Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The nightmares of a sad New Testament freek

When Paul wrote "to the churches in Galatia", where did this mean? To whom was Paul's letter of Galatians addressed? Was it to the communities presumably located "in places like Pessinus, Ancyra and Tavium" (cf. Esler, Galatians, 32), i.e. following the so-called Northern or tribal or ethnic hypothesis? Or did Paul write his letter, as according to the Southern or provincial hypothesis, to the churches presented in Acts 13-14?

The arguments for and against each position are complex and well-worn, and so I'll spare the reader a summary (for that cf. particularly Longenecker's commentary on Galatians)

But given that my 'gut-feeling' default tends to be more conservative than not, I have for a long time been inclined to the Southern hypothesis as it tends to make better sense of the scheme of Acts. Nevertheless, the scholarly majority appears to favour the 'tribal' hypothesis (not that that means much. An 'academic majority' is sometimes nothing more than institutionalised snobbery, flags for scholars to group around and display their 'critical credential').

Actually, and this will show how sad I am, one night I lay awake in bed unable to get to sleep, beset by the arguments of the 'Northerners'. For a while, I flirted with jumping ship to the 'tribal' camp, but then I swung round again to the 'provincials'. When I eventually fell asleep, my Southern Galatian faith lay in shreds on the floor.

But I didn't wake up a convinced 'Northerner'. Au contraire! I woke up a critical-realist. Now, I just cannot see how the evidence can be used to provoke conviction for either Southern or Northern Galatian theories. Nanos, too, has recently written of the present 'impasse' in relation to this debate (The Galatians Debate, xiv).

Is this a metaphor for much of my theological thought-life, or what?!


At 1/04/2006 3:15 AM, Anonymous Jim said...

First, you stay up way too late. And second, I've always been a South Galatianist. Just so you know. In fact, wondering is probably what keeps you up so late and now you know so you can go to bed at a decent hour.

At 1/04/2006 4:31 AM, Anonymous T.B. Vick said...

Ok, I must confess my total ignorance, which has now been reduced to a mere somewhat ignorant, of this issue.

Thanks for this post Chris, it was educational (and I promise I won't let it keep me up tonight)


At 1/04/2006 8:46 AM, Anonymous Michael F. Bird said...

Chris, I'm about to teach a course on Galatians and I've been going over this recently. I think the Southerns have the best cards if Galatians was written prior to the Jerusalem council, and the fact that there is inscriptional evidence of southerns being called "Galatians". Witherington and Longenecker are my two favs on this issue.

At 1/04/2006 7:16 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

First, you stay up way too late.

Sad but true!

So, I'm surrounded by a merry band of 'Southerners'!

Reasons that cause me to doubt being too certain:

1) Why does Paul not mention that this was his first missionary trip (according to the Provincial hypothesis), as this would have potentially strengthened his point of being independent from Jerusalem (cf. Gal 1:21).

2) Even given the inscription you mention Mike, the majority of texts point to the Province of Galatia being otherwise named (Acts 13:14; 14:6, 23, 24), and Galatians is used much more for the ethnic area in Acts 16:6; 18:23 – and indeed the whole NT (e.g. 1 Pet 1:1; 2 Tim 4:10), and in the majority of uses of 'Galatia' at that time (Vouga)

3) 'Dumb Galatians'? Probably best suited for those who felt themselves to be Galatians (more likely the ethic overtone here)

4) Paul tended to use ethnic labels before provincial (see Schnelle, Paulus, 288-90 for these points – though he over-presses the evidence I think, in favour of a 'Northern' hypothesis)

Well, these are the points that cause me to stop and think anyway. I'm certainly no convinced 'Northerner' though. I know the arguments for and against are myriad – and I'm glad to leave the question beyond the purview of my work!

At 1/04/2006 9:49 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Mike, I've noticed those scholars affirming a Northern Gal hypothesis using the lack of any mention of the Jeruslem Council in support of their arg, and likewise have the Southerners! But I must say, this element does, I think, better support the Provincial hyp.

And I must say, I totally agree with you on Longenecker - a really good commentary generally I think. Still one of the best.

But Witherington. For some bizarre reason, Tübingen library doesn't stock it. Of course, they have just about everthing else under the sun ... so would you suggest it is good enough to buy (*looks worriedly over at wife and her purse*)?

At 1/04/2006 11:02 PM, Anonymous T.B. Vick said...

Can somebody please list some titles of works and not just authors so I can actually purchase the works and examine this issue for myself? (What books would you guys recommend I read on this issue?)

Thank you much.

At 1/05/2006 4:31 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

T.B., Frank Matera's commentary on Galatians in the Sacra Pagina series is excellent. P. 19ff discuss the identity of the Galatians.

At 1/05/2006 10:21 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi TB,
Well, if you're really interested ...

I would second Jim's recommendation - Matera's section is certainly laid out in a friendly way. Although, I must say, I'm not overly impressed with the way the Sacra Pagina series decided to structure the commentary section.

Also good, and one adopting a 'Northern Galatian Hyp' is the NT introduction by Schnelle. Its been translated in English, and is a superb NT introduction generally. And don't forget the discussion in Longenecker's Word Commentary.

At 1/06/2006 2:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In addition to Matera and Longenecker, I would add Dunn's commentary in Black's New Testament Commentary Series. I have also been especially influenced by Hay's work on Galatians; I loved his commentary in the New Interpreter's Bible Series.



At 1/06/2006 4:44 AM, Anonymous T.B. Vick said...

Thanks for the recommendations everyone!


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