Item description for The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation by Denis Felix Cioffi & Mark Nanos...
Overview Students and scholars reading the secondary literature on Galatians must often negotiate specialized language and complex lines of argument. In addition to the theological jargon that traditionally characterizes discussion of Galatians, one now encounters a significant amount of rhetorical and sociohistorical terminology, and the reader's familiarity with this specialized language is increasingly assumed. This volume is designed to facilitate familiarity with the contemporary issues central to the interpretation of Galatians and to present examples of the prevailing points of view as well as some recent challenges to them. The essays included explore the rhetorical and epistolary approaches to examining Galatians, comprise a comprehensive introduction to significant research in the field, and represent some of the best work available. Mark Nanos offers an introduction and glossary of terms to help students begin their study and a comprehensive volume bibliography and modern author and ancient sources indexes for those who are continuing on to further study.
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APOSTOLIC SPHINX May 31, 2008
The Apostle Paul exited this life in a pelage of enigma. We want to figure him out and we want help. We want undaunted scholarship to lay a wreath of syllogisms upon his grave. Our wish has been granted. Across the generations, the wreaths have crowded upon one another. But except for the plastic ones (ironically, more durable), each will wither, leaving room for a newer arrangement, designed with an eye on contemporary tastes and trends.
These essays (some more than thirty years old, almost all collected from scholarly publications) are inventive and diverse treatments gathered under three (arbitrary?) headings. Pauline Rhetoric, Pauline Autobiography and the Situation in Galatia. Some conclusions are plausible. Some not.
What is Paul's letter to the Galatian churches all about? After two thousand years of reflection, the definitive answer is: we cannot be sure. This collection, with its 23 essays from 22 scholars, indicates why. Paul's literary, rhetorical and apologetic intentions as well as the events that occasioned the letter and the point(s) of view of the intended recipients are unknowable in a definitive or measurable sense.
Does this mean Nanos (who furnishes two articles of his own) and the other contributors are wasting their time? No. Each of these essays is thoughtful and can be used profitably where Paul's letter is made the subject of inquiry and where diverse points of view are to be considered. There are fundamental questions here as well as proposals that stand in dubious isolation from previous scholarship. Among the contributors who raise basic issues are C. Joachim Classen and John M.G. Barclay.
Classen (writing in 2000) fires cannon across the bow of the rhetorical-analytical frigate, which has been sailing with favorable winds just off the coast of Anatolia for the past twenty-five or thirty years. Classen is firing for effect. He asserts (p.105) the classification of a document and its components neither illuminates the context, which gave rise to the document or clarifies how its components function. Classen argues (p.111) that rhetoric is just another term for oratory and points out (p.105) that "a letter cannot be expected to have the structure of a speech." Worse. The classification of letters "does not assist one in understanding the letter's intentions or any of its details." (p.109) Classen faults Hans Deter Betz (who has contributed a 1975 essay to this volume) for not paying sufficient attention to the distinction between oratory and epistolography (p.98) and for imposing a rhetorical outline upon Galatians without arguing the merits of the selected structural components (Pp.109-110). Betz is also taken to task for ignoring prior applications of rhetorical analysis (Pp. 96, 98-99), especially Philip Melanchthon's (p. 99-103). Classen wonders (p. 97) why Betz limited his study to ancient rhetorical categories. Although an earlier version of Classen's essay appeared in 1993, no direct responses to Classen can be found in this volume. The editor has provided a helpful introductory summary but this is no substitute for actual disputation. Classen's essay is exceptional for this reason. His efforts deserved a direct response.
An absence of genuine debate in this volume may be seen in the contribution of Troy Martin, who apparently has something to debate with J. Louis Martyn - but not in this book. Each scholar appears here but only in reprinted form. In his reproduced 1995 essay, T. Martin argues that the Galatians blamed Paul for their necessary return to paganism because Paul had failed to explain to them the circumcision requirement; this obligation, Martin says, had subsequently been clarified by missionary-agitators, who had followed Paul into the region. Of this proposal, J.L. Martyn, in his Anchor Bible Commentary (Galatians, Doubleday, 1997) commented (page 21, note 26) that T. Martin "has advanced a rhetorical thesis that is so fanciful as to have the effect of suggesting a moratorium of some length in this branch of research." This is the kind of remark, perhaps written at 2 AM, which ought to have been stricken in the light of day.
It is now Martin on Martyn, mano a mano. Although T. Martin does not use the opportunity presented by this volume to respond, he does take his revenge (122 Journal of Biblical Literature 1 [Spring, 2003], 111-125). Overlooking volume after volume and page after page of J.L. Martyn's published comments on Galatians, T. Martin focuses on a reported oral discussion at a 2000 Society of Biblical Literature section discussion, so as to have J.L. Martyn confess he "doesn't know" what to make of Gal 3:28. Gotcha. I guess.
