Lecture 11: Galatians 4:12-31 Part 2

Course: Galatians

Lecture: Galatians 4:12-31 Part 2

I. Galatians 4:12-31 (cont)

So, Galatians 4:21-31 is a very unusual text that we have been looking at. We have also looked at Isaiah 54:1 to see why Paul would include this text with this kind of language at this point. I think it is a fascinating inter-biblical exegesis as we call it sometimes, reading the prophetical Genesis text and bringing them together in a creative way. Finishing this up, we have verse 28, you, like Isaac, are children of promise. And of course this is addressed to Galatian gentiles and as in the past there was this persecution of the children of those born by the power of the Spirit. Paul is using the language fairly loosely here, a language of persecution in a broad sense to talk about the opposition between these groups in the past and the kind of opposition that has now arisen in the context of the Galatian churches. This is where the agitators being referred to as the present Jerusalem insisting that the gentiles come under the law. This is to go back under the condition of slavery again in contrast to the freedom and the enjoyment to the promise that they can have by remaining attached firmly to the Jerusalem above, the church focused on Jesus Christ. So we are children of the free woman.

We have been talking about the way Paul appropriates the Old Testament here, so I am going to introduce another theological point now. I want to talk a little about how New Testament writers in general use the Old Testament with a particular focus on Paul. It is a kind of fundamental framework for the way Paul and other New Testament writers engage in theology. They are people who are rooted in Old Testament Scripture, not only personal but seeking to appropriate the message of the Old Testament to validate their own preaching of Christ from the Gospel. There is a fundamental concern to maintain lines of continuity from the Old Testament to the New Testament. To also make the claim that we Christians are the ones who have the right reading of the Old Testament. Our community is what the Old Testament is ultimately pointing to. So, in one sense, you can understand these early Christians making a claim that stands against and in contrast to the claims that various other Jewish groups are making. I think about the Dead Sea Scrolls particularly here that give us evidence about the life and theology of this sectarian Jewish group that was located at Qumran, just on the shores of the Dead Sea. These Jews were very different from the Sadducees or Pharisees and other groups from the New Testament. This was a group that withdrew into the wilderness to build their own community and claiming that they were the heirs of the Old Testament promises. Because of this, they were engaged in a constant interpretation of Scripture to make that point.

II. How Authors of New Testament Books Use references to the Old Testament

A. High Regard for the Authority of the Old Testament

So, how does the New Testament make this claim? It is fundamentally assumed that the Old Testament was authoritative. The New Testament picks up the Old Testament in a wide variety of ways; it is hard even to list them all. You have explicit quotations that are introduced by some kind of formula sometimes, such as in Matthew 2. You have implicit quotations; places where there is no particular introductory formula, as it is written or something of that kind. But where there is a kind of break in the syntax and where the language makes clear a quotation is intended such as Matthew 27:46. We had a brief discussion yesterday in Galatians and following in verse 10, as it is written, but then in verse 11, no one who relies on the law is justified before God or will live by faith.’ There is no explicit formula here but Paul’s intension is to clearly quote the words of Habakkuk 2:4 here. In looking at quotations where there is a focus on the wording, it is just worthwhile to remind ourselves of the complicated situation of our New Testament writers as they quote the Old Testament. During the New Testament period, we have good evidence that the Masoretic text was a text that was widely used and available in much the form we have it today. This text found in the 9th and 10th century manuscripts continues to be the basic Hebrew source which our English translations are based. All the English translations that we have talked about this week are translating on the basis of the Masoretic Hebrew text, particularly the Hebrew text that we have full evidence from the 9th and 10th centuries. But in the New Testament period, there were other Hebrew texts that existed, variant Hebrew texts that sometimes it seems that our New Testament authors may have used to refer to the Old Testament as well, much like today as we refer to different English translations.

