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Galatians

Betz, Hans Dieter. Galatians. Hermeneia Series. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.)

Betz, Hans Dieter. ABD, Vol. II. pp. 872-5.

The main focus of this commentary (Hermeneia, Galatians) is “the formal and compositional structure” (p.xiv). He charged that most scholars ignore it and said, “This is astonishing because the letter is composed in accordance with the conventions of Greco-Roman rhetoric and epistolography.” (p.xiv).

He thinks the author is Paul Himself (p.1). He takes the Galatia as North Galatia, though he thinks both of the North and South Galatia theory have their points (pp. 3-5). The Anti-Paul opposition is from Jewish Christians. He guesses the letter is written between 50-55 (pp.11-15), while the place of writing is unsettled, possible choices are Ephesus, Rome, or Macedonia, and Corinth.

As a thesis of this commentary he claimed that “Paul’s letter to the Galatians can be analyzed according to Greco-Roman rhetoric and epistolography (p. 14)”.

  1. Galatians is an “apologetic letter” (p. 14).
    1. It presupposes letter form and the genres of autobiography and apologetic speech.
    2. “The subsequent history of the genre is difficult to trace, since most of the pertinent literature did not survive (p. 15)”.

  2. Epistolary framework is intertwined with the body. For example, the postscript (6:11-18) serves as the peroratio (or conclusio) of the apologetic speech in the body.

On the function of the Galatians:

  1. He takes Galatians as a letter of self-apology. It is used in the court-like setting, in which Paul acts as the defendant, and his opponents as the accusers, while the addressees as the jury (p.24). Betz find lots of weaknesses in using “art of persuasion” in this kind of defense (talking about Spirit which is beyond reason) and suggest that Paul uses the following form to achieve his purpose.
  2. It is also a “magical letter” which Paul put a curse in the beginning and a blessing at the end of his letter (p.25).

This is his analysis of the Galatians.

   

Hans Dieter Betz (Details)

Epistolary Prescript

1:1-5

  1. Sender and co-sender (superscriptio, 1:1-2a)
  2. Addressees (asscriptio, 1:2b)
  3. Salutation (expanded, salutatio, 1:3-4)
  4. Doxology (1:5)

Exordium Introduction:

1:6-11

  1. The statement of the causa (1:6-7)
  2. The issuing of a double curse (1:8-9)
  3. The transitus or transgressio (1:1-10-11)

Narratio

“statement of facts”

1:12-2:14

  1. Thesis to be demonstrated in “statement of facts”(1:12)
  2. - does not come from man (1:12a) / + directly from Jesus Christ (1:12b)

  3. First part: From Paul’s birth to the mission in Asia Minor (1:13-24)
  4. Second part: Paul’s second visit in Jerusalem (2:1-10)
  5. Third part: the conflict at Antioch (2:11-14)

Propositio

proposition

2:15-21

  1. The point of agreement: the doctrine of justification by faith
  2. The point of disagreement: the consequence for Gentile Christians
  3. The exposition: four theological theses
  4. The refutation

Probatio proofs

(Confirmatio)

3:1-4:31

  1. First proof: undisputable evidence: Galatians received the Spirit based on their faith, not the observance of the Torah(3:1-5).
  2. Second proof: Scriptures: Abraham (faith) 3:6-14
  3. Third proof: analogous example from the secular law of inheritance (3:15-18).
  4. Digressio (move away from the main subject )on the Jewish Torah (3:19-25)
  5. Fourth proof: Christian tradition: using baptismal (3;26-18) and Christological (4:4-6)
  6. Fifth proof: Friendship and Paul’s relationship with them (4:12-20).
  7. Sixth proof: Analogy of Sarah and Hagar (4:21-31).

Exhortatio

Exhortation

5:1-6:10

  1. A warning against acceptance of the Jewish Torah (5:1-12).
  2. A warning against corruption by the “flesh” (5:13-24).
  3. Recommendation in form of ethical maxims (5:25-6:10).

Peroratio Conclusio

6:11-18

Identical with the Epistolary postscript.

  1. A formula of epistolary authentication. (6:11).
  2. The peroratio (recapitulatio) (6:12-17).
  3. Final benediction (6:18).

This is the analysis on Galatians by other scholars compared to that of Betz.

Part

 

H. D. Betz 1979

R. G. Hall 1987

J. Smit 1989

G. A. Kennedy 1984

F. Vouga 1988

B. L. Mack 1990

M. Bachmann 1991

A

Exordium

1:6-11

1:1-5

1:6-12

1:6-10

1:6-11

1:6-10

1:6-10

B

Narratio

1:12-2:14

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1:13-2:21

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1:12-2:14

1:11-2:14

1:11-2:14

Partitio

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2:14b

C

Propositio

2:15-21

1:6-9

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2:14-21

2:14-3:5

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D

Confirmatio

3:1-4:31

1:10-6:10

3:1-4:11

1:11-5:1

3:1-4:31

3:6-4:7

2:15-6:17

 

Digressio

3:19-25

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E

Exhortatio

5:1-6:10

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5:2-6:10

5:1-6:10

4:8-20

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F

Peroratio

6:11-18

6:11-18

4:12-5:12

6:11-18

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Amplificatio

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6:11-18

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Eschatokoll

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6:18

 

Comments:

This commentary is the first of this kind among Galatians commentaries. Betz has done a great job in starting the quest in this approach, but some problems can be shown in his approach:

Does it justify to analyze in this way?

  1. The so-called “apologetic letter” genre is not supported with enough evidence. On the contrary, he states that “the subsequent history of the genre is difficult to trace, since most of the pertinent literature did not survive (p. 15)”.
  2. The functions of the Galatians are in fact counter evidences to his methods. The “art of persuasion” in the self-apology (p.24) is used in court. It posts several problems on the so-called apology in letter form. They are listed by Betz himself in pp.24-25.
    1. “It eliminates one of the most important weapons of the rhetorician, the oral delivery.”
    2. “…limits its writer to the devices of the “art of persuasion.”…persuade its addressees only by its rational arguments.”
    3. “For example, rhetoric …. is not interested in establishing the truth itself. Consequently, people who are interested in the truth itself must be distrustful of the “art of persuasion,” because they know of its capacity for intellectual manipulation, dishonesty, and cynicism.”
    4. “How can an irrational experience like the ecstatic reception of the divine Spirite be defended as legitimate if the means of such a defense are limited to those available in the apologetic letter?”
    5. In order to counter these problems, Betz suggests one more function, the magical letter. But with the strong force of the above arguments suggested by him, his usage of the letter as a form of rhetoric used in court is totally unsound. Besides, he cannot enough support or illustrations for his “apology letter” genre.

  3. The magical letter genre based on the use of curse and blessing is a bold suggestion. But the form of this genre itself is not supported with strong. Though he claim that “This category is well-known from ancient epistolography”, but his footnote 125 states “No satisfactory investigation of the genre exists.” In “the Excursus: The Curse in 1:8-9” on pp. 50- 52, he explains the form in details, but the support of this form in footnote 71, is just referring back to page 25 where not enough information is posted. It means that the whole “magical letter” genre is based on a suggestion without sound support. But the bracketing of the whole letter with this form has become the essential support of his use of the rhetorical forms.
  4. In the discussion on 6:16-18, there is no more information on that form.
  5. I suggest Betz to add more rhetorical related material as the background knowledge to his commentary, esp. this approach is new to many.