Skip to main content

Galatians 1:13-17: 'Progressing in Judaism'

13 For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. 14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. 17 I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus. (TNIV)
Today my friend with whom I am studying Galatians asked an interesting question. He asked what it meant for Paul to advance in Judaism beyond Jews of his own age (vs. 14). How would one do such a comparison, and was it arrogant to do so? I didn't know the answer and I thought it was an important question, so I thought I'd look into it and blog about it (it's helpful to study in community!). This post will be a bit technical, so those who aren't interested can skip it.

According to Longenecker, προέκοπτον (proekopton), translated 'advancing' originally was a nautical term, referring to 'making headway in spite of blows' and in religious and philosophical writings it came to refer to 'the process of moral and spiritual development.' It's in the imperfect tense, which stresses that it's an action in the past that happened over a period of time, i.e., it was a process (29).

So Paul had some sort of standard that he used to measure his own performance and growth against that of his contemporaries. To do so and render a positive verdict certainly does strike one as arrogant. Dunn agrees. He notes that while the verb itself is neutral, it often does carry arrogant overtones, and that the sense of superiority becomes strong when combined with 'beyond.' Dunn comments that, "Whether Paul's attitude at that time was overt or conscious or not , the effect was to downgrade in status those who had not progressed so far. Such is the danger of a spirituality of 'progress.' To those in Galatia who thought their positive response to the other missionaries was an advance on the gospel as preached by Paul it was a timely reminder: Paul had not abandoned such ideas because he had been a failure in his own response to them; on the contrary he had outdone most of the rest of his contemporaries, including, by implication, these very same missionaries who now preached this message to the Galatian churches" (59).

I think that this verse has interesting implications for the debate surrounding the New Perspective on Paul, which we will look at in another post (hopefully) this week.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Commentary Series Overview

When I write commentary reviews, one of my main goals is to assess how well the commentator hit the intended audience of the commentary and utilized the format of the commentary. This often necessitates cluttering up the post discussing issues of format. To eliminate that, I thought that I would make some general remarks about the format and audience of each of the series that appear in my reviews. Terms like liberal, conservative, etc. are not used pejoratively but simply as descriptors. Many of you are familiar with Jeremy Pierce's commentary series overview. If you don't see a particular series covered here, check out his post to see if it's reviewed there. I am making no attempt at covering every series, just the series that I use. Additionally, new series (such as the NCCS) have been started in the five years since he wrote his very helpful guide, so I thought that it might not be completely out of order to have another person tackle commentary series overviews. This…

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:15-29

15 Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. 17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. 18 For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. 19 Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator. 20 A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one. 21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! Fo…

Doctor Who: Rose Tyler - Traitor?

The end of season four was very, very controversial. When I first saw it, I felt cheated. I was angry. The more I think about it, the more I think I see what Russell Davies was doing. He is too good of a writer and the show is too carefully crafted for him to screw up Rose's character and the end of a four season storyline. So while the ending isn't strictly part of our series, it is tangentially related, and I've agonized over that scene in Bad Wolf Bay so much that I have to write about it. :)

To briefly set things up, near the end of the final episode of season four, there is a meta-crisis, that results in a part human. part Time Lord Doctor being generated. He has all of the Doctor's memories, and thinks and acts like the Doctor. However, importantly, he only has one heart and cannot regenerate. He only has one life to live. The meta-crisis Doctor brought full resolution to the battle fought against the Daleks, and in the process, wiped them out. Thus, the real Doc…