Demonstrating Transgression By Building Up The Faith: Argumentation In Galatians 2:17–18 -- By: John W. Taylor
BBR 22:4 (2012) p. 547
Demonstrating Transgression By Building Up The Faith:
Argumentation In Galatians 2:17–18
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Readings of Gal 2:17–18 vary significantly in their approach to the two conditional sentences, in their understanding of the scenario Paul is addressing in 2:17, in their assessment of their relationship of the two verses, and in their conclusion as to the contribution these verses make to Paul’s argument in 2:15–21. On the other hand, scholars are in virtual unanimity that 2:18 indirectly accuses Peter of rebuilding the law as a means of justification. This study considers the interpretive options and suggests that contextual, grammatical and rhetorical considerations all point toward a surprising outcome. Paul and other Jewish believers, in seeking justification in Christ, are found ironically to be sinners like the Gentiles. Christ did not make them sinners, but Paul’s actions in building up the faith paradoxically demonstrate his acknowledgment that he was a sinner just like the Gentiles, because he was a transgressor of the law.
Key Words: Galatians 2:17–18, Paul, justification, conditions, irony, paradox, law, transgression, sinner
Treatments of Gal 2:17–18 face a number of difficulties. Its purpose and placement have aroused significant debate. In a passage that contains some of the most memorable and influential Pauline texts, 2:17–18 seems almost an aside or an interruption to the flow of thought. In addition, exegetical dilemmas abound. What is meant by “we ourselves also were found to be sinners,” and how might that make Christ a servant of sin? Who is the “I” of 2:18, and what is it that this “I” is breaking down and building up? How does 2:18 relate to 2:17? What kinds of conditions are intended in each verse? The most common opinion is that 2:18 condemns the rebuilding of the law as a means of justification or as nomistic practice, calling it transgression, in a kind of “counter-charge”1 to what Paul denies in 2:17.2 But
BBR 22:4 (2012...
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