A Gospel Revealed by God – an Excerpt from Galatians

The following is an excerpt from the Paideia commentary on Galatians, by Peter Oakes.

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Having castigated the Galatians for turning away to another (unreal) gospel, Paul now begins the first major argument of the letter. It is conveyed by means of a narrative. He seeks to demonstrate that his gospel came not from a human source but directly from God.

As with his claim to divine authority in 1:1, Paul has an unstated advantage in his argument. The Galatians were converted through Paul’s gospel, so they are not going to dismiss it as fantasy. To them it is substantial and valuable. Paul’s opponents have presumably acknowledged its value to some extent, but then went on to present a further message, which they saw as carrying a higher authority than that of Paul, and which called for some modification to the behavior that the Galatians had learned from him.

Paul counters that his gospel came by revelation from God. It could not be trumped by a message backed by even the highest human authority. The passage begins with a disclosure formula, “I declare to you.” The information Paul gives this way in his letters tends to become the basis for persuading the hearers to some action or attitude (cf. 2 Cor. 1:8; Phil. 1:12). Galatians 1:11–12 also echoes verse 1.

Paul’s commission, and now his gospel message, are not from a human source but from God, through Christ. Verses 11–12 set the agenda. However, the outworking of the agenda has a rather unexpected shape. Instead of moving directly to recounting the revelation (1:16) and Paul’s lack of early contact with other Christian leaders (1:16–22), he spends time first on his life “in Judaism” and his persecution of the church (1:13–14). His change from persecutor to preacher is celebrated in 1:23–24.

This unexpected arrangement of the passage allows Paul to speak not only of the fact of the revelation but also of the degree of impact that the revelation had on him. This adds strength to his argument for the validity of the revelation.

©2015 by Peter Oakes. Published by Baker Academic. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

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