Introduction to Galatians

Blaine Robison, M.A.

20 September 2019; Revised 20 May 2024

Chapter 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6


Scripture Text: The Scripture text of used in this chapter commentary is prepared by Blaine Robison based the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. Other Scripture quotations may be taken from different Bible versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. The LXX with English translation may be found here.

Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of this chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. Links to other ancient Jewish literature may be found at

Special Terms: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).

Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). The meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB," found online at Explanation of Greek grammatical forms and a pronunciation guide for New Testament Greek may be found here.

Style of Writing: For an explanation of abbreviations, acronyms, terminology, spelling conventions, and other information on organization of the commentary see my Commentary Writing Philosophy.


The letter begins with the greeting, "Paul, an apostle." The Greek name Paulos, derived from the Latin Paulus means small or humble. When he acquired the name of Paulus is not mentioned, but as a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28) it likely occurred at birth. Being a Jew Paul's birth name was Sha'ul ("Saul") (Acts 7:58). Paul's use of his Roman name is in keeping with Jewish practice of that time. It was not uncommon for Jews to have two names, a Hebrew name used with family and a Gentile name used in the Diaspora (Gittin 11b; Stern 267). However, the Complete Jewish Bible and the Orthodox Jewish Bible consistently uses Sha'ul instead of Paul.

Stern explains his use of Sha'ul in the CJB as "to highlight the Jewishness of the New Testament and its major figures" (267). Certainly Paul did not give up his Hebrew name nor did he stop living as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; Php 3:5). Yet, using his Roman name did not make him less of a Jew. Messianic Jews sometimes refer to Paul as "Rav Sha'ul," but no one in the Besekh refers to Paul as a rabbi, and Paul never refers to himself by that honorific because of Yeshua's prohibition (Matt 23:8). For a biography of Paul see my web article The Apostle from Tarsus.

In the course of the letter Paul does affirm several important facts about himself:

● In 1:1 he says he was an apostle, directly appointed by Yeshua, not by any human authority.

● In 1:10 he considered himself a servant of Yeshua.

● In 1:13, 23 he mentions the fact that he had instigated persecution against disciples of Yeshua.

● In 1:14 he mentions that in his life before Yeshua he was an orthodox Pharisee and zealous for their traditions.

● In 1:15 he says that he was set apart for God from his mother's womb, an expression used by Isaiah (49:1) and Jeremiah (1:5).

● In 1:15—2:1 a brief summary of his activities and ministry after leaving Damascus, a period of fourteen years.

● In 1:17 he mentions traveling into Arabia (the Nabataean Kingdom headquartered in Petra), where he ministered for at least two years.

● In 2:2 he mentions a personal revelation that motivated a trip to Jerusalem.

● In 2:3 he says that he did not require Titus, a Hellenistic Jew, to be circumcised.

● In 2:7 he says that he had been entrusted with the good news of salvation for the uncircumcised, which included both Gentiles and Hellenistic Jews.

● In 2:14 he mentions that he personally rebuked Peter for hypocrisy.

● In 4:8 he recalls that his Gentile readers were idolaters when he brought the good news to them.

● In 4:13 he mentions that when he first proclaimed the good news in Galatia, he was suffering a bodily illness, probably malaria.

● In 6:11 he implies that he may have had a problem with his eyes because he mentions writing in large letters.

● In 6:17 he mentions that he bore the brand-marks of Yeshua, probably referring to a previous stoning or being beaten with rods (cf. 2Cor 11:25).


The letter bears the simple heading "PROS GALATAS" (GNT 648) or "To Galatians", so it is written to people and not a territory. The scholarly debates over the recipients of the letter, whether "Northern Galatia" and "Southern Galatia" are really unnecessary. Galatia was a Roman province bounded on the west by the province of Asia, on the east by the province of Cappadocia, on the south by the provinces of Lycia, Pamphylia and Cilicia and the north by the Black Sea. The word "Galatia" does not appear in the Book of Acts, but Paul's ministry in cities of that region in his first journey (Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch and Derbe) produced groups of Jewish and Gentile disciples who would have been the recipients of this letter.

