James Patrick’s Blog

March 13, 2009

Galatians in 60 seconds

Filed under: Structure — alabastertheology @ 11:20 am
Tags: ,

While I’m working on a post on the Synoptic Problem, I thought I’d stick something shorter up on an unrelated topic.  I’m speaking at church this week [see podcast for 15/03/09] on Galatians 6:1-10, and in preparation I had a think about how Paul’s argument develops through Galatians.  A fairly common way of thinking about Galatians seems to be in three parts – chapters 1-2, chapters 3-4 and chapters 5-6.  For example, Alan Cole’s Tyndale commentary (p. 27) names these three sections as ‘The Argument from History’, ‘The Argument from Theology’, and ‘The Moral Argument’.  Similarly, John Stott’s BST commentary (pp. 185-191) summarises Paul’s argument in these three sections as addressing ‘the question of authority’, ‘the question of salvation’, and ‘the question of holiness’.

I certainly agree these are helpful in breaking Galatians down into different sections to consider together, but I don’t think Paul himself was trying to organise his letter in these three sections.  Often our interpretation of a book of the Bible can be constrained by the chapter divisions and even more by the headings inserted into the text by modern translators.  The earliest divisions of the New Testament books that we know of are the ‘kephalaia’ you can still find in the inner margin of the ‘Nestle-Aland 27′ Greek NT.  These were probably primarily to be able to refer to a particular section within the book, rather than an indication of the author’s plan in composing the book.  [In Galatians, for example, these are as follows: (1) 1:11-24; (2) 2:1-10; (3) 2:11-21; (4) 3:1-6; (5) 3:7-9; (6) 3:10-14; (7) 3:15-29; (8) 4:1-20; (9) 4:21-5:1; (10) 5:2-12; (11) 5:13-6:10; (12) 6:11-18.]

Chapter divisions were only inserted in 1205 by Stephen Langton, a professor in Paris who later became Archbishop of Canterbury.  The Old Testament chapter (or section) divisions are quite ancient, and the verse divisions had been introduced by around 500 AD to mark where the synagogue reader needed to pause for someone to translate the Hebrew into Aramaic for those listening.  The NT verse divisions were added by a book printer from Paris called Robert Stephanus, travelling on horseback from Paris to Lyons, and were first officially recognised by their use in Theodor Beza’s edition of the New Testament in 1565.  People have since wondered whether it was being on horseback that explains some of Stephanus’ inappropriate verse divisions!

Anyway, back to the argument of Galatians.  I tried to think through how different passages were connected to each other, and between the introduction and conclusion I’ve identified five sections, dealing with (1) the Jerusalem apostles, (2) righteousness and law, (3) inheritance and law, (4) persecution, and (5) sin in the churches.  Within each I’ve tried to summarise how Paul develops his argument – not always exactly in order, but giving the general gist.  I’d love to hear from people if they find it helpful, or if they’d like any bit explained more clearly.  Here is the structure then (time yourself reading it aloud):


1:1-5 Introduction
• Greetings

1:6-2:14 Gospel not from men
• I’m not from the ‘great’ apostles;
• nor is my gospel.
• They agree with me,
• but even if they didn’t…

2:15-3:14 Righteousness not from Law
• Rightness isn’t from Law;
• it wasn’t for us,
• it wasn’t for Abraham,
• it wasn’t even for Jesus.

3:15-4:11 Inheritance not from Law
• Law just filled a gap…
• like conditions added to a will,
• ineffective against the promise;
• disciplining immaturity,
• until we become sons.
• Why go back to that?

4:12-5:12 Join me enduring persecution
• You took me in despite my shame;
• now they try to shame you.
• Hold out, in faith and hope.
• False teachers answer to God.

5:13-6:10 Sort out your problems Spiritually
• You have plenty of problems.
• Spirit, not Law, is the answer.
• Help sinners without boasting.
• Avoid sin through Christ.
• Do good through the Spirit.

6:11-18 Blessings to all who live by the cross
• Conclusion:
• They’re scared and selfish.
• I’d rather be like Jesus.
• God bless those like me, Gentile or Jewish.


1 Comment »

  1. Really loved the way you did the outline! I’m also studying through the book of Galatians, and I found your post by doing a search on WordPress. My first post on my new blog was an intro to this letter. Feel free to read it and give some feedback. Let me know when you post something about your sermon from Galatians 6!


    Comment by fromthebook — March 13, 2009 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: