Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 10th, 2016 by Joel Watts

(Drafting…or drifting?) Galatians and the Arena

Yeah… I’m still working. Just a draft. The idea is that the death of Jesus is “scene” in the realm of human sacrifice, in tune with the arena and other political suicides.

more Arena talk about Galatians

Villa Borghese gladiator mosaic Español

Are the spectacle and the arena of metaphors it employs important to Galatians? I tentatively argue yes, for the following reasons. As discussed above, Paul uses the games metaphor twice in the epistle, 2.2 and 5.7. Secondly, magical rites were used in the arena to subdue opponents, if not kill them. We find our author alluding to the possibility of his enemies’ use of spells in 3.1 as well as in 5.20 to subdue the Galatians. If we understand Paul’s use of κηρύσσειν as connected to the proclamation in the arena, then the portrayal he mentions in 3.1 takes on a different light. In the vice list present in Galatians 5.19-21, the reader cannot help but notice the list of unvirtuous actions look eerily similar to that of the spectacle. Martyn has little trouble connecting the corruptions to certain deities mentioned above, such as Cybele. He also specifically ties εὁδωλολατρία to the former religious activities of the Galatians.[1] Unlike Betz who argues, that the vice list is nothing more than “a random collection of terms, describing the ordinary occurrences of evil among men,” the list represents well the expected vices of the Spectacle, as it includes the issues of sensuality, local religion, and the dissension often times settled in the arena.[2] Further, there is Paul’s use of κηρύσσειν that, as Conzelmann has noted, may be connected to the stadium. Finally, the entirety of the letter places Paul against adversaries, perhaps pitting the two opponents only in a rhetorical arena, but nevertheless they are fighting for the prize, that of the Galatians.

 

[1] J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (vol. 33A; Anchor Yale Bible; New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 496–97.

[2] Betz, Galatians, 283. See also Longenecker (Galatians, 254) who agrees with him.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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