The pride in the Cross signaling the New Creation.
In the line of Aristotle, one could say that in Galatians, between 1: 6-10 (beginning) and 6: 11-18 (epilogue) there is a connection:
Semantically, these two paragraphs indicate a world in which Paul, teaching the true gospel, expects the blessing of God, but instead he suffers from physical persecution, while the other teachers, promoting the bogus gospel, avoid persecution, and incur the wrath of God. Between these two alternatives, the Galatians are hesitating. (Parunak 1992: 221)
In 6: 11-18, Paul's intended rhetoric is to summarize its message in the style of "peroratio, whose main purpose is precisely to give the lawyer or the rhetorician the opportunity to briefly summarize the main points of the discourse and inspire the audience with strong emotional impressions." (Buscemi 2004: 603)
While Paul presented his epilogue in Galatians 6: 11-18 in forensic terms, in front of the lawyer (Betz 1979: 313), the same epilogue gives him the opportunity to present a summary of the message of the Letter to Galatians, in epideictic terms. (Buscemi 2004: 600)
The second rhetorical line implies that in the beginning (Galatians 1: 6-10) Paul explains the theme of the gospel in a kind of prooimion ("preamble"), in order to make kind and careful recipients through the explanation of speech. In fact, all through the Letter, he blames the recipients (3: 1-5) because they wanted to move to a different gospel through circumcision (5: 1-12), with a view to returning to the pagan mentality (4: 3, 9; 5: 19-21). The Galatians have been so changeable because of Judaizer agitators, against whom Paul had pronounced anathema (1: 8-9), so now, in the epilogue, he wishes upon them peace and mercy, if they follow the rule of the gospel. (6: 16)
Paul has noticed this hesitation of the Galatians, and that is why he insists on the gospel received through revelation from Christ, which has as its central idea the pride in the Cross. We will focus on the manner the New Creation comes, in Paul's concept, from a way of relating to the Cross of the Lord, by taking the example of the Apostle. His considerations become a new canon to the Galatians, as well as for the Christians of all times.
In this sense, I will construct my argument along three lines: 1) In praise of the Cross; 2) The New Creation; 3) The canon of the New Creation.
In praise of the Cross
The Letter to the Galatians, summarized in the epilogue of 6: 1-18, shows the pride in the Cross as a sign of the New Creation, of which Paul is a genuine witness. The verbal root "estaur" in Galatians 3: 1; 5: 24; 6: 14, as well as the noun root "staur" in Galatians 5: 11; 6: 12, 14, show the theological significance that Paul has already highlighted in Galatians 1 to 4 and now means to synthesize in the epilogue (Galatians 6: 11-18). These occurrences lead to the belief that the pride of Paul is based on Christ, who was described as crucified before the eyes of the Galatians, as in Galatians 3: 1. Moreover, it is the image of the crucified Christ on which the life of faith and ethics of Paul and believers is founded, a sign of belonging to the New Creation (Galatians 6: 15). Indeed, belonging to Christ makes Paul consider a source of pride to be persecuted for the Cross (Galatians 5: 11; 6: 14), and persuades the believers to crucify the flesh with its passions and lusts. (Galatians 5: 24)
By the prominent "emoi de" of Galatians 6: 14, Paul stands in contrast to the Judaizers (Galatians 6: 13), regardless of the reason of pride, trying to attract the attention of Galatians to his behavior towards the Cross (Tolmie 2005: 223). While the Judaizers boast in circumcision, Paul takes pride in the Cross of the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6: 14), which has become a "cosmic event" (Bultmann 1984: 303), and to be sure shows a link with the Apostle's life. The reason for the separation is not the Greek or Jewish origin (Galatians 3: 28), but the Cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1: 4). If the Cross is a credit to Paul, it also becomes a confirmation that he is not trying to gain the favor of men (Galatians 1: 10); on the contrary, it draws upon their persecution (Galatians 4: 29; 5: 11), which leaves marks of his acceptance of faith in his body. (Galatians 6: 17)
