Posts Tagged ‘Cross’

Mark 14

March 24, 2016
  1. In the Gospels we find Jesus, through his association and actions, challenging the dominant system that subordinates human need and denies some their human dignity. Jesus ate with those who are considered “unclean”, such as sinners and tax-collectors (Mk. 2. 15-17). Jesus allowed his disciples to pluck grain on the Sabbath and satisfy their hunger (2.23-28) and restored health by healing the sick on the Sabbath (3.1-6).

 

In 14.3 Jesus enters and has table-fellowship in the house of a leper. It is not clear whether he is healed or still having disease. The lepers are considered unclean (decided by a priest Lev. 13.2-3) and are excluded from the worship assembly and from the community in general (Lev. 13.3, 45-46; Num. 12; Deut. 24.8). It is the purity code that protects the integrity and exclusive identity of the Jewish community. Lepers being unclean are a threat to the integrity and exclusive identity of the community and are excluded from any social interaction with the society. According to Josephus, lepers, poor, the blind and the childless are the equal of a dead person (Jewish Antiquities III, II.3). Lepers are socially dead. Jesus by entering the house of a leper and having table-fellowship is identifying and showing solidarity with him. Through this Jesus emphasizes the primacy of the human being over the system.

 

In the story of Jesus healing the man with a withered hand, Jesus is angered and saddened by the hardness of heart of the Jewish religious leaders (3.5). This hardness is an attitude that serves the system at all costs and sacrifices the human to the system. It is this dehumanizing system that is challenged by Jesus through his actions, because for him human being is more important than the system. That is why Jesus said man is not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath is made for man.

 

  1. When Jesus is having table-fellowship in the house of the leper, a woman enters the house and anoints Jesus’ head with an expensive ointment. Her name is not mentioned. An uninvited woman entering a place where men are having table-fellowship is unacceptable. In the OT prophets anointed the head of a king. It is a male domain. But this woman, by anointing Jesus’ head with ointment, is not only acknowledging Jesus as a king, but also entering into a male-domain, thus breaking away with the traditional system.

 

Some of those present scolded her for her act. They have brought an economic argument by saying that she could have used this money on poor, instead of wasting it this way. But Jesus, affirming that those who have raised the concern have an ongoing responsibility towards the poor, praised her act. This seems to be contradictory to his position taken in the story of Rich young ruler, where he asked the young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor  (Mk. 10). When understood in the light of Jesus’ interpretation of her act as preparation of his body for burial, through her act, the woman, unlike the disciples, is not avoiding but anticipating Jesus’ preparation for death. In this she has done “all she could” and demonstrated her solidarity with the way of the cross. That is why she is praised by Jesus in 14.9, because she has understood the “gospel”.

 

  1. The story of the woman is sandwiched between the accounts of the attitude and actions of the religious leaders (14.1-2) and the action of Judas Iscariot. Judas goes to the chief priests, the guardians of the system, in order to inform them that he would betray Jesus. Mark, unlike Luke and John, does not invoke a theory of “satanic inspiration” to explain Judas’ actions. The transaction between Judas and the religious leaders is stated in monetary terms. Through this Judas is expressing that he considers Jesus as a victim to be sold. Money plays an important role in sacrificial system. By taking their money Judas indicates that he sees Jesus as another innocent victim of sacrificial system to be killed. The one (i.e. Jesus) who attacked this system (Mk. 11.15-19) is about to be bought as a victim. Judas is described as “one of the twelve” (14.10,20,43). It is an “insider” who becomes a collaborator to “sell” Jesus as a victim to be destroyed. The betrayal comes from within. It shows the duplicity of an insider. The follower of Jesus becomes a seller of Jesus for few pieces of silver.

 

The church is still perpetuating the sacrificial system, where money plays an important role. The church which is seen by the outside world as a community of Jesus has become a collaborator in “betraying” Jesus. It “sells” Jesus for monetary benefit. Jesus is a sacrificial victim. Mind you, it is the temple authorities that collaborated with the Roman imperial officials that “sacrificed” Jesus in order to maintain the status quo.

 

By interpreting cross of Jesus Christ as the atonement for the sins of the world, we have deliberately forgotten the other side of the meaning of the cross, i.e. violence of the religious and political system against an innocent victim (i.e. Jesus) in order to silence the “threat” to their power and authority or the status quo. This is the core of the sacrificial system, where an innocent victim is killed by the entire community for the community’s sins (Read Leviticus for the Day of Atonement). How true are the words of Caiaphas in John 18. 14: “It was better to have one person die for the people”.

 

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Death – An Essential Condition For Discipleship

April 28, 2015

Discipleship and death are inextricably intertwined. Discipleship is not possible without death. A disciple should, first and foremost, learn how to die – learn to die to some of the inherited legacies, traditions, assumptions and worldview.

The Greek term for “learning” or “education” is Paideia. This term denotes deep education, not cheap schooling, with an attention to what is authentic and important, not what is fleeting. So Paideia has to do with the formation of attention so the student moves from focusing on frivolous things to serious things, from superficial things to substantial things. In order for a student to do that he/she has to adopt a philosophy of Socratic questioning – Socratic unwillingness to accept convention without reflective evaluation. A student’s (or disciple’s) critical education should challenge his/her inherited legacies, traditions, presuppositions and worldview with an aim to learn what is authentic and important. It is an attitude of critical engagement with oneself and society – a proactive process of questioning and learning. In other words, deep education or learning has to do with a radical reordering of perception.

Jesus demanded the radical reordering of perception when he rebuked Peter at Caesarea Philippi, “For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mk. 8.33). This is in response to Peter’s reaction to Jesus’ prediction about his suffering, death and resurrection. Till this point, i.e. Mk 1-8.26, the disciples have witnessed tremendous displays of power and authority in the ministry of their master Jesus Christ, and people receiving new and astonishing teachings, liberation from oppression and restoration to wholeness. All of these characteristics begin to change in Mk 8.27-10.52, as Jesus makes a direct way toward Jerusalem and announces three times his impending death and resurrection.

The paradoxical yoking of Jesus’ powerful words and deeds of liberation and his self-giving powerlessness appears to be in contradiction to the disciples’ understanding of God’s Messiah. Thus far Peter and the other disciples have heard the kingdom of God announced and inaugurated only in victorious tones over nature, evil spirits, diseases and death. Not only were they awestruck by witnessing these powerful deeds, but they also participated in the same liberating ministry, having been appointed to preach the message of the kingdom of God and given authority over evil forces and diseases, just like Jesus (Mk. 3.13-15; 6.7-13). Jesus’ power and authority has corresponded well with their expectation or understanding of God’s Messiah. But the idea that the Christ is to suffer and die is in complete contradiction to their inherited Jewish tradition about the Christ of God. Also the disciples could not associate belief in resurrection with Christ (Mk. 9.9-10).

Moreover, the disciples are also the products of their environment. The standard preoccupation of the free male in the Mediterranean region is social status. The disciples of Jesus are no exception. They too seek for social superiority, namely “Who is the greatest?” (Mk. 9.35). This strong desire for personal advancement has motivated James and John, two of Jesus’ disciples, to request for positions of honor and privilege in the kingdom of God (Mk. 10.35-37).

At least on one occasion Jesus had to correct the disciples’ attitude of jealousy and intolerance. John reported to Jesus about a strange exorcist, an “outsider”, who is seemingly usurping a prerogative of the disciples. Earlier they were seeking for social status, and here they feel that their position is threatened.

In the Gospel of Mark on two occasions it is recorded that the disciples are given power to exorcise (3.15; 6.7,13). Immediately before the second passion-resurrection prediction Mark has shown the inability of the disciples to drive away the destructive spirit from a boy whose father brought him to the disciples to be cured (Mk. 9.14-19). The somewhat insecurely held prerogative of the disciples is threatened by the outsider.

Like the dispute about greatness, the episode of the strange exorcist reflects an attitude of the disciples that leads to conflict. In both cases Jesus intervenes. The disciples’ exclusiveness is rejected, as is their self-seeking!

Although the twelve have responded to Jesus’ call for discipleship and been accompanying their master for quite some time, there is so much that separates them from their master. The disciples are confounded again and again by the newness of deeds and teachings. They have repeatedly exhibited their obtuseness concerning Jesus (Mk. 4:41; 6:52; 8:14-21). Mark calls this their lack of understanding (Mk. 6.52; 8.21). The disciples’ proximity to Jesus did not automatically bring clarity about their master and their discipleship. Like the blind man at Bethsaida, the disciples too need to be restored in their vision (Mk. 8.22-26). They need to be transformed from a lack of clarity to a sharper focus on who Jesus is and consequently the nature of their discipleship. So Jesus had to tell them quite openly about the nature of his messiahship and of discipleship (Mk. 8.32, 34-38).

 

The Central Elements of Discipleship 

When Jesus called Andrew, Peter, James and John, he called them to “follow” him. The verb “follow” characterises the central quality of existence as a disciple. Discipleship demonstrates a close association with Jesus himself.

However, a clear distinction needs to be made between “following” and “imitation”. Discipleship means entering into a lifelong relationship with the person of Jesus, not merely to his teaching (Mk. 3.14: “to be with him”). The disciple not only learns from his teacher, but also shares his/her life with him without reservation. However, the qualitative difference between the master and disciple always remains preserved. It can, therefore, never be the goal of a disciple to become like the master.

When Jesus calls a person to follow, the focus of the follower should be the kingdom of God that Jesus embodies. Jesus has seen the embodiment of the in-breaking of the kingdom of God in his own person and ministry (Mk. 3.22-30; Lk. 11.20, 17.21). Since his own desires and ambitions are focused on doing the will of the Father, this becomes the goal of even the disciple. Discipleship is a radical way of life, radical also in obedience to the will of God, as is interpreted by the life, words and deeds of Jesus Christ.

In Mk. 8.34 Jesus seems to be saying that those who wish to follow should indeed follow. He emphasises the central elements – self-denial and cross-bearing – as constitutive of what it means to follow.

 

  1. Self-Denial

The term “to deny” appears in only one other context in the Gospel of Mark, i.e. Mk. 14.30,31,72. It refers to Peter denying Jesus three times. Peter’s action throws light on what it means to deny oneself.

Peter’s denial begins in response to an accusation made by one of the slaves of the high priest that he was “with” Jesus (Mk. 14.67; cf. 3.14). His response is not direct. He, rather, redirected the attention from acknowledgement of Jesus to the incredulity of the girl’s accusation: “I do not know or understand what you are talking about” (Mk. 14.68). The same slave girl utters a similar charge, “This man is one of them” (Mk. 14.69). Peter denies his membership in the company of Jesus’ followers. After sometime bystanders repeat the accusation: “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean” (Mk. 14.70). At this point Peter responds directly, getting to the heart of the question of his relationship with Jesus by denying Jesus himself: “I do not know this man you are talking about” (Mk. 14.71). Here Peter repudiates Jesus and not simply his affiliation with him. He severs himself from Jesus and all that he represents. In other words, Peter disowns the whole person of Jesus for the sake of his security in a hostile environment.

Just as Peter’s words to his accusers come to focus on the whole person of Jesus, so also the repetition of denials suggests the disciple’s intent to disown and not merely dissociate himself from Jesus. Peter moves from discrediting the content of an accusation to denying his allegiance to a group, to a profession of complete ignorance (“I do not know this man”). His confession of not knowing Jesus indicates complete separation between Peter and Jesus, and Peter’s refusal to entertain any sense of obligation to Jesus. That means, Jesus has no claim over Peter’s life either in the present or in the future.

The third characteristic of Peter’s denial is its public context and public implications. Peter’s denial consists of acts that openly declare no connection whatsoever between him and Jesus. His public denials define him and his standing with regards to Jesus within a social context.

What does it mean to deny oneself as a follower of Jesus?

  1. Just as the focus of Peter’s denial goes beyond renunciation of a relationship or obligation and targets Jesus himself, likewise Mark 8:34 calls a follower to something more radical than denying obligations to oneself or the desires that originate within oneself. Peter’s story suggests that Jesus’ imperative concerns the disowning of one’s own person. This extends beyond mere self-discipline. It calls every would-be follower no longer to live on one’s own behalf.
  1. The finality of Peter’s denial implies that Mark 8:34 calls for permanent and complete severance. Just as Peter claims not to know Jesus, so the self-denial that Jesus demands involves the renunciation of any obligation to oneself. In Eduard Schweizern words, “It indicates a freedom in which one no longer wills to recognize his own ‘I’.”
  1. Third, as Peter’s actions in Mark 14 involve a public context and public consequences, so too does the self-denial envisioned in Mark 8:34. To deny someone, including oneself, includes the public demonstration of disavowal and the willingness to enjoy or suffer the public effects.

One who follows Jesus continually enacts self-denial through living without regard for the security and priorities that people naturally cling to and that our society actively promotes as paramount. This enactment is not a matter of private piety but of public testimony.

Self-denial obviously involves the relinquishment of an individual’s autonomy, running counter to human habits of self-preservation and personal advancement (cf. 9:35; 10:42-44). In addition, the following verse (8:35) offers an explication that underscores the gravity of Jesus’ summons: the imperatives of 8:34 are tantamount to losing one’s life for the sake of Jesus and the gospel. The paradoxes of 8:35-38 describe surrendering one’s self, one’s being, in response to Jesus in order to gain or experience true and authentic life.

However, one should be clear that it is the call of Jesus to discipleship that demands the break from self-centered life, and a break from the past in order to experience a new and authentic life. But the break from the past should not be equated with discipleship.

  1. Cross-Bearing

The image of cross-bearing, which immediately follows the command to deny oneself in Mark 8:34, reinforces and complements the characteristics of self-denial.

People living in the Roman empire understand the purpose of cross. It is an instrument for a particular form of execution reserved by the Roman empire for slaves, criminals and insurrectionists – the lowest of the low in the society. It is a public spectacle accompanied by torture and shame – one of the most humiliating and cruel deaths ever devised by human beings.

Cross identifies those judged of setting themselves menacingly against the ways of the Roman empire and, by Mark’s account, against dominant and oppressive religious, political and ideological structures. In other words, cross signifies a person who, on account of his life, attitude, worldview, values and actions, set himself/herself against the standards of this world and as a consequence incurs the wrath of dominant forces.

The cross, which the followers are to bear according to Mk. 8.34, is not Jesus’ cross. Every follower is to take up his/her own cross, each declaring the forfeiture of one’s life and self-preservation. Cross-bearers embrace a way of life that threatens the existence of dominant, oppressive and exploitative systems, structures and ideologies.

Thus, cross-bearing complements the notion of self-denial, and informs the three characteristics of self-denial.

  1. As an instrument of death, cross threatens a person’s being.
  2. Cross performs its function with finality.
  3. Cross-bearing occurs in public. Just as one can not deny oneself without denouncing ways of self-interest, self-preservation and self-advancement, so too cross indicates that Jesus’ followers have devoted their lives at any cost to the public demonstration of God’s kingdom or God’s reign and its righteousness.

Conclusion

Thus, the demand of Jesus in Mk. 8.34 is absolute, summoning his followers away from inclinations of personal aggrandizement and from loyalty to the world’s canons of status, power, self-preservation and self-promotion, to an inclination of an authentic life of humility, neighbourly service and peacemaking (Mk. 9.33-50, 10.42-45). A disciple dies to the individualistic and self-seeking life, and lives a new, authentic life of neighbourly love (Mk. 10.42-45).

Jesus’ imperatives to anyone to deny oneself and take up one’s cross reveal a thoroughly prospective orientation – one that points ahead to the future and calls its hearers to regard their lives, securities and ambitions according to their association with Jesus and participation in God’s kingdom. It is a call to live “against the grain” of whatever is taken to be distractingly or deceptively normative in a given cultural context, in order to experience here and now an authentic life.

 

References

Hans Weder, “Disciple, Discipleship.” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 2 (D-G), David Noel Freedman, ed., (New York: Doubleday, 1992), pp. 207-210.  

Harry Fleddermann, “The Discipleship Discourse.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 43 (1981), pp. 42-75.

Kent Brower, “’We are Able’: Cross-Bearing Discipleship and the Way of the Lord in Mark.” Horizons in Biblical Theology 29 (2007), pp. 177-201.

Leif E. Vaage, “An Other Home: Discipleship in Mark as Domestic Asceticism.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 71 (2009), pp. 741-761.

Marvin Mayer, “Taking Up the Cross and Following Jesus: Discipleship in the Gospel of Mark.” Calvin Theological Journal 37 (2002), pp. 230-238.

Matthew L. Skinner, “Denying Self, Bearing a Cross, and Following Jesus: Unpacking the Imperatives of Mark 8:34.” Word & World 23/3 (Summer 2003), pp. 321-331.

Sanders L. Willson, “Discipleship according to Jesus: A Sermon on Mark 3.13-19.” Presbyterian 16/2 (1990), pp. 73-80.

The Cross of Jesus Christ: The Basis of Our Perception and Value System

September 8, 2014

We have seen that the problem in the Corinthian church is factionalism and the root cause of that problem is that their basis of knowledge, perception and value system is “flesh”. In other words, their perception and value system belong to the old age, from which they were redeemed by their faith in Jesus Christ. That means, the members of the Corinthian church are trying to live in two diametrically opposite worlds.

After pointing to them the problem and the root cause of that problem, Paul turns their attention to the crucified Christ. Paul says that their basis of knowledge, perception and value system are in contrast with that of the cross of Christ.

So, today we discuss the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ.

II Cor. 5.14-17 “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on, therefore, we regard no one from human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new.”

Paul says this in the context where some were boasting “in outward appearance” (II Cor. 5.12) or “according to flesh” (II Cor. 11.18). Because of that Paul was directing Corinthians’ attention to the significance of the death of Jesus Christ.

Verse 16 starts with “Therefore”. However, the appropriate word is “Consequently”. Verse 17 also starts with the same word “Consequently”. That means, both verses 16 and 17 refer to the consequences or results of what is mentioned in verses 14 and 15. Vv. 14 and 15 mention the death of Jesus Christ.

What are the consequences or results of the death of Jesus Christ?

1. Epistemological Change
The simpler definition of epistemology is, it is the basis of knowledge or the window through which a person acquires knowledge. It is the window through which you look at or view things, people and the reality around you. In that sense it is also connected to one’s perspective or perception and value system.

V. 16 “Consequently we now know no one according to flesh; even if we knew Christ according to flesh, but now we no longer know.”

Three times the word “know” is used in this verse. Paul also used the word “know” in I Cor. 2.2: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Once Paul knew Christ according to flesh. But NOW he no longer knows Christ according to flesh.

What does it mean when Paul said that “we knew Christ according to flesh”?

Before his conversion, the basis of Paul’s knowledge was the “flesh” or the old age. From that point of view, the crucified Christ was considered as the cursed one of God (Gal. 3.13: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on the tree”” Deut. 21.23). A crucified person can not be the messiah of God. Moreover, the cross of Christ has made the important Jewish customs or their identity markers insignificant: “But my friends, why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed” (Gal. 5.11). The cross has, thus, become a stumbling block for the Jews because it brought Jews and Gentiles together by making their important identity markers insignificant. That was why Paul persecuted the Christians and wanted to destroy the church. This was THEN. Before his conversion.

BUT NOW. Here “now” refers to the new age or new creation. After Paul’s conversion, his existence is no longer in the old age. He no longer belongs to the old age or the flesh. His existence is in the new age or new creation. So in this new age Paul’s basis of knowledge is no longer “the flesh” or the “old age”. Paul’s perception and value system are not according to the flesh or the old age.

For the one who is in Christ, knowing on the basis of the flesh is past. Flesh is no longer the window through which he/she gets the knowledge. Flesh is no longer the window through which you view or perceive things, people and the reality around you. The value system is not based on the flesh.

What brought this change?

Paul says, this is the consequence of the death of Jesus Christ. Now Jesus Christ is no longer perceived as the cursed one of God. He is the “wisdom of God” and the “power of God”.

Therefore, the first consequence of the cross of Christ is the epistemological change. It brought about a change in the basis of the knowledge. Paul’s basis of knowledge is no longer the flesh or the old age. It is the cross of Jesus Christ. It brought about a change in the perspective or perception and value system of those in Christ.

2. The New Creation
The second consequence of the cross is: v. 17, “Consequently if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away, behold! Everything has become new.”

The second consequence or result of the death of Jesus Christ is the new creation.

New Creation is characterised by reconciliation and unity

Paul mentions “New Creation” in only two places in his letters: II Cor. 5.17 and Gal. 6.15. In both the places new creation is contrasted with “flesh” or the “old age”.

Paul describes the nature of the new creation in II Cor. 5.18-21. He says that God through Jesus Christ has reconciled us to himself. By demolishing the wall that separated human beings from God, the death of Jesus Christ has brought God and human beings together.

In Galatians 6.15 Paul says, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything; but a new creation is everything.” Circumcision was significant in the old age. Circumcision, along with dietary laws and Sabbath, formed as important values in the old age. They have formed as walls of separation between Jews and Gentiles. By demolishing these dividing walls, the death of Jesus Christ has brought the estranged groups of people together.

So in the new creation the perception and value system of the old age or the flesh are not valid or significant. That is why Paul says, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3.28).

Therefore, the cross of Christ has reconciled not only God and human beings, but also the estranged communities and individuals. New creation or new age is characterised by reconciliation and unity.
Therefore, the implication are:

– Factionalism has no room in the new creation. It belongs to the old age. That is why Paul says: “For as long as there is jealousy and quarrelling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?” (I Cor 3.3).

– Perception and value system based on socio-economic, culture, caste, creed and region have no place in the new age or new creation.

3. The Cross Introduces Paradoxes

II Cor. 5.14,15: “For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore, all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

The Greek word that is used for “therefore” is ara, which denotes transition from one thing to another by natural sequence and logical inference. The meaning is “therefore”, “then”, “consequently” or “as a result of”. The consequence of Jesus Christ dying for all is that we all have died. Died to what? V. 15 explains: “He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

There are several important things that these two verses convey:

a. In II Corinthians the cross of Jesus Christ is characterised as “weakness”. II Cor. 13.4: “He was crucified in weakness.”

Paul also characterises his ministry in terms of “weakness”.

– I Cor. 2.3-5: “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the powerful Spirit, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”

– II Cor. 4.8-9: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down; but not destroyed.”

– II Cor. 6.4-10: “But as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labours, sleepless nights, hunger, by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left; in honour and dishonour, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying and see – we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing, as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”

– II Cor. 12.7b-10: “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

In all these references Paul introduces a paradox.

Paul says that according to the perception and value system of the old age or the flesh, the shameful death of Jesus Christ on the cross, and Paul’s hardships, sufferings afflictions, beatings, imprisonments and so on signify “weakness”.

Paul argues, this may be “weakness” according to the perception and values of the society. But this is not an evidence of powerlessness.

Rather paradoxically God’s power is at work or manifested in this weakness:
– II Cor. 13.4: “For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God.”
– The salvation of people manifests that the power of God is at work in the “weakness” of the cross of Christ: “But to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1.18).

In Paul’s list of hardships he introduces a series of antitheses:
– I Cor. 2.3-5: “And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the powerful Spirit, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
– II Cor. 12.7b-10: “Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”

All these references show that the “weakness” actually discloses the power of God. That is why, Paul says that he boasts in his “weakness” because of this paradox of power in weakness, rather than “outward appearance” or outward manifestations of power such as visions and revelations (II Cor. 12:1-10).
The paradox of power in weakness stands in contrast to Corinthians’ understanding of power. For them, power makes an individual powerful in some noticeable sense. For them weakness and power are incompatible. For Paul, weakness and power are not mutually exclusive, but are coterminous.

– The “weakness” of the cross of Christ and Paul’s ministry have an intended purpose of benefiting others
In II Cor. 5.14,15 Paul twice says “he died for all.” For Paul, the love of Christ is manifested in Christ dying “for all”. That means, the love expressed by the cross of Christ is defined as existence or living for others (II Cor. 5.15; Gal. 2.20, Rom. 14-15).

The “weakness” of the cross of Christ has an intended purpose of benefiting others. Christ died for the benefit of others.

In all the lists of “weakness” or sufferings that Paul enumerates in II Cor. 4.8-10, 6.4-10, 11.23-33, the notion of “service” is included. Paul is not rejoicing in his “weakness” or sufferings per se, but because of their constructive purpose of serving Christ and the community. Paul maintains that his “weakness” in his apostolic ministry has an intended purpose of community building (II Cor. 10.8; 12.19; 13.10).
That means “weakness” refers to a mode of existence, marked by willingness to endure suffering and hardship for the purpose of building others up.

b. The second important thing that the death of Jesus Christ conveys is:
II Cor. 5.15: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”

In II Cor. 4.10,11 Paul characterises his ministry as “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” and “always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake”. The purpose is: “so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” and “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.”

This is what we see in II Cor. 5.15: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.” Jesus died for all, so that his life, i.e. the existence or living for others, may be imparted to us.

The cross, thus, introduces second paradox, i.e. the paradox of life in death. Paul states this briefly in II Cor. 4.12: “Death is at work in us, but life in you.”

Thus, the paradox of power in weakness and the paradox of life in death are very much evident in the cross of Christ. The paradox of power in weakness and the paradox of life in death are fundamentally associated with Christian life and ministry. Therefore, the cross of Christ is intrinsically associated with the concrete existence of Christians who belong to the new age or new creation.

The Centrality of the Cross in the Apostleship of Paul

November 3, 2009

One of the issues that Paul addresses in his two letters to the Church at Corinth, a Roman colony, is the character of leadership in the Church. Paul presents his view of leadership/apostleship in response to the Corinthians’ criticism of his apostleship basing on their perception of leadership. In his arguments characterizing his apostleship, he refers to the turn of the ages realized through the cross of Christ.[1] Therefore, the focus of this article is how the cross or the death of Christ is intrinsically associated with the existence of Paul and his ministry in I and II Corinthians.

The Cross of Christ: An Epistemological Turning Point

A fundamental theme that coheres I&II Corinthians is the character of Paul’s apostleship. Paul explicates this in response to the Corinthians’ perception of apostleship and their criticism against his ministry characterized by sufferings or “weakness”. Paul’s lack of “words of wisdom” and his “weakness” were contrary to their perception of apostleship (I Cor. 2.2-4; 4.10; II Cor. 10.10; 11.30; 12.9-10).  In II Corinthians it is evident that the criticism against Paul’s apostolic ministry is instigated by the “super apostles” because it did not conform to their criteria for what constituted apostolic ministry (II Cor. 2.14-6.10). The “super-apostles” had considerable influence in the Corinthian church, with their ecstatic visions, miracle-working powers, and oratorical skills (II Cor. 10.10; 11.6;12.12). Their perception of a true apostle is based on the “face” or outward appearance (II Cor. 5.12). On the basis of this criterion, the “face” of Paul is weak and inferior, not glorious like their “faces”. They boast en prosōpō, which Paul terms as boasting kata sarka (II Cor. 11.18).[2] Thus, their criticism of Paul based on the standards kata sarka is directed mainly at the character of Paul’s apostolic ministry, namely “weakness” or suffering (II Cor. 4.7-12; 6.3-10; 10.10; 11.5-6; 11. 23-30; 12.5-10; 13. 3-4) and lack of perceptible ecstatic manifestations of the Spirit (II Cor. 5.12-13; 12.12).[3] What the Corinthians questioning Paul about is the apparent incompatibility of the gospel of power and his “weakness” or sufferings. So Paul wants to explain to Corinthians “why his apostleship took the form it did”.[4] In view of this Paul directs their attention to the eschatological significance of the death of Christ.

In II Corinthians Paul, for the first time, mentions the death of Christ in the context of the “unglorious” character of his ministry: persecuted, afflicted, perplexed, and struck down (II Cor. 4.8-12 cf. I Cor. 4.9-13). He again refers to the death of Christ in order to give ground for the Corinthians to answer “those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart” and to be proud of his ministry (II Cor. 5.12-15). As mentioned above, the perception of the opponents, as well as that of the Corinthians, is that the visible ecstasy is a sign of apostleship. By contrasting those who boast en prosōpō with those who boast en kardia, Paul indicates the inappropriateness of the perception and the criteria of the former group. This is more obvious in II Cor. 12.1-12 where Paul says that even though he too could claim “signs of a true apostle” such as “signs, wonders and mighty works,” and boast about the “visions and revelations of the Lord”, instead he boasts in his “weaknesses”. He validates the character of his ministry by appealing to the death of Christ: “he died for all” (II Cor.5.15). For Paul, the love of Christ manifested in Christ dying “for all” controls him. This love expressed by the cross of Christ is defined as existence for others (II Cor. 5.15; cf. Gal. 2.20; Rom. 14-15).[5]   

Paul points out that  the death of Christ has brought a change in his (and his associates’) perception: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way” (II Cor. 5.16). Some of the scholars like Alfred Plummer and Rudolf Bultmann take  kata sarka[6] adjectivally, thus modifying christen. This interpretation implies that in II Cor. 5.16 Paul is referring to “fleshly Christ”. On the other hand, scholars like C.K. Barrett and J. Louis Martyn, support adverbial meaning of kata sarka. Furnish points out that “whenever Paul does construe kata sarka with a noun or pronoun (Rom. 1.3; 4.1; 9.3, 5; I Cor. 1.26; 10.18), the phrase follows the noun, whereas here kata sarka precedes the proper noun, Christ.”[7] Moreover, Paul in II Cor. 2.14-6.10, is mainly concerned with the turn of ages that the death of Christ has brought and the perception associated with the old age and that of the age initiated by the Christ event.[8] Therefore, Paul, in II Cor. 5.16, is not concerned with Christology, but rather with epistemology. He wants to point out to the Corinthians that the death of Christ has brought an epistemological crisis. This is not a private event relating to Paul and his associates, but, as II Cor. 5.16-17 shows, it is an event of cosmic proportions.[9] Kainē ktisis taken in the context of II Cor. 2.14-6.10 as well as the background of the expression in Judaism (I En. 72.1; Jub. 4.26; IQS iv. 25; IQH xi 10-14) has mainly the eschatological meaning. So “now” in II Cor. 5.16 refers to the “eschatological now”. Paul is saying that there are two ways of knowing and it is the eschatological event of the cross of Christ that separates these two ways of knowing: one is, “knowing kata sarka”, and the other “knowing kata stauron”. Kata sarka is associated with the old age and Paul, in the past, knew Christ in that way. Paul says that this way of knowing is past for the one who is in Christ. But Paul’s opponents are boasting kata sarka (II Cor. 11.18 cf. 5.12).

It is often understood that the opposite of kata sarka is kata pneuma. However, Martyn persuasively argues that Paul does not actually use this expression nor does the one he has employed in I Cor. 2.14, “to discern spiritually” (anakrinein pneumatikōs). Martyn suggests that this could be due to the misinterpretation by the Corinthians of his reference to such a remark in his first letter. So the other way of knowing is, what Martyn calls, “the way of knowing which is granted at the juncture (or turn) of the ages”, i.e. “knowing kata stauron.”[10] The eschatological event of the death of Christ determines the believers’ perception of reality, which is contrary to the perception kata sarka. Martyn explains that “those who recognize their life to be God’s gift at the juncture of ages recognize also that until they are completely and exclusively in the new age, their knowing by the Spirit can occur only in the form of knowing by the power of the cross.”[11] This is confirmed by the “eschatological now” (‘now’ in II Cor. 5.16) of the believers’ existence and the wider context in which Paul has been discussing the character of apostleship, where he has characterized his apostleship as a “carrying in the body the death of Jesus” and “being given up to death for Jesus” (II Cor. 4.10-11). As Christ is regarded now only as a crucified one, so from now on those who are in Christ are to be judged not kata sarka but only kata stauron.[12] In other words, it is the cross which determines the character of the new creation. The presence of a new creation means that the old-age standards, such as wisdom, power, nobility according to the standards of the old age, are not valid (I Cor. 1.26-29). Paul’s reference to the ‘new creation’ in II Cor. 5.17 is polemical and with it he confronts those in the Corinthian community who are following the old age norms, particularly to judge the leaders (II Cor. 10.1-11). In the new creation, contends Paul, no one is judged kata sarka.[13]

Therefore, the problem of the Corinthians is their epistemology, where they failed to perceive in the cross of Christ the epistemological turning point. They also failed to understand that in the new creation the standards and the conduct that characterize the old age are inappropriate. The fundamental eschatological reality is that Christians stand at the juncture (or turn) of the ages. Paul maintains that the understanding of this eschatological reality determines one’s perception of Christ and inferentially of Paul’s apostolic existence and ministry. For a believer there is a new way of perceiving the reality, that is, the way of “knowing kata stauron” and a new value system and so the perception and the value system kata sarka are inappropriate.

The Cross of Christ: Its Intrinsic Association with Paul’s Apostleship

Paul has perceived his vocation, received from God, as “the call to engage in the eschatological struggle at the juncture of the ages,”[14] where some are being saved and others are perishing (I Cor. 1.18; II Cor. 2.14-16). This realization of his vocation has shaped the character of Paul’s apostolic ministry. In contrast to Paul, the Corinthian believers, particularly the opponents of Paul, want to avoid that crucial juncture and its struggle by associating themselves with the accepted pattern of perception, values and behaviour in the Greco-Roman society. Thus, they live in the “old age”, as though the eschatological event in the cross of Christ has not yet taken place. Paul charges them that they are sarkikoi, i.e. “the people of the present age”[15] and are behaving kata anthrōpon, particularly regarding the leadership in the Corinthian church (I Cor. 3.3-4).

The following characteristics of the leadership in the Greco-Roman society indicate how it has influenced the perception of leadership in the Corinthian church:[16]

1. The personality-centered politics is a characteristic of the Greco-Roman society. The underlying dynamics is that of inequality of relationships: the superior (or the leaders) and the inferior (or the common people). The inferior are dependent on the superior for their survival, and so associate themselves with the latter. Plutarch succinctly indicates the benefit of associating with the one having reputation: “But the safe and leisurely way has been chosen by many famous men…For just as ivy rises by twining itself about a strong tree, so each of these men, by attaching himself while still young to an older man and while still obscure to a man of reputation, being gradually raised up under the shelter of his power and growing great with him, fixed himself firmly and rooted himself in the affairs of the state” (Plutarch, Moralia 805 E-F). The superior, thus, cultivate a large following of subordinate adherents to enhance their own status in the society.

The personality-centered politics in the Corinthian church is reflected in the slogans of the members: “I belong to Paul,” “I belong to Apollos,” “I belong to Cephas” (I Cor. 1.12). This is reinforced by their “boasting about human leaders” (I Cor. 3.21) and being “puffed up in favor of one against another” (I Cor. 4.6). A secular understanding of the elevated position of leadership and thus the underlying distinctions in rank and status between the members in the church and the ‘apostolic’ figures like Paul, Cephas and Apollos made the members to be associated with one or the other of these figures for their own advantage. They considered it important for them to be patronized by one of the “apostolic” figures. Such an attitude of patronage towards the relationships within the church is strongly denounced by Paul (I Cor.1.11-17; 3.1-23). Paul exhorts that this perception of relationships within the church is symptomatic of “the present age”, which has resulted in eris and zylos, even though, he says, the Corinthian believers’ very identity and existence are grounded in the cross of Christ, which is the power of God that saved them from the “present age” (I Cor. 1.18). Therefore, their social value system is associated to the “present age”.  

2. The socio-cultural ethos of the Greco-Roman society involved an obsession with status. Because of the gulf between the minority of the wealthy and powerful elite, and the great mass of the poor, the Greco-Roman society was preoccupied with status.[17] The distinctive language Paul uses highlights such a situation in the Corinthian church: “not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth” (I Cor. 1.26). The features of social status, such as wealth, power, nobility, and wisdom, are considered to be important criteria for the leadership in the society (cf. I Cor. 1.26-28).[18] Philo in his treatise That the Worse is Wont to Attack the Better, comments on the lifestyle of the ruling classes of Alexandria: “Those who take care of themselves are men of reputation, rich, leaders, men in the enjoyment of praise and honour; moreover, they are healthy, stout, and vigorous; living delicately, nursed in luxury, strangers to labour, living in the constant company of pleasure, and using all their outward senses to bring delights to the soul…” (X, 34). Thus, the qualities such as reputation, wealth, and honor are important for leadership.  

Few “wise”, “powerful” and “noble born” Corinthian Christians (I Cor.1.26) measured their value and worth and of others in terms of the accepted secular standards of high rank and status (I Cor. 4.18). Sophia logou or sophia anthrōpōn “had connotations of power in the sense of importance or worth” in the Greco-Roman society.[19] In other words, there is a social value and power associated with “words of wisdom” or “human wisdom” or “wisdom of this age and of rulers of this age” (I Cor. 2.5 cf. 1.17).[20] This is a highly valued feature for recognition and reputation: “Indicative of this wisdom is the significance placed on the social class and the importance of boasting in the establishment of personal reputation” (I Cor. 1.20-22, 29; 2.6).[21] Thus, it constituted a social definition of power rooted in the values cultivated by those in the society, who had wealth, status and honor. This led to leadership crisis, which consequently resulted in serious divisions within the Corinthian community. Instead of offering a bit of conflict management to reconcile the warring parties, Paul affirms the message of the cross as a critique of human wisdom. Human wisdom is bound to misconstrue the character of God and the way God works in the world, and a community’s behavior based on human inclinations, not surprisingly, results in jealousy and factionalism (I Cor. 3:3-4). The Corinthians must readjust their vision. They must come to a different way of viewing God and their life together. Thus Paul points to the message of the crucified Christ as the wisdom and power of God.

