Galatians 1.4c–5

31 05 2009

↑[(κατὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν)],

↑[ᾧ ἡ δόξα (εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων), ἀμήν].

Verse 1.4c provides a third dependent clause expanding on the standard greeting of 1.3. This time we are told of the agency of God in the apocalyptic rescue of 1.4b, which is in turn the purpose of the self-giving of Christ (1.4a): it is according to the will of our God and Father. As indicated above, this phrase underscores the Trinitarian nature of the apocalyptic rescue that was enacted through the death of Christ for sins. God the Father willed these events, and so was the ultimate ‘agent’ to the ‘instrument’ of Christ. The notion of the agency of the Father expressed through the instrumentality of the Son is commonly found in Paul, and appears elsewhere in this epistle: God called the Galatians by the grace of Christ (1.6); God sent his Son to redeem those under the law (4.4–5).

The phrase τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ πατρὸς ἡμῶν is correctly translated of our God and Father, rather than of God and our Father, because of Granville Sharp’s Rule. In this kind of construction—an article followed by two personal nouns joined by καὶ, but without an article before the second noun—the two nouns refer to the same person (see Wallace, 271, for more details). Thus, the personal pronoun ἡμῶν is best understood as qualifying both nouns rather than just the second; hence our God and Father offers the best translation.

Verse 5 reveals that God the Father is not only the ultimate agent of the apocalyptic rescue in 1.4b; his glory is also the ultimate goal of this work. The work of Christ in rescuing us from sin is willed by the Father and results in the Father’s glory, which lasts forever and ever (εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων). This phrase provides a direct contrast to the present evil age of 1.4b (τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ ἐνεστῶτος πονηροῦ); the evil age is present only; the glory of God is forever.

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.4b

28 05 2009

↑[ὅπως ξέληται ἡμᾶς (ἐκ τοῦ αἰῶνος τοῦ νεσττος πονηροῦ)]

This part of verse 4 indicates the purpose (ὅπως) of Christ’s self-giving for our sins (1.4a) through a subordinate subjunctive clause. This purpose is to rescue us from this present evil age. The verb here translated as rescue (ἐξαιρέω) has a basic sense of to tear out, to take out, and by extension to deliver, to rescue. Thus we see that the purpose of Christ’s death for sins was to rescue.

The following phrase requires careful thought: Christ died in order to rescue us from the present evil age. What exactly does Paul refer to by this present evil age? The word translated age (αἰώνιος) occurs three more times in the epistle; the next two occurrences are found in the following verse: forever and ever (1.5). Perhaps more significantly, the word occurs at the end of the epistle with respect to the ‘age’ that may be contrasted with the evil age of 1.4b: the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit (ζωὴν αἰώνιον; 6.8). The ‘age’ of life is to be distinguished sharply from the present evil age.

While Paul does not use language approximating the present evil age again in the epistle, he does appear to refer to the same reality in 4.3 when he says that we were in slavery under the elemental forces of the world (see also 4.9). By saying when we were (ὅτε ἦμεν) in 4.3, Paul indicates a former reality that is no longer extant for believers. It follows, then, that this former reality is the very thing from which believers have been delivered, thus correlating the elemental forces of the world (4.3) with the present evil age (1.4b). Furthermore, we know that the delivery out of this present evil age—and from slavery under the elemental forces of the world—has occurred through Christ’s crucifixion for sins (1.4a).

This mention of the present evil age introduces the apocalyptic framework that is evident throughout the epistle. Paul demarcates sharply between the old age and the new—as we see here in 1.4b—and also several times speaks of revelation: his gospel was received by revelation from Jesus Christ (1.12); God was pleased to reveal his Son in Paul (1.15–16); Israel was confined under the law until the coming faith was revealed (3.23). Both features—the marked distinction between old and new, and knowledge through revelation—are hallmarks of apocalyptic thinking. In sum, then, 1.4b presents the purpose of Christ’s death as a rescue mission of apocalytpic proportions.

