Thursday, January 05, 2006

An old question

ouvde. ga.r evgw. para. avnqrw,pou pare,labon auvto. ou;te evdida,cqhn avlla. diV avpokalu,yewj VIhsou/ Cristou

“… for I did not receive it [the gospel] from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ”. (Galatians 1:12)
Here are a couple of my favourite comments on this verse:

  • "the gospel is not simply 'from Christ' but is Christ" -- (Dunn, Galatians, 54)
  • "the gospel happened to Paul when God stepped on to the scene, invading his lie in Christ" -- (J Louis Martyn, Galatians, 144 – a spiritual grandchild of Barth [via Käsemann?] in many ways)

These absolutely delightful texts are causing me to wonder what the best category for characterising the gospel in Paul would be.

What do you think?

Should we speak of the gospel, in Paul, primarily as Christ himself? as God in Christ? or as Christ's advancing lordship? or as a story? or an event (of grace, proclamation)? or a strict set of propositions (perhaps related to 'justification')? Should we mix these together somehow?


At 1/05/2006 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about defining the Gospel in Paul as "the embodied story of Jesus' Lordship"? That means that Paul's life is just as much a proclamation of the Gospel as his message is.

I took a course on Galatians last year where I wrote a paper (30+pp) arguing for a very close connection between Paul's understanding of himself being in Christ, and therefore, as Christ to the Galatians. I think that Paul argues that the Galatians must be "in" him if they are to be "in" Christ. I think Paul's understanding of apostleship replaces the "Angel of the Lord" motif in the OT. And, just as with the Angel of the Lord and YHWH, there is some blurring of identities between Paul and Christ.



At 1/05/2006 10:48 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

The greek quote doesn't come through- it's English script. Did you use a unicode font or is it symbol font? If so, you need tp put font face="symbol" (in brackets) before it and /font after for it to show up.

At 1/05/2006 10:57 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Jim,
I've just added a link on my side-bar, right at the top - big red oval, a link to the Bibleworks Greek/Hebrew fonts I use.

If you put those in your fonts folder, it'll come up - and the Greek comes out really well, much nicer than the symbol font.

But then again, maybe I should revert to the symbol font, then all can read it automatically.

At 1/05/2006 11:10 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Dan!

I'm going to have to muse on these suggestions for a while before I comment!

All the best,

At 1/05/2006 11:56 PM, Anonymous Jonathan Moorhead said...

This is my first time to you blog. Good stuff. I like this title better than "Brainpoo"! Regards.

At 1/06/2006 5:00 AM, Anonymous T.B. Vick said...

This is so ironic because I have been pouring through the Pauline Epistles lately in search of definitions, discussions, and verses pertaining to the issue of the gospel and how it is received, given, defined, etc.

I would agree with Dunn, the gospel is Christ, and also Christ's proclamation of the Kingdom of God (as in the Synoptics).

However, I would also say it is what Chist accomplished in His life, death, and resurrection (His fulfillment of the whole law and the covenant), a task we are unable to do.

Paul declares the gospel is "obeyed" (2 Thess. 1:8); he calls it "our gospel" (meaning the one given by the Apostles) as in in 2 Thess. 2:14; he states that there is a "different" gospel - one that is opposed to the one given by the Apostles; the one Paul preaches, Paul declares is not man's gospel (this I find very interesting - what is man's gospel? and why is it different?)

Paul also says the gospel was given to him by the power of God (Gal. 3:7) Sorry, I'm rambling on, but I am so glad you put this post out there - I hope a bunch of people respond so I can see what other's out there think.

At 1/06/2006 9:46 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Ah the big red oval! Got it!

At 1/06/2006 10:50 PM, Anonymous Alan Bandy said...

I don't think that the Gospel could be narrowed just to the Person of Jesus (or some aspect of him). I would argue that Romans represents the fullest expression of Paul's Gospel. The gospel consists of a proclamation that the Christ is Jesus. Who lived, died, and was resurrected on the third day. Submission, by faith, to his lordship results in justfication, forgivness of sins, and an inheritance in the kingdom of God along with the people of God. In short, I would say that the Gospel is the message about Christ.

P.S. Thanks for the Big Red Oval

At 1/06/2006 10:59 PM, Anonymous Alan Bandy said...

P.S.S. I have tried to add you to my blogroll on a number of occasions, but for some reason it never works. Is there something about your blog address that does not translate to blogger. Any suggestions?

At 1/08/2006 1:04 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Dan, thanks for your helpful comments.

