Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Paul's Argument in Galatians 3:6-14

6 So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

7 Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. 8 Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

10 For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” 11 Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” 14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (NIV)

In this section Paul continues his argument that Gentiles are part of the people of God by faith. In the prior section Paul argued from experience. Scripture is the basis of his argument here. Abraham is used as an example of one who was considered righteous on the basis of his faith. However, we need to see that Abraham is more than an example, he's the archetype. Paul selects Abraham because he is the father of the family, the patriarch of the people of God. What's true in his case is normative for his descendants. We can be a bit more specific regarding Paul's argument than that, though. The clearest summary of verses 6-9 comes from Dunn and I will replicate it below:

Abraham's righteousness-->faith-->Abraham's children (iii.6-7)

Abraham's blessing-->faith-->all the nations (iii.8-9) (p. 168)

What Paul's doing in verses 6-9 is showing that Abraham's children contain members of all the nations by arguing that the basis of righteousness and blessing isn't circumcision, it's faith.

In verses 10-14 Paul continues that line of argument (for those keeping score at home, here I am largely following Wright 137-56). The Torah had been in the business of cursing the Jews for some time. The blessings of the Abrahamic covenant weren't coming to pass through it because Israel was failing at its job of being a light to the nations. But all along the plan had been that Abraham's people would be based on faith not ethnicity. Torah had created a problem for the original covenant people, however. As we noted above, it was cursing them. Jesus, the Christ, came to fulfill the role of being the light that they were supposed to be. Not only that but '...the death of Jesus finally exhausts the curse which stood over the covenant people , so that the blessing of Abraham might after all come upon the Gentiles' (Wright 156).

9 comments:

  1. Have you encountered those who argue that the "us" in vv13-14 refer to all people, and not just the Jews (I'm guessing from what you wrote above that you take it as referring to Jews, which is my position)? What's the best argument for that position, in your opinion? (And if I've misread you, shoot me down.)

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  2. I'll give a quick answer now, yes I do take the 'us' to be Jews, but I don't remember the process behind it well enough (I started this post 2 months ago and didn't get to finishing it til last week). I have to look in my notes to give a more detailed answer and unfortunately that won't be until tomorrow, I won't be home tonight early enough to look into it.

    On a fun aside, will I be seeing you on the ZEC blog tour? I signed up for the James volume since I don't have any commentaries on James.

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  3. Sorry I misread your comment. I don't remember if I've seen that view or not, but the answer is the same: I'll look into it tomorrow. :)

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  4. My comment was hardly clear.

    I was going to leave a comment about the ZEC blog tour for you to make sure you didn't miss it, but they had already stopped it. I'm not sure if I made the deadline, because I haven't received an e-mail from them. Did you get one?

    I asked for Osborne's Matthew commentary. I don't have that much of a desire for Schreiner's Galatians, mainly because I'm burned out on the NPP issue. I already own some really great James commentaries (Davids, Johnson and Moo- all of them are outstanding), so I didn't request Blomberg. I bet it's really good. I also own O'Brien, Lincoln and Best on Ephesians, so I didn't really need Arnold's (again, I bet it's good).

    So I picked Matthew by default. I own Carson and like it, and the first half of Hagner, which is good. I also own Keener, but I don't think it's his best. So, I figured I'd give Osborne a whirl. I'm not sure I made the right choice.

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  5. In the comments of their post it said that if you were able to sign up you'll get it.

    To me it sounds like you made a good choice. The review of Osborne at New Testament Perspectives was pretty positive and from the limited interaction I've had with it, I like his Revelation commentary. While that's not a guarantee that his Matthew will be good it makes me optimistic.

    It also seems like you could use more on Matthew. I also don't think Keener's commentary on Matthew is his best, and I think that there are better options than Carson, even though it's good.

    Between Davids, Johnson, and Moo which is your favorite? I want to pick up one or two more in the next six to twelve months and I think that those along with McKnight's forthcoming NICNT will be the ones I look at.

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  6. Regarding Moo, Davids and Johnson, my favorite is whichever one I read last. =) Honestly, I think all three are excellent, it's hard to pick just one. I like Moo simply because he writes so clearly and I often agree with his judgments. Johnson's Introduction is really good, and often has little nuggets of great worth (side note: I also love the irony of a Catholic correcting Luther on the place of works and faith). Davids, even though it's older, has hardly been surpassed and handles the Greek text well. The truth is, you can't go wrong with any of them.

    I took an Exegesis of James class at GCTS with Sean McDonough. If I remember correctly, we used Johnson and Davids, along with a book by Richard Bauckham. I got Moo for half price, so I couldn't pass it up.

    The prepublication words I've heard about McKnight's commentary are that it's very good. Suffice to say, James isn't hurting for good commentaries.

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  7. Interestingly this one breaks down NPP and non-NPP lines (in the commentaries/books I have at least). Dunn, Hays, McKnight, and Wright take it to refer to Jews only.

    Fee, Longenecker, and Martyn take it to refer to a wider group. Neither Fee nor Longenecker give an explanation of why, but they go with both Jew and Gentile Christians, but their reason is probably similar to Martyn's reading I spell out below, but again, they're not explicit about it.

    Martyn does truly believe it refers to everyone.
    I disagree with pretty much every facet of his argument, but his most plausible argument is that if the curse for not doing the law in vs. 10 rests on everyone then it makes sense for everyone to be redeemed in vs. 13. I disagree with him that vs. 10 refers to everyone.

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  8. Took a quick perusal of the ones on my shelf (I also have Longenecker). Bruce takes it to refer to both Jews and Gentiles, whereas Witherington takes it to refer to Jews.

    I wouldn't have taken this to be an NPP issue, and I don't think it has to be. I'd be interested to know what some other non-NPPers think (Schreiner, Carson, Moo, etc).

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  9. I don't think that it has to be an NPP issue either. I was a little surprised it broke out that way. When I'm on campus on Tuesday I'll look in some other commentaries.

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