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians 1.3–4a

26 05 2009

χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη (ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ)

↑[τοῦ δόντος ἑαυτὸν (ὑπὲρ τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν)],

Grace to you and peace is a standard greeting for Paul, as are the descriptions of God as our Father and Jesus Christ as Lord. What is of particular interest is the way in which Paul expands on this characteristic greeting. With a turn of phrase that is clearly significant for the unfolding themes of the epistle, his mention of the Lord Jesus Christ is modified by the participial subordinate clause the one giving himself for our sins. While the aorist participle δόντος is substantival, its perfective aspect nevertheless contributes the nuance that the substantivalized action is past-referring, thus should be translated the one who gave (himself).

Christ’s self-giving for sins can only refer to his death on the cross, though that language is not explicit here. In 2.19–20, however, Paul explicitly connects Christ’s giving of himself with his crucifixion: Paul has been crucified with Christ (2.19), and he lives by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (2.20). The wording in 2.20 is remarkably similar to 1.4a: τοῦ […] παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ employs a substantive aorist participle in the genitive case with a lexeme (παραδίδωμι) that is cognate with the substantive aorist genitive participle of 1.4 (δίδωμι); both verses also use ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ. The key distinction between these phrases in 1.4 and 2.20 is that 1.4 indicates that Christ gave himself for our sins, whereas in 2.20 Paul identifies himself as a beneficiary of Christ’s self-giving: he gave himself for me. In any case, the mention of crucifixion in 2.19 connects to Christ’s self-giving in 2.20, thus confirming the obvious, though implicit, reference to Christ’s death in 1.4a. He gave himself for our sins in his crucifixion.

Christ’s self-giving underscores two important points. First, it is for our sins, which introduces a theme that will resonate through the epistle. Most specifically, Paul points out in 3.13 that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, because it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. The citation from Deuteronomy 21:23 confirms that Paul is referring to crucifixion (hung on a tree), and it was thus through his crucifixion that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law. Clearly the curse of the law arises due to sin, thus implictly connecting Christ’s crucifixion with sin. To redeem us from the curse of the law, Christ must have somehow dealt with the sin that gave rise to the curse. Thus, through the connection between sin and the curse of the law, we see that 3.13—a vital part of Paul’s argument in 3.6–26—is implicitly tied to 1.4a, which states that Christ gave himself (through crucifixion) for our sins. While we will not explore this here, it is also clear that 3.6–26 forms an indispensible step in the logic of the argument through the epistle. Since 3.13 is key to that step in the argument, and is implicitly tied to 1.4a, we note that the phrase the one who gave himself for our sins in 1.4a does indeed introduce a theme of great significance.

Second, Paul explicitly refers to the self-giving of Christ in 1.4a (and in 2.20). His crucifixion for our sins, and becoming a curse for us, was his own action. This must be held together with the notion raised in the last part of the verse that indicates that this was according to the will of our God and Father (1.4c). Truly, the death of Christ was Trinitarian in nature, as the Father willed it and the Son gave himself to it. Notice, however, that the Father’s will does not reduce the self-giving of the Son to some kind of automated or enforced enactment of that will. It is possible that Paul deliberately included both phrases in the same breathe to make precisely that point: the will of Father is fulfilled through the decision of Christ.

Posted by Con Campbell

Is Paul Divided? 02

26 05 2009
Copenhagen c.
Image via Wikipedia

Here is the second good quote. This one comes from Troels Engberg-Pedersen of Copenhagen:

Paul should not be seen against a ‘background’ from which he would stand out in splendid isolation. Such a picture would not do justice to the many and complex ways in which he interacted directly with his cultural contemporaries. Instead, we should view Paul as one among them, as a coplayer within a shared ‘context’ that would allow any player to stand out momentarily and for a specific issue of interpretation, but also to receded again later into the shared context.

It does seem to me that we often do Paul and ourselves an injustice when we oversimplify his background, and separate him unnecessarily from his own “culture.” Your thoughts?

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Reading Scripture Corporately

25 05 2009

Oliver O’Donovan has a new book out: “A Conversation Waiting to Begin: the Churches and the Gay Controversy“. At the launch, he gave a lecture entitled, “The Reading Church – Scriptural Authority in Practice“.

In the lecture he’s picking up on a phrase from the “Jerusalem Declaration” issued at GAFCON: “We believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church’s historic and consensual reading.”

