Epistle to the Galatians — Couchoud’s view

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by Neil Godfrey

English: Map of the Letters of Galatia
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This post continues notes from Couchoud’s The Creation of Christ — all posts are archived in Couchoud: Creation of Christ.

Paul-Louis Couchoud, by the way, gets several nods in W. O. Walker’s Interpolations in the Pauline Letters (so, more than once, does Hermann Detering) — See the GoogleBooks–Interpolations in the Pauline Letters. From there do a word search in the left margin search-box for “Couchoud” and see the full list of references in that work. (I only mention this for the benefit of anyone who may have run across Dr James McGrath’s or any other scholar’s ignorant scoffing of Couchoud in response to posts in this series. Some scholars can address figures the views of one like Couchoud with the dignified civility expected of public intellectuals.)

Couchoud only skims the surface of conclusions from his more detailed publication, La Première Edition de St. Paul (Premiers Ecrits du Christianisme, 1930). Hermann Detering has posted an online version of this work on his site. So what is outlined here are conclusions, not arguments.

In a footnote in The Creation of Christ Couchoud lists what he believes are the “touch-ups” (editings) an editor (Clement of Rome?) has made in the original letter to the Galatians:

Galatians 1:18-24 (Paul visits the Jerusalem apostles after three years)

Galatians 2:6-9 (the gospel of the uncircumcision to Paul and that of the circumcision to Peter)

Galatians 3:6-9 (the faithful are children of Abraham)

Galatians 4:27-30 (Isaac represents the children of promise, the bondwoman Hagar and her son are cast out)

Galatians 3:10-14 and 4:21-26 (curses of the law and blessings of Abraham; allegory of the two covenants)

In the touched-up Epistle to the Galatians the proud recital Paul makes of his communications with the Jerusalem Apostles becomes overloaded. To give an air of accuracy, Paul is made to visit Jerusalem three years after his conversion, instead of the short and vague delay mentioned in Acts. His opposition to the Apostles is obscured, and, on the other hand, the scene of their reconciliation is emphasized. [See La Première Edition de St. Paul (in English)]

Further on a discreet reference to the first chapters of St. Luke is inserted.

Then in the phrase “God sent forth his Son that he might redeem them which were under the Law” (Gal. iv. 4) the editor slips in “born of a woman, born under the Law.”

Marcion would scarcely dare refer now to his Epistle where the Law was so ingeniously termed “our tutor unto Christ” (Gal. iii. 24).

Abraham appears once again with the Christians as his sole legitimate seed. The Jews of the day deserved their servitude; they had to be cast out, for “cast out the handmaid and her son, for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman.” Nothing so severe on the Jews had been written by a Christian who pretended to be a disciple of the Bible. (pp. 303-304, my formatting)

What a time! Once your powerful enemy slipped in a few extra verses and disseminated your authoritative scriptures for you how could you compete against the accusations that it was you who had mutilated them?

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Neil Godfrey

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10 thoughts on “Epistle to the Galatians — Couchoud’s view”

  1. Checking on Couchoud in Wikipedia, I discover there’s nothing, except two lines.
    Perhaps Neil Godfrey could use his knowledge of this French scholar, to beef up the Wikipedia entry.

    Couchoud was a rare French scholar still able to produce clear thoughts, as he was lucky enough to ponder and elucubrate before WWII. In the chaos following the return to freedom, the brains of French intellectuals started heating up, setting off a contagious epidemic affecting the strong and the weak. The mental disorder was labelled post-modernism and the resulting affection pertinently described by two hardy NYU professors, Tony Judt (Past Imperfect) and Alan Sokal (Fashionable Nonsense), who braved exposure to the infected victims for the sake of science, but were able to escape the contagion by wearing gloves and masks and keeping safe distances, and survived to give scientific reports on this virulent disease against which no medical cure has yet been found.

  2. There’s more on Couchoud in “The Historical Jesus in the 20th Century, 1900-1950” by Walter Weaver, With a google Books online:


    Page 380 gives some bibliographical details:

    1879-1959. Attended the Ecole Normale Superieure in philosophy (1898) and later studied medicine in Paris, composing his doctoral thesis on “L’asthenie primitive” (1911). A grant enabled him to travel to China and Japan, from which came translations of works in Japanese and the book “Sages et poetes d’Asie” (1916). His in…

    Continued on page 381, not shown in the Google Books preview.
    Perhaps Neil Godfrey will be able to access it or find it in his library.

      1. Tim: Your assumption seems like a very good one. I was so perplexed by the language of the English text in this article that I naively assumed it had been made by a Japanese or a drunk post-modernist Frenchman who arrogantly believed that in a senseless world, everything goes, especially in what the French call the “Anglo-Saxon” world (meaning the amalgam of Britain, US, Australia, etc…)

        But your guess is more convincing.

        Couchoud published two books in the late 30’s:

        • Jésus le dieu fait homme, F. Rieder, Paris, 1937, 355 p. = “Jesus, god made man”

          Jésus, Dieu ou homme ?, N.R.F., Paris, 1939. = “Jesus, god or man?”

      2. No way to distinguish between them without perusing the books themselves. How could they differ? Very likely it is the same book published by two different firms.
        The introduction to the 1939 English book “The Creation of Christ” surely must elucidate this matter.

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