Enslaved under the elements of the cosmos
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When Paul writes ‘we too were enslaved under the elements of the world’, he means that the elements that compose the cosmos also compose and compromise the flesh and enslave human persons through their bodies (Gal 4.3). This thesis demonstrates that early Jews used the phrase στοιχεῖα τοῦ κόσμου to refer to the material elements – earth, water, air, and fire – and not to elemental spirits or elementary principles. Greek medical tradition understood the material elements to mediate the stimuli (παθήματα) and desires of the body which enslave the soul, and it prescribed a variety of regimens (including νόμος) as παιδαγωγοί to guide a person to wholeness. In his philosophy according to the cosmic elements, Philo promotes the law of Moses – including circumcision and the calendar – as the effective way to be ‘redeemed from slavery’ to the flesh, to attain righteousness, and to live in harmony with the cosmos. Paul’s epistle to the Galatians opposes this sort of ‘redemptive nomism’. Paul accepts that weak στοιχεῖα compose the weak σάρξ and that they mediate sinful stimuli and desires that lead to the actions of the flesh. However, he denies that the law can make people alive or righteous. Instead, Paul prescribes crucifixion with Christ and new life with the Spirit as the final cure for sin’s infection of the flesh made of weak στοιχεῖα. Through faith, Christ will be formed in believers as the Spirit guides them away from the desires of the flesh and produces his fruit in their lives.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2023-02-02
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 2nd February 2023
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