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A comparison of two commentaries on the text of Galatians 4.21-5.1 3252

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Matric No. 120002012 DI5017 Greek Readings: Galatians Professor N T Wright Assessment One A comparison of two commentaries on the text of Galatians 4.21-5.1. Galatians, 2011. Martinus C de Boer Galatians, 2010. Thomas R Schreiner This essay will compare the translation and interpretation of Galatians 4.21-5.1 by Thomas Schreiner and Martinus de Boer as set out in their commentaries on Galatians - both entitled Galatians. The method of this task will be to compare and contrast how the two scholars translate and interpret the text within the pericope itself and how it functions within the wider context of Pauls previous argument. The role of 4.21 5.1 As regards the function of the pericope in the letter two questions present themselves: why does Paul conclude in this manner and what is the weight of such an argument.1 Commentators have usually treated the pericope as Pauls final argument in the superiority of the new covenant. However the force of the argument has always been an issue and it is often seen as either supplementary or an afterthought.2 Betz, however, sees it as the climax of the probatio beginning in 3.1 to the propositio of 2.15-21.3 Schreiner states there is difficulty in distinguishing one section of the letter from another. He rejects a rhetorical reading of the letter but recognises there are argumentative elements to this section. Following Longenecker, Schreiner sees this section as a continuation of the exhortation which has begun with the first imperative, the hortatory subjunctive of 4.12. The imperatives are stressed in the two Scriptural passages (4.27,30) as Paul continues then to urge the Galatians to live in freedom, and this in fact reaches an exhortatory climax in 5.1.4 So rejecting the fact that it is a part of the main argument, Schreiner suggests that the reason that Paul uses this story is as part of the exhortation to stand in freedom and to startle his readers into seeing in a fresh way the folly of reverting to the Law.5 Regards the use of the Hagar-Sarah story Schreiner rejects Barrets assertion that the plain meaning of the story supports the Agitators and not Paul. Barret argues that Paul is unlikely to have introduced this story as its value from his point of view is far from obvious and its interpretation unusual. Pauls use of it

1 2

Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), 239 Richard N Longenecker, Galatians (Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 199 3 Betz, Galatians, 240 4 Thomas R Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010), Chapter 17, Literary Context, second para. 5 Ibid., Chapter 17, Literary Context, last para.

is dictated by the Agitators and its plain surface meaning supports their arguments.6 Schreiner rejects Barrets reasoning because he insists Pauls argument is that OT Law must be read in the light of Scripture as a whole if Scripture is read carefully, as Paul does, then it teaches that those who are under the Mosaic law are in bondage to sin. Freedom has only finally come with the proclamation of the gospel.7 Therefore the interpretation in 4.21 of under the Law ( ) is not narrowly just the Mosaic Law and being under its curse but it is being used to designate the entirety of Scripture itself. As such for Schreiner it was not the Agitators who are setting the agenda for Pauls use of the story but Pauls natural interpretation of Scripture, if Scripture is read carefully. The fact that Paul has to allegorise (which Schreiner admits Paul has to do in order to associate Hagar with Sinai) the story seems to lie in direct opposition to his assertion here. Secondly it seems strange Paul did not come to this conclusion in his former life before his encounter with Christ. What is apparent for De Boer is stress on the situation as the driver of Pauls use of the story. He therefore sees that the Agitators are the ones who are setting the agenda in this case in their appropriation of Scripture, Genesis 16-21. When considering the use of the story he notes that the omission of the names of Sarah and Ishmael altogether and the appearance of Hagar and Isaac only towards the end shows that the Galatians were familiar with it.8 De Boer posits that the Agitators are using this story in their missionary efforts and in contrast to Schreiner but in agreement with Barrets analysis that it is obscure why Paul would use this story to enhance his argument. It is neither a supplementary argument nor an afterthought and its plain reading goes against Pauls argument. The Agitators regard the Galatians as offspring of Abraham through Ishmael begotten by Hagar, the slave woman. Witherington also notes the way the story is handled in Jubilees 16, where Ishmael is seen as representing Abrahams Gentile progeny whereas Isaac represents the Jewish progeny.9 The Galatians though they have Christ do not practice circumcision nor do they observe the Law and therefore cannot be regarded as offspring of Abraham through Isaac and cannot be counted as Gods people. Paul takes up the Agitators heaviest weapon in their missionary armoury and through correcting exegesis, he skilfully uses it against them reversing the family relationships of the descendants of Abraham.10 In fact he climactically interprets it in such a way that it demands the expulsion of the Agitators in 4.30. De Boers analysis that the passage is Pauls correcting exegesis in the light of the Agitators use of it in their missionary efforts leads him to reject the issue that underlies this argument as Judaism versus Christianity, following amongst others Louis Martyn.11 Matera calls it anachronistic.12 The issue is rather a mission to the Gentiles that involves the imposition of Law observance pursued by the Agitators or Pauls Law free Gentile mission. However both commentators agree that the Agitators were Christian, confessing Jesus as Messiah13 and were in some way identified with the church in Jerusalem.14 This is how Paul frames the polarity in Galatians and this passage Gentile mission with Law observance as
6 7

