Topical Study

Galatians 2
Two Gospels, Or Two Gospel Audiences?

Trinity Grace Fellowship
Stephen E. Rodabaugh

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I. Statement of the Normative Hermeneutic: Customary usage rules in a passage unless the context of that passage, or the context of parallel passage, overrules (II Tim. 2:15).

II. Functions of Study Aids.

A. Context

1. Grammars give information about the structure of the immediate context.
2. Historical data (e.g. historical passages, Talmud, books on customs) give information on historical contexts.

B. Usage

1. Concordances give information about linguistic usage.
2. Lexicons give additional information about linguistic usage in comparative languages.

III. Practical Example: Exegesis of Gal. 2:1-7.

A. Efficiency of God (this plays a role below).

1. Corollary attribute to His knowledge and power.
2. Involuntary attribute: He must be this way.

B. Issues of Usage

1. Gospel followed or preceded by a genitive (e.g. gospel of the Kingdom, gospel of the grace of God, word of the gospel, ...).

In every case, unless Gal. 2:7 be the exception, the genitive is understood as the genitive of description (see any Greek concordance), which is in fact the primary use of the genitive in Koine Greek [Dana & Mantey, ß85, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament]. Thus "gospel of the uncircumcision" MUST be taken as "the uncircumcision gospel", and "gospel of the circumcision" MUST be taken as "the circumcision gospel", unless the context forces otherwise. There is such a thing as the accusative genitive (e.g. worship of God = worship toward God), gospel with the genitive never occurs that way elsewhere, and the normative hermeneutic stiplulates that the burden of proof is always on the exceptional usage, which burden must then be borne by the context. If the context fails to provide that burden, e.g. if the context is merely neutral, then the exceptional usage MUST be rejected. We shall show that EVERY aspect of usage AND context reinforces this genitive of description in this passage. The inescapable conclusion is that TWO gospel contents are in view here: the circumcision gospel, that gospel to both Jew and Gentile in which the Jew is distinguished, i.e. in which circumcision and the ceremonies have a place; and the uncircumcision gospel, that gospel to both Jew and Gentile in which the Jew is not distinguished, i.e. in which circumcision and the ceremonies have no place, and therefore a gospel in which the Jew is just another nation, i.e. another "Gentile".

POINT. In the very context Paul says "truth of the gospel" (Verse 5): does this mean "truth to or toward the gospel" or "gospel truth". Clearly it is the latter, i.e. a particular kind of truth.

2. "Committed unto me". The verb is pepisteuomai, stemming from pisteuo (see a grammar or analytical Greek lexicon), which means to faith or believe. Paul was literally faithed, or entrusted, with something. Of the 248 occurrences in the Greek NT, pisteuo ALWAYS is faith directed toward a content, usually a content regarding God or Christ, unless Gal. 2:7 is the exceptional usage; it is never directed at or toward an audience, or change of audience, unless this passage is the exception. Thus Paul and Peter were faithed with certain contents, in fact different contents, unless this is the exceptional usage that they were faithed merely with different audiences. But where is the burden of proof from the context? If it is not forthcoming, then the exceptional usage MUST be rejected. The normative hermeneutic stipulates that there is a default position which can only be over-ridden by the context.

C. Issues of Context. These are devastating to the "audience position".

1. Gal. 1:11-12.

a. Paul explicitly says his gospel was NOT (absolute Greek negative ou) received from any man, including the Twelve, i.e. God set up an entirely new revelatory path for Paul's gospel. If his gospel is the same as Peter's, and since the Twelve's gospel had already been repeatedly confirmed with independent witnesses and many signs following, then we must conclude God is not efficient and there is no God!

b. Paul explicitly says his gospel was NOT (absolute Greek negative ou) according to man, including the Twelve, i.e. no one had ever preached this gospel before. If this gospel is the same as Peter's, then God is a self-contradiction, i.e. double-minded, and there is no God!

c. Paul gives these and other reasons justifying the unique revelatory path, a direct revelation from the exalted Christ to Paul.

d. This discussion, at this point, has everything to do with CONTENT. If audience is the point, then what meaning, however convoluted, can we assign to Verse 8-9: Paul is pronouncing a curse on anyone who would preach to an audience different from his? Well then, those who say that Peter and Paul merely have different audiences have just put Paul's curse on Peter!! The only escape is to say that Gal. 1:11-12 and context has no connection with Gal. 2:7 and context; but we shall show that Paul identifies these, i.e. the gospel of Gal. 1:11-12 is the uncircumcision gospel, and the stupidity of the "audience view" on the basis of Gal. 1:8-9 remains. See the next comment.