The ethnic constituency of the four Galatian congregations were not exactly the same. In Pisidian Antioch the congregation was predominately traditional Jews with some God-fearing Gentiles (Acts 13:16-17, 26, 43). In Iconium the congregation was composed of traditional Jews and Hellenistic Jews (Acts 14:1). In Lystra and Derbe the congregation was composed of mostly Gentiles that were former idolaters and some traditional Jews (Acts 14:6, 9, 15). The diversity of the congregations in Galatia must be considered in interpreting Paul's exposition in different parts of the letter. Indeed, the letter addresses each of these groups concerning issues relevant to them.


The letter was written as a result of Paul receiving news that certain men from Jerusalem had gone to the congregations in Galatia to teach that Gentiles had to be circumcised and to keep Pharisee traditions in order to be saved (cf. Acts 15:1-2, 5), directly contrary to the message that Paul had proclaimed there on his first Diaspora journey (cf. Gal 1:6-9; 3:1-3). These advocates have been nicknamed "Judaizers," derived from Ioudaizein, the present infinitive of the verb Ioudaizō, in Galatians 2:14. The label was not unfamiliar. Even though the term "Judaizer" is not found in English Bible versions, it was used by Josephus (Ioudaizontas, Wars II, 18:2).

In Paul's usage the label is not intended to be pejorative of all Jews since it designates a particular Jewish sect that existed in the first century. David Stern uses the term "Judaizer" in his Jewish New Testament Commentary over 50 times, recognizing the sectarian nature of the group, especially in his commentary on Galatians. However, Stern acknowledges that in some Christian circles the term does have a negative connotation, by which Messianic Jews are considered Judaizers, which is patently false.

The theology of the Judaizers was grounded in the concept of "covenantal nomism," a term coined by E.P. Sanders in his book Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977). Covenantal nomism means that one is made right with God by being a member of the covenant people and keeping the laws of the covenant, which guarantees a place in the world to come (Sanh. 11:1). Building on this basic belief the sect held that:

● There is no salvation outside Israel (Gen 35:11; Isa 42:6; cf. Eph 2:12; Rom 11:17, 25);

Brit Milah (ritual circumcision) is the sign of the covenant people (Gen 17:11);

● God required circumcision of adults in the past (Gen 17:10, 14, 23-24; Josh 5:2);

● There is one law for Jew and Gentile (Ex 12:48; Num 15:16).

● Therefore, a Gentile believer must become a righteous proselyte and keep the traditions of the Pharisees to receive the benefit of salvation (Yeb. 22a; 46a).

The Judaizers could even argue their viewpoint from the standpoint of example. Gentile believers are sons of Abraham (Gal 3:7), and Abraham had been circumcised. Yochanan the Immerser, the forerunner of the Messiah, had been circumcised (Luke 1:59). Yeshua, the Messiah and Savior, had been circumcised (Luke 2:21). Paul himself had been circumcised (Php 3:5). Should we not follow in their steps (cf. 1Pet 2:21)? The Judaizers made a compelling argument and their influence was felt throughout the Body of Messiah in the first century (cf. Rom 2:25; 1Cor 7:18; 2Cor 11:4; Eph 2:11; Php 3:2-3; Col 2:11; Titus 1:10).

The Judaizer sect was likely the forerunner of the Ebionites, a splinter Jewish group that existed in the second century into the fourth century. Unlike the Nazarenes, the Ebionites rejected the divine pre-existence of Yeshua and virgin birth. They claimed that Yeshua earned the right to be the Messiah by his faithful observance of Torah. As with the Judaizers of the first century, the Ebionites required that Gentile believers be circumcised and keep Jewish laws. Other evidence suggests that the Ebionites rejected Paul, a natural consequence of their position concerning the Torah (Skarsaune 204). For more information on this subject see my article The Circumcision Controversy.


Upon hearing about the trouble in the congregations of Galatia Paul fired off his "severe" letter to them. Scholars are divided over the date of the letter: (1) in 48/49 from Antioch after the first Diaspora journey and before the Jerusalem conference; (2) in 49/50 from Antioch after the Jerusalem Conference and before the second Diaspora journey; and (3) in 54-56 from Corinth during the second Diaspora journey. Those favoring the first and third options assume the mention in Galatians 2:2 of going up to Jerusalem because of a revelation pertains to a visit unrelated to the Jerusalem conference of Acts 15.

However, Paul could have meant "Now I went up according to a revelation in order to set before them the good news that I proclaim among the Gentiles," which he did at the Jerusalem conference (Acts 15:12). The second option seems preferable for the following reasons:

● The letter to the Galatians mentions no co-laborers by name, which is typical of other letters written during the Diaspora journeys.

