Persecution in Galatians : identity, destiny, and the use of Isaiah
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This thesis contends that the theme of persecution plays a vital role in the argument of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Particularly, this thesis argues that suffering for the cross is seen as a mark of identity and a sign of destiny for those who follow the crucified Messiah. In regard to identity, suffering is shown to be a badge that demarcates Paul’s Gentile audience as children of Abraham and children of God (i.e. the “Israel of God”) in conformity with genuine Christian identity, represented chiefly by Paul himself through solidarity with the cross. In regard to destiny, those who are marked out by suffering for the cross will receive the future inheritance, as promised to Abraham, and be vindicated at the eschatological judgment. The relationship of suffering for the cross to Christian identity and destiny is shown to parallel other such markers like possession of the Spirit and justification by faith. This thesis proposes further that Paul derives his understanding regarding the importance of suffering from his wider reading of Isaiah, particularly chapters 49–54, which Paul believes prefigures the death of the Messiah, his own Gentile mission and the opposition to it, as well as the status of his Gentile converts as servants of the Messiah. The influence of Isaiah is demonstrated especially in Paul’s paradigmatic self-presentation in the autobiographical section of the letter (Gal. 1–2), the subsequent summons to imitation (4.12–20), and the famous allegory where Paul explicitly cites Isa. 54.1. In this thesis it is demonstrated that all of these themes and emphases in Galatians related to persecution and suffering are utilized for the particular crisis in Galatia regarding the promotion of circumcision, which this thesis suggests is promoted aggressively. It is proposed, therefore, that Paul has utilized the theme of persecution with its Messianic and Isaianic influences to engage the way that receiving circumcision provides a means of avoiding and alleviating social tension and pressure. To that end suffering for the cross is upheld by Paul as a mark of identity and a sign of destiny to highlight the fact that receiving circumcision will lead to apostasy since Paul understands it to be a rejection of the Messiah and his cross.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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