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

Christian M. M. Brady cbrady at
Sun Mar 11 23:11:38 EST 2001

On 3/11/01 9:52 PM, "Charles David Isbell" <cisbell at> wrote:

> Christian,
> 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.

That wasn't my main point (which was that Gal. 3.16 is an example of
"midrash" within the NT; I personally feel that people think they find far
more examples of midrash in the NT than are really there), but I did feel
that John was not fully grasping the breadth of mirashic exegesis.

> 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.

I was not making any statement about the validity of Paul's exegesis at all!
Sorry if anyone got that impression. I was defending my view that this is an
example of midrashic exegesis....

> 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.

Hurrah! At least one person agrees with me! ;-)

> 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?

Absolutely! That is why so many Christians to whom I point out this passage
find it very troubling. If their pastor tried something like this they would
take him to task.

Charles, thanks for stating my case in different terms and providing me with
a chance to clarify.


cbrady @
"There are a good many fools who call me a friend,
 and also a good many friends who call me a fool."
                                      - Chesterton

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