Doug Moo’s Galatians Commentary – Review P4 (Gupta)

Moo GalAfter a couple weeks away from Doug Moo’s commentary, I am back again to discussion his notes on Galatians chapter 3.

3:1 (“evil eye”) – is Paul being rhetorical or is he being serious about the Galatians being bewitched? For Moo, “The truth probably lies between these views.” I think this is a reasonable proposal. (181)

3:2 (“hearing accompanied by faith”) – I like Moo’s translation here, but even better I like one of the options he mentions in his discussion – “the ‘hearing’ that Christians call faith” (epexegetical) (p. 183).

3:6 (Abraham believed) – Moo writes, “The meaning of this passage is disputed, but it is best taken to mean that God graciously viewed Abraham’s faith as having in itself fulfilled all that God expected of Abraham in order for him to be in the right before God” (188). I think Moo would be right if the text said “Abraham believed God and God declared him righteous,” but the impression I get from the use of logizomai is that his faith was allowed to “count” (as credit) for something else (i.e., obedience, or demonstrated righteousness). Moo directs God’s “counting” backwards based on what Abraham had already done (“fulfilled,” “expected”), but I think the whole nature of the Genesis and Pauline text is forward looking – it is about what is guaranteed to continue in the future because of the prospective nature of faith itself.

3:9 (Abraham, the “man of faith”) – Moo takes pistos here as “believing,” hence “man of faith.” He does this because Paul has been contrasting faith and works, and translating pistos as “faithful” (a more natural meaning of the word) would confuse things by place Abraham back on the “works” end. I can see why Moo would be worried about this, but I think the word choice for Paul is strategic, and it is misleading to the English reader to obscure the fact that Paul chooses this word that can be used for both sides (faith or faithfulness). I think Paul is trying to score an extra point (hard won, but worth it), but saying that, even if Abraham is the “man who believes and trusts in God,” it is altogether appropriate to call him the faithful Abraham. I know Moo is following many translations on interpreting pistos as “believing/faith,” but here I think practically only the KJV gets it right: “blessed with the faithful Abraham.”

3:20 (“the mediator is not of one”) – for Moo being a translation expert, I am shocked he chose a translation (“the mediator is not of one”) that is so wooden and inelegant. I checked and no modern translation I use follows this confusing phrasing. I think Moo’s rendering is close to NASB: “a mediator is not for one party only.” but I would prefer that over Moo’s option.

3:16 (Paul referring to “seed” passages from Gen 15-17). Moo tries to make sense of how Paul is reading Genesis, especially in ways modern readers might find dubious. Moo writes:

…while Paul’s claim resembles Jewish interpretation of his day at the level of his exegetical technique, he is, in fact, operating with certain hermeneutical axioms that provide warrant for his interpretation. Especially important is Paul’s reading of salvation history as the story of how God’s promises become concentrated in one person, Christ, the seed, through whom those promises become applicable to the worldwide people. (p. 230)

I am not in disagreement with any of this, but it still doesn’t address the questions of (1) was Paul trying to be faithful to the original context and (2) is this a hermeneutical approach that we today should repeat?

3:24 (“paidagogos” = “guardian”). Moo opts for English translation of “guardian.” Nothing really works well here (custodian, tutor, schoolmaster). Tough to get this right in English!

3:26 (uiou theou) – I appreciate Moo’s discussion of how to translate this. Some translations render it “children of God” (for gender-sensitive reasons), but I concur with Moo that “it runs the risk of missing some of the connotation that Paul intends.” (250)

“Sonship” in the Greco-Roman world symbolized a certain status and right of inheritance. The language of “sons” also highlights the significant organic connection between Christ as “the son” and Christians. As applied to women, then, Paul’s point would be that they can now enjoy, equally with men, the status of being “sons.” (250)

Evaluation

As you can tell from the above notes, my impression is mixed. I like a good many things in this commentary and the best word for most of his notes is “sound.” But I feel like some of his assertions are poorly (or too briefly) argued – especially those related to see believing vs. working in Galatians as a master theme. More to come!

 

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