3. An accepted aspect of leadership in the Greco-Roman society was self-promotion.[22] On the one hand, leaders would elevate themselves, and on the other hand, their followers, with certain element of self-interest, would praise them. Self-promotion as an important tool for social status is clearly pointed out by Plutarch: “There are the feelings and language to which we are prompted not only by stratiōtai and the neoploutoi with their flaunting and ostentatious talk, but also by sophistai, philosophoi and stratēgoi who are full of their own importance and hold forth on the theme” (Plutarch, Moralia, 547 E). In the Corinthian church such “boasting” was also a part of the leadership dynamic. Boasting not only on the basis of the prevailing social norms such as wisdom, but also about human leaders was very much evident in the church (I Cor. 1.20, 29; 3.21). 

4. Enmity, in Roman politics, was a tool of self-promotion and self-preservation. It was seen as a necessary evil in self-advancement.[23] D.F. Epstein, in his book Personal Enmity in Roman Politics explores the importance of enmity for successful politics within the Roman world. Paul rebukes Corinthians for “jealousy and quarrelling” and terms it as belonging to those who are “of the flesh” (I Cor. 3.3).

Therefore, the existential tension in the Corinthian church is a result of trying to live in two diametrically opposed social worlds (I Cor. 3.1). This tension must have been more for those who were “wise”, “powerful” and of “noble birth” according to the standards of “this age” (I Cor. 1.26; 4.8, 10). For them, to pattern their perception, values and conduct kata stauron would mean shame and weakness, for the message of the cross is foolishness to the “wisdom of this age or…rulers of this age” (I Cor. 1.18, 21-23; 2.6). Hengel says that the cross was considered to be a “particularly cruel and shameful death, which as a rule was reserved for hardened criminals, rebellious slaves and rebels against the Roman state.”[24] He goes on to say that “the word of cross” “ran counter not only to Roman political thinking, but to the whole ethos of religion in ancient times and in particular to the ideas of God held by educated people.”[25] The cross of Christ and its proclamation would have been foolishness to and was surely considered despicable in the prevailing Greco-Roman culture. So the cross and the value system associated with it are a scandal to the wider society. Therefore, it is not difficult to imagine why Corinthians, particularly the elite and the powerful in the church, followed the perception of the wider community with regards to the leadership in the church.

Paul, on the other hand, finds his calling in the eschatological centrality of the cross. He finds himself standing at the juncture of ages engaging in God’s eschatological struggle to liberate and reconcile the world (II Cor. 5.18-20). He uses an image to describe his apostolic ministry in 1 Cor 4:9: “For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals,” to challenge the “kingly” (I Cor. 4:8) style of leadership highly valued by the Corinthians.[26] He uses a similar image in II Cor. 2.14-16: “[T]hanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.”

On 1 Cor 4:8-13 Martyn comments:

The picture Paul employs is in part that of the Roman circus in which the last act (the eschatological one) is that of the gladiators who are eventually to die a public, spectacular death enjoyed by the (cosmic) onlookers. In this picture, Paul implies that the Corinthians understand themselves to be safely in the stands, already filled and already rich. By contrast, his vocation places him down on the blood-red sand where the Two Ages meet and collide in the paradoxical life-giving cross. The vocation to life which God grants is given nowhere else than in the struggle and daily suffering and victorious rejoicing at this eschatological turning point where God elects what is foolish in the world to shame the wise.[27] 

Paul exercising his apostolic role at the turn of ages proclaims the message of the cross of Christ, which is foolishness and weakness to “the wisdom of this age”, but is the expression of the power of God (I Cor. 1.18) and the wisdom of God (I Cor. 2.6-7). The inappropriateness of the wisdom of this world at the juncture of ages is evident in the action of the rulers of this age, crucifying “the Lord of glory” (I Cor. 2.8) and also in God choosing “what is weak in the world…what is low and despised in the world, things that are not” (I Cor. 1.27-28). Paul, thus, asserts that God has turned the value system of this world or this age on its head, i.e. God has “made foolish the wisdom of the world” (I Cor. 1.20), because wisdom and power have been redefined by the cross of Christ (I Cor. 1. 23-24). F.F. Bruce rightly comments that “nothing could be more subversive of these canons in the first century Greco-Roman world than the proclamation of a crucified man …as Lord (of glory).”[28]

Paul draws the attention of the Corinthian believers to the mode of his apostolic existence. He reminds them of his own “weakness”, “fear”, “trembling” and lack of eloquence, which signified an inferior status in the Greco-Roman society: “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified” and “I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (I Cor. 2.2-4).[29] Paul identifies astheneia as a mark of his apostolic mode of being (I Cor. 2.3; 4.10; II Cor. 10.10; 11.30; 12.5, 9-10). In II Corinthians he lists in a unique series the “weaknesses” that characterize his apostolic existence (II Cor. 4.8ff; 6.4ff; 11.23ff; 12.10). Paul presents his hardships in his apostolic task in I Cor. 4.8-13 to remind the Corinthians of his “ways in Christ Jesus”, in comparison to the privileged social position of those whose conduct is characterized as arrogant and boastful: “you have all you want; already you have become rich…you have become kings” (I Cor. 4.8). He contends that the apostles have “become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals” (I Cor.4.9). From the world’s point of view they are “the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things” and Paul emphasizes that this position of theirs continues “to this very day” (I Cor. 4.13). In this way the mode of his apostolic existence is very much rooted in the cross of Christ,[30] for in II Cor. 13.4, Paul characterizes the crucified Christ as astheneia: “he was crucified out of weakness, but he lives by the power of God.”

Paul strongly argues that his “weakness” is not an evidence of his powerlessness nor does it discredit his apostolic ministry. Rather paradoxically, God’s power is manifested in his weakness (II Cor. 12.9-10; I Cor. 2.3-5). Furnish maintains that the series of antitheses in Paul’s list of hardships is to show that the weakness actually discloses the power of God (II Cor. 4.8-9; 6.4-10).[31] Paul boasts in his “weakness” because of this paradox of power in weakness, rather than in the heavenly visions and revelations, which he could claim (II Cor 12:1-10). He further says that his apostolic credentials are evidenced not through the “signs and wonders and mighty works” (II Cor 12:12), which he could claim if he wanted to, but through the hardships which he has endured for the sake of the gospel (II Cor 11:23-33). The paradox of power in weakness stands in contrast to his opponents’ understanding of God’s power, that is, God’s power makes the individual powerful in some noticeable sense. For them power and weakness are incompatible. For Paul, weakness and power are not mutually exclusive, but are coterminous. Paul, thus, consciously subverts the conventional socio-cultural standards by depicting the character of his apostleship and his style of preaching in conformity with the “wisdom” and the “power” of God manifested in the cross of Christ.[32]

Not only is God’s power manifested in his “weakness”, Paul maintains, but his “weakness” in his apostolic ministry has an intended purpose of community building (II Cor. 10.8; 12.19; 13.10). It is observed that in II Corinthians in all the lists of “weakness” or sufferings that Paul experienced, except in II Cor. 12.10, the notion of diakonia is included (II Cor. 4.8-10; 6.4-10; 11.23-33). Paul is rejoicing not in weakness per se but because of its constitutive purpose of serving Christ and the community. That means “weakness” refers to a mode of human existence, marked by willingness to endure suffering and hardship in giving oneself in service to others.[33] Paul says this in contrast to the ‘leaders’ who made the members of the Corinthian church as their slaves and exploited them for their own self-serving goals (II Cor. 1.24; 11.20). He is arguing that even though his weakness reflects social inferiority as per the prevailing social value system, it serves the purpose of community building (II Cor. 10.8;12.19; 13.10).[34] Thus, it identifies him with the cross of Christ, which symbolizes the existence for others (II Cor. 5.14-15).

Paul further characterizes his ministry as “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus” and “always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake” (II Cor. 4.10, 11). The purpose clause in these verses, hina, denotes the purpose: “the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies” and “the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh”. Thus, the paradox of life in death is articulated in II Cor. 4.10,11. Paul exhorts the Corinthians, who could not reconcile his sufferings and his apostolic ministry of the “extraordinary power of God”, that the paradox of life in death is inextricably connected to his vocation at the turn of ages. Paul, in II Cor. 4.12, summarizes the benefit of his ministry of sufferings to those he ministered: “death is at work in us, but life in you”.

Thus, Paul acknowledges that the paradox of power in weakness and of life in death is fundamentally associated with his apostolic ministry. This paradox is very much evident in the cross of Christ. Therefore, the cross of Christ is intrinsically associated with the concrete existence of the apostle Paul at the juncture of ages.

Conclusion

Paul’s perception of his apostleship is kata stauros, not kata sarka as maintained by the members and Paul’s opponents in the Corinthian church. In contrast to the personality-centered, status-oriented, self-promoting and self-preserving leadership model of the Greco-Roman world, which the members and his opponents in the church are following, Paul characterizes his apostolic ministry as the paradox of power in weakness and of life in death. He acknowledges that the reality of suffering or “weakness” is intrinsic to his vocation, which “is the call to engage in the eschatological struggle at the juncture of ages.” He exhorts that it is in his “weakness” that God’s life-giving power is manifested. He exults in his “weakness” because of its constructive purpose of community building.  

 


[1] J. Louis Martyn, Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 92.

[2] Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians: Translated with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary, (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984), p. 308.

[3] Raymond Pickett, The Cross in Corinth: The Social Significance of the Death of Jesus, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997), p. 127.

[4] V. Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 42.

[5] Pickett, The Cross, p.145.

[6] Kata sarka occurs nineteen times in the undisputed letters of Paul. Excluding the two occurrences in II Cor. 5.16, of the seventeen, it is used thirteen times adverbially, while four times as adjectivally.  

[7] Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 313.

[8] Martyn, Theological Issues, pp. 92-93.

[9] Martyn, Theological Issues, p. 94.

[10] Martyn, Theological Issues, pp. 107-108.

[11] Martyn, Theological Issues, p. 108.

[12] Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 332.

[13] J.R. Levison, “Creation and New Creation,” in Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Gerald F. Hawthorne and Ralph P. Martin, eds. (Leicester: IVP, 1993), p. 190.

[14] J. Louis Martyn, “Focus: Theological Education or Theological Vocation?” in USQR, Vol. XXXIX, No. 3&4 (1974), p. 219.

[15] Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: 1987), p.122.

[16] Andrew D. Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership in Corinth: A Socio-Historical and Exegetical Study of I Corinthians 1-6, (Leiden: EJ Brill, 1993), p. 92.

 

[17] Richard A. Horsley, I Corinthians, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998), pp. 30-31.

[18] Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, p. 96.

[19] Pickett, The Cross, p. 65.

[20] Pickett, The Cross, p. 76.

[21] Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, p. 113.

[22] Clarke, Secular and Christian Leadership, p. 96.

[23] D.F. Epstein, Personal Enmity in Roman Politics, (London: 1987), p.28.

[24] Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p. 83.

[25] Hengel, Crucifixion, p.5.

[26] A. Katherine Grieb, ““The One Who Called You….”: Vocation and Leadership in the Pauline Literature,” in Interpretation, Vol. 59, Is. 2 (April 2005), p. 159.

[27] Martyn, “Focus: Theological Education or Theological Vocation?” p. 220.

[28] F.F. Bruce, I & II Corinthians, (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1971), p. 36.

[29] By saying this “Paul is not simply subordinating the means of communication to the efficacy of the gospel. Nor is he merely using the typical rhetorical device of an orator deprecating his own ability in eloquence. …In Paul’s day, eloquent speech…was also associated with other marks of high social standing (such as those Paul mentions in I Cor.1.26-28).” Charles H. Cosgrove, The Cross and the Spirit: A  Study in the Argument and Theology of Galatians, (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1988), p. 46.

[30] Cosgrove, The Cross and the Spirit, p. 78.

[31] V. Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 280.

[32] E.A. Judge, “Cultural Conformity and Innovation in Paul: Some Clues from Contemporary Documents,” in Tyndale Bulletin 35, (1984), p. 14.

[33]Thomas Stegmann, The Chracter of Jesus: The Linchpin to Paul’s Argument in 2 Corinthians, (Roma: E.P.I.B, 2005), p. 207.

[34] Pickett, The Cross, p. 194.

Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

September 26, 2009

Conclusion

The death of Jesus Christ reveals that Judaism is a system of sacred violence, and the law is distorted and used as an instrument of sacred violence against the Gentiles and those perceived to be a threat to the existing system. God’s revelation of God’s son discloses that Jesus Christ, the victim of sacred violence, is innocent and so exposes the founding lie of Judaism as the system of sacred violence. Paul’s Damascus road experience has called into question his zealotic understanding of the law and the way of life patterned according to such an understanding. When he experienced God’s revelation of God’s son, the victim of the curse of the law, he realized the problem of Judaism, to which he belonged, to be its zealotic interpretation of the law. He understood that it is the way of life in Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law that has led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom God has vindicated. In other words, the law that has excluded the Gentiles was the same law that caused the crucifixion of God’s son. God is rejecting that system of sacred violence and the way of life pertaining to it. Thus, the death of Jesus Christ has exposed what has been concealed in Judaism that it is a sacrificial structure of sacred violence. By disclosing this system of sacred violence, Jesus’ death has provided for believers in Jesus Christ a basis for withdrawal of credibility and allegiance to sacrificial structures, and paved way for freedom from the system of sacred violence into the new creation, where the law is understood in terms of agape love and the unity of human beings is realized. Paul calls this law of love as the law of Christ (Gal. 6.2). Freedom from the system of sacred violence to the new creation happens when a person acknowledges his/her enslavement to the system of sacred violence and its violence against the innocent victim, and breaks free from it by mimetically identifying with the crucified victim of the system of sacred violence, Jesus Christ. The believer in Christ mimes the nonacquisitive desire of Jesus Christ, the agape love. This agape love is expressed in building, supporting and serving the community.

Thus, the death of Jesus Christ deconstructs, not destroys, the system of sacred violence. The latter remains a threat and its evidence is seen everywhere, particularly in the present socio- political and economic situation in the world.

There is a tendency to spread violence beyond ourselves onto the weak and vulnerable in order to contain violence from consuming one’s society or country, or to relieve one’s own suffering by inflicting suffering on others. We try to enhance ourselves by diminishing others through military and economic violence. We live by victimizing others, oppressing, marginalizing, accusing, attacking and exploiting. As suffering and insecurity grows and consequently threatens the order of a society or a country, the more it is likely to find a weak and vulnerable internal or external “enemy” and blame the latter as the cause of suffering and insecurity. This will eventually lead to unleashing violence against this “enemy”, leaving a trace of sacred violence. Thus, there is a renewal of unanimity of “lynching mob” against the victim and reenactment of institutionalized ritual of scapegoating.

Obscurity surrounds the present day state sponsored violence. Often this violence is concealed in the garb of national security, or promoting “values of civilized countries” and “freedom” and “democracy”. Thus, the state sponsored violence is mythified as “holy, legal and legitimate”. The persuasive power of this myth may be seen in the overwhelming public gesture of unanimity by means of support to this “holy, legal and legitimate” slaughter of innocent people and destruction of sovereign countries’ political and economic structures. How else can one explain the public frenzy to unleash violence against sovereign countries and their citizens, and public euphoria at the sight of death and destruction in those countries? It is nothing but celebration of their bloodthirsty God in a holocaust of innocent human flesh and blood. As the Gospel of John says: “(A)n hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God” (John 16.2). Those who belong to this religion are prisoners of the system of sacred violence. This is the religion that the death of Jesus Christ has exposed as a lie and a system of sacred violence. Jesus Christ is the victim slain since the foundation of the world, whom God has vindicated. Thus, the myth of the religion as a system of sacred violence is unveiled, and its deception is disclosed. The system of sacred violence, by destroying the voice and language of its victim, has perpetuated its own story about the victim, thus justifying its genocidal violence against the victim. God through the revelation of Christ has not only demythified the victimizer’s story about the victim, but also redeemed the voice and language of the victim, thus reconstructing the shattered voice. 

How does the community of the new creation respond to various manifestations of sacred violence? 1. It lives out its freedom from the system of sacred violence into the new creation through building human lives and serving them. This way of life subverts the oppressive, exploitative, divisive and violent system of sacred violence. 

2. By its very nature and composition as the community of Jesus Christ, the victim of the system of sacred violence, the community of the new creation identifies with fellow victims of the system(s) of sacred violence. It actively opposes all forms of state sponsored violence, and also the victimizer’s story about victims. It not only identifies with fellow victims of various forms of violence, but also listens to and reports their story shared by them. As the poem of Antjie Krog, who reported the painful experiences of victims during the South African Truth Commission, expresses, “Beloved, do not die. Do not dare die! I, the survivor, wrap you in words so that the future inherits you. I snatch you from the death of forgetfulness. I tell your story, complete your ending – you who once whispered beside me in the dark.”[1] 

 

 


[1] Phelps, Shattered Voices, p. 128.

Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

September 26, 2009

Chapter VII

 Freedom from the System of Sacred Violence into the New Creation

 

A. The Death of Jesus Christ and the New Creation

Paul uses the expression “new creation” on two occasions, both times as a consequence of the death of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5.17; Gal. 6.15). In II Corinthians the new creation describes a new way of knowing appropriate to the cross of Christ. This new way of knowing is contrasted with knowing kata sarka (II Cor. 5.16). Paul talks about this fundamental contrast in the context of his argument where he contrasts his boasting based on his “weakness” with Jewish boasting kata sarka. He ridicules Jewish boasting kata sarka based on the Jewish credentials: Hebrews, Israelite and descendents of Abraham (II Cor. 11. 16-23). In essence it expresses the Jewish way of life of exclusionism. In II Cor. 5.12 Paul terms Jewish boasting kata sarka as boasting en prosōpō.[1] In contrast, he claims that even though he too could boast on the basis of the Jewish credentials, he rather boasts in his “weakness” (II Cor. 11.30). He, then, enumerates “the things that show my (Paul’s) weakness” (II Cor. 11. 23-30, 12.5, 9-10). Paul terms this as boasting en kardia (II Cor. 5.12). The reason for this boasting is the death of Jesus Christ: “one has died for all; therefore all have died.” (II Cor. 5.14). The consequence of Jesus’ death on the believers is: “And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them” (II Cor. 5.15). Thus, Paul describes the existence of believers in Christ as mimetically participating not only in the death of Jesus Christ, but also in the nonacquisitive desire of Christ, the agape love. Agape love is in essence living for others (II Cor. 5.14-15). Paul makes a similar statement in Gal. 2.19-20 about his conversion: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but is Christ who lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” The mimetic identification with the crucified Jesus Christ is so strong that Paul could say that Christ lives in me.

In  II Cor. 5.16 Paul points out that  the death of Christ has brought a change in his (and his associates’) perception: “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view, even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way.” Some scholars, like Alfred Plummer and Rudolf Bultmann, take kata sarka[2] adjectivally. According to this interpretation, kata sarka modifies Christon and so Paul in II Cor. 5.16 is referring to “fleshly Christ”. On the other hand, scholars such as C.K. Barrett and J. Louis Martyn support adverbial meaning of kata sarka. Furnish points out that “whenever Paul does construe kata sarka with a noun or pronoun (Rom. 1.3; 4.1; 9.3, 5; I Cor. 1.26; 10.18), the phrase follows the noun, whereas here kata sarka precedes the proper noun, Christ.”[3] Moreover, Paul, in II Cor. 2.14-6.10, emphasizes mainly the turn of ages that the death of Christ has brought forth, and the perception associated with the old age and that of the age initiated by the Christ event.[4] Therefore, Paul, in II Cor. 5.16, is not concerned about Christology, but rather about epistemology. He points out to the Corinthians that the death of Christ has brought an epistemological crisis. This is not a private event relating to Paul and his associates, but, as II Cor. 5.16-17 shows, an event of cosmic proportions.[5] Kainē ktisis taken in the context of II Cor. 2.14-6.10 has mainly the eschatological meaning. So “now” in II Cor. 5.16 refers to the “eschatological now”. Paul says that there are two ways of knowing and it is the eschatological event of the cross of Christ that separates these two ways of knowing: one is knowing kata sarka, and the other knowing kata stauron.[6] Knowing kata sarka is associated with the old age and Paul (and the believers in Christ), in the past, knew Christ in that way, that is, judging Christ from the zealotic point of view as the “cursed of the law” (Gal. 3.13). However, for the believers in Christ, who belong to the community of the new creation, knowing is kata stauron.[7] So the perception, value system and conduct kata sarka have no validity in the community of the new creation. The distinctive mark of the new creation is reconciliation between God and human beings, and among human beings (II Cor. 5.18-19). The community of the new creation is an inclusive community. Conversion not only brings a change in a person’s perception of people and reality, but also transfers him or her from the old age of dichotomies into the new creation of inclusion. In other words, faith in the crucified Christ results in transfer from the system of sacred violence into the system of reconciliation, unity and love.

In Galatians the new creation is contrasted with the world (Gal. 6.14-15). The context of the argument in Gal. 6.12-15 and its juxtaposition with the new creation suggest that the world is to be understood as the present evil age (Gal.1.4) where human beings are enslaved to a world of dichotomies. The fundamental opposition between the world and the new creation is expressed by the contrast between the teachers of the “other gospel” and Paul in three basic matters: necessity of circumcision for Gentile believers (Gal. 6.12,15), basis of boasting (Gal. 6.13-14), and the “marks” of Jesus, the victim of sacred violence (Gal. 6.17; cf. 6.12).[8] 

The conclusion of Galatians makes clear how central for Paul’s argument is the cross of Christ as the decisive event in bringing freedom from the world of dichotomies into the new creation. Paul argues that the weakness of the “other gospel” advocated by the teachers is its incompatibility with the cross of Christ. He does this in Gal. 6.14-15 by delineating the relation between the crucifixion of Christ and the new creation. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has dawned the new creation (Gal. 6.14-15; cf. II Cor. 5.14-17). In Gal. 6.14-15 Paul speaks in eschatological terms of the death of the world. The decisive clue that the language of Gal. 6.14 (“the world has been crucified to me”) is to be taken in eschatological sense is found in Gal. 6.15, where Paul declares that “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything,” because in the ancient Mediterranean world it is understood that the cosmos is structured in “pairs of opposites”.[9] However, Paul is not talking about the destruction of the world of dichotomies by the cross of Jesus Christ, but the crucifixion of believer to the world of antinomies and the world to believer. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has triggered the crucifixion of believer to the world and the world to believer (Gal. 6.14). Paul’s statements in Gal. 3.28 (“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female”), Gal. 5.6 (“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything”) and Gal. 6.15 (“neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything”) suggest that the world characterized by fundamental structural polarities (Jew/Gentile, slave/free, male/female) is dead to those who are in Christ. Therefore, the social order of exclusionism is invalid in the community of the new creation. The parallel statements in Gal. 3.28, 5.6, 6.15 also indicate that Christ is the embodiment of the community of the new creation. In this context Paul’s assertion that Christ is Abraham’s singular seed, his one and only heir, is critical for his argument on the unified community of the new creation without ethnic, class and gender barriers of separation (Gal. 3.16). The eschatological language of the new creation signifies a new social order where social division between the circumcision and the uncircumcision is abolished, and the Jews and the Gentiles are united. It describes a new pattern of existence created by the Christ event, where the walls of separation have been demolished.[10] The cross of Christ marks to believers in Christ the death of the world characterized by dichotomies (Gal. 2.19-21, 3.1, 10-14). Paul uses the language of death or crucifixion in order to express discontinuity or decisive break between the community of the new creation and the world structured in polarities. Although the community of the new creation comes into being while the old order continues to exist, the former is radically discontinuous from the latter. This community is a nonviolent community in the sense of being inclusive, not having ethnic, class, and gender dichotomies. Only a community based on the system of sacred violence is an exclusionist community, for it defines itself by excluding other peoples through construction of barriers of separation. Inclusion rather than exclusion is the mark of the community of the new creation.

The second contrast between the teachers of the “other gospel” and Paul was basis of boasting (Gal. 6.13-14). The Greek word for “boasting” is kauchaomai, which means “to have confidence in” or “to take pride in”.  Paul says that he “boasts” in the cross of Jesus Christ. His confidence or pride is grounded in the scandalous and provocative cross of Christ, in contrast to that of the teachers of the “other gospel”. The teachers’ confidence or pride is based on the “flesh”. The reason for Paul’s confidence in the cross of Christ is the triple crucifixion: Christ’s, the world’s and Paul’s, where the latter two crucifixions are secondary to and derivative of the former. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ has resulted in the world’s crucifixion to Paul and Paul’s crucifixion to the world. The perfect tense of the verb stauroō indicates that the crucifixions of the world to Paul and Paul to the world, happened at the time of Paul’s conversion and this reality continue even in the present. That is why circumcision or uncircumcision are no longer important or count anything to Paul, because the crucifixion of Jesus Christ has brought Paul’s death to the world of dichotomies and vice-versa. Believers in Christ live to a different pattern of existence, where the pairs of opposites (Gal. 3.28, 5.6, 6.15) lose their significance. That is why Paul says: “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything” (Gal. 5.6, 6.15). Therefore, Paul’s fundamental criticism of the teachers of the “other gospel” is that, by failing to recognize the eschatological significance of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, they seek to remain enslaved to the system of sacred violence.

The fundamental opposition between the new creation and the world is further delineated by Paul’s reference to “the marks of Jesus” on his body (Gal. 6.17). This reference to “the marks of Jesus” on his body should be understood in the context of Paul’s argument against the teachers of the “other gospel” who are advocating circumcision, a mark on the “flesh”, to the Gentile believers. Paul accuses them that the reason for their insistence on circumcision is “only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ” (Gal. 6.12). Paul has already indicated the relationship between preaching of circumcision, cross of Christ and persecution (Gal. 5.11). He says that the cross of Christ is a skandalon (Gal. 5.11). The term skandalon refers to an offence, which arouses resentment or resistance (cf. I Mac. 5.4).[11] That means, the cross of Christ has provoked an opposition against and persecution of those who proclaimed it. It is a skandalon to the Jews because it demolishes the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, thus disturbing the existing social order based on the zealotic interpretation of the Torah. The cross, by demolishing the ritual barriers around the Jewish community and uniting the Jews and the Gentiles, has given zealous Jews motivation to engage in scapegoat mechanism, in order to prevent “bad violence” of social disorder by “good violence” of the curse of the sacred violence. Thus, the cross of Christ opposes the system of sacred violence. This is confirmed by Paul’s remark in Gal. 5.11: “why am I still being persecuted if I am still preaching circumcision?” It implies that advocating circumcision removes the offence created by the cross of Christ. That is why the teachers of the “other gospel” are advocating circumcision to the Gentile believers in order to remove the offence, and consequently avoid persecution. In contrast, Paul talks about ta stigmata that his body carries (Gal. 6.17). Notice that Paul employs here the Greek word sōma (cf. sarx in Gal. 6.12). Ta stigmata is a reference to the scars of persecution that Paul has received due to his preaching of the cross of Christ (cf. II Cor. 1.8-9, 4.8-12, 6.4-10). These marks on Paul’s body are different from the mark on the “flesh”, because the former are the marks of the victim of the system of sacred violence. So the marks on Paul’s body signify the marks of the victim of the system of sacred violence, whereas the mark on the “flesh” denotes the system of sacred violence.

Thus, the cross of Jesus Christ by inaugurating the new creation has not destroyed the world. But it has deconstructed the system of sacred violence and exposed the latter’s pervasive lie. The new social order of inclusion comes into being, while the social order of exclusion continues to exist. 

B. Faith: An Entrance Requirement to the Community of the New Creation

Faith (pistis) is a fundamental feature of Paul’s message (I Thess. 1.3, 8, 3.2, 5-7, 10, 5.8). In I Thessalonians faith is related to the faith of the Thessalonian believers. In Galatians faith is often used in contrast to the works of the law (Gal. 2.16, 3.2, 5). This repeated antithesis between faith and the works of the law warrants a conclusion that faith is an essential feature of Paul’s message of freedom just as the works of the law are to the teachers of the “other gospel”. Paul’s emphasis on faith is his way of countering the teachers’ emphasis on the works of the law. In this context Paul quotes Gen. 15.6 to expound what he meant by faith. Paul insists that Abraham’s believing provides a pattern for ek pisteōs (Gal. 3.6-7). Paul does this because the teachers of the “other gospel” have used Abrahamic tradition to drive in their point, that is, the importance of the works of the law. They are aware of the Jewish midrash that interprets Abraham’s faith in terms of the zealous act of Phineas that “has been reckoned to him as righteousness”.[12] Thus, Abraham’s faith is interpreted as faithfulness, which is understood in terms of zealous action for God or the law. In this sense Abraham’s faith is linked to the system of sacred violence. Sacred violence is expressed in exclusionism through maintenance of a pattern of life according to the zealotic understanding of law. This pattern of life is expressed by the works of the law or Ioudaizein lifestyle. It is against such a zealotic interpretation of faith of Abraham that Paul uses the term “faith”. He explains his understanding of Abraham’s faith (pistis) by referring to God’s promise: “All the nations shall be blessed in you” (Gen. 12.3; cf. Gen. 18.18). That means, faith of Abraham is the trust in God’s promise or simply trust in God. This kind of faith forms the pattern for all those who believe, in contrast to the way the teachers of the “other gospel” have understood it as faithfulness (in terms of zeal or sacred violence).

The above discussion leads to an issue that has generated much debate in recent years. The question is whether all references to pistis in Galatians point to human believing in response to the gospel. Among the references there are a number of genitive constructions, pisteōs Christou or pisteōs Iēsou Christou (Gal. 2.16, 3.22), and en tē pistei tou huiou tou theou (Gal. 2.20). The phrase pisteōs Christou (or pisteōs Iēsou Christou) is translated by some as “faith of Christ” and others as “faith in Christ”. Those who support the translation “faith of Christ”[13] understand the phrase as referring to Christ’s own faith, that is, faithful obedience displayed in his willing self-sacrifice on the cross. They base their argument on the following: 1. Jesus’ faith or faithfulness was a tradition known in early Christianity (Heb. 2.17; 3.2; 12.2; Rev. 1.5, 3.14, 19.11). Moreover, Christ’s obedience is emphasized in Rom. 5.15-19 and Phil. 2.5-11. 2. In Gal. 3.23-25 Paul says that “faith came” and is “revealed”. If “faith in Christ” is a human response, how can Paul say that it “came” or “revealed”? 3. If Paul were speaking of “faith in Christ”, his failure to make his intension clear by using the preposition is inexplicable, particularly in light of expressions “the faithfulness of God” (Rom. 3.3) and “the faith of our father Abraham” (Rom. 4.12). 4. If pistis Christou means “faith in Christ” in several Pauline texts this phrase is redundant, for these texts also include some other expression designating human faith: “we have come to believe in Christ” (Gal. 2.16), “those who believe” (Gal. 3.22), “all who believe” (Rom. 3.22), “through faith” (Phil. 3.9).     

Those who hold the view that Paul refers to “faith in Christ”[14] base their argument on: 1. At Gal. 2.15 Paul defines pistis with the parallel verbal expression “believe in Christ”; 2. Like “works of the law” “faith in Christ” refers to human element in transaction of justification; 3. Paul uses the verbal form “to believe” frequently with believers as its subject, but never with Christ as subject; 4. The form (pisteōs Christou) in itself is indeterminative of meaning.[15] The meaning is determined by the context in which the phrase is used.

As discussed above, Paul maintains that Abraham’s kind of faith forms the pattern for all those who believe, in contrast to the way the teachers of the “other gospel” have understood it as faithfulness in terms of zeal or sacred violence as expressed by the works of law or Ioudaizein lifestyle. He continues this antithesis between faith and the works of the law by arguing that faith and law (understood in terms of the works of the law) are mutually exclusive and God’s justifying act is ek pisteōs (Gal. 3.11-12, 23-24). In Gal. 3.24 Paul contrasts the enslaving function of the law with God’s justifying act (that is, righting the wrong). He describes the enslaving function of the law by using the imageries of confinement in prison, prison guard, and paidagōgos. Paul is portraying law as an enslaving power of the present evil age. At the heart of the enslavement is division of the world into Jew and Gentile. In contrast, God’s justifying act is a unifying act: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female” (Gal. 3.28). It is possible only ek pisteōs (Gal. 3.23-24, 3.11). In Gal. 3.26 Paul says that this unifying has happened through faith in Jesus Christ. In Gal. 3.27 he delineates the faith in Jesus Christ by the metaphor of “baptism”. This is the same kind of faith that Abraham had, that is, trust in God or God’s promise (Gal. 3.8-9). Here Paul is talking about human faith in God’s eschatological act in Jesus Christ that has demolished the ethnic, class and gender barriers, and established an alternate world of unified people.

Faith is a feature of the eschatological age, which is inaugurated by Christ’s event (Gal. 3.23). This is supported by the use of the term apokalyphthēnai. Paul uses the term apokalypsis and its verbal form apokalyptein primarily to refer to the eschaton and to God’s action in the end time (Gal. 1.12,16, 2.2; I Cor. 1.7, 3.13).[16] In Gal. 1.12 and 1.16 apokalypsis and its verbal form respectively are used for God’s revelation of God’s son, the victim of the curse of the law. God’s revelation of God’s son disclosed that the death of Jesus Christ was the result of the sacred violence. Through this God has revealed not only his rejection of the law (understood in exclusionistic terms) that crucified Christ, but also God’s vindication of the victim of the curse of the law. In this context Paul also refers to Jesus Christ as the content of the gospel. The expression “faith came” is nothing but a new mode of existence that was made possible by God’s eschatological act in Jesus Christ and the dawning of the new creation.[17] With this line of argument, the references of ek pisteōs Iēsou Christou (Gal. 3.22, 2.16) could hardly be anything else than a reference to faith of believers, that is, human trust in God’s eschatological act in Jesus Christ.

Paul explains faith in Christ with being baptized into Christ (Gal. 3.27). Baptism is a metaphor for dying with Christ. Paul speaks about his conversion experience as being crucified with Christ, or dying to the law through the law (Gal. 2.19). The nature of existence of believers in Christ is expressed in mimetic identification with the crucified Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ means mimetically identifying with the crucified Christ. By mimetic identification with the crucified Christ, the victim of sacred violence, believers in Christ break free from the system of sacred violence. What is implied here is an acknowledgement on the part of the believers in Christ of their enslavement to the system of sacred violence and its violence against the innocent victim. God requires an acknowledgement that Jesus Christ is an innocent victim of the system of sacred violence, and wants the “perpetrators” to confess this. The system of sacred violence, by destroying the voice and language of its victim, perpetuates its own story about the victim. So the victim of the system of sacred violence experiences a loss of his story. God through the revelation of Christ has redeemed the voice and language of the victim. The gospel of Jesus Christ is, in a way, not only demythification of the story about the victim perpetuated by the violent sacrificial system, but also “a reconstruction of the shattered voice” of the victim.[18] Believers in Christ are required to actively hear and acknowledge this story of Jesus Christ, the victim of the system of sacred violence, and their enslavement to the violent system.   

Paul describes the severed relationship of believer in Christ with the system of sacred violence metaphorically by crucifixion of believers to the world of dichotomies and the world to believers, because of Christ’s crucifixion (Gal. 6.14-15). He employs the language of death or crucifixion in order to emphasize detachment from the system of sacred violence. By mimetic identification with the crucified Christ, the victim of sacred violence, believers in Christ break free from the social order of sacred violence into the new creation, which is characterized by love and inclusion of all nations. This mimetic identification with the crucified Christ forms the basis of the existence and life of believers in the new creation. Paul says: “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2.20). Thus, the death or crucifixion of Jesus Christ for us is of determinative importance to the existence of believers in Christ and the community of the new creation. Martyn explains clearly this existence of believers in Christ. He says that at stake are two worlds: the world of polarities (ethnic, class, and gender) and the new creation. The death of the world of polarities to believers and believers to the world is Paul’s way of describing complete separation of believers in Christ from the world of polarities. In other words, the life of believers in the community of the new creation is completely beyond the system of sacred violence. Paul denies any existence to the antinomies or sacred violence in the new creation. For him, ethnic, class and gender distinctions do not have any validity in the community of the new creation (Gal. 3.28, 5.6, 6.15). These distinctions are no longer cause of hostility or division in the community of the new creation. The social order of the new creation is “faith working through love”. Law is no longer used for exclusion of neighbor, but acceptance and inclusion through love. The community of the new creation is an inclusive community.

Thus, faith in Christ enables believers in Christ to free from the system of sacred violence into the community of the new creation, where people irrespective of their ethnic, class and gender backgrounds are united in Christ as children of God and possess God’s eschatological gift of the Spirit. 

C. Love: A Nonacquisitive Desire

Faith is not only an entrance requirement into the community of the new creation, but also a fundamental determinant of life there. For Paul, it is not a passive human attitude or passive human belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but is active in the sense of expressing itself in life. It is the fundamental determinant of believers’ life in the community of the new creation: “faith working through love” (Gal. 5.6). It is constant “walking in the Spirit” and not gratifying the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5.16).