J.M.G. Barclay, in a 1987 essay reproduced here, argues for caution in mirror-reading Paul's letter. Barclay is worried about "the distorting effects of polemic" (p. 369), which may have lead Paul "to caricature his opponents, especially in describing their motivations" (p. 369). Barclay insists (p. 367) that reconstructing the arguments of "the other side" in Galatians is a "difficult and delicate" exercise, which is nevertheless "essential" although "extremely problematic."
Does Barclay leave his readers as people most to be pitied and without hope? Nope. The interpretive dangers of "undue selectivity" and "over-interpretation" of Paul's statements (p. 372) may be met by a cautionary methodology, if "appropriate criteria" are employed (p. 376). Barclay's criteria include (p. 376, ff.) a classification of Paul's "utterances" (assertions? denials? commands? prohibitions?) plus an attempt to tease out of the text such matters as Paul's "tone." Barclay also wants the critic to consider whether Paul's comments are clear, expressive of familiar or unfamiliar motifs, and frequently or infrequently found elsewhere in the letters. Finally, Barclay want to determine whether Paul's "attacks" are "historically plausible," that is, whether what we know of "men [sic] and movements" of Paul's day is reflected in Paul's statements. Barclay includes (p. 377) this arresting thought: "If our results are anachronistic or historically implausible, we will be obliged to start again."
Start what again?
Barclay's suggestions highlight the circularity of every attempt to understand the situation in Galatia: we have Paul's statements and from them we infer conditions "on the ground" and then decide what Paul's statements mean. But is the historian of Paul's letter any differently positioned that any other historian? Isn't all history circular as to the interplay between facts and their significance? It seems to me the task of the historian is not to record but to evaluate. Otherwise, how can one know what to record? E.H. Carr makes this point by reminding that uncounted thousands of individuals have crossed the Rubicon. These are the facts. But the crossing by Caesar is probably the one crossing we must take notice of. (See E.H Carr, What is History, [Random House, 1961] page 9).
If history always comes to us refracted through the mind of the historian, then history is made by none other than the historian. History is not about what is over and done with but rather is about the present and its needs. This may help explain why the historian, in the guise of poet or prophet, often got into trouble back in the day. And so, Barclay's caution is fine for Barclay--but not for J. Louis Martyn, who has contributed a 1985 essay, much supplemented in recent years, which has culminated in his previously mentioned commentary (Galatians, Doubleday 1997). In his commentary, Martyn has created hypothetical "sermons." This is taking mirror reading about as far as can be. Martyn proposes that the sermons he himself has invented are similar to those sermons which must have been composed and delivered in Galatia (the area around Ankara) by Christian Jewish "teachers."
These "teachers" allegedly followed Paul into Galatia, and, according to Martyn, wanted to supplement for the Galatian believers the misleading inadequacies they perceived in Paul. Barclay, not surprisingly, found fault (p. 378) with this approach even before Martyn used it to full effect in his commentary. One of Martyn's sermonic inventions, reproduced here (pp. 358-61), demonstrates that, just as in quantum physics, the past can be as unpredictable as the future.
No doubt, future scholars will chase down several of these Galatians Debate proposals with the instincts of beagles. Until then, you can read the arguments and judge for yourself. Is Paul in Galatia confronting concrete charges concerning his apostolate, as Martyn proposes? Not so, according to Johan S. Vos (p.180). Is it the case that for Paul "justification through faith" and "covenantal nomism" are "in direct antithesis to each other," as James D.G. Dunn suggests (p. 234)? Do you think "from its inception, the Christian movement admitted Gentiles without demanding that they be circumcised and observe the law," as Paula Fredriksen asserts (p. 255)? Or did Peter in Antioch "demand circumcision" of Gentiles as Philip F. Esler has concluded (p. 281)? On the other hand, might Peter in Antioch have engaged in "obsequious behavior" when he "withdrew from these mixed meals" as Mark Nanos says (p. 317)? Or (door number three, or are we back to door two?) was Peter in Antioch actually "passive-aggressive," somehow compelling the Gentile believers, by withdrawing from them, as Fredriksen concludes (p. 258)? Or is it probable that Peter and "Jewish Christians in Judea were stimulated by Zealotic pressures into a nomistic campaign among their fellow Christians," as Robert Jewett argues (p. 340)? Or was Paul contending in Galatia not with other Christian missionaries but with a "Jewish countermission," as uncovered by Nikolaus Walter (p. 362)? Were there "circumcised people in Galatia who were advocating circumcision of Gentiles not for the purpose of keeping the law but for the purpose of avoiding persecution," as Dieter Mitternacht asserts (p. 409)?
