Paul’s Arguments in Galatians 3:10-14

I’ve titled my paper for the St. Andrews conference, “Reading Scripture in Galatia: Galatians 3:10-14 as a Series of ad hoc Arguments.”  Here’s part of the introduction:

In Gal. 3:10-14, Paul makes a series of assertions followed by Scriptural citations.  Various Christian theological traditions have regarded these assertions and citations in terms of fundamental oppositions.  Paul is setting the Mosaic Law over-against the Christian gospel.  Or, he is pitting the character of faith against the dynamics of obedience.  Or, he is opposing Christianity to Judaism. 

In this paper I will argue that Paul has set himself to none of these tasks.  He is not making programmatic or global-theological statements about the opposition of Judaism and Christianity, nor is he contrasting faith and obedience.  Paul is, rather, making a series of ad hoc arguments, addressing very specifically and exclusively the local crisis in Galatia as he understands it.  His singular rhetorical aim is to dissuade his non-Jewish readers from Judaizing—being circumcised and adopting the rituals and patterns of life that constitute a Jewish identity. 

I will argue that the instances of “works of law” and “the law” are oblique references to the influencers’ teaching—what he calls “this persuasion” in Gal. 5:8.  That is, what Paul says about “the law” and “whoever is of works of law” in this passage are not claims he would make in other, less polemical, contexts.  This is not how Paul would talk if he were discoursing on the character of the Mosaic Law to some other audience, or if he were addressing Jew-gentile relations in the abstract.  His statements have direct, specific, and exclusive relevance to the local situation in Galatia.  In my view, Galatians is Paul’s Scripture-funded and vigorous confrontation of the specific gospel perversion in Galatia and not an attack on Judaism, the Mosaic Law, or Jewish identity.  Theologians and biblical scholars, therefore, must draw upon these statements with great sensitivity to the local crisis Paul addresses when they reflect upon Paul’s view of Judaism, the Mosaic Law, the relationship of faith to obedience, and the character of Jewish Christianity. 

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6 responses to “Paul’s Arguments in Galatians 3:10-14

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