PROMISE IN GALATIANS AND ROMANS

 

I.  Paul's Use of Promise Motif in Galatians 3-4.21-31; Romans 1.2; 4.13-25; 15.8

 

1.  Context of Paul's interpretation of the Abraham tradition in Romans 4.13-22 and Galatians 3 and 4 (use of Promise among Christian Jews).

 

2.  The dialogue form reveals the controversy which sets the tone for Paul's use of the tradition of the "promise" made to Abraham (cf. see my "Promise Time Chart" promise is central to both Old and New Testament; I suggest it as an integrating mode of the two testaments - One Bible).

 

3.  Paul speaks of the promise to Abraham in Gal. 3 as well as in Roms. 4, but there are marked differences in his application of the promise theme in the two epistles.

 

4.  In Galatians 3 Paul follows a carefully structured midrashic exposition in which Paul follows Rabbinic rules of interpretation (see Dahl in Studies in Paul, pp. 13-35; these assumptions are carried through in K. Berger's study, "Abraham in der paulismischen Hauptbriefen"; see esp. pp. 47, 48 in contrast H. D. Betz, "Spirit, Freedom and Law", pp. 145-60; and "In Defense of The Spirit: Paul's letter to the Galatians as a Document of Early Christian Apologetics," Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity, pp. 99-114).

 

5.  The theme of Justification by faith apart from the law, which is introduced in 2.16, finds its continuation in the scriptural proof in 3.6-12.  In the last part of the interpretation of the Abraham tradition in 3.17-25, Paul provides his view of the "true function" of the law (Berger includes none of the passages which are related to the Galatian situation; compare with 2.15-21). The statements in 2.15-21 are situation; Paul's conclusion in his report of the conflict with Peter in Antioch.  The issue in question was communion between circumcised and uncircumcised (cf. Gen. 15.6; Gal. 3.6-12 does not expand the theme in 2.16 on Justification by faith apart from the law).

 

6.  There is tension between Paul's dogmatic statements and exegetical expositions.  They are bracketed by passages on Paul's own experience in Galatian communities, i.e. his own missionary practice (cf. the life and practice of the Galatians and the function of the Abraham story within the Galatian epistle).

 

7.  Paul's biographical section introduces Galatians 1.10 - 2.21; Paul's discussion with the leaders in Jerusalem (2.1-10) and in the controversy with Peter in Antioch (2.11-15) (Peter's communion with a group of Judaizers and his withdrawal from this fellowship).  Paul criticizes Peter with the context of "the truth of the Gospel" 2.14 doctrinal statement, 1.16-21, is one of religious identity and nature and purpose of the Gospel, Jewish Christian cultural ties, and conflicting loyalties.

 

8.  Paul turns to 3.1-5 from his report from Antioch to the Galatian scene (2.12:33).  Paul points to the charismatic experiences in the founding period of the congregation (2.16-21); theological term of new identify; in 3.1-5 he emphasizes the experiences of the Spirit in the congregation life (cf. J. Jerwell, "God's Spirit and His People" in Studies in Honor of  Nils Alstrup Dahl, edited by J. Jerwell and W. A. Meeks, Oslo, 1977, pp. 88, 89).

9.  Paul uses the Abraham story and the promise made to him in 3.6-29; his quotation is from Genesis 15.6.  Paul concludes "So you see that it is men of faith who are sons of Abraham," 3.17, and "if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."  3.29 (Berger, Bread from Heaven, p. 48; Paul has thus identified "who are the children of Abraham?").

 

10. Paul sustains his thesis by a quotation from Gen. 12.3, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."  What is the blessing which is promised?  In two parallel clauses in 3.14 he uses "hina" twice; "blessing might come upon the non Jews," that is Christ Jesus.  The blessing might come upon the Gentiles, "that we might receive the blessing of promise of the spirit through faith." The charismatic experience of the Galatians was fulfillment of God's promise. Paul thus bridges the gulf between Jew and Gentile in the Christian community.

 

11. In the polemical genre in 3.10-13, Paul contrasts the promise of the blessing with the curse of the law.  Christ now frees them from their previous bondage.  Those who are under the law remain under the curse.  Paul thus fuses the deity of Christ with his appropriation of the promise made to Abraham. Paul here connects history, theology, and practice.  The Galatians are asked to see their identity in light of the promise to Abraham and the cross of Christ.

