Re: Galatians 3:13

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon May 11 1998 - 19:51:09 EDT

At 6:42 PM -0400 5/11/98, Edgar Foster wrote:
>---"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, you're getting into issues that far exceed the legitimate scope of
B-Greek discussion, viz. the Sitz-im-Leben of Galatians as a whole. This is
a larger issue of Biblical criticism, although I grant you got into it by
asking a question about a specific verse. Perhaps you should have shown
your hand at the outset and indicated that you were seeking support for or
arguments against the particular thesis that you've just set forth. When
you put the question in the form in which did, in fact, put it, I thought
you were simply soliciting a judgment on the text in question.

One thing that your message bares to wide open view, however, is how the
Zeitgeist transforms the interpretation of a single NT document and opens
up brand new controversies to replace the old ones. This is one reason why
I tend to be a skeptic regarding the relative truth value of successive
waves of historical criticism: few of the new reformulations seem to have
staying power.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243

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