Paul the Apostle, His Life Letters and Thought– Part Thirty Seven


p. 545—the allegory in Gal. 4.21.-5.1

p. 546— Paul is gifted at typology, not so good at allegory, and Sanders criticizes his olive tree discussion in Rom. 11 because it’s botanically incorrect [which was not the point]

An allegory is a description or narrative presenting literal characters and event which contain sustained reference to a simultaneous structure of other ideas and event— he gets this def. from Cambridge Guide to Lit. in English 3 (2006).

p. 547— the only info in the Bible about Hagar is that she was Egyptian (Gen. 16.1,3). No one knows why Paul connects her with Mt. Sinai [because it was in Egypt??] But there is a third level of allegory because she is also Jerusalem the home of the ‘false brothers’ Then the other woman Sarah corresponds to the Jerusalem which is above, she is free and our mother. The child of the slave will not inherit with the child of the free woman. The theme of bondage vs. freedom is the same as in the argument in 3.23-25;4.1-10. Paul says Ishmael persecuted Isaac but there is no Biblical passage that says this, and he draws the analogy with Paul and his converts being persecuted by the false ones. Gen. 21.9 says Ishmael plays with Isaac, but that is all. There are a few later Jewish traditions cited by Martyn in which Ishmael is hostile to Isaac, all later than Paul but maybe he knew one of them.

p. 548—Paul says here the Jewish Law is a yoke of slavery but Sanders counters it is not bondage or onerous for those who wish to live under it [this is not the point— the point is two covenants and one of them cannot set you free]

p. 549—Jewish Law was not and is not repressive [here again we see Sanders the defender of Judaism against Christian caricatures] The issue is the opponents trying to coerce and compel his converts to Judaize. Sanders says without the coercion Paul probably wouldn’t oppose them getting circumcised. [This is nonsense. Paul sees circumcision as an entrance rite to the Mosaic covenant and he doesn’t want Gentiles to be submitting to that covenant with or without coercion].

p. 550– Gal. 5.2— if you accept circumcision Christ will be of no use to you, you will have fallen from grace. “This is the clearest indication in Paul’s letters that it is possible for a Christian to be excluded from the body of Christ.” But remember Paul thought death punished sin and even if there was punishment at judgment day then one would be saved. “The threat of punishment is not a threat of exclusion.”

p.551– Sanders hypothesizes that if a Gentile made the mistake of getting circumcised and then read Paul’s Galatians, and then came to Paul and said he had made a mistake, maybe Paul would say 1 Cor. 4.5 ‘do not pronounce judgment before time, before the Lord comes’.

Sanders thinks that Gal. 5.6 enunciates Paul’s original view— neither circumcision nor uncircumcision matters in Christ, what matters is faith working through love. It was only because: 1) the Judaizers were trying to compel Gentiles to get circumcised, and 2) suggesting a Gospel of salvation by faith in Christ alone was inadequate, one needed also to keep the Law, that Paul argues that if you get yourself circumcised then you’ve fallen from grace. [This ignores that Paul is arguing not just about the rite of circumcision but about covenants. He is saying if you do what the Judaizers say and for the reasons they say it (to complete salvation) you’ve commited yourself to keep the whole Mosaic covenant. But in Christ, since we are not part of that covenant, but rather the new one, circumcision neither adds nor subtracts anything to what we have in Christ. In other words, Paul is not just adjusting to the opposition’s views, he is making clear his two covenant view].

p. 553– What does Paul mean in 5.11 by ‘if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I persecuted?’ Clearly this must refer to Jewish persecution of Paul. Sanders suggests the opponents must have said Paul was still preaching circumcision. Maybe, or maybe Paul is just talking about synagogue response to his preaching. Too much mirror reading.

pp. 554-55— Sanders is right that Paul epitomizes the Law as ‘love your neighbor as yourself’—(Lev. 19.18). it’s the sum of the law, doing that is the fulfillment of the Law. But in fact Paul hands along a lot of other commandments, some of which do not go back to the OT. {Sanders is wrong that Paul is selectively reapplying Mosaic laws. He is indicating what the Law of Christ contains as law— something old, and something new, with only some OT commands reapplied as part of the new covenant.]

To Gal. 5.14 cf. 1 Cor. 7.19; 8.4; 13.8-9. Paul’s reinforcing of that commandment would not have surprised Sanders if he realized Paul was saying it is a part of the new covenant, not a reinforcement of parts of the Mosaic one. Sanders is right to say that earlier passages in Gal. raises questions about the Mosaic Law (3.19,22;4.9;5.1,3,4). Some commentators to alleviate the possibility of Paul contradicting himself think Paul is talking about two different uses of or attitudes toward the law (i.e. a legalistic one vs. something else).

p. 556— In regard to the two uses or two attitudes approach, Sanders is right that that is pure eisegesis. He adds Protestant ideas about Jewish legalism are wrong to start with and I agree he says “There is nothing in Paul about using the law ‘legalistically’ or compiling merits.” The issue is what is essential to being a member of the body of Christ— namely faith alone. In Paul’s view obedience is not how you get into Christ’s body, faith is, but thereafter as to how to behave yes obedience to commands is fine and necessary.

p. 557— “if it is a matter of being righteoused [i.e. converted] the law is excluded. If it is a matter of ethics, it shows the way.” [While true this is inadequate. Paul is saying that it’s a matter of following the Law of Christ once you are Christians, and that involve some teaching that is nowhere to be found in the OT, like non-resistance, and loving enemies].

Sanders reads 5.18 to mean if you are led by the Spirit you are not subject to the law. [Which law? If he means the Mosaic Law, then yes. Paul does not mean the Law of Christ which he implements in Gal. 6.1ff. and already here]

p. 559— It would have been helpful if Paul had provided clearer guidelines for dealing with transgressions within the Christian community.

p. 560— Sanders thinks the Law of Christ is not Christ’s teaching but again the love commandment about neighbor. This completely ignores the partial quotation of two sayings of Jesus here [see Grace in Galatia]