 

12. Paul's theology of promise must be noted in contrast to his opponents in Galatia (bridge over the People of God, Promise to Abraham' Jews/Ethnics in 3.17) The Abrahamic covenant had been re-defined by the Sinaitic covenant, the promise now made to Abraham and his seed; and the obligations of the seed were revealed in the law, fulfillment of which was made the necessary condition for the receipt of the promised blessing (cf. Barrett, pp. 9-13, the allegory of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in the arguments in Galatians).

 

13. How is circumcision related to the promise made to Abraham?  (cf. Promise to Abraham, Ishmael, Islam, Isaiah, Israel, Jacob, Jesus, The Church people of the Promise; Sarah/Hagar allegory in 4.21-29).

 

14. Paul's use of Promise is a protest against Judaizers (Gal 3-4); conflict over hermeneutics and life style.

 

II. Contrast between Tradition of Promise in Hebrews 11, Romans 4 and Galatians 3

 

1.  Paul fuses the Abrahamic promise theme and Christ.

 

2.  The structure in Gal. 3.6-29 is quite similar to that of Romans 4.  It is Gal. 3.15-29 which comes closest to Rom. 4.13-22.  Here Paul has not made use of Gen. 17-18.

 

3.  A brief resume' of Paul's use of the Abrahamic promise motif exposes the relationship between theology and life patterns (compare Rom. 4 and Gal. 3.15-29).  Paul unifies biblical monotheism of "God is one" and the unity of the believers.

 

4.  In Gal. 3.16-17, Paul declares that the promise to Abraham and his seed was in the singulars, not plural (to spermati auton).  Paul identifies the one offer speaking as Christ (3.17).  The Promise finds fulfillment in Christ, not the law The recipients of the promise are those who believe in Christ, "all the promises are "yes" in Jesus."  The law is valid only until the offspring comes. Faith came in Christ, the promise, the promised one!  (cf. the inferiority of the law to the promise. Gal. 3.19-22).  Moses as the intermediary, vs. 30, the law giver; this intermediary is not the one of The Promise) Moses, Christ, Paul and relationship between the law, the promise, the blessing, and the faith. God is the source of both the law and the promise (the shema, vs. 20b, "God is one").

 

5.  Paul's disclosure in Gal. 3.1-4.7 is centered on God and the Spirit.  While Paul's interpretation of the promise to Abraham is Christological, unlike Romans 4; Paul stresses that it is God himself who is the agent.

 

6.  Paul fuses Gen. 15.6 and the "Shema" in Rom. 3.30, 4.1-25, Jas. 2.19-24. Paul's interpretation of Gen. 15.6 in light of the promise for all nations; the "Shema" and Gal. 3.15-29; the continuity of the Old and New Testaments with the Promise as the unifying mode.  God as one and the antithesis between law and promise; one God gives the Spirit to the one community, 3.5; 4.6.  Christ bridges the promise, the law, the Jews and the Gentiles.

 

7.  Sarah and Hagar are descendents of Abraham (Jews and Arabs).  "Now you, brethren, like Isaac, are children of the promise."  4.28, Barrett's "Allegory," pp. 13-16. Paul's use of promise mode comes at a time of persecution; "But as at that time it was he who was born according to the flesh persecuted (ediorsis) him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is new." (4.29)  compare I Thess. 2.14-16, as persecutors of Christ and of the Christians.

 

8.  Faith, promise, obedience as legitimating most Jewish communities as true descendents of Abraham.  Genesis 21.10 is an extreme attack on the Judaizers.

 

9.  In Galatians, Paul has used the tradition of the promise made to Abraham in a way to defend the rights of non-circumcised Christians.

 

10. Paul's interpretation of the promise is associated with the gift of the Spirit (Charismatic gifts, I Cor. 12-14).  Paul builds on the interpretation found in Acts in which the promise to Abraham and the forefathers consists of the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2.16-20; 33-35; 38-39).  The promise motif in both Romans and Galatians is of utmost importance to his established congregations.

 

III. Paul's Use of Promise in Romans is fused in reconciliation and less apologetic than in Galatians

 

1.  Romans 1.2; 15.8 - Paul's Gospel "which he promised beforehand (ho proepeggeilato) through the prophets in the Holy Spirit" (1.2).  At the conclusion of Romans, Paul speaks of the example of Christ:  "For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness (huper aletheias theou) in order to confirm the promises (Bebaiosai tas epaggelias) given to the patriarchs (15.8).  The Roman epistle is a missions statement, not totally separated from promise and fulfillment (cf. parallel study of Rom. 1.1-7; 15.7-21).

 

James D. Strauss