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 saw as 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 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.
What students will learn in this course:
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 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 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.
Registered 501c3 non-profit organization Courses developed for N.T. Wright Online are made possible by the generous donations of people who support the Wisconsin Center for Christian Studies, Inc., a registered 501c3 non-profit organization. Tuition paid enables us to provide scholarships for those in need and allows us to fund new courses and translations of existing courses, and we are able to offer courses at significant discounts.