Sunday, September 17, 2006

Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians? II

In comments here and in a post today on Busybody, The Difficulty of Dating Galatians, Loren Rosson asks about the relationship of the following, similar formulas:
1 Cor. 12.13: For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Gal. 3.27-8: For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The relationship of the two formulas is clear not only from the Jew / Greek and slave / free pairings but also the fact that both have an explicitly baptismal context. But where Gal. 3.28 has "there is neither male nor female", this is absent from 1 Cor. 12.13. Now if 1 Corinthians was written after Galatians, Paul has taken out the male and female phrase, perhaps in light of the issues in Corinth connected with women in worship (1 Cor. 11.3-16; 14.33b-6). In Heretics, Lüdemann calls this a "treacherous" move, if I remember correctly. So here is an advantage if Galatians post-dates 1 Corinthians: Paul's addition of the more liberated "male nor female" represents his more mature, developed thought, not something that he dropped because his attitude had changed.

But of course we do not arrange Paul's letters in a particular order so that they become more palatable for us. The question is whether the historian can imagine why Paul might have added the phrase in Galatians? As it happens, there is a good reason. Galatians is all about circumcision. Paul is insistent that Gentile males in Christ do not need to be circumcised; indeed, to accept it is tantamount to turning to another gospel. In such a context, one of the issues relates to women. The discussion in Galatians is all, typically, a very androcentric affair, but what Paul sees in 3.28 is that baptism, unlike circumcision, is an initiation rite that involves women as well as men. Perhaps it was this context that caused him to reformulate the statement. I would like to think so.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

Interesting point about Paul's shifting the focus of inclusion from the male-only circumcision to baptist, which both males and females participate in.

Loren Rosson III said...

That's an interesting way of looking at it, Mark. Thanks.

But it does cut against the grain of how I perceive the evolution of the church -- that there were more "abolitions of distinction" in the earliest days on account of apocalyptic fervor, and only subsequently, as the kingdom didn't come and problems arose, such distinctions gradually reasserted themselves.

That's exactly what happened between Galatians and Romans. In Romans Paul doesn't even say "in Christ there is no Judean or Greek", let alone the "male/female" part. That's because (so Esler) the erasure of differences -- while appealing to us today in the abstract -- is impractical, doomed to fail in the real word, and seriously backfired on Paul in Galatia. In Romans he went out of his way to assert differences between Judeans and Greeks. Does that make Paul "less mature" in Romans, or more?

You make a good point, however, about circumcision being an andocentric affair, and relating this to the implications of baptism. I'll have to think more about this.

Andy Rowell said...

I am sorry to put this here but I didn't know where else to put it so I just put it on your latest post. I did a tiny preview of SBL at:

Conferences This Fall: ETS, SBL, NAPCE, Catalyst, Drive, and YS

The Evangelical Theological Society program just came out on Friday as well.


Andy Rowell
Taylor University
Department of Biblical Studies and Christian Ministry
Blog: Church Leadership Conversations