The Judaizers did not get into the logic of the Cross (Galatians 6: 12), because they do not want to kill their own "selves," their way of looking at the law and the world. This is why they mean to establish their own pride on the meat of Galatians, through circumcision (Galatians 6: 13). Avoiding the scandal of the Cross, the Judaizers have moved off to another gospel, which does not exist (Galatians 1: 6-7), disregarding that the true gospel "frees only those who accept the reality of the crucifixion of this world." (Minear 1979: 399) That is precisely the attitude of Paul who, unlike the Judaizers, is taking pride in the Cross of Jesus, by which he was crucified for the world and the world for him. (Galatians 6: 14)
In Galatians 2: 19 Paul already claims to have been crucified with Christ, while in Galatians 5: 24 he states that the believers in Christ Jesus have crucified flesh with its desires and passions. Echoing such statements in Galatians 6: 14, Paul reveals that the freedom of the Gospel comes from the Cross, hence from Christ (Galatians 2: 4), who "loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2: 20)
The mediation of the Cross "concerns not only the theological basis of the transformation, but also the ethical contents of the new life" (Lategan 1988: 429-430). Aware that the Cross of Christ is the most sublime evidence of God's love for man, Paul is not ashamed to found his pride on the paradox of the Cross, that for the Judaizers could be a shame, not only a cause of persecution.
Saying that one is dead to the law (Galatians 2: 19) means that one is freed from the obligations of the law, as dead men are no longer obliged to observe the law (Strack & Billerbeck 1922-1928: III, 233). Between death for the law and death for the world there is a similarity which consists in the Cross (Galatians 6: 14), that is being concrucified with Christ (Galatians 2: 19). However, the law cannot and should not be identified with the "world," which should rather be identified with the current evil eon, dominated by sin (Galatians 1: 4) and stoicheia (lit. "elements" / "elemental things" / "basic principles") (Galatians 4: 3, 9). These aspects keep man in bondage, they are lurking in his flesh, sharing in both mutual destruction (Galatians 5: 15) and vainglory (Galatians 5: 26). They become works of the flesh (Galatians 5: 19-21), which can occur even in the glory of circumcision (Galatians 6: 13). However, Paul does not explicitly identify stoicheia with law in Galatians 4: 3, 9, the way he identified it with "pedagogue" in Galatians 3: 24-25. (Clinton 1996: 55-76)
That law should not be identified with the world is clear from what Paul says: "when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods" (Galatians 4: 8). The law, however, led the Jews to the knowledge of God, as attested in Exodus 18: 16, "When they have a matter, they come to me, and I judge between one and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and His laws." In addition, through the observance of the law, the Jews were trying to serve their God, and Paul once exceeded his compatriots in this zeal (Galatians 1: 14), according to the example of Josiah who "removed all the abominations from all the territories belonging to the Israelites and forced those who were in Israel to serve the Lord their God" (2 Chronicles 34: 32-33). Therefore, one cannot attribute to Paul the association of the Torah with the stoicheia of Galatians 4: 3 and less so the Torah with sin. (Galatians 1: 4)
Then, if the law had led to the knowledge of God and His service, one cannot say that slavery under the elements of the world is identical to slavery under the law. The law sought to keep the elements of the world out of it all, but proved powerless to the slavery of sin and this current evil eon (Galatians 1: 4), which refers to the stoicheia of Galatians 4: 3, 9, wherein God could liberate man through Christ, not through the law (Galatians 5: 1). Hence the impotence of the law which has given way to the power of the Cross. (Rinaldi 1972: 16-47)
The believers of Gentile origin did not know God through the law, so they were not under the obligations of the law, they were slaves to the elements of the world (Galatians 4: 3), in which this current evil eon has been reigning (Galatians 1: 4). Their access to the knowledge of God has been through the behavior of Christ crucified before their eyes (Galatians 3: 1), an event that becomes an incentive (Galatians 5: 1) not to return under the past slavery.