The history of scholarship has given a wide range of explanations for the relationship of the paraenetic section of Gal. 5-6 with the preceding chapters. Some regard the paraenetic section as an appendix to the letter. They view that the material in this section is unrelated to Paul’s main argument in the previous chapters. Others consider this section to be an integral part of the entire letter.[19]  Some, who belong to the latter group, tried to explain Gal. 5-6 by arguing that Paul was fighting two opponents in Galatians: in chapters 1-4 Judaizers or legalists, and in chapters 5-6 libertines. James Ropes argues that Paul adds the exhortation section to confront libertines.[20] The problem addressed in chapters 5-6 is libertinism, because Paul not only encourages his readers to stand firm in freedom, but also warns them against the misuse of freedom (Gal. 5.1,13). Scholars, who argue that Paul’s opponents in Gal. 5-6 are libertines, also indicate the list of the “works of the flesh” to support their view.  However, Walter Schmithals, among other scholars, questioned the artificiality of this solution. He proposed Jewish-Christian Gnostics as the opponents of Paul in Galatian churches.[21] This proposal has not gained much support.

The above solutions share a common presumption that there is a dissonance between Paul’s moral exhortation in Gal. 5-6 and his argument in chapters 1-4. This is due to the understanding of the works of the law in terms of good deeds, and Paul’s argument to be against legalism or works righteousness. However, as discussed in the previous chapters, the issue that Paul addresses in Galatians is freedom. This freedom is freedom from the world of dichotomies into the new creation. The appearance of this dominant theme in the paraenetic section provides continuity with Paul’s preceding argument (Gal. 5.1,13). Therefore, the paraenetic section in Gal. 5-6 is integral to Paul’s argument in the context of the Galatian crisis and has an important role to play in addressing the issue of freedom.

The significance of Paul’s instructions in Gal. 5-6 to his overall argument on freedom is indicated by the use of indicative-imperative combination. The structure of imperative developing out of indicative appears in Gal. 5.1 (“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery”), 5.13 (“For you were called to freedom, brethren, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love become slaves to one another), and 5.25 (“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit”). Herman Ridderbos says that the relation of the indicative to the imperative must not be reversed.[22] The imperatives are grounded in the indicatives. In all the above three instances there is an affirmation of freedom in Christ (in Gal. 5.25 freedom is represented by the Spirit) and an appeal to live out that freedom. Paul emphasizes that freedom has come through Christ and Galatians have been set free, and this freedom is meant to be lived out. Commenting on Paul’s use of the indicative-imperative combination Barclay says, “One of the distinctive features of Paul’s use of the indicative-imperative combination is his effort to match the content of the two moods: if the indicative is ‘you have been freed’, the imperative is ‘do not become slaves’ (5.1).”[23] This phenomenon indicates that Paul wants to show the Galatian believers that there is only one pattern of behavior which is consistent with their present state of freedom in Christ and their membership in the community of the new creation.

Paul appeals or encourages for preservation of freedom from the system of sacred violence into the new creation that has been achieved through the death of Jesus Christ.  In Gal. 5.1 the aorist tense of eleutheroō points to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ that has exposed the sacrificial structure of Judaism and thus enabled believers in Christ to withdraw their credibility and allegiance to Judaism and transfer to the community of the new creation. However, since the world of dichotomies is not destroyed but only deconstructed by the death of Jesus Christ, it remains a threat to the community of the new creation. This threat is seen in the teaching of the teachers of the “other gospel”. That is why Paul strongly exhorts the Galatian believers to “stand firm”. Circumcision enslaves them again to the system of sacred violence, from which Christ event has set them free. The consequence of choosing circumcision is that “Christ will be of no benefit to you” (Gal. 5.2). That means, their intended action would negate the significance of the death of Jesus Christ. Because the antinomies, circumcision and uncircumcision, are not valid in the new creation, which is dawned by the Christ event (Gal. 5.6).

Since the system of sacred violence is not destroyed, but only exposed by the Christ event, the lifestyle pertaining to it remains a threat to members of the community of the new creation. Notice the parallelism between Gal. 5.13 and 5.1, except that “freedom” is in emphatic position in the latter whereas “you” (that is, Galatian believers) in the former. Paul’s warning in Gal. 5.13 and 6.7-8 implies that there is a possibility of believers in Christ giving “an opportunity for the flesh” or “sowing to the flesh” (Gal. 5.13, 6.7-8). Flesh here represents a way of life denoted by Ioudaizein (Gal. 2.16, 3.3, 4.23,29, 6.8,12,13), which is nothing but a lifestyle that befits the system of sacred violence. Flesh has its own “desire” (Gal. 5.16) or “passions and desires” (Gal. 5.24). It engages in inevitable conflict with the Spirit (Gal. 5.17). Such mutual opposition implies mutual exclusion.[24] Flesh produces its own “works” (Gal. 5.19-21) that contrast sharply with the “fruit” of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22-23). “Works of the flesh” and “fruit of the Spirit” are commonly referred as catalogues of vices and virtues. Martyn says that this “identification seriously distorts Paul’s understanding,” because Paul is talking about the marks of two communities, one under the influence of the flesh and the other led by the Spirit.[25] Therefore, “works of the flesh” characterizes the world of flesh. It is striking to see prevalence of greed (Gal. 5.16), fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, jealousy, anger, envy, drunkenness and carousing under the works of the flesh (Gal. 5.19-21). These traits are all interrelated aspects of what Girard identifies as acquisitive mimetic desire. Because these are the characteristics of a person who mimes the object of desire of another person and is ambitious to possess what is deemed desirable by the other. This acquisitive mimetic desire produces “works”. The conflictual nature of the “works” of the acquisitive desire is evidenced by enmities, strife, quarrels, dissentions, and factions (Gal. 5.20). Paul also indicates rivalry as the work of the flesh: “biting and devouring one another” and “consuming one another” (Gal. 5.13-15). Thus, acquisitive mimetic desire, which is characteristic of the flesh, leads to rivalry and conflictual violence. This generates scapegoating mechanism and sacred violence of exclusionism, persecution and killing.

However, freedom enabled by the Christ event from the system of sacred violence into the new creation transforms the desire of believers in Christ. Paul says that they have crucified the “flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5.24). Here Paul uses an active verb stauroō to describe that believers in Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (cf. Gal. 2.19, 6.14). To say that believers in Christ have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” suggests believers’ resolution and conscious effort to renounce the acquisitive mimetic desire that leads to rivalry and conflictual violence, and ultimately generates scapegoating violence. This takes place at the time of conversion, when believers are transferred from the social order of sacred violence into the new creation. This is supported by the use of aorist tense estaurōsan, and close parallel with Gal. 2.19-20 and 6.14-15. Believers not only renounce the acquisitive mimetic desire, but also mimic the nonacquisitive desire of Christ, the agape love (Gal. 2.20). In other words, faith in Christ means mimetically participating not only in the death of Jesus Christ, but also in the nonacquisitive love of Christ. This faith expressed in the nonacquisitive love becomes the distinctive characteristic of the community of the new creation, which Paul terms: “faith working through love” (Gal. 5.6).

Scholars differ on the voice of the participle energoumenē (Gal.5.6). Some interpret it as passive (“faith that is activated by love”) and others prefer middle (“faith that is actively expressing itself through love”).[26] Paul does not regard faith as passive, but as active: “faith working through love” (Gal. 5.6). Barclay calls “faith in Christ” as “the fundamental determinant of all Christian behaviour.”[27] Notice the parallelism between Gal. 5.6 and 6.15. Paul identifies “faith working through love” with the new creation (cf. I Cor. 7.19).[28] The new creation is characterized by “faith working through love”. Faith in Christ is not only the entrance requirement into the community of the new creation, but also manifests itself through love. Sam Williams says, “It erupts into communal life as love.”[29] The model for agape love through which faith makes itself effective is Christ (Gal. 2.20). The mimetic identification of believers with the crucified Christ as model is so strong that Christ is said to be “living in them”. That is why in Gal. 5.14 Paul does not say that believers should obey the law’s command to love the neighbor. They do not love because the law commands them to do it. They love because the faith in Christ makes them mimic the nonacquisitive desire of Jesus Christ. Therefore, the nonacquisitive desire of Christ, expressed in agape love, becomes the pattern of life in the community of the new creation. The communal life marked by the nonacquisitive love is reflected in mutual love and service (Gal.5.13).

Therefore, the mimesis generated by the acquisitive desire, which is underlying the system of sacred violence, has given way to the mimesis generated by the nonacquisitive desire in the new creation. Freedom of believers in Christ is expressed in the nonacquisitive desire of mutual love and service (Gal. 5.13). The nonacquisitive desire of mutual love and service is the essence of the law: ho pas nomos en heni logō peplērōtai en tō Agapēseis ton plēsion sou hōs seauton. The translation of peplērōtai as “is summed up” is not accurate in the context of Paul’s argument in Galatians. Paul employs the noun form of plēroō to refer to the Christ event that has enabled believers in Christ to be freed from the enslavement under the law and so the Ioudaizein lifestyle pertaining to the social order of antinomies, into the new creation where “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 4.4; cf. Gal. 3.28, 5.6, 6.15). This Christ event has done something to the law. As Cousar comments, “The perfect tense and passive voice of the verb (plēroō in 5.14) indicate that something has happened to the law.”[30] By freeing those under the enslavement of the law into the new creation where Jew and Greek are united and thus fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham (Gal. 3.8), the Christ event has restored the law “to its rightful identity.”[31] Martyn supports this interpretation of the verb plēroō in Gal. 5.14. He says:

In Gal. 5.14, that is to say, the guiding imperative of the Law (Lev. 19.18) is not the result of an insightful deed of Paul, his act of reducing the Law to its essence (his achievement of the reduction in unum). On the contrary, that guiding imperative is the result of the powerful deed of Christ…The law taken in hand by Christ (Gal. 6.2) is the Law that Christ has restored to its original identity and power (Gal. 5.14).[32]           

Thus, the Christ event has restored the original meaning of the law. In other words, the original interpretation of the law as loving service to neighbor is restored in the new creation.

Paul delineates further the restoration of the Torah to its original meaning in Gal. 6.2. Here he employs the compound verb anaplēroō. Majority of scholars acknowledge a close link between Gal. 6.2 and 5.13-14: use of words from the root plēroun, and a reference to mutual service. The law here is conjoined with Christ, “the law of Christ” (cf. I Cor. 9.21 ennomos Christou). There are different views about the interpretation of the phrase “the law of Christ”[33]: “the law of the Messiah”[34], “Christian law”[35] and “principle” or “norm” that controls the Christian life[36]. However, these interpretations are unlikely. Paul’s use of the term anaplēroō suggests that the “law of Christ” is related to the eschatological age inaugurated by the Christ event. Bearing of burdens is a slave’s task.[37] Moreover, in I Cor. 9.19-21 being under ennomos Christou is related to being a slave of all. Although it is unclear in Gal. 6.2 what ta barē refers to, it is evident that Paul is instructing the Galatian believers to love one another through mutual service. The following verse confirms this interpretation, where Paul says that this mutual service fulfils the law of Christ (Gal. 6.2). Therefore, to fulfill the law through love means to fulfill the law of Christ. There are instances in Paul’s letters where Paul links “love” and “Christ” through the example of Christ’s death (Gal. 2.20; II Cor. 5.14-15). This suggests that when Paul talks of “fulfilling the law of Christ” he is, in fact, referring to the Torah, but redefined through Christ. Moreover, in II Cor. 5.14-17 this link between love and Christ through the example of the death of Christ is related to the new creation, where reconciliation is realized. Thus, the new creation is characterized by the law redefined through Christ. It is the law interpreted not in terms of sacred violence generated by the acquisitive mimesis, but in terms of love expressed through mutual service that controls life in the community of the new creation. Gal. 5.13-6.10 is a description of social and communal manifestations of “faith working through love”.

The nonacquisitive love that underlies the community of the new creation is expressed in “the fruit of the spirit” (Gal. 5.22). The singular noun “fruit” indicates that the way of life according to the Spirit is cohesive and unified.[38] It builds and supports community. Interestingly love heads the list of “the fruit of the spirit”. Cousar notes, “The remainder of the list gives further substance to the word “love” and depicts the qualities characteristic of the community in which the Spirit is active.”[39] The appeal for living out freedom in the community of the new creation continues with an exhortation to “restore” the one who “is detected in a transgression” (Gal. 6.1). The verb “restore” has a sense of “mending” or “to repair” (Mt. 4.21; Mk. 1.19). There is no retributive action or exclusion of the person from the community of the new creation. The mimetic identification with the crucified Christ is “constitutionally different” from an excluding system of sacred violence.[40] It is a subversive social order to the existing order of sacred violence. That is why Paul reminds the Galatian believers of their possession of the Spirit, the identity of their membership in the community of the new creation. Each member of the community of the new creation is called to self-awareness (Gal. 6.2) and self-evaluation that helps to free the community from scapegoating (Gal. 6.3-5). It is this attitude that helps the members of the community of Christ to “bear one another’s burdens.” The word baros means “anything grievous and hard to be borne”. Most probably, it refers back to “temptation” or “trespass” a believer may be influenced by. That means, the restoration of a transgressed believer is a burden-bearing activity. It is identifying with fellow transgressed member, rather than scapegoating that believer which results in excluding him/her from the community. Paul says that burden-bearing fulfils “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.2). Thus, the law redefined through Christ is not a weapon of sacred violence, but uniting, identifying and building.

Further, in Gal. 6.9-10 Paul encourages believers to persevere in doing good. Here the term kairos appears twice. NRSV translates it as “harvest time” in Gal. 6.9, and “opportunity” in 6.10. However, in both occasions kairos refers to eschatological time. Furnish comments:

Thus, as we have opportunity does not mean: Whenever, from time to time, it may be possible to do good, we should do it. It means, rather, as long as this present eschatological time continues, it is in fact the time to love, and we should be obedient in love.[41]

Since the time that governs the community of the new creation is the eschatological time, Paul is encouraging believers to work for the common good. In other words, it is the social order of nonacquisitive mimesis that underlies the community of the crucified Christ.

 

 

 


[1] Victor Paul Furnish, II Corinthians: Translated with Introduction, Notes, and Commentary (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1984), p. 308.

[2] Kata sarka occurs nineteen times in the undisputed letters of Paul. Excluding the two occurrences in II Cor. 5.16, of the seventeen, it is used thirteen times adverbially, while four times adjectivally.  

[3] Furnish, II Corinthians, p. 313.

[4] Martyn, Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997), pp. 92-93.

[5] Martyn, Theological Issues, p. 94.

[6] For the discussion on this read Martyn, Theological Issues.

[7] Martyn, Theological Issues, pp. 107-108.

 

[8] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 110.

[9] Martyn, “Apocalyptic Antinomies in Paul’s Letter to Galatians” in NTS 31 (1985), pp. 410-24.

[10] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 102.

[11] Betz, Galatians, p. 269.

[12] Discussed in Chapter IV.

[13] Luke T. Johnson, “Romans 3.21-26 and the Faith of Jesus,” in CBQ 44 (1982); Hays, The Faith of Jesus Christ; Morna D. Hooker, “PISTIS CHRISTOU,” in NTS 35 (1989), pp. 321-342;  Longenecker, Galatians, pp. 87-88; Frank J. Matera, Galatians (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1992), pp. 100-101; Sam K. Williams, “Again Pistis Christou,” in CBQ 49 (1987), pp. 431-447.

[14] Betz, Galatians, p. 117; Arland J. Hultgren, “The Pistis Christou Formulation in Paul,” in NovT 22 (1980), pp. 248-263; F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 139; Dunn, “Once More, PISTIS CHRISTOU,” in Society of Biblical Literature 1991 Papers, ed. By Eugene H. Lovering (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1991).

[15] Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1998), p. 380.

[16] Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, p. 23; Cousar, Reading Galatians, pp. 36-37.

[17] Keck, Paul and His Letters, p. 86.

 

[18] Phelps, Shattered Voices, p. 44.

[19] For a survey of views on the paraenetic section of Gal. 5-6 read Barclay, Obeying the Truth, pp. 9- 26.

[20] James H. Ropes, The Singular Problem of the Epistle to the Galatians (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929).

[21] Walter Schmithals, Paul and the Gnostics, tr. by John E. Steely (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1972), pp. 13-64.

[22] Ridderbos Paul, p. 254.

[23] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 225.

[24] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 112.

[25] Martyn, Galatians, p. 496.

[26] Martyn, Galatians, p. 474.

[27] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 237.

[28] Moises Silva, Interpreting Galatians: Explorations in Exegetical Method (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2001), p. 182.

[29] Williams, Galatians, p. 144.

[30] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 99.

[31] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 100.

[32] Martyn, Theological Issues, pp. 247-248.

[33] For a detailed discussion on this read Barclay, Obeying the Truth, pp. 127-135.

[34] W.D. Davies, Torah in the Messianic Age and/or the Age to Come (Philadelphia: Society of Biblical Literature, 1952); The Setting of the Sermon on the Mount (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976).

[35] W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, p. 144; Longenecker, Paul: Apostle of Liberty (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1976), pp. 183-190.

[36] Raisanen, Paul and the Law, p. 80; Burton, Galatians, p. 329; Bruce, Galatians, p. 261; Hays, “Christology and Ethics in Galatians: The Law of Christ,” in CBQ 49 (1987), pp. 268-290.

[37] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 131.

[38] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 104.

[39] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 104.

[40] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 86.

[41] Victor Paul Furnish, The Love Command in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1972), p. 101.

Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

September 26, 2009

Chapter VI

 The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Law

The traditional understanding of the purpose of the autobiographical narrative in Gal. 1-2 is to prove Paul’s independence of the Jerusalem apostles and their recognition of his apostolic status. Since the time of Baur this theory has been supported by contrasting this autobiographical narrative with Acts 9.1 ff. By pointing to the length of time between Paul’s conversion experience and his first visit to Jerusalem and the infrequency of later visits (only one in fourteen years) in contrast to his frequent visit to Jerusalem recorded in Acts, it is argued that in Galatians Paul seeks to establish his independence from the Jerusalem apostles. As Lightfoot says, “Their (apostles) recognition of his (Paul’s) office is most complete. The language is decisive in two respects: it represents this recognition first as thoroughly mutual, and second as admitting a perfect equality and independent position.”[1] However, this theory is unlikely in view of the context of Galatians. George Howard comments, “Although it is clear that Paul was independent of the Jerusalem apostles, his method of presenting the events of his Christian career creates doubts as to whether his purpose in recording them was actually to prove his independence.”[2] Seen in the context of Galatian crisis where the truth of the gospel of Christ is at stake, it is evident that the purpose of Paul in accounting the autobiographical section is quite different from the traditional view. The accounts of the Jerusalem conference and the Antioch incident highlight the primary issue in Galatians, that is, the threat to the truth of the gospel. Both are illustrative of what the truth of the gospel means.

The incidents at Jerusalem and Antioch are related to Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son. In these two incidents, where focus is on the Jewish distinctive rituals (circumcision Gal. 2.1-10, and dietary laws Gal. 2.11-14) that have formed as walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, the truth of the gospel, which Paul has received through God’s revelation, is at stake. Paul twice states that his actions both in his Jerusalem visit and in Antioch are motivated by a concern for the truth of the gospel which he has received through God’s revelation of God’s son (Gal. 2.5, 2.14). Paul mentions these incidents in his letter to the Galatian churches because it is the truth of the gospel that is in danger there too. In all these three contexts the gospel of Jesus Christ is threatened due to insistence on observance of the Jewish distinctive rituals. Notice the verb “compel” used in Gal. 2.3, 2.14, and 6.12. Some of the Jewish believers in Christ, who patterned their lives according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, are insisting on the observance of the Jewish distinctive rituals. Paul counters them by stressing that the gospel of Christ and the system of sacred violence, expressed in excluding the Gentiles through the practice of the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision and dietary laws, are mutually exclusive.  

A. The Truth of the Gospel at Jerusalem Gal. 2.1-10

Historical questions surround the second visit of Paul to Jerusalem to meet the leaders of the Jerusalem community (Gal. 2.1-10). In Galatians Paul speaks of two visits to Jerusalem after his conversion-call experience: first one three years after this experience (Gal. 1.18-20), and the second one “after fourteen years” (Gal. 2.1-10), whereas Acts records five visits of Paul to Jerusalem (Acts 9.26-30; 11.27-30; 15.1-31; 18.22; 21.15-17). Majority of scholars have no difficulty in identifying the first visit mentioned in Gal. 1.18-20 with that of Acts 9.26-30. However, the contention among scholars is with the second one recorded in Gal. 2.1-10. The two prominent positions are: 1. the visit referred to in Gal. 2.1-10 is the famine relief visit of Acts 11.27-30; 2. the visit mentioned in Gal. 2.1-10 is the same visit recorded by Luke in Acts 15.1-31. Among the proponents of the first view are F.F. Bruce and Richard N. Longenecker.[3] Their arguments are primarily based on Paul’s description of the visit as a “private meeting” (Gal. 2.2) and not a public meeting as recorded in Acts 15.1-31, and the reference to “remembering the poor” in Jerusalem (Gal. 2.10). This view suggests that Paul has written this letter to Galatians before the Jerusalem Council. The Council was called to resolve the issue raised at Antioch (Gal. 2.11-14). Otherwise, the proponents contend, it is difficult to reconcile the Antioch incident in Gal. 2.11-14 if Gal. 2.1-10 were an account of the Jerusalem Council, because in the Council that issue was settled through the Apostolic Decree (Acts 15.19-31). The problem with this view, as Dunn rightly points out, is the issue of circumcision, which was the main concern at Jerusalem Council.[4] Since that issue was already settled between Paul and the leaders of the Jerusalem community, according to Gal.2.1-10, then how did it become a major issue of contention again in Acts 15.1-31? The other problem is that there is no indication given in the Acts 11.27-30 of any discussion between Paul, Barnabas, and the Jerusalem leaders over the issue of circumcision.

The second view is that the account recorded in Gal. 2.1-10 is, in fact, Jerusalem Council (Acts 15.1-31). This is based on the close parallels between the two accounts: same issue of contention (circumcision), same participants (Paul and Barnabas, Jerusalem leaders, and those advocating circumcision), and same principal agreement regarding circumcision. Variant details in the two accounts are due to different perspectives of Paul and Luke.

The other well debated question is the time of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem. Paul says that he visited Jerusalem “after fourteen years” (Gal. 2.1). It is uncertain whether “fourteen years” should be counted from Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son (Gal. 1.15), or his first visit to Jerusalem (Gal. 1.18), or his visit to Syria and Cilicia. The question is whether the adverb epeita is used to divide the narrative or for historical connection (Gal. 1.18, 21, 2.1).[5] Even if it is employed to connect the historical events, the ambiguity is whether it denotes a specific number of years between two successive events or a number of years from Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s Son, since epeita is used with reference to the adverb eutheōs in Gal. 1.16.[6]

Although the ambiguity on the time of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem recorded in Gal. 2.1-10 persists, the purpose of this visit is made clear in this passage. Paul claims that his second visit to Jerusalem was a “response to a revelation” and to place before the Jerusalem leaders the gospel that he proclaimed among the Gentiles (Gal. 2.2). Scholars differ with regards to Paul’s reference to apokalypsis. Some argue that it suggests to either a specific dream or a vision or a prophecy through which God directed or ordered him to go to Jerusalem.[7] They argue that Paul included it here in order to make it clear that he had gone to Jerusalem “at heaven’s behest, not at Jerusalem’s, nor even Antioch’s.”[8] However, this interpretation is unlikely, because Paul uses the term  apokalypsis and its verbal form apokalyptein primarily to refer to the eschaton and to God’s action in the end time (I Cor. 1.7, 3.13; Gal. 3.23).[9] Howard argues that even in the instances where the term is used for reception of revelations by individuals, “these are not oracular commands for them to go somewhere or to do something, but are revelations pertaining to the interpretation of the gospel…for edification (of the community)” (I Cor. 14.6,26). Apokalypsis in Gal. 2.2 is to be connected with its earlier uses in Gal. 1.11 and 1.16.[10] Paul went to Jerusalem to place before the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church the gospel he preached among the Gentiles (Gal. 2.2). The usage of the phrase to euaggelion…en tois ethnesin in Gal. 2.2 echoes 1.16. It implies that the gospel Paul placed before the Jerusalem leaders is the same gospel that he was commissioned by God to proclaim among the Gentiles. As observed in chapter V, both the content of God’s revelation and the content of the gospel he proclaimed among the Gentiles is same: Jesus Christ, the victim of sacred violence.

Paul’s experience on the Damascus road is concerning God unveiling Judaism as the system of sacred violence and God’s vindication of the victim of sacred violence. This sacred violence is expressed not only in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ but also in persecution of apostates and exclusion of the Gentiles. The revelation of Jesus Christ, the victim of sacred violence, has exposed what has been concealed in Judaism. That is, Judaism is a sacrificial structure of sacred violence. Through this God is revealing not only his rejection of the Jewish zealotic way of life that crucified Christ and excluded the Gentiles, but also God’s vindication of the victim of sacred violence. It is this gospel that God has commissioned Paul to proclaim among the Gentiles.

The gospel of Jesus Christ that Paul has received on the Damascus road was placed before the leaders of the Jerusalem community with the primary purpose of maintaining a unified people, which the gospel of Jesus Christ demanded. This purpose of Paul is reinforced by Gal. 2.10 where he reveals his intention regarding the poor at Jerusalem: “They asked only one thing, that we remember the poor, which was actually what I was eager to do.” Paul wanted to maintain the unity between the Jews and the Gentiles that has been achieved by the Christ event. That is why he also brought Titus along with him. This intention of Paul’s visit of Jerusalem leaders is also supported by the Antioch incident where Paul had to confront Peter for failing to live according to the truth of the gospel. His words in Gal. 2.2, “lest I was running or had run in vain,” does not imply that he was presenting the gospel, which he has been proclaiming among the Gentiles, to gain the approval of Jerusalem leaders so that his gospel would not be proved false.[11] By the time he went to Jerusalem on his second visit, Paul had been preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ for about fourteen to seventeen years, depending on how one counts the time based on Gal. 1.18, 21, 2.1. Therefore, it is unlikely that Paul went to Jerusalem “to see whether his apostolic mission was valid.”[12] Cousar says:

Paul harbors no doubts about the truth of the gospel and his role in going to the non-Jewish world (to preach the gospel without circumcision). Such an implication would countermand the whole of Gal. 1 and especially the thesis stated in 1.11-12.[13]

Peter, James, and John have confirmed that the gospel of Jesus Christ, which Paul proclaimed among the Gentiles, was decisive. They demonstrated their agreement through the test case Titus, who accompanied Paul. The description of Titus as a Greek is deliberate (Gal. 2.3). It stands in contrast to “Jew” in categorizing the world from Jewish perspective (cf. Gal. 3.28; I Cor. 1.22, 24, 10.32, 12.13; II Macc. 4.36, 11.2). Titus, not a Jew and so an uncircumcised, stands before the Jerusalem leaders as a test case. Their decision regarding Titus applies to all the uncircumcised. Paul says that “even Titus, who was with me, was not compelled to be circumcised” (Gal. 2.3). Paul has used the same verb anagkazō in Gal. 2.14 in the context of Antioch controversy over the Jewish dietary laws, where Paul charged Peter that the latter was “compelling” the Gentile believers to follow the Jewish way of life. In Gal. 6.12 he has again used the same verb where he accused the teachers of the “other gospel” for “compelling” the Gentile believers to be circumcised. For Paul, the gospel of Jesus Christ and the zealotic Jewish way of life expressed by the distinctive Jewish rituals are mutually exclusive. According to him, the Jerusalem leaders, by not compelling Titus to be circumcised and adding nothing to his gospel (Gal. 2.6), have confirmed the gospel that Paul received in his Damascus road experience, which he has been proclaiming among the Gentiles. In other words, they have accepted that the gospel of Jesus Christ and the zealotic Jewish way of life expressed in the Jewish distinctive rituals are mutually exclusive.

However, the Jerusalem leaders’ acceptance of Paul’s gospel did not silence some dissenting voices in Jerusalem. Some “false brothers” demanded that Titus, who was a Greek, should be circumcised (Gal. 2.3-4). Although the sentences of Gal. 2.2-5 appear to be incomplete and do not follow grammatical convention, the usage of dia with the accusative in 2.4 suggests that the “false brothers” insisted on the circumcision of Titus.[14] These dissenting ones seem to be from Jerusalem. Paul considers that yielding to their demand for Titus’ circumcision is shifting from freedom in Christ to enslavement (Gal. 2.4). Here Paul uses eleutheria for the first time in Galatians. Eleutheria (freedom) appears four times in Galatians (2.4, 5.1, 5.13, 5.13), eleutheros (free) six times (3.28, 4.22, 4.23, 4.26, 4.30, 4.31), and eleutheroō (to set free) once (5.1). Doulos and its cognates (douleia, katadouloō, douloō, douleuō) are used in Gal. 1.10, 2.4, 3.28, 4.1, 4.3, 4.7, 4.8, 4.9, 4.24, 4.25, 5.1, 5.13. The contrast between freedom and enslavement become more prominent in the Sarah-Hagar allegory (Gal. 4.21-4.31).

Gal. 4.21-4.31 is a difficult passage to interpret due to usage of expressions that seem strange (“two covenants”) and connections made that are hard to trace, though it is based on an Old Testament story.[15] Paul declares that the Sarah-Hagar story is “an allegory” (Gal. 4.24). He offers a different interpretation to this story. Most scholars think that Paul has taken this story because it had been used by the teachers of the “other gospel” to reinforce the necessity of being “under the law”, expressed primarily through the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, in order to be an heir of Abraham like Isaac.[16] Gal. 4.21-4.31 is linked to Paul’s earlier argument in chapters 3-4 by the phrase hupo nomon, and the concepts of enslavement and freedom, though Paul uses exagorazō in chapters 3-4 to express the freedom achieved by the Christ event. Paul’s argument in Gal. 4.21-4.31 serves him two purposes: to reaffirm the freedom in Christ that the Gentile believers are enjoying and to reject the freedom that the teachers of the “other gospel” have preached. As noted above, for the teachers of the “other gospel” freedom and being “under law” are coterminous.

The expression hupo nomon in Gal. 4.21 has the same meaning as in Gal. 3.22, 4.4. In the latter references Paul has used the preposition hupo in the sense of subjection or enslavement, thus characterizing the Torah as an enslaving power. The law as an enslaving power functioned by dividing the world into the circumcision and the uncircumcision (cf. Gal. 3.28; 6.12-15). Paul has argued against the law in its function of restriction and confinement to a particular pattern of life that built a wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. By focusing on this enslaving function of the law, he counters the claims of the teachers of the “other gospel” that freedom and the pattern of life according to the zealotic interpretation of the law are coterminous. Paul is reinforcing the same in the Sarah-Hagar allegory.

The Sarah-Hagar story is drawn primarily from Genesis 16 and 21. The focus is on two sons of Abraham. Although both can claim their lineage to Abraham, Paul emphasizes on their different manners of birth: one belongs to a slave woman and his birth was “according to flesh”, and the other to a free woman and his birth was “through promise” (Gal. 4.22-23). In Gal. 4.29 Paul contrasts the one born “according to the flesh” to the one “according to the spirit”. It implies that the one born according to the promise is the one according to the spirit. In Paul’s argument throughout the letter the terms “flesh”, “promise” and “Spirit” are critical.

The importance of the term sarx in Paul’s argument in Galatians is evident by its frequent occurrence. It is used eighteen times. One of Paul’s usages of the term “flesh” in Galatians has “originated in the polemical situation in Galatia, as a metaphor from circumcision and metonymy of the whole way of life that it signified” (Gal. 3.3, 6.12,13).[17] Paul criticizes those who want Gentiles to be circumcised that it implies boasting in the “flesh” (Gal. 6.13).[18] The traditional Lutheran understanding is that Judaism is a religion of “works righteousness” which led to self-righteousness and boasting before God, which in turn, is a betrayal of creaturely dependence on the Creator. Following this view, Bultmann comments:

It is not merely evil deeds already committed that make a man reprehensible in God’s sight, but man’s intension of becoming righteous by keeping the Law and thereby having his “boast.” Man’s effort to achieve his salvation by keeping the Law only leads him into sin, indeed this effort itself in the end is already sin.[19]

For Bultmann, Judaism functions simply as an example of general human pride. Jewish boasting in law performance is but a manifestation of a “natural tendency of man in general…to have his “boast”.”[20] Kasemann universalizes the pious Jew in a way that he represents the religious man who boasts in his own achievements.[21] However, E.P. Sanders in his landmark study Paul and Palestinian Judaism[22] has refuted the Lutheran understanding of Judaism as a religion of “works righteousness”. Sanders argues that the “pattern of religion” reflected in extant Palestinian literary material is one not of legalism, but of what he termed “covenantal nomism”. In this religious system, the law functions within a covenantal relationship between God and the people of Israel. The people of Israel maintain their covenantal relationship with God by observing the law. According to Sanders, certain laws of the Torah such as circumcision, Sabbath, food laws and the special days “created a social distinction between Jews and other races in the Greco-Roman world.”[23] Sanders’ view that the Jewish rituals such as circumcision and dietary laws have created social distinction with the Gentiles is supported by the incidents in Jerusalem and Antioch (Gal. 2.1-10, 2.11-14). This ethnic exclusionism, symbolized by the zealously guarded Jewish ritual boundary markers, is the cause of Jewish boasting: “we ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners” (Gal. 2.15). The context of Paul’s accusation against those coercing the Gentile believers to undergo circumcision and their boasting in the “flesh”, and its juxtaposition with the “world”, to which Paul has been crucified through the cross of Christ, suggest that the “flesh” and the “world”, where the division between the circumcision and the uncircumcision is important (Gal. 6.12-15), are intrinsically linked. Here “flesh” refers “both to the fact of circumcision and the Jewish way of life.”[24] Paul contends that the Jewish way of life patterned according to the exclusionistic understanding of the law is the cause of “boasting” for the teachers of the “other gospel” (Gal. 6.12-13). Dunn comments that “the boast is not the boast of self-confidence, but of Jewish confidence….”[25] But Paul makes it clear that he (and the believers in Christ) has been crucified to the world and the world to him through the cross of Christ.

Paul’s criticism against confidence based on the “flesh” is categorically expressed in the deliberately modified citation from Ps. 143.2 in Gal. 2.16: hoti ex ergōn nomou ou dikaiōthēsetai pasa sarx. Paul replaces pas zōn in LXX with pasa sarx. Paul deliberately did this in order to counter the Ioudaizein conduct of Peter, Baranabas and the other Jews who withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentiles believers. Here Paul’s criticism is directed against sarx that represents a lifestyle denoted by Ioudaizein (Gal. 2.16, 3.3, 4.23, 29, 6.12, 13; I Cor. 10.18; II Cor. 1.17, 5.16, 10.2,3, 11.18; Phil. 3.3,4), and not against sarx that represents natural human life in this world (Gal. 1.16, 2.20, 4.13,14; I Cor. 1.26,29, 5.5, 6.16; II Cor. 4.11, 7.5, 10.3, 12.7; Phil. 1.22,24).[26] His criticism is directed against the Jewish lifestyle patterned according to the zealotic understanding of the law that separated the Jews from the Gentiles.

Although sarx refers to the zealotic Jewish life, for Bultmann this life is expressed in their conduct of self-achievement or self-fulfillment of the law. However, it is unlikely because Paul uses sarx to refer to Ioudaizein lifestyle. Paul uses “flesh” as a synonym of “works of the law” in Gal. 3.2-3, where Paul chides Galatian believers: “Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?”

In the allegory of Sarah-Hagar in Gal. 4.21-31 the son of Hagar represents life “according to the flesh”, and the son of Sarah life “according to the Spirit”. The point of contact between the Genesis story and Gal. 4.21-31 is explicated in Gal. 4.29: “But just as at that time the child who was born according to the flesh persecuted the child who was born according to the Spirit, so it now also.” That means, the son who is “born according to the Spirit” or “through the promise” is the one in Christ (Gal. 3.27-29, 4.4-7) and the one who is “born according to the flesh” is the one under the law. Paul uses the phrase kata sarka to refer to the Jewish way of life based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law (Gal. 4.23, 4.29). It implies that those whose life is patterned according to this way of life are in enslavement. The link between enslavement and the law has already been established in Gal. 3.22-24 and 4.1-10.  In the Sarah-Hagar allegory by linking Hagar, Mount Sinai, present Jerusalem, and the children of Hagar “born according to the flesh” to enslavement Paul reinforces what he has already argued. In Gal. 2.4 by linking Jewish distinctive ritual circumcision to enslavement, Paul stresses that the Jewish pattern of life according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the law is slavery. Thus, this Jewish way of life demanded by Judaism is a threat to the freedom achieved by the Christ event.

On the contrary, Paul states that those who are in Christ are in freedom (Gal. 2.4). In the Sarah-Hagar allegory Paul links “free woman”, “the Jerusalem above” and the children of the “free woman” “born through the promise” to freedom. Paul contends that the children of the free woman are those in Christ (“our” in Gal. 4.26 refers to those in Christ) and so they are in freedom. For Paul, those who are born “through the promise” are those who are born “according to the Spirit” (Gal. 4.29). He argues that the Galatian believers have already received the Spirit (Gal. 3.3), which is a sign of sonship (Gal. 4.6). The Spirit is also the content of Abraham’s blessing (Gal. 3.14). Thus, the reception of God’s eschatological gift, the Spirit, by believers in Christ, irrespective of their ethnic, class and gender backgrounds, has fulfilled God’s promise spoken to Abraham, that is, the blessing of all nations in Abraham. Paul also says that God’s promise to bless the nations in Abraham (Gal. 3.8) is fulfilled through the Christ event (Gal. 3.13-14). Thus, the Christ event and the reception of the Spirit have demolished the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, and made them one in Christ (Gal. 3.26-29). This freedom in Christ is threatened by the efforts of the “false brothers” to enforce the Jewish way of life based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law (Gal. 2.4). Paul links freedom in Christ with “the truth of the gospel” (Gal. 2.5).

