Additions: Galatians

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  1. Progressive Review of Galatians Re-imagined: Reading with the Eyes of the Vanquished (Fortress 2010) by Brigitte Kahl


    [. . . ]

    If Kahl’s assertion is correct, that the Galatians letter is lacking in contextual indicators, would this not explain why many later readers of Paul’s letter, looking over the shoulders of the intended recipients, are left to speculate about much of the original setting?

    [. . .]

    Kahl wishes to make something decisive of scholarship, which is inconclusive as to whether Paul’s Galatia is the Roman province of that name or the likely more ethnically uniform region to the north of the province.

    Enough already about the inherently inconclusive north-south debate!

    Kahl brings up the debate, yet again, in order to make the point that “self-congratulatory” scholarship, by not finding a conclusive answer to the location question has itself “decontextualized” the letter.

    This cannot be the case. The letter itself does not provide enough information for clarity as to where the letter’s recipients resided. Scholars who point this out are not congratulating themselves.

    [. . .]

    Kahl is correct also to remind us that the letter’s likely recipients probably (Kahl insists they did) walked Roman roads, paid taxes, were present at events at Roman temples, fought in Roman legions, attended Roman meals and games, fulfilled their civic obligations.

    But if the Romans are to be seen as players and not as background to the letter, the letter must be cited for this. But it is not.

    [. . .]

    Before sweeping all modern Pauline scholarship into a murmuring devotional circle, willing to see Paul disengaged from “the social and political realities of conquest,” Professor Kahl might engage Ernst Käsemann, with whom she has much in common as a tenacious and thoughtful Pauline investigator from within the Lutheran tradition.

    Käsemann is the most searching Pauline scholar we have. Perhaps his fundamental gift is his thoughtful dissent from the notion that ecclesiology is the determinant for theology.

    [. . .]

    Käsemann once described Paul as “a possessed man in pursuit of a feverish dream” and also asserted, “Historical research has perhaps its final and deepest value in the fact that it disillusions.” (Both statements may be found in “Paul and Nascent Catholicism,” Distinctive Protestant and Catholic Themes Reconsidered (Harper Torchbooks, 1967, pp. 19, 17, translated by Wilfred F. Bunge).

    A gift from Lou Martyn to this shy M. Div. student at Union Seminary in the ‘60’s was Martyn’s drumbeat for Ernst Käsemann. Even if you decide that a Käsemann nugget (rarely an entire sentence) is fool’s gold, you have had to turn it over in your hand three or four times. And it is so pretty!

    Through the centuries, many official, i.e., self-declared, orthodox interpretations of Paul, have dutifully domesticated him as the Cosmic Apostle, bravely fighting to preserve space for the development of a magisterium, which would then invoke Paul for its own secular ends, while pretending never to avert its gaze from the heavens.

    [. . .]

    One best not try to re-imagine Paul as a resistance operative against Roman occupation, who sent a cryptic message to sleeper cells somewhere in Galatia.

    [. . .]

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