Thursday, May 11, 2006

Gal 3.12 in Hays' The Faith of Jesus Christ

So I'm toward the end of Richard B. Hays' The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3.1-4.11, and I get to the point where Hays deals with Gal 3.12, "the law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'He who practices them shall live by them.'" Hays' solution to the puzzle of Paul invocation of Lev 18.5? Hays argues (actually, he asserts) that Paul rejects Lev 18.5 as simply untrue.

Talk about swallowing a camel. As if the apostle would reject a part of the OT Scriptures -- which he holds to be God-breathed -- as false. (Perhaps I'll later blog on what I suspect is the solution to the puzzle, that Paul is simply articulating the idea that the law is self-consciously transitory -- an idea argued at length in the book of Hebrews -- and the idea that Paul subsequently develops in the remainder of Galatians.)

But back to Hays. I have no problem buying the argument that Gal 3.22 (and other similar texts) should be rendered "the faith of Jesus Christ" rather than "faith in Jesus Christ." I think it dovetails quite nicely with the notion that the gospel is the proclamation of the objective fact of what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. That Jesus underwent the cross, not with divine omniscience, but in faith, trusting in God to raise him from the dead, seems quite reasonable to me. (Perhaps at another time I'll also blog on the idea that Jesus' prayer in the Garden wasn't a prayer to be spared from drinking the cup at all, but was a prayer for resurrection -- that the cup "pass away" after he had begun drinking it.) Hays' grammatical point, as he points out, also very nicely brings together Christology and soteriology. (Not that theological convenience should persuade us where the exegetical argument does not.)

But, as Hays points out, the narrow exegetical point has been recognized. So one cannot cobble together a dissertation from that. Hays then seeks to develop a broader argument on the entire passage of Gal 3.1 through Gal 4.11.

While there are insights aplenty throughout the book, his howler regarding Gal 3.12 simply waves away a (the?) central puzzle of that passage. Once he makes that move, it's easy for him -- or anyone else for that matter -- to make the rest of Paul's argument cohere. I thought it a pretty cheap move, and makes the book much less interesting than if Hays had worked out an argument that did not entail Paul's rejecting as untrue that which he would never have rejected as untrue.

Simply as an intellectual matter, the puzzle of Gal 3 is fun to work on only if one posits that the Lev 18.5 quotation in Gal 3.12 is true, and must square with the rest of Paul's argument. Assuming it away just assumes away the challenge of the puzzle, and therefore assumes away much of the interest in Hays' "solution" to the puzzle.


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