Galatians and the Palimpsest of Commentary

A palimpsest is a manuscript whose original text has been scraped off in order that the papyrus or parchment might be repurposed for the production of another text. A classic and fascinating example of this phenomenon is Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C 04). The header image above is a screen-grab from 04 and illustrates the phenomenon nicely. A palimpsest manuscript, like 04, is meant as a reproduction of a given text, disconnected from the text that was scraped-off. But, as is obvious in the above image, we can still catch glimpses of the original text. It bleeds over and impinges upon the later text.

More than a kind of ancient manuscript, though, palimpsest lends itself nicely as a metaphor for biblical commentary. In this metaphor, we could say that the present historical circumstances of the historian or commentator are the the initial text—the one we try to “scrape off” when we don our Objective Biblical Scholar Thinking Caps™. I may try to bracket out my own context and biases, but they creep back in and give animation to my inquiry no matter what. Commenting on NT scholarship and its attempt to negotiate Gadamer’s “two horizons,” Davina Lopez and Todd Penner suggest that “there is in fact no way to negotiate the ‘two horizons.’ […T]here is only one horizon—and that is the horizon of the present.”[1] The historical moment and concerns of the interpreter always lend shape to her interpretation. Like a palimpsest, a scholarly commentary attempts to foreground a new text (the commentary itself) but, when read closely, certain elements of its hypotext (the historical moment and concerns of the interpreter) can be glimpsed.

I agree with Penner and Lopez. We’re all doing this kind of palimpsestuous writing. In my preparation for an exam on Galatians, I’ve noticed that two interpreters do it in particularly interesting ways: Martin Luther and Brigitte Kahl. Luther, as is well known, was responding in part to the Catholic Church in his commentary on Galatians. His circumstances—his hypotext—then lent shape to his reading of Paul’s letter: Paul’s opponents became stand-ins for Luther’s. Whatever Luther got right about Galatians, he himself makes perfectly clear that he views Paul’s opponents as causing the same sort of trouble as Paul’s opponents at Galatia (pick a page, almost any page, in Luther’s commentary and you’ll probably see what I mean). Brigitte Kahl, a contemporary NT scholar writing hundreds of years after Luther, does much the same thing. In her 2014 Interpretation article, “Hagar’s Babylonian Captivity: A Roman Re-Imagination of Galatians 4:21-31,” Kahl names in the first paragraph her concerns about the effects this passage has had throughout the history of Christian interpretation. Both Luther and Kahl, then, are self-consciously doing palimpsestuous commentary: the hypotexts of their concerns and circumstances are shown for all to see. This is laudable.

But naming one’s perspective, biases, and concerns does not get one off the hook for letting them be too determinative in one’s reading. Luther gets nailed to the wall throughout the New Perspective lit for this kind of thing: he let his critique of Catholicism drive the bus in his commentary, and the interpretive tradition has been so much the worse for it. While Kahl’s work does not lend itself nicely to the kinds of catastrophic after-effects that Luther’s reading did, I think she is doing the same kind of thing. She names her ethical concerns about Gal 4:21-31 (the Hagar/Sarah allegory), and then those same concerns explicitly shape her interpretation.

In her article, Kahl appeals to Roman iconography to exegete Gal 4, which she reads as a counter-imperial hidden transcript. Paul does not devalue Hagar in favor of Sarah but rather uses her slavery as a stand-in for Roman domination, leaving Sarah to represent God’s liberation from Roman hegemony. This is attractive stuff for anyone with a slight radical streak, but the article, like her imaginative monograph on Galatians (see what I did there? #hiddentranscript), leaves much to be desired. Because Paul does not mention Rome in Galatians, Kahl has to turn to Roman iconography imaging women as conquered slaves in order to root Gal 4 in any kind of counter-imperial discourse. Sure, the reading is possible, even beautiful, but likely? I’m not so sure.

By naming their perspectives, concerns, and historical moments, both Luther and Kahl do us a favor but also give us reason to be suspicious. For both commentators, the hypotext is determinative—too determinative, I would say—for the interpretation: Luther has (forgive the technical term) mad beef with the Catholic Church and, voila, he finds much grist for his mill in Galatians; Kahl is concerned about the reception of Gal 4 and its use throughout imperial Christendom and, voila, she finds that Paul is just as anti-imperial as she is. Luther’s Paul comes out as anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic; Kahl’s comes out brazenly anti-imperial in a text that only tortuously lends itself to imperial critique. Both readers of Paul end up on the hook for special pleading as both produced particularly palimpsestuous commentaries in which the hypotext is not so much scraped off but acts as explicit and rigid paratext, guiding the author’s interpretation at almost every step.

