Paul and the Nations: The Old Testament and Jewish Background of Paul's Mission to the Nations with Special Reference to the Destination of Galatians

By Hagner, Donald A. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, June 1999 | Go to article overview

Paul and the Nations: The Old Testament and Jewish Background of Paul's Mission to the Nations with Special Reference to the Destination of Galatians


Hagner, Donald A., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Paul and the Nations: The Old Testament and Jewish Background of Paul's Mission to the Nations with Special Reference to the Destination of Galatians. By James M. Scott. WUNT 84. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1995, xvi + 272 pp., n.p.

A classic problem in NT studies concerns the addresses of Paul's letter to the Galatians and the closely related question of the date of the letter. It is exciting to discover in the present book not the unusual rehashing of old arguments, but a fresh, forward step that is dependent upon original research.

As he tells us in his preface, Scott began by looking at the question of Galatia from the standpoint of Greco-Roman geography, but was soon led to believe that the key lay in Paul's dependence upon Jewish geography as contained in the tradition of the "table of the nations" of Genesis 10. His first chapter is therefore devoted to an examination of the significance of the table in the other writings of the OT and in the literature of early Judaism. Scott shows how important the orientation provided by the table of nations is in providing these writers not only historical information about the past, but also in their thinking about the present and even the eschatological future. Paul's thorough Jewishness suggests the initial probability that he too conceived of the world in this way. Several maps and charts, including a large fold-out one, provide useful synopses.

Scott turns in chap. 2 to an examination of Paul's use of the word ethnos. As a preliminary he surveys in detail the use of the word in the LXX and Hellenistic Jewish writings. This is a theologically rich survey because Scott examines the word in its various contexts such as the Abrahamic covenant, the covenant with Israel, the settlement of Canaan, the sin of Israel, the exile of Israel and the restoration of Israel. The conclusion is that the plural ethne is used to refer to the nations of the world, sometimes including, sometimes in distinction to, Israel, and that it is also used to refer to individual Gentiles. The examination of Paul's use of the word shows how thoroughly Jewish his perspective is.

In chap. 3 Scott pursues more specifically the role of the table of nations in Paul, focusing specifically on Rom 15:19. Paul is not only the "apostle to the nations," but his gospel is the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant with its promise of blessing upon "all the nations of the earth." The reference "from Jerusalem" and "as far around as Illyricum" in Rom 15:19 points both to the centrality of Jerusalem and to the realm of the Japhethites as the sphere of Paul's missionary activity. …

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