● The letter alludes to going to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus (Gal 2:1; cf. Acts 15:2).

● The letter alludes to his first Diaspora journey into Galatia (Gal 4:13; cf. Acts 13:14).

● During his second Diaspora journey Paul shared the letter from the Jerusalem conference with the congregations in Galatia (Acts 16:4). The strife depicted in the Galatian letter over the Judaizer heresy would not likely have occurred after delivery of the apostolic decrees.

Therefore, I date the letter in late 49 or very early in 50, making Galatians the first letter written by Paul.



The overall message of Galatians is that salvation is accomplished by the grace of God and the faithfulness of Yeshua in providing atonement by becoming a sin offering. Paul provides a defense of his ministry with some autobiographical information and his relationship with leading apostles, especially his confrontation of Peter (Chap. 1–2). He exhorts the congregations to reject sins of the flesh (5:16-21) and seek the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-25). He also counsels personal restoration (6:1-2) and generosity in charitable works for those in the household of faith (6:6, 10).

Paul uses two significant expressions: (1) hupo nomon (3:23; 4:4-5, 21; 5:18), commonly translated "under the Law;" and (2) ergōn nomou (2:16; 3:2, 5, 10), commonly translated "works of the Law." Note that neither phrase has a definite article. Nomos in these instances should be given as lower case "law." This use of nomos is in relation to legalism, for which there is no word in either Greek or Hebrew. Legalism is the misuse of Torah as an oppressive system (cf. Matt 23:4; Acts 15:10; Rom 6:14-15; 1Tim 1:8), and this meaning is intended by Paul's use of the idiomatic expressions.

Paul never intends to say that God repealed the moral and ethical instructions of the Torah. In fact, elsewhere he affirms the authority of the Torah in these matters (cf. Rom 2:14-15; 7:14; 8:4; 13:8-10; 1Cor 7:19). In this letter he summarizes the Torah as Yeshua did to love God and one's neighbor (Gal 5:6, 13-14, 22). Moreover, the "deeds of the flesh" that cause the loss of eternal life and listed in 5:18-21 are all condemned and prohibited in the Torah. Paul did not invent a new ethical standard, but relied on the one God revealed to Israel. For more information on the nature of legalism see my article Law vs. Legalism.


Introduction, 1:1-9

Autobiographical Narrative, 1:10–2:21

Faithfulness vs. Legalism, 3:1-14

The Tutorship of Torah, 3:15-29

Divine Adoption in Messiah, 4:1-20

The Lesson of Ishmael and Isaac, 4:21-31

Walking by the Spirit vs. the Flesh, 5:1-26

Bearing One Another's Burdens, 6:1-10

Conclusion, 6:11-18

Key Verses

"A man is not made righteous by legalistic deeds, but through the faithfulness of Messiah Yeshua." (2:16 BR)

"But Scripture confined everything under Sin in order that by the faithfulness of Messiah Yeshua the promise might be given to the ones being trustingly faithful." (3:22 BR)

"There is neither Judean Jew nor Hellenistic Jew, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Messiah Yeshua. And if you are of Messiah, then you are seed of Abraham, heirs according to the promise." (3:28-29 BR)

Jewish Perspective

In 1:4 the phrase "present evil age" reflects the Jewish manner of describing present time in contrast to the "age to come." In 1:8-9 he uses the term "anathema," which hearkens to the Torah principle of putting someone under the ban for destruction. In 1:13-14 he uses the term "Judaism," which refers to the religious devotion of Jews to Torah observance. In 1:13 he mentions his past persecution of the congregation of God, which happened to be all Jewish at the time. In 1:14 he mentions the "traditions of his fathers," which distinguished his devotion to Phariseeism. In 1:17 he mentions the city of Jerusalem and recounts his early ministry among Jews. In 1:18 he mentions the city of Jerusalem again and uses the Hebrew name for Peter that Yeshua gave the apostle. In 1:19 he mentions Jacob, the half-brother of Yeshua.

In 2:3 Paul mentions that Titus is a Hellenistic Jew who remained uncircumcised. In 2:5 he uses the expression "not even for an hour," which was used by Jews in reference to the least space of time for adherence to any principle or practice, which may then be dropped. In 2:7 he mentions that he had been entrusted with the good news for the uncircumcised, which included both Hellenistic Jews and Gentiles, whereas Peter was entrusted with the good news for the circumcised. Neither emphasis restricted either apostle from ministry among the contrasting groups. In 2:9, 11, 14 he again uses the Hebrew name for Peter that Yeshua gave the apostle. In 2:10 he mentions charity for the poor, which alludes to providing aid to Judeans during a famine. In 2:14-21 Paul recounts his confrontation of Peter and ridicules legalistic righteousness.

