Category Archives: Galatians

Why Jesus is not a Scapegoat (Leviticus 16.6 is not in Galatians 3.13)

These Cards We're Dealt
These Cards We’re Dealt (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is due to my dissertation which at some point may be completed or even, one day, started on. This is more of an exercise to put some words down on paper. 

The use of the scapegoat image is prevalent in describing Paul’s intention in Galatians 3.10–14; however, to do so leaves us open to the possibility of a God who has sinned, or at the very least, a God who has previously offered a sacrifice for himself before he offered Jesus as the scapegoat.

Martyn writes,

By using this linguistic pattern the early Christian who formulated the confession quoted in 2 Corinthians 5:21 expressed two convictions: (a) sin is something that can be transferred from one person to another; (b) God transferred our sin to Christ, thus freeing us from its effect.1

Before I tackle this statement outright, let me draw your attention to Leviticus 16.6:

He must offer the bull reserved for his purification-offering and make expiation for himself and his household. (REB)

The “he” in this first is the Aaronic priest. Notice, the priest requires a sacrifice himself to atone for his sins. This is not akin to baptism or any other act we find in the Gospels attributed to Jesus. Or, rather, there is no act recorded in the New Testament whereby Jesus first atoned for his sins before offering himself as a sacrifice. Indeed, there is some contention as to whether Paul thought Jesus sinless (Romans 8.3). But, this doesn’t matter so much as what it would require of God. If Jesus is the sacrifice offered by God, then to have Jesus as a scapegoat would require God to have previously atoned for his own sins. 

Unless, of course, we ignore that part because God is sinless. But can we? The priest atoned for his sins in order to transfer the sins to the scapegoat. He could act only as a conduit for a short time because he would soon be sinless. The scapegoat would then take away the sins of all of Israel, including the priest. It was all inclusive. Added to this, Jesus is referred to as our high priest in Hebrews, not God. In John, Jesus is the lamb that removes the sins of the world. But, I’m getting canonical here.

Is there something better to explain the language of Galatians 3.13?

Christ bought us freedom from the curse of the law by coming under the curse for our sake; for scripture says, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.’ (REB)

I don’t think we can get the idea of transference here. If we go outside Galatians, even in incorporating 2 Co 5.21, there is plenty of other language to prevent the idea that God transferred our sins (acting as a high priest) to Christ. Yes, Christ took our sins, but he became a curse. He did it.

I don’t think there is one particular image of the death of Christ in Paul, although they all revolve around a sacrifice. I’m not saying that scapegoat (if by this we mean a transference-then-sacrifice) is not one of them. I think we can clearly see that 2 Co. 5.21 is a perfect example of this. However, I don’t think it is what is intended here.

  1. J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (vol. 33A; Anchor Yale Bible; New Haven;  London: Yale University Press, 2008), 318.

Book Notice: Galatians and Christian Theology: Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics in Paul’s Letter @bakeracademic

How did I miss this? 

The letter to the Galatians is a key source for Pauline theology as it presents Paul’s understanding of justification, the gospel, and many topics of keen contemporary interest. In this volume, some of the world’s top Christian scholars offer cutting-edge scholarship on how Galatians relates to theology and ethics.

The stellar list of contributors includes John Barclay, Beverly Gaventa, Richard Hays, Bruce McCormack, and Oliver O’Donovan. As they emphasize the contribution of Galatians to Christian theology and ethics, the contributors explore how exegesis and theology meet, critique, and inform each other.


Part 1: Justification
1. Messiahship in Galatians? N. T. Wright
2. Paul’s Former Occupation in Ioudaismos Matthew V. Novenson
3. Galatians in the Early Church: Five Case Studies Karla Pollmann and Mark W. Elliott
4. Justification and Participation: Ecumenical Dimensions of Galatians Thomas Söding
5. Arguing with Scripture in Galatia: Galatians 3:10-14 as a Series of Ad Hoc Arguments Timothy G. Gombis
6. Martin Luther on Galatians 3:6-14: Justification by Curses and Blessings Timothy Wengert
7. Yaein: Yes and No to Luther’s Reading of Galatians 3:6-14 Scott Hafemann
8. “Not an Idle Quality or an Empty Husk in the Heart”: A Critique of Tuomo Mannermaa on Luther and Galatians Javier A. Garcia
9. Judaism, Reformation Theology, and Justification Mark W. Elliott
10. Can We Still Speak of “Justification by Faith”? An In-House Debate with Apocalyptic Readings of Paul Bruce McCormack

Part 2: Gospel
11. The Singularity of the Gospel Revisited Beverly Roberts Gaventa
12. Apocalyptic Poiēsis in Galatians: Paternity, Passion, and Participation Richard B. Hays
13. “Now and Above; Then and Now” (Gal. 4:21-31): Platonizing and Apocalyptic Polarities in Paul’s Eschatology Michael B. Cover
14. Christ in Paul’s Narrative: Salvation History, Apocalyptic Invasion, and Supralapsarian TheologyEdwin Chr. van Driel
15. “In the Fullness of Time” (Gal. 4:4): Chronology and Theology in Galatians Todd D. Still
16. Karl Barth and “The Fullness of Time”: Eternity and Divine Intent in the Epistle to the GalatiansDarren O. Sumner
17. “Heirs through God”: Galatians 4:4-7 and the Doctrine of the Trinity Scott R. Swain

Part 3: Ethics
18. Flesh and Spirit Oliver O’Donovan
19. “Indicative and Imperative” as the Substructure of Paul’s Theology-and-Ethics in Galatians?: A Discussion of Divine and Human Agency in Paul Volker Rabens
20. Grace and the Countercultural Reckoning of Worth: Community Construction in Galatians 5-6John M. G. Barclay
21. Paul’s Exhortations in Galatians 5:16-25: From the Apostle’s Techniques to His Theology Jean-Noël Aletti
22. The Drama of Agency: Affective Augustinianism and Galatians Simeon Zahl
23. Life in the Spirit and Life in Wisdom: Reading Galatians and James as a Dialogue Mariam J. Kamell

a weekend prayer, from an ancient Gallican liturgy (thanks to @bolin_thomas)

I found this, via Logos, as part of my current dissertation work. You will note why, I believe.

A Roman copy of a Greek statue commemorating t...
A Roman copy of a Greek statue commemorating the victory over the Galatians called The Dying Gaul. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thanks to Thomas Bolin for this translation,

Omnipotentis Domini misericordiam depraecemur, ut acceptum referat divina dignatio quidquid altaribus suis infert humana sedulitas. Ratas faciat praeces et vota cunctorum; et quod devotio inpendit ad gratiam, poscentibus profeciat ad salutem. ad quem redi reviviscere ; quem nemo amittit, nisi errore deceptus ; nemo quaerit, nisi ratione commonitus ; nemo invenit, nisi corde conpunctu.

We entreat the mercy of almighty God, that the painstaking mortal attention brought to any of his altars may be made acceptable to the divine dignity. May He render acceptable every prayer and offering, that whatever devotion is exerted toward grace will succeed in its demands for salvation to You who are ready to give life again, whom no one loses unless deceived by error, whom no one seeks unless by the force of reason, to whom no one comes without a repentant heart.

Thanks to Tom for this!

Enhanced by Zemanta

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

Tom Wright on Galatians

Here. This is Tom Wright. You disagree with him and… whew… I wouldn’t want to be you in December.

I think it is Paul’s second letter, by the way.

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.