The Eschatological Interdependence Of Jews And Gentiles In Galatians -- By: John W. Taylor

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 63:2 (NA 2012)
Article: The Eschatological Interdependence Of Jews And Gentiles In Galatians
Author: John W. Taylor

The Eschatological Interdependence Of Jews And Gentiles In Galatians

John W. Taylor


Agitators in Galatia insisted that law observance for Gentiles was essential, because the eschatological blessing promised to the heirs of Abraham is only to be found within Israel. But in three key passages (3:13-14; 3:25-26; 4:4-7), which are frequently misunderstood because pronominal shifts are set aside, Paul makes the blessing of Jews and Gentiles in Christ mutually interdependent, in a theological sense. Gentiles are blessed with the blessing of Abraham because Jews are set free by Christ from the curse of the law. Because the Gentiles are blessed, and have become sons of God, Jewish believers receive the Spirit. Thus Gentile inclusion in Christ is not subsidiary to Israel’s eschatological status, and does not require law observance.

1. Introduction

Three key passages in Galatians have unexpected changes in person (Gal. 3:13-14; 3:25-26; 4:4-7). Paul’s changes from ‘we’ to ‘you’ and back again—between first and second person plurals—have rarely appeared important to his theology, on the assumption that they derive from his epistolary practice of including his readers within the scope of his rhetoric. A fresh reading of these passages suggests that these changes, which seem to be somewhat awkward grammatical shifts, have an identifiable pattern, and signify an unexpected but substantive point.

Paul is countering the theology of agitators who insist that, in order to be justified, Gentile converts to Christ must be circumcised and come under the law. According to the agitators, Gentile inclusion is only within the law, and thus subsidiary to God’s blessing of Israel.

Those under the law of Moses have a privileged status before God, which is only available to Gentile believers if they become proselytes to Judaism. Paul insists in contrast that Jew and Gentile have equal standing in Christ (3:28). In regard to being in Christ—in the new creation—the categories of Jew and Gentile have no meaning (6:15). But in the passages under review in this paper, he goes one step further. Paul’s interpretation of the Abrahamic covenant makes the eschatological blessing of Jews and Gentiles mutually necessary and interdependent. One will not happen without the other.

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