N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Twenty

N.T. Wright’s Galatians– Part Twenty July 26, 2021

Q. In one sense Gal. 3.23-4.7 is where the rubber really meets the road, a Pauline summary that sort of ties a lot of things together. You have called it the ‘heart of Paul’s theology’ (p. 236). Can you explain what you mean by that?

A. Well, the ‘heart’ or ‘centre’ of P’s theology is always a problem. What I mean is that here Paul is telling the story of ‘before—then Christ—then after’. Obviously he can do this in many different ways in e.g. Rom 7—8 or Col 1 or wherever. But here it seems, particularly in 4.1-7, almost formulaic: the God who sends the son and the spirit of the son . . .

Q. Let’s talk for a moment about ‘pistis Christou’ and the huge kerfuffle that has come from the interpretation that says it refers to the faithfulness of Christ, in various places in Paul, and is short-hand for Christ’s obedience to God’s plan even unto death on the cross. Now every advocate I’ve heard for this view is also quick to add that Paul also of course talks about faith in Christ, so why so much pushback? Is it because older translations don’t render the phrase like ‘the new perspective’ does? What I find especially odd is that some of the scholars most objecting to this rendering are the very same scholars who DO want to emphasize the objective side of salvation— what God has done for us in Christ and on the cross. This is passing strange. Our readers would appreciate a little illumination on this.

A. Not all the advocates of ‘faithfulness of Christ’ do in fact insist on ‘faith in Christ’. De Boer would be an obvious example – arguing for universalism in consequence. But I think we all have to step back from ‘how we normally say it’ and allow Paul to say it a little strangely to our ears and then accustom ourselves to him rather than pulling his formulations into ours. Again, the collective meaning of Christos is important and very difficult for modern western persons to grasp.


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