Participation in Christ’s Crucifixion in Galatians

One fascinating way of reading Paul’s letters is to do so from an apocalyptic perspective. Louis Martyn’s commentary reads Galatians through the apocalyptic lens. I don’t think I will agree with Martyn totally. But the following excerpts from his commentary are refreshing.

J Louis Martyn, Galatians (Anchor Bible; New York: Doubleday, 1997).

Paul’s perception of Christ’s crucifixion is thoroughly apocalyptic, in that it is both this-worldly and other-worldly. (1) On the one hand, it is the real death that was carried out with literal nails on a literal piece of wood, a gruesome spectacle that Paul can portray literally in sermonic form (3:1), and about which Paul does not speak with any of the euphemisms that are always ready to hand, such as ‘go to sleep.’ (p. 277–8)

(2) On the other hand, however, the crucifixion of Christ is entirely real as the cosmic event that cannot be truly seen by those who look only at human actors who employ literal nails and pieces of wood. One notes, then that in 1 Cor 2:8 Paul identifies those who crucified Christ as ‘the rulers of this age,’ referring to supra-human powers. By the same token it is worth noting that in Galatians Paul does not give a this-worldly identification of the crucifiers. S0ec8f8caoo6, he provides not the slightest hint that the Jewish authorities played a role; nor does he speak of the Roman procurator or of the Roman soldiers (contrast 1 Thess 2:14–15). This silence reflects his certainty that the cross is the event that involved the death of the old cosmos and the birth of a new creation (1:4; 6:14–15). (p. 278)

[T]he crucifixion is the apocalyptic, cosmic event in which God confronts the powers that hold all of humanity in subjection, God’s purpose being to bring all into the freedom that he bestows under his own hegemony. The apocalyptic nature of Paul’s cocrucifixion with Christ is placed in relief when one notices who and what suffers crucifixion: In Gal 2:19 it is Christ and Paul who are crucified; in 3:1 it is Christ; in 5:24 it is the cosmic power Paul calls ‘the Flesh’; and in 6:14 it is the cosmos itself and, once again, Paul. (pp. 279–80)

In sum, Paul’s participation in Christ’s crucifixion is the form of the death Paul has already experienced as the paradigmatic eschatological anthrōpos. In this event Paul was torn away from the cosmos in which he had lived, and it was torn away from him. Fort in dying with Christ on Christ’s cross, this zealous Pharisee suffered the loss of the Law, surely his earlier guide to the whole of the cosmos. (p. 280)

(By the way, Martyn [page 278] cites 1 Enoch 62:14 to illustrate his apocalyptic of the Christ event, “And the Lord of Spirits will abide with them, and with the Son of Man shall they eat and lie down and rise up for ever and ever.”)


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