"The truth of the gospel" : an exegetical and theological study of the Antitheses in Galatians 5.2-6
The present work is an exegetical and theological study of the antitheses in Galatians 5.2-6. Chapter 1 justifies the present work by pointing out the fact that both the six "antitheses" in 5.2-6 and the passage itself have not been given sufficient recognition in the history of interpretation of Galatians. First, Paul contrasts circumcision and Christ in terms of "benefit" in 5.2-3; the salvific benefit of Christ is contrasted with the uselessness of circumcision (ch. 2). The salvific benefit of Christ is Paul's ultimate theological basis for his opposition to the agitators' theological rationale for circumcision, in particular the salvific efficacy and benefit of circumcision. Second, the law is contrasted to Christ in terms of the sphere of justification (5.4b vs. 5.4a), not as two antithetical means of justification (ch 3). With God’s eschatological transfer from the law to Christ as the sphere of justification Paul redefines the boundary of God's people and replaces it from the law to Christ. Third, Paul contrasts the law with grace as two mutually exclusive foundations of justification (5.4b vs. 5.4c - ch. 4). Paul rejects the law as the soteriological basis of justification because God's saving grace brought the salvific effects (e.g. righteousness, the Abrahamic blessing, sonship, election) to the Gentiles without Torah-observance. Fourth, Paul sets the law in antithesis with the Spirit as two antithetical bases of justification (5.4b vs. 5.5 - ch. 5). For Paul the Spirit is the means of righteousness, the medium of the blessing of Abraham, and the agent and basis of sonship. Fifth, the law and Christ's faithfulness is contrasted as two antithetical means of justification (5.4b vs. 5.5 - ch. 6). The πίστις references in 5.5 and 5.6 refer to the faithfulness of Christ, not to the Christian's act of faith in Christ. Paul's antithesis between єργα νόμου and Xριοτού should be understood as shorthand for the incompatibility between ethnocentnc covenantalism and the gospel of Christ's faithfulness in terms of two mutually exclusive soteriological belief-systems. Sixth, Paul sets πєριτομτνάκροβνατία in antithesis with πίστις δι’ άγάπης ένεργουμένη (i.e. Christ's faithfulness working through his love) as two antithetical bases of justification (5.6 - ch. 7). The antithesis between "circumcision vs. uncircumcision" and Christ's faithfulness working through his love should be interpreted as a microcosm of the two incompatible belief-systems between the agitators' ethnocentric covenantalism and Paul's gospel of the cross. Chapter 8 consists of the summary and implications for Pauline interpretation. The antitheses function as a summary of Paul's argument to the Galatians, the answer to the pivotal issues at stake in Galatians, the solution of the crisis in Galatia, the rationale for Paul’s opposition to the agitators' gospel, and interpretive clues for understanding Paul’s theology in Galatians. In conclusion, Gal 5.2-6, where the six antitheses appear, is the truth- claim of Paul's gospel, the summary and climax of Paul's argument to the Galatians, and a hermeneutical key to Paul's letter to the Galatians.