Galatians 3:13–14: Mere Assertion? -- By: Debbie Hunn

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 80:1 (Spring 2018)
Article: Galatians 3:13–14: Mere Assertion?
Author: Debbie Hunn


Galatians 3:13–14: Mere Assertion?

Debbie Hunn

Debbie Hunn is the Reference Librarian at Dallas Theological Seminary.

ABSTRACT

Galatians 3:13 states that Christ redeemed “us” from the curse of the law. Verse 14 then draws a stunning conclusion: Christ provided this redemption in order that the blessing of Abraham might be in Christ for the Gentiles and that “we” might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. The conciseness of Paul’s argument in Gal 3:13–14 has made it difficult to follow and has fostered the idea of unproven assertions within it. But unproven assertions that are contrary to the thinking of the Galatians would fail to persuade. In Paul’s day, as today, readers expected a high standard of logical reasoning in argumentation. This article sets vv. 13–14 in their context to contend that they deal with justification, not with an individual’s manner of life or with Israel in exile. Then after identifying “us” as Jews in v. 13 and “we” as both Jews and Gentiles in v. 14, it examines the ties between redemption for Jews in v. 13, the Abrahamic promise for Gentiles in v. 14a, and reception of the Spirit in v. 14b in order to determine what evidence Paul uses to support his claims. Paul draws on common ground that he shares with his readers and substantiates exactly those points on which he and they might differ. The article concludes that Paul’s argument adheres to a strict standard of logic, one both appropriate for his time and convincing by western standards.

I. Introduction

Galatians 3:10–12 reveals the problem of the law: it curses, but will not justify. Verse 13 explains the solution: Christ redeemed “us” from the curse of the law. Verse 14 then draws a stunning conclusion: Christ provided redemption from the curse of the law in order that the blessing of Abraham might be in Christ for the Gentiles and that “we” might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.1 Although the argument in vv. 13–14 has the virtue of brevity, one might question whether it is entirely to the point.

Why, for example, does Paul speak of Jews under the law to make the point that Gentiles receive the Abrahamic blessing in Christ?2 And on what grounds does he relate the promise of the Spirit to the blessing of Abraham? The purpose of this article is not to offer a new interpretation of vv. 13–14, but to explain the connections between these two verses and to demonstrate that Paul includes enough evidence for his position to persuade his original readers.

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