C K Barret, Essays on Paul, (London: SPCK, 1982), 162 Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition, Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.21 8 De Boer, Galatians, 285 9 Ben Witherington, III, Grace in Galatia (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 324 10 Barret, Paul, 167 11 J Louis Martyn, Galatians, (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 433 12 Frank J Matera,Galatians, (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 1992), 176 13 Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition, Introduction, In Depth: Did the Galatian opponents believe Jesus was the Christ? 14 De Boer, Galatians, 287

slavery versus Gentile mission without Law observance as freedom. We see the hermeneutical presuppositions influencing these interpretative differences. Schreiner believes 2.16 is the theological heart of Galatians15 justification by faith of the individual believer in contrast to works of the Law a Law versus Gospel hermeneutic - which possibly pushes him to see this as just another argument in the Gospels favour. However, De Boer sees the heart as 4.4-5, the apocalyptic revelation of the Son signalling the end of the present evil age and the beginning of a new creation cosmological ramifications. And because he does not have Schreiners presupposition he considers the contextual and situational nature of the letter more as well as understanding that the Pauls reading of Scripture is based on Christologically informed authoritative interpretation of which enables him to read it in a radically new way.16

The text Both scholars interpret the law in in 4.21 as a Pauline synonym for Scripture not the narrower sense of the Siniatic covenant.17 Secondly up to this point this phrase under the Law has been a shorthand way of saying under the curse of the Law.18 Schreiner notes the irony here for Paul that if they actually understood the Law, that is the Scripture not just the Mosaic commandments they would realise that the Mosaic Law is a (as has been shown in 3.6-4.11) curse, it imprisons and enslaves (De Boer) and it still leaves you in bondage to sin (Schreiner). For the Galatians to revert to it would be tantamount to rescind their freedom and return to the slavery of . In 3.22 the polarities of freedom and enslavement which dominate the passage are represented by the freewoman and slave woman. This has been expressed in other ways previously, for example, curse versus promise and Spirit versus . Both scholars note this polarity and De Boer asks whether these appellations for Sarah and Hagar are ones the Agitators have used,19 while Schreiner states Paul focuses on their social status due to Pauls seeing th e spiritual significance of this.20 In 4.23 Paul states the son of the slave-woman was born . Schreiner sees the word referring to human beings being in Adam exemplified by the human attempts to have a child via Hagar a lack of faith on Sarah and Abrahams part. Schreiners interpretation is that those who rely on the Law and human work and effort in order to be right with God are descendants of Ishmael. Whereas those who rely on the free promise in Christ are Isaacs descendants his Law versus gospel hermeneutic at play once again.21 De Boer notes in the phrase a subtle reference to circumcision as flesh only occurs in Genesis 16-21 in respect to circumcision. Therefore Paul is linking the birth of Ishmael to circumcision. This links well with De Boers comments on the verb , which can mean to beget or to bear. However, in the Genesis account the verb is used to describe Sarah and Hagar bearing their
15 16