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting my engagement with some of the “big ideas” in Galatians studies in preparation for a comprehensive exam.

[1] Todd Penner and Davina C. Lopez, De-Introducing the New Testament: Texts, Worlds, Methods, Stories (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2015), 63.

Charting Galatians

In my last post I ventured to offer up Rollin Ramsaran‘s directional reading of Paul as a corrective to Luther’s, Schweitzer’s, and Sanders’ reading. Today I’d like to run Galatians through Ramsaran’s “Pauline Moral Reasoning” chart (“the Paul Chart”) and see what happens. I should note that this is my reading of Galatians using Ramsaran’s reading strategy; I am riffing on his composition and might play a note here or there that he would not. Once again, here is our guide:

My friend, Jordan Kellicut, sent me this image, which is spiffier than the one drawn from my notes. His assistant, Jessie, at Oakland Drive Christian Church cleaned this up nicely.

1. Grace. While χαρις appears in 1.3, we don’t begin to get the freight of this term until 1.6: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. God’s grace is the beginning point for Paul’s theology. Through Christ, God has extended God’s grace to the nations. Here, in the first verse of Paul’s letter to the divided gentile communities in Galatia, Paul reminds them of the prior condition that has allowed gentiles into the covenant: God’s calling in grace. This note will resound again and again in Galatians.

2. Faith. The proper human response to God’s grace is faith/faithfulness. Here I am not signaling any of the πιστις χριστου debates. By “faith/faithfulness,” I think that Paul calls his communities not only to believe in Christ, but to order their lives according to that faith. In any case, 2.15-21 has Paul reminding his auditors that the proper response to God’s grace in Christ is covenantal faith (here borrowing from N. T. Wright). Both grace and faith will make more appearances in the letter; they are a fugue in Paul’s rhetoric.

3. The Giving of the Spirit. When humans respond in faith to God’s grace, they are bound to one another and together to Christ through a shared πνευμα, the Spirit. Following hot on the heels of Paul’s reminder about faith as response to God’s grace in 2.15-21, Paul presses a question hard against his audience: Did you receive the Spirit by doing the works of the law or by believing what you heard? (3.2). In Paul’s theological order of operations, the Spirit is given to the gentiles via covenantal Jesus-faith, not through works of Torah. 3.1-14 has Paul reminding his auditors of the Abraham narrative to drive home the point that the Spirit has been promised to the gentiles through Jesus-faith.

4. Freedom. Paul is emphatic especially in Galatians that the gift of the Spirit, given in response to human faith, leads directly to freedom. Because of our American context, in which “freedom” is part of a large network of political rhetoric and ideology, we need to slow down and attempt to parse Paul’s concept of freedom. This won’t be exhaustive; it is, as N. T. Wright would put it, “necessarily impressionistic.” For Paul, I want to suggest that freedom moves in two directions: freedom from and freedom for. Believers are freed from, among other things, the power of Sin. Paul signaled this very early in the letter (1.4), but works the ground over more fully in 3.19-29. But the scripture has imprisoned all things under the power of Sin […] we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world (3.22; 4.3; cf. 4.8-9). 4.21-5.1 is an extended meditation on Sarah and Hagar to further drive home the point: grace leads to faith leads to Spirit leads to freedom. What humans are freed for will become clear in the next section (5B).

5A. Gratitude to God. Admittedly, this item is difficult to chart in Galatians. Like assembling IKEA furniture, we need to keep the screws a little loose in our application of this or any other reading strategy to Galatians. In any case, “gratitude to God” clearly does not represent the “weight” of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. I would identify the weight of Paul’s emphasis on the first four: Grace, Faith, Spirit, Freedom. We could argue that thankfulness for God’s grace (note the dotted line) is implied in the letter, but I’m not going to die on this hill.

