Re: Galatians 3:13

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Mon May 11 1998 - 18:42:41 EDT

---"Carl W. Conrad" wrote:

> >Let me ask you one more question, Carl. Do you think that Paul is
strictly speaking of Jewish believers, or gentiles as well?<<
>>I think he is UNDOUBTEDLY speaking of gentiles as well: the
congregations he has founded are predominantly gentile congregations,
even if there may
be some Jews among them.<<

I am not sure if the congregations in Galatia were predominantly
gentile or not. There could well have been a mixture. Even if Paul is
addressing gentiles, however, he MIGHT be using the Jews as a case
study for the imperiled brothers in Galatia.

One thing that determines whom Paul was addressing is how we
understand the division of Galatians 2:15. The NIV understands Gal.
2:15-21 to be a continuation of Paul's rebuke to Peter. Others,
however, like Betz and Longenecker intepret Gal. 2:15ff as the
propositio which sums up the narratio of Galatians. This view is quite
plausible, and it is the hypothesis I am working with. It could mean
that Paul was addressing the Jews in the Galatian congregation,
besides the Judaizers.

If the supposition put forth by Betz and Longenecker is true, then it
is quite possible that Paul is talking to fellow Jews:

"We who are naturally Jews, not gentile sinners" (Gal. 2:15).

Furthermore, in Pauline theology, only the Jews are under the law of
Moses. Paul reiterates in Rom. 2:14:

Again, in Galatians, he says:


Only a Jew could be "cursed" by the law, and only a Jew could be
redeemed from the law. I find it very hard to see how Gal. 3:13
doesn't STRICTLY apply to the faithful Jewish brothers in Galatia
and/or the Judaizers.

>The usual view of the context of Galatians is that
> "Judaizer" missionaries have come to this community and upset it by
> the members that they must be circumcised and obey the Mosaic Law;
> interpret the context a bit differently, but in any case, it is
hardly a
> community of Jewish Christians, much less of unconverted Jews, of
which he
> is speaking.

Whether or not Galatia had a predominantly Jewish or partly Jewish
membership, it is difficult to see how Gal. 3:13 has a universal
application. Timothy George applies Gal. 3:13 in a cosmic, universal
manner. But, he adds:

"More recently, NT Wright and F. Thielman have suggested a different
line of interpretation for this passage, one that connects the "curse"
of Galatians to the covenant theology of Israel . . . Thus, in Gal.
3:10 Paul was "reminding the Galatian 'agitators' of something which
they, of all people, should know"--attempting to keep the law brings
God's curse (See Galatians, T. George. From Plight To Solution, F.
Thielman. Climax of the Covenant, NT Wright.).

In sum, Wright and Thielman say the curses of Gal. 3:10ff have
reference to Israel, not gentiles. I personally find this view
compelling, but I am testing its validity.


Edgar Foster

L-R College

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