Schreiner, Galatians, Chapter 7, Main Idea, first para. and Structure, first para. Martinus C De Boer, Galatians (Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2011), 288 17 De Boer, Galatians, 291 18 Todd A Wilson, The Curse of the Law and the Crisis in Galatia (Tbingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 40 19 De Boer, Galatians, 292 20 Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition, Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.22 21 Ibid.,, Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.23

sons. Paul may have chosen because of its double meaning as he uses it metaphorically to the founding or begetting of churches.22 This then sharpens the division in 4.22 and would have Paul thinking of two competing missions to the Gentiles. One begat by the Agitators, descended from Ishmael and from the flesh, under law (and circumcision) and a curse and one begat by Paul, descended from Isaac, from a promise and with the Spirit. Further Pauls use of the perfect tense has been begotten/born anticipates the contemporary relevance of these births.23 In verse 24 Paul then proceeds to give his allegorical interpretation of the two accounts. Both scholars consider exactly what kind of allegory Paul is using. Schreiner sees a combination of typology and allegory, as he insists it cannot be straight typology because of the identification with Hagar and the Sinai covenant.24 De Boer doubts whether typology can be distinguished from allegory in such a way that allegorical interpretation can be defined as lacking an historical dimension. De Boer states Pauls allegory agrees with the definition of ancient writers such as Philo, however Paul does not see the significance of the text to lie in abstract ideas, such as virtue, but in the historical realities of his own context and the situation he is addressing.25 Witherington agrees that Philos allegorical treatment of the same story involves a contemporising of the text that is unique to him and Paul.26 In verses 24-26 Pauls sets out his allegorical reinterpretation of the story. He sets out two covenants , one represented by Hagar which is associated with Mount Sinai which is an implicit reference to the Mosaic Law though Paul never actually says this. As such she importantly corresponds to the current Jerusalem because she is a slave with her children; the Agitators and all who join them. However, when Paul comes to describe the second covenant in 4.26, he does not name it but instead he immediately describes the Jerusalem from above as being free and our mother. Schreiner notes that the reason Paul does not mention Sarah, nor the second covenant is that he wants the contrast to rest on the two Jerusalems. He sees the new Jerusalem as representing a new eschatological age as opposed to the old age of the Law and believers are begotten in the new age of the Spirit. 27 In 4.27, Schreiner notes the use of Isaiah 54.1 is to support Pauls argument in 4.26 that Gentile Christians are the children of the Jerusalem above, for they are the children of the barren woman, Sarah. This Isaianic passage is linked with Israels return from exile, Jerusalem will be rebuilt and Gods covenant of peace will be established, Isaiah 54.10. 28 Paul sees this happening not in the physical return from exile but in the conversion of the Gentile Christians. Again Schreiner repeats his Law versus gospel hermeneutic for it was not the Law that achieved this as it only enslaves. The gospel produced true children and heirs to the promise.29 This chimes well with Isaiahs 54.3 that your offspring shall possess the nations. De Boer agrees that the key opposition in the 4.27 is the present Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above. He shows his hermeneutical presuppositions by seeing the apocalyptical contrast. He notes that the Jerusalem above does not mean a heavenly city but the church that has been called into being by God the church consisting of Jews and Gentiles free of the Law. De Boer too, notes the exhilic contours of
22 23

De Boer, Galatians, 292 Ibid.,, 293 24 Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition, Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.24 25 De Boer, Galatians, 296 26 Ben Witherington, III, Grace in Galatia (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 325 27 Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition, Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.26 28 Ibid., Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.27 29 Ibid., Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.27