When he hears of the liberating effect of the Cross, Paul exclaims with joy: Christ gave Himself for our sins, according to the will of God, "to whom be glory for ever and ever" (Galatians 1: 4-5). Paul feels himself to be dead for the law (Galatians 2: 19), which puts an end to his role as educator, leading to Christ, the Son of God (Galatians 3: 24). Therefore, dying for "one's self" and the "world" will not exempt us from our allegiance to the law. In other words, using the verb estaurotai (lit. "is/has been crucified") of Galatians 6: 14, applied to the world and the ego, "Paul emphasizes the instrumentality of the Cross, in this complete annihilation of every relationship that may have taken place outside of Christ" (Moule 1970: 374). From the crucifixion of the "I" and the "world" comes "a new salvific situation of freedom." (Mell 1989: 297)
The death of Christ had an effect both on the Jews, whose law has led them right to Christ, and on the pagan Galatians, it made up for the difference between them (Galatians 3: 28). Moreover, both of them have been freed from what kept them slaves (Galatians 5: 1), from the curse of the law (Galatians 3: 13) by stoicheia (Galatians 4: 3, 9) and from the power of sin (Galatians 1: 4). Paul takes pride precisely in this liberating action occurring through the Cross of Christ. (Galatians 6: 14)
In other words, there is no conflict between a theology of the Cross and a cosmology of the Cross. Both are expressions of a "more comprehensive ontology that makes intelligible the crucifix world and a New Creation. With this ontology one cannot so carelessly or so readily betray the bond of Christian freedom" (Minear 1979: 407).
Rather than denying the implementation of the existential crucifixion in life (Cosgrove 1988: 193), we had better contend that Paul's text, by an indication of ontological freedom through Christ's death on the Cross, means to persuade recipients to accept unreservedly the selfcrucifixion and their world. Such action does not need any law, but faith--hence the pragmatic value of the Cross, whose function becomes a communicative device by which "Paul seeks to restore the truth of the Gospel, presenting a rhetoric of the Cross rather than a rhetoric of glory." (Kern 2011: 135)
The New Creation
Against the previously elaborated theology of the Cross, Paul founded the evangelical novelty of the "New Creation," making Galatians 6: 15 the core not only for the epilogue, but also for the whole Letter. The message focusing on Galatians 6: 15 resumes what Paul has long targeted, the argument of Galatians: the conviction of the recipients about the fundamental values of the Gospel, to make them participants in the "New Creation," thus becoming new creatures. While Galatians 6: 14 had said that through the Cross the "I" and the "world" were crucified, now it takes up the discourse through the explanatory and progressive "gar" of Galatians 6: 15, implying that the Cross of Christ has ended the era of division between Jews and the rest of the world (Galatians 3: 28), inaugurating the time of the "New Creation," in which everyone is invited to participate through faith. (Galatians 5: 6)
For some, it is through baptism that the believer has access to the "New Creation" (Schlier 1949: 172-174; Stuhlmacher 1967: 29). Although there is no denying the value of baptism (Galatians 3: 27), we consider that there is "a prior relationship with Christ that determines the membership of the New Creation and the same reception of Baptism" (Pitta 1996: 403). This relationship is based on faith.
A different conclusion is summarized in the sentence: "Not the man you call 'New Creation' in Galatians 6: 15, but the world" (Mell 1989: 317). If from the concept kaine ktisis (lit. "new creation," "new creature," "new act of creation") one cannot exclude the cosmicsoteriological aspect, one cannot exclude the anthropological aspect either. Paul is not exclusive, as far as he is concerned, this drawing up age is over (Galatians 3: 28). It is no longer a matter to separate the Jews from the rest of the world, but to cancel both ethnic (Galatians 3: 28) and anthropological (5: 16) antagonisms, so as to enter the novelty brought by Christ, which includes soteriological universalism covering Jewish and pagans alike. In the words of Paul, "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision"--"but faith that works by love"--"the New Creation." (Galatians 5: 6; 6: 15)
It is now clear that the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross is effective only for those who have faith in Him. For Paul, Christ's law is a law of faith, whose "essence is recognized in the commandment" that is summed up in Leviticus 19: 18. When a person is a new creature in Christ, he lives from a faith that becomes active in love, and "that is what really matters." (Furnish 1972: 97)
The canon of the New Creation
The canon of which Paul speaks in Galatians 6: 16 relies upon the "New Creation," (Galatians 6: 15) which evolved from the Cross of Jesus Christ (Galatians 6: 14), by which the "I" and the "world" are crucified. In this sense, a New Creation is the offspring of Chirist's love and death, whilst the norm is to live no longer for oneself, neither for the world, but for Jesus, a rule that gives peace to those who follow it.