5B. Cruciform Love for Others. Humans are freed from Sin for the purpose of faithful, loving service. Despite the libertine’s favorite verse (5.1), I don’t think Paul thought the Christian life ought to be driven by the whims of the individual (cf. Rom 14-15 if you don’t believe me). Humans are freed for service: For you were called to freedom, brothers and sisters; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for self-indulgence, but through love become slaves to one another (5.13). Paul’s conception of Christian freedom is, almost paradoxically, slave-shaped (which is to say, it is Christ- and cross-shaped: cruciform. Read Michael Gorman). Paul calls himself a “slave of Christ” (Rom 1.1) and exhorts his audience to become like he is (Gal 4.12). Bear one another’s burdens, Paul says, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ (6.2). Self-giving servant love looks like Christ, the one who gave himself for the sake of others.

6. Joy in Suffering. Like gratitude to God, joy in suffering does not represent the weight of Galatians. We get a banner example of Paul’s own joy amid suffering in Phil 1.15-26. The closest thing I can find in Galatians, however, is Paul’s ever-so-brief mention of persecution in 5.11 and 6.12. For Paul, persecution is of no matter: the world has been crucified by the cross of Christ and is now reborn as a new creation (καινη κτίσις; 6.15), which, I would imagine, is cause for great joy for Paul and the believer. The logic of Paul’s joy-in-suffering is not masochistic; it is eschatological.

7. Hope and 8. Stand at the Parousia. While the final two items may be discrete elsewhere in Paul, they are collapsed into one verse in Gal 5.5: For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousnessAs others have pointed out, there is comparatively little in Galatians about the eschatological coming of Christ (parousia). J. Louis Martyn is right to nuance the point. No, Galatians does not discuss eschatology as explicitly as 1 Thess or 1 Cor. But, importantly, the righteousness described in this verse is not descriptive of a believer’s life in the present, but of what the people of God await at the end (if you hear echoes of the New Perspective here, you’re right). We certainly get more from Paul on the eschaton elsewhere (e.g. 1 Thess 5; 1 Cor 15), but I think the logic of eschatology underwrites this verse.

There you have it: my first and necessarily provisional pass through Galatians using Ramsaran’s directional paradigm as a guide. I have attempted to “keep the screws” loose and not make the chart overly determinative. In this regard, it’s been pretty easy to chart Galatians and I haven’t felt a need to use a shoehorn. Ramsaran’s directional paradigm is built on a close reading of all Paul’s letters. Not only does the chart bear out in broad strokes, it helps us to identify the weight of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. For my money, it’s items 1-4: Grace -> Faith -> Spirit -> Freedom, but I welcome the insights of others.

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting my engagement with some of the “big ideas” in Galatians studies in preparation for a comprehensive exam.

Centrality or Directionality in Pauline Theology?

(If ever there were an image begging for Raiden-style lightning bolts to be Photoshopped in, it’s this picture of my friend, mentor, and former NT professor, Rollin Ramsaran.)

Many debates between the “New” and “Old Perspective” on Paul (hereafter ‘NP’ and ‘OP,’ respectively) rise and fall on defining the center of Paul’s theology. For various OP/Lutheran readers of Paul, the center is justification by faith. For Albert Schweitzer, the center was being “in Christ,” with justification nestled as a subsidiary within that center. Schweitzer’s “crater-within-a-crater” reading of Paul’s central concerns was then redeployed, in modified form, in E. P. Sanders’ Paul and Palestinian Judaism, one of the first shots fired by what has later come to be known as the NP. What is important here is that all three—Luther, Schweitzer, and Sanders—assumed that Paul’s theology had a center and that identifying this center was the first step toward satisfactory exegesis.

Identifying the ‘center’ of Paul’s thought, however, is not the only way we can attempt to understand and describe the apostle’s theology. In the analysis of any discourse, talk of a “center” is profoundly metaphorical. Neither Paul’s letters nor theology are geometrical shapes; in treating them as one, we deploy “center” as a heuristic metaphor to describe how his thought ‘works’ (again, another metaphor!). In the study of Paul, attempting to describe his center has its benefits. It allows for taxonomy, for the identification of all the various parts and pieces of Paul’s theology and the singular driving force that lends animation to them all. But, again, “center” is not the only metaphor we can use and, by using it, we necessarily risk over-emphasizing one thing and under-emphasizing others. There are other options.

Another metaphor we might use instead of “center” is “direction.” As my seminary mentor, Rollin Ramsaran, put it to me at SBL last year: Paul’s theology doesn’t have a center; it moves in a direction. This is reflected in Ramsaran’s preferred method of teaching Paul: the Pauline Moral Reasoning Chart or, as many Emmanuel Christian Seminary students and alumni affectionately call it, the Paul Chart:

(C) Rollin Ramsaran, teaching document. Reproduced from my class notes.

