Galatians 1.1

18 05 2009
P46-800h

P46

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.

Caveats!

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

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7 responses

18 05 2009
Michael Bid

Con,
Good stuff mate. It looks very interesting. I’m more interested in 1.4 and how you handle the entrance of an apocalyptic worldview.

18 05 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks Mike. I’ll look forward to your feedback on that verse.

PS – have you dropped the ‘r’ in your surname?

19 05 2009
Michael Richter

Maybe the “from men” is foreshadowing his apostolic commissioning that he received in Jerusalem (Gal 2.9). He seems to be establishing his own Apostolic authority that is directly from Christ which the other “pillars” merely acknowledged but did not themselves bestow upon him. Just some thoughts.

19 05 2009
Neil Foster

Dear Con;
Very interesting, thanks for this. It had never struck me before how “defensive” Paul is from the very outset of the letter- as soon as he has asserted he is an apostle, he immediately needs to correct some wrong views of the source of his apostolic authority. I can only surmise that he was still feeling the echoes of the clash with Peter he refers to later, and wants to make it clear straight away that his authority did not derive from Peter and James, it was an authority he had been given by the Lord Jesus himself. Perhaps the contrast in the dia clauses is “not through a (mere) man (ie Peter?) but through Jesus Christ himself, raised from the dead by God the Father (and hence shown to be the promised Messiah, as per Acts 2, 13).”
Regards
Neil F

20 05 2009
Con Campbell

All good thoughts, thanks!

23 05 2009
Mikey Lynch

Glad to hear that you’re thinking about doing a commentary. If the text is written this elegantly, it’ll be a great read!

24 05 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks Mikey.




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