B. Ways in Which the Old Testament is used

Then you have the whole Greek tradition; this was very important as our New Testament was written in Greek. And it is clear that very often our New Testament writers are using the Greek Old Testament version in their quotations. Paul for example, quotes from the Greek form most of the time. How do we know that? Well, a lot of Paul’s quotations precisely agree with the wording and the sequence of words that are found in the Septuagint. From Latin we have Septuaginta which means seventy, based on the tradition that this Greek text was translated by seventy people in the 3rd or 2nd century BC. But we have other 1st century Greek texts as well. We have other languages such as Aramaic which at the time of Jesus many of the Jews had lost their ability to understand Hebrew. It was no longer the common language, it was more of a religious language and so average Jews could not understand Hebrew that well. So in order to communicate with the larger Jewish population, there was a movement to put the Hebrew Scriptures into Aramaic. This was during the New Testament period and our New Testament authors could have been quoting from these Aramaic Scriptures. Even in working from English, we look at the wording of the quotation as we have it in the New Testament and then you look at the text that is being quoted and they aren’t the same; the wording is different. Paul quotes a text according to a form or certain wording that is different than the actual English text. The issue may be that you have a Masoretic text being translated into English in the Old Testament, for example Deuteronomy 27:26. All the English translations will work from the Masoretic text for this in translating the Hebrew. But it might be that Paul in his quotation is simply repeating the Greek version of his day and that Greek version might differ somewhat compared to the Hebrew. When the Greek translation came along, it might not have followed the Hebrew all that closely. It might have added some words or taken away some words from it or even paraphrased it. And so you have Paul quoting that particular Greek form of the text where there is a difference from the Hebrew and this shows up as a difference in our English Bibles.

C. Versions of the Old Testament available to New Testament Writers

So, the thing to remember is that the New Testament is written during a time when there was certain fluidity in the Old Testament textual tradition. And one of the things that scholars have recognized more and more over the last few years is that while this Masoretic text indeed is very old and was reproduced from the times of Christ and remains the foundation text, many scholars now realize that differences between the Masoretic and Greek texts, this variant reading is actually based on a Hebrew text different from the Masoretic text. The Septuagint has arbitrary introduce the difference as such, it hasn’t made a mistake but rather the Greek at that point is working with a different Hebrew text. We are recognizing this more and more and in the NIV and ESV and most of the contemporary English versions will show this in foot notes at the bottom of the page. For example, in 2nd Samuel 8:4 where in the text we read that David captured a thousand of his chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers. But the Masoretic text says 1700 of his charioteers. So some of the Bibles, especially the NIV will put something like this in a footnote when it differs from the accepted text. Here, they went with the Septuagint because they found a text from the Dead Sea Scrolls that agreed with this.

We need to look carefully and have some concern in the differences in wording when we have a New Testament quotation of the old. But these are factors that explain why that happens and why we can’t always be sure about what that Old Testament text really was. Perhaps Paul’s version of the quote has a better text, who knows, but it is possible. This is not because it is Greek but because it is reflecting a different Hebrew. Of course, it doesn’t exist today as an actual text. The Codex of the 10th century containing the entire Hebrew Old Testament; the Masoretes were people who took to the Hebrew and sort of codified it and put in a lot of the accents and vowel points that we now have which weren’t there originally. The basic language was written only with consonants and later the vowels were added made up of dots and marks around those consonants. Even though the manuscripts are 10th century, we have found manuscripts that date back way into the New Testament period and even before the New Testament period. Since the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered and analyzed, we now have additional information and confirmation of many of these variants that appear.

D. Allusions

Other ways that the New Testament writers appropriate the Old Testament is by direct reference; particular important for estimating the Old Testament influence on the new is what we call allusions. Where the New Testament writer would not break off what the New Testament letter is saying to directly or indirectly introduce a quotation, but where the wording the New Testament author has chosen is clearly influenced by the Old Testament text in one place or another. An illustration would be in Matthew 2 in the description of the Magi who come to worship the infant Jesus. His wording here picks up some Old Testament passages where there are allusions woven into the text. They are always tricky and there can be debate about whether there is a genuine allusion or not and often we miss them because we just don’t know our Old Testament that well. The language isn’t that familiar to us and so don’t immediately catch the allusion. But there are far more Old Testament allusions than there are Old Testament quotations and they are really important in helping us understand. There is also the idea of echoes but I am not sure that I want to talk about it. A number of scholars are using it these days.

E. Conceptual Influence

There is also conceptual influence; Old Testament revelations in many ways provide the framework for New Testament thinking about things. New Testament authors never try to define monotheism, covenant or sacrifice; these are all just assumed as fundamental categories.

F. Structural Influence

And then there is textual influence by the way the New Testament is actually ordered and structured. These may intend to reflect Old Testament influence. A lot of people identify five discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew and some would refer to Jesus as the new law giver, speaking in these five discourses just as Moses the original law-giver. The Old Testament influences the New Testament in a significant variety of ways. Sometimes, they come to the surface but often it is like a tip of an iceberg above the sea water with most of it underwater. You have evident on the surface of what is going on but there is a lot going on behind the scenes that we sometimes fail to appreciate, yet we need to know in order to fully understand the New Testament message.

