Excursus: Select “Tough Passages”
*This extended excursus focuses primarily on the verses from Galatians that have traditionally divided the Messianic Movement from Historic Christianity or have proved to be difficult interpreting in historical context. It does not examine every single verse of the book of Galatians.
In this extended excursus to Exegeting Galatians and its famous “tough” verses and phrases, I wish to draw the student’s attention to various passages that have traditionally led Christianity towards a passive or negative view of Judaism, Torah, or both. Such verses, when removed from the larger context of either Paul or the situation facing the new believers in Galatia, will usually make Paul out to be the inventor of a new religion called Christianity, a religion viewed as superior to Judaism and the Torah that upholds it.
However, since we have indeed shared the proper historical and theological background to the Apostle and his circumstances, we are now ready to read these verses—indeed the whole letter—afresh with new understanding. To be sure, the context will reveal that in the end Sha’ul personally championed the cause of biblical Judaism and Torah-true obedience to God and his Messiah. What is more, when properly interpreted along their 1st century theological and sociological lines, these p’sukim clearly envision a closely-knit Torah community unified under one Messiah and one Torah for both Jew and Gentile alike.
I will spend only enough time on each verse so as to unlock the meaning for the student. If a verse contains multiple issues and warrants more attention then I will allow more information to be subpoenaed. For this exercise differing versions of the Bible may be utilized, but the English Standard Version (ESV) will be my primary source. My own comments, and when necessary, paraphrasing, will follow immediately after each passage.