And now for something technical.
I’m copying here a comment I left on another discussion group a few days ago. How is one to make sense of Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:15-16 where he says God revealed his son “in me”:
Galatians 1:15-16 seems really puzzling and important:
But when it pleased God…to reveal his son in me (apocalypsai ton huion autou en emoi), that I might preach him among the gentiles…
Several responses to the question seemed to me to be too quick to sweep aside the detail and to rationalize it with our more conventional understanding of the resurrection appearances and perhaps even something akin to the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts. But several scholars are not so casually dismissive of the “problem”. I copy here how three scholarly sources explain the meaning of “in me”. So if this is a question that interests you, ….. (please excuse some scrambled fonts in the copying of the Greek this time)
The UBS Translators’ Handbook comments:
To reveal his Son to me is literally “to reveal his Son in (or by) me.” Does this mean “to reveal his Son to others, by means of me” or “to reveal his Son to me”? While the first of these is possible (a similar construction occurs in 1.24), yet on the basis of the total context and Paul’s line of argument, the second alternative is more acceptable. The burden of this passage is how Paul received the gospel, not how he proclaimed it. TEV makes this latter meaning clear (so also NAB and RSV). Most other translations keep the construction “in me,” and NEB combines the two ideas (“reveal his Son to me and through me”).
It would be possible to render to reveal his Son to me as simply “to show me his Son” or “to cause me to see his Son,” but this would scarcely do justice to the fuller implications of the revelation. Some translators prefer an expression meaning “to cause me to know who his Son really is,” “to show me who his Son really is,” or even “to let me see what I could not see before—who his Son really is.”
Alan Segal in Paul the Convert understands the words to indicate a spiritual union with God’s or Christ’s heavenly image.
Alternatively, Paul can say, as he does in Gal. 1:16 that “God was pleased to reveal His Son in me [en emoi].” This is not a simple dative but refers to his having received in him the Spirit, in his case through his conversion. Being in Christ in fact appears to mean being united with Christ’s heavenly image. The same, however, is available to all Christians through baptism. This is not strange since apocalyptic and mystical Judaism also promoted tevilah, ritual immersion or baptism, as the central purification ritual preparing for the ascent into God’s presence. The Jewish ritual of purification for coming into the divine presence and proselyte baptism has been transformed by Paul’s community into a single rite of passage, though it does not thereby lose its relationship to its source. Dying and being resurrected along with Christ in baptism is the beginning of the process by which the believer gains the same image of God, his eikön, which was made known to humanity when Jesus became the son of man—the human figure in heaven who brings judgment in the apocalypse described by Daniel. (p. 64)
Hans Dieter Betz in his commentary on Galatians discusses the questions arising over that interesting word “in”:
More descriptively than in 1:1, 12 Paul claims that his vocation141 took the form of a revelation of Christ: God called him by “revealing his son” (άποκαλΰφαι τον υιόν αύτοΰ) in him.142 The language which Paul uses at this point raises difficult questions and has caused much speculation.
We do not know why Paul here introduces the christological title “Son of God” (ο υίός τοΰ öeoö). Does this indicate that Paul cites a traditional phrase? 143 Is the title “Son of God” firmly attached to accounts of visions of Christ? At any rate, the title here refers to the crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ who is also the present Christ, and whose presence is identical with the content of the Pauline gospel.144
Furthermore, which form of revelation Paul has in mind is unclear. The term αποκαλύπτω (“reveal”) can mean many things.145 Most commentators interpret the concept in analogy to 1 Cor 9:1; 15:8, where Paul also talks about his revelation. But in 1 Corinthians the terminology is different. In 1 Cor 9: 1 (“Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”) and 15:8 (“he [sc. Christ] appeared also to me”), the terms are forms of 6pdv (“see”), once active (9:1) and once passive (15:8). Both suggest external visions rather than internal experiences.146
This raises the other question of how to interpret “in me” (eV e’/xoi). Does this refer to a “mystical” experience147 or is the reference simply equal to a dative (= “to me”)?148 The “mystical” interpretation once had many supporters, but has nowadays fallen into disrepute. Also, the interpretation as a dative makes it easier to reconcile Gal 1:16 with 1 Cor 9:1; 15:8 and the accounts in Acts (9:1-19; 22:3-16; 26:9-18).149
But we must avoid deciding the matter by way of outside influences or apologetic interests. We should not suppose that Paul feels he contradicts himself in Gal 1:16 and 1 Cor 9:1; 15:8. Apparently for him the two forms of visions (external and internal) are not as distinct as they may be for some commentators. Paul can use a variety of concepts and languages when he describes his vocation, which in any case he does only rarely.