Here Ramsaran, who is neither OP nor NP (but maybe he might hang out with some of the Apocalypticists? I’ll have to ask him next time we break bread), emphasizes that Paul’s theology doesn’t have a center but rather a beginning point: God’s grace, extended first to Israel through the Law and now to the gentiles through Christ. The proper human response to this grace is faith, which then leads to the gift of the Spirit (which binds Christians one to another and together to Christ), and so on. Already the center(s) described by Luther, Schweitzer, and Sanders are subsumed in the directional schematic. Importantly, though, they are not downplayed; they are simply re-contextualized as stops on the way to the telos of Pauline theology, the parousia.

The Paul Chart doesn’t play out exactly like this in every single letter but, among the undisputeds, it’s hard to argue that this isn’t Paul’s basic order of operations. As Ramsaran teaches it, we can use the chart not only to read Paul as a thinker but to read and identify “the weight” of an individual letter (“the weight” = which point[s] on the chart are emphasized most in a given letter). As part of my preparation to teach a series on Paul at a local church, I ran each of the undisputed letters through Ramsaran’s chart. While only the longer letters (Rom, 1 Cor) run through the whole chart, every aspect appears and works out in this basic order depending on the circumstances of a given letter.

Reading a whole slew of NP material, I have been wondering of late if “center” is the best metaphor we might use. While Ramsaran’s Paul Chart does not unseat the explanatory power of all aspects of the NP (nor does it even attempt to), this seems to me to be the better way to map Paul’s theology. By insisting on a center, we must necessarily relegate other aspects of Paul’s thought to a periphery. If, on the other hand, we insist on reading Paul directionally, fewer items of import (e.g., eschatology, ethics) are pushed toward a periphery and are instead contextualized within a distinctly Pauline theological teleology.

10/13/2016: I’ve since used Ramsaran’s chart to read Galatians. You can read my interpretation here.

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting my engagement with some of the “big ideas” in Galatians studies in preparation for a comprehensive exam.

Appreciating Martyn and the Apocalyptic Reading of Galatians

“God would not have to carry out an invasion in order merely to forgive erring human beings. […] The whole of humanity…is, in fact, trapped, enslaved under the power of the present evil age. That is the background of God’s invasive action in his sending of Christ, in his declaration of war, and in his striking the decisive and liberating blow against the power of the present evil age.”

J. Louis Martyn, Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary AB 33A (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 105.

As I’ve outlined in a previous post, I don’t think we ought to follow Martyn in his pitting of “forensic” against “cosmic” apocalyptic in Galatians. The first sentence of this beautiful quote reifies and depends upon that typology, which we ought to leave  behind. But the rest of Martyn’s comment, drawn from his Anchor Bible commentary, seems to me to be a spot-on summation of one aspect of Paul’s gospel, namely its cosmic, liberative implications for life in the present age.

In Martyn’s reading, Paul’s gospel is of an invasive God: in Christ, his death/resurrection, and in the sending of the Spirit, God is invading enemy territory (“the present evil age”), resulting in an eschatological estuary, an overlap between the present evil age and the coming age which brings with it “the hope of righteousness” (5:5, NRSV; Martyn: “the hope of rectification”). This is classic “now-not yet” Christian eschatology; in my view, it’s right-on. If we jettison Martyn’s dogged commitment to the forensic-cosmological apocalyptic dichotomy, and read 1:4 more simply as the two-part summary of Paul’s understanding of Christ’s death (see here), there is still much within his commentary to commend it as a valuable resource for reading this fascinating letter.

Featured image: ἀποκαλύψεως (“apocalypse,” “revelation” – Gal 1:12) in P46, our earliest manuscript of Paul’s letters (via CSNTM).

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting my engagement with some of the “big ideas” in Galatians studies in preparation for a comprehensive exam.

Prodding the Foundations of “Forensic” vs. “Cosmological” Apocalyptic

For both J. Louis Martyn (‘JLM’) and Martinus de Boer (‘MdB’), how we ought to read Galatians hinges upon one’s understanding of Paul’s inherited apocalyptic worldview. For JLM and MdB, there are two basic categories of early Jewish apocalyptic: “forensic” and “cosmological” apocalyptic eschatology. I briefly outlined JLM’s definitions and summarized and critiqued his reading of Gal 1:4 here. Regarding definitions, MdB doesn’t add much: “cosmic” still = that which has to do with two ages and the divine rescue of humanity from evil cosmic forces and “forensic” still = that which has to do with divine judgment/forgiveness of sins at the eschaton.

