Two new books on Galatians
A couple of interesting new monographs on Galatians have recently been published by Mohr Siebeck:
First is Justin K. Hardin's Galatians and the imperial cult: a critical analysis of the First-Century social context of Paul's letter. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.
I'm no Galatians expert but my favourite Galatians commentary is probably Jimmy Dunn's brilliant effort in the Black's NT Commentaries series. On the other hand, I'm not a big fan of J. Louis Martyn's Anchor Bible commentary, so I was glad to see Hardin propose an exegetical approach to Gal. 4:1-11 that rejects the notion that Paul was rebuffing any idea of 'salvation history'. In my view he rightly argues:
'[T]here is no inherent dichotomy between Paul's apocalyptic thought and his concern for the reversal of Israel's plight under the (curse of the ) Law and the inclusion of the Gentiles as Gods people. Far from salvation history beginning from the time of God's eschatological invasion in human history through Christ, as Martyn asserts, the incarnation rather was the pinnacle (dare I say climax?) of God's saving activity in the world' (154).
As is clear from the book title, of course, a major focus of Hardin's little monograph concerns the whole 'imperial cult' debate. He argues that this cultic background needs to be taken seriously in reading Galatians, and offers 'a plausible way forward for understanding the crisis in Galatia' (155).
Second is Todd A. Wilson's The curse of the law and the crisis in Galatia: reassessing the purpose of Galatians. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.
In a quick flyover, in Part 1 he argues that the rhetoric of cursing is of greater importance in Galatians than is usually assumed, and even played a key part in the Agitators appeal for circumcision. In Part 2, he examines the four references to the Law in 5:13 to 6:10 and argues that Paul's appeal to the law was intended to maintain that it is fulfilled, and the curse thereby avoided, by serving and loving one another. The curse of the law is thus only avoided by fulfilling the law.
'While Christ has redeemed us from the Law's curse (3.13), he has done so neither by eradicating any possible threat of a curse nor by circumventing the Law altogether. Instead, his death has allowed, as Paul says, the sending of the Spirit ..., who in turn enables believers to fulfil the Law and thereby avoid the Law's curse' (116).
Without looking into the book in any depth, which in point of argument reminds me somehow of Hafemann's work in 2 Corinthians, my initial feeling is that his approach may leave much unexplained in Galatians – but this is only a very uninformed initial thought. Is not the very concept of 'law' transformed by Paul when he speaks of it positively, such that the continued extension of Israel's Law and its curse today for all outside Christ's ethical empowering is questionable? The curse of 1 Cor. 16:22 is not on those who do not obey the law, but on those who have no love for Christ. Anyway, I won't carry on until I've actually read Wilson's contribution! Some thought-provoking stuff here.