In 3:1-5 Paul continues to impugn the legalistic righteousness of the Judaizers. In 3:6 he says that Abraham's faithfulness to God was counted to him as righteousness. In 3:8 he repeated the promise of the covenant God made with Abraham that in him all nations would be blessed. In 3:9 those who follow the Messiah must produce the same sort of faithfulness to be considered "sons of Abraham." In 3:10 he declares that devotion to works of legalism puts one under the curse of Torah. In 3:11 he affirms that the righteous will live by God's faithfulness. In 3:12 he affirms that legalism does not come from faithfulness. In 3:13 Yeshua's redemptive death is described as a fulfillment of Torah.

In 3:17 he mentions the prophecy given to Abraham of 430 years transpiring before the Torah would be given at Sinai (Gen 15:13-14). In 3:24 the giving of the Torah to Abraham's descendants was intended to serve as a tutor to bring them to the Messiah that they might be made righteous by the same faithfulness as Abraham. In 3:23-24 the Torah is a custodial tutor to bring Jews to the Messiah. In 3:28 he affirms the unity of the Body of Messiah and that to God disciples are not defined by whether they are traditional Jews or Hellenistic Jews, slave or free, male or female.

In 4:4 Paul mentions that Yeshua was born of a woman who lived by Torah (Miriam). In 4:22 he alludes to the two sons of Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac. In 4:24-25 Paul speaks of God's covenant with Israel, mentioning the name of Hagar and Mount Sinai as symbolic of the Old Covenant. In 4:25-26 he contrasts the earthly Jerusalem with the heavenly Jerusalem. In 4:28 he mentions Isaac by name. In 4:30 Paul quotes Sarah's words "cast out the servant woman" as an allusion to casting out legalism as a basis for relationship with God, radical words for a transformed Pharisee. In 4:31 he affirms that disciples of Yeshua are children of the free woman (Sarah) rather than the bondwoman (Hagar).

In 5:9 he also mentions leaven as an allusion to Passover. The Two Ways, a familiar motif from the Psalms, is illustrated in the contrast between "works of the flesh" and "walking in the Spirit" (5:16-25). In 6:16 he mentions the Israel of God, which equates to the faithful remnant and grafted in Gentiles. In 6:7 Paul quotes a common proverb about reaping what one sows, which is based on the Creation principle of Genesis that everything reproduces after its own kind.

Circumcision is a major subject in the letter (2:3, 7-9, 12; 5:2-3, 6, 11; 6:12-13, 15). In 2:12 Paul seeks to explain the true nature of the Good News of salvation and correct the influence of "The Circumcision" group that claimed to represent Jacob, the Lord's brother. In 5:12 Paul uses shocking language by taunting the legalists to castrate themselves if they think circumcision is so great. What Christians assume is an attack on Judaism has to do with adult circumcision of Gentiles, not circumcision of Jewish babies.


Paul's preparation to be a writer likely began in his education under Gamaliel the Elder. An important teaching principle for Gamaliel was the significance of correspondence in creating contacts (Santala 32). His school (Beit Hillel) had a more open relation to the Greek language than Beit Shammai, which made external contacts possible. For example, the Talmud describes how Rabbi Gamaliel sat on the Temple Mount and dictated three letters to his scribe,

'Take one sheet', he said, 'and write an epistle to our brethren in Upper Galilee and to those in Lower Galilee, … Take another sheet, and write to our brethren of the South, … And take the third and write to our brethren the Exiles in Babylon and to those in Media." (Sanhedrin 11b)

Among Jewish leaders Gamaliel is known to have had the most extensive correspondence of his time, giving his advice, for instance to King Agrippa I. Thus, Paul's lengthy letters demonstrate the training influence of Gamaliel.


As with other of Paul's letters, Galatians has the commonly used form of Greek letters with an introduction, body and conclusion (Polhill 122). In the introduction Paul identified himself as the sender with his title "apostle [shaliach] of Yeshua the Messiah" with reference to his divine appointment. Paul then declared to whom he was writing, addressing his letter to the "congregations." He offers the customary Jewish greeting of "grace and peace," perhaps meaning hên and shalom in Hebrew (cf. 2Macc 1:1).

