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N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Fifteen

N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Fifteen July 20, 2021

Q. Let’s talk for a moment about metalepsis, which shows up in several places in this commentary (e.g. pp. 172-73). The concept is that Paul has the whole of an OT passage in mind when he cites for example the story of Abraham from Gen. 12 or 15. This view which our good friend Richard Hays has championed, is set in opposition to the proof text view of yanking individual verses out of context and using them. I think however this view does run into some problems in some instances. The first problem is Paul’s audience of neophyte Christians, who are apparently mostly Gentiles. How exactly are they supposed to have known the Pentateuch already especially if they are mostly not connected to the synagogue but were pagans (see e.g. 1 Thess. 1— turning from pagan idols etc. or 1 Cor. 8-10)? Are we to suppose the few Jewish Galatian converts are schooling the Gentiles on the Pentateuch? It seems to me that in some instances this is presuming way too much of Paul’s audiences in Galatia, and if in fact Paul did this, he would be talking way over their heads. It would not be a word on target, it would be confusing. But the second problem with this is that in fact as we read on into Gal. 4 we know that Paul is perfectly capable of allegorizing portions of the Pentateuch that are not allegories, though I would agree that this is not his most prevalent way of handling the OT (but cf. 1 Cor. 10—’the rock was Christ’). But what it does suggest is that Paul is far more homiletically concerned to make his discourse a word on target for the audience, and less concerned about metalepsis of whatever sort. How would you respond to this critique of that particular approach to intertextuality?

A. I think there were teachers in the church and Paul would expect them to teach the young Christians. After all, most writers put much more into a good piece of writing than the first readers are likely to ‘get’; it needs drawing out, whether it’s a novel or play or piece of music or even an apostolic letter. And let’s wait till you get to 4.2—5.1 before we discuss the ‘allegory’, which I think Paul is using quite ironically – it is NOT like a Philonic allegory at all .

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