Paul's Contestation of Israel's (Ethnic) Memory of Abraham in Galatians 3

Esler, Philip F (2006) Paul's Contestation of Israel's (Ethnic) Memory of Abraham in Galatians 3. Biblical Theology Bulletin: Journal of Bible and Culture, 36 (1). pp. 23-34. ISSN 0146-1079

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Abstract

This essay proposes an explanation for the prominent role of Abraham in Galatians 3. While the view of existing scholarship that Paul is responding to a case being made by his opponents is accepted, there are difficulties with the current proposals. Paul's opponents are not likely to have invoked Abraham as part of a theological case, or because of his connection with circumcision or with blessings. An explanation is needed which focuses on the question of Abrahamic descent in the totality of its dimensions. By adopting aspects of theories of ethnicity, social identity and, above all, collective memory, it is argued, firstly, that Abraham was central to the ethnic identity and collective memory of first century Judeans and that Paul's opponents were offering his converts the exalted status of Abrahamic descent as a reward for becoming Judeans through circumcision. Secondly, Paul's argument in Galatians 3 represents a fundamental contestation of this memory. He formulates a counter-memory for installation in the hearts and minds of his audience. He does this by arguing that the ‘seed’ or descendants of Abraham to whom God had made promises were not Judeans but rather Christ and those who were one with him in baptism. Thus he wrenches the prize that was Abraham from the Judeans and lodges it among his mixed congregations of non-Judean and Judean Christ-followers. The audacity of Paul's enterprise is evident in his leaving no room for Judeans who had not found faith in Christ to be Abraham's descendants, a radical position from which he would later withdraw in Romans 4.

Item Type: Article
Article Type: Article
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Liberal and Performance Arts > Religious, Philosophical and Historical Studies
Research Priority Areas: Being Human - Past, Present & Future
Depositing User: Anne Pengelly
Date Deposited: 13 Jun 2016 14:15
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2016 14:15
URI: http://eprints.glos.ac.uk/id/eprint/3604

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