galatians - week two

Here is the introductory page for Galatians chapter two and week two of our congregational conversation about Paul's Letter to the Galatians ...

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

In Galatians 2:1-10 Paul describes a meeting in Jerusalem (traditionally called “The Jerusalem Council”). He follows this in Galatians 2:11-14 with the description of an incident in the Antioch church. After reading Paul’s description of these events read the version that is told in Acts 15:1-29. Notice the similarities and differences in these two accounts.

What do you think occurred? What may have led to these differing versions of the events?

In Galatians 2:16 Paul writes words that have become central in Christian teaching: “yet we know that a person is justified not by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ.” (New Revised Standard Version)

Of the word often translated “justified” J. Louis Martyn in his commentary on Galatians writes: “What is known about the human being Paul now indicates by using in the present tense the verb dikaioô, a word that - with its noun dikaiosyne - has occasioned a veritable library of books and articles from the earliest interpreters of Paul to those of the present day. The thrust of the verb and of the noun is exceedingly difficult to grasp, and equally difficult to render in a modern language. The first problem arises from the fact that, whereas in Greek the verb dikaioô and the noun dikaiosyne are linguistically cognate, most of the verbs and nouns by which these terms have been translated are not. To render the verb with the English expression “to justify” while translating the noun as “righteousness” - the most common way of proceeding - is to lose the linguistic connection that was both obvious and important to Paul ... The second problem is substantive. All of the translation options listed above have one weighty liability: they are at home either in the language of the law - where “to justify” implies the existence of a definable legal norm - or in the language of religion and morality - where “righteousness” implies a definable religious or moral norm. As we shall see, Paul intends his term to be taken into neither of these linguistic realms. Hence, we will find some advantage in using the verb “to rectify” and the noun “rectification.” For these are words that belong to a single linguistic family, and they are words that are not commonly employed either in our courtrooms or in our religious and moral institutions. The subject Paul addresses is that of God’s making right what has gone wrong.” (pp. 249-250)

English translations translate the word dikaioô with “justification” (NRSV; NIV; Phillips; MEB; Moffatt); “put right” (Good News); “declared ‘righteous’” (NT Wright); “to be made right” (Cotton Patch); “reckoned as upright” (NJB) “set right” (Peterson).

Of the phrase translated “through faith in Jesus Christ” (NRSV with translator’s note “or ‘the faith of Jesus Christ’”) J. Louis Martyn writes: “Paul writes pistis Christou Iêsou, an expression which can mean either the faith that Christ had and enacted or the faith that human beings have in Christ, both readings being grammatically possible. Recent decades have seen extensive discussion of the matter, sometimes even heated debate; and the debate has demonstrated that the two readings do in fact lead to two very different pictures of the theology of the entire letter. Is the faith that God has chosen as the means of setting things right that of Christ himself or that of human beings? Attention to a number of factors, especially to the nature of Paul’s antinomies and to the similarities between 2:16 and 2:21, leads to the conclusion that Paul speaks of the faith of Christ, meaning his faithful death on our behalf.” (p. 251)

J. Louis Martyn’s translation of Galatians 2:16 is: “Even we ourselves know, however, that a person is not rectified by observance of the Law, but rather by the faith of Jesus Christ. Thus, even we have placed our trust in Christ Jesus, in order that the source of our rectification might be the faith of Christ and not observance of the Law; for not a single person will be rectified by observance of the Law.”

What do you think that Paul is trying to say? How would describe “justification”? What difference does it make if Paul is referring to faith in Jesus Christ or to the faithfulness of Jesus Christ?

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