The verb stoichesousin (lit. "walk," "will walk") of Galatians 6: 16, with the stoiche root (lit. "march" in rank, "keep step"; "walk"; fig. "conform"; cf. Strong 1997: 445), recalls the stoicheia from whose bondage the believers were released, and now no longer have to submit to it (Galatians 4: 3, 9). On the other hand, it points to Galatians 5: 25, which presents an alternative way of living, according to the norm in which we must also walk: pneumati kai stoichomen (lit. "keeping in step with the Spirit"; cf. Moo 2013: 372; more commonly, the phrase is translated as "walking by the Spirit"/"being led by the Spirit"). In order to be truly a new creature it is thus necessary not only to crucify the "I" and the "world," but also to walk in the Spirit. The fact that stoichesousin in Galatians 6: 16 is a future verb falls into the category of hope, with its sententious and gnomic appearance (Mateos 1977: 207, 266, 366), that almost becomes a condition: "And to those who walk according to this rule, peace on them and mercy also on 'Israel of God'" (Galatians 6: 16). Hence, it is clear that the second part of the wish is dependent on the first: walk according to the canon established in the Galatians 6: 14-15, which refers to Galatians 5: 25.
The question still under debate is whether eleos refers to those who walk according to the prescribed canon, including Israel, or only to Israel tou Theou (lit. "Israel of God"). The interpretation is twofold. Some argue for the former, considering the second kai "copulative with light nuance, intensive and progressive" (Buscemi 2004: 627; Lagrange 1918: 166); they believe that Paul wishes "peace and mercy be upon those who follow the canon and not only on them but even upon the whole 'Israel of God'" passing from the small community of Galatians to the universal community, the church of God. The "Israel of God" consequently means "just Christians, for whom circumcision is not worthy but only the New Creation" (Ebeling 1989: 295). This interpretation is twice in defect. It does not see the need to add "even upon the Israel of God," though earlier he had said of those who follow this canon, "which should already include all members of the Church of God." Then mercy, in general, appears prior to peace (as in 1 Timothy 1: 2; 2 Timothy 1: 16; 2 John 1: 3; Jude 1: 2), and not the other way round, as in Galatians 6: 16 in the concept of the universal church.
Those who favor the second choice consider the second kai to be disjunctive and not copulative, distinguishing between those who take the canon and "those who are part of the Israel of God, even among those who share membership in the 'New Creation and Israel.'" (Pitta 1998: 174-175; Mell 1989: 319)
Both choices are defensible, but while deciding upon which is more in keeping with Paul's thought, we must have recourse to the context of the Letter. Paul stated that for those rooted in Christ through baptism (Galatians 3: 27), the ethnic distinction is outdated: "there is neither Jew nor Greek." (Galatians 3: 28) Galatians 5: 6 and Galatians 6: 15 incorporate the concept, highlighting the end of this distinction in the form of "neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything," suggesting that in Galatians 6: 16 there should be no more distinction between those who take the canon of the "New Creation" and the Israel tou Theou. This, however, remains a pragmatic appeal, at the level of desire, the truth of the matter being that those designated under the name of "Israel" did not take the offer of evangelical values. Furthermore, neither in 3: 28 nor in 5: 6 and 6: 15 shall we find the concept of Israel tou Theou, which otherwise is a hapax legomenon [lit. "once said" = one time occurrence].
