Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Gal. 6.16 and Philo

Galatians 6:16: And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

In this verse is Paul calling Christians 'the Israel of God' somewhat akin to a "new" Israel. There are so many issues at stake here including like is the kai connective or explicative, is Paul referring to all Christians or only to Jewish Christians. Stuff that I have found helpful on the topic includes:

Scot McKnight, Galatians (NIVAC - no library so I can't give page numbers).
Andreas Köstenberger, 2001. ‘The Identity of the ISRAEL TOU THEOU (Israel of God) in Galatians 6:16,’ Faith and Mission 19.1: 3-24.
Gregory K. Beale, "Peace and Mercy Upon the Israel of God: The Old Testament Background of Galatians 6, 16b," Biblica 80 (1999), 204-223.

For me there are four argments which clinch the deal:

1. Paul, after arguing for the unity of Jews and Gentiles, is unlikely to split them up at the end into Gentile and the Israel of God.
2. Elsewhere Paul uses language reminiscient of Israel to describe Christians, e.g. Phil. 3.3.
3. Given the benediction at the end of 2 Corinthians, it is unlikely that Paul would ever offer a blessing on Israel irrespective whether they believe or not.
4. And what I find interesting, is that according to Philo Israel (esp. "the Israel who sees God" in Philo, Migr. Abr. 113-14; Conf. Ling. 56; Rer. Div. Her. 78) is more of a philosohical description rather than an ethnic designation. Thus using "Israel" in a non-ethnic sense is possible for Jewish authors.

4 comments:

Alan S. Bandy said...

Excellent post! Köstenberger's article is one of the best I've read on Gal 6:16. James Dunn also makes a convincing case that ekklesia was drawn from Israel's self-identity. He notes that of the 100 times ekklesia occurs in the LXX every instance translates the word qahal - "assembly." Interestingly, Paul seems to use the phrase "church of God" (1 Cor 1:1; 10:32; 11:22; 15:9; 2 Cor 1:1; Gal 1:13) in continuity with the phrase qahal Yahweh or qahal Israel (Num 16:3; 20:4; Dt. 23:1-3; et. al.). (Dunn, Theology of Paul, 537-38)

The addition of Philo adds merit to how the designation of "Israel" was often reserved only for those deemed the true people of God. My question, then, is what about ethnic or national Israel? Romans 11 expresses the mixed (Jew/Gentile) nature of the church but also expects a time when all Israel will be saved. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts on this issue.

J. B. Hood said...

Great comments Mike and Alan. I have the same problem with theologians who have posited a huge disjunction between OT/Israel and the NT (Gentile inclusive) church on the basis of "ekklesia" in Matt 16:18 (and 18:17). Far too much exegetical freight has been thrown onto this, without any consideration of the LXX usage.

Question on Romans 11...what does "all Israel" mean, in light of grafting in of the Gentiles, etc. I think Paul is saying in 26a, "this is how Israel is saved" (in reference to 25), then citing Isaiah to describe what happens.

So the question is, what is 25 saying?

Loren Rosson III said...

It's important to note the difference between Galatians and Romans. In the former, the Christ-group is indeed "Israel" (Gal. 6:16). But in the latter, plainly, Israel is Israel (9:1-11:32), every step of the way.

J. B. Hood said...

But it's at least possible that Israel becomes something new with the grafting in of Gentiles (not just a Pauline theme, take Matt 1:2-16). True, he's still talking about the Israel tree that was "pruned"--but he has just added the "grafting in" of the unnatural branches...and mentions the possibility of other natural branches being grafted in again. That's one funny looking tree, that is!

Isn't it possible that he is using Israel to label all believers, regardless of race? As he says earlier, Israel isn't always ISRAEL.