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“The Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16): gospel-believing Jewish teachers

In my book, I argue for a vocational reading of Galatians 6:16. My paraphrase of Gal 6:15-16 runs as follows:
Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul's Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans

For “neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is anything, but new creation”; and as many [future Jewish teachers] as will conform with this rule [of non-discrimination in table-fellowship], [let your] peace be upon them [by way of welcome], and mercy, even upon the Israel of God (Gal 6:16).

Paul, in the closing part of his letter to the Galatians, is providing his Gentile readers with a standard by which they may assess the legitimacy of any future Jewish people who may come to them purporting to be gospel preachers. Paul wishes his readers to assess these ostensible preachers by what rule (κανών) of association in table-fellowship they adhere to [Gal 6:16]. He has just spelt out this rule of association—along with its antithesis—in the previous verse (Gal 6:15). If a Jewish preacher comes to the churches in Galatia and is willing to share in table-fellowship with anyone who is “new creation” regardless of circumcision—that is, with anyone who is “in Christ” (cf. 2 Cor 5:6)—then such a preacher should be welcomed with a greeting of “peace” and his message should be given a hearing. However, if a Jewish preacher regards “circumcision” and “uncircumcision” as discriminating factors in his willingness to share table fellowship with others, the Galatians should extend no greeting of peace to him, and his message should be rejected. (pp. 56-57)

If “as many as will conform with this rule” is thus taken as a reference to a particular kind of Jewish teacher, the grounds are strengthened considerably for taking the “Israel of God” as a reference to Jews of some description, rather than as a reference to the church of Jews and Gentiles together. (p. 61)

I demonstrate that this vocational interpretation:

  1. is consistent with one of the key disputes in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: the disagreement over standards of table-fellowship.
  2. renders the entire closing section of the letter (Gal 6:12–16) more coherent.
  3. better explains the particular lexical and grammatical features of Gal 6:16a than the more common interpretation which sees it as a reference to the church of Jews and Gentiles together

The details of the argument and further references may be found in chapter 3 of the book (pp. 55-61). The chapter is available from the publisher in electronic format:

Windsor, Lionel J. Paul and the Vocation of Israel: How Paul’s Jewish Identity Informs his Apostolic Ministry, with Special Reference to Romans. BZNW 205. Berlin / Boston: Walter de Gruyter, 2014.

Published inGalatiansPaul

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