Gal 3:16 as midrash (was...)

Charles David Isbell cisbell at
Sun Mar 11 22:52:00 EST 2001


If the point you wish to make is that midrashim seldom conform to anything
close to what is generally acceptable exegesis as practiced in our guild
today, then there is no argument.  But saying that Paul was no worse than
others is not exactly the same thing as that his interpretation is
exegetically responsible or that his view of Jesus is commended by the texts
which he is purporting to use from the HB.  In other words, there are
certainly many other cases where midrashic method rockets out into the ether
to make a point already firmly believed by its author well before he took
pen in hand.  And we are hard pressed to understand the reason for many of
these interpretations.  Of course, we now view them as a part of the history
of Jewish exegesis, valuable in pointing out how readers of the Bible in a
certain era handled a text.  But no one I know is constrained to champion
them as THE correct interpretation of a biblical passage.

So Paul was probably quite in line with midrashic canons of his day.  But
still his conclusion reads to me that a promise made to Abraham involving
countless numbers of descendants actually referred to the one person whom he
wished to sponsor as the deity of the new religion he was founding.  Paul's
view may be acceptable to his followers who believe what he believed about
Jesus.  I have no quarrel with that.  But his view is not what the HB text
says by any standard of exegesis of which I am aware.  Lacking his
presuppositions and prior commitment to his particular definition of Jesus,
I hardly think that any 21st century interpreter would reach his conclusion.
Such an attempt today would be justifiably judged an egregious example of
EIS-egesis, would it not?

Charles David Isbell

More information about the b-hebrew mailing list