The body of his letters does not flow from a template, but is organized according to the subject matter he needed to discuss. The body of the letter includes autobiographical narrative and biting sarcasm, but primarily hortatory and instructional elements. Within his instructional passages are contained summaries of virtues to develop, vices to avoid and practical applications of Torah principles for family and community living. The literary elements demonstrate Paul's sharp intellect.

The one verse conclusion of the letter is written in conventional style. Unlike later letters, Paul offers no list of individual greetings for the recipients of the letter. Paul also does not name a secretary who actually penned the letter.


Paul's letters manifest a strong dependence on the Tanakh. Indeed, the Scripture that Paul described as inspired and suitable for training in righteousness (2Tim 3:16) is the Tanakh. Paul's usage is in keeping with the rest of the Besekh. He uses the familiar formula "it is written" or "it says" (Gal 3:8, 10, 13, 16; 4:22, 27, 30). He quotes verbatim from eight Tanakh passages:

● 3:6 ― Genesis 15:6

● 3:8 ― Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18; 26:4; 28:14

● 3:10 ― Deuteronomy 27:26

● 3:11 ― Habakkuk 2:4

● 3:12 ― Leviticus 18:5

● 3:13 ― Deuteronomy 21:23

● 4:27 ― Isaiah 54:1

● 4:30 ― Genesis 21:10

Paul also incorporates allusions to other passages in the Tanakh (GNT 897-917):

● 1:15 ― Isaiah 49:1; Jeremiah 1:5

● 2:6 ― Deuteronomy 10:17

● 2:16 ― Psalm 143:2

● 3:16 ― Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 17:7

● 3:17 ― Exodus 12:40

● 3:19 ― Deuteronomy 33:2 (LXX)

● 4:8 ― 2Chronicles 13:9; Isaiah 37:19; Jeremiah 2:11

● 4:16 ― Amos 5:10

● 4:22 ― Genesis 16:15; 21:2

● 4:29 ― Genesis 21:9

● 4:30 ― Genesis 21:10

● 5:14 ― Leviticus 19:18

● 6:6 ― Jeremiah 22:13 (Matt 10:10)

● 6:16 ― Psalm 125:5; 128:6


Quotations from the Tanakh found in the Besekh are generally taken from the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Scriptures. The LXX was finalized and in general use by the middle of the 2nd century BC at the latest (Setterfield). By the first century A.D. the Greek Bible was widely used in the synagogues of the Diaspora and was well known in Israel. However, the reader may notice when checking a reference that occasionally Paul's quotation does not agree literally either with the LXX or the Hebrew text. In these instances Paul may have corrected an extant Greek text or provided his own translation of the Hebrew text. Paul thus employs what could be called "Jewish Greek."

As David Hill of The University of Sheffield affirms, "Not only word-meanings in the New Testament, but also the structure and syntax of New Testament language bear the impress of a special Hebraic influence channeled, for the most part, through the Septuagint" (14). Almost all the apostolic writings were written in Jewish Greek, so a Jewish-Greek text of the Tanakh was helpful for quotations. At the time of Yeshua, most Jews were living in the Greek world, and therefore the LXX was the text used by many Jews, if not by most. At that time there was no standardized Hebrew text. The Masoretic Text, as the Hebrew Bible came to be known, was developed over the following centuries (MW-Notes 322).


The letter is written in Jewish Greek that often bears resemblance to Hebrew grammar. According to the listing of Barnes the letter contains 28 hapax legomena, or words that appear only once in the Besekh. Most of these words are found in other Jewish literature, such as the LXX, Josephus, and Philo. The presence of these words indicates a close familiarity with Greek vocabulary. Besides unique words the letter includes many significant words, all rich in theological meaning: e.g., grace, faith, love, peace, Messiah, Yeshua, Father, Holy Spirit, good news, righteousness, law, Israel, circumcision, covenant, Judaism, sin, and inheritance. Not always considered by commentators is that all of these words have their origin in the Tanakh and Jewish usage. Christianity did not invent any of these words.


As Boice relates in the introduction to his commentary on Galatians ancient authorities universally recognized Paul's authorship. Quotations from Galatians or apparent allusions to it occur in The Epistle of Barnabas, 1 Clement, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen. The book is listed as Pauline in the Marcionite and Muratorian canons.


