N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Ten

N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Ten July 15, 2021

Q. p. 129 is an important page in your commentary where you make clear where Kinzer goes wrong. I think you are right that Paul is talking about the incredible change for JEWS like Peter and Paul, the redefinition of the status of Jews now that Jesus has died on the cross, and some of them have accepted Him as the crucified and risen Davidic messiah. This is why Paul goes on to say that even he, as a former Pharisee has been crucified with Christ, and has died to the Mosaic law, and this involves a fundamental change from his past religious modus operandi. At the same time, Paul will go on to say that for missional purposes he can be the Jew to the Jew (1 Cor. 9) in order to win some to Christ, but this has become at best a missional option, not an obligation to keep the Mosaic covenant. Can you unpack this sea change in Paul’s views a bit more for our readers?

A. I think you summarize it well! It’s a matter of identity – such a buzzword today, and one gets into trouble if one challenges someone else’s ‘identity’ – or the identity that someone wants to ‘identify with’, and so on. That’s a quagmire all around us in western culture right now, and the question of ‘Jews and Christians’, already potentially toxic from the last century, fits right in and generates a lot more heat than light. For Paul, the crucial thing – missed in most western hermeneutics both Catholic and Protestant for hundreds of years – is that Jesus is ISRAEL’S MESSIAH, demonstrated as such in his resurrection. That makes all the difference. HE is now the identity-marker for God’s people: as most first-century Jews would have recognized, if God really does send Messiah, then God’s people will be redefined in relation to him. With Jesus, that means that they are cross-and-resurrection people, dying to old identities and finding their new one in him and him alone. Philippians 3.2-11 is about this as well, of course. So the point is not that you ‘stop being a Jew’ if you’re someone like Paul: you become indeed a messianic Jew, with the word ‘messianic’ defined in terms of Jesus and his death, resurrection and sending of the spirit . . .

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