The Leading Of The Spirit And The Curse Of The Law -- By: Todd A. Wilson

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 57:1 (NA 2006)
Article: The Leading Of The Spirit And The Curse Of The Law
Author: Todd A. Wilson

The Leading Of The Spirit And The Curse Of The Law

Reassessing Paul’s Response To The Galatian Crisis1

Todd A. Wilson

This study examines the rationale for Paul’s four references to the Law in 5:13-6:10 in light of a fresh appraisal of the Galatian crisis. It contributes to the continuing debate over the relevance of this section of the letter for the rest of Galatians and for the situation in Galatia. In addition, this study offers a refined understanding of how Galatians functioned in its original setting: it argues that, with the letter, Paul confronts his apostatising converts with the stark choice between blessing and curse.

The thesis of this study is that Paul intended his four references to the Law in 5:13-6:10 as an affirmation of the sufficiency of the Spirit to enable the Galatians to fulfil the Law and thereby avoid its curse. This thesis is developed in two parts, the first consisting of three chapters, the second of two chapters.

Chapter 1 first locates this study within the broader context of Galatians scholarship and provides a description of the approach taken and an overview of the argument. After briefly addressing the state of the question of how 5:13-6:10 relates to the rest of the letter, a classic interpretive conundrum in Galatians studies, several rationales for Paul’s references to the Law 5:13-6:10 are then considered: (1) Paul invokes the Law as an abiding standard of behaviour; (2) Paul shows that his Law-free gospel does not entail lawless living; (3) Paul wants to continue his polemic against the Law; and (4) Paul demonstrates the superfluity of the Law for ethics. This fourth approach, arguably the consensus view among scholars, is given more extended treatment because of its influence.

Part 1 (‘The Curse of the Law and the Crisis in Galatia’) begins with an exploration of the rhetoric of cursing in Galatians, where it is demonstrated that the curse of the Law is a more prominent, and indeed a more pervasive, feature of the letter than is generally assumed (ch. 2). This conclusion is based upon the following three observations: (1) Galatians is framed in terms of curse (1:8-9) and blessing (6:16); (2) one of the letter’s leading paragraphs contains an unusu...

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