Historical Christian Perspective

The letter to the Galatians has been used historically in Christianity to proclaim an antinomian gospel and represent Paul as the author of replacement theology based on selected proof-texts (consider these verses from the NASB):

2:15, "a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus."

3:10, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse."

3:11, "no one is justified by the Law before God."

3:13-14, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law. … in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles."

5:1-3. "It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law. 4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."

6:15, "For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation."

John G. Gager, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, summarizes the assumptions about Paul in Christianity from the time of the church fathers (4-5).

· Paul converted from Judaism to Christianity, or founded Christianity.

· His role as apostle to the Gentiles caused him to turn against his former life.

· As a Christian apostle he repudiated the Law of Moses, the Torah, and circumcision, not just for Gentiles, but for Jews as well.

· The Law had never been intended by God as the path to salvation, for Gentiles or Jews.

· The Jews, having turned their back on Jesus as their Messiah, had now been rejected by God as a disobedient people and been replaced by Gentiles as the new people of God. Israel had stumbled and failed by virtue of its refusal to accept Paul's evangelistic message.

· Paul thus stands as the father of Christian anti-Judaism, the theologian of the rejection-replacement view.

Yet passages supportive of Torah, Judaism and Israel are either ignored, minimized or rejected outright (e.g., Gal 3:21). The above assumptions comprise an elaborate Christian mythology that has excused antisemitic practices in the history of Christianity, fostered biblical interpretations alien to the cultural setting of Yeshua and the apostles, and sought to deprive Israel of its covenantal rights to the promised Land.

The traditional Christian viewpoint generally engages in historical revisionism to imagine Paul as a Catholic or Protestant separated from his Jewish heritage. For Paul to be so totally reinvented has done incalculable harm to the witness of Christianity. Paul was willing to be accursed if it would make possible the salvation of his own people the Jews (Rom 9:1-3). Such pathos is not the expression of Christianity. Tragically, Christianity treated the Jewish people as accursed.

New Perspective

The "New-Perspective on Paul," a term coined by James D.G. Dunn in 1982, is a movement closely connected with a surge of recent scholarly interest in studying the Bible in the context of other ancient texts, and the use of social-scientific methods to understand ancient culture. One of the first voices of this perspective to challenge the historic assumptions about Paul was W.D. Davies who interpreted Paul within the framework of his Pharisee theology (Paul and Rabbinic Judaism: Some Rabbinic Elements in Pauline Theology, 1948).

Not until the 1960s did this conviction take hold and a number of Christian scholars embraced the "new perspective." Representatives of this viewpoint include Krister Stendahl (Paul Among Jews and Gentiles, 1977), E. P. Sanders (Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 1977), Stanley K. Stowers (Rereading Romans: Justice, Jews and Gentiles, 1994), N.T. Wright (What Saint Paul Really Said, 1997) and John Gager (Reinventing Paul, 2000). Gager summarizes the general principles of this school of thought as:

· Paul did not change religions or invent a new religion.

· Paul did not repudiate the Torah and circumcision.

· Paul did not teach God’s rejection of the Jews.

· Paul did not invent replacement theology.

Many Christian scholars now recognize that Paul was faithful to his Jewish heritage while crossing cultural barriers to proclaim the good news of the Messiah. He upheld the Torah as God's baseline for ethics and morality, while insisting that traditions so important to the Pharisees not be a requirement for Gentile practice. See my complete analysis of this subject in Perspectives on Paul.

Works Cited

Barnes: Mark Barnes, List of New Testament Hapax Legomena. Logos Bible Software Forum, 2013.

Bivin: David Bivin, New Light on the Difficult Words of Jesus. En-Gedi Resource Center, 2007.

Boice: James Montgomery Boice, Galatians, Vol. 10, Expositor's Bible Commentary, Software version 2.6. Zondervan Corp, 1989-1999.

Gager: John G. Gager, Reinventing Paul. Oxford University Press, 2000.

GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [NA25]

Hill: David Hill, Greek Words and Hebrew Meanings: Studies in the Semantics of Soteriological Terms. Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2000.

MW-Notes: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.

Polhill: John B. Polhill, Paul and His Letters. B & H Academic, 1999.

Setterfield: Barry Setterfield, Alexandrian Septuagint History, 2010.

Copyright © 2019-2020 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.