As for Paul, Israel remains the "chosen people of God" (Pitta 1996: 404-405; Mell 1989: 320), because through His law we have arrived in Christ (Galatians 3: 24). If those who take the norm of the "New Creation" are no longer based on law, but on the Cross, it does not necessarily mean that Israel has lost its identity. On the contrary, even those who are grafted in Christ come as an offshoot from the root of Israel tou Theou, and the law of Christ (Galatians 6: 2) is nothing but a fulfillment of the Jewish law, by concentrating on a single precept, that of love for the neighbor. (Leviticus 19: 18--Galatians 5: 14)
Paul held the identity of Israel in full respect though the truth of the Gospel, showing that faith in Christ excludes all soteriological significance of the Torah, as in Galatians 5: 4. Instead, the Judaizer agitators considered that in addition to the faith in Christ Jesus, the Risen Crucified, the pagans would have to integrate into the chosen people of God and, as a sign of integration, they had to be circumcised. (Wilckens 1976: 68)
If in Galatians 6: 16 "those who will walk by this canon" appear before Israel tou Theou, it is because Paul was first sent as Apostle of the Gentiles (Galatians 2: 8-9), whom he called for peace, if they walked according to the established canon. As for the Israel tou Theou, Paul asked them for mercy, avoiding to be the judge of the people of God. In this sense, Galatians 6: 16 can be translated as: "And as many as walk according to this canon peace be upon them, and mercy also on Israel of God." (Mell 1989: 322)
Now we understand why Paul calls those who walk according to this canon for peace, since peace is conditioned by walking in a certain way, that in Galatians 5: 25 is considered pneumati (lit. "spiritual"). Moreover, those who walk pneumati (lit. "spiritually") make the offspring of the Spirit, in which peace is the third element (Galatians 5: 22). If part of Israel tou Theou will not walk according to this canon, they have no share in the grace of Christ (Galatians 5: 2, 4). They are still bound to "do all the law" (Galatians 5: 3) and by doing so "will live in them," that is within the precepts of the law (Galatians 3: 12), under the mercy of God (Galatians 6: 16). On this line of interpretation, meaning to avoid the risk of exclusivity, according to the new canon, Paul "invokes on Israel the mercy of God."
From a pragmatic point of view, Paul intends to lead the recipients and, along with them, the readers and the listeners, to be persuaded by the values of the Gospel, to become new creatures, and so be part of the "New Creation." With this purpose in mind, "those who will walk by this rule" and the Israel tou Theou, are both invited to join, so the two concepts are being found together in Galatians 6: 16.
Paul would not like to get into any discomfort on the part of the two parties, on the ground that he is also physically conformed to Jesus (Galatians 6: 17). Verse 17 might well aim "at all those who follow the 'canon' since the Apostle cannot have hoped that after this letter of fire, his opponents will leave him in peace." If Paul speaks to those who follow the "canon," asking them not to cause him any more trouble, one cannot see why the opponents to this possibility are involved. Indeed, Paul appeals to both groups, as specified in Galatians 6: 16 and refers them to Galatians 3: 28, where the ethnic distinction is canceled for those who are in Christ. In the same way, Galatians 5: 6 and Galatians 6: 15 lose importance of the distinction between circumcised and uncircumcised, the believers being waited for justification (Galatians 5: 5), within the canon of the New Creation, based on the crucifixion of "I" and the "world." (Galatians 6: 14)
"True Christian freedom, therefore, is the subjective experience of restoration of God's image, through union with Christ, so that God's holiness and justification can be expressed in ethical conduct" (Loubser 2005: 327). In Galatians 1: 10, Paul declared himself a slave (doulos) of Christ. The traces left on the body of Paul, received from injuries during the apostolate (2 Corinthians 6: 4-5; 11: 23-25), speak of his indubitable enslavement to Jesus (Barrier 2008: 357-358). Through this seal, Paul invited us to consider "what kind of traces of the Crucifix there are in the appearance of Judaizers and which traces Christ has carved even in the corporeality of Paul." (Ebeling 1989: 295)
The confirmation that the stigmata of Jesus imprinted on Paul's body are the scars of his apostolate is also given by the verb "bastazo," which means "I am carrying," and refers to Galatians 6: 2, where it makes reference to the mutual weight to carry, to fulfill the law of Christ. Following the law of Christ, Paul now bears the consequences in his body, which are signs of life, not death, as stated in Galatians 2: 19-20: "I have been crucified with Christ. I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me."
