Degree Granting Department
James F. Strange, Ph.D.
Christianity, New Testament, Pauline, New perspective, Ethical systems
The faith versus works dichotomy that has been a foundation of Protestant Christianity for centuries is derived in large part from a flawed understanding of Paul's theology in the epistles to the Galatians and Romans. In the wake of WWII, scholars began reexamining Pauline theological constructs and proposing new ways of understanding Paul's arguments regarding faith and works. James D. G. Dunn dubbed this dialogue the "new perspective." This paper will contribute to one particular aspect of new perspective dialogue: understanding the relation of the paranetic material in the final two chapters of Galatians to Paul's theological arguments in the main body of the letter (1:1-5:12). The ethical imperatives in 5:13-6:10 have often been ignored or explained away due to the fact that they are difficult to reconcile with the faith-only, anti-works bias in the traditional Lutheran interpretation of Paul's theology.
It has been customary to view the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians more as a description of what the Spirit does in the life of a believer than any kind of an ethical imperative (though similar imperatives are found throughout the New Testament). Some scholars have suggested that the ethical section of the letter was appended later, or perhaps attached as a general directive unrelated to the specific occasion of the main body of the letter. However, if the ethics cannot be reconciled with their theological foundations, the theology must be misunderstood; we cannot respond by devaluing or deemphasizing ethical systems. Theology cannot be interpreted without considering the ethical imperatives it enjoins. My thesis is that the Pauline ethical imperatives in Galatians are directly related to the theological arguments that precede them, and that a scholarly engagement of these imperatives can illuminate Paul's theology and facilitate a more fruitful understanding.
In demonstrating the theological/ethical connections, I will consider the occasion of the letter, Paul's narrative reinterpretations, antithetical constructions, and indicative/ imperative formulas, the tension between salvation-historical and apocalyptic perspectives, and the truth for Paul that transcends the occasion of the epistle.
Scholar Commons Citation
Meigs, Steven Douglas, "The ethics of the spirit in Galatians: Considering Paul's paranesis in the interpretation of his theology" (2006). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.