Category Archives: Galatians

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.

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.

Contents

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
Indexes