The expression “the truth of the gospel” appears in Paul’s letters only in Gal. 2.5 and 2.14. This phrase is taken as either possessive (“The truth is the truth contained in and so belonging to the gospel”)[27] or subjective genitive (“the validity of the salvation now already bestowed on the world by God…; it is the eschatological and sovereign power of God, now available in the gospel”)[28] By linking the truth of the gospel and freedom in Christ, Paul states that the gospel of Jesus Christ is freedom from the system of sacred violence. He asserts that the truth of the gospel is God’s eschatological redemption through the Christ event from the system of sacred violence, and believers in Christ are in that state of freedom in Christ. 

B. The Truth of the Gospel at Antioch Gal. 2.11-14

The Antioch incident has happened after Paul’s meeting with Peter, James and John in Jerusalem, where Paul’s gospel was accepted. This incident raises a number of historical and theological questions, including the identity of the group that came “from James”, their relationship to James and their place in the Jerusalem church, the identity of the “circumcision group”, and the nature of food that Peter and others participated at Antioch.[29] Scholars differ widely in their answers to these questions. However, the main focus of the Antioch incident is on Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with the Gentile believers. The imperfect tense sunēsthien indicates Peter’s customary behavior of eating with the Gentile believers before the arrival of “certain ones from James”.[30] Peter and the other Jews, by having table fellowship with the Gentile believers, expressed their conviction that because of their common faith in Christ Gentile believers are not to be regarded as “Gentile sinners” (Gal. 2.15) and that they are no longer separated, but rather united in Christ. This questions Dunn’s view that “the Antioch’s incident…shows just how little clarity had been achieved at the Jerusalem consultation.”[31] The reason for Peter’s (change of) conduct was not due to lack of clarity of what was expected by the gospel of Christ. This is evident by the association of Peter, Barnabas and other Jews with the Gentile believers. The reason for Peter’s hypocrisy was fear of a powerful Jewish “circumcision group” (Gal. 2.12).[32] Although it is not explicit about the status of the “circumcision group” in the Jerusalem church, Peter’s change of conduct triggered by their arrival at Antioch shows that this group is a powerful Jewish zealotic group, which insisted on maintenance of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles through observance of the Jewish distinctive rituals such as dietary laws. 

Despite the use of present tense zēs in Gal. 2.14, Paul is, here, referring to Peter’s behavior before his withdrawal. It implicitly points to Peter’s conviction. Ernest Burton argues that the behavior of Peter and the rest of the Jews before the arrival of the group “from James” is due to the decision arrived at Jerusalem Council. He notes:

The brethren at Antioch might naturally seem to themselves to be only following out what was logically involved in the Jerusalem decision, when they found in the recognition of uncircumcised Gentile believers as brethren the warrant for full fellowship with them on equal terms, and, in the virtual declaration of the non-essentiality of circumcision, ground for the inference that the O.T. statutes were no longer binding and ought not to be observed to the detriment of the unity of the Christian community. [33]

Burton contends that the custom of eating food by the Jews and the Gentiles together preceded the arrival of Peter, because it “was clearly an expression of the ‘freedom in Christ Jesus’ which Paul advocated….”[34] On Gal. 2.14 Betz comments:

In the protasis Paul defines Cephus’ present religious status as being a Jew (Ioudaios huparchōn) who has given up his Jewish way of life. He lives like a Gentile ( ethnikōs), that is, no longer in observation of Jewish customs and law (ouchi Ioudaikōs). The present tense of zēs (“you are living”) implies much more than an act of table fellowship with Christian Gentiles. It suggests that the table fellowship was only the external symbol of Cephus’ total emancipation from Judaism.[35]

Peter’s action of withdrawing from having table fellowship with the Gentile believers is considered by Paul as “hypocrisy”. Because it clearly contrasts with Peter’s conviction expressed by his customary conduct of eating with the Gentile believers in Antioch (the imperfect tense sunēsthien).[36] As Betz says, “The apodosis (Gal. 2.14) presupposes Cephus’ recent change of conduct as a self-contradiction: “how can you compel the Galatians to live like Jews?”[37] Paul puts this inconsistent behavior succinctly: “If you, being a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?” (Gal.1.14). The expressions Ioudaikōs zēs and Ioudaizein are found only in Galatians and Paul uses them in the context of the controversy over the dietary laws in Antioch (Gal. 2.14). As observed in Chapter V, the religion represented by the term Ioudaismos is a religion based on the zealotic interpretation of the law. This Jewish religion demanded exclusionistic way of life expressed primarily by the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath, and festivals. Therefore, the expressions Ioudaikōs zēs and Ioudaizein refer to the way of life based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law that maintained separation between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Peter by eating with the Gentile believers before the arrival of the “circumcision group” followed a pattern of life contrary to the Ioudaizein lifestyle. By withdrawing from his usual practice of associating with the Gentile believers, Peter was, implicitly, “compelling” the Gentile believers to embrace the Jewish way of life. Paul, by using the same verb anagkazō to describe Peter’s action, understands Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with the Gentile believers at Antioch same as the action of “false brothers” at Jerusalem (Gal. 2.3-5; the action of the teachers of the “other gospel” in Galatian churches is also same Gal. 6.12). The implicit pressure on the Gentile believers was to accept the Jewish way of life demanded by Judaism, the system of sacred violence. 

Paul, thus, questions Peter’s self-contradiction between his withdrawal and his conviction. For him, Peter’s behavior constitutes not walking straightforwardly according to the truth of the Gospel (notice the present tense orthopodousin). The truth of the Gospel is related to the demolition of walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. Through his act of withdrawal Peter (and those who followed him) was once again building up the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, which have been torn down (Gal. 2.18), and thus not walking according to the truth of the gospel. Paul has already stressed that the truth of the gospel is freedom in Christ from the system of sacred violence that demanded exclusion of the Gentiles (Gal. 2.4-5). Peter, by withdrawing from table fellowship with the Gentile believers, is again embracing the system of sacred violence from which he was freed by the Christ event. It is this Paul is criticizing Peter when he accused the latter for not walking consistently according to the truth of the gospel. Since God’s eschatological freedom from the system of sacred violence has already taken place through the Christ event and believers in Christ are in the state of that freedom, there is no room for separation between Jew and Gentile in the community of Christ.

C. What is the Truth of the Gospel Gal. 2.15-21?

There are diverse views about the relationship of Gal. 2.15-21 to the Antioch incident in Gal. 2.11-14. Some argue that there is a clear break between the two. They believe that Gal. 2.15-21 is written with Galatian situation in mind.[38] However, others view that Gal. 2.15-21 is a restatement of Paul’s position argued for in Antioch.[39] Nothing in the text signals any break between Gal. 2.14 and 2.15. “We ourselves are Jews by birth” refers to Paul and Peter. Paul sustains the autobiographical note of the preceding account with “I” in Gal. 2.18-21. Paul’s argument in Gal. 2.15-21 was prompted by Peter’s failure to live according to the truth of the gospel, when the latter withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentile believers. This charge required Paul to set out what “the truth of the gospel” was. Hence in Gal. 2.15-21 he explicates the truth of the gospel, beginning with generally accepted position: “We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.15-16). The Jewish separatist vocabulary (“We are Jews”, “Gentile sinners”) translated into action at Antioch by Peter, Barnabas and the other Jews by withdrawing from eating with the Gentile believers provide a context for understanding Paul’s concept of “justification” or “being justified” and “works of the law”.

Paul for the first time uses the phrase “works of the law” in Gal. 2.16. The immediate context of the Antioch incident makes clear that “works of the law” refers to “living like a Jew”. Thus, for Paul, “works of the law” denotes Jewish exclusiveness. The life of “works of the law” is a Jewish way of life demanded by Judaism, the system of sacred violence, which is expressed in exclusion of the Gentiles. In Galatians, Paul has restated this argument because it is relevant to the Galatian crisis. In Galatian Churches also the truth of the gospel is at stake due to insistence on the Jewish boundary marker (circumcision) that separated the Jews from the Gentiles.

1. Justification by Faith in Christ, not by Works of the Law

The term “to justify” and its cognates are predominantly Paul’s words in the New Testament.[40] In Galatians the verb “to justify” is used eight times, of which four occurrences are in Gal. 2.16-17, and the noun “justification” four times (one of them occurs in the Old Testament quotation in Gal. 3.6), of which one appears in Gal. 2.21. The verb and the noun come from the same Greek root dikai-. This linguistic connection is not explicit in the English translation of the verb dikaioō (“to justify” and it can not be translated as “to rightify”), the noun dikaiosunē (“righteousness”, “justice”) and the adjective dikaios (“righteous”, “just”). This has led to an understanding of Paul’s use of these terms either in forensic terms or in moral terms.[41] To put it differently, when Paul speaks of dikaioō and its cognates, does he have in mind a status conferred or a quality of life or ethical life lived? Some scholars support these two views. Bringing these two views together J.A. Ziesler argues that Paul has in mind both forensic and ethical categories, with one always involving the other.[42] However, Paul intends this term to be taken in neither of these linguistic realms.[43]  

In order to understand Paul’s usage of the term “justify”, the incident at Antioch where the Jewish distinctive ritual, the dietary laws, which has served as a wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, is to be taken seriously. The repeated usage of the term “justify” in Gal 2:15-21 reflects on the withdrawal of Peter, Barnabas and the other Jewish believers from table fellowship with the Gentile believers at Antioch. This indicates that “justify” has a corporate dimension. Paul uses this term in the context of the relationship between Jew and Gentile. The separation between the Jews and the Gentiles is expressed by the Jewish separatist vocabulary “we ourselves are Jews by birth” and “Gentile sinners”. Striking here is the Jewish description of Gentiles as “sinners”. In Jewish thought “sinners” are “pre-eminently those whose lawless conduct marked them out as outside the covenant, destined for destruction and so not to be consorted with (eg. Pss. i.1, 5; xxxvii. 34-36; Prov. Xii.12-13; xxiv. 20; Sir. 7.16; ix. 11; xli. 5-11).”[44] Thus, this term is used to characterize the Gentiles (Tob. 13.6; Jub. 23.23-24; Pss. of Sol. 2.1-2). Paul, by using this separatist Jewish language, echoes not only the conduct of the group “from James” but also the behavior of Peter and the other Jews who withdrew from table fellowship with the Gentile believers. It is in this social context Paul uses the term “justify”. Paul’s concern here is not forensic[45] and ethical dimensions, but rather the relation between Jew and Gentile. The traditional understanding revolves around remitting of sins. But the vocabulary of “forgiveness” is missing in Galatians. The term “justify” refers to the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles, who are separated by the “works of the law” lifestyle.

Commenting on the concept of “justification” Marcus Barth says, “Justification is a social event. It ties human to human together.”[46] Leander Keck has proposed the translation “rectify” for the Greek verb dikaioō.[47] The action involved in the Greek verb dikaioō is the idea of “rectifying” a relationship or righting the wrong. Justify depicts God’s activity of rectifying a relationship or righting the wrong. What has gone wrong in the world is relationship among human beings through construction of walls of separation. In the context of Antioch incident it is the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles through the practice of the Jewish distinctive ritual, dietary laws. This Jewish lifestyle, which excluded the Jews from having fellowship with the Gentiles, prompted the usage of the phrase “works of the law”. “Works of the law” signifies “living like a Jew”,[48] and thus Jewish exclusionism. Paul contrasts “works of the law” with “faith in Jesus”. Paul is  not criticizing “works” as such in an attempt to divorce “believing” from “doing”, but “works of the law”, which is “living like a Jew”.[49] “Works of the law” lifestyle is a way of life demanded by Judaism, the system of sacred violence. This Jewish way of life has crucified Jesus Christ, persecuted apostates and excluded Gentiles from having fellowship with them. Thus, “Works of the law” lifestyle engages in scapegoating victims, who are considered a threat to the social order based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law. In order to maintain social order, those of the “works of law” consent and cooperate mimetically in directing their violence against victims, thus becoming enslaved to the system of sacred violence. Paul reminded Peter and those who followed Peter at Antioch that although they were Jews they believed in Jesus Christ, because they knew that “a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 2.16). God justifying a person or making one right is through faith in Jesus Christ.[50] This implies that he/she has died to the law, “a death to its ritually excluding aspects that undergird Jewish separatism.”[51] In other words, the one who believes in Jesus Christ has died to the system of sacred violence.

Peter being convinced that a person is justified by faith in Christ abandoned the “works of the law” lifestyle and had table fellowship with the Gentile believers before the group “from James” arrived at Antioch. By withdrawing from fellowship with the Gentile believers after the arrival of the group and following the abandoned Jewish way of life based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, Peter made Jesus “a servant of sin” (Gal. 2.17). Because his faith in Christ has made him to abandon the “works of the law” lifestyle and so, to transgress the law by eating with the Gentile believers. To return to the Jewish way of life was tantamount to making Jesus an agent of sin. By his withdrawal from the table fellowship with the Gentile believers at Antioch, Peter demonstrated that violation of the dietary laws was a sinful action. His withdrawal further displayed that Christ was promoting the sinful action, which, for Paul, was an absurd conclusion. Paul argues that Christ does not promote sin, because to be justified means to be crucified with him (Gal. 2.19) and that means “to die to the law through the law”.

Paul has refused to return to the way of life demanded by Judaism, the system of sacred violence. Because it would amount to again “building the walls of separation” between the Jews and the Gentiles that have been torn down. Paul uses two terms kataluō and parabatēs to express what he intends to say (Gal. 2.18).  Kataluō means dissolve, dismantle, tear down, abolish, bring to an end and destroy.[52] In the light of the issue of table fellowship at Antioch (and circumcision at Jerusalem Gal. 2.1-10) Paul’s metaphors of “tearing down” and “building up” (oikodomeō) refer to the distinctive laws of the Torah that maintained separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. Ta and tauta in the context refer to the distinctive customs of the Jews such as dietary laws (circumcision 2.1-10, 5.2-3 and special days Gal. 4.10).[53] The aorist tense katalusa contains a reference to the time of Paul’s conversion. Paul says that his life in Judaism, as he described in Gal. 1.13-14, has come to an end at the time of his conversion experience. If he observes again the Jewish distinctive rituals that maintained separation from the Gentiles, that would demonstrate him a parabatēs. The adverb palin and the verb oikodomeō point the reader to the hypothetical step of Paul “to live again like a Jew” (cf. Gal. 2.14). By withdrawing from eating with the Gentile believers at Antioch Peter demonstrated himself a parabatēs.

The nouns parabatēs and parabasis are related to the verb parabainō. The verb parabainō means not only “to transgress, to violate”, but also “to deviate, to step by the side of” (LXX Dan. 9.5; Sir. 23.18, 42.10; Acts 1.25). The noun parabatēs is not followed by an objective genitive. The presence of an objective genitive would have indicated what Paul is actually deviating from (Gal. 2.18). Since it is absent, we need to look at the context to discover the implied direct object of “deviation”.  In Gal. 2.14 Paul has accused Peter, Barnabas and the other Jewish believers of deviant behavior when he charged them of not walking straightforwardly according to the truth of the Gospel, when they withdrew from eating with the Gentile believers. Rebuilding the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles by adopting the “works of the law” lifestyle is in a way denial of God’s justifying or unifying act through the Christ event. The truth of the gospel, according to which Jews as well as Gentiles are justified or unified by faith in Christ, establishes a new pattern of life. Paul tries to explain that the life expressed by works of the law and that by faith in Christ are mutually exclusive. Paul expresses his severed relationship with the life patterned according to the exclusionistic understanding of the law through the metaphor of “dying to the law”: “Through the law I died to the law” (Gal. 2.19). Paul died to the law when he participated mimetically in the death of Christ on the cross, when he put faith in Christ, the victim of the curse of the law (Gal. 2.19). The identification of Paul with the crucified Christ has brought an entirely new relationship with Judaism, the system of sacred violence, to which Paul once belonged. The perfect tense of the verb “crucify” denotes both the punctiliar action of dying to the law and the continuing life for God. In other words, Paul says that the system of sacred violence that crucified Jesus Christ is the same system that excluded the Gentiles through the practice of the Jewish ritual boundary markers. The sacred violence that crucified Jesus Christ is the one that scapegoated the Gentiles (Gal. 2.19). It is the violence of the Jewish community by misusing the law as a weapon to crucify Jesus and to exclude the Gentiles.[54] Notice that the system based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law is not destroyed.[55] Rather the death of Jesus Christ has exposed the system of sacred violence, and that the life demanded by this system is not living for God. Paul says that he died to the life patterned according to the works of the law that mandated the separation of the Jews from the Gentiles. Dying to the law is necessary to live to God. Since through the law Paul died to the law and his present life in Christ is a life to God, he deviates from the truth of the gospel if he once again lives according to the law which enforced separation between Jew and Gentile.

Acknowledging the theological integrity presented in Gal. 2.16-21 and Gal. 3.6-4.7, it is evident in the latter passage that the “works of the law” lifestyle separated the Jews and the Gentiles by erecting a dividing wall. The law by introducing the dichotomies, circumcision and uncircumcision, has become an enslaving power. In Gal. 3.19-25 Paul argues that the law is active in its function of imprisoning and guarding its subjects from having any contact with the “outsiders”. It is from this “bondage” or “slavery” that God through his justifying act in Jesus Christ has redeemed humanity. God’s justifying act in Jesus Christ is a unifying act, unifying Jew and Greek, slave and free, and male and female into one single community. This righting of relationships between the Jews and the Gentiles fulfils God’s promise to Abraham: “All the Gentiles shall be blessed in you” (Gal. 3.8). Therefore, for Paul no one is joined to Christ except together with a neighbor and for Jew the primary neighbor is Gentile and vice-versa.[56] The gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed by Paul is the good news that the promise of God to Abraham (that is, the unity of the nations) is fulfilled through the Christ event. The death of Jesus Christ brings in the new creation where people irrespective of their ethnic, class and gender backgrounds are united in Christ as the children of God, and possess God’s eschatological gift of the Spirit.           

 

 


[1] Lightfoot, Galatians, p. 350.

[2] George Howard, Paul: Crisis in Galatia: A Study in Early Christian Theology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 21.

[3] F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians (Exeter: Paternoster, 1982), pp. 43-56; Longenecker, Galatians, pp. lxxvii-lxxxiii.

[4] Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 88.

[5] Betz, Galatians, p. 83.

[6] Martyn, Galatians, pp. 180-182.

[7] Betz, Galatians, p. 85; Longenecker, Galatians, p. 47; Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 91; Jeffrey R. Wisdom, Blessing for the Nations and the Curse of the Law: Paul’s Citation of Genesis and Deuteronomy in Gal. 3.8-10 (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), p. 135.

[8] Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 91; Charles Homer Giblin, Hope of God’s Glory: Pauline Theological Perspectives (New York: Herder & Herder, 1970), p. 56; Schmithals, Paul and James, p. 39; John Howard Schutz, Paul and the Anatomy of Apostolic Authority (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), p. 139; Smiles, The Gospel and the Law in Galatia, p. 38.

[9] Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, p. 23; Cousar, Reading Galatians, pp. 36-37.

[10] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 37.

[11] T.W. Manson, “St. Paul in Ephesus: The Problem of the Epistle to the Galatians,” in BJRL, 24 (1940), p. 66.

[12] Paul J. Achtemeier, The Quest for Unity in the New Testament Church (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), p. 24.

[13] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 37.

[14] Paul E. Koptak, “Rhetorical Identification in Paul’s Autobiographical Narrative: Galatians 1:13-2:14,” in The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation, ed. by Mark D. Nanos (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), p. 164.

[15] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 81.

[16] C.K. Barrett, Essays on Paul (London: SPCK, 1982), pp. 118-131; Longenecker, Galatians, pp. 200-206; Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 243. 

[17] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 121; Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 208.

[18] Robert Jewett, Paul’s Anthropological Terms: A Study of Their Use in Conflict Settings (Leiden: Brill, 1971), p. 95.

[19] Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, I.267.

[20] Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, I.242.

[21] E. Kasemann, Romans (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1980), p. 102. Bornkamm too follows similar argument in Paul (London: Hodder, 1971).

[22] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism.

[23] Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, pp. 102, 103.

[24] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 129.

[25] Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul: Collected Essays (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), p. 196.

[26] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 121.

[27] Ernest De Witt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1920), p. 86.

[28] Peter Stuhlmacher, Das Paulinische Evangelium (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1968), 1:90.

[29] Read Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 43.

[30] Betz, Galatians, p. 107.

[31] James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 73.

[32] It is not explicit about the place of this “circumcision party” in the Jerusalem church. However, Peter’s change of conduct triggered by their arrival at Antioch shows that this group is powerful in Jerusalem church.

[33] Burton, Galatians, p. 106.

[34] Burton, Galatians, p. 105.

[35] Betz, Galatians, p. 112.

[36] There is a subtle contrast between the stand of Paul for the truth of the gospel at Jerusalem against the efforts of the “false brothers” and that of Peter at Antioch against those “from James”.

[37] Betz, Galatians, p. 112.

[38] Betz, Galatians, pp. 113-114; Herman N. Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Church of Galatia, ed. by N.B. Stonehouse (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 98; Schlier, Galater, pp. 87-88; Smiles, The Gospel and the Law in Galatia, p. 103; Bruce, Epistle to the Galatians, p. 141.

[39] Franz Mussner, Der Galaterbrief (Frieburg: Herder, 1977); Dunn, Epistle to the Galatians; G. Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel: An Exposition of Galatians, ed. by D. Green (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985); Cosgrove, Cross and the Spirit.

[40] Pauline corpus contains 27 of the 35 New Testament occurrences of the verb “justify”.

[41] Martyn, Galatians, pp. 249-250.

[42] J.A. Ziesler, The Meaning of Righteousness in Paul: A Linguistic and Theological Inquiry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972).

[43] Martyn, Galatians, p. 250.

[44] Dunn, Galatians, pp. 132-133.

[45] Bultmann argues that the concept of “justification” is forensic and eschatological. Paul has in view God’s eschatological verdict upon those who believed in Jesus Christ. He says: “The righteousness which God adjudicates to man (the righteousness of faith) is not ‘sinlessness’ in the sense of ethical perfection, but is ‘sinlessness’ in the sense that God does not ‘count’ man’s sin against him (2 Cor 5.19).” Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, I. 274-279.

[46] Markus Barth, “Jews and Gentiles: The Social Character of Justification in Paul,” in JES 5 (1968), p. 241.

[47] Leander E. Keck, Paul and His Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1988), pp. 111-116.

[48] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 78.

[49] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 82.

[50] The phrase pisteōs Christou or pisteōs Iēsou Christou is discussed in Chapter VII.

[51] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 68.

 

[52] Sam K. Williams, Galatians (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1997), p. 73.

[53] Van Jan Lambrecht, “Paul’s Reasoning in Galatians 2.11-21,” in Paul and the Mosaic Law,  p. 60.

[54] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 10.

[55] Since this system is not destroyed, the persecution of those considered to be “apostates” by the Jews, who belong to this system, has continued (Gal. 4.29, 5.11, 6.12).  

[56] Barth, “Jews and Gentiles,” p. 259.

Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

September 26, 2009

Chapter V

Paul’s Experience of God’s Revelation of God’s Son, the Victim of the Law

 

Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son on the road to Damascus is recorded not only in Galatians (Gal. 1.11-17) but also in Acts (9.1-19, 22.4-16, 26.9-19). It is an encounter between the one cursed by the law (Gal. 3.13), but raised by God (Gal. 1.1), and the “persecutor inspired by his zeal for the law”. This encounter of Paul with Jesus Christ brought forth an insight into the meaning of the death of Jesus Christ “as the epiphany of sacred violence.”[1] It exposed to Paul what has been concealed in Judaism, to which he belonged, that Judaism was a sacrificial structure of sacred violence. This revelation made a radical impact on Paul’s life that resulted in change of his worlds.

A. Paul’s Pre-Conversion Zeal

A zealotic religious ideology affirms the salvific power of violence. It denigrates people who do not follow the social order based on its interpretation of the Torah, thus permitting discrimination and violence. Paul associates violence with which he had persecuted the church with “zeal” for the law. He not only was persecuting the community(s) of Jesus Christ, but also wanted to destroy it because of his zeal “for the traditions of my ancestors” (Gal. 1.13-14). For Paul the way of life in Judaism provided a context where the law was used as a means to violence against those considered to be apostates. The law that governed his life, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, was the law interpreted in exclusionistic terms, which enforced a wall of separation between Jew and Gentile. The community(s) of Jesus Christ that he persecuted did not observe the Jewish distinctive rituals that expressed this separation, because the cross has made them no longer significant (Gal. 5.11). It is this situation that has led to zealous Jewish persecution to preserve strict observance of ritual requirement of the law or the social order that promoted exclusionism (Gal. 5.11; 6.12).

1. Zeal

Zeal was an important characteristic of the Second Temple Judaism Period. This is evident in the Maccabean movement. The zealous Jews were vigilant against those who were a threat to the Torah (that is, zealot interpretation of the Torah), the constitution of the Jewish communities. In order to maintain the social order based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, they used violence against individuals and communities that threatened the social order of the Jewish communities. During Paul’s “life in Judaism,” he was “extremely zealous for (his) ancestral traditions,” so much so that he “used to persecute the community of Jesus Christ and tried to destroy it” (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6). The precise reasons for Paul’s persecuting activity are unknown, but there can be no doubt that it had to do with his zeal for the law and what he perceived as the threat by Jesus’ communities to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities (Gal 1:13-14; Phil 3:6). Paul characterizes his life in Judaism and his persecuting activity to “destroy” the community of Jesus Christ by zēlōtēs, meaning a “zealot”.[2]

There are three dominant models of the nature of “zealots” in the first century. The first one proposed by Martin Hengel is “zealots” as representing a party, the second by Morton Smith, “zealots” as violent individuals, and the third by Richard Horsley, “zealots” as a kind of bandit movement, emerging during the period of the Jewish war with the Romans (66 – 70 C.E).

a. The Hengel Model: Zealots as a Party[3]

Martin Hengel argues that “Zealots” is a name of the Palestinian freedom movement that originated with Judas the Galilean in 6 C.E. This movement engaged in a continuous struggle against the Romans until the destruction of the temple in 70 C.E. and the fall of Masada in 73/74 C.E. According to Hengel, fourth philosophy, brigands, Sicarri, and Zealots were four different terms used by Josephus for a single group of revolutionaries. Josephus used “Zealots” as a synonym for these revolutionaries. The central model for all these Zealots was the zeal of Phineas (Num 25). Hengel maintains that the realization of such zeal as that of Phineas, that is, elimination of apostates and destruction of the pagans who led Israel astray, “called for an organized group…and could not be accomplished by individual desperados.” Such zeal was not just confined to the zealots, he observes, but also characteristic of the Palestinian Judaism of first century C.E. 

Hengel’s view of the Zealots as designating a Palestinian freedom party has influenced many biblical scholars. At the same time it has also been challenged. Lester Grabbe, though considers the “Zealot” as a proper name referring to a particular group active before and after the Roman seize of Jerusalem and with a longer history, criticizes Hengel for applying it “indiscriminately to refer to any revolutionary group.”[4] He contends:

Josephus clearly uses the term primarily in reference to a particular group who had themselves taken this name. It is, therefore, unhelpful to lump all these various groups together as Zealots (with a capital letter), even if they tended to have certain characteristics in common…(that is,) zeal in devotion to God like that of Phineas (Numbers 25).[5]

b. The Smith Model: Zealots as Individuals

Morton Smith rejected Hegel’s monolithic picture of revolutionaries. Smith argues that from atleast Maccabean times many Jews fostered the ideal of zeal on the model of Phineas and Elijah.[6] Such admiration for zeal and these models of zeal were also influential in shaping resistance against the Roman government. Everyone who claimed to be a zealot should not be considered as a member of a particular revolutionary party.[7] Smith notes that naming of a party as “The Zealots” indicates the popularity of the ideal of zeal. According to him, the Zealots as a party did not come into existence until the winter of 67-68 C.E. Before that time there had been many individual zealots in Jerusalem.[8]

Smith contends that Zealots and Sicarii are different parties. The latter was founded by Judas of Galilee and he did not name his party as “Zealots”. Josephus calls it “the fourth philosophy”. In the mid-fifties it involved in a series of murders of distinguished individuals. Since these murders were carried on with a dagger called sica, it got the name “Sicarii” (Josephus, Ant. 20.186). The members of this group fled to Masada. The Zealot party consisted of “the representatives of Palestinian, principally Judean, peasant piety, hostile alike to the rich of the city, the upper priesthood of the Temple, and…the foreign rulers.”[9]

c. The Horsley Model: Zealots as Peasant Bandits during the Period of 66-70 C.E. Horsley argues that “Zealots” was a coalition group of peasant bandits, who fled to Jerusalem as Romans swept southward from Galilee in 66 C.E. These peasant bandits carried out attacks on the ruling aristocracy.[10] The reasons for the attacks on the ruling class, according to Horsley, were class conflict and conviction that the ruling aristocracy was a group of traitors. The peasant bandits “challenged and rendered ineffective the government of chief priests and leading Pharisees (including Josephus!), who apparently had been attempting to reach an accommodation with the Romans.”[11] Horsley finds the Zealots to be a recognizable party only during the years of 66-70 C.E. Various terms used by Josephus – fourth philosophy, brigands, Sicarii and Zealots – do not refer to a single party of revolutionaries, but are to be read as designations of various groups and coalitions. Josephus uses the term “Zealots” to refer to a party that did not evolve until the middle of the War of 66-70 C.E.

According to Horsley, “Zealots” is not a unified party of Judaism with a distinctive theology and continuous leadership extending from the Maccabean period to the end of the Second Revolt against Rome. He observes that much of the banditry reported by Josephus was due to economic hardship and heavy Roman taxation, rather than the ideology of religious zeal. He maintains that there is very little evidence that “zeal for the Law” was an important factor in the first century Palestine, let alone as a passion for freedom from alien rule. Zeal for the law was not a collective movement, but an individual feeling about the importance of other Jews’ Torah-observance. This zeal was not directed against foreigners or Roman rulers, but against fellow Jews, who transgressed the law.

Horsley’s downplay of the importance of zeal for God or the Torah is unconvincing in the light of several texts testifying to the role of religious zeal. M.R. Fairchild rebuts Horsley’s view by arguing that there was a tradition of zealous religious ideology having its roots in the times of the Maccabean movement. He further makes an important point regarding the scope of influence of this ideology. As Fairchild notes, “This ideology transcended sectarian boundaries to the degree that the evidence indicates that Essenes, Pharisees and the unaffiliated masses were attracted to it.”[12] In other words, “this (zealot) ideology was not privy to any social class or established religious sect.”[13] Those individuals who followed this tradition of zealotry were extraordinarily zealous for the Torah and ready to use violence to maintain Jewish life in conformity with the law. Their zealous violence was directed against individuals and communities that posed a threat to strict observance of the Torah.

2. Paul as a Zealot

In Gal 1.13-14, 23 (and Phil. 3.5; cf. I Cor. 15.9) the extraordinary zealotry of Paul is related to his persecuting activity of the community(s) of Jesus Christ. However, earlier studies on the persecuting activity of Paul did not always pay much attention to the character and role of his zeal.[14] Some scholars have offered psychological reasoning for Paul’s persecuting activity, claiming that it was a result of purely personal aberration. They contend that it was an external attempt to silence his dissatisfaction with his life under the law and to suppress “all humaner tendencies in the interests of his legal absolutism.”[15] However, this view is no longer in currency. Moreover, the zealot Jewish behavior has precedence in Mattathias, the father of Maccabean movement, and his followers on the model of Phineas.

Echoing the Reformation interpretation of Judaism F.C. Baur argues that Paul’s persecution of the community of Christ has to do with its rejection of the Jewish idea that true religion was a matter of “outward ceremonies”.[16] Baur remarks that Paul understood the gospel as a “refusal to regard religion as a thing bound down to special ordinances and localities.”[17] Bultmann reformulated the Reformation view by stating that the concern at the heart of Paul’s persecution was faith versus works. Paul became a persecutor of believers in Christ because he understood the gospel of the Hellenistic Jewish believers as a message of “God’s condemnation of his Jewish striving after righteousness by fulfilling the works of the law.”[18] Bulmann’s approach was followed by Bornkamm and Schmithals.[19] However, E.P. Sanders strongly refutes the Reformation understanding of Judaism as a religion of works-righteousness by saying that it represents a fundamental misunderstanding of it.[20] According to him, the Torah in Judaism functioned as part of a system, not of legalism but of covenantal nomism.

Martin Hengel, P.H. Menoud, Sayoon Kim, Justin Taylor, and Arland J. Hultgren have seen Christology as the cause of Paul’s persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ. Hengel supposes that the proclamation of the crucified one as the Messiah, who would lead the Jewish nation to salvation, would have been an intolerable offence to someone like Paul who combined nationalist aspirations with zeal for God and his law.[21] For Menoud the heart of Paul’s persecution was that “the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah was not only a contradiction in terms, totally unanticipated in Jewish eschatological expectation, it was categorically prohibited by Deut. 21.22-23.”[22] According to Sayoon Kim, the scandal of the cross could be the proclamation by the followers that Jesus Christ, the cursed one God, is the Messiah.[23] Justin Taylor remarks, “The idea of a ‘crucified Messiah’ remained…paradoxical and might have been unacceptable to many Jews….”[24] Hultgren notes that even though there were several messianic movements before and during the times of Jesus Christ, followers of these movements were not persecuted. He contends that the messianic movement centered on Jesus, however, is different in several reasons. Two of the reasons are its proclamation of a crucified one as the messiah and the inauguration of the new age in Christ.[25]

Martin Goodman sees politics as the reason for the persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ by the diaspora Jews. Goodman argues:

(A)lthough there may well have been all sorts of theological reasons for Jewish hostility to early Christians, theology alone can never explain the risks taken by synagogue authorities in imposing violent discipline on the Christian Jews such as Paul in their midst. In the case of Paul…the political factor which impelled diaspora Jewish leaders to persecute him was the need to live a quiet life untroubled by the hostility of pagan neighbors resentful that a Jew should try to have them away from the ancestral worship on which, in their eyes, their security depended.[26] 

In the above studies Paul’s claim that he was “an extraordinary zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1.14; cf. Phil. 3.6) is not taken seriously. However, in his 1975 article on the call of Paul, Klaus Haacker focused on Paul’s zeal as important for understanding his persecuting activity.[27] According to Haacker Paul’s zeal should not be understood as a psychological category, but as a “pure theological category”. For Paul as a Pharisee, the law was his ruling measure and as a persecutor, the zeal his “obligatory norm, which is a decisive governing principle.”[28] Haaker understands the term “zeal” as referring to a violent religious intolerance rooted in the times of the Maccabean movement. This zeal was directed primarily against Jewish apostates, but not foreigners. He contends that the claim of Paul to be a zealot does not indicate that he was a member of a revolutionary Zealot party, since it is doubtful that such a party ever existed. So Paul’s designation as a zealot denotes that he belonged to a radical wing of Pharisees.

Some scholars assume that references to zeal or zealot in the NT such as Simon the zealot, refer to the Zealot Party. Justin Taylor argues that Paul’s claim to being a “Zealot”, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, should be understood as a reference to his membership in a Zealot party. He suggests that the reason for Paul’s persecution of the community of Jesus Christ was due to “the supposed hostility of a Zealot towards a group which stood apart from the national struggle.”[29] According to Taylor, the Zealots were already opposed to Jesus and his teachings because of his “refusal to ally himself with them, and more generally his preaching of non-violence and even of non-resistance to Roman rule.”[30] Therefore, they considered him to be a “no-less-dangerous quietist, hardly better than a collaborator and a traitor.”[31] Paul’s persecutions were of the same kind as the Zealots’ political struggles. As Taylor notes, “He persecuted the followers of Jesus for the same kinds of reasons that Zealots had to be hostile to Jesus himself, namely that not only did they not take part in the national struggle . . . but they were a threat to it.”[32]

However T.L. Donaldson and M.R. Fairchild disagree with Taylor’s view. They contend:

(Considering) diversity of offenses, the cross-section of literature glorifying zeal, and the variety of individuals and groups to which zealous actions were attributed (eg. Paul the Pharisee was a “zealot”) suggest that the term “zealot” was not a sectarian designation but descriptive of a type of piety which was not limited to one group or sect.[33]

Donaldson and Fairchild argue that the evidence from Josephus indicates that the “Zealots” as an identifiable party did not appear until Roman-Judean War during 66-70 C.E.[34]

Donaldson emphasizes that Paul’s claim of being a zealot does not denote that he belonged to a specific revolutionary party. He contends that a zealot is one who was not only passionate towards observance of the Torah, but also willing to use violence against those who were a threat to the Torah. Donaldson notes, “Zeal was more than just a fervent commitment to the Torah; it denotes a willingness to use violence against any – Jews, Gentiles, or wicked in general – who were contravening, opposing or subverting the Torah.”[35] The reason for persecution of the communities of Jesus Christ by the zealots, according to Donaldson, was the conflict between Jewish sequential understanding of the Torah and Messiah, with the Torah defining the community guaranteed salvation when the Messiah arrives, and the “peculiar already/not yet structure of early Christian messianism.”[36] He explains:

In early Christian proclamation the Messiah had appeared in advance of the full eschatological salvation, and participation in that salvation is dependent on acceptance of this Messiah. In consequence of this, Christ becomes, at least implicitly, another-thus rival-way of drawing the boundary in this age of the community guaranteed of salvation in the age to come.[37]

Fairchild also argues that Paul’s claim of being a zealot does not make him a member of the Zealot party, because there had been zealot ideology that was cultivated over decades from the times of the Maccabees. The zealot ideology transcended the boundaries of the Jewish parties and had adherents not only among the various Jewish parties, but also among the unaffiliated Jewish masses. Zealotry expressed itself in violent actions against those perceived to be a threat to the Torah, such as Paul’s persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ.

