Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Another Loot at ("Foreign Text Omitted") in Galatians 2:16

Academic journal article Journal of Biblical Literature

Another Loot at ("Foreign Text Omitted") in Galatians 2:16

Article excerpt

Bell & Howell Information and Learning: Foreign text omitted

The NRSV translates the first part of Gal 2:16: "We know that a person is justified not by the works of the law but (eav /Ij) through faith in Jesus Christ." Most translations and commentaries agree that Eav lij in Gal 2:16a is adversative and that the relationship between justification by observance of the law and justification by faith in Christ is antithetical.l J. D. G. Dunn sparked debate over Eav lIj in Gal 2:16a when he suggested the possibility of understanding these two words as introducing an exception: "we know that a person is justified not by the works of the law except (Eav Tij) through faith in Jesus Christ."2 In other words, the law would justify as long as one also had faith in Christ. The relationship between the law and faith would be complementary. In a recent article William O. Walker, Jr., agrees with Dunn in translating eav wn as exceptive and yet maintains an antithetical relationship between faith in Christ and observance of the law.3 The following chart summarizes the possibilities:

In short, two distinct issues have emerged-translation and understanding. 'Eav its may be translated as introducing an exception, or it may be translated adversatively. If one accepts the adversative translation, then an antithetical understanding of the relationship between faith in Christ and the observance of the law in justification necessarily results. If one accepts the exceptive translation, one may still understand the relationship between faith in Christ and law observance in an antithetical manner (with Walker) or in a complementary manner (with Dunn). Hidden beneath these layers of scholarly debate is a rare glimpse into the mind-set and presuppositions of early Jewish Christianity with regard to justification and the Mosaic law.

1. A Plausible Translation

Perhaps the most compelling advantage of an adversative translation of Eav g/j is that Paul clearly expresses an antithetical relationship at the end of v. 16 as well as elsewhere in his writings? On the other hand, apart from Gal 2:16a Paul never employs the adversative eav g.j. Since eav w&j occurs only twelve times in the undisputed Pauline corpus, a brief overview will demonstrate that Paul always uses eav gI to express exception. In Rom 10:15 "how are they to proclaim him unless (eav wrj) they are sent" (and then they will proclaim him). In Rom 11:23 Israel will be grafted back in unless they remain in unbelief (and in that case they will not be grafted back in). The apostle denies in 1 Cor 8:8 the position that he and his audience are worse off unless they eat. In 1 Cor 9:16 woe unto Paul unless he proclaims the gospel (and in that case there would be no woe for Paul). He is a noisy gong or clanging cymbal when he speaks in tongues unless he has love (1 Cor 13:1). Paul will not benefit the Corinthians unless he speaks to them "in some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching" (1 Cor 14:6). How will anyone know what is being played unless there are distinct notes (1 Cor 14:7)? Likewise, how will anyone know what is being said unless the Corinthians utter intelligible speech ( 1 Cor 14:9)? Paul asserts that a conversation will be meaningless unless the participants know the meaning of a sound (1 Cor 14:11). In 1 Cor 14:28 potential tongues speakers should remain silent unless an interpreter is present (and then they may speak). In 1 Cor 15:36 what one sows does not come to life unless it dies (and then it does come to life). That Paul never uses the adversative Eav /rj elsewhere indicates that he is not likely doing so in Gal 2:16a.5

Throughout the rest of the NT, Eav '-j is normally translated as exceptive. Nevertheless, a few instances are adversative, which would indicate contrast or antithesis. John 15:4a says: "the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless (Eav tv MnI) it abides in the vine." The protasis, "unless it abides in the vine," is not an exception to the branch being unable to bear fruit by itself. …

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