What MdB does offer, however, is a more robust textual basis for these categories, drawn from some flagship examples from the period. As MdB sees it, “forensic” apocalyptic is especially represented by traditions like 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, while “cosmic” apocalyptic is represented by 1 Enoch 1-36 and As. Mos. 10. These documents are said to illustrate these two “tracks” of Jewish apocalyptic in “nearly ‘pure’ form.”[1] MdB hedges his bets with that qualifier. The problem, as I see it, is that both 4 Ezra and 1 Enoch contain elements of both categories of apocalyptic. MdB’s “nearly ‘pure'” needs some nuancing:

Cosmic-1 Enoch: MdB is right to emphasize the cosmic aspect of 1 Enoch. “The Book of Watchers” (1 Enoch 1-36) is predicated on the view that the world is currently under the dominion of suprahuman powers from whom God will rescue it.

Forensic-1 Enoch: But in the first chapter of 1 Enoch, we see at least a strong hint of “forensic” or courtroom apocalyptic: “And there shall be a judgment upon all, (including) the righteous,” and God “will destroy the wicked ones” (1.7, 9). Although not an extended vision of the divine courtroom, it is difficult to imagine a divine judgment of both righteous and wicked that isn’t in some very important way reflective of a “forensic” apocalyptic worldview.

Forensic-4 Ezra4 Ezra 7:32-44 is a classic example of the eschatological courtroom scene in which the wicked and righteous are judged according to their deeds. MdB is on solid ground to emphasize this topos within early Jewish apocalyptic here.

Cosmic-4 Ezra: But in 4 Ezra‘s fifth vision, “the eagle vision” (11:1-46), we have what certainly appears to be a form of so-called “cosmic” apocalyptic. Here the text details Ezra’s vision of a suprahuman force, the eagle, to whom dominion has been (temporarily) given (cf. 11:39) and will soon be summarily taken away (11:44). This is classic “cosmic” apocalyptic.

While there is much with which to agree in both JLM and MdB, I am beginning to suspect that the categories both scholars deploy are too rigid to account for the Jewish traditions they’re meant to represent. It’s not that there aren’t “cosmic” or “forensic” aspects in early Jewish apocalyptic, it’s that the two cannot be made to represent distinct categories of thought. “Cosmic” and “forensic” apocalyptic existed side-by-side and intertwined in early Jewish texts—including, I hasten to note, Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches.

On this point, MdB is more instructive than JLM. For the former, the two tracks are “christologically appropriated and modified” (emph. original).[2] While MdB still reads Paul as ultimately opting for “cosmic” over “forensic” apocalyptic, JLM presses Paul even more firmly into the “cosmic” mold, pitting him against the “forensic” apocalyptic taught by his opponents (see my previous post).

Still, though, MdB’s 2-track typology, which JLM assumes, is shaky at its foundations. In the first verses of 1 Enoch, MdB’s flagship example of “cosmic” apocalyptic, we have seen important elements of “forensic” track. Similarly, 4 Ezra, MdB’s “nearly ‘pure'” example of the “forensic” track, contains explicit elements of “cosmic” apocalyptic eschatology. MdB’s claim that “there are no cosmological powers present in the apocalypse of 4 Ezra” is quite difficult to sustain when faced with the eagle vision in 4 Ezra 11.[3]

MdB himself avers that “the two tracks can…run side by side, crisscross, or overlap in various ways, even in the same work.”[4] MdB sees the DSS as evincing this sort of overlap; my claim is that the overlap happens also in his ‘purest’ examples. Because the tracks crisscross in even the purest examples, perhaps it is time to rethink the typology. In place of “tracks,” I wonder if we might better describe “cosmic” and “forensic” as complementary leitmotifs in Jewish apocalyptic. This would go a long way in helping us appreciate the best insights of JLM and MdB without deploying their categories too rigidly in our reading of Galatians.

[1] Martinus C. de Boer, “Paul and Jewish Apocalyptic Eschatology,” in Apocalyptic and the New Testament: Essays in Honor of J. Louis Martyn, ed. Joel Marcus and Marion L. Soards, JSNTSup 24 (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1989), 176, 181.

