Monday, July 03, 2006

Galatians vs. Romans

I'm writing up a catalog of the major shifts in thought between Galatians and Romans. Two sources in particular have been a big help for this: Philip Esler's Conflict and Identity in Romans and Thomas Tobin's Paul's Rhetoric in its Contexts. (Ed Sanders' Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People was good for #5.) The following ten stand out as biggies.
(1) In Galatians Paul says that baptism results in the abolition of ethnic boundaries: "in Christ there is neither Judean nor Greek" (Gal 3:27-28). In Romans that's the last thing he wants to say. Here the lesson drawn from baptism (Rom 6:1-15) is not the abolition of ethnic boundaries, rather just the opposite: Gentiles escape the power of sin (Rom 6:16-23) in a completely different way than Judeans (Rom 7:1-25). Gentiles die to ungodliness -- that is, to "impurity and lawlessness" (Rom 6:19) -- and then become slaves of God (Rom 6:22). Judeans die to the law (Rom 7:4). (Esler, pp 218-219)

(2) In Galatians Abraham is primarily the ancestor of the uncircumcised (Gal 3:6-9), and his seed refers to Christ (Gal 3:16). In Romans Abraham is the ancestor of the circumcised and uncircumcised in equal measure (Rom 4:1-17), and his seed refers to Judeans and Greeks (Rom 4:16-17). (Esler, p 185; Tobin pp 100-101)

(3) In Galatians Paul interprets Psalm 143 as a general principle, meaning that righteousness was never theoretically possible by observing the law (Gal 2:16). In Romans he uses the psalm to point out only that in fact no one has observed the law enough to be righteous by it (Rom 3:9-20). (Tobin, p 122)

(4) In Galatians Paul uses freedom language to imply liberation from the law (Gal 5). In Romans any freedom language is about liberation from sin, and is accompanied by language of slavery and obedience (Rom 6). (Tobin, p 216)

(5) In Galatians the law is an active agent in confining Israel to sin (Gal 3:19-26). In Romans, the law is either passive in its relationship to sin (Rom 7:7-13), or has nothing to do with it at all (Rom 7:14-25). God has been exonerated in terms of his intentions: instead of using the law to consign Israel to sin so that she may be saved by faith, he now gives the law unto righteousness and life, but sin foils his intent, requiring faith as a rescue operation. This may raise questions about God's competency, but at least it saves him from perversity. [Though note the Galatians view resurfaces in Rom 11:32.] (Sanders, pp 65-86; Esler, pp 230-231)

(6) In Galatians divine sonship is a result of being liberated from the law (Gal 4:3-7). In Romans divine sonship is a reason for living by the spirit (8:1-17). (Esler, p 248)

(7) In Galatians the spirit is contrasted with the flesh (Gal 3:3; 5:16-17,19-26), the law (Gal 3:2; 3:10-14; 5:18), and those who are circumcised and observe the law (Gal 5:2-6). In Romans the spirit is contrasted with the flesh only (Rom 8:1-17); the spirit is now law-like (Rom 8:2). [Though note: the contrast between spirit/law briefly resurfaces in Rom 7:6.] (Tobin, pp 277-281)

(8) In Galatians the promises to Israel were limited by time, and that time has now elapsed (Gal 3:15-18; 4:1-2). In Romans the promises to Israel are still being fulfilled, but in an unexpected way (Rom 9:1-11:32). (Esler, p 277)

(9) In Galatians the Christ-group is Israel (Gal 6:16). In Romans Israel is Israel (Rom 9:1-11:32). Paul comes close to identifying the Christ-group as Israel (explicitly in Rom 9:6-29 and implicitly in Rom 11:17-24), but avoids taking that final step, making clear that Israel is ethnic Israel (Rom 9:1-5, 9:30-11:16, 11:25-32) rather than a spiritualized (Christian) Israel. (Esler, pp 279, 307)

(10) In Galatians believers "baptize into Christ" or "clothe themselves with Christ" (Gal 3:27) -- calling to mind pagan mystery initiation rites -- while in Romans they "baptize into Christ's death" (Rom 6). [Though note: the Galatians view resurfaces in Rom 13:14, where Paul tells people to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ" in the context of ethical instruction.] (Tobin, pp 199-200)


Blogger Danny Zacharias said...

Being a (post)conservative evangelical, I do not want to sound disrespectful to the word of God, but frankly I think Paul's thinking was not uniform or coherent in the matter of defining Israel (your #8). He uses 'Israel' to define ethnic descendants of Abraham and spiritual descendants of Abraham (which includes Christians). He seems to make it clear that not all who are (physical)Israel is (spiritual)Israel (9:6), and uses the example of the remnant in Elijah's day. Yet later, the physical descendants are not forgotten and will be brought back. I've never been able to figure out the logic. And you have only compared Gal and Rom, if he wrote Eph that would need to be brought into the mix as well.

Whenever I read Rom 9-11 I feel like I'm reading Derrida - i read it 5 times and still don't know what he's trying to say :)

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Hi Danny. I dealt with this a while back in The Meaning of Israel.

Blogger Andrew Criddle said...

I think something has gone wrong in section 2/
Maybe you meant to discuss who are the heirs of Abraham not who Abraham is the heir of.

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

Thanks Andrew. Just changed "heir" to "ancestor".

Blogger Gregory said...

There is a possible shift in the meaning of "because of weakness of the flesh" from Gal. 4:13 to Rom. 6:19. A couple of scholars (see Troy Martin, What temptation? Whose Flesh) say that the two usages are similar, but by far most say there is a shift, the first referring to his illness, and the second referring to a moral analysis. As for me, I think that there was no illness, and that the two uses are directly similar.


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