Date of Award

2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Theology

Abstract

The Letter to the Galatians is the first letter where Paul mentions χάρις not only in the opening (Gal 1:3) and closing (Gal 6:18) of the letter but also in the body (Gal 1:6; 2:9; 3:18; 5:4) of the letter. The term χάρις will be defined in this dissertation as a favor or goodwill freely given by a benefactor to a beneficiary. Also, χάρις is whatever a beneficiary does to return favor or thanks to a benefactor. Therefore, on one hand, whatever goodwill a benefactor extends to a beneficiary is generally designated as χάρις. On the other hand, whatever a beneficiary does to acknowledge what has been granted by a benefactor is also χάρις. By examining what Paul is arguing in Galatians, I want to pay particular attention, in this dissertation, to how Paul uses the language of χάρις to advance his argument. I will show how in engaging the teaching of his opponents, Paul appeals to the Greco-Roman benefaction conventions to dissuade the Galatians from accepting circumcision and the observance of the Mosaic Law.

I will argue that the argument of Paul is couched in the web of relationships that undergird the Greco-Roman conventions of benefaction. I will show that by appealing to his own experience (1:15-16), the experience of the Galatian Christians (3:1-5), and the example of Abraham (3:18), Paul tries to persuade the Galatian Christians to accept his understanding of benefaction in both divine-human and human-human relationships. By engaging the Greco-Roman ethos of reciprocity, Paul offers his own view claiming that God’s benefaction is manifested in the self-giving of Christ out of love for humanity (2:20) and God’s benefaction calls believers to return favor by acting out of love for the wellbeing of one another (5:13-14). In the Letter to the Galatians, therefore, Paul expects the Galatian Christians to respond, in some fashion, to their experience of God’s gift of divine favor with gratitude in both divine-human and human-human relationships.

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