A study of Galatians

by Billygoat 24 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • bennyk

    I like this old saying - "God wants spiritual fruits, NOT religious nuts" (!)

  • Leolaia

    mustang....You're on the right track, I think, but I think it would be more accurate to distinguish at least three different positions on the Law expressed by early Christians:

    (1) One group, which probably was in existence before Paul became an apostle, believed that Jesus (as the successor of Moses) came to fulfill the Law and provide its true interpretation (halacha). They believed that the Pharisee rabbis had supplanted the true Torah with their own oral halacha, thereby preventing people from attaining justification through the Law. They viewed Jesus as a rabbi who came to restore the true understanding of the Law, allowing people to properly do God's will, and salvation is through the "righteousness" that results from following Jesus' teaching. The gospel is primarily the wisdom and moral teaching that Jesus delivered. Importantly, these followers of Jesus did not conceive of a "Christianity" that was distinct from Judaism. Rather, they believed that followers of Jesus were the only Jews who were saved. Gentiles were invited to become followers as well, but naturally they had to accept the yoke of the Law and practice righteousness. Because the Law prescribed ritual separation between Gentiles and Jews, Gentiles who wanted to follow Jesus had to be circumcised. Circumcision was the way Gentiles could become Jews (for many years already, Gentile converts to Judaism had undergone circumcision).

    This is the point of view of James the Just, the "circumcision party" referred to in Galatians and Acts, and later Ebionites who insisted on Gentile circumcision.

    (2) A second group had almost the same viewpoint as above, except they did not insist on circumcision for Gentiles. They believed that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and it was the duty of his followers to also fulfill it. Like the first group, they saw themselves as opposed to the Pharisees who promulgated their own falsified law in place of the Torah and practiced a false righteousness. They also saw themselves as opposed to the antinomians who had abandoned observance of the Law. They argued that mere faith in Jesus or confessing him as Lord pales in significance compared to actually doing God's will. Like the view of the first group, they came to regard Paul as a false apostle who has induced Christians to break the Law. However, they did not endorse circumcision for Gentiles and they did not engage in ritual separation between Jews and uncircumcised Gentiles inside the movement. This is because they believed that followers of Jesus (those in the "New Covenant") comprised a new group that was neither Jewish nor Gentile. Baptism and acceptance of the yoke of the Torah instead constituted a "spiritual circumcision". They still however practiced ritual separation with respect to non-Christian Gentiles, in accordance with the Law.

    This is roughly the point of view in Matthew, the Gentile catechism called the Didache, James, as expressed by followers of Peter (cf. especially the Preaching of Peter, the Kerygmata Petrou, the Itinerary of Peter, and the Epistula Petri), and as believed by various Ebionite and Nazorean groups.

    (3) The third group believed that Jesus came not to deliver the true interpretation of the Law but to die on the cross to deliver mankind from sin and death. Whereas the first two groups focused on Jesus' moral teaching, the third group focused on his death and resurrection. The gospel primarily concerned Jesus' victory over death and his exaltation as Lord over all things. Justification came not through following the Torah but through faith in Jesus and subjection to him as Lord. However, righteousness was not out of the picture. The church was believed to be mystically united with Jesus (as his "body" or temple), and practicing unrighteousness would defile his body; moreover, inaugriated eschatology demanded that one should act in the present in accordance with one's future life of incorruption. Among less strict antinomians, the Law could still be followed by Jews if they so choose, but all agreed that the Law was not binding for Gentiles. Stricter antinomians believed that the Law was dead and had been abolished by Jesus. This group was similar to the second group above by conceiving of those in the "New Covenant" as a new entity that transcends the older division between Gentiles and Jews. They believed that no ritual separation should exist between formerly Jewish and Gentile brothers, and similarly there need be no ritual separation between Christians and non-Christian Gentiles -- tho allowance should be made for matters of conscience. This is the point of view that prevailed especially in the Western Gentile churches.

    This is the point of view of Paul in his epistles (especially Galatians, Romans, and 1 Corinthians), elaborated further in the sub-Pauline epistles, and attested as well in Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr.

    BTW, I propose these categories only as a very rough picture of the differences of opinion; in reality, early Christianity was much more diverse and there were entirely different ideas of what constituted "salvation", and I left out of the picture Gnostic views which were similar to the Judaizers in that they focused on Jesus' oral teaching (gnosis) as critical for salvation and were similar to the third group by rejecting the Law and having a more mystical view of Jesus and his death.