Yes, I would certainly agree with you that the gospel should be understood more broadly than merely a story or, as in much popular evangelicalism, a set of abstracted propositions. I like your definition. Gives me something to think through!

I think I see what you are trying to do with the 'in' Paul language. Personally, I would use different language, but the basic point I'm fond of. In particular, I liked the way Börschel has argued the matter (albeit in relation to 1 Thess, but her vocabulary is equally applicable to Galatians) in terms of the construction and solidification of the believers Sinnwelt.

As for the Angel of YHWH thing, a clever idea but sound just a bit speculative to read this into too much of Galatians. He is defending the truth of the gospel (cf. Vos's article in the Nanos ed. The Galatians Debate) and therefore himself as the representative of the gospel (hence all the antitheses in 1:1, 11-12). Hence I do see some aspects of self-apology here, as Betz, but under the service of the truth of the gospel.

And as for blurring of boundaries. Well, what would you make of 1:1, 11-12?

Really thought-provoking, thanks for that.

At 1/08/2006 1:06 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Jonathan, many thanks for your comments. Yes, I think changing the name was a good idea! All the best.

At 1/08/2006 1:15 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks TB for your thoughts!

Yes, I like Dunn's summary, just to ponder and meditate over, but I can't help feeling, like you, that it needs some elaboration! In particular, one must involve the notion of narrative, as Paul himself does! But also, one must not forget the living and active presence of Christ through the Spirit in this, but I wont say too much as that is starting to tread on 'holy must keep secret doctoral work grounds'!

As for the 'other gospel', oh my the debate over who Paul's opponents were in Galatians! Nanos has recently resurrected an old view that they weren't even Christians, but I think there is good reason to reject that.

At 1/08/2006 1:26 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Alan, thanks for the comments – and your blog, one I visit daily.

As for the gospel being about Christ, not Christ himself, I think needs a little challenging (sorry for the brevity of the following, its getting late here!). First, I agree, it most certainly is about Christ. However, in Galatians you find much talk, in addition to the matters you mentioned, of inheriting the promise or some variation thereof. Paul ties much Spirit language to this (cf. especially in chapter 3), and this is also the presence and activity of Christ himself. So the gospel also brings the personal lordship of Christ to bear, the saving presence of Christ himself. Hence Paul uses such personal language to speak of the Son being revealed 'in me' (Gal 1:16), to describe his hope in 1 Thess, etc.

I think perhaps one could suggest that the gospel is about Christ, but also the reality of Christ impacting the world now – and in that sense is very much Christ himself. What do you think?

As for the blog roll problem, sadly I have no idea! Have you made sure you add the http:// bit?

Thanks for these comments Alan, they are most welcome and I found them very useful.

All the best,

At 1/08/2006 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


It is interesting that the notion of being "in" causes you to think of Thess. I've had several friends make the same connection when I have proposed that idea to them. I realise that the language I use is a little different but I think it is defensible -- after all Paul describes himself as giving birth to the Galatians, which would locate the Galatians in Paul.

As for the Angel of YHWH/Apostle of Christ connection, I agree that it is a bit of a stretch to build that argument on Galatians alone. However, since I stumbled onto that idea while wrapping up my Galatians paper I have continued to do some research around the notion and I think I can build an argument that suggests that the the Angel of the YHWH is replaced in the NT by the Apostle of Christ.

Finally, my suggestion that boundaries are "blurred" between Christ and Paul is simply meant to push for a much closer connection between Paul (and other Christians) and Christ than many traditional theologians or scholars have been willing to grant. There are boundaries but there is much more overlap between the identity and authority of Christ and the identity and authority of Christians than many have been willing to assert.

If you're curious I could email you my paper... I would be delighted to hear your thoughts if you had the time.



At 1/08/2006 2:59 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Dan,
Yes, do e-mail me the paper! I'm busy working through Galatians at the mo, so it would be good timing.

Finally, my suggestion that boundaries are "blurred" between Christ and Paul is simply meant to push for a much closer connection between Paul (and other Christians) and Christ than many traditional theologians or scholars have been willing to grant.

Well, Amen to that! My thesis involves an anaylsis of the relation(ship) between risen Lord and believers.

At 1/08/2006 11:55 PM, Anonymous Alan Bandy said...

I agree with what you wrote concerning the gospel as Christ. I guess what I was reacting to some possible Barthian notion that Christ is somehow present in the gospel proclamation. This is not to say he is absent, but I would draw a distinction between Christ as the content of the gospel and the gospel containing Christ.

By the way, I have enjoyed your blog for sometime now and fully appreciate your sense of humor.

Take care my friend,


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