Paul claimed that he was perissoterōs zēlōtēs huparchōn tōn patrikōn mou paradoseōn (Gal. 1.14 cf. Phil. 3.6). This terminology is so close to the words of Mattathias, the father of the Maccabean movement, in Josephus’ Antiquities 12.271: ei tis zēlōtēs estin tōn patriōn ethnōn. LXX records these words in I Maccabees 2.27 differently and uses the verbal form of the word for zealot: pas ho zēlōn tō nomō kai histōn diathēkēn. Josephus changes the participle zēlōn into the noun form. This change is significant in view of Josephus’ consistent concealment of past Zealot history.[38] The pivotal demonstration of zealous piety, which inaugurated the Maccabean movement, may have become a pattern of pious action for the future.[39] This implies that Paul was a follower of zealot tradition. He aligned himself with his predecessors of venerable individual zealots.[40] This does not, however, make him a member of the Zealot party.[41] But Paul, being zealous for the Torah, saw himself as acting out the model of Phineas, even to the extent of using violence against those perceived to be a threat to the Torah. Thus he became a persecutor of the community(s) of Jesus Christ.[42] Paul’s zealotry resembles that of Mattathias. The zealotry of Mattathias was first, zeal for the purity of the ancestral tradition, and second, zeal that drove him to use violence against those considered to be apostates and posed a threat to these traditions.[43] In Gal. 1.13-14 Paul mentions the same concerns: zeal for the ancestral traditions and violent action against those considered to be posing a threat to these traditions. By turning into a threat to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities, the communities of Jesus Christ have become a threat to the Jewish freedom of patterning their lives according to the zealotic interpretation of the Torah, a privilege the Jews were enjoying in the Roman empire.

 

 

3. Paul as a Persecutor

In the NT diōkō is used in the sense of “pursue” (Phil. 3.12,14; Lk. 17.23), “follow” (Rom. 9.30, 31, 12.13), and “persecute” (Mt. 5.10,11,12,44). Therefore, the context becomes important in determining the meaning of diōkō

In Gal. 1.13 Paul testifies about his conduct in Judaism. His use of the term Ioudaismos is very significant. In the NT this term is used only in Gal. 1.13,14. Ioudaismos came into currency with II Maccabees, where it was used to distinguish those who were faithful to the Jewish way of life from those “adopting foreign ways” (II Macc. 2.21, 8.1, 14.38). According to Dunn, Judaism is “a description of the religion of Jews, only emerged in the Maccabean revolt…in reaction to those who attempted to eliminate its distinctiveness (as expressed particularly in its sacrificial system, its feasts, circumcision and food laws – II Macc.vi).”[44] Thus, the religion represented by Ioudaismos is a religion based on the zealotic interpretation of the law. Paul followed the same kind of Jewish religion that demanded exclusionistic way of life expressed primarily by the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals. This is confirmed not only by the description of Paul’s way of life in Judaism in Gal. 1.13-14 (the clause beginning with o[ti describes his life in Judaism),[45] but also the usage of cognate expressions Ioudaikōs zēs and Ioudaizein in the context of the controversy over the dietary laws in Antioch (Gal. 2.14). These cognate words are found only in Galatians. Raisanen aptly comments that “the word (Ioudaismos) carries connotations which hint at those practices which separated Jew from Gentile.”[46] Moreover, the word anastrophē (“way of life”) occurs only in Galatians among the undisputed letters of Paul. Significantly this term also occurs in II Maccabees 6.23 (and Tobit 4.14) in the context where the Jewish way of life was seriously threatened. 

Paul explains his way of life in Judaism by two interrelated clauses in Gal. 1.13-14. The first one is kath’ huperbolēn ediōkon tēv ekklēsian tou theou kai eporthoun autēn (Gal. 1.13). It is significant that the word diōkō is used in I Maccabees to describe the Maccabees’ pursuit of “the sons of arrogance” and the “lawless” (I Macc. 2.47, 3.5). Paul uses the verb diōkō not only in describing his own persecuting activity (Gal. 1.13-23; cf. I Cor. 15.9; Phil. 3.6), but also the persecution he himself suffered (Gal. 4.29, 5.11, 6.12; cf. I Cor. 4.12; II Cor. 4.9). The persecuting activity of Paul, before his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son, is recorded not only in Paul’s letters but also in Acts (I Cor. 15.9; Gal. 1.13, 23; Phil. 3.6; Acts 8.1-3, 9.1-2, 22.4-5, 26.9-11). The verb diōkō is modified by the adverbial phrase kath’ huperbolēn, which means “beyond measure”, “excessively”, and “intensely” (Gal. 1.13). Hultgren argues that kath’ huperbolēn denotes intensity of Paul’s zeal, rather than intensity of his violence. So he translates Gal. 1.13: “I persecuted the church of God to the utmost.”[47] However, Paul’s usage of portheō together with diōkō in Gal. 1.13, 23 provides an interpretation of the adverbial phrase whether it denotes the intensity of Paul’s zeal or his violence.

Paul also uses the verb portheō to describe his way of life. This term occurs only in Gal. 1.13, 23 (and Acts 9.21) in reference to Paul’s activity towards the community(s) of Jesus Christ. P.H. Menoud argues that because Paul was never accused of murder, portheō here refers to the destruction of faith (Gal. 1.23), rather than physical destruction.[48] Hultgren too contends that the verb portheō does not have violent connotation and so it simply means that Paul tried to put an end to Christian faith, or Christian church.[49] However, the zealot context in which portheō is used implies the meaning of physical violence. Here portheō is used in the sense of “devastate” or “destroy” cities.[50] This verb is directly associated with diōkō both in Gal. 1.13 and 1.23.  It is used in imperfect in Gal. 1.13 and 1.23, whereas diōkō is used in imperfect in the former and in present participle in the latter. It is difficult to decide whether the conjunction kai is used paratactically or explicatively in Gal. 1.13 as both verbs are in imperfect.[51] Seland takes it as explicative and so understands persecutions consisting of portheō,[52] whereas Betz sees the latter as the goal or purpose of the former.[53] What is evident is the intensity of Paul’s violent activity beyond trying to destroy “the faith”. The imperfect verbs ediōkon and eporthoun with their connotation of repeated action highlight this violent persecuting activity. Paul does not need to exaggerate his violent activity, because the communities of Jesus Christ knew about it (Gal. 1.23). Ho diōkon in Gal. 1.23 indicates an established way of referring to Paul among the communities of Jesus Christ.[54] Therefore, the violent zealotic nature of Paul’s persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ in the model of Phineas and rooted very much in the Maccabean movement is evident.

The second clause that describes Paul’s way of life in Judaism affirms what the first clause explains: proekopton en tō Ioudaismō huper pollous suvēlikiōtas en tō genei mou, perissoterōs zēlōtēs huarchōn tōn patrikōn mou paradoseōn. Paul’s sense of superiority with regards to his progress in Judaism, based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah, is expressed by his usage of the preposition huper. This sense of superiority is based on his “being an extraordinary zealot for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1.14). Zealotry for the ancestral traditions, the Torah, and God would not have been perceived differently (cf. Gal. 1.14; Acts 21.20, 22.3; Josephus Ant 12.271). It was this extreme zealotry for the ancestral traditions of the law that had prompted Paul to use violence against those perceived to be a threat to the social order based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law.

Considering Paul’s activities as a persecutor in the mould of Mattathias and the Maccabees with Phineas as their model, leads to a conclusion that such a behavior stemmed from his zealotic interpretation of the Torah. Such an interpretation of the Torah demanded exclusionism expressed by the Jewish distinctive rituals that formed walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Maccabean crisis had promoted a few rituals such as circumcision and dietary laws, as key elements of law observance or boundary markers of God’s covenant community. These rituals remained central even in the time of Paul as the boundary markers between those who belonged to God’s covenant community and those who were outside this community. Any community that tried to remove the walls of separation was considered to be posing a threat to the Torah, the constitution of the Jewish communities. Donaldson comments, “Persecution arises not because a group holds ideas at variance with the norm, but because it does so in ways that threaten social cohesion.”[55] Paul saw the community(s) of Jesus Christ as representing such a threat. This is implied in Gal.5.11-12, where Paul says that the cross of Christ has become a “scandal” to the Jews (cf. Gal. 6.12; I Cor. 1.23). The scandal of the cross for the Jews is that it has annulled the Jewish distinctive rituals in the communities of Jesus Christ, thus removing the walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles (Gal. 5.11). This results in upsetting the social order that has been constructed on the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. In order to maintain social order based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law, it demands “good violence” against the “bad violence”, which is the cause of social disorder. The cross by demolishing the ritual barriers around the Jewish community and thus bringing together the Jews and the Gentiles, those who were excluded by the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, has given zealous Jews the motivation to engage in scapegoat mechanism, to maintain social order based on the zealotic interpretation of the Torah. Since in a zealot context faith in God is understood in terms of zealous action for God or the law, it is linked to sacred violence. It is a violent action against apostates to maintain conformity to a pattern of life according to the law, and thus preserve unity and order of the community. The unanimity of the members of Judaism in directing their violence against apostates is required to maintain the system of sacred violence. All cooperate mimetically in directing their violence against the victims. Those who withhold consent and cooperation in this conspiracy against victims are a threat to the very foundation of the sacrificial structure of Judaism. When Paul confessed that as a zealot, he was violently persecuting the community(s) of God and was trying to destroy it, he was, in fact, confessing that he used sacred violence against apostates to preserve the pattern of life according to the law, the constitution of the Jewish communities. In other words, by guarding the constitution of the Jewish communities, he was protecting their freedom to live according to the zealotic interpretation of the law.

B. Paul’s Conversion-Call and God’s Revelation of God’s Son

Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is recorded not only in Galatians (Gal. 1.11-17), but also in Acts (9.1-19, 22.4-16, 26.9-19). There are different views surrounding this experience. Some scholars insist that it is inappropriate to call this experience “conversion”. Krister Stendahl argues that the emphasis in the autobiographical account is on Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles, rather than on his “conversion”. In his essay “Paul among Jews and Gentiles” Stendahl argues that Paul, by echoing the language of Isaiah and Jeremiah, describes his experience as a call, similar to that of the prophets. The same God whom Paul had been serving since birth has now given him a new task. This task is, through the risen Messiah, God “asks him as a Jew to bring God’s message to the Gentiles.”[56] Though Stendahl does not deny the fact that Paul’s experience on the Damascus road has resulted in a striking shift in his perspective, he rejects the description of this experience as “conversion”, because Paul did not change from one religion to another.[57] However, Stendahl’s “call rather than conversion” formulation is an overstatement, because the term “conversion” properly understood can be appropriately applied to Paul.

There are many scholars who consider Paul’s experience as “conversion”. They have offered several proposals to explain Paul’s conversion. It is interpreted in terms of the psychological struggle with the Torah, and a result of his long struggle with the law in which he was dejected of ever achieving the righteousness it demands.[58] J.S. Stewart describes how “Paul’s growing sense of the failure of Judaism” gave way to the sudden conviction “that he had found the truth for which all men everywhere were seeking.”[59] However, Paul nowhere in his letters gives a hint of going through a period of dissatisfaction or mental turmoil. He rather testifies about his extraordinary zealotry for the Torah. The only thing that can be understood from his testimony is that his conversion was sudden and unexpected, and was a result of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son. Some other scholars understood Paul’s conversion in terms of his reaction to the scriptural apologetic and steadfastness under persecution of the community(s) of Jesus Christ.[60] Some argue that Paul through his experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ realized that Jesus Christ was the Messiah. Further he understood that since Messiah had come, the law ceases.[61] E.P. Sanders contends that Paul on the road to Damascus was convinced that God had provided in Christ a universal means of salvation both for the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul’s rejection of the Torah as a means of salvation is a consequence of his new conviction: if the salvation is through Christ, then it is not through the law.[62]  Donaldson sees the resurrection of Jesus Christ as the demonstration of God’s provision of universal salvation in Christ. Therefore, if salvation is through Christ, then it does not come through the Torah.[63] Heikki Raisanen proposed a different view of Paul’s conversion. For him, Paul was converted from a rigid Jewish religion to Hellenistic Jewish Christianity and adopted its less rigid attitude towards the Torah, particularly the ritual and cultic aspects.[64] F.F. Bruce maintains that for Paul who considered the proclamation of a crucified one as the Messiah as blasphemous, the experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ is a “conversion” experience. He further says that this conversion was both an external and an internal event. It was an objective revelation of the risen Christ as well as an overwhelming inward experience. Bruce takes seriously the change in Paul from persecutor to apostle.

There are also diverse views regarding the connection between Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of God’s son and his gospel. Concerning the essentials of Paul’s gospel, Raisanen proposes developmental hypothesis. Paula Fredriksen argues that the autobiographical conversion report of Paul tells more about his state of mind at the time of reporting than at the time of conversion.[65] However, these views can not be sustained in view of Paul’s polemic against the teachers of the “other gospel” that the essentials of the gospel he preaches remain same from the beginning (cf. Gal. 1.17, 5.11). Otherwise Paul would have faced criticism from his opponents, had he preached a different gospel at the beginning of his ministry. That means, Paul’s view of the Torah and the essential content of his gospel are the result of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son on the road to Damascus. Bruce rightly sees the connection between Paul’s experience and his theology. He supposes that although Paul’s doctrine of justification by faith was not developed fully at that time, it too was implicit in the conversion.[66] However, the weakness of Bruce’s analysis is that he relies more on the secondary source, the Acts, instead of Paul’s letters. Developing on his mentor’s view Seyoon Kim finds Paul’s conversion as the source of his thought.[67]

It is important to refer to Paul’s account of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son to see a connection between his conversion and his gospel. Paul claims that his gospel is not “of human origin” but “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.11-12). Apocalypsis and its verbal form apokalyptein in Paul’s letters refer most often to the eschaton and linked to God’s action in the end time (I Cor. 1.7, 3.13; Gal. 3.23).[68] Therefore, Paul’s reference to “revelation” in Gal. 1.11-12 and 1.16 underlines the eschatological significance of the experience. This revelation is “of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1.12), which may be taken either as subjective genitive (revelation from Jesus Christ) or objective genitive (revelation about Jesus Christ). In the light of Gal. 1.16 which refers to God’s revelation of God’s son, “revelation of Jesus Christ” should be understood as objective genitive. It implies that the content of the gospel is Jesus Christ, who was revealed. What is striking is that in the following verses (Gal. 1.13-14) Paul, instead of explaining the revelation, first describes his former way of life in Judaism (notice the usage of the temporal particle pote). This implies that the information about his former way of life in Judaism has significance in the context of Paul’s experience of God’s revelation of the risen Christ. After explaining his extraordinary zealotic way of life based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah, expressed in the exclusion of the Gentiles, Paul returns to the apokalypsis (Gal. 1.15-16). In order to express the transition due to the impact of his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son in not only putting an end to his former way of life in Judaism, but also starting a new life and vocation, Paul uses the temporal phrase hote de. Through this Paul is indicating a sharp contrast between the two periods of his life.[69]

In Gal. 1.15-16 Paul describes the action of God and the purpose of that action. Paul says that God revealed the son en emoi. En emoi may be translated atleast in three ways: 1. “in me”, referring to internal, subjective experience; 2. “to me”, referring to external, objective experience of the risen Christ; and 3. “through me”, referring to his call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Paul elsewhere describes his Damascus road experience in terms of “seeing” Christ, or Christ “appearing” to him (I Cor. 9.1, 15.8; cf. II Cor. 4.6). In Gal. 1.16 Paul describes it in terms of God “revealing the son”. The subject here is God. God is disclosing the reality that has been hidden. What has been concealed is the scapegoat mechanism that is generated by the zealotic way of life in Judaism. The power of this mechanism lies in its deception and concealment. On the one hand, it deceives by depicting God as the one who is demanding “sacrificial victims”, and thus, portraying violence against victims as a sacred act. On the other hand, it conceals the plight of innocent “sacrificial victims” and transforms violence against victims as a sacred violence. The content of God’s revelation is God’s son, the victim of the curse of the law (Gal. 3.13). Through this God is revealing not only his rejection of the law (the law on which Paul’s zealotic way of life was based) that crucified Christ, but also God’s vindication of the victim of the curse of the law. Paul says that God has revealed this en emoi. Beverly Gaventa argues for a meaning of “to me” based on parallel usage en tois ethnesin (Gal. 1.16).[70] It is an encounter between the cursed one of the law and the persecutor inspired by his zeal for the law. This encounter of Paul with Jesus the crucified and cursed by the law (Gal. 3.13), but raised by God (Gal. 1.1), brought forth a realization that the one cursed by the law is vindicated by God. By vindicating the cursed one of the law, God has revealed to Paul that the cursed one of the law (that is, the exclusionistic understanding of the law) is not cursed one of God. Paul reiterates this in Gal. 2.19: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.” That means, the way of life expressed in strict adherence to the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and special days, and thus excluding the Gentiles, is not equivalent to living for God.

Paul draws on prophetic imagery in Gal. 1.16-17 (cf. Isaiah 49.1; Jeremiah 1.5) to “convey the radical impact of the revelation.”[71] Even though Paul’s language here echoes the call of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, and implies that he views himself as standing in the prophetic tradition, it does not mean what has happened to Paul may be considered simply as his call. Though Paul’s call and commission are included in this experience, his experience of God’s revelation of God’s son is not limited to these. His experience has called into question his zealotic understanding of the law and the way of life patterned according to such an understanding. When Paul experienced God’s revelation of the risen Christ, the victim of the “curse of the law”, he realized the problem of Judaism to which he belonged. This problem of Judaism is the exclusionism expressed in its distinctive rituals. Paul realized that it is the way of life in Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law that has led to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom God has vindicated. In other words, the law that has excluded the Gentiles is the same law that caused the crucifixion of God’s son. And God is rejecting the way of life based on the law. Paul understood how the law was (mis)used in Judaism to serve violence, which was expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, persecution of those considered to be apostates, and exclusion of the Gentiles.[72] Thus, the revelation of Jesus Christ has exposed what has been concealed in Judaism, to which Paul belonged. That is, Judaism is a sacrificial structure of sacred violence.[73] Paul realized the law and the community that patterned its life according to this law as a system of sacred violence. This realization made a radical impact on Paul’s life and disrupted his way of life in Judaism. Paul’s cosmos has been shattered (cf. Gal. 6.14). This has resulted in his transfer from Judaism based on exclusionistic understanding of the law, to the community of the new creation, where circumcision and uncircumcision are no longer significant (Gal. 6.15).[74] The contrast between these two worlds is expressed by the conjugation de (Gal. 1.15). Charles Cousar comments, “God’s revealing of the son to Paul not only involved a radical assault on his previous life, but also that assault was part of God’s world-changing activity, the bringing of new creation.”[75]

God’s revelation of God’s son has a purpose: “that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles” (Gal. 1.16). It implies that the conversion and the call of Paul belong to a single event. Interestingly the content of God’s revelation that disrupted Paul’s way of life in Judaism and the content of the message that Paul was asked to proclaim are same. It is Jesus Christ, the victim of the curse of the law. It is also significant that Paul was commissioned to preach this message to the Gentiles, who are also victims of the Torah (Gal. 1.16; cf. Is. 49.1-6; Jer. 1.5).[76] Paul understands his commissioning from that very moment of his experience of the revelation of the son as having Gentiles in view. This conviction is integral part of his experience on the Damascus road. It did not come to Paul later or grown over a period, as some have argued.[77] Christiaan Beker comments that “Paul’s conversion experience is not the entrance to his thought.”[78] However, Paul claims that he already had a well formed conviction before he first met other apostles (Gal. 1.16-17), and asserts its divine origin (Gal. 1.1, 11-12).

Thus, Paul mentions his conversion-call experience in contrast to his persecuting zeal for the ancestral traditions in the context of Galatian controversy in order to affirm that the way of life patterned according to the law (that is, the exclusionistic understanding of the law) and that according to the gospel of Jesus Christ are mutually exclusive.[79] His experience of God’s revelation of God’s son disclosed that the death of Jesus Christ was the result of sacred violence. Paul realized that it was the same sacred violence expressed in exclusion of the Gentiles. This realization has resulted in his transfer from Judaism, the system of sacred violence, to a community of Jesus Christ, the victim of sacred violence. Paul was commissioned to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is, God’s disclosure of Judaism as the system of sacred violence, which is expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and exclusion of the Gentiles, and the vindication of the victim of the sacred violence. The conversion-call experience of Paul has a direct implication on or become a threat to the self-understanding of Jewish Christians (and Jews) as the covenant people of God, and their zealotic way of life in Judaism. It poses a threat to the Jewish social order and freedom to live according to that order. This led Paul, in his former life in Judaism, to persecute the community(s) of Jesus Christ. This has also led the Jewish community, to which Paul once belonged, to persecute Paul and the members of the community(s) of Jesus Christ.

 

 


[1] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 66.

[2] Justin Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity, ed. by Graham N. Stanton and Guy G. Stroumsa (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 105.

[3] Read Hengel, The Zealots; and The Pre-Christian Paul (London: 1991).

[4] Lester L. Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period: Belief and Practice from the Exile to Yavneh (New York: Routledge, 2000), pp. 287-288.

[5] Grabbe, Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period, p. 287. Shaye J.D. Cohen too considers that the Zealots are a separate group. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, pp. 164-166.

[6] Morton Smith, “Zealots and Sicarii: Their Origins and Relation,” in HTR 64/1 (January 1971), p. 18.

[7] Smith, “Zealots and Sicarii,” p. 3.

[8] Smith, “Zealots and Sicarii,” p. 16.

[9] Smith, “Zealots and Sicarii,” p. 19.

[10] Horsley and John S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs, p. 224.

[11] Horsley and John S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs, p. 217.

[12] Mark R. Fairchild, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Zealot Associations: A Re-Examination of Gal. 1.14 and Acts 22.3,” in NTS 45 (1999), p. 526.

[13] Fairchild, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Zealot Associations,” p. 524.

[14] Torrey Seland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism: Reading Gal. 1.13-14 in Light of Philo’s Writings,” in Biblica 83 (2002), p. 453.

[15] C.H. Dodd, “The Mind of Paul: A Psychological Approach,” in BJRL 17/1 (1933), pp. 12-13; “The Mind of Paul: Change and Development,” in BJRL 18/1 (1934), p. 36.

[16] F.C. Baur, Paul: Apostle of Jesus Christ (London: Williams & Norgate, 1876), I. 57.

[17] F.C. Baur, The Church History of the First Three Centuries (London: Williams & Norgate, 1878), I. 46.

[18] Rudolph Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament, I. 187-188.

[19] Gunther Bornkamm, Paul (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1971), pp. 14-15; Walter Schmithals, Paul and James, tr. by D.M. Barton (Naperville, Ill: A.R. Allenson, 1965), pp. 21-28.

[20] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism; and Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People.

[21] Hengel, Pre- Christian Paul, p. 83; Hengel, The Atonement: The Origins of the Doctrine in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1981), p. 40.

[22] P.H. Menoud, “Revelation and Tradition: The Influence of Paul’s Conversion on His Theology,” in Interpretation 7/2 (April 1953), p. 133.

[23] Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel, p. 47.

[24] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 112.

[25] Hultgren, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Persecutions of the Church,” p. 110.

[26] Martin Goodman, Judaism in the Roman World: Collected Essays (Leiden: Brill, 2007), p. 152.

[27] K. Haacker, “Die Berufung des Verfolgers und die Rechtfertigung des Gottlosen,” in ThBeit 6 (1975), pp. 1-19.

[28] Haacker, “Die Berufung,” p. 8.

[29] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 112.

[30] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 108.

[31] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 108.

[32] Taylor, “Why Did Paul Persecute the Church?” p. 110.

[33] Rhoads, “Zealots,” VI. 1045.

[34] Rhoads, “Zealots,” VI. 1045.

[35] Terence L. Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert: The Origin of Paul’s Christ-Torah Antithesis,” in CBQ 51/4 (October 1989), p. 673.

[36] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert” p. 679.

[37] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert” p. 679.

[38] Hengel, Zealots, p. 155; E.P. Sanders, Practice and Belief 63 BCE – 66 CE (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992), p. 409.

[39] Fairchild, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Zealot Associations,” p. 522.

[40] Seland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism,” p. 466.

[41] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert,” p. 673.

[42] Hengel, The Pre-Christian Paul, pp. 70-71; J. Dupont, “The Conversion of Paul, and Its Influence on His Understanding of Salvation by Faith,” in Apostolic History and the Gospel, ed. by W.W. Gasque and  Ralph P. Martin (Exeter: 1970), pp. 183-87; N.T. Wright, “Paul, Arabia, and Elijah (Galatians 1:17),” in JBL 115 (1996), p. 686.

[43] Fairchild, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Zealot Associations,” p. 527.

[44] Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 56.

[45] Betz, Galatians, p. 67.

[46] Heikki Raisanen, Jesus, Paul and Torah: Collected Essays, tr. by David E. Orton (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), p. 23.

[47] Hultgren, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Persecutions of the Church,” p. 110.

[48] Philippe H. Menoud, Jesus Christ and the Faith: A Collection of Studies, tr. by Eunice M. Paul (Pittsburg: Pickwick Press, 1978), pp. 47- 60.

[49] Hultgren, “Paul’s Pre-Christian Persecutions of the Church,” p. 110.

[50] Longenecker, Galatians, p. 28.

[51] Seland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism,” p. 468.

[52] Seland, “Saul of Tarsus and Early Zealotism,” p. 468.

[53] Betz, Galatians, p. 67.

[54] Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, p. 83.

[55] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert,” p. 671.

[56] Krister Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), p. 7.

[57] Stendahl, Paul among Jews and Gentiles, pp. 7-23.

[58] A. Deissmann, St. Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1912), pp. 93-98, 122; C.H. Dodd, The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1932), p. 115; J.S. Stewart, A Man in Christ (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1935), pp 83-88; J.C. Beker, Paul the Apostle (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), pp. 24-243.

[59] Stewart, A Man in Christ, pp. 119, 141.

[60] O. Pfleiderer, Paulinism (London: Williams & Norgate, 1891), I. 3-13; J. Klausner, From Jesus to Paul (New York: Macmillan, 1943), pp. 312-329.

[61] W.D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (London: SPCK, 1948), pp. 16, 71-73; Schoeps, Paul, pp. 88, 171-73; Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (New York: Seabury, 1968), pp. 188-93, 198.

[62] Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism; and Paul, the Law and the Jewish People. 

[63] Donaldson, “Zealot and Convert,” p. 680.

[64] Raisanen, Paul and the Law, pp. 231-236.

[65] Paula Fredriksen, “Paul and Augustine: Conversion Narratives, Orthodox Traditions, and the Retrospective Self,” in JTS 37 (1986), pp. 3-34.

[66] F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1977), pp. 69-75, 87, 188.

[67] Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel.

[68] Beverly Roberts Gaventa, From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986), p. 23.

[69] Martyn, Galatians, p. 163.

[70] Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, p. 28.

[71] Gaventa, From Darkness to Light, p. 28.

[72] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 7.

[73] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 7.

[74] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 7.

[75] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 32.

[76] The prophetic call-stories from which the vocabulary here derived, also contain the phrase “to the nations”.

[77] Dupont, “The Conversion of Paul”; J.G. Gager, “Some Notes on Paul’s Conversion,” in NTS 27 (1981).

[78] Beker, Paul the Apostle, p. 10.

[79] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law, p. 92.

Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

September 26, 2009

Chapter IV

Freedom, the Death of Jesus Christ and the Law

           

 A. Freedom and the Death of Jesus Christ 

In Galatians Paul links freedom and the death of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1.4, 2.4, 3.13, 4.5, 5.1). He uses three terms, exaireō, eleutheria/eleutheroō and exagorazō, to express the freedom that has been achieved through the Christ event. The importance of freedom through the Christ event, for Paul, is evident by the prescript of this letter. The prescript of Galatians is unique compared to Paul’s other undisputed letters. In the latter it ends with greetings, whereas in Galatians it is extended by an addition of statement on the significance of the death of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1.4-5). In Gal. 1.4a Paul quotes an early Church confession: “(Jesus Christ) gave himself for our sins,” (cf. I Cor 15.3). This is confirmed by the use of plural form of “sin” rather than Paul’s customary usage of singular form. Plural form of sin in Paul’s undisputed letters is found either in the quotation of the early church confession (I Cor. 15.3, Gal. 1.4) or in the wider context of the quotation (I Cor. 15.17). Paul never becomes preoccupied with this or that deed as violation of a commandment. He, rather, focuses on sin as intrusion into God’s world, a ruthless power that exercises dominion over people and enslaves them (Gal. 3.22 cf. Rom 5:20; 6:6, 20; 7:14). For Paul, sin is preeminently a power of the present age.

Most probably Galatian believers are aware of the early church confession and that is why Paul has used it in Galatians 1.4a. However, the purpose clause (hopōs) provides Paul’s interpretation of this confession: “to set us free from the present evil age” (Gal. 1.4b). The root problem lies not in our sins, but in the present evil age. Because the present evil age has strength to enslave all. That is why the salvific verb is not “forgive”[1] but exaireō. The verb exaireō is used only in Galatians. This verb is employed frequently in LXX in the sense of “rescue, deliver from”, particularly as an act of deliverance from enemies and troubles (“rescue from the hand of”). In Galatians it corresponds to another verb exagorazō, which Paul uses at key points to express the significance of Jesus’ death (Gal. 3.13, 4.5). Thus, the death of Jesus Christ is understood to have effected freedom. Note that the salvific verbs are in aorist tense. That means, the freedom effected by the Christ event has already taken place, rather than merely a future one. Paul says that this freedom is from the present evil age.

The usage of the unique eschatological expression “the present evil age” in Galatians gives an eschatological frame of reference. For Paul, the present age is understood as a cosmic realm characterized by enslavement. This is made clear by Paul’s use of the verb exaireō. The reference to the present age reflects his assumption of eschatological dualism. From the writings and traditions of Paul’s time, it is evident that a concept of two ages was prevalent. Though Paul speaks about the present age (I Cor. 1.2, 2.6, 3.18; II Cor. 4.4), he never speaks literally of the age to come. However, in Paul’s letters the opposite of the present age is the new creation (II Cor. 5.17; Gal. 6.15). The distinctive conclusion of the letter to the Galatians makes clear how central for Paul’s argument is the death of Christ as a decisive event in ushering the new creation. For Paul, the turn of ages has been realized in the Christ event. It is no longer solely a future event. Freedom from the present evil age into the new creation has been achieved by the death of Jesus Christ. It is interesting to see that the letter opens with a statement on the significance of the death of Jesus Christ in effecting freedom from the present evil age and closes with a statement on the significance of the death of Jesus Christ in effecting freedom into the new creation. In the main body of the letter Paul argues about the nature and significance of the death of Jesus Christ, the powers of the present evil age, and the nature of the freedom achieved through the Christ event.

B. The Death of Jesus Christ and the Scapegoat

The death of Jesus Christ plays a crucial role in Galatians (Gal. 1.4, 2.20, 21, 3.1, 13, 6.14). Paul deals with the issue of the significance of the death of Jesus Christ not as an issue in and of itself, because it never arose as a contested matter in Pauline communities. For Paul it is an essential part of the gospel of freedom he preached. Thus, the significance of Jesus’ death becomes an important issue in his polemical argument against those who preached a gospel contrary to his.

In Galatians the significance of the death of Jesus appears in two forms. The first is the huper formula (Gal. 1.4, 2.20, 3.13) and the second depicts God “sending” God’s son “in order to redeem those who were under the law” (Gal. 4.5). In Paul’s undisputed letters there are statements of Jesus’ death “for us” (1 Thess 5:10), “for our sins” (1 Cor 15:3), and “for all” (II Cor 5:14). In these the key is the preposition huper. The origin of the huper formula may be traced to the early church confession as I Cor. 15.3 (cf. Gal. 1.4) demonstrates. Yet frequent occurrences of this formula in Paul’s letters show that this has become a part of his proclamation of the gospel of freedom.[2] The preposition huper has generated much debate as to whether it renders “instead of” (implying substitution) or “on behalf of” (or “for the benefit of”). Taking the former meaning huper in connection with the death of Jesus Christ is generally understood in sacrificial terms.[3] However, one should not read Christ hanging on the cross as a Jewish Christian midrash based on the Aqedah Isaac (Gen. 22).[4] Hamerton-Kelly gives reason why Jesus death on the cross should not be based on the Aqedah Isaac. He contends, “Isaac is not said to be “given,” (or “sent”) that he did not die, and that had he died, his death would have been on an altar and not on a cross. Furthermore, his death would not have been “for” anyone.”[5] Whereas Paul emphasizes that Christ’s death is “for me” (Gal. 2.20) or “for us” (Gal. 3.13). Dahl admits that the typology of Gen. 22 equates Jesus and the ram, rather than Jesus and Isaac.[6]  

When huper is used in connection with Jesus’ death, it carries the notion of “on behalf of”. The idea of one party replacing for another is evident in Gal. 2.20 and 3.13.[7] The imagery is not sacrifice but ransom. However, ransom here is not to be understood as explained by the Ransom theory. According to the Ransom theory, the death of Jesus Christ is described as the ransom price paid to Satan in exchange for freeing the sinful humankind from the bondage of Satan. Paul is not using the image of ransom in that sense, but as one purchasing freedom by taking the place of the other in order to transfer the other from one realm to another.[8] He describes the nature of the redemptive purchase in Gal. 3.23-4.7 that prior to the coming of Christ “we were imprisoned and guarded under the law” and “enslaved to the elements of the world”, and “God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children.” Paul’s use of the verb exagorazō in Gal. 4.5 suggests purchase of freedom by means of a payment.[9] McLean observes, “The unprefixed form agorazein (derived from agora) means literally ‘to buy’ in a commercial sense.”[10] The term exagorazō in Gal. 3.13 and 4.5 refers to purchasing freedom for those who are enslaved by the law. The analogy of redemption of slaves by paying a ransom delineates the redemptive significance of the death of Jesus Christ. In the secular realm redemption of slaves always involved payment of a ransom and as a result of this slaves were transferred from the realm of enslavement to the realm of freedom. Because Paul in Gal. 4.3-4 associated slavery with being under the law and then presented God’s Son as redeeming those under the law, it is certain that exagorazō means more specifically to free a slave through paying a ransom in order to transfer the enslaved person from the realm of enslavement to the realm of freedom (cf. I Cor. 6.19-20). Here the analogy of redemption of slaves should not be pressed too far in the case of the significance of Jesus’ death. Paul is simply using the language of contemporary slave market to emphasize the fact that believers of Jesus Christ are now transferred from the realm of enslavement to the realm of freedom.

The second formula that Paul employs in Gal. 4.4-5 is the “sending formula”. The structure of this formula consists of four parts: 1. God as the subject; 2. son as the direct object; 3. verb in the aorist tense (exapesteilen); 4. the purpose of God’s act as redemptive (hina tous hupo nomon exagorasē).[11] Hultgren notes that the “sending formula” is not only longer and more detailed than the huper formula, but also contains more Pauline content.[12] Moreover, in this formula redemptive significance of the sending is made explicit: God sent God’s son “in order to redeem those who were under the law”.[13] Therefore, the “sending formula” used in Gal. 4.4-5 facilitates the understanding of the nature and significance of the death of Jesus Christ in Paul’s argument in Galatians.

Daniel Schwartz argues that the imagery behind Jesus’ death is the image of a scapegoat. He contends that Gal. 3.13 should be interpreted in terms of Gal. 4.4-5 as there are similarities between these two passages: common verb exagorazō and common structure (a statement of fact followed by two purpose clauses). Schwartz says that the imagery behind Gal. 4.4-5 is the image of a scapegoat.[14] Paul uses exapostellō in Gal. 4.4 for God sending Christ. Gal. 4.5 gives the purpose of God sending God’s Son: hina tous hupo nomon exagorasē. Hatch and Redpath indicate that the verb exapostellō in LXX represents the Hebrew slh (piel).[15] It is noticed that only in Leviticus 14 and 16 slh has the sense of sending forth x in order to redeem y, similar to Gal. 4.4-5. In Lev. 14 a priest, in order to “cleanse” the one who was healed of leprous decease, sends forth a living bird into an open field, after transferring the impurities to it. Lev. 16 talks about the scapegoat ritual on the Day of Atonement. A goat selected by lot for Azazel (originally a desert demon, but later in the mishnaic tractate Yoma identified it as a place) was brought forward. The high priest with both his hands on the head of the goat, signifying transfer of sins of people, confessed the sins of people over it. Then the goat was escorted into the desert (Lev. 16.5, 20-22). Commenting on the essence of the Scapegoat ritual, Philo says that the goat “was sent out into a pathless and inaccessible desolate place carrying on himself the curses of those who had committed offenses” (Philo, Spec Leg, I.188). LXX slightly hightens the sin-bearing function of the goat by adding “on itself”: “It shall bear on itself all their inequities” (LXX Lev. 16.22). Thus, the goat was a cursed one and was driven out into the realm of the desert demon, carrying the sins of the community.[16] The effectiveness of the ritual was the idea that the sins of the community, which poison relations among members of the community, were expelled with the goat from the community. People participating in this ritual did not recognize a phenomenon of “mob” violence against an innocent victim, but they only observed its reconciling results and appreciated them so much that they continued this ritual without feeling guilty of their violence against the scapegoat.