the Isaianic text. He adds that the barren woman would have corresponded to Jerusalem while the Israelites were in exile in Babylon and the woman with the husband would have been her Babylonian captors. However this was then interpreted as Rome within the 1st century. Paul sees the present day Jerusalem as the oppressors, the captors the enemy of the true Israel and the barren woman Sarah as the Jerusalem above.30 The verb used for the barren woman not having birth pains is the same that Paul has used to talk about himself begetting the Galatians (as a church) in 4.19 () and so Paul himself is also linking his begetting of the Galatian church to the barren women Sarah, the Jerusalem above. As Witherington notes, Perhaps it is no accident that the verses immediately preceding the beginning of this allegory, 4:1920, are about Paul being the mother who is in labor until Christ is formed in his converts.31 In 4.28 Paul then explicitly tells the Galatians they are the sons of the promise Isaac, and then states in 4.29 that just as Isaac was persecuted by Ishmael so also they are now being persecuted by the Agitators. That is, by their insistence on Law observance. De Boer unlike Schreiner notes that there is an issue with this interpretation as in the Genesis account (21.9) there is no hint that Ishmael did persecute Isaac - other play with him. Later tradition did interpret it as being more sinister than just playing and Paul may be relying on this. However, Pauls characterisation of this event in Genesis 21.9 becomes clear in 4.30, at the climax of his argument where he quotes Genesis 21.10.32 This states that the son of the slave will not inherit with the child of the promise and they are to drive out the slave woman and her son. The words of Sarah become the words of Scripture addressed to the Galatians in the present. According the Scripture the preachers hold dear, they are in fact to be driven out of the churches in Galatia.33 As Witherington surmises, If the agitators are to be cast out, then the original spiritual mother of the Galatians is to be once more embraced. Notice that the crucial verse, vs. 30 is a quotation of what Sarah said in Gen. 21:10. The voice of Sarah is now also the voice of Paul .34 There seems to be little ambiguity the son of the slave woman represents the Agitators and their converts.35 This is the Pauline coup de grce, he has taken their foundational text turned it upon them and then used it to show that the Agitators themselves are the ones that should be expelled as the verb suggests. Schreiner however rejects the idea that Paul is suggesting the Agitators be thrown out of the Galatian churches but that Paul is appealing to the Galatians not to listen to the Agitators and instead listen to the Biblical word addressed to Abraham it can be seen from the OT that the sons of the slave women will not receive the promise.36 This interpretation relies on Schreiners original thesis that Paul is merely using this text as another argument in his Law versus Gospel polemic the proper reading of Scripture is enough to determine and ascertain this. In the final two verses Paul completes his argument that the Law free Galatians are indeed sons of the free and not the salve and charged to stand in that freedom won by Christ. Therefore the freedom envisaged in 5.1 is that which Christ has won a true liberation of which both commentators agree.
30 31

De Boer, Galatians, 302 Ben Witherington, III, Grace in Galatia, 326 32 De Boer, Galatians, 306 33 Ibid., 307 34 Ben Witherington, III, Grace in Galatia, 326 35 De Boer, Galatians, 308 36 Schreiner, Galatians, Kindle Edition, Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.30

Conclusion Returning to Betz, it seems apparent that the main issue that determines how the two commentators treat this passage is why the story is used by Paul why this conclusion to his theological discourse and its force. Schreiner sees it as another argument in the over-riding Pauline polemic of Law versus Gospel the theological heart of the letter. As such he does not see it as the main weapon of the Agitators. He sees Pauls use of the story as a normal exercise in Pauline exegesis when taking the whole of Scripture into account (cf 4.21). This is despite the fact that Paul has to speak in allegorical terms to link Sinai and the Law with Hagar contrary to the plain reading of the text. What appears to be strong climactic polemic against the Agitators in 4.30 is to be explained away as an entreaty for the Galatians to listen to the Biblical word addressed to Abraham.37 The scriptural word that those who put themselves under the Sinai covenant will not receive the inheritance. De Boer with his apocalyptic hermeneutic does not see this story as Judaism versus Christianity or Law versus Gospel but Gentile mission with or without Law observance. He is also far more accepting of a situational reading of why the Paul actually uses the story. Citing Barret, De Boer sees the story as the main battle doctrine of the Agitators. Paul then uses this at the end of his argument in order to turn their best weapon upon the Agitators which comes to the climactic crescendo that the Agitators should be expelled from the midst of the Galatians. This seems a far better explanation of what Paul is trying to do and why he uses the text in the allegorical fashion he does.


Ibid., Chapter 17, Exegetical Outline, Explanation of the Text, 4.30

Bibliography Aland, Barbara, Kurt Aland, Matthew Black et al. The Greek New Testament. 4th ed. Federal Republic of Germany: United Bible Societies, 1993. Barret C K. Essays on Paul. London: SPCK, 1982 Betz H D. Galatians. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979 De Boer, M C. Galatians. Louisville, Kentucky: John Knox Press, 2011 Matera F J. Galatians. Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press 1992 Schreiner, T R. Galatians (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2010. Kindle Edition Wilson T A. The Curse of the Law and the Crisis in Galatia. Tbingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007 Witherington, B III. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.