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The issue in the debate about the new perspective is how best to read the apostle Paul’s theology in its historical context, and one of the more important debates is how to read Galatians … and we finish the 5th chp today of Tom Wright’s new book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision
where he discusses how to read Galatians.
What is the point of having the Torah after all? Wright about Galatians 4: “This is perhaps the fiercest thing he ever says about Torah: that because it was God’s gift to Israel for the time of slavery … it functioned for Israel as the tutelary deities of the nations had functioned, to keep them in check prior to the coming full disclosure of God’s purpose and nature” (137). And the agitators were tempting the Galatians to treat the Torah now as an ethinc tutelary deity! Strong stuff, indeed.
When one normally hears Paul speak of “slavery,” how is that understood? Is it not most often understood as personal shackles to our sinful nature? How does Paul speak here of slavery? Wright has some ideas…
Galatians 4:1-7, and here Wright shows the significance of reading
terms in the narrative context of the whole Bible, gives the Galatians
two options: return to the slavery of Egypt or move forward into
freedom. The slavery of Egypt is to return to the Torah’s badges and,
at the same time, to reject Christ as the representative Israelite. (I
don’t think enough appreciate the profound christological centrality of
this view of Wright’s, and it fits in very nicely with the early
Christian theory of recapitulation.)
Further, in Galatians 5:5-6
Paul speaks of the hope of righteousness because, for Paul,
justification was an eschatological reality. In the meantime — between
now and then — we are to be known by “faith working through love.”