There are indications, however, that we should take his words seriously. The “in me” corresponds to Gal 2 : 20 (“Christ. . . lives in me”)150 and 4:6 (“God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts”).151
Paul does not explain how the three passages are related to each other, but we may assume that they complement each other. This would mean that Paul’s experience was ecstatic in nature, and that in the course of this ecstasy he had a vision (whether external or internal or both— “I do not know, God knows” [cf. 2 Cor 12:2,3]). This interpretation is supported by the debate about Paul’s vision in the ps.-Clem. Horn. 17. 13-19.152
146 The distinctions between the two forms of vision have been pointed out especially by Alfred Wikenhauser, Die Christusmystik des Apostels Paulus (Freiburg: Herder, 21956) 88-90; idem, Pauline Mysticism : Christ in the Mystical Teaching of St. Paul (New York: Herder, 1960) 134-36; Albert Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (New York: Macmillan, 1956) passim; Lietzmann, pp. 7-8; Schlier, p. 55. See also Ernst Benz, Die Vision (Stuttgart: Klett, 1969).
And Engberg-Pedersen, Paul and the Stoics, should not be left out of the discussion since he sees analogous concepts with Stoicism:
In view of other passages in the letters (e.g. Gal 1:16; 2 Cor 4:6), it is even likely that he is referring to some kind of direct vision. But his interest in recounting this experience here is not just ‘personal’ or ‘psychological’ as if he were merely telling about his own experience to whoever might be interested in that. Rather, he is using his own case as a model for a kind of normative change and transfer that has universal application (as he claims): the change from a normative self-understanding tied to ordinary natural and social goods to be acquired by the individual for him- or herself—to one that, as it were, places the individual outside him- or herself. Such a change apparently requires that one is, as it were, ‘struck’ by something which one experiences as having an ‘overpowering’ character in relation to one’s previous self. But that is not at all special to Paul. The Stoics would have agreed.33 (p. 95)
1:16 (‘revealing his son in me’) may stand as a headline for what Paul aims to say. It is not very specific. Still, even though the sense of the preposition en (‘in’) in Paul’s Greek is notoriously somewhat fluid, it seems certain that he did not merely wish to say here that Christ was revealed to him. In some sense Christ was revealed in him.34 The same idea is taken up in 2:19-20 when he says: I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’. But this passage gives us far more to go on. First, the fact that Paul speaks not just in the first person singular but with a marked egö (‘I’) already shows that he is working with the kind of heightened awareness of the ‘self’ which goes with any kind of reflection on a person’s own identity. . . . .
In other words, the way in which he has come to ‘live for God’ is by obtaining a certain relationship with Christ.35 In his description of this he no longer uses the terminology of ‘my-living-/or’. Instead the claim is the even stronger one that ‘I’ am altogether dead and Christ lives—in ‘me’. We may certainly speak here of some form of ‘participation’. But what should that mean? And is the term sufficiently strong? ‘Mysticism’, then? But what is that? A far better translation—on the supposition that we are looking for that kind of thing—is to see Paul as talking of self-identification. The I will be dead in the sense that there is nothing whatever in the individual person whose self-reflection is here being described with which he wishes to identify normatively. Literally, of course, he is not dead. But as normatively seen by himself, he no longer is that individual person (Paul himself with all his individualizing traits). That person is normatively ‘dead’ and gone. He has no value for Paul. Instead, Christ lives ‘in me’. That is, Paul sees and identifies himself normatively as nothing but a ‘Christ person’.
(pp. 146, 147)
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
- Nero – Followup #2 - 2022-01-15 12:17:08 GMT+0000
- Nero – the Followup: Reviews of Barrett’s Discussion of the Neronian Persecution - 2022-01-15 09:12:30 GMT+0000
- Rome Burning – the Christian Problem in the Annals of Tacitus - 2022-01-13 14:55:18 GMT+0000
If you enjoyed this post, please consider donating to Vridar. Thanks!