I led the sermon discussion last night at Solomon’s Porch. The text was Galatians 3, one of the oddest chapters in the Pauline corpus. Therein, Paul argues for grace over law based on this verse from Genesis:
And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God.
The word for “offspring” is actually “seed,” at least in the Septuagint. Paul argues that since this word is in the singular (σπέρμασιν – spermasin) instead of the plural (σπέρματι – spermati), it must mean Christ! (It reminds me of the old saw: The Sunday school teacher asks, “What is gray and furry and climbs trees?” The little boy raises his hand and says, “It sounds like a squirrel, but I’m going to say Jesus!”)
What Paul writes is,
The promises were made to Abraham and to his descendant. It doesn’t say, “and to the descendants,” as if referring to many rather than just one. It says, “and to your descendant,” who is Christ.
It seems that Paul is straying from the traditional interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant. And that’s what we wrestled with for about 40 minutes last night, with no great conclusion.
So it was no great surprise to me that the first 22 verses of Galatians 3 isn’t included in the lectionary, from which many mainline churches choose their Sunday texts each week. The fun part of the chapter (“there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female…”) is in the regular three-year lectionary cycle — specifically, Proper 7, Year C — but you’re can spend your whole life at a Lutheran, Episcopal, or UCC church without ever hearing your preacher struggle to understand Paul’s arguments in Galatians 3: 1-21.