[2] Ibid., 182.

[3] Ibid., 179.

[4] Ibid., 177.

Featured image: Aramaic Fragments of 1 Enoch (4QEna [4Q201]).

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting my engagement with some of the “big ideas” in Galatians studies in preparation for a comprehensive exam.

J. Louis Martyn, Apocalyptic, and Quotation Marks

In (re-)starting my comprehensive exam prep in earnest, I thought it might be fun to borrow a page from my friend/colleague/dungeon master‘s book and blog through some highlights of my reading. First up is J. Louis Martyn’s fascinating, if a bit mystifying, reading of Galatians.

Martyn (d. 2015) is one of the main architects of the so-called “apocalyptic” reading of Paul. Within the broad sweep of Pauline scholarship, Martyn’s apocalyptic reading fits somewhere between the “old” and “new” perspectives. Inasmuch as Martyn sets up a sharp contrast between Pauline and Sinaitic/Torah-observant theologies, we are right to hear some echoes of Luther. Still, there is much in Martyn to differentiate him from Luther and Luther’s inheritors and, despite some strong disagreements over particular issues, I find much in Martyn with which to agree.

First, our agreements: I happily affirm Martyn’s characterization of Paul’s gospel as God’s “invasion” of the cosmos, resulting in the dawning, the revelation, of a new creation. The death and resurrection of Christ signal the beginning of a new age and this, for Paul, is of central import. Indeed, on this Paul is most emphatic: “a new creation is everything!” (Gal 6:15). In his review and critique of Martyn’s position, N. T. Wright also affirms this crucial foundational  agreement (N. T. Wright, Paul and His Recent Interpreters, 168). On this count, I’m happy to have a seat at Wright and Martyn’s table.

Martyn’s apocalyptic reading gives me serious pause, though, in the categorical opposition he sets up between “forensic” and “cosmic” apocalyptic. “Forensic” (or judicial) apocalyptic has to do with divine justice and the forgiveness of sins. “Cosmic” apocalyptic has to do with God’s rescuing of humanity from fallen, at times tyrannical suprahuman powers. This schematic, which was heuristic and less strictly determinative in de Boer’s reading (cf. Wright, 167ff), forces Martyn to get creative with the text, as it appears in Gal 1:4 that Paul affirms both “forensic” and “cosmic” aspects of God’s apocalypse-in-Christ. Compare Martyn’s translation with the NRSV:

[Christ] gave up his very life for our sins, so that he might snatch us out of the grasp of the present evil age, thus acting in accordance with the intention of God our Father (1:4, Martyn’s translation; see Martyn, 3).

[Christ] gave himself for our sins to set us free from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (1:4, NRSV).

Note the quotation marks in Martyn. These are, by his own admission, marks of his own interpretation, deployed to suggest that Christ’s self-giving act as atonement for sins (forensic apocalypse) is a pre-Pauline confession and one that “is to a significant degree foreign to Paul’s own theology” (Martyn, 90). Martyn goes so far as to suggest that this forensic gospel coheres more with Paul’s opponents than it does with Paul’s typical confession, which Martyn locates in the latter half of 1:4 (divine rescue from a present evil age – cosmic apocalypse; see Martyn, 89).

While Martyn is on firm ground to remind us that the forensic aspect of this confession is indeed pre-Pauline (Martyn rightly cites 1 Cor 15:3), it remains to be seen how the wedge he drives between the first and second halves of the verse can be exegetically sustained. In 1 Cor 15:1-3, Paul refers to Christ’s atoning death as a chiefly important part of the good news that he himself preached at Corinth:

1Now I should remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain. 3For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures…. (1 Cor 15:1-3, NRSV)

If Paul himself elsewhere claims to have preached this forensic aspect of the gospel, how can we say that it is foreign to his thought? For this, Martyn’s reading cannot offer an account. Thus it is exceedingly difficult to agree with Martyn that Paul’s gospel represents any sort of rejection of a “forensic” aspect of God’s apocalypse-in-Christ in favor of only the cosmic.

As Paul himself puts it, without any indication to the contrary, Christ died for our sins so that (ὅπως, hopōs) we might be set free from the present evil age (Gal 1:4). The two aspects of the one event must go hand-in-hand in any reading of Galatians.