On the basis of the scapegoat ritual Schwartz argues that the usage of exapostellō with exagorazō in Gal. 4.4-5 has the connotation of a scapegoat. One difference between the scapegoat ritual in Leviticus and that in Galatians is that in Leviticus scapegoat is sent out from the sacred precincts, whereas Christ was sent into it (“born under the law” Gal. 4.4).[17] The realm that Christ enters is the realm of the law, or precisely the realm of the law interpreted in terms of the “works of the law” (cf. Gal. 3.10). Christ entered the realm of the law in order to expose the sacred violence that is active in this realm and to effect freedom for “us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3.13) or for those who are “under the law” (Gal. 4.5). In Gal. 3.13 the redemptive death of Christ is depicted as curse-bearing. Christ as the scapegoat takes on himself “the curse of the law” on behalf of “us” “in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” (Gal. 3.13-14). T.H. Gaster argues that the action of Jesus Christ is representative, not substitutional as understood by scholars who followed the framework of the atonement theory of Substitution. He notes that the confession over the scapegoat animal is “a collective, blanket confession of sins and then saddling the collective taint upon someone deputed being…. The scapegoat was representative, not substitutional.”[18]

It is also important to note that the “sending formula” makes it clear that the redemptive act is divine initiative and Christ is God’s agent of purchasing freedom on God’s initiative. Nowhere does Paul give a hint that Christ represents humanity over against God, offering a perfect sacrifice on the part of humanity to appease God. Paul argues in Galatians that Christ became a ransom in order to purchase freedom (exagorazō) for both the Gentiles and the Jews from the realm of the curse of the law (Gal. 3.13, 4.5; cf. I Cor. 6.20, 7.23). In other words, Christ’s scapegoat action purchased freedom of those enslaved “under the law”.

 C. Curse of the Law and Sacred Violence

Paul refers to the Abrahamic tradition in his argument to persuade Galatian believers against yielding to the teaching of the teachers of the “other gospel”. The dominance of Abraham tradition in Paul’s argument in Galatians (3.6-18, 3.29, 4.21-31) is because the teachers of the “other gospel” have used it to persuade and compel Galatian believers to follow the life patterned according to the exclusionistic understanding of the law. As John Barclay comments, “The tone of these references to Abraham (i.e. their emphasis), their frequency, their clarity and their unfamiliarity all suggest, as many commentators have observed, that Paul’s opponents in Galatia appealed to Abraham in their ‘persuasion’ of the Galatians….”[19]

The teachers of the “other gospel” have used the Abraham tradition to support their version of the gospel of freedom through midrashic interpretation of Numbers 25.1-13. The Jewish midrashic interpretation of Numbers 25.1-13, in which Abraham and Phineas are linked by means of Psalms 106 and Genesis 15.6, is known to the teachers of the “other gospel” and Paul (cf. I Macc. 2.52; Judith 9.2ff Jubilees 30.5-20 Sirach 45.23-24, 48.2).[20] Many Jews fostered the ideal of “zeal for God” or “zeal for the law” on the model of Phineas. As argued in Chapter III, such admiration for zeal was influential in shaping the Maccabean movement. Paul, before experiencing God’s revelation of God’s son, belonged to the pattern of Jewish life influenced by zeal (Gal. 1.13-14).[21] Violence for the honor of God or to preserve the pattern of life according to the zealotic interpretation of the law is an essential part of zeal.

Phineas, son of Eleazar, is the first example of the Old Testament for zeal to protect the honor of God. When Israel began to worship the Baal of Peor, God’s wrath fell upon Israel and caused a plague to fall upon them (Num. 25.1-18). When Phineas saw Zimri, an Israelite, taking a Midianite woman Cozbi into his tent, he killed both of them.[22] This violent act is reported to have been commended and approved by God as “zeal…on my (God’s) behalf” and resulted in “turning back my (God’s) wrath from the Israelites”. Phineas’ violent act “made atonement for the Israelites” and restored peace in the community (Num. 25.13). Thus, “the sword of those who love God is a redemptive instrument, and its zealous use is capable of turning away the wrath of God from his disobedient people, by making atonement for the sins of the nation.”[23] In other words, the wrath of God that had befallen on the community was diverted onto the apostates by Phineas and the killing of the apostates restored peace and order in the community. As a reward for his zealous act, Phineas was given a promise of eternal priesthood and a covenant of peace (Sirach 45.23-26; cf. 50.24).

The zeal of Phineas had become a prototype for the ideal of “zeal for the law” for the Maccabean movement. Maccabees considered Phineas an ultimate model and called him “our father” (I Macc. 2.54).[24] The zealous act of Phineas is included in ta erga tōn paterōn and thus legitimized violence to enforce conformity to the Torah within the Jewish community. His zealous act “has been reckoned to him as righteousness” (Ps. 106. 31). This echoes Genesis 15.6 where Abraham’s faith in the Lord “was reckoned to him as righteousness”. Abraham’s faith is also mentioned in I Macc. 2.52: “Was not Abraham found faithful when tested, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness?” Notice that I Macc. 2.52 is a part of Mattathias’ reference to the heroes of zeal (I Macc. 2.51-60). The Jewish midrash interprets Abraham’s faith in terms of the zealous act of Phineas and it “has been reckoned to him as righteousness”. Thus, Abraham’s faith is interpreted as “faithfulness” which is understood in terms of zealous action for God or the law. In this sense Abraham’s faith is linked to the order of sacred violence. Since Abraham’s faith forms a pattern for those of faith, the teachers of the “other gospel” insisted on lifestyle pertaining to the order of sacred violence. This sacred violence is expressed in exclusionism and violent action against apostates in order to maintain conformity to the pattern of life according to the zealotic interpretation of the law and thus to preserve unity and order of the community. That means, violence to preserve the pattern of life according to the zealotic understanding of law is active in the realm of the law. It is in the light of this Paul states that the “curse” as sacred violence is active in the realm of the “works of law”: “All who are of works of law are under a curse” (Gal. 3.10).

D. The Law as an Enslaving Power

Paul uses the Greek preposition hupo thirteen times in Galatians. Whenever he used it for himself or for God hupo is followed by a genitive noun (Gal. 1.11, 3.17, 4.9) and thus it gives a sense of agency. In the remaining instances hupo is followed by an accusative noun (Gal. 3.10, 3.22, 3.23, 3.25, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.21, 5.18) and modifies katara, hamartia, nomos, paidagōgos, epitropos kai oikonomos and ta stoicheia tou kosmou. The phrase “under the law” is prominent in Galatians (Gal. 3.23, 4.4, 4.5, 4.21, 5.18). The importance of this phrase in Galatians must have been prompted by the crisis in Galatian churches. Jews understood the Torah as a protective fence that shuts up the Jewish community from having social relationship with “sinners”. It restrains the Jews from crossing the boundaries. However, Paul uses the preposition hupo in the sense of subjection or enslavement, thus characterizing the Torah as an enslaving power. The enslaving action of the law is described by sugkleiō and phroureō. Paul uses to the law the same verb sugkleiō that he does in Gal. 3.22 to express the enslavement of “all things” (including human beings) under the power of sin. The imagery here is confinement in prison, thus isolating those in prison from any social relationship with the rest of the society. Sin is a divisive power of the present evil age that has intruded into God’s creation. The law has also joined the power of sin in this enslaving activity by dividing the world into the circumcision and the uncircumcision (cf. Gal. 3.28; 6.12-15). Paul calls this function of the law as enslavement. The other power that enslaves is stoicheia tou kosmou (Gal. 4:3). Stoicheia tou kosmou are identified with the figures of administrators and trustees in Paul’s illustration (Gal. 4.1-7). Paul mentions that stoicheia tou kosmou have power to enslave and they exercised that power. The law in its function of enslaving those under it has a relationship with stoicheia tou kosmou. The existential contexts described by the phrases “under the law” and “under the elements of the cosmos” coincide (Gal. 3.21-4.11).[25] In Gal. 4.9-11 doing the law is associated closely with serving the elements of the cosmos. Paul maintains that the Galatians’ previous worship of “beings that by nature are not gods” enslaved them to stoicheia. He goes on to warn them that by becoming proselytes they would again become enslaved to ta asthenē kai ptōcha stoicheia.

Stoicheia tou kosmou is capable of taking a wide range of meanings as it was used in different spheres of ideas.[26] Gerhard Delling gives six ways of its usage outside of the New Testament: 1. degrees on a sundial by which time is calculated; 2. letters, syllables, or words of a sentence, or sounds that they represent; 3. the basic elements of which the cosmos is composed, especially the four elements of earth, water, air and fire; 4. the fundamental principles or rudimentary teachings of such subjects as, for example, music, mathematics, and child care; 5. the stars and other heavenly bodies, presumably because composed of the chief and finest of the elements, fire; 6. the stellar spirits, gods, demons, and angels. In the context of Galatians two suggestions are prominent in the discussion on stoicheia tou kosmou. It is understood as referring to “demonic powers”. But this meaning does not agree with Paul’s characterization of the law in the preceding argument. It is also difficult to establish a link between stoicheia tou kosmou and demonic powers until much later than Paul’s times.[27] If stoicheia tou kosmou means “the basic elements from which everything in the natural world is made and of which it is composed”, then a direct link with the law is possible. When Paul speaks of freedom from stoicheia tou kosmou, he has in mind “not earth, air, fire, and water, but the elemental pairs of opposites listed in 3.28, and emphatically the first pair, Jew and Gentile.”[28] In this sense the law is linked to stoicheia tou kosmou. The law’s enslaving function of building walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles is condemned by Paul in Galatians. In this sense the Gentiles who seek to come under the law are linked to their previous life under the elements of the cosmos (Gal. 4.8-9). That means, the cosmic landscape is filled with malignant enslaving powers. In short, the human tragedy is universal enslavement, ubiquitous enslavement to the powers of the present evil age.

Paul reinforces the enslaving function of the law by using another metaphor, a prison guard. He uses phroureō in the sense of a prison guard keeping watch over prison inmates so that they would remain behind bars. Paul links this image of a jailer guarding prisoners with that of paidagōgos. Paidagōgos is usually a domestic slave whose primary role is to protect and guard his charge.[29] Protection and guarding involved imposition of restrictions on and confinement of the child. Linking of the image of a jailer guarding a prisoner with paidagōgos highlights not so much of law’s function of instruction and disciplining, but of restriction and confinement to a particular pattern of life expressed in exclusionism that built a wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles.[30] This is what Paul has found to be a negative function of the law. By focusing on the enslaving function of the law, Paul counters the claims of the teachers of the “other gospel” that freedom and the pattern of life according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the law are coterminous.[31]

Paul’s language of law characterized by enslavement strongly suggests that the teachers of the “other gospel” have made a link between freedom and the law. Moreover, Paul calls their message “gospel” (Gal. 1.6). He does that because the teachers have claimed that their “gospel” not only brings Gentile believers out of their ambiguous position in terms of identity, but also provides them with freedom in terms of the privileges granted to the Jews by the Roman empire.[32] However, Paul qualifies their “gospel” with heteron (Gal. 1. 6). He employs the word heteron in the sense of “another of a different kind”. So for Paul the teachers’ message of freedom is a “gospel” of different kind. Because their “gospel” links freedom to a pattern of life based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law. For Paul, this is a perversion of the gospel of freedom that he preached to the Galatians, and a message of enslavement. 

Paul contrasts the enslaving function of the law with God’s justifying act (that is, righting the wrong) in Jesus Christ (Gal. 3.24). God’s justifying act in Jesus Christ is a unifying act[33]: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female” (Gal. 3.28). Justification is possible only ek pisteōs (Gal. 3.23-24, 3.11). Law can not achieve justification because it is not ek pisteōs (Gal. 3.12). Thus, Paul’s argument in Gal. 3.23-28 is connected to that of Gal. 3.10-13. For Paul, the law, as an enslaving power that has built walls of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles, can not accomplish justification. God’s justifying act is ek pisteōs. In order to substantiate his claim that no one is justified by the law, but by faith, Paul in Gal. 3.11,12 cites Habakkuk 2.4 and Leviticus 18.5. It is important to note the “zealot” context of these citations. As discussed above, for zealous Jews juxtaposition of Hab. 2.4 and Lev. 18.5 would not have posed a contradiction. Because for them faith in God is interpreted in terms of conformity to the pattern of life according to the works of the law (note poiēsai Gal. 3.12). Paul argues against such a view. For him, faith and law (or doing the law) are mutually exclusive (Gal. 3.11-12, 23-24). Because in the realm of the works of the law life is ordered by exclusionistic understanding of the law and this has resulted in division of the world into Jew and Gentile. For Paul, works of the law denotes the Jewish way of life described in Gal. 2.14 by the term Ioudaizein. It denotes exclusion of the Gentiles. Moreover, the power of curse, which falls on those who fail to conform their life according to the works of law, is active in the realm of the works of the law. This means, the social order in the realm of the works of the law is based on the exclusionistic interpretation of the law, and those who cause disorder to the social order come under the curse of the law. In other words, the Jewish way of life represented by the works of the law is characterized by exclusion and violence. For Paul this is an enslaving function of the law. God’s justifying act or unifying act is a reality in the realm which is characterized by faith.

Paul’s association of the law with slavery and slavery with stoicheia tou kosmou make the decision confronting the Galatians as a choice not only between slavery and freedom, but also between the present evil age, to which the enslaving powers belong, and God’s new creation. This becomes absolutely clear in the conclusion of the letter (Gal. 6.11-15), where Paul presents the world and the new creation as two exclusive entities. Paul speaks about this in the context where some are compelling the Gentiles in Galatian churches to be circumcised (Gal. 6.12-13). In Gal. 6.14 Paul mentions three crucifixions: Christ’s, the world’s and Paul’s. The latter two crucifixions are derivative of the former.[34] The death of Jesus Christ has effected the death of the world to Paul and Paul to the world. The perfect tense estaurōtai denotes that the death of the world to him and vice-versa, although occurred in the past, are still a reality in the present. Neither the world nor the self has initiated its crucifixion, but it happened through the crucifixion of Jesus Christ (di v  ou Gal. 6.14). Minear comments:

The two parallel clauses suggest that there is a subtle interaction between the two derived crucifixions…We infer that these two events are in some sense simultaneous and interdependent, yet they are not identical. It is the reciprocal relation of the two entities that has been terminated. Neither death can be telescoped into the other, yet neither is fully intelligible alone.[35]

The immediate context of Paul’s argument is decisive in setting the meaning of the world. Gal. 6.15 is both parallel and antithetical to Gal. 6.14. This makes clear that the crucifixion of the world is an event that marks circumcision and uncircumcision no longer important. The context of Paul’s accusation against those coercing the Gentiles to undergo circumcision and its juxtaposition with the new creation suggest that the world that Paul has been crucified to is the world where division between the circumcision and the uncircumcision does matter (Gal. 6.12-15). For Paul, his crucifixion to the world has resulted in his transfer from the world, where the antinomies are important, to the new creation, where the antinomies are not important and the Jews and the Gentiles living together is a reality. Thus, for Paul the world and the new creation are two exclusive entities. In this sense the world and the present evil age are synonymous. That is why Paul is strongly advocating the Galatian believers not to succumb to the teachers’ gospel of freedom.

 

In Gal. 2.19 Paul speaks of his crucifixion in terms of co-crucifixion with Christ: “through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ”. Paul says that it was the law itself that caused his death to the law.[36] What he has realized (through God’s revelation of God’s Son to him) is that his zealous life to protect the pattern of life according to the law is not living a life to God. Paul’s death to the law by his co-crucifixion with Christ, a victim of the “curse of the law”, has paved way to live for God.

The argument in Gal. 2.15-21 is tied to the social event in Antioch (Gal. 2.11-14). The law to which Paul died is the very law that orders the life of the Jews, including their separation from the Gentiles. The law has separated the Jews from the Gentiles by restricting and confining the Jews to a pattern of life according to the works of the law. The works of the law are primarily the boundary markers of the Jewish community. Paul explicitly rejects dietary laws (Gal. 2.11-14), circumcision (Gal. 5.6, 6.12-15), and special days (Gal. 4.9-10), which mark the boundaries of the Jewish community over against the rest of the world. Victor Turner notes, “At their deepest level rituals reveal values which are sociological facts.”[37] The Jewish boundary markers functioned as a wall of separation between the circumcision and the uncircumcision. Thus, the law has established antinomies (cf. Gal. 3.28). It is important to note that the law in its restrictive function works like a double edged sword. By restricting and confining the Jews to a particular pattern of life according to the law interpreted in terms of the works of the law, the law has not only “shut in” the Jews but also “shut out” the Gentiles. By its exclusionism and division it creates between the circumcision and the uncircumcision, the law has affected both the Jews and the Gentiles. Therefore, both the Jews and the Gentiles are “under the curse of the law”. This is what Paul argues in Gal. 3.10-13 and Gal. 3.23-4.5 that both the Jews and the Gentiles are “under the law” or under the enslaving power of the law, and the death of Christ has purchased freedom for them (Gal. 4.5, 3.13).

There are several views about the identity of those “under the curse of the law” or “under the law”. Paul uses personal pronouns “us” and “we” in Gal. 3.13, 3.23-25, and 4.5. There are three dominant interpretations of these pronouns. Betz argues that they refer to the Jewish Christians who were delivered from the “curse of the law”.[38] He contends that the Jews were under the curse of the law because they were under the law, and the Gentile Christians were not under the curse because they were not under the Torah, before they converted to Christianity.[39] Therefore, only Jews were kept imprisoned by the law.[40] However, Gaston argues that the pronoun “us” in 3.13 refers to the Gentiles because “Paul so identified with his readers that the first person plural actually means “we Gentiles”” and that hupo nomon “seems to have been used by Paul to designate the Gentile situation.”[41] The third position is represented by James Dunn. He maintains that in Gal. 3.13 “us” refers to both the Jews and the Gentiles because “the cursed status or condition is that of the covenant-breaker, put out of the covenant people, a status and condition like that of those who are outside the covenant to start with.”[42] Whereas in Gal. 3.23, according to Dunn, “we” refers to the Jews because the function of the law here refers to the positive protective custody of the law.[43]

However, Paul’s argument in both Gal. 3.10-13 and 3.23-4.5 is same. As argued else where, the law in both contexts is an enslaving power. The power of curse is active in the realm of the works of the law to direct life according to the exclusionary understanding of the law. In Gal. 3.23-25 Paul reinforces the enslaving function of the law by using the imageries of confinement in prison, prison guard and paidigōgos. Paul portrays the law as an enslaving power of the present evil age along with sin and the elements of the cosmos. At the heart of the enslavement is division of the world into Jew and Gentile. Thus, the law in its enslaving function formed as a dividing wall between Jew and Gentile. The Gentiles did not escape the curse of the law. As Charles Cousar comments, “They (Gentiles) were not under the law in precisely the same way that Jews were; nevertheless they were “under the curse”…They were excluded, isolated by the wall the law erected and victims of the antinomies it created.”[44] Thus, the law acted like a double edged sword. As a consequence of its enslaving function of dividing the world into the circumcision and the uncircumcision, both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the power of the law. The law, as understood in exclusionistic terms, not only “shut in” the Jews but also “shut out” the Gentiles from having social intercourse between the two communities. Therefore, both the Jews and the Gentiles are under the enslaving power of the law or under the curse of the law.

E. Curse of the Law and the Death of Jesus Christ 

As noted above, there are similarities between Gal. 4.4-5 and Gal. 3.13 with Christ event purchasing freedom for “those under law” (Gal. 4.5) or for “us from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3.13). In Gal. 3.10 Paul understands “curse” as a power (use of hupo) that is active in the realm of the works of the law. Those who are of the realm of the works of the law are under the power of the curse. To substantiate his conclusion Paul quotes Deut. 27.26: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3.10). This is to be understood in the light of God’s promise to Abraham: “All the nations shall be blessed in you” (Gal. 3.8).[45] Paul argues how the law (as understood in divisive terms, or law that regulates life in the realm of the works of the law) has thwarted this promise to fulfill. It is important to note that Paul is not against the law per se. Paul interprets the law in terms of love: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal. 5. 14). Therefore, Paul’s negative characterization of the law is not about the law per se, but the law as interpreted by the teachers of the “other gospel” in exclusionistic terms. Therefore, the criticism of Heikki Raisanen that “Paul’s thought on the law is full of … inconsistencies”[46] is inappropriate.

From Gal. 2.16 till 4.21 Paul speaks negatively about the law. In every case he has the Torah in mind. As Graham Stanton insists, “It is not exaggeration to claim that from 2.16 to 4.21a, Paul’s portrait of the law is ‘consistently malignant’.”[47] However, in Gal. 4.21, 5.14 and 6.2 Paul’s tone changes: nomos is used in a positive sense. Paul gives a hint of the positive function of the law in Gal. 3.8, although hē graphē, not ho nomos, is used. Notice in Gal. 3.21-22 Paul while arguing about ho nomos suddenly switches over to the phrase hē graphē as the one that has “imprisoned all things under the power of sin” (Gal. 3.21-22 cf. 4.21, 30). In Gal. 4.21b it is not hē graphē but ho nomos, which bears witness to the gospel of freedom in the allegory of Hagar and Sarah. In Gal. 4.21b Paul could have written hē graphē as ho nomos, as Gal. 4.30 confirms. Thus, Paul argues that “there is a “law” that is to be shunned and there is a “law” that is to be heard and obeyed.”[48] In the light of this understanding, Gal. 5.14, with its reference to fulfilling the law in loving one’s neighbor, is not “the most unexpected development of Paul’s thought in this letter.”[49] The contrast between Gal. 5.3 holon ton nomon poiēsai and Gal. 5.14 ho pas nomos peplērōtai is not a contrast between holos ho nomos and ho pas nomos but the contrast between the verbs poiēsai and plēroō.[50] In Gal. 5.14 plēroun, a verb not used with nomos in the LXX or in Greek Jewish literature, is used.[51] Paul uses the noun form plērōma to describe the eschatological fullness of time when God sent God’s Son to be born “under law” in order to redeem “those under law” (Gal. 4.4-5). In Gal. 5.14 Paul uses the verb plēroun in order to describe the fulfillment of the law in line with the eschatological fullness of time in the coming of Jesus.[52] In Gal. 6.2 Paul uses the compound verb anaplēroun with reference to the law of Christ. With the use of anaplēroun Gal. 6.2 is closely related to Gal. 5.14. Although law and Christ have been put in antithesis in the main argument of Paul, in Gal. 6.2 they are brought together. Since “fulfilling the law” in Gal. 5.14 refers to the Torah, the use of the similar verb in Gal. 6.2 suggests that the law of Christ refers to the Torah as “redefined through Christ”.[53] The positive reference of the law suggests that Paul is not against the law interpreted in terms of agape love or redefined through Christ. However, he is against the law understood in terms of “doing it” or interpreted in exclusionistic terms (poiēsai, Gal. 3.10, 5.3).

Paul uses the word poiēsai with reference to the law in Gal. 3.10, 3.12, 5.3.[54] In Gal. 3.10 Paul argues that the power of curse is active in the realm of the works of the law. In order to substantiate his claim he quotes Deut 27.26: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all the things written in the book of the law tou poiēsai auta.”[55] J.L. Martyn argues that Paul is citing one of the texts of the teachers of the “other gospel”.[56] Deut. 27.26 was used by them to persuade Galatian believers to conform their life to the demands of the law, particularly the boundary markers of the Jewish community. Some scholars have identified the “curse” as a result of breaking the Torah, because transgression of even one commandment would imply apostasy.[57] A related argument is that the intension of Paul here is to show unfulfillability of the law.[58] The reasoning for this conclusion is that the emphasis in the text of Deut. 27.26 is on pasin tois gegrammenois en tō bibliō tou nomou (cf. holon ton nomon, Gal. 5.3), and Paul has presumed that complete observance of the law is impossible. So the logic goes as follows: those who base their life on the law observance are under the curse, because no one can fulfill the entire law and so the law pronounces curse on all. The problem with this view is that nowhere in this context or the entire letter does Paul assume unfulfillability of the law. Paul, rather, encourages his readers to fulfill the law as interpreted in terms of love (Gal. 5.14 ff). Moreover, this is not Paul’s thrust in quoting Deut. 27.26. Schlier argues that Paul’s position here is that those who do the law are under the curse. Therefore, the emphasis is on “doing” instead of on “believing” and so is opposite to the “faith” of Abraham.[59] However, there is no indication in the text or in the letter that obedience to the law incurs curse. Mussner contends that “not the doing is under the curse, but the not doing.”[60] He explains it by combining the arguments of Schoeps and Schlier that the principle of “doing” the Torah is ineffective as far as the salvation is concerned because no one can fulfill it. However, Mussner also misses the mark. As Betz states, “For Paul, salvation in Christ and the fulfilling of the Torah undoubtedly go together (cf. 5.14, 19-23; 6.2). The question is only whether the Jewish concept of “works of the Torah” can lead to the fulfillment of the Torah. This Paul denies.”[61]

For Paul, the curse falls on those who fail to do the law as interpreted in exclusionistic terms (the “works of the law”; the verb poiēsai  is used in Gal. 3.10, 12). The law demanded those of the works of the law conformity to the pattern of life according to the exclusionistic understanding of the law. As Dunn says, ““Works of the law” are not understood, either by his Jewish interlocutors or by Paul himself, as works which earn God’s favour, as merit-amassing observances.”[62] Rather they are perceived as the indicators of the exclusive covenant status of the Jews. The Maccabean crisis had promoted Jewish rituals such as circumcision and dietary laws as key elements of law observance. These rituals remained central even during the time of Paul as the boundary markers of those who belonged to God’s covenant community. Paul uses the connection of the works of the law and the curse to portray law as a negative, threatening power that stands over against God’s promise to Abraham (to bless all nations, or more precisely to unite the circumcision and the uncircumcision, Gal. 3.8 cf. 3.28, 6.14-15). The curse of the law as an enslaving power restricts and confines those of the works of the law to a particular pattern of life that built a wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles. This “doing the law” demanded of those who are of the works of the law is that Paul rejects as slavery.[63]

Therefore, in the context of Gal. 3 the power of the curse of the law as sacred violence is active in the realm where the exclusionistic interpretation of the law patterns the life of its members, and falls on those who violate this order of life.[64] For Paul the curse of sacred violence against apostates takes the form of Jewish religious existence.[65] This sacred violence, manifested in the form of exclusion of Gentiles, persecution and extermination, is the driving energy of the Jewish social system. The Jewish social system has provided a context for the law to be used in scapegoating apostates and the Gentiles. Scapegoat victimage is demanded to ensure order and unity of the Jewish community, and is understood as being sanctioned by God’s law. Thus, those of the works of the law are enslaved to a system of sacred violence.  

Paul says that God has sent God’s Son into the very realm where the power of curse as sacred violence is active: “God sent his Son…born under the law” (Gal. 4.4). As discussed above, Christ enters into the “sacred precinct” as a scapegoat and becomes a “victim” of the curse: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”-” (Gal. 3.13). In Palestinian Targum Deut 21.23 and Num. 25.1-5 are linked. A.T. Hanson quotes the text as of the Palestinian Targum as follows:

And the people of the house of Israel joined themselves to Baal Peor, like the nail in the wood, which is not separated but by breaking up the wood. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said to Moshe, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and appoint them for judges, and let them give judgment to put to death the people who have gone astray after Peor, and hang them before the word of the Lord upon the wood over against the morning sun, and at the departure of the sun take them down and bury them, and turn away the strong anger of the Lord against Israel.

Hamerton-Kelly argues, “The mention of the wood on which they are hanged and the command to take them down at sunset links the incident (in Num. 25.1-5) with Deut. 21.23.”[66]

Paul by citing Deut. 21.23 in a “zealot” context where faith in God is interpreted in terms of zealous action for God or the law, thus linking to the system of sacred violence, is connecting the death of Christ to the system of sacred violence.[67] Christ, the one sent by God to fulfill God’s will (Gal. 1.4, 4.4), became a victim of the curse of the law. Bemoaning at the attitude of Galatian believers toward the works of the law, Paul says that the gospel of Christ, which he proclaimed to them, is essentially a description and a public exposure of an act of violence against the crucified Christ (Gal. 3.1). Jesus’ death reveals that the curse of sacred violence is human, not divine, violence.[68] By entering the realm of the curse of sacred violence and suffering the sacred violence as a scapegoat, Christ revealed that the realm of the works of the law in which the curse of the sacred violence is active is founded on scapegoat mechanism. The crucial aspect of scapegoating is the pronouncement of the law that Jesus, who hung on the cross, was accursed. This means, the Jewish community (that is, the Jewish community based on the zealotic interpretation of the Torah) is unquestioningly on the right with regards to Jesus’ crucifixion, because Christ as the scapegoat is condemned by God (since law is the expression of God’s will). However, Paul argues that the one pronounced by the law as accursed of God, is in fact sent by God to fulfill God’s will. Thus, the death of Jesus Christ discloses the hidden truth that the realm of the works of the law is the realm of conspiracy that blames the victim as offender or object of God’s wrath (Gal. 3.12-13). The raising of Jesus Christ by God reveals what was hidden: innocence of Jesus Christ, scapegoating of Christ, and the sacred violence at work in the realm of the works of the law as human, not divine, violence against the victim. The death of Jesus Christ exposes the sacred violence for what it is: a lie perpetuated against victims in the name of God.[69] It reveals the deceit of the double transference, which transforms human violence into “divine” violence, and the violence against the apostates (of the exclusionistic interpretation of the law) as “good violence”. Jesus’ death also discloses that the victim of the curse of the law is wrongly blamed as disturber of the social order legitimized by God. When the “divine” violence in the form of curse fell on the one who was sent to fulfill God’s will (Gal. 1.4), its true nature is inescapably evident. The death of Jesus Christ has exposed the realm of the works of the law and the pattern of life according to the works of the law as diametrically opposed to the will of God. That is why Paul argues that the life according to the law interpreted in exclusionistic terms is not living for God (Gal. 2.19). The death of Christ redefines faith, not in exclusionistic terms and sacred violence, but in terms of trust in God’s promise, that is, blessing of all the nations. This is the faith exemplified by Abraham that was “reckoned to him as righteousness” (Gal. 3.6).

Further, the death of Jesus Christ discloses that the realm of the works of the law, where the curse of sacred violence is active, is founded on scapegoat mechanism. Paul says that the cross of Christ is a scandal to the Jews (Gal. 5.11).  According to Sayoon Kim the scandal of the cross could be that the disciples of Jesus Christ had been preaching the one cursed by God as the Messiah.[70] It is most likely that the conviction that the Torah had cursed the Messiah would have been scandalous to the Jews. However, Paul talks about the scandal of the cross in the context of him being persecuted for not preaching circumcision (Gal. 5.11).[71] In other words, advocating circumcision means robbing the cross of its character as the scandal to the Jews (cf. I Cor. 1.23). Here Paul has in mind the significance of the cross in relation to the ritual of circumcision, which is one of the Jewish boundary markers. The scandal of the cross for the Jews is that it has annulled the Jewish boundary markers, thus removing the wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles (Gal. 5.11). Here scandal has a sense of hindrance or obstacle. For the Jews the cross appears as introducing a scandal into history because it brings about the collapse of the wall between the Jews and the Gentiles, thus disturbing the social order. Thus, the cross causes social disorder. To maintain social order based on the exclusionary understanding of the law, it demands “good violence” against “bad violence”, which is the cause of social disorder. In order to prevent social disorder, violence against the victim should be concealed and the victim be projected as offender of God ordained social order. The cross by demolishing the ritual barriers around the Jewish community and uniting the Jews and the Gentiles, has given zealous Jews the motivation to engage in scapegoat mechanism to prevent “bad violence” of social disorder by “good violence” of the curse of sacred violence. In other words, Paul views the curse of sacred violence that has befallen on Jesus Christ as the same curse that is expressed in excluding the Gentiles through the Jewish rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws and the special days.[72] Thus, the death of Jesus Christ unmasks the scapegoat mechanism at work in the realm of the works of the law where the law is distorted to the service of violence. The violence is expressed in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as cursed of the law and the exclusion of the Gentiles as “sinners”. Paul, thus, argues that the death of Christ has exposed the deception of the Jewish social order by becoming a victim of it. Through his death as the cursed one of the law Christ has purchased freedom of both Jew and Gentile in order to transfer them from the realm based on the exclusionistic understanding of the law into the new creation, where the Jews and the Gentiles are united.

Thus, the death of Jesus Christ is not a sacrificial mechanism. It deconstructs, not destroys, the sacrificial structures underlying the present evil order based on dichotomies.[73] The sacrificial structures remain unbroken and continue to unleash violence against innocent victims in order to maintain the existing social order characterized by antinomies. The death of Jesus Christ, the innocent victim, demystifies and demythologizes this sacred social order in which violence is grounded. By exposing the sacrificial structures for what they are in the realm of the works of the law, the death of Jesus Christ facilitates those who are under these structures “to withdraw credibility and allegiance from them.”[74] In other words, by entering the realm of the works of the law and becoming a victim of the sacred violence, Jesus Christ represents human violence to those enslaved to the system of sacred violence. This is what happened to Paul in his experience of God’s revelation of God’s Son. The revelation of God’s Son, the victim of the curse of the law has made Paul to realize that his persecuting activity against the believers in Jesus Christ is due to his way of life patterned according to the zealotic interpretation of the law in his community. This realization and acknowledgement of his enslavement to the system of sacred violence has led Paul to withdraw credibility and allegiance to the social order of the realm of the works of the law founded on the sacrificial mechanism and mimetically identify himself with Christ, the victim of the curse of the law. Paul affirms this by the statement: “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2.19-20). This is the sense of freedom from the present evil age dominated by the enslaving powers, the law, sin and the elements of the cosmos, that Paul insists to have been realized through the Christ event.

 

 

 

 

 


[1] The noun aphesis is absent from Paul’s letters. The verb aphiēmi meaning “to forgive,” occurs only once, specifically in a quotation of Ps 32:1 (Rom 4:7). Similarly “repentance” is largely foreign to Paul’s theology.

[2] Arland J. Hultgren, Christ and His Benefits: Christology and Redemption in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987), p. 49.

[3] Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979), pp. 41-42; Richard N. Longenecker, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 41: Galatians (Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1990), pp. 121-122; James D.G. Dunn, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (London: A. & C. Black, 1993), pp. 34-35; Vincent M. Smiles, The Gospel and the Law in Galatia: Paul’s Response to Jewish-Christian Separation and the Threat of Galatian Apostasy (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998), p. 69.

[4] Dahl, “The Atonement – An Adequate Reward for the Akedah? Rom. 8.32”; Vermes, “Redemption and Genesis xxii.18 – The Binding of Isaac and the Sacrifice of Jesus.”

[5] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 78.

[6] Dahl, “The Atonement – An Adequate Reward for the Akedah? Rom. 8.32.”

[7] Charles B. Cousar, Reading Galatians, Philippians, and I Thessalonians: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Maco, Georgia: Smyth and Helwys Publishing, 2001), p. 23.

[8] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 77.

[9] Betz, Galatians, pp. 149-150.

[10] Bradley Hudson McLean, The Cursed Christ: Mediterranean Expulsion Rituals and Pauline Soteriology (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), p. 72.

[11]  Hultgren, Christ and His Benefits, p. 49.

[12] Hultgren, Christ and His Benefits, p. 49.

[13] Hultgren, Christ and His Benefits, p. 50.

[14] Daniel Schwartz, “Two Pauline Allusions to the Redemptive Mechanism of the Crucifixion,” in JBL 102 (1983), pp. 259-268.

[15] K.H. Rengstorf, “apostellō, exapostellō, apostolos…,” in TDNT II, ed. by G. Kittel and G. Friedrich (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1964-), pp. 398-447.

[16] The Mishna tractate Yoma (which is put in final form in 200 C.E) describes how the goat was being tormented by the people as it was led away: “The Babylonians (common people) would pull the hair of the Azazel as it was led away” (m. Yoma 6.4).[16] Mishna further says that ten booths were set up, from which men signaled the passing by of the goat, and the last man of the last booth pushed it over a cliff and signaled back that it had been killed (m. Yoma, 6.4 ff).

[17] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 78.

[18] T.H. Gaster, “Sacrifices and Offerings, OT,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, ed. by George Arthur Buttrick (New York: Abingdon, 1962), IV. 153.

[19] John M.G. Barclay, Obeying the Truth: Paul’s Ethics in Galatians (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1988), p. 53.

 

[20] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 74.

[21] This is explained in Chapter V.

[22] Vincent Smiles argues that “the purpose of Phinehas’s resort to violence was not so much “to maintain Israel’s distinctiveness as God’s covenant people” as to ensure Israel’s obedience to God’s Law in defense of the covenant. Separatism serves obedience, not vice versa.” But is it possible to separate “obedience to the Torah” and Jewish “separatism” as to say “separatism serves obedience”? Smiles, “The Concept of “Zeal” in the Second-Temple Judaism,” p. 285.

[23] Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus, p. 178.