Here are a couple of tasters from O’Donovan’s article:

  1. “Another requisite for the public reading of Scripture … is a public reader. A task once confined to the clergy has now largely been made over to lay members of the congregation, but far from dignifying lay ministry, this has, on the whole, merely marginalised a task on which a great deal in the act of worship depends. I confess that I know of no church that trains its readers; its reading readers, that is, for when we call people “readers” and say we train them, we have something different in mind, which is itself eloquent! When I hear a lesson read with careful thought, with pace, articulation, pause and pitch all placed at the service of the sense of the passage, I make a point of thanking the reader, since the effort made will not have been asked for and probably not appreciated. Yet many a church may stay alive by the ministry of its readers which would otherwise die by the ministry of its preachers.”
  2. “All authority arises from mediation of reality. The free imagination and ranging purposes of the human mind are brought to heel by an interruption of something that simply and unnegotiably is the case. And the authority of Scripture is the moment at which the attested reality of God’s acts disturb the ideal constructions and zealous projections of human piety. Those who are anxious about the church’s weakening attachment to Scripture do not anticipate a loss of piety, but a rank growth of it; they fear the promiscuous multiplication of religious images in which history and fantasy are blended in equal measure, in which Star-Trek and Jesus are equally apt for our devotion. Attending the Eucharist as a visitor at a strange church on Palm Sunday, I was surprised to find the reading of the Gospel dispensed with altogether, and in its place a devotion in which members of the congregation stood up one by one and imagined the biographies and experiences of various objects that figure in the passion story: the tree from which the wood of the cross was made, the nails used to fasten the victim to the cross, etc. The fact that this exercise was embarrassingly insipid is, of course, neither here nor there; religious imagination has had more than its fair share of insipidity in the past, and recovered. The important point was why the Scriptural narrative was displaced from its customary place of honour in Eucharistic worship: it was to free up the religious imagination, to ensure space for the mind to wander freely through the gallery of images without being inconveniently summoned back to what has actually been told us of those events.”

Posted by Rick Creighton

Galatians 1.2

24 05 2009



καὶ οἱ (σὺν ἐμοὶ) πάντες ἀδελφοὶ ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις τῆς Γαλατίας,

Paul includes all the ‘brothers’ with him [οἱ (σὺν ἐμοὶ) πάντες ἀδελφοὶ] as senders of the epistle to the churches in Galatia. He does not indicate elsewhere in the letter who these brothers are. This verse appears as an almost irrelevant aside, and yet it subtly underscores two things. First, Paul is not alone. Having established his apostolic authority in the previous verse, the reader is reminded here that he has companions who likewise affirm his authority; he is not a lone wolf claiming something that others do not recognize. Second, having said that, Paul’s companions do not share in his apostolic authority. He has already deliberately pointed out his own credentials (and will continue to do so later in the chapter); yet he makes no effort whatsoever to commend his companions in the same way. Both these elements subliminally sharpen Paul’s opening salvo in verse one.

Additionally, we read in this verse that the epistle is addressed to congregations (ταῖς ἐκκλησίαις) in Galatia. Paul will go on to address serious issues that are shared among multiple groups in the region. The uniformity with which he will do so might suggest that he is targeting one group, but here we see that there are groups in cahoots. The problems they share are so uniform that Paul may address his harshest epistle to them as though they are one.

Posted by Con Campbell

Is Paul Divided? 01

22 05 2009
Marquand Chapel: Yale Divinity School
Image by thestroups via Flickr

I came across this great quote about the need to consider Paul in his total cultural context. I have one other from the same book “Paul Beyond the Judaism / Hellenism Divide” which I will post soon…

“A Hebrew born of Hebrews” he tells us himself, “as to the law a Pharisee. Yet he wrote only and fluently in Greek… others are also making a strong case that Paul was more aware of the specifically philosophical school discussion of his day than we had previously guessed. Yet it is impossible to ignore the fact that frequently he also employs interpretive strategies and traditions from reading the Jewish scriptures that are strikingly like those found in early and later Jewish interpretations, both sectarian and rabbinic. Impossible, too, to erase the typically apocalyptic scenarios that intrude into Paul’s argument, even in places where he is sounding most “Hellenistic” or “rabbinic.” He was, it seems, all these things at once.