2. Gal. 2:3,5,7.

a. In the Greek text gospel has the article, "the gospel" (see any interlinear).

b. No one would deny the gospel of each of these verses is precisely the gospel of the uncircumcision of Verse 7.

c. But the article here is the article of previous reference, meaning "this gospel", "the gospel previously described above": given that gospel was discussed at length in Gal. 1, then the article is to be so interpreted as a matter of Greek usage [Dana & Mantey, op.cit., ß147].

d. Thus the gospel that came by the unique revelatory path and was never preached by any man prior to Paul is the gospel of the uncircumcision. This means that CONTENT is the point, and that the absurdity o the "audience position" is unavoidable on the basis of Gal. 1:8-9.

3. Gal. 2:2. Paul had a private, delicate meeting with the pillars of the Jerusalem assembly which had many unusual features:

a. Paul was instructed by direct revelation of Christ to have such a meeting.

b. This meeting was to be completely private to avoid offence and opposition.

c. The purpose of the meeting was to put before (literal Greek) these pillars that gospel which he preached among the nations.

d. This private meeting coincided with the public meeting in Acts 15 (historical context), at which meeting Paul openly declared the signs of his ministry among the nations. It necessarily follows that everyone knew, and had known for many years, that Paul was preaching among the nations (e.g. Acts 13 on).

There are just three possibilities. First, Paul went to all this trouble to tell them something they already knew, namely that his audience was the nations, which means that God is inefficient (after all, Paul did it by revelation!!), and there is no God. Second, Paul went to all this trouble to tell them his gospel content which was no different than the gospel they had always preached, which means that God is inefficient (after all, Paul did it by revelation!!), and there is no God. Third, Paul went to all this trouble to tell them his gospel content precisely because his gospel content is different, which confirms the efficiency of God, and shows that He is God!

4. Gal. 2:7-10. We have already dealt with some of the nuts and bolts of Verse 7 under both usage and context issues. Here we add one more important historical context.

a. With regard to the ethnic backgrounds of their respective audiences, Peter and Paul BOTH went to Jews and Gentiles.

b. Search the Acts record and see for yourself that Peter went to both Jews and Gentiles. In fact this private meeting coincides with the public meeting of Acts 15 which was called primarily to discuss Peter's ministry among the nations(!!), for "Simon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name".

c. Search the Acts record and see for yourself that Paul went to both Jews and Gentiles.

d. Therefore, the "audience position" falls flat again. If the only distinction between Peter and Paul is that there audiences were ethnically different, then we have two possibilities: Acts is false and/or Scripture contradicts itself, and there is no God; or Paul lied through his teeth when he and Peter shook hands, but he was there under inspiration, and so there is no God.

e. The only way out is to acknowledge that their gospel contents are fundamentally different, and that they recognized each other's gospel to their respective audiences, and that their respective audiences are soteriologically and doctrinally different precisely because they are the subjects of fundamentally different gospels!!

D. External Contexts. We have repeatedly shown elsewhere (e.g. [DS7]) that Paul's and Peter's gospels are fundamentally different. The latter's gospel centers around Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah of Israel and her future world empire, and it was, and will be yet again, preached to Jews and Gentiles for salvation in which the Gentiles will be subordinated to Israel. And the former's gospel centers around Jesus of Nazareth as the Head of the Body as His personal fulness in which such Headship is non-ethnic, non-ceremonial, non-symbolic, third-heavenly, non-earthly, and it is preached today, and only today, to all without distinction. The contents are fundamentally different, their audiences are absolutely disjoint, though the distinction of audience is not on the basis of difference of ethnic "variety".

E. Summary of the Matter.

1. Usage has spoken: Paul has a fundamentally distinct gospel. The only hope for the "audience position" is for context to give overwhelming proof to the contrary.

2. Context repeatedly confirms that Paul has a fundamenally distinct gospel.

3. For the "audience position" to be defeated and the "content position" to win, the content need only have been neutral or ill-defined. But it confirms the "content position".

4. "Double-coupon" day for the "content position": it is most surely the truth of God.

F. Use of the Study Aids. As indicated above, the critical points of data are established from standard study aids. The rest is a matter of a sound mind. As Luther said, "You must convince me with the Scriptures and sound logic."

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