[24] Klassen, “Jesus and Phineas,” p. 492.

[25] Charles H. Cosgrove, The Cross and the Spirit: A Study in the Argument and Theology of Galatians (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1988), p. 75.

[26] A. J. Bandstra, The Law and the Elements of the World (Kampen: Kok, 1964), p. 46.

[27] Longenecker, Galatians, p. 165; J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1997).

[28] Martyn, Galatians, p. 31.

[29] Paidagōgos is also involved in instruction.

[30] Some scholars emphasize the positive function of the paidagōgos. T.D. Gordon, “A Note on Paidagōgos in Galatians 3.24-25,” in NTS 35 (1989), pp. 150-154; Dunn, Galatians, p. 197; J.B. Lightfoot, St Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (London: Macmillan and Co., 1880), pp. 148-149.  

[31] This is discussed in Chapter III.

[32] Read the discussion in Chapter III.

[33] This will be elaborated in Chapter VI.

[34] Paul Sevier Minear, “The Crucified World: The Enigma of Galatians 6,14,” in Theologia Crucis-Signum Crucis, Herausgegeben von Carl Andersen and Gunter Klein (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1979), p. 396.

[35] Minear, “The Crucified World,” p. 396.

[36] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 67.

[37] Victor Turner, The Forest of Symbols (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1967), p. 44.

[38] Betz, Galatians, pp. 148, 208; Longenecker, Galatians, p. 121.

[39] Betz, Galatians, p. 148.

[40] Betz, Galatians, p. 176.

[41] L. Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987), p. 62.   

[42] Dunn, Galatians, p. 176.

[43] Dunn, Galatians, pp. 196-198.

[44] Cousar, Reading Galatians, p. 60.

[45] This is a conflation of Genesis 12.3 and 18.18.       

[46] Heikki Raisanen, Paul and the Law (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1987).

[47] Graham N. Stanton, “The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ – Galatians 3.1-6.2,” in Paul and the Mosaic Law, ed. by James D.G. Dunn (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1996), pp. 114-115.

[48] Smiles, The Gospel and the Law in Galatia, p. 224.  

[49] Graham Shaw, The Cost of Authority: Manipulation and Freedom in the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983), p. 50; Barclay, Obeying the Truth, 126.

[50] Stanton, “The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ,” p. 115.

[51] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 138.

[52] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, p. 140.

[53] Barclay, Obeying the Truth, pp. 134, 141.

[54] In Gal. 3.21 zōopoiēsai is used. Note that Paul uses poiein in 2.10, 5.17 and 6.9.

[55] The text does not fully agree with the LXX and MT.

[56] Martyn, Galatians, p. 309.

[57] Martin Noth, The Laws in the Pentateuch and Other Studies, tr. by D.R. Ap-Thomas (Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1966).

[58] Hans Joachim Schoeps, Paul: The Theology of the Apostle in the Light of Jewish Religious History, tr. by H. Knight (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), pp. 175-177; John Buckel, Free to Love: Paul’s Defense of Christian Liberty in Galatians (Louvain: Peeters Press, 1993), pp. 138-139; Longenecker, Galatians, p. 118.  

[59] Heinrich Schlier, Der Brief an die Galater (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962), pp. 132-134.

[60] Franz Mussner, Theologie der Freiheit nach Paulus (Freiburg: Herder, 1976), pp. 224-226.

[61] Betz, Galatians, p. 146.

[62] Dunn, Jesus, Paul, and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990), p. 194.  

[63] Stanton, “The Law of Moses and the Law of Christ,” p. 115.

[64] This is evident in the case of Maccabean movement.

[65] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 76.

[66] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, n. 33, p. 75.

[67] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 75.

[68] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 79.

[69] Ted Peters succinctly puts it: “God does not demand sacrifice. We do. Yet in order to hide our own penchant for blood from ourselves, we attribute it to the divine. We create the illusion of a sacrifice-demanding God.” Ted Peters, “Atonement and the Final Scapegoat,” in PRSt 19 (1992), p. 181.

[70] Seyoon Kim, The Origin of Paul’s Gospel (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1981), p. 47.

[71] There is a debate among scholars on the question of Paul preaching circumcision. However, there is a general agreement that Paul is referring to the claims of the teachers of “the other gospel” about him. Read Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, pp. 278-280.

[72] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 72.

[73] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 60.

[74] Hamerton-Kelly, Sacred Violence, p. 60.

Freedom Through The Death of Jesus Christ In Galatians: A Nonviolence Reading

September 26, 2009

Chapter III

The Maccabean Freedom Movement

 

The major sources, I Maccabees, II Maccabees and Josephus, explain the rise of the Maccabean freedom movement in terms of fight for the “ancestral customs” or “the covenant of the fathers” or “Judaism”, or more precisely, to reestablish Jewish life according to the Torah. Maccabees are sharply distinguished from “renegades” by their way of life according to the laws of the Torah. They are characterized by their zeal for the Torah. I Maccabees portrays zeal for the Torah as the driving force behind the Maccabean movement.[1] This zeal for the Torah was expressed by the Maccabees in using violence mainly against the “renegades”. Because the “renegades”, by making a “covenant with the Gentiles”, abandoned the “holy covenant” and introduced “Gentile customs” into Jerusalem and Judea. So the zealous Maccabees used violence against them in order to restore the “freedom” which would allow the Jews to live according to the Jewish ancestral customs (I Macc. 2.23-28, 44, 48; Josephus, Ant. 12.280-281).

In Antiquities 12.279-284 Josephus records the last words of Mattathias to his sons.  Mattathias encouraged his sons to preserve the customs of their fathers (ethē ta patria), and to recover their “ancient form of government, which is in danger of being overturned.” He encouraged them “to die for your laws” (cf. I Macc. 2.50) and then God “will have a great value for your virtue, and will restore to you again what you have lost, and will return to you that freedom in which you shall live quietly, and enjoy your own customs” (Ant. 12.281). I Maccabees, II Maccabees and Josephus presented Maccabees’ main concern as to restore the “freedom” by recovering the tēn archaian politeian so that the Jews would again live their lives according to their ancestral customs (I Macc. 3.29, 6.59; II Macc. 4.11, 11. 24-25; Josephus Ant. 12. 280-281). Thus, Maccabean struggle highlights that Jewish “freedom” and maintenance of Jewish life according to the Torah are closely connected.

 A. The Decree of Antiochus III and the Juridical Status of the Jews 

Josephus’ Antiquities contains three documents issued by Antiochus III (223-187 BCE) in favor of the Jews. These documents are particularly important to determine the juridical status of the Jews. When Antiochus III defeated Scopas, the general of the Egyptian army, at the turn of the third century BCE, the Jews along with the gerousia went to Antiochus and welcomed him into Jerusalem. They “gave abundance of provisions to…(Antiochus’) soldiers, and to the elephants, and joined with (him)…in ejecting garrison of the Egyptians that were in the citadel (in Jerusalem)” (Josephus Ant. 12.138; cf. 12. 133). As a reward “to the good behavior of the Jews towards him,” Antiochus wrote some of his decisions in his first letter addressed to Ptolemy, who is generally identified as Ptolemy of Thraseas[2]. The king decided to rebuild the city that was destroyed during the war and enable the inhabitants, who had been dispersed, to return to the city. He announced a number of privileges such as provision of animals for the temple sacrifices, wine, oil, frankincense, flour, wheat, salt, importation of wood without tax for the temple repairs, personal tax-exemption to the gerousia, the priests, the scribes of the temple and the sacred singers, exemption of taxes for all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, liberation of slaves and restoration of their property (Josephus Ant 12.139-144).[3] In addition to these, the most important provision was politeuesthōsan…pantes hoi ek tou ethnous kata tous patrious nomous (Josephus Ant. 12.142). 

The content of patrious nomous is the most controversial one among scholars. Victor Tcherikover notes that the privilege of living kata tous patrious nomous is explicitly referred to in two documents of the Hellenistic period (Josephus Ant. 12.142; 12.150). Elias Bickerman did an extensive work on the documents of Antiochus III. For Bickerman, the content of patrious nomous is clear. Commenting on the phrase kata tous patrious nomous, he says:

The provision that the people should live “according to the laws of their fathers”, which we so frequently find in the Hellenistic charters of freedom, had…a particular meaning for Jerusalem. For a Greek city, the clause meant the retention of the democratic constitution, of self-rule. But for the Jews “the laws of the fathers” meant Torah. Only Torah and nothing but Torah.[4]

Tcherikover refutes this limited meaning of “the laws of the fathers”. He argues that the meaning of “the laws of the fathers” is broader than the Torah and it includes “the maintenance of political institutions, the form of the regime, the methods of social organization, and the like.”[5] That means, according to this interpretation, the provision of the right to live according to “the laws of the fathers” would also include confirmation of Jerusalem’s theocracy and of the authority of the high priest.[6] However, there is an ambiguous silence about the high priest in the letter of Antiochus III. In the first part of the letter, it is recorded that the Jews meta tēs gerousias received the king and in the latter part, in the list of the temple officials who received tax-exemption gerousia is included and high priest is excluded (Josephus Ant. 12. 138, 142). For the absence of the high priest, Bickerman claims that before the time of the Maccabees the high priest, usually referred as the chief of the Jews after the restoration of the temple, was never mentioned in the official documents. This absence of the high priest is also evident in the official documents in the II Maccabees (II Macc. 1.1-9; 1.10-2.18; 9.19-27; 11.17-21; 11.22-26; 11.27-33; 11.34-38). On the absence of the high priest in official documents Brutti Comments:

(This indicates) the absolute lack of political authority of the high priest and the fact that the Jewish nation was represented mainly by the gerousia, the council of elders, that later, also under the Maccabees, will continue to be mentioned besides the high priest…These statements are still arguable and widely questioned; a completely satisfying solution concerning both the problem of the authority of the high priest and the presence of the gerousia in this period has not yet been reached.[7]

Bickerman argues that the letter of freedom of Antiochus III “corresponds to the juridical principles of the Greek public law, according to which Antiochus III had to establish the juridical status of the conquered cities.”[8]  As a reward for the help rendered by the Jews of Jerusalem, Antiochus reestablished the city’s juridical status. Thus, the letter of the king states, politeuesthōsan de pantes hoi ek tou ethnous kata tous patrious nomous (Josephus Ant. 12.142). Ethnos does not refer to Jews worldwide, but to the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea. The decree signifies the exclusive rule of the Torah in Jerusalem and Judea, or “the inviolability of the prescriptions of the Torah.”[9] Thus, the most important privilege that is granted by the decree of Antiochus III is the confirmation that the internal ordering of Jewish ethnos in Jerusalem and Judea was grounded solely in the Torah.[10]

The second letter is a decree issued by Antiochus III regarding the temple and Jerusalem (Josephus Ant. 12. 145-146). The decree prohibited foreigners and Jews entering the temple, with the exception of those who kata patrion nomon purified themselves (Josephus Ant. 12.145). The decree also banned bringing the flesh of animals “forbidden for the Jews to eat”, the skin and breeding of such animals in the city. Thus, the king’s decree sanctioned Jewish purity laws.

What is significant in these two letters of Antiochus III is the confirmation of the Mosaic law and the fact that the Torah was, therefore, a royal law in Jerusalem. Just as the Persian king during the time of Ezra did, Antiochus III had made the Torah the constitution of the Jews. As in the time of Ezra violation of the “law of separation” was forbidden by both the royal law as well as the Jewish law, Antiochus III made the Jewish law as the law of the land for the Jews (cf. II Macc. 4.11).[11] The king’s decree, thus, sanctioned Jewish particularism, and so separation from the nations, in Jerusalem and Judea.

B. The Jewish Renegades and the Decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

In the period after that of Antiochus III the situation of the Jews seemed to have radically changed. The people who were “the subjects of benefits…turned to be object of violent persecution.”[12] The events leading up to and including the Maccabean revolt have often been portrayed as matters of religious persecution by the hostile Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. It is described that the Seleucid king wanted to bring uniformity in his kingdom, and this resulted in rebellion by certain Jews to regain religious freedom. However, the issue of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews poses a difficult problem for the historians because of its uniqueness, “for religious persecution is contrary to the ideological, religious, social, and political code of the Hellenistic world.”[13]

The reasons and the motives of the persecution and the character of Antiochus IV Epiphanes have been the objects of scholarly debate and investigation. The question that has been posed is:

What caused the Greek king, a man who had been reared and educated in the atmosphere of religious tolerance so characteristic of Greco-Roman culture, to attack the Mosaic Law by force of arms….and to prohibit circumcision, the observance of the Sabbath and the other Jewish practices?[14]

Tcherikover has studied the depictions of Antiochus IV by the ancient historians such as Polybius, Livy and Diodorus. These ancient historians depicted the king, on the one hand, as a man with “full of contradictions and sudden surprises” and “nervousness, hysteria, (and) degeneracy” and on the other hand, as “a ruler with realistic and logical political aspirations.”[15] However, Tcherikover does not see these qualities as the reasons for the persecution. He also criticizes the nineteenth century view that the motive for the persecution was Antiochus’ “great devotion to the Hellenic spirit and culture.”[16] Emil Schurer agreeing with the judgment of Tacitus about Antiochus IV says, “Tacitus judged him (Antiochus) correctly when he said that Antiochus wished to take from the Jews their superstitions and to teach them Greek customs…He endeavored to promote the splendour of Greek culture everywhere.”[17] But Tcherikover argues that Antiochus “saw Hellenism a political means of strengthening his state; but it never occurred to him to abolish local culture and to substitute for it the Greek.”[18] He also questions the view that the king “sought to introduce the cult of the Olympion Zeus throughout his realm in place of the local cults…to set up a “pagan monotheism”.”[19] He questions this view on the basis that there was no parallel for such an action in the Graeco-Roman world before the third century CE. Even if it were true, he wonders, how this had led Antiochus to persecute the Jews. For Tcherikover, Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews was a consequence of the preceding Jewish rebellion.[20] But his view has not gained much support. 

In view of the limitations of the above theories, and taking into consideration the general tolerant attitude of the Hellenistic kings towards local religions and the educational background of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Horsley reasons, “It will hardly have mattered to Epiphanes, a man who attended the lectures of Epicureans, whether the people of Jerusalem, like those in Hieropolis, abstained from pork, or, following the Greek taste, preferred that particular food.”[21]  In addition to that, as Farmer notes, “the attitude of Hellenistic powers toward the religious customs and beliefs of particular ethnic groups was usually one of tolerance.”[22] There is no indication that Antiochus had any particular interest in the Jews. As Bickerman rightly remarks, “he (Antiochus IV) was no religious zealot. He had no occasion to suppress Judaism for ideological reasons, and Jews outside Palestine itself and even in the capital of Antioch carried on their worship without hindrance.”[23] On the contrary, the king’s first encounter with the Jews came fairly soon after he began his reign, but initiated by the Jewish “renegades”. Shifting the focus from Antiochus IV to the Jewish “renegades” for the cause of the persecution, Bickerman declares, “The religious persecution was neither an accident, nor did it arise out of the spirit of paganism. It originated among the Jews themselves, or, to be most exact, from a party among the Jews who aimed at a reform of the ancestral faith.”[24] The underlying issue of the crisis was how the Jewish community was to relate itself to its neighbors.

1. The Motive(s) of the Jewish Renegades

I Maccabees, the pro-Hasmonean dynasty document, informs that a group of Jews realized that the cause for their polla kaka was their separation from “the nations” (1.11). It is not clear what those polla kaka were. However, II Maccabees and Josephus report the struggle for power among some Jewish families, particularly the Tobiads, the Oniads, the Simonites and the Hasmoneans (Maccabeans), and their alliances with the regional political powers. As John Hayes and Sarah Mandell rightly say, “At stake was not only the leadership and authority over the community but also the power to control the financial and tribute-collecting apparatus with its attendant economic gains and privileges.”[25] The Jewish families “were also divided along political, social, and religious lines.”[26] Their attitude towards the Greek culture was a major factor in their divisions. Jason (ca 175-172 BCE) and Menelaus (172-162 BCE), who bribed Antiochus IV Epiphanes for the office of the high priest, were regarded as the ones who initiated to “let the walls of separation fall.” It suggests that power had definitely played a major role in the “reform” initiatives of both Jason and Menelaus, as did in the Maccabean rhetoric of “zeal for the Law”. However, power in Jerusalem, and implementation of one’s interpretation of the Torah and of the way of life according to that interpretation were closely related.

During the Maccabean period the desire of the Jewish renegades and their followers to “let the walls of separation fall” reflects the relationship between Jews and the nations.  Even though both the Jews and the nations recognized the Jewish belief in monotheism, “for both Jews and Gentiles the boundary line between Judaism and paganism was determined more by Jewish observances….”[27] The Jewish distinctive practices determined the boundaries of Jewish community. These boundaries kept the Jews away from social intercourse with the nations. The separation from the nations was again and again reiterated in the Jewish literature of the Second Temple Judaism period. The book of Jubilees insisted, “Separate yourselves from the nations, and eat not with them…For their works are unclean, and all their ways are a pollution and an abomination and an uncleanness” (22.16). Daniel, Tobith and Judith were held as examples of faithfulness, because they refused to eat the food of the nations, (Dan. 1.8-16; Tob. 1.10-13; Judith 10.5, 12.1-20). To the Jews observance of their particular customs was nothing but faithfulness to the Torah and the covenant that characterized their distinctive identity as the people of God (I Macc. 1.11-15; 1.62-63; cf. IV Macc. 4.26, 5.2-3; II Macc. 3.4; 7.1-2 cf. 7.24). For them their particularism or separation from the nations was natural and necessary to maintain their distinctive identity. So the laws of the Torah were understood, “For this reason, God surrounded us on all sides with purity laws concerning eating, drinking, touching, and seeing” (Ps. Aristeas, 142). Thus, assimilation with foreign cultures was forbidden.

The Greeks, and later the Romans, had great difficulty in understanding the realities of the Jewish way of life with its monotheistic religion (without any image of God), its strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, and its separation from the surrounding nations.[28] For them the behavior of the Jews expressed their hatred of the nations. Bibliotheca Historica of Diodorus, the Sicilian (First century BCE), criticized the Jews for their “hatred of mankind” which is expressed in their laws. One of the laws it mentioned was “not to break bread with any other race” (34-35. 1.2). Hecataeus criticized that the laws of Moses differed from those of the other nations “for as a result of their own expulsion from Egypt he introduced a way of life that was somewhat unsocial and hostile to foreigners” (Diodorus Siculus 40.3.4). Apollonius Molon characterized the Jews as “atheists and misanthropes” (Josephus, Ag. Ap. 2.148). The epithet of misanthropic signified “an absence of humane feelings, and was considered an attribute of barbaric people” (Cicero Tusc. 4.25-27; Pliny, Nat. Hist. 7.80).[29] This misanthropy of the Jews was expressed by their way of life that not only was different from that of the nations, but also demanded separation from the nations. The nations considered that “the Jews and their Torah were deviant in human civilization.”[30] Tacitus derided Jewish hatred for the rest of the world, “they eat separately, they sleep separately” (Histories 5.5). For Strabo the Jewish particularism was an expression of barbarism: “All barbarians have in common the custom of expelling foreigners” (Strabo 802).

Jewish rituals such as circumcision, Sabbath, and dietary laws functioned as identity markers. The nations acknowledged them as important tenets of the Jews (Petronius, died ca. 65 CE, Satyricon, fragment 37). Tacitus referred to circumcision as a Jewish identity marker: “Circumcision was introduced so that by this particularly they can recognize each other” (Histories 5.5). Strabo (ca. 64 BCE-ca. 20 CE) regarded the “abstinence from flesh” as the custom of the Jews “even today”. These Jewish distinctive practices became objects of ridicule. Seneca, the Younger, (ca. 4 BCE- 65 CE) and Plutarch (ca. 46-120 CE) regarded the observance of the Sabbath as a Jewish superstitious practice (On Superstition 3; cf. 8). Seneca directed his criticism against Jewish “irrational” superstitions. He sneered at their observance of the Sabbath as a waste of a seventh of a person’s life. Seneca scorned, “We reject the lighting of the Sabbath lamps, for the gods need no illumination, and the smoke cannot be pleasant even to humans” (Seneca, Ep. Ad Lucill. 95, 47). Tacitus (56-120 CE) in Histories (5.4.3-4) and Agatharchides of Cnidus (2nd BCE; quoted by Josephus, Contra Apionem I.209; cf. Antiquities 9.5-6) sneered at the Jewish practice of the Sabbath (Geography 16.2.37). Plutarch sarcastically spoke of Jewish abstinence of eating pork (Quaestiones Convivales IV, 4.4-6.2). According to Tacitus, “They (the Jews) abstain from pork in memory of the disaster of the leprosy which had once defiled them, a disease to which that animal is subject” (Histories 5.5).

The critical perception of the nations about the Jewish distinctive rituals expresses the fact that the social tension between the Jews and the nations was aggravated by the Jewish “strange way of life”.[31] The distinctive rituals such as Sabbath observance, circumcision, dietary laws and festivals constructed a wall between the Jews and the nations. This appeared to the neighbors that the Jews were “unsocial and hostile” toward others.[32] Thus, the Jewish identity bound up with the distinctive customs created not only obstacles for the Jews to associate with their neighbors but also hostility with the nations.[33] The actions of the Jewish renegades highlight this hostile atmosphere between the Jews and the nations. It is this reality that prompted the Jewish renegades to take necessary steps in order to facilitate social intercourse between the Jews and the nations.

2. The Jewish Renegades

The main sources of the Maccabean movement testify to the fact that the initiative for the introduction of the Greek way of life came from within the Jewish community. The identity of the Jewish initiators is not explicit in I Maccabees, except for characterizing them as huioi paranomoi by virtue of their openness towards the nations, and tines apo tou laou (1.11,13). The author also equates those against the Hasmoneans as those “hated the nation” (I Macc. 11.21) and complained to the king against the activities of Judas, “bring to the king an accusation against the people” (I Macc. 7.6). The opponents of Maccabees were given the epithets “renegades” and “godless”, that is, “the transgressors of the Law” (I Macc. 7.21, 10.61, 11.25; cf. 1.11). They were counted among the “foreigners” and “nations” (I Macc. 2.7, 4.12). They were considered to be responsible for building a gymnasium in Jerusalem (I Macc.1.14).

According to Josephus’ Antiquities, Menelaus and the Tobiads requested the king for implementation of the Greek way of life in Jerusalem (Josephus Ant. 12. 240). This request, according to Josephus, was linked to power struggle between Menelaus and Jason for high priesthood. After the death of Onias, Jason, the brother of Onias, succeeded as the high priest. However, as the king was “angry” with Jason, he appointed Menelaus for the high priesthood. However, according to II Maccabees Manelaus succeeded Jason as the high priest by an offer of an increase in tribute by three hundred talents of silver (II Macc. 4.24). People were divided between Jason and Menelaus, where majority supported the former. Menelaus was supported by Tobiads. The situation seems to have made Menelaus and Tobiads to ask the king permission to leave tous patrious nomous and their paliteia in order to follow the king’s laws and adopt the Greek paliteia (Josephus Ant. 12. 240-241). II Maccabees presented Jason and Menelaus as the two main persons to have initiated the process of Hellenization of Jerusalem. Antiochus IV Epiphanes can hardly be blamed for permitting Jason and Menelaus to introduce Greek customs into Jerusalem at the latter’s own request.

Jesus, who assumed the Greek name Jason, initiated the introduction of the Greek way of life in Jerusalem. He was the brother of Onias III, the high priest. According to Josephus, Jason was given high priesthood by Antiochus IV Epiphanes after the death of Onias III, “About this time, upon the death of Onias the high priest, they gave the high priesthood to Jesus his brother” (Josephus Ant. 12.237). However, II Maccabees relates that Jason bribed the king to usurp the office of high priest by deposing Onias III, “a zealot for the laws,”: “Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption, promising the king at an interview three hundred sixty talents of silver, and from another source of revenue eighty talents” (II Macc. 4.7-8). But Jason had more in mind than just the office of the high priest. He wanted to introduce the Greek way of life in Jerusalem. Jason paid an extra amount of one hundred and fifty for the “permission…to establish by his authority a gymnasium and ephēbeion for it, and to enroll the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch” (II Macc. 4.9-10).[34] I Maccabees does not mention the identity, but simply notes that tines apo tou laou sought the king for the authority to “observe ta dikaiōmata tōn ethnōn. So they built a gymnasium in Jerusalem, according to ta nomima tōn ethnōn” (I Macc. 1.14). Thus, Jason not only secured the high priesthood, but also got permission from the king to introduce Greek way of life in Jerusalem.

The gymnasium formed the symbol and basis for the Greek way of life. I Maccabees blames those who built the gymnasium that they “removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant” (I Macc. 1.15). The establishment of gymnasium, for the author of II Maccabees, meant that “Jason made the Jews conform to the Greek way of life” (II Macc. 4.10; cf. I Macc.1.14). II Maccabees goes on to say that Jason “set aside the existing royal concessions to the Jews, secured through John the father of Eupolemus” (II Macc. 4.11). This refers back to the concessions granted by Antiochus III to the Jews to order their lives according to the laws of the Torah. The sources do not mention any reaction of the people to what Jason did, except that some, including priests, had embraced the “reforms”. Jason was followed by Menelaus as the high priest. According to II Maccabees Menelaus was put to death by Antiochus V Eupator because he was identified by Lysias as “the cause of the trouble” (II Macc. 13.4 cf. Josephus Ant. 12.384). Bickerman cites Daniel 11.30 for further support that it was the Jewish renegades (those who forsook the covenant) who influenced the king to give them permission to introduce the Greek way of life in Jerusalem. Hengel supports Bickerman’s position:

Neither the king nor his ‘friends’, who were certainly very little interested in the Jews, will have conceived such unusual ideas, which presuppose a knowledge of conditions within Judaism. This gives greatest probability to Bickerman’s view that the impulse to the most extreme escalation of events in Judea came from the extreme Hellenists in Jerusalem itself….Thus Menelaus and Tobiads who supported him appear as the authors of the edict of persecution.[35]

It is also fairly clear that both Jason and Menelaus were power-seekers. In order to keep their power, they seemed to have found it imperative to bring a change in the politeia of Jerusalem and Judea. Jason initiated this and Menelaus brought it to a conclusion by influencing Antiochus IV Epiphanes to issue a decree. 

As noted above, “the ‘letter of freedom’ promulgated by Antiochus III…grounded the internal ordering.”[36] It gave legal basis for the politeia in Jerusalem in accordance with “the laws of the fathers” (cf. Josephus Ant. 12.142). To explain this, Goldstein uses the analogy: “In the time of Ezra violation of the law of separation was forbidden by both the royal law as well as the Jewish law. Antiochus III again made the Jewish law as the law of the land for the Jews (Josephus Ant xii 3.3.142; cf. II Macc. 4.11).”[37]  In order to carry out their program Jason and his friends had to take the permission of the king in order to introduce “new customs” such as gymnasium and ephebate, and “to enroll the people of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch”, within Jerusalem, so that they would not become violators of the existing royal law. The permission of the king alone made it possible to introduce “practices which were against the law” (II Macc. 4.11). The precise implication of the registration of people as citizens of the Greek polis Antioch is not clear, whether “to create an independent Hellenistic polis (city-state) within Jerusalem or, more likely, to turn Jerusalem into Hellenistic polis (II Macc. 4.9).”[38] It is widely perceived that it was to entail the Greek constitution in Jerusalem, with a new list of citizens.[39] It is important to note that there is no mention of any interference with the Jewish religion. However, II Maccabees interprets the action of Jason as tas…nomimous kataluōn politeias parnomous ethismous ekainizen (II Macc. 4.11). The concessions made to Jason by the king meant that the existing royal concessions granted by Antiochus III, which made Torah the royal law in Jerusalem, were being relaxed. This relaxation of the Torah was evidenced in the fact that some of the Jews in order to participate in the gymnasium underwent epispasm so that they would not be conspicuously different from the Greeks (II Macc. 4.12-15; IMacc.1.15). Both the books of Maccabees testify that the reforms of Jason were significant violations of Jewish way of life. I Maccabees claims that some of the Jews “removed the marks of circumcision, and abandoned the holy covenant” (1.15). The external identity markers were crucial for the Jews in maintaining their distinctive identity as the covenant people of God and separation from the nations (II Macc. 6.6). II Maccabees criticizes Jason that he set aside the constitution based on the ancestral laws which had been authorized by Antiochus III and “the lawful way was abolished and practices which were against the law were introduced” (4.11). The Book of Daniel labels the renegades as “violators of the covenant” (11.30).

The Jewish renegades wanted to reform Judaism by eliminating the “barbaric” separatism and to establish social intercourse with the nations. In order to implement this agenda without becoming violators of the existing royal law of the land, the Torah, they took permission from the king. This facilitated some of the Jews to give up their distinctive customs that separated them from the nations (I Macc. 10.14, 6.21; Dan. 9.27). For those Jews for whom their identity is bound up with the Jewish distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals, the renegades were  the ones “who forsook the holy covenant” (Dan. 11.30) and forgot the law (I Macc. 1.43, 52, 2.16, 23, 6.21). Since they considered observance of these rituals important, the action of the renegades was considered to have broken down “the lawful manners of life”, and introduced “new customs forbidden by the law”.

3. The Decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

The decisive moment of abolishing the legal basis of the Torah of the politeia according to the decree of Antiochus III came with the promulgation of the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Among the three main sources I Maccabees explicitly presents the decree of the king. According to it the events that preceded the decree were: Antiochus attacked Egypt (I Macc. 1.16-19; cf. II Macc. 5.1-4; Josephus Ant. 12.242-244); he went against Israel and plundered the temple (I Macc. 1.20-28; cf. II Macc. 5.11-21; Josephus Ant. 12.246-247, 249-250); and two years later he sent a chief tax collector, who destroyed the city, killed “many people of Israel”, “took captive the women and children and seized the livestock”, and built new walls and the Akra (I Macc. 1. 29-40; cf. II Macc.5.24-26; Josephus Ant 12.248, 251-252).[40] The decree sent out by Antiochus IV Epiphanes is described in I Maccabees 1.41-49 (cf. II Macc. 6.1-2; Josephus Ant. 12.253-255):

Then the king wrote to his whole kingdom that all should be one people, and that all should give up their particular customs. All the Gentiles accepted the command of the king. Many even from Israel gladly adopted his religion; they sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the towns of Judah; he directed them to follow customs strange to the land, to forbid burnt offerings and sacrifices and drink offerings in the sanctuary, to profane Sabbaths and festivals, to defile the sanctuary and the priests, to build altars and sacred precincts and shrines for idols, to sacrifice swine and other unclean animals, and to leave their sons uncircumcised. They were to make themselves abominable by everything unclean and profane, so that they would forget the law and change all the ordinances. He added, “And whoever does not obey the command of the king shall die.”  

The king’s decree was a decisive blow to the Jews, who insisted on the distinctive Jewish identity markers. The king appointed overseers to enforce the decree, and to force the Jews “to depart from their ancestral laws and to cease living by the laws of God” (II Macc. 6.1; cf. 1.49). I Maccabees relates that “many of the people, everyone who forsook the law, joined them, and they did evil in the land; they drove Israel into hiding in every place of refuge they had” (I Macc. 1.51-53).  The author states that the evil doers “erected a desolating sacrilege on the altar of burnt offering. They also built altars in the surrounding towns of Judah,” destroyed copies of the Torah, condemned to death those who observed the law or possessed the law, and put to death circumcised children and their families (1.54-61). II Maccabees reports offering “abominable” sacrifices, and prohibition of Sabbath, festivals and circumcision (6. 3-6, 10-11). Josephus also mentions some of the details of the decree such as erection of an “idol” altar in the temple and altars in “every city and village”, offering abominable sacrifices, prohibition of circumcision, killing the women and their sons who were circumcised, destroying the Torah and those who possessed it (Josephus Ant. 12.253-256). The royal decree prohibited mainly the Jewish distinctive customs such as celebration of the Jewish festivals, observance of the Sabbath, circumcision and dietary laws. Transgressors of the new decree were liable to capital punishment. II Maccabees considers the prohibition of the distinctive customs as denial for the Jew to “confess himself to be a Jew” (II Macc. 6.6; 15.1-5).

The author of I Maccabees states that the royal decree ordered the establishment of a uniform cult throughout the Seleucid kingdom and endeavored to abolish the particular rites of various nations. This assessment is weak and overtly exaggerated. Because other regions continued to worship their own gods/goddesses. On the basis of the coins minted in various cities in the Seleucid kingdom, Bickerman argues that Antiochus IV Epiphanes by no means followed a policy of establishing a uniform cult throughout his kingdom. He contends:

From 169/8 B.C. on, precisely the time at which the conflict with the Jews began, numerous cities of his realm received permission to mint small coins. In every case, the obverse shows the king’s head in the crown of rays without any inscription. If the king is named at all (as on the reverse of the Phoenician coins), it says: “Of King Antiochus.” This uniformity demonstrates that picture and title were prescribed. This makes it all the more noteworthy that the reverse of these coins, which is reserved for the emblems of the individual cities, does not show any uniformity. Every place, rather, displays the divinity that was especially revered there. At Adna and Nisbis we find Zeus Nikephoros (as on Epiphenes’ own coins); Alexandria- Issos shows a standing Zeus; Laodices on the Sea displays her Baal, as identified with Poseidon; Sidon boasts of her city-goddess; Byblos issues her coins with the old-fashioned image of her divinity with six wings. The Phoenician cities, for the first time since Alexander the Great, adds inscriptions in the local language. What, then, could possibly have motivated Epiphanes to replace on Mt. Zion the god of the fathers by the Olympion Zeus of the Greeks?[41]

There is no indication that Antiochus ever intended religious coercion throughout his empire.[42] There is no evidence that Jews outside Jerusalem and Judea in the Seleucid kingdom were affected by the decree of the king (II Macc. 4.36; Josephus Ant. 12.119; BJ 7.43, 106). The petition of the Samaritans to Antiochus IV Epiphanes that belongs to the period of the persecution (166 BCE), and the subsequent letters of the king to Nicanor, the procurator, and Apollonius, governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, illustrate that the practice of the Sabbath in Samaria was not affected by the decree of the king (Josephus, Ant. 12.257-264). The Samaritans petitioned to the king not to be treated like the Jews, because they were different from the latter in race and their customs.[43] They further declared that their practice of the Sabbath was introduced by their forefathers “upon certain frequent plagues, and as following a certain ancient superstition” (Josephus, Ant. 12. 259). Their request to be freed from the “accusations which belong to the Jews” was granted by the king. From this request it can be understood that the Samaritans continued to live according to the Torah and celebrate the Sabbath. This further illustrates that the king’s decree prohibiting the customs of the Torah was not enforced in Samaria. On the king’s letter exempting the Samaritans from persecution Jonathan Goldstein comments, “Since Josephus likes to contrast the Samaritans with the Jews, one would expect him to mention immediately after AJ xii 264 any royal messages requiring persecution of Jews outside Judaea….”[44]  Furthermore, the letter of Antiochus IV was addressed tē gerousia tōn Ioudaiōn kai tois allois Ioudaiois (II Macc. 11. 27-33).[45] As a result of the diplomatic negotiations carried out by Menelaus on behalf of the people, the king granted amnesty to the Judeans who would return to their homes before the 30th of Xanthicus, and revoked his earlier policy of persecution and restored “full permission for the Jews to enjoy their own food and laws, just as formerly” (II Macc. 11.30-31). This expresses the cessation of the suppression of the practices in Jerusalem and Judea that were considered characteristically Jewish. Therefore, the decree of Antiochus IV was limited to the Jews in “Jerusalem and the cities of Judaea” (I Macc. 1.44, 51, 3.35, 2.6; cf. Josephus JW 1.34-36; II Macc. 6-7).[46] Commenting on I Maccabees Bickerman notes,

The error of the Jewish historian can be explained, however, if we assume that the persecution at Jerusalem was defended as aiming to abolish particularism. This, then, would have been the goal of the people who instigated the measures of the king.[47]

The legal binding of the Torah in Jerusalem guaranteed by Antiochus III’s charter of freedom enforced particularism of Jews at Jerusalem. This could not be changed by anyone except the king. This was what Antiochus IV Epiphanes did. He revoked the existing freedom charter of the previous king and introduced a new one. When this new charter came into force, it was no longer assimilation that was considered transgression, but particularism.[48] According to the decree of Antiochus III, it was forbidden to offer on Zion any sacrifices which the Torah prohibited (Josephus, Ant. 12.145). In contrast, according to the decree of Antiochus IV pork should be used for sacrifices, and the Jewish particular customs such as circumcision, Sabbath, dietary laws and festivals were prohibited. Bickerman explains the situation with a historical analogy:

Just as Ezra had introduced the law by the authority conferred upon him by Artaxerxes, so now the abolition of the law was proclaimed by the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Just as the edict of Artaxerxes declared non-compliance with the Jewish law (which was identified with the royal law) to be a capital crime, (so also did the decree of Antiochus).[49] 

Jews, who insisted on the distinctive Jewish rituals and based Jewish life on their exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah, resented at the new charter of freedom. They considered the charter as prohibition to confess as Jews (since their identity is bound up with their distinctive rituals) and of their freedom to live according to the laws of the Torah.