Who prevailed in Galatia? Were Paul's opponents "very successful" in convincing the Galatians "to obey the Torah and adopt a Jewish way of life," as B.C. Lategan maintains (p. 395)? Or, did the Galatians whom Paul addresses become "members of Christ-believing sub-groups within larger Jewish communities" who see Paul as "a Torah-observant Jew," as Nanos would have it (p. 405)?
One or two of these suggestions are as plausible as the notion that Paul's antagonists in Galatia were not theological contortionists at all but victims of Paul's earlier persecution. This is my own suggestion ("Paul and the Victims of His Persecution: The Opponents in Galatia," Biblical Theology Bulletin, 32:4, page 182). (Reprinted in THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT) Its weak points have received two or three coats of Kevlar, like all the other suggestions. It has been put forward with the idea that we should try to keep the situation real. Paul's Celtic converts probably had their noses firmly pressed against the nether side of the Iron Age; they would have had as much fondness for knife wielding circumcisers as John Paul II did for Jean Paul Sartre.
Few of these contributions have taken into account the leading Pauline historians of the past: For a ready summary of these older results consult the critical essays in The Writings of St. Paul, Second Edition (Norton Critical Edition)edited by Wayne Meeks (Norton 1972). Meeks' own concluding essay, "The Christian Proteus," reminds us of the shape-changing aspect of Paul, a daimon who questions us just when we think we are questioning him.
None of us is likely ever to figure Paul out. This is due to the intensity of his rhetoric, the mutual inconsistency of many of his conceptions, and to the large role his mostly muted adversaries have played in shaping his literary legacy. Meeks correctly emphasized all of this.
Paul remains beyond us primarily because his letters are read as Scripture. One must fail as a matter of course at a complete understanding of Scripture. But we may obtain a serendipitous and fragmentary rapport with the message carried by the words, a rapport, which grasps and releases the reader as the contours of wisdom, absurdity, curiosity, humility, self-regard, grief and exaltation effervesce within us from moment to moment.
This review has been published in a collection of reviews and articles, That's What I'm Talking About (Nativa 2008).THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT
Comprehensive Contributors' List - Perfect for Classroom Use Apr 21, 2003
This volume offers a comprehensive introduction to the contemporary debates on Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Perfect for classroom use. In addition to complete indexes and a volume bibliography, there is a glossary of technical terms that arise in the volume.
The essays are separated into three major topical areas to cover discussion of: 1) Rhetorical and Epistolary Genre; 2) The Autobiographical Narratives; 3) The Galatian Situation(s).
Introduction, Mark D. Nanos
Part 1. Rhetorical and Epistolary Genre: A. Rhetorical Approaches:
1. The Literary Composition and Function of Paul's Letter to the Galatians, Hans Dieter Betz
2. The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians: A Reconsideration, Robert G. Hall
3. The Letter of Paul to the Galatians: A Deliberative Speech, Joop Smit
4. Galatians (1:1-5): Paul and Greco-Roman Rhetoric, Robert M. Berchman
5. Apostasy to Paganism: The Rhetorical Stasis of the Galatian Controversy, Troy Martin
6. Paul's Epistles and Ancient Greek and Roman Rhetoric, Carl Joachim Classen
B. Epistolary Approaches
7. Paul's Letter to the Galatians: Epistolary Genre, Content, and Structure, Nils A. Dahl
8. A Paradigm of the Apocalypse: The Gospel in the Light of Epistolary Analysis, G. Walter Hansen
Part 2: Autobiographical Narratives: A. Rhetorical Approaches
9. Rhetorical Identification in Paul's Autobiographical Narrative: Galatians 1.13-2.14, Paul E. Koptak
10. Paul's Argumentation in Galatians 1-2, Johan S. Vos
11. Epideictic Rhetoric and Persona in Galatians One and Two, James D. Hester
B. Socio-historical Approaches
12. The Incident at Antioch (Gal. 2.11-18), James D. G. Dunn
13. Judaism, the Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope: Another Look at Galatians 1 and 2, Paula Fredriksen
14. Making and Breaking an Agreement Mediterranean Style: A New Reading of Galatians 2:1-14, Philip F. Esler
15. What Was at Stake in Peter's `Eating with Gentiles' at Antioch? Mark D. Nanos
Part 3: The Galatian Situation(s)
16. The Opposition to Paul, A. E. Harvey
17. The Agitators and the Galatian Congregation, Robert Jewett
18. A Law-Observant Mission to Gentiles, J. Louis Martyn
19. Paul and the Opponents of the Christ-Gospel in Galatia, Nikolaus Walter
20. Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test Case, John M. G. Barclay
21. The Argumentative Situation of Galatians, B. C. Lategan
22. The Inter- and Intra-Jewish Political Context of Paul's Letter to the Galatians, Mark D. Nanos
23. Foolish Galatians?-A Recipient-Oriented Assessment of Paul's Letter, Dieter Mitternacht