The Old Testament Background of Paul’s Reference to “the Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22 -- By: G. K. Beale

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 15:1 (NA 2005)
Article: The Old Testament Background of Paul’s Reference to “the Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22
Author: G. K. Beale


The Old Testament Background of Paul’s Reference to “the Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22

G. K. Beale

Wheaton Graduate School

“The fruit of the Spirit” in Gal 5:22 and its manifestations appear to be a general allusion to Isaiah’s promise that the Spirit would bring about abundant fertility in the coming new age. Uppermost in mind are Isaiah’s repeated prophecies (especially chap. 32 and, above all, 57) that in the new creation the Spirit would he the bearer of plentiful fruitfulness, which Isaiah often interprets to be godly attributes such as righteousness, patience, peace, joy, holiness, and trust in the Lord, traits either identical or quite similar to those in Gal 5:22-23. Paul’s rhetorical effect and thematic emphasis are increased by the readers’ being able to situate themselves as those who are part of the dawning eschatological promises made to Israel, and hence they are true Israelites who play a significant role in this cosmic redemptive-historical drama. If they are really part of this drama, then they will pay heed to Paul’s exhortations.

Key Words: fruit, Spirit, inaugurated eschatology, new creation, Isaiah 32 and 57, Galatians 5, Septuagint

In Gal 5:22 Paul refers to “the fruit of the Spirit” and then enumerates several examples of these fruits (e.g., “love, joy, peace, patience,” etc.) in vv. 22b-23. Though past commentators have not seen any OT or Jewish background for this famous reference, recently some have proposed such a background. G. W. Hansen has proposed that Isaiah and a few other OT passages form the background. In adducing a reference to Isa 32:15-17 and Joel 2:28-32, Hansen says, “the promise of the Spirit and the promise of moral fruitfulness in God’s people are

Author’s note: I am grateful to my students Todd Wilson, Ben Gladd, and Chris Beetham for their reading of this manuscript and for helpful suggestions. I am also grateful for the comments received as a result of reading earlier drafts of this paper at the “Pauline Epistles” section of SIM. (2001 annual meeting) and at the “NT Section” of the Tyndale Fellowship for Biblical Studies (2004 annual meeting).

connected in the Old Testament,” and the reference in Gal 5:22 “is probably drawn from the imagery of the Old Testame...

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