G. Appropriation Techniques vs Hermeneutical Axioms

Just a few comments on the ways the New Testament writers appropriate the Old Testament here. There is what is called appropriation techniques and hermeneutical axioms. Paul and the other New Testament writers indicate that they are using a lot of the same techniques their fellow Jews were using at the time. For example, they use word play for instance; in the beginning of Romans 4, Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 where Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. Later on he quotes from Psalm 32 which uses the same words ‘reckoned.’ This is not by chance as this is a very common technique that the Jews use. So we can identify this text and associate it with other texts through common words. At that level Paul and the New Testament are much like the Jews. Peter Inns has recognized this repeatedly. Unfortunately, Peter was ask to leave Westminster and has tried to justify his view by becoming more radical. He says that the New Testament writers were people of their own time. They were using Scripture basically the same way as other Jews in their period of time and we can’t hold the New Testament writers to any higher standard as if they are quoting the Old Testament in accordance to what it really means. We just don’t need to worry about that and shouldn’t be bothers with it because the New Testament writers did what their Jewish contemporaries were doing. One response to this is to say, yes in some ways there is similarity but more fundamental are the hermeneutical axioms that sort of drive the interpretation. How can Paul read this Genesis narrative as he does? Well, at one level Sarah represents the Jerusalem above with Hagar and Mount Sinai and Jerusalem. At the level of the text, this is very similar what other Jews did. What is critical though, Paul in that identification is guiding by fundamental theological assumptions about the way in which the Bible holds together. As the Old Testament ultimately finds its fulfillment in Christ, we therefore can’t understand the earlier part of the story unless we understand how the story ends. This happens sometimes when we are reading a good novel. We will be reading along sequentially and you discover something in later chapters that cause you to go back and reread some of the things that you have already read that causes you to change your view. So you understand the beginning of the book much better now and more deeply and completely in light of the ending. That is why good books need to be reread. This applies to the Books of the Bible as well and also the Bible as a whole.

H. Contrast views of the early Christians and Pharisees

So, these are the hermeneutical axioms about the shape of revelation, the story that the Bible is ultimately telling, the way God is revealing himself. This is this driving the New Testament use of the Old Testament and it is at that level that it has to be judged, as it were. Another way to put this, let’s look at the way the early Christians claimed how the Old Testament came to fulfillment and compare that with how the Pharisees considered the text along with the Dead Sea Scrolls. Which reading makes better sense of the Old Testament as a whole and it is at that level that I think we can try to defend the early Christians did in their reading of Scripture. It is a better and more consistent and natural fit with what the Old Testament itself is saying.

I. Sensus Plenior

One final point, one of my associates, Dr. Kaiser, says that when we interpret the Old Testament carefully, we will find that there is a fairly natural match between the Old Testament and what the New Testament is saying. I am not so sure that this works sometimes. I think there are places where the New Testament is quoting a text and applying it in a way that I don’t see the Old Testament context by itself being validated. Ultimately, what I want to argue is for a view that I call Sensus plenior, a deeper meaning that we can discern in the Old Testament on basis of New Testament revelation. So what the New Testament writers are doing is giving key Old Testament texts at times a fuller or slightly different meaning or application and that text seems to have its own original context. But they are doing it on the basis of an understanding of Scripture broadly in terms of the canonical development as God has now made clear how the story is ending. So organic development from the Old Testament then is rooted in key principles you find throughout the New Testament, two in particular: Christocentric, reading the Scriptures in light of Christ as the center and climax of God’s purposes and the universalizing which is particular important for Paul in Galatians where there is concern to show how the Old Testament ultimately points to the inclusion of the gentiles into a more universal focus than simply the people of Israel. This results in the deepening of meanings, extension of meaning and transformative meaning that is usually based in the Old Testament itself. If you do you work carefully enough, we will often find a little bit more justification for what the New Testament authors are doing than we first thought.

J. Summary

I think we need to be aware of these issues and some of you might be encountering them in certain ways. There are certainly issues out there but I fear that these issues undercut the authority of Scripture among some who listen to these kinds of protests. I think there are answers to these issues between the Old Testament and the New Testament. If you take the approach that I have suggested, a lot of those problems can be minimized.

Back to Galatians 4; there is a reading of the Genesis story in light of its fulfillment in Christ and Paul’s understanding of the Gospel and the Law, gentiles and also reading the Genesis story in light of Isaiah 51-54. In regards to Sarah, we saw that the only other place that name comes up in in Isaiah 51. Paul shows us all these similarities and how it seems to foreshadow what God is now doing in Christ. He begins to put together Isaiah 51-54 with the Genesis story and ultimately we end up the sort of the tip of the iceberg as we have in Galatians 4:21 -31.