Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 17th, 2015 by Joel Watts

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.

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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