  • mustang


    Scott may or may not have gone into this detail level. I likely have missed some of his lectures. But he did mention the "antinomians" and said that these were anathema to many early "church-critters"; I would suspect that this is especially so with those who "won the lottery" and established the Catholic church.

    Antinomian-ism (for those just tuning in ) is the view of fulfilling/removing/"doing away with" the law.

    Between Faith & "antinomian-ism", Paul could definitely have undermined the ability of the Clergy to dominate over the Laity, if you think critically about this. [It is probably a good thing for the ultimate winners of the "lottery" that Gutenburg was over a thousand years in the future; now just hold Church services in a language nobody understands and the Laity is your herd of cattle ]

    So, in that regard, Scott mentioned your groups #1 ("James the Just" and the bulk? of the church @ Jerusalem) & #3 (Paul and company). I believe that I recall him mentioning other factions, but not going into detail.

    From his lecture(s), I gather that your faction #1 was predominant in Jerusalem, probably due to the strong personality of James the Just. But this was not the case in other areas, although, as we see in Galatians, these "James-ites" tried to spread their view.

    From what I gather, this view did not really spread; and once Jerusalem suffered the calamity of 70, it was all over for the "church of Jerusalem". So, was view #1 really fairly local to Jerusalem?

    And I agree with your last statement: throw in the Gnostics and a few others, [don’t forget Arius ("loser" , banished to some eastern hell)] and Christianity was about as cohesive as a bucket of rocks. After all, didn’t Constantine lock them in an auditorium and tell them to come out with ONE teaching???

    The big kick that I got out of listening to a dissertation contrasting James & Paul was that the "Church fathers" were NOT all saying the same thing; the common, self-reinforcing thread that JW’s had us believe was NOT THERE. You don’t have to go to books that were "spurious" or "apocryphal": Paul was "duke-ing it out" with James, right there in the CANONIZED NT!!!!


  • Honesty

    Because they have the Faith / Works idea backwards.

    The bible teaches that works are an emergent property of faith (one's faith compels one to volunteer at church), while JWs teach that faith is an emergent property if works (study more, go out in FS more, go to more meetings will produce more faith)

    To put it simply, they believe that running the car will fill the tank with gas when the reality is that one must fill the tank with gas before one can start the car.

    Elsewhere, I bet the WTS monitors are gonna love you for this if they stop to think about it.

    Welcome to the real life, brothers!!!

  • A Paduan
    A Paduan

    Yeh, thoughtful analogy Elsewhere

    Do christians produce fruit for buying & selling - or salutations in the marketplaces ?


    their children (fruit) did not speak the language of the Jews, but rather, the language of Azotus..


  • Leolaia
    So, was view #1 really fairly local to Jerusalem?

    Well, we know at least from Galatians that before AD 70 people from group #1 were in Antioch and Galatia from time to time. After AD 70, Jewish-Christians insisting on circumcision possibly continued in Syria where a robust community of Ebionites existed; not all Ebionites were of the "circumcision party" (e.g. the Petrine Christians of the Antioch area), yet by the late second century Irenaeus claimed that the Ebionites "use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the Law...they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the Law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God" (Adversus Haereses, 1.26.2). The literature of the Ebionites depict James as closer to #1 and Peter as closer to #2. In the Epistula Petri, James declares that Peter's teaching should be entrusted to someone "circumcised" (4.1), whereas the Kerygmata Petrou represents Peter as accepting Torah-observant but uncircumcised Gentiles as brethren:

    "For we say, that he is a worshipper of God, who does the will of God, and observes the precepts of His Law. For in God's estimation he is not a Jew who is called a Jew among men (nor is he a Gentile that is called a Gentile), but he who, believing in God, fulfills his Law and does his will, though he be not circumcised" (Kerygmata Petrou, Rec. 5.34).

    Here Peter sides with the Pauline point of view (#3) by rejecting circumcision as a requirement for Gentiles, yet sides with James (#1) in believing that Gentiles were still expected to observe and fulfill the Law. The Epistula Petri also claims that Paul misrepresented Peter's views on the Law (most likely an allusion to Galatians), and the same train of thought is carried through in the Itinerary of Peter. These were the views of Jewish-Christians in Syria in the late second century, likely preserving to some extent genuine Petrine tradition from the first century.

