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

Christian M. M. Brady cbrady at
Wed Mar 14 17:54:30 EST 2001

On 3/14/01 4:03 PM, "John Ronning" <ronning at> wrote:

> Christian,
> Thanks for providing an example for discussion.  If that's
> the best you can offer, you've proved my point that Gal 3:16
> is not midrash.  Listing a bunch of different possible
> interpretations is quite different from asserting that two
> mutually inconsistent interpretations are both true, which
> is what you have if the usual interpretation of Gal 3:16 is
> correct.

How are the examples from Shmot Rabbah not "mutually inconsistent"? Either
the biblical text means one thing or another, according to modern methods of
interpretation. There examples of multiple (and most often inconsistent)
interpretations in midrashic literature are as vast as the corpus itself.
Remember, the rabbis aren't saying that these are "possible"
interpretations, they are saying these *are all* valid interpretations.

>> Why does one have to find " at least one practitioner of Midrash in history
>> who would approve it as legitimate Midrash"?
> You don't have to if you don't want to support your theory
> with evidence.  If you could find a practitioner of midrash
> who looked approvingly on Gal 3:16 (acc. to the usual
> interpretation) that would be supporting evidence.  Looks
> suspicious to me when you say that a certain interpretation
> is the product of a certain school of thought or method but
> everyone else who uses that method thinks that
> interpretation is ridiculous.

I have supported my theory with evidence. You have supported your theory
with a highly problematic translation and interpretation of the passage in
question. No one else *who uses that method* has commented upon it, as you
admit in the next paragraph. The silence cannot be used to defend or reject
Paul's method of interpretation. In any event, finding such a figure's
comments has little to do with what we can say as we analyze and examine the
various types of Jewish literature in the period. From an objective,
analytical stand point, Paul's methodology has all the hallmarks of the
midrashic method found in latter rabbinic texts, *including* the fact that
he employs the same text in a different manner (e.g. seed=Jesus and

>> I
>> do not know of any rabbinic text which even alludes to Gal. 3.16 so how can
>> you possible say that it has been "universally scorned in rabbinic
>> interpretation"?
> The universally negative rabbinic opinion of Gal 3:16 is
> reported by Christian commentators and polemicists, not in
> the writings of the rabbis themselves.

That could be, but I am not familiar with them. Would you care to offer some
examples? We must, of course, be careful with second hand information, but
it is very valuable. As I said above, even if a rabbinic authority did
reject Gal. 3.16 that would not be conclusive. They key question would be
were they rejecting Paul's exegetical technique or his theology that
motivated the specific application in this case? I expect it would be the

> I've offered an interpretation of Gal 3:16 that shows Paul
> to be consistent with what he says everywhere else - no need
> for the "midrash" copout.  I'll leave it at that.

"Midrash" is not a cop-out. It is a much more coherent and historically
accurate understanding of Paul's use of the Gen. passage. And in any event,
your interpretation is *not* consistent with what Paul says "everywhere
else" since he most certainly would not equate Abraham as the "new Adam."
That was Jesus alone.

The fundamental difficulty is that you are trying to apply modern concepts
of intellectual and exegetical consistency to Paul and it is anachronistic
to do so. All of Gal 3 is consistent within the historical, theological, and
exegetical context of Paul.

There is, in fact, no conflict between v. 16 and v. 29 since the crux of his
argument, the advent of Christ and salvation through faith in him, has been
presented in the intervening verses. Thus Paul moves from an awareness of
the "immediate" fulfillment of God's blessing Abraham (the nation of Israel)
to the single seed (Jesus) that would bring blessing to the nations to the
new, true heirs of Abraham ("in Christ Jesus you are all children of God
through faith"). 

This, of course, is just what the text says. I am not saying Paul's exegesis
was "valid" just that it is logical and consistent according to certain
accepted practices of the day.

cbrady @
Writing bows one's back, thrusts the
ribs into one's stomach, and
fosters a general debility of the body.
                       Ancient Colophon 

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