C. The Revolt of the Maccabees

The decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes had deprived the Jews to order their lives according to the exlusionistic interpretation of the Torah. As Peter Schafer rightly comments, “The measures carried out by the king against the Torah and the Jewish cult had – consciously or unconsciously – struck Judaism’s vital nerve.”[50] In reaction to the king’s decree, the Maccabean movement arose. The concern of Mattathias and his sons was restoration of “freedom”, that is (re)establishment of social order in accordance with the laws of the Torah. Maccabean movement is characterized by “zeal for the law”. Zeal for God and the Torah compelled those involved in the movement to resist the king’s decree.

 1. The Origin of the Maccabees

I Maccabees and II Maccabees begin their narrative about Maccabees and their revolt differently. I Maccabees starts with Mattathias, the patriarch of the Hasmonean family, whereas II Maccabees has nothing to say about him. The former attributes to Mattathias the honor of being the initiator of the revolt, whereas the latter focuses on Judas and makes no reference to the Maccabean revolt having its inception in Mattathias’ action in Modein, a town about seventeen miles northwest of Jerusalem. According to II Maccabees Judas, Mattathias’ son, played the most prominent role in the Maccabean movement from the beginning (5.27). However, Bar-Kochva argues:

The closeness of the verse to the description of the devastation carried out in Jerusalem by Apollonius, commander of the Mysian troops (5.24-6), gives the impression that Judas Maccabaeus fled from Jerusalem to the desert before the promulgation of the anti-Jewish decrees, and there began to organize and shape a core of rebels.[51]

But this does not fit with the account of I Maccabees where the rebellion initiated by Mattathias was in reaction to the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (2.15ff). Some scholars prefer the “realistic” tone of II Maccabees to the “artistic-legendary” story of I Maccabees on Mattathias’ charismatic action.[52] Josephus in both his books Jewish Wars (1.36) and Jewish Antiquities (12.268-271) agrees with the depiction of I Maccabees. On II Maccabees 5.27 Bar-Kochva comments:

Far-reaching conclusions should not…be drawn from that verse. Judas Maccabaeus’ sudden appearance without any introduction or prior information, the reference to the men who accompanied him to the desert, and the many principal forms…all show that the verse is an abridgement (or summary) of a detailed story in Jason’s original book, which contained information on additional people in the leadership of the Revolt at its inception. This story may well have begun with the Modein episode, and it is not impossible that among the ten people were Judas Maccabaeus’ brothers and Mattathias who fled from Modein (cf. I Macc. 2.17, 20, 28).[53]

Referring to the encamping of Lysias and his army at Modein (II Macc. 13.14-15), Bar-Kochva argues that the reference to Modein was unrelated to the geographical background and Jason of Cyrene, who was ignorant of the exact place where the Seleucid army encamped and being familiar with the tradition on Modein, “inserted the name of Modein which was famous from the onset of the Revolt in order to whet the reader’s interest.”[54]  

Mattathias was a historical person, for he is mentioned in an official document as Simon’s father (I Macc. 14.29). We know little of the antecedents of Mattathias except for his father John and grandfather Simeon (I Macc. 2.1; Josephus, Ant. 12.265). He was a priest, and had five sons: John, Simon, Judas, Eleazar and Jonathan. This family belonged to the priestly clan of Joiarib (I Macc. 2.1; 14.29). Joiarib is absent in the priests’ lists of Ezra (2.36-39)[55] and Nehemiah (7.39-42), but is found among the priests living in Jerusalem in Nehemiah 11.10, and among the priests who went up to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in Nehemiah 12.6. Joiarib takes the second place in the list of priests in I Chronicles 9.10-13 and first place in the list of I Chronicles 24, which is viewed by some scholars as the result of the pro-Hasmonean redaction of the material.[56] In spite of the contrary view that Mattathias was a native priest of Modein, the ancient sources overwhelmingly affirm that the Hasmonean family was from Jerusalem (I Macc. 2.1; II Macc. 5.25-27; Josephus, Ant. 12.265).[57] Some scholars suppose that the family owned an estate in Modein.[58] On the basis of this, John Hays and Sarah Mandell argue that the family had power base in that town “or even in the portions of Judah that were not as urbanized as Jerusalem, rather than in Jerusalem proper.”[59] Even though both I Maccabees and Josephus acknowledge that Mattathias and his family had a good standing in Modein, there is no strong evidence for Mattathias owning an estate in Modein (I Macc. 2.17-18; Josephus, Ant. 12.268-269).  

2. The Motive of the Maccabean Movement

Discussing on the motive of the Maccabean movement, Brent Nongbri argues that the “main concern at all periods was their own advancement.”[60] Samuel Eddy says that the starting point to look for the motive of Maccabean movement should not be Mattathias as he is not a prominent figure in the narratives of I Maccabees and Josephus. As he reasons,

Mattathias died as soon as the resistance began…his death made no difference at all to the course of events…Hence the problem of finding out what motivated Mattathias is not really as important as finding out what intentions the Hasmonean family had and what their contemporaries thought of them…they wanted very badly to improve their position in respect to the other priestly families of Judah, or, in other words, to become high priests. This is actually what happened, and there is no reason for thinking that it was not a motive from the beginning. Their piety was tempered with ambition.[61]

Eddy adds that the campaigns of the Maccabees did not cease with the restoration of what was changed with the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, but continued with territorial expansion and acquiring power in Jerusalem with the help of regional political powers. Commenting on Judas, Seth Schwartz says that he “behaved more like an ambitious courtier than a zealous freedom fighter. So he was probably not seeking to overthrow the existing system but to advance within it.”[62] Although the actions of the Hasmonean family may be interpreted like the above scholars did, it is uncertain whether self-advancement by acquiring power in Jerusalem was the main motive of the Maccabean revolt from the beginning. When one considers what prompted the revolt and the goal of the movement as reported by the ancient sources, they lead to a different conclusion. Also acquiring power in Jerusalem with the help of the regional political powers was not just for its selfish ambition for power. It reveals the very goal at the heart of Maccabean agenda from the beginning. That means, restoration of the freedom and maintenance of it in Jerusalem and Judea. The territorial expansion of the Hasmonean rule also expresses their religious zealotry as evidenced by their forceful circumcision of the conquered.  

The ancient sources testify that the goal of the Maccabean movement was to (re)establish freedom in Jerusalem and Judea. However, they define the freedom in different terms. I Maccabees records that the concern of Mattathias and his sons was the Torah and the covenant. So Mattathias gave a call, “Let everyone who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me” (I Macc. 2.27). He saw “the blasphemies being committed in Judah and Jerusalem” and the holy city “no longer free, she has become a slave” (I Macc. 2.11). Mattathias and his followers “exposed themselves to the danger and resisted the enemies of their nation, in order that their sanctuary and the law might be preserved and they brought great glory to their nation” (I Macc. 14. 29). By restoring the temple and the Torah, Mattathias and his sons established the freedom in Jerusalem and Judea (I Macc. 14.26),

II Maccabees depicts the Maccabean revolt as a freedom movement. That is, to secure the freedom to live according to the Torah.[63] The book describes the purpose of the Maccabean revolt as to seize “the whole land”, pursue “the barbarian hordes”, regain “possession of the temple famous throughout the world”, liberate “the city”, and reestablish “the laws that were about to be abolished” (II Macc. 2. 21-22). It further states that the intended goal of the Maccabean revolt was mainly the restoration of the temple cult and tōn patriōn nomōn and tois tou theou nomois mē politeuesthai. Because these were affected by the decree of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (II Macc. 6.1). That was why Antiochus V Eupator in his letter to Lysias conveyed his decision to restore the temple and politeuesthai kata ta epi tōn progonōn autōn ethē (II Macc. 11.25).[64] Judas, before attacking Nicanor, exhorted his army to keep before “their eyes the lawless outrage that the ethnōn had committed against the holy place, and the torture of the derided city, and besides, tēn tēs progonikēs politeias katalusin” (II Macc. 8.17; cf. II Macc. 13.14). Therefore, II Maccabees understands the freedom in terms of restoration of temple cult and tōn patriōn nomōn and tois tou theou nomois mē politeuesthai.

Josephus also describes the Maccabean movement as a freedom movement (Ant.12.281, 302; 12.433-434). Freedom is understood in terms of restoration of tēn archaian politeian so that the Jews might live according to the customs of their country. There is an emphasis that the Maccabean movement was aimed primarily toward the restoration of the “laws of the fathers” (Ant. 12.285; cf. I Macc. 2.69-70). According to Josephus, Mattathias in his farewell speech exhorted his sons,

To preserve the customs of your country, and to recover tēn archaian politeian, which is in danger of being overturned…if God sees that you are so disposed he will not overlook you, but will have a great value for your virtue, and will restore to you again what you have lost, and will return to you that freedom in which you shall live quietly, and enjoy your own customs (Josephus Ant. 12.280-281).

Recovering freedom was the goal of the Maccabean movement can also be seen in Judas’ address to his army at Emmaus. He exhorted his army, “For if you now fight manfully, you may recover your liberty, which, as it is a thing of itself agreeable to all men, so it proves to be to us much more desirable, by its affording us the liberty of worshipping God” (Joesphus Ant. 12. 302-303). For Josephus, Judas’ victory at Emmaus “contributed to the recovery of their liberty” (Josephus Ant. 12.312). When Judas died, Josephus eulogizes him as “a man of valor and a great warrior, and mindful of all the commands of their father Mattathias; and had undergone all difficulties, both in doing and in suffering, for the liberty of his countrymen” (Josephus Ant. 12.433). For Josephus eleutheria is “life in accordance with the laws and customs of the fathers.”[65]

Thus, the three main sources declare that the main purpose of the Maccabean revolt was to restore the freedom, the freedom to live according to the laws of the Torah. In other words, Maccabees wanted to reestablish the politeia based on the laws of the Torah.

 3. Politeia/Politeuesthai

Modern scholarship is divided with regards to usage of politeia in the Jewish-Hellenistic literature. Scholars like Tcherikover argue that the politeia “is often linked to the integration and assimilation of Judaism into Greek civic life.”[66] On the other hand, scholars like Aryeh Kasher argue that it denotes an independent political entity, separate inside a polis

Josephus understood the term politeia to mean “regime”, ‘constitution”, “government”, “civic status”, “citizenship”, and “civic body”.[67] However, he used politeia more frequently in the sense of “constitution”.[68] Kasher notes:

It is most instructive that in the vast majority of the latter (that is, with the meaning of “constitution”), the “constitution” referred to was the laws of the Torah, and indeed that was the common usage in Hellenistic Jewish literature too (Josephus Ant. 3.84, 213, 322; 4.45, 184, 191, 193-196, 198, 230, 302, 310, 312; 5.98, 132, 179, 186; 6.35; 10.275; 11.140; 12.240, 280; 13.2, 245; 15.281; II Macc. 4.11; 8.17; 13.14).[69]

It is, therefore, not surprising that the verb politeuein was used to mean the establishment of community life according to the laws of the Torah (Josephus Ant. 12.38, 142; 14.260; 11.112, 279; II Macc. 6.1; 11.25). The struggle of the Jews resulted from their eagerness to survive as Jews with their distinctive identity, and their desire to protect their rights to an independent organization. II Maccabees shows that politeuein became the slogan of the Maccabean movement. This is evident in the letter of Antiochus Eupator. In his letter to Lysias, king Eupator acknowledged the resentment of the Jews against his father’s plan of “converting them to Hellenic customs” and their preference for “their own way of life.” The king informed his decision to the Jews to return the temple and politeuesthai “according to the customs of their ancestors” (II Macc. 11.25). The loss of politeia by the Jews also echoed in Judas’ exhortation to his army. Before confronting Nicanor and his army, Judas encouraged his army by exhorting them about the misery done to the sacred place and to Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the politeia (II Macc. 8.17; cf. 13.14). According to II Maccabees, the process of the annulment of the Jewish right of politeia began with Jason. Jason’s act of getting permission from the king “to set up a gymnasium and ephebeum and to register the Jerusalemites as Antiocheans” is interpreted as “(setting) aside the established royal laws…(and breaking down) lawful politeias, and (introducing) new customs forbidden by the law” (II Macc. 4.10). Finally, Antiochus IV Epiphanes by issuing the decree annulled the Jewish right of politeia. In order to implement this, the king sent “an old Antiochean” “to compel the Jews to depart from the laws of their fathers, and mē politeuesthai the laws of their fathers” (II Macc. 6.1).

Josephus reiterates that the goal of the Maccabean movement was to restore the Jewish politeia . Mattathias in his farewell speech to his sons exhorted them “to save our country’s customs and to restore tēn archaian politeian” (Josephus Ant. 12.280). Josephus also concurs with II Maccabees that Antiochus IV Epiphanes deprived the Jews of their right to politeia. Josephus, writing about the visions of Daniel and their fulfillment in the history of Jews, mentions that what Daniel saw about “a certain king who would make war on the Jewish nation and their laws, deprive them of the politeia based on these laws” fulfilled under  Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Josephus, Ant. 10. 275). Unlike the account of II Maccabees, for Josephus the process of annulment of the Jewish right of politeia started with Menelaus and the Tobiads. They went to the king and told him that “they wished to abandon tous patrious nomous and tēn kat’ autous politeian and to follow the king’s laws and adopt tēn Ellēnikēn politeian” (Josephus Ant. 12. 240).

Although the term politeia (or  politeuesthai) is absent in I Maccabees, it emphasizes that the goal of the Maccabean movement was restoration of community life according to the laws of the Torah. It describes the Maccabean movement as a revolt against the decree of the king Antiochus IV Epiphanes that prohibited the particular customs of the Jews in Jerusalem and Judea and its goal as the restoration of the temple and the Torah (I Macc. 1. 41ff; 14.29). The movement is characterized by the zeal for the Torah and the covenant (I Macc. 2. 27). When king’s officer asked Mattathias to be the first in obeying the king’s order, the latter answered:

Even if all the nations that live under the rule of the king obey him, and have chosen to obey his commandments, everyone of them abandoning the religion of their ancestors, I and my sons and my brothers will continue to live by the covenant of our ancestors. Far be it from us to desert the law and the ordinances. We will not obey the king’s words by turning aside from our religion to the right hand or to the left (I Macc. 2.15-22).

The words of Lysias makes it even more clear that the Maccabean movement was a result of the abolishment of Jewish way of life according to their laws: “Let us agree to let them (Jews) live by their laws as they did before; for it was on account of their laws that we abolished that they became angry and did all these things” (I Macc. 6.59).

 Politeia is “a kind of honour that the kings or the Caesars gave in tribute to the Jews in exchange for their expertise and loyalty; these honours were expressed in concrete fashion…in the authorization ‘to use the ancestral laws’.”[70] Josephus mentions that Selucus I Nicator granted the Jews of Antioch a politeia and “declared them to have equal privileges (isotimous) with the Macedonians and Greeks” (Josephus Ant. 12.119-124). The honor equal to those of Macedonians and Greeks that the Jews received was politeia. It was their politeia that placed them at an equal rank with the Macedonians and the Greeks. Strabo also employed politeia to the Jewish community of Alexandria (Josephus Ant. 14.117). Here politeia is refers to an independent political body based on the laws of the Torah. Because of this concession of politeia the Jews in Antioch were “named Antiochians” (Josephus, Ag. Ap.2.39). According to Josephus, “the concession of politeia on the part of the authorities, the kings or the Caesars and their representatives, to the Jews of the Ephesus, Antioch, Alexandria, or Cyrene, equates them to citizens” (cf. Josephus Ag.Ap. 2.39).[71] The right of politeia could not be abolished by anyone except the one who bestowed it. That was why the Greeks of Alexandria and Antioch requested Vespasian and Titus to abolish this right of Jewish politeia. One thing that is obvious is that the right of politeia was bestowed by an emperor or a king and not by local authorities of polis (cf. Josephus Ant. 16.31-40). The abolition of the Jewish politeia meant that the Jewish community would be deprived of the right to order its life according to the ancestral laws.[72] Josephus, however, records that Vespasian and Titus did not concede the request of the Greeks of Alexandria and Antioch, but allowed the Jews to enjoy their right of politeia. Similar incident happened in Ionia. Josephus records that the Greeks of Ionia petitioned Agrippa that “they alone might enjoy the politeia which Antiochus, the grandson of Seleucus, called Theos by the Greeks, had given them, and claimed that if the Jews were to be their kinsfolk, they should worship their gods” (Josephus Ant 12.125-126). The Greeks’ claim that “they alone might enjoy the politeia” indicates that not only the Greeks but also the Jews residing in Ionia were bestowed with the right of politeia. What the Greeks wanted was cancellation of that right of the Jews and establishment of one politeia based on sunggeneia. This kinship was based on religious criterion: “If the Jews were to be their (the Greeks) kinsfolk, they should worship their gods.” But, Josephus notes that when “the matter was brought to trial, the Jews won the right to use their own customs” (Josephus Ant. 12.126). Here Josephus is not talking about the “citizenship” of the polis but the “right to use their (Jews) own customs.” This suggests that abolition of Jewish politeia meant that the Jews would no longer be allowed to order their lives according to their ancestral customs. This is made even clearer in Antiquities 16.27ff:

(The Jews living in Ionia complained to Agrippa about) the mistreatment which they had suffered in not being allowed to observe their own laws and in being forced to appear in court on their holy days because of the inconsiderateness of the examining judges. And they told how they had been deprived of the monies sent as offerings to Jerusalem and of being forced to participate in military service and civic duties and to spend their sacred monies for these things, although they had been exempted from these duties because the Romans had always permitted them to live in accordance with their own laws (Josephus Ant. 16. 27-28).

The laws regarding the politeia are the laws of the Torah. Josephus notes that the Jews living in Ionia were equals to the Greeks living there in the sense of having the right of politeia (Josephus Ant. 16.32-33). In other words, Jewish politeia is an autonomously organized and a separate political body in a polis. The one thing that had caused resentment among the Greeks towards the Jews was “the right to preserve our (Jews) ancestral religion” (Josephus Ant. 16. 41). Kasher rightly comments:

 The separate independent existence of Jewish communities within their boundaries was a thorn in the flesh of the Ionian cities. The Jews’ right to maintain a parallel organization to the polis, send money to Jerusalem, be exempt from the liturgia and enjoy full consideration of their laws, all highlighted the poleis’ own limited sovereignty and total dependence on Rome. It is no wonder that those cities missed no opportunity to seek a change in the situation. One method undoubtedly consisted of accusing the Jews of “impiety”, which if confirmed would lead to the abolition of the Jewish politeia. That would leave just one politeia, the Greek one, based on a single syngeneia of a clearly religious nature.[73]

4. “Zeal” of the Maccabees

Maria Brutti rightly observes that the association of the verb zēloō and the noun nomos  in I Maccabees and II Maccabees (I Macc. 2.24, 26; II Macc. 4.2)[74] “highlights a widespread issue in the Jewish world of the Hellenistic age: the zeal for the law.”[75] Many Jews fostered the ideal of “zeal for God” or “zeal for the law” on the model of Phineas and Elijah. Such admiration for zeal was also influential in shaping the Maccabean movement. Analyzing the issue of “zeal for the law”, Hengel finds that it had a particular relevance during the crisis of the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes,[76] for the underlying cause of the crisis in Jerusalem and Judea was the Torah. In I Maccabees Mattathias, the patriarch of the movement, was characterized by the “zeal for the law” (2.24, 26). Thus, Mattathias was placed in line with Phineas and Elijah (I Macc. 2.54,58). In Josephus, Mattathias’ zeal is found only once: “If anyone is zealous for the ancient customs and the veneration of God, let him follow me” (Ant. 12.271). According to him, Mattathias’ call was to restore the Jewish politeia based on the Torah. Commenting on the lack of the concept of zēlos in Josephus, Hengel says, “Josephus consciously suppressed any elements that may possibly have established close link between early Jewish history and the principles and aims of Jewish movement of revolt against Rome.”[77]

Unlike II Maccabees, the author of the I Maccabees characterizes the Maccabean movement as “zeal for the law” (I Macc. 2. 26, 27). II Maccabees, for its particular reasons, neither mentions Mattathias as the initiator of the movement nor characterizes the movement by “zeal for the law”. The absence of reference to Mattathias and zeal in II Maccabees, and for having close parallels and overt reference to Phineas in I Maccabees, the material about Mattathias is considered “suspect” by some scholars.[78] They contend that the portrayal of Mattathias in line with Phineas was intended to justify the high priesthood of the Hasmonean family. Tcherikover, though admits Mattathias as a historical person “for he is mentioned in an official document as Simon’s father (I Macc. 14.29),” is more blunt in his rejection of the story of Mattathias. He thinks, “The attractive figure in I Maccabees belongs rather to the world of fiction than to historical reality, and it should be remarked that II Maccabees does not refer to him at all.”[79] Lester Grabbe comments that “the story as it stands has elements suggestive of romantic coloration (eg., the Phineas-like act of Mattathias)”.[80] However, Peter Schafer argues that even though the account in I Maccabees 2.1-26 is “tendentious but still essentially historical.”[81] Goldstein too considers the story of Mattathias historical. He reasons, “The author of I Maccabees, writing in the time of Mattathias’ great-grandson, may well preserve Mattathias’ own ideology.”[82] According to I Maccabees, the decisive impetus for zeal for the law came when Antiochus IV Epiphanes issued a decree prohibiting Jewish life according to the Torah (1.41-50). It presents Mattathias as viewing the crisis similar to that faced by zealous Phineas.[83]

The characteristic of “zeal” was influential during the Maccabean period (cf. Judith 9.2ff Jubilees 30.5-20 Sirach 45.23-24, 48.2). Farmer comments that “the term zēloō indicates that the one who is zealous for God is one active, in a particular way, for God.”[84] What is evident is that violence was an essential part of the zeal. Violence was directed against those Jews who failed to maintain their distinctive identity by separating themselves from the nations. Phineas, son of Eleazar, is the first example of the Old Testament for the zeal for the honor of God. When Israel began to worship the Baal of Peor, God’s wrath fell upon Israel and caused a plague to fall upon it (Num. 25.1-18). Phineas saw Zimri, an Israelite, taking Cozbi, a Midianite woman, into his tent, and he killed both of them.[85] This act of Phineas was reported to have been commended and approved by God as “zeal…on my (God’s) behalf” and resulted in “turning back my (God’s) wrath from the Israelites”. In other words, Phineas’ zealous act “made atonement for the Israelites” and restored peace in the community (Num. 25.13). Thus, “the sword of those who love God is a redemptive instrument, and its zealous use is capable of turning away the wrath of God from his disobedient people, by making atonement for the sins of the nation.”[86] As a reward for his act, Phineas was given a promise of eternal priesthood and a covenant of peace.

What is significant of “zeal” after the model of Phineas is: 1. Zeal for God (or the law) was primarily directed against the apostates of Israel, who failed to maintain their distinctive identity by separating themselves from the nations and endorsed the use of violence against them; 2. The linking of Phineas’ atoning act and priesthood (because Phineas offered the sacrifices in the form of Zimri and Cozbi that turned away God’s wrath from the entire community, and thus restored peace and order) with a covenant of peace. Farmer comments, “Within certain circles of post-exilic Judaism Phineas was regarded as one of the great patriarchs.”[87] For Sirach, Phineas ranks third after Moses and Aaron in his zeal for God and “standing firm, when the people turned away” (Sirach 45.23; cf. 25.10-13). The author speaks that the act of Phineas had “made atonement for Israel” and was rewarded with “the dignity of priesthood forever” (Sir. 45.23-26; cf. 50.24). While the Greek text qualifies the zeal of Phineas as “in the fear of the Lord”, the Hebrew text characterizes him as “standing in the breach”[88].

The tradition of Phineas was active during the time of Maccabees. Horsley notes, “The tradition of the zeal of Phineas was given an importance that was much greater than it ever had in the past during the period of religious distress experienced under Antiochus Epiphanes.”[89] The zeal of Phineas had become the prototype for the ideal of “zeal for the law” for the Maccabean movement. I Maccabees considers Phineas as the ultimate model and thus called him “our father” (I Macc. 2.54).[90] The concern of Mattathias was zeal for the law and the covenant.[91] This is evident in his call to people: “Let every one who is zealous for the law and supports the covenant come out with me” (I Macc. 2.27), and to his sons: “Now, my children, show zeal for the law, and give your lives for the covenant of our ancestors” (I Macc. 2.50). It is important to note how closely linked are the law interpreted in exclusionistic sense and the covenant, or more precisely, obedience to the law and keeping the covenant. Significantly, Mattathias’ exhortation to his sons to “show zeal for the law” is exemplified by ta erga tōn paterōn (I Macc. 2.50-60). The zealous acts of Phineas and Elijah are included in ta erga tōn paterōn. The similarity between the context of Phineas and that of the Maccabees was apostate Jews and God’s wrath upon the Jews.[92] The position of the statement in I Macc. 1.64 (“Very great wrath came upon Israel”) is significant. The preceding verses describe the decree of the king against Jewish particular customs, the apostasy of many Jews (I Macc. 1.52), the desecration of the temple (I Macc. 1. 45f., 54, 59; 2.8f; cf. II Mac. 6.4; Dan. 9.26f.; 11.31), the destruction of the law (I Macc. 1.49f., 56f.; cf. II Macc. 6.1ff.), the death of many “faithful” Jews (I Macc. 1.57, 63; 2.29-38; II Macc. 6.9ff), and the following verses are about Mattathias and his sons and their zealous acts for the law. Phineas was referred as a model for Mattathias’ act of killing a Jew, who was trying to offer a sacrifice to an idol, and the Seleucid officer, who was overseeing the implementation of the king’s decree in Modein (I Macc.2.26). Waldemar Janzen contends that “the exemplary dimension of his (Phinehas) act was not its violence…but Phinehas’s zeal for the Lord and his atoning for the people. These were hallmarks of true priesthood.”[93] Mattathias (and his sons), however, was in no doubt as to what “the exemplary dimension” of the act required.[94] Like zealous Phinehas, Mattathias, being zealous for the law, killed an apostate Jew, who failed to maintain his distinctive identity. Zeal for the law (or for God), thus, would legitimize violence to enforce conformity to the Torah within the Jewish community.[95]

The zealous “works” of the Maccabees continued with killing Jewish renegades and forceful circumcision of “all the uncircumcised boys that they found within the borders of Israel” (I Macc. 2.42-48). Josephus commends the act of Phineas and those that modeled his act. He says that Phineas resolved to punish Zimri “before his unworthy behavior should grow stronger by impunity, and in order to prevent this transgression from proceeding further” (Josephus Ant. 4. 152). He asserts, “All those young men that had a regard to virtue, and aimed to do a glorious action, imitated Phineas’s boldness, and slew those that were found to be guilty of the same crime with Zimri” (Josephus Ant. 4. 154). Even though the concept of expiation is not mentioned explicitly, the zealous “works” of the Maccabees, standing in the tradition of their patriarch Phineas, were considered an “atonement” to turn the wrath of God away from the Jewish community. It is stated in the hymn of Judas, “He went through the cities of Judah, he destroyed the ungodly out of the land; thus he turned away wrath from Israel” (I Macc. 3.8; cf. II Macc. 8.5).[96] Although the characterization of Mattathias and his sons in the tradition of Phineas was to justify the Hasmonean priesthood, it was aimed at legitimizing their violence against their fellow Jews, who were perceived to be violators of the law. Their violence was described as atonement for the Jews that turned away the wrath of God and restored peace in the community. The peace is the reestablishment of Jewish life according to the Torah. The general pattern seen with those characterized as zealous for the law (or God) is: those with zeal for the law (or God), as the “priests”, “offered” the violators of the Torah as “sacrifice of atonement” to turn away the wrathful visitation of God and restore (or protect) Jewish life according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. A zealotic religious ideology affirms the salvific power of violence. It denigrates people who do not follow the social order based on their interpretation of the Torah. It, thus, permits discrimination, and ultimately violence.

Thus, the Maccabean freedom movement was aimed at restoring the freedom of the Jews to live according to the exclusionistic interpretation of the Torah. For the zealots of the Torah, living according to the law was essentially maintaining Jewish distinctive identity by practicing the distinctive rituals such as circumcision, dietary laws, Sabbath and festivals. The zealous Jews even used violence to protect their freedom based on the exclusionistic understanding of the Torah.

 


[1] David Rhoads, “Zealots,” in ABD, ed. by David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), VI. 1044.

[2] Maria Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood during the Pre-Hasmonean Period: History, Ideology, Theology (Leiden: Brill, 2006), p. 169.

[3] II Maccabees suggests that such behavior was standard policy among the Seleucids, “even to the extent that King Seleucus of Asia defrayed from his own revenues all the expenses connected with the services of the sacrifices” (3:2-3). Such descriptions are consistent with Seleucid behavior as known from other sources. Thus, for example, a clay cylinder from the time of Antiochus I found in the Ezida temple complex at Borsippa presents the king as a patron of the Babylonian cult, the “caretaker of Esagila and Ezida,” who undertook to rebuild these important sanctuaries. Amelie Kuhrt and Susan Sherwin-White, “Aspects of Seleucid Royal Ideology: The Cylinder of Antiochus I from Borsippa,” in JHS 111 (1991), pp. 71-86.

[4] Elias Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees: Studies on the Meaning and Origin of the Maccabean Revolt, tr. by Horst R. Moehring (Leiden: Brill, 1979), p. 34.

[5] Victor Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, tr. by S. Applebaum (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1959), p. 83.

[6] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 83-84.

[7] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, pp. 91-92.

[8] Elias Bickerman, “La Charte Seleucide de Jerusalem,” in REJ 100 (1935), pp. 67-68, cited by Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 171.

[9] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 172.

[10] Martin Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism: Studies in their Encounter in Palestine during the Early Hellenistic Period (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1974), I. 278.

[11] Jonathan A. Goldstein, I Maccabees: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976), p. 200.

[12] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 176.

[13] Uriel Rappaport, “Maccabean Revolt,” in ABD, IV. 437.

[14] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 175.

[15] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 176-177.

[16] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 178-180.

[17] Emil Schurer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ (175 B.C.-A.D. 135), revised and edited by Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1973), I. 147-148.

[18] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 180.

[19] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 181-182.

[20] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, pp. 186,191.

[21] Richard A. Horsley and John S. Hanson, Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs: Popular Movements in the Time of Jesus (Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press, 1985), p. 89.

[22] William Reuben Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus: An Inquiry into Jewish Nationalism in the Greco-Roman Period (New York: Columbia University Press, 1956), p. 51.

[23] Lester L. Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian: Volume One: The Persian and Greek Periods (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1992), p. 284.

[24] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, p. 1.

[25] John H. Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity: From Alexander to Bar Kochba (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), pp. 47-48.

[26] Rappaport, “Maccabean Revolt,” p. 438.

[27] Shaye J.D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1987), p. 61.

 

[28] Otto Morkholm, “Antiochus IV,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, ed. by W.D. Davies and Louis Finkelstein (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 284.

[29] Aryeh Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt: The Struggle for Equal Rights (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1985), p. 330.

[30] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 331.

[31] John J. Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem: Jewish Identity in the Hellenistic Diaspora (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2000), p. 12.

[32] Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem, p. 13.

[33] Collins, Between Athens and Jerusalem, p. 13.

[34] Italics mine.

[35] Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 287-289.

[36] Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 278.

[37] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 200.

[38] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 52.

[39] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 161; Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 277-278.

[40] The connection between the sequence of events preceding the issue of the decree prohibiting the practice of Jewish religion and the promulgation of decree by Antiochus IV Epiphanes is unclear.

[41] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, pp. 30-31.

[42] John R. Bartlett, I Maccabees (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998), p. 62.

[43] Hengel gives reason that it was “because of the often obscure border line between the Samaritan and the Jewish population and the Samaritans’ almost identical religious customs, especially as Judea and Samaria were presumably an administrative unit under a meridiarch with his seat in Samaria. At the beginning of 167 BC a royal commissar, Andronicus, was appointed for both Jerusalem and for the Samaritans (II Macc. 5.23).” Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism, I. 293-294.

[44] Goldstein, I Maccabees, p. 203.

[45] Goldstein considers that this letter was written by Antiochus V.  Jonathan A. Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt and the Hasmonean Dynasty,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism: Hellenistic Age, II. 301.

[46] Otto Morkholm thinks that “the religious persecution was not restricted to Judea.” Otto Morkholm, “Antiochus IV,” pp. 286-287.

[47] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, p. 84.

[48] What is puzzling is that historically religious intolerance has been the practice of monotheistic religions.

[49] Bickerman, The God of the Maccabees, pp. 90-91.

[50] Peter Schafer, “The Hellenistic and Maccabean Periods,” in Israelite and Judaean History, ed. by John H. Hays and J. Maxwell Miller (London: SCM Press, 1977), p. 585.

[51] Bezalel Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus: The Jewish Struggle against the Seleucids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 196.

[52] Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus, pp. 196-197.

[53] Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus, p. 197.

[54] Bar-Kochva, Judas Maccabaeus, pp. 197-198.

[55] The name Joiarib is mentioned in Ezra 8.16. He is a “wise” man. It is unclear whether this Joiarib is Joiarib, the priest mentioned elsewhere.  

[56] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 62; Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt,” p. 295.

[57] Doron Mendels, The Rise and Fall of Jewish Nationalism (New York: Doubleday, 1992), p. 126.

[58] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 62; Samuel Eddy, The King is Dead: Studies in the Near Eastern Resistance to Hellenism 334-31 B.C. (Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1961), p.215.

[59] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 62.

[60] Brent Nongbri, “The Motivations of the Maccabees and Judean Rhetoric of Ancestral Traditions,” in Ancient Judaism in Its Hellenistic Context, ed. by Carol Bakhos (Leiden: Brill, 2005), pp. 102-105.

[61] Eddy, The King is Dead, p. 215.

[62] Seth Schwartz, “A Note on the Social Type and Political Ideology of the Hasmonean Family,” in JBL 112 (1993), p. 309.

[63] Hayes and Sarah R. Mandell, The Jewish People in Classical Antiquity, p. 61.

[64] See Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, pp. 259-263, for matters relating to authenticity and dates of the letters.

[65] Louis H. Feldman, “Josephus’ Portrayal of the Hasmoneans Compared with I Maccabees,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith, ed. by Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers (Leiden: Brill, 1994), p. 46.

[66] Lucio Troiani, “The POLITEIA of Israel in the Graeco-Roman Age,” in Josephus and the History of the Greco-Roman Period: Essays in Memory of Morton Smith, ed. by Fausto Parente and Joseph Sievers (Leiden: Brill, 1994), p. 11.

[67] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 279.

[68] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 279.

[69] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 279.

[70] Troiani, “The POLITEIA of Israel in the Graeco-Roman Age,” p. 12.

[71] Troiani, “The POLITEIA of Israel in the Graeco-Roman Age,” pp. 12-13.

[72] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 244.

[73] Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, pp. 340-341.

[74] In I Maccabees nomos is used in singular, whereas in II Maccabees plural.

[75] Brutti, The Development of the High Priesthood, p. 288.

[76] Martin Hengel, The Zealots: Investigations into the Jewish Freedom Movement in the Period from Herod until 70 AD (Edinburgh: 1989), pp. 149-155.

[77] Hengel, The Zealots, p. 155.

[78] Nongbri, “The Motivations of the Maccabees,” p. 101.

[79] Tcherikover, Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews, p. 205.

[80] Grabbe, Judaism from Cyrus to Hadrian, p. 285.

[81] Peter Schafer, “The Hellenistic and Maccabean Periods,” p. 585.

[82] Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt,” p. 295.

[83] Goldstein, “The Hasmonean Revolt,” p. 295.

[84] Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus, p. 178.

[85] Vincent Smiles argues that “the purpose of Phinehas’s resort to violence was not so much “to maintain Israel’s distinctiveness as God’s covenant people” as to ensure Israel’s obedience to God’s Law in defense of the covenant. Separatism serves obedience, not vice versa.” But is it possible to separate “obedience to the Torah” and Jewish “separatism” as to say “separatism serves obedience”? Vincent M. Smiles, “The Concept of “Zeal” in the Second-Temple Judaism and Paul’s Critique of It in Romans 10:2,” in CBQ 64/2 (April 2002), p. 285.

[86] Farmer, Maccabees, Zealots, and Josephus, p. 178.

[87] William Reuben Farmer, “The Patriarch Phineas,” in AThR 34 (1952), p. 27.

[88] Notice the position of the introduction of Mattathias and his sons in I Maccabees (2.1ff).

[89] Richard A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1993), p. 121.

[90] William Klassen, “Jesus and Phineas: A Rejected Role Model,” in Society of Biblical Literature Seminar Papers Series, ed. by Kent Harold Richards (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1986), p. 492.

[91] Hengel comments that the “zeal for God and his law” dominated the early part of the Maccabean movement and later as “the aim of the war changed…’zeal for the law’ receded more and more into the background….” Hengel, The Zealots, p. 152. He notes that the term zhloj/zhloun and nomoj rarely appear after the first four chapters of I Maccabees.

[92] John Kampen, The Hasideans and the Origin of Pharisaism: A Study in 1 and 2 Maccabees (Atlanta, Georgia: Scholars Press, 1988), p. 74.

 

[93] Waldemar Janzen, Old Testament Ethics: A Paradigmatic Approach (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), p. 108.

[94] John J. Collins, “The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence,” in JBL 122/1 (Spring 2003).

[95] Collins, “The Zeal of Phinehas.”

[96] “The meaning of this text is quite unambiguous and completely in accordance with the Old Testament tradition, namely that, by removing the offence in Israel that was scandalizing God, God’s anger would be turned away from his people” (Num. 25; Josh 7; I Sam. 7.3ff; 14.37ff.). Hengel, The Zealots, p. 153.