    Despite the strong differences in praxis and belief (doubtless reflecting in part the diversity in second-Temple Judaism), early Christianity still had an ideology of an inclusive ekklesia that embraced the emerging factions. For Paul's point of view, see 1 Corinthians which has Paul trying to bring the factions of Paul, Peter, and Apollos together -- lest the body of Christ become split. For the Jewish-Christian point of view, we may examine the Matthean interpretation of the Parable of the Wheat and Tares which envisions apostates planted by the Devil alongside true Christians in the ekklesia, and the two must necessarily co-exist together at the present time but on Judgment Day, the Son of Man will remove from his kingdom those who are really wolves in sheeps clothing, those Law-less ones who call on Jesus as "Lord" but who do not do the will of God. It would seem that it was a generation later (certainly by the time of Ignatius, if not the Pastoralist) when the divisions were deep enough that one side or the other felt secure enough to write off a whole faction as heretical and destined for destruction, tho Paul's feelings also ran really high, as can be seen when he blurted out his wish for the Judaizers to mutilate themselves (Galatians 5:12).

  • googlemagoogle

    there is no such thing as "the bible view". because we were taught the bible shows god's will step by step, it's hard to think of the bible as a compilation of different books and VERY different theologies. but that's just what the canon is.

    pauline theology has the "salvation by faith" flavour, which luther extremized to "sola fide/sola grazia".

    jakobine theology is a rejection of just that. while paul says abraham was NOT justified by works, jakob (james) says he WAS justified by works. the paulinistic writer(s) of "hebrews" thought, rahab was saved by faith, james says, she was saved by works.

    there never was a single christian view. there were plenty. and there was a lot of accusations and fighting, a big struggle for might and power. "true" believers vs heretics and vice versa.

    the JW view is nothing less biblical than the bornagainers' view. btw the term "born-again" makes me sick. implies that they are the "true" christians while the rest is "false". not much better than JW.

  • LittleToe

    Elsewhere:I'm seriously impressed. You've got it nailed!

  • mustang


    Fantastic!!! You have enumerated the groups 1-3, to wit:

    1) One group, ? This is the point of view of James the Just, the "circumcision party" referred to in Galatians and Acts, and later Ebionites who insisted on Gentile circumcision.
    2) A second group had almost the same viewpoint as above, except they did not insist on circumcision for Gentiles. ?
    This is roughly the point of view in Matthew, the Gentile catechism called the Didache, James, as expressed by followers of Peter (cf. especially the Preaching of Peter, the Kerygmata Petrou, the Itinerary of Peter, and the Epistula Petri), and as believed by various Ebionite and Nazorean groups.
    (3) The third group believed that Jesus came not to deliver the true interpretation of the Law but to die on the cross to deliver mankind from sin and death.

    #3 is typified by Paul & his band of "anti-nomians"

    Further note:

    "anti" = not, "nomos" = law

    The "antinomians" were important thorns in the side of "nomians"

    OK, from 1 & 2 above, I see TWO variations on the Ebionites; and then you have the Nazorean sector.

    BTW, in passing, the Essenes seem to have become a major source of Christians, as "New Covenators"; they were up to this BEFORE Jesus.


    Your groups 1 through 3,

    group 1,

    group 2 (Peter's flavor, from your reply; interesting !!!)

    group 3,

    Ebionites flavor of group 1

    Ebionites flavor of group 2

    Nazoreans (? # of flavors)

    Various Essenes

    That gang over in Rome that later formed the RCC ,

    Arius and the "lottery loser's" (who were exiled to the far corners of the empire)

    The Gnostics started creeping in after Christ, apparently with Greek philosophical ideas,

    And? (Christian flavor of the month club?)

    And? (what-have-you)

    This makes my point: the early Christians were about as "cohesive as a bucket of rocks".

    BTW, have you got a DEFINITIVE program of all these players ??? :)


  • mustang
    [don't forget Arius (loser, banished to some eastern hell)]

    (I corrected a typo in that quote)

    On this note: Arius and so forth, banished to the edges of the "empire" took their bibles with them. They took manuscripts that were likely STRAIGHT FROM THE APOSTLE's!!!! They wrote in Coptic, Ethioptic, Syriac and other languages not as common as the Aramaic, Greek and Latin of the day. When (or while) the "mother church" buried, lost or hid the early writings, these folks persevered and wrote their own copies.

    But, these groups were banned as churches and were not to be listened to. As a result, the "Western Church" lost sight of the earliest translations. In the bargain, they probably lost nearly a thousand years of time. So, when the KJV was commissioned (~1600), it may have only had reference material from the 10 th century!!!!


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