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Ira Glass – down to earth advice on storytelling 03

20 05 2009
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 18:  Host/executive pro...
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Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Galatians 1.1

18 05 2009


A well-known senior colleague and I are toying with the idea of writing a commentary on Galatians together. It’s very early days: we’re not even sure if we want to do this yet, but it’s looking promising. We’re thinking of writing a commentary that models how to move from the Greek text to the sermon. In other words, it would be a preacher’s commentary, working through all the steps that preachers need to make to go from text to pulpit.

I’ve started making notes on the first verses of the epistle to give us something to work on as we think through what the commentary might look like. I thought I’d share this as I put it down, and I’m keen to hear your feedback, comments, suggestions, etc.


This is a first draft. I haven’t revised it or edited it. And I haven’t read any commentaries yet.

These are just my first thoughts as they strike me from the Greek text.

With that in mind, comment away!

Galatians 1.1

Παῦλος ἀπόστολος οὐκ (ἀπ᾿ ἀνθρώπων) οὐδὲ (δι᾿ ἀνθρώπου)

Paul’s opening emphasizes his divinely-appointed apostolicity: he is an apostle not from men, nor through man. The prepositions from (ἀπό) and through (διά) are interesting here. Since apostle is cognate with the Greek verb to send (ἀποστέλλω), being an apostle from men conveys the sense of being sent by men. They are the senders; the apostle is the one sent. But Paul’s point is that he is not sent by men. It is less clear, however, what it would mean for the apostle to be through man. Perhaps the switch to singular man (ἀνθρώπου) from plural men (ἀνθρώπων) indicates the sense of humanity, so that Paul is an apostle not through human decision. So then, the function of the two prepositions and the plural men and singular man is to convey the sense that Paul is an apostle not sent from men, nor through human appointment.

ἀλλὰ (διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ θεοῦ πατρὸς τοῦ γείραντος αὐτὸν (ἐκ νεκρῶν)),

The negative opening phrase is immediately contrasted by the strong adversative conjunction ἀλλὰ, as Paul indicates through whom his apostolic appointment comes. He is an apostle through Jesus Christ and God the Father—the one who raised Jesus from the dead. What Paul means by this is straightforward. What is curious, however, is the inversion of the order of Christ and God compared to Paul’s normal expression. As illustrated only a few lines on (v.3), Paul’s normal phrasing is something like: ‘God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’. Is anything to be made of his putting Jesus first here, or is it an inconsequential variation? It is difficult to answer such questions with certainty, though a suggestion may be offered. This may be a subtle reference to Paul’s experience of the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–30); his encounter with Christ brought about his conversion, but also his commission as an apostle. Certainly this is consistent with the content of the second half of Galatians 1 in which Paul describes his reception of the gospel by revelation from Jesus Christ (1.11–24).

To Paul’s mind, his commission from Christ implies the agency of God the Father, which is why his apostleship comes through the Father as well as Christ. Indeed, this is confirmed later in the chapter in which Paul describes the revelation he received from Christ (1.12) and the call of God (1.15). Furthermore, it was God who revealed his Son in Paul (1.15–16).

The subtle reference to Paul’s conversion and calling to be an apostle may also explain one other curious element in this second part of verse one. We find here the only explicit reference in the whole epistle to the resurrection of Christ (τοῦ γείραντος αὐτὸν (ἐκ νεκρῶν)). If Paul seeks to establish the central themes of the epistle in his opening, as he consistently does elsewhere, it is odd that the resurrection of Christ is mentioned in the first verse of this epistle in which there is no further explicit reference to it. It seems most likely, however, that the reason for this reference to the resurrection here is related to Paul’s experience of the risen Christ on the way to Damascus. The fact that it was the risen Christ who encountered Paul is of course extremely important. It is Christ’s resurrection that establishes Paul’s entire Christology, as he comes to terms with the fact that Jesus really is the Messiah. By referring to God’s act of raising Christ from the dead, Paul further anchors his apostolic commision in the agency of God through Christ. The Father raised the Son, who was revealed to Paul by the Father as the risen Christ. Through this revelation, Paul was called to be an apostle.

Posted by Con Campbell

Ira Glass – down to earth advice on storytelling 02

16 05 2009
PASADENA, CA - JANUARY 18:  Host/executive pro...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

This is the second clip from Ira Glass.

Again right click the link below and open as a new window…


Posted by Bruce Lowe

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