After presenting the new canon, sealed by the stigmata he holds in his body, Paul concludes in Galatians 6: 18 with a wish: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers, amen!," that asks for inclusion with Galatians 1: 3: "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," such an inclusion showing the direction Paul has sent its recipients to, i.e. to God and to Christ, from whose grace rises his apostolate as well. In this manner Paul refers to the Gospel received by revelation, described in the main proposition (Galatians 1: 11-12). In addition, the use of "brothers" in Galatians 6: 18 shows its objective rhetoric, which was not only to attract the Galatians towards him and end the Letter in a polite manner, but rather to educate in a spirit of fraternity (Matera 1992: 227), which was confirmed by the liturgical "amen."
The importance of fraternity is based on an anthropological renewal, confirmed by the words "with your spirit," wherefrom emerges a new way of life, according to the values given in Galatians 5: 1 to 6: 18, which require an ethical commitment second to the Spirit's guidance (Galatians 5: 16, 18, 25). The anthropologically renovated belief is thus able to overcome the desires of flesh (Galatians 5: 19-21), producing the fruit of the Spirit in his life (Galatians 5: 22-23), which leads to the fulfillment of the law, as indicated in Galatians 5: 14. (Kruse 2006: 129)
Paul's considerations are sometimes thought to go one way, directed against obedience to the Mosaic law, as in Thuren's thesis, for whom law and faith are mutually and permanently exclusive. The word "law" would be "accepted only in a metaphorical sense (Galatians 6: 2), its main meaning being fulfilled by new connotations, as in Galatians 5: 14-18." (Thuren 2000: 93)
But one must say that Paul did not write against obedience to the law, on the contrary, he insisted on the observance of all its precepts (Galatians 3: 10; 5: 3). Then, if the Christian is free from law, he is not without the law of Christ, which is not a metaphor, but the fulfillment of the Mosaic law. Paul did not intend to demolish the law, but to "highlight two different styles of life according to the flesh and according to the Spirit" (Lategan 1992: 265), where flesh is associated with law when used as a source of pride, because of the circumcision, without its observance. (Galatians 6: 13)
In Galatians 6: 11-18, Paul sums up these values, meaning to arouse positive feelings in favor of the freedom of the Gospel. Concurrently it provides freedom from circumcision (Galatians 6: 12-13), of which he himself became an example, being crucified for all the other values, which do not belong to the Gospel (Galatians 6: 14). The Galatians are once again invited to be like Paul, i.e., new creatures, to whom neither membership of circumcision, nor of noncircumcision should matter (Galatians 6: 15). Therefore, the epilogue of Galatians 6: 11-18 fits perfectly into the anthropological and ethical demonstration, and integrates well with the rest of the whole Letter.
The epideictic genus, though not exclusive, proves to be a rather more adequate interpretation of Galatians. If freedom is a gift, freely received from Christ (Galatians 1: 4 and 5: 1), it becomes a value for the believer, to preserve and promote through appropriate ethical commitment (Galatians 5: 13-14; 5: 25; 6: 1-10). The commitment must be good enough for a gift, education for the faith that acts through charity. (Galatians 5: 6)
The persuasive element of this argument has been the pride in the Cross, as a canon of the New Creation. And this was the intended prefix in this research: to highlight the theological aspects in the epilogue of Galatians 6: 11-18, in order to understand the beauty of the Cross and the invitation to join its values.
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Mihai Afrentoae, PhD; Professor of Catholic Theology, Theological Franciscan Institute; Roman, Romania; meluferent7 0@yahoo. it.
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|Publication:||Romanian Journal of Artistic Creativity|
|Date:||Sep 22, 2016|
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