gentile believers. Here, Paul is addressing the issues in first person, without the help of a Church Council, and in some ways, addressing it as a defense of himself and his Gospel. It may be that Paul is over-blowing the situation in order to deliver the letter so as to prop up support for his own position, but regardless, the existential situation is that the primacy of Christ is being challenged. Throughout the letter, the destructions of walls which prevent the oppressed from achieving equality and justice are being cast down. No longer is a blood line required for salvation, and neither , then, are those certain works performed in hopes of achieving righteousness, which were limited to the aforementioned bloodline.

And this is where it gets uncomfortable. No longer was lip service to the erasing of cultural lines to be given, but now actions must be taken (or not taken). Further, in Galatians 3.28, Paul refers to the ‘Creation Order’ and says that it is now overturned! The implications, I think, are described better by a 2nd century writer who saw the Kingdom of God coming when there was neither male nor female. However to return to Paul, I believe that the implications for a life fully in Christ was the eradication of ancient prejudices, and for him, modern ones. Further, it was about the primacy of Christ, over against the written word and code of the Law, against the Traditions of Moses, and against any modern authority.

I think, as of now, that the purpose of Galatians, whether or not a real situation existed, was to state forcefully that Christ and the unity conceived in Christ was the point of it all, from the Created order to the Law. That the time has now fully come in which all of humanity is equal, and the Church is the light. There is also the issue that by Christ we see what life is supposed to be, given in sacrifice to God. As the “principle of the Christian’ life,” then, we become living Christs who reach out to the oppressed and the marginalized, giving ourselves for them. Much the same way the Apostle did in reaching out to the Gentiles.

Galatians 3.28 with N.T. Wright and Philo – Neither ‘Male and Female’

Thanks to TC for the link to Wright’s sermon from which I draw this post.

οὐκ ἔνι Ἰουδαῖος οὐδὲ Ἕλλην, οὐκ ἔνι δοῦλος οὐδὲ ἐλεύθερος, οὐκ ἔνι ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ· πάντες γὰρ ὑμεῖς εἷς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ.   (Galatians 3:28)

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NASB)

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28 NLT)

Wright contends that Paul is not saying the traditional ‘male nor female’ but is actually quoting Genesis 1.27 (from the Septuagint),

καὶ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἄνθρωπον κατ᾽ εἰκόνα θεοῦ ἐποίησεν αὐτόν ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ ἐποίησεν αὐτούς (Gen 1:27)

Some see two creation stories in Genesis, with the second giving us Adam and then Eve. The first sees no separation throughout all of Creation of creating male first and then female second. This is the Creation order commonly cited by those who opposed women in the ministry. Is the traditional interpretation fine? The two stories are the same, just one is drawn out longer? Philo goes beyond that, in which he sees that first the species of man was made which contained both genders, and only later did God set out Adam and then Eve,

On which account Moses says, “And besides he made…” and that what had been previously created were genera is plain from what he says, “Let the earth bring forth living souls,” not according to species but according to genus. And this is found to be the course taken by God in all cases; for before making the species he completes the genera, as he did in the case of man: for having first modelled the generic man, in whom they say that the male and female sexes are contained, he afterwards created the specific man Adam. (Leg 2:13)

I wonder how Philo would have handled evolution….

But, back to the passage at hand, which I note that the NLT is actually more literal than the word-for-word NASB.

The Jewish Hellenist philosopher Philo, a contemporary of Paul, noted that in Genesis 1.27, there was an equality as to the purpose and plan of ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ, although that equality didn’t permeate all areas of life, namely that of the phyiscal,

For it is equality which allotted night and day and light and darkness to existing things. It is equality also that divided the human race into man and woman, making two divisions, unequal in strength, but most perfectly equal for the purpose which nature had principally in view, the generation of a third human being like themselves. For, says Moses, “God made man; in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” He no longer says “him,” but “them” in the plural number, adapting the species to the genus, which have, as I have already said, been divided with perfect equality. (Quis rerum divinarum heres sit 1:164 )

Philo, if you take more than one sampling of the passage, points to inequality as the parents of war.

and inequality has been the parent of two wars, foreign and civil war, as on the other hand equality is the parent of peace.  (1:162)

This passage of Philo’s work concerns equality and injustice, so maybe if we place 164 within that context, Philo might be pointing to something larger – in that ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ presents a picture of equality as God first intentioned. It is a picture of night/day in which both are equal parts of the Day.

But, is Paul going back to that and saying that in Christ the original order is somehow restored, but if so, then how is it that there is no longer ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ?

This is not likely to be the last interaction with T.C.’s post – a great blogger which I encourage all my readers to read – nor Wright’s line of thinking here.

Translating προεγράφη in Galatians 3.1

Brian LePort has raised an important question concerning Galatians 3.1. You can find the first post here. He is dealing expressly with what some may consider a difficult passage given the rise of mysticism:

Continue reading

If Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was Published in Christianity Today | The Sacred Sandwich

Got to love the people at the Sacred Sandwich, I reckon. They have posted a satire of responses to Paul’s letter to the churches in Galatia, if it was printed in Christianity Today. The funny thing, for me, is that so many of these comments sounds like the ones that I get from real people!

Continue reading

Study of Galatians

I wish that I had more time to do things this like but WB has completed his study on Galatians.

Today he gives us his summary:

The book of Galatians was probably written by the Apostle Paul before the occurrence of the council between Paul and the church leaders in Jerusalem that is recorded in Acts 15. To see this, we must notice that Luke wrote in Acts 9:26-30 of Paul’s first trip as a Christian to Jerusalem and in Acts 11:30 of what appears to be his second trip to Jerusalem which he took with Barnabas. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:18 of his first trip to Jerusalem as a Christian and in Galatians 2:1-10 of taking with Barnabas what was apparently his second trip to Jerusalem. Paul wrote that he undertook the second trip to privately discuss what he was teaching the Gentiles with James, Peter, and John. According to Paul, they agreed with Paul’s message and only gave him the instruction to remember the poor, which was what he wanted to do anyway. This in turn corresponds with what Luke wrote in Acts 11:30 to the effect that Paul had taken money from the church in Antioch to the elders in Jerusalem to provide relief there. It is not unreasonable to think that Paul used the opportunity of taking relief funds to Jerusalem to discuss his concerns privately with the elders in Jerusalem. The council Luke wrote of in Acts 15 was apparently a public one, and as such would not correspond with the fact that Paul himself said his discussion with James, Peter and John was private. Since the council recorded Acts 15 occurred in 49 AD, but after the events in Acts 11:30, the book of Galatians was written about 48-49 AD, shortly after the end of his first missionary journey, and about six years before the book of Romans. Given this, Galatians was probably the earliest of Paul’s letters...more here

It is important to study the bible and to get in deep. These are the headlines, people – find what is underneath.