An Advanced Study in Galatians: Part One
What you'll learn
- Trace the significance of Paul’s autobiographical remarks to the theological claims of Galatians.
- Discover how Paul fits Jesus into the story Israel told about its coming Messiah.
- Explore the spatial underpinning of Paul’s theology of Messiah-faith.
- Examine the socio-political controversies energizing early Christian membership arguments.
- Chart the history of how Galatians has been interpreted in the modern Western church.
- Assess the context of words like faith, justification, and righteousness, and what they mean for membership in Christian community.
- This course references and builds from the work of two publications. Neither is required nor essential for participation in this course. If interested, the books are:
- 'Galatians' by N.T. Wright (ISBN: 9780802825605)
- 'Roman Faith and Christian Faith' by Teresa Morgan (ISBN: 9780198724148)
Paul’s letter to the Galatians ranks among the earliest writings we have from the movement that became Christianity. It therefore brings into sharp focus key issues of theological debate within the early Jesus movement, including how people in this community saw themselves.
In this letter, Paul identifies a specific challenge to identity formation in the Messiah that is facing the church in Galatia. The particular question of whether Gentile converts needed to be circumcised, which is the direct impetus for Paul’s writing the letter, provides a basis from which Paul can expound a broader vision of membership in the Messiah community. Arguing against factions that would exclude Gentile converts failing to adopt Torah, Paul masterfully explores the logic of a New Age instantiated by Messiah Jesus, the new requirements for family belonging, and the reciprocal faithfulness of Jesus and believers which is the foundation of righteousness.
Across two courses (totaling 37 lectures), Prof. Wright walks students through Paul’s argument step by step, clarifying difficult translational matters, navigating the messy history of soteriology and interpretation since the Reformation. He then clears a path back to the original concerns of the time to help us see afresh what Paul considered the heart of the New Age.
Part One of the course, Identifying the Messiah Community, covers Galatians up through 3:18, focusing on the formation of an inclusive community, with a proper understanding of ‘faith’ and ‘righteousness’ as terms of social definition. What does it mean to be individuals ‘in the Messiah,’ and how does this relate to the promised family of Abraham? The inter-faith squabble of Galatians affords modern readers a window into the earliest working out of crucial Christian theological matters such as the Trinity, Incarnation, Atonement, and ultimate destiny. As such, it is indispensable for today as a document establishing the very foundations of our shared life in Christ.
This course covers thoroughly advanced material, first explored in Prof. Wright's Galatians commentary. We encourage students to proceed through this course at their own pace, and consult the resources provided, such as Greek lexicon and concept reflection prompts. Every effort has been made to clarify the dense theological argument Paul makes in Galatians and bring it into practical application for members of the Messiah community today.
Who this course is for:
- Students of the New Testament and/or early Christian thought.
- Believers interested in the community foundations of the Jesus movement.
- Pastors preparing sermon series or studies on Galatians.
- Teachers hoping to dispel myths and clarify their theology.
N.T Wright received his BA, MA and D.Phil. from Oxford University. He taught New Testament at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford Universities 1978-1993. He was Dean of Lichfield, then Canon of Westminster, then Bishop of Durham (Church of England), 1994-2010. Prof. Wright is Professor Emeritus of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is currently Senior Research Fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. He has published over 85 books and hundreds of articles. In 2014 Prof. Wright received the Burkitt Medal from the British Academy for services to New Testament scholarship. He enjoys music, golf the Isle of Harris, and spending time with his family in the midst of a busy schedule of writing and travelling.
David Seemuth has a Ph.D. from Marquette University in the field of Religious Studies with an emphasis on New Testament Theology. He has taught at the graduate level for over 30 years at numerous universities and seminaries. He also has 21 years of on-line teaching experience. His passion is to see that people not only understand the Scripture, but also apply them to daily life.
Jennifer Loop is currently a doctoral student at Durham University. She is the Director of Ministry Engagement for the Wisconsin Center for Christian Studies, and plays a critical role in the online education, both organizational and theological, by guiding the online student experience. Jennifer enjoys engaging with a virtual community of diverse students and learners to explore how theology, faith and practice intersect.