Do You Agree With This NTW Quote about Galatians??? (Gupta)

On page 528 of Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright (of 1600 pages). At the same time I am reading Stephen Westerholm’s Justification Reconsidered (about 1/10th the size of PFG, but very well written and argued). Westerholm takes Sanders, Stendahl, Dunn, and Wright to task on their reading Galatians and justification/righteousness language. So far (not done with Westerholm), I think his concerns need to be heard and responded to, but I think Wright is least guilty of what Westerholm is most concerned with (i.e., a sole focus on horizontal issues in Paul’s use of justification/righteousness language). However, I came across this quote today from Wright’s PFG:

“the main point of Galatians is to reassure the Gentile Christians there that they are already full members of God’s people (i.e., of Abraham’s worldwide family) and thus do not need to get circumcised” (ch. 7)

Do you agree with Wright? If not, how might you articulate (in a brief sentence) the ‘main point of Galatians’?

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11 thoughts on “Do You Agree With This NTW Quote about Galatians??? (Gupta)

  1. No need to disagree strongly with Wright on this. However, there are several attending supports or corollaries or concerns or premises that step to the forefront at different times in the epistle. They are in a sort of dance, taking the lead in turns, while one may take the primary lead overall. Perhaps. As such, it is easy and natural to see one or another of these items as /a/, or /the/, main point, though that may distort things a bit.

    If I hesitate at all, in other words, I hesitate with the supposition that there is a single main point. It is like the old misleading project regarding the center of biblical theology, or of Paul’s theology, or of whatever. I’m not confident that sort of supposition aids us in understanding. In fact, at least at times, I suspect such a focus is too tight and thus misleads us.

      • I’ve got Westerholm’s latest on my “to read” stack. I’ve glanced at it. But I must caution that I tend to disagree rather strongly with Westerholm. At times he maneuvers in self-serving ways that are rhetorically camouflaged. But he is fun to read. I’ll post something when I get to him. About 11 or 23 books are ahead in the queue (in part due to your constant recommendations!).

  2. I think the statement is fine as far as it goes but I feel that with regards to Galatians Paul is painting on a slightly larger canvas so that we need not see all his statements about the law as confined to this one issue. Or perhaps better put: yes this is the issue but in response Paul also addresses the Law more generally.

    I enjoyed Westerholm’s new book. I was hoping for a little more like his previous book but I found it helpful.

  3. I would agree to an extent. I think the essence of Paul’s issue in Galatians is with identity… being “from the Law” or “from Christ”; being in the “new covenant” or acting as if Christ never came. If I recall, Wright addresses this criticism later in PFG. I’m not sure it’s a fair critique as I don’t think Wright would describe this as an either or. The “vertical” dimension is present in that those who are “in Christ” are “right with God” because of what Jesus accomplished, but because there is now one family with no distinction, Jews shouldn’t act as if the distinctions remain. That’s how I’m reading Wright at least. I could be wrong!

  4. I think Wright is correct in saying that Paul’s central concern in writing to the Galatians was essentially “horizontal,” i. e., to clarify that they were full members of Abraham’s family. However, I think that Paul makes his case with “vertical” arguments (Jesus as the one who rescues from the evil age, 1:4; Paul lives by faith in/faithfulness of the Son of God who loved him and gave himself for him, 2:20; especially 3:28-29 where the move is from incorporation into Christ to member’s of Abraham’s family, and not vice-versa).

  5. Since the Judaizers had come and gone, Paul probably realized he was too late to stop most of the circumcisions. Therefore, unless Paul was planning to cast out those stumblers, I’d have to suggest his “main point” or at least his main purpose in writing was somewhat larger in scope.

  6. And how else would you read this verse? I think we sell Paul a wee bit short in assuming that he has some simplistic thought in mind. Rather like the goldfish in a bowl that swims round and round at stops each time to look at the rock in the bowl… “Look at the rock, Look at the rock, Look at the rock”. Can’t one go a wee bit deeper in understanding Paul. I think so.

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