Context Matters: Paul’s Use Of Leviticus 18:5 In Galatians 3:12 -- By: Joel Willitts

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 54:2 (NA 2003)
Article: Context Matters: Paul’s Use Of Leviticus 18:5 In Galatians 3:12
Author: Joel Willitts

Context Matters:
Paul’s Use Of Leviticus 18:5 In Galatians 3:12

Joel Willitts


Galatians 3:1014 is arguably one of the most difficult passages in all of the Pauline letters. The varied interpretations can be organised into three approaches that currently dominate the exegetical landscape: law/gospel antithesis, apocalyptic fulfilment and redemptive historical. All three approaches, however, have overlooked the reuse of the Leviticus 18:5 clause, ‘the one who does these things will live by them’ (Gal. 3:12b), in later Jewish interpretative tradition. This interpretative tradition may be a useful source in our attempt to grasp Paul’s argument in Galatians 3:1014. This essay sets out to: (1) investigate the Leviticus 18:5 clause in the Jewish interpretative tradition, and (2) offer a fresh reading of Galatians 3:1014 within a redemptive historical/exile–restoration framework.

I. Introduction

The citation from Leviticus 18:5 is the third in a string of three quotations1 in Galatians 3:1012. The function of Leviticus 18:5 in the argument of chapter 3 is hotly debated as is the entire section in which it appears. About the only issue on which scholars have found consensus is the fact that the text is one of the most difficult in the

Pauline corpus.2 While there are almost as many interpretations of Galatians 3:1012 as interpreters, three approaches dominate the current exegetical landscape; they are the law/gospel antithesis approach, the apocalyptic fulfilment approach, and the redemptive historical approach. I am not attempting in this article to argue for the superiority of one approach over another. Of the three, the most persuasive, to my mind, is the redemptive historical approach, although it is not without its own difficulties. Nevertheless, all three approaches have overlooked what could be a key point in the interpr...

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