galatians - week one

Once again this year we at University Hill Congregation have co-ordinated our weekly study groups so that all of us are hosting the same scripture together through the season of Lent. Some in our congregation are unable to get to one of the weekly gatherings but still wish to participate. To help them - and others who may be interested in joining in - we post materials related to our conversation here each week. Here is the introductory page for chapter one of Galatians and week one of our congregational conversation ...

Galatians - Week One

In preparation for our time together read Galatians, chapter one. Note your own questions and insights. Bring them with you to our conversation. As you read consider these questions:

Paul identifies himself as an “apostle”. What is an apostle? In the Nicene Creed we confess the church to be “one, holy, catholic and apostolic”. What does identifying the church as apostolic mean?

In the third verse Paul says of Jesus Christ: “who gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father”. What do you make of this way of expressing the good news?

In verses six through nine Paul describes a situation in which differing versions of the gospel - the one that he taught and another version - are in conflict. To what extent are differing versions of the gospel in conflict in our time? How would we determine which is the gospel truth?

In verses ten to twenty-four Paul recounts autobiographical details in support of the authenticity of the gospel he has proclaimed to the Galatians. What is his argument in favour of its authenticity?

In verses fifteen and sixteen Paul recounts what has often been called his “conversion”. Some argue that Paul describes this change more in terms of a prophetic calling rather than a conversion to a new religion. What do you think that Paul is saying about the change that occurred in his life?

Galatians as Drama

"Reading Paul’s letter to his Galatian churches is like coming in on a play as the curtain is rising in the third or fourth act. The opening lines of the letter tell us three things. First, to read this letter is to be involved in high drama, for one senses between Paul and the Galatians both deep affection and angry tension. Second, Paul and the Galatians have a rich history with one another. Important developments antedate the writing and the reception of the letter. Third, what has already occurred has involved a number of persons in addition to Paul and the Galatians. Genuine understanding of the letter involves discerning the roles played by these other actors, as well as the roles played by Paul and the Galatians. Somewhat as though we were witnessing the play in a theater, then, we pay attention. And as the drama of the letter unfolds, we start to put the pieces together, beginning with a brief sketch of the players."

The Dramatis Personae:
The Galatian Churches
The Catechetical Instructors
The Teachers and their Followers
The Jerusalem Church
Peter, James and John
The False Brothers
The Church in Antioch

from "The Anchor Bible: Galatians" by J. Louis Martyn (Doubleday, New York, 1998), pp. 13-14

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