Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians? III

[See also Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians? I and Does Galatians post-date 1 Corinthians? II]

I am grateful to Michael Pahl on The Stuff of Earth for his response to my earlier posts, and to others for their interesting thoughts on Pauline Chronology, helpfully listed by Stephen Carlson on Hypotyposeis. Before engaging some of the interesting issues raised there in later posts, please indulge me for the time being with part three of my series on why I think Galatians was written by Paul after 1 Corinthians.

The point in this post is to ask the question: From where and from whom did Paul receive his gospel? 1 Corinthians and Galatians present contrasting answers to this question, answers that make much more sense if one sees Galatians having been written after 1 Corinthians. The relevant portions of the two letters are these:
1 Cor. 15.1-11: Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the gospel that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, 2. through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you -- unless you have come to believe in vain. 3. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4. and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, 5. and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them -- though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 11. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Gal. 1.6-12: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel -- 7. not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8. But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed! 9. As we have said before, so now I repeat, if anyone proclaims to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let that one be accursed! 10. Am I now seeking human approval, or God's approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. 11. For I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel that was proclaimed by me is not of human origin; 12. for I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
In 1 Corinthians, Paul makes it clear that the gospel he preached to the Corinthians was a gospel he shared with those who were apostles before him; indeed he received the gospel from them, and passed it on to the Corinthians as of first importance. In context, Paul is dealing with those in Corinth who say that there is no resurrection. He stresses that the gospel that he and other apostles proclaim is united on the importance of the resurrection: he received it and he passed it on. Paul's γάρ (for . . .) in verse 3 shows that this tradition he has passed on (παρέδωκα . . . παρέλαβον) is the content of the "gospel" he refers to in verse 1. And Paul's "we" in verse 11 is referring to himself alongside those others he has just mentioned ("I or they", εἴτε . . . ἐγὼ εἴτε ἐκεῖνοι. . . ). (This kind of ecumenical policy is used by Paul uses elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, most famously in 1 Cor. 11.16, "But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." It is the kind of appeal that Paul cannot make in Galatians.)

In Galatians, he is facing a very different kind of problem, one where he finds himself at variance with others, and possibly even those same Jerusalem apostles. Now the last thing he can do is appeal to "what we proclaim", including in that first person plural those who were apostles before him. He makes the same stress on the importance of keeping true to the gospel that one first received, but it is going to cause grief to draw in what in fact other apostles believe since this is one of the very things under consideration in the epistle. So Paul stresses the divine origin of his gospel -- he received it by revelation, which, in Paul, means something that came not through human agency.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is able to make an effective argument on the grounds of the gospel he shared with the Jerusalem apostles. They all believe this gospel; they all preach it; the Corinthians have received it; they should not now turn away from it by saying that there is no resurrection. In Galatians, Paul wants to stress that his apostleship, his revelation, his gospel comes from God. He did not get his gospel from human beings -- he did not even go up to Jerusalem until three years after his conversion. (Before God, he says, he was not lying). This is the account of someone writing after the earlier, irenic, ecumenical Paul of 1 Corinthians. It is very difficult to imagine Paul so calmly laying himself open to possible misinterpretation in 1 Cor 15 if he was writing this after the really serious crisis in Galatia.

The point is that it is easy to see from 1 Corinthians 15 how Paul might have been thought to be dependent on the Jerusalem apostles, at least as far as the content of his gospel is concerned, because here, and presumably in his earlier preaching, he has appealed to their authority, and to the reception of his gospel from them. It is much harder to imagine Paul so stressing that kind of line after the trouble he has experienced in Galatia, where he has to go to some pains to extricate himself from the impression that his gospel is received from others.


Stephen C. Carlson said...

Pretty good stuff, the whole series.

Have you look at Peter Bercovitz's set of pages (using Knoxian approach) on Pauline chronology? In his page, Paul and Galatia (2), he too dates Galatians after 1 Cor, and provides some references.

Anonymous said...

If you haven't already, you may wish to look at Gregory Tatum's dissertation on the chronology of the Pauline corpus, written there at Duke. (I have a UMI copy of it somewhere.)

Anonymous said...

Possibly an even more intriguing side of the question is whether to date Gal before or after 2Cor.

Having put my Gal commentaries in between the 2 Cor and Rom ones on the shelf (for reasons of thematic and textual links rather than any profound dating convictions) I wonder if I'm alone in contemplating transposing Gal and 2Cor?!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, Mark, but I'm not convinced. When faced with a situation where people are overemphasizing tradition to the detriment of others, Paul emphasizes revelation (Galatians). Where people overemphasized their super-spirituality and direct connection with God (without considering others), he sounds like a traditionalist (1 Cor). He's a good pastor, quite capable of saying apparently contradictory things to two different audiences in different circumstances (like advice to a lazy person to get moving vs advice to an over-arduous person to chill out).
But actually it's more complex than that; what is distinctive and revealed to Paul that he is stressing in Galatians is the core of the problem with his opponents: the _circumcision-free_ aspect of faith in Christ for Gentiles, not the core essence that Christ died for our sins and was raised from the dead. He makes it clear that he in fact was preaching the same faith he once persecuted (Gal 1.23; your point, Jeff). There may be good reasons to put Gal after 1 Cor (or 2 Cor) but I don't think what he says about his gospel is one of them.
Finally, to put Gal after 2 Cor creates more problems; here are two off the top of my head: it becomes harder to explain the 'so quickly' in Gal 1.6 and the difference in tone between Gal and Romans 14-15. But I'll admit those are weak arguments!


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