What Others have Written About Galatians – Pierson and Naber

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by Neil Godfrey

I have copied here a translation from an 1886 publication of …

… two researchers from different fields of knowledge …. A. Pierson is the theologian …, whose work has made him known as an astute and fearless critic …. S. A. Naber, on the other hand, is a philologist and thus offers a guarantee of complete impartiality. The work therefore also claims to have brought the truth to light along a path that has hitherto been almost untrodden. The motto taken from Galen, which compares ordinary exegetes with those quacks who triumphantly cure a sick patient suffering from dropsy, reveals the opinion that the authors have of the exegesis of the New Testament to date. Why are there so many obscure passages in the New Testament which, despite all attempts at explanation, have only become more and more incomprehensible and where the work of the exegetes, instead of removing the difficulties, has only piled up new ones? The answer to this question is: because the New Testament consists of writings which are not homogeneous in themselves, but represent a basic text which has been revised and interpolated many times. (Steck, 18 — translation)

The original publication, Verisimilia, is in Latin. As per my original intent to address only the first two chapters of Galatians I post here only as much as is directly relevant — again with all bolded highlighting being my own. I have added text boxes with the relevant passages (Young’s Literal Translation) from Galatians for easy reference. (Some text references might not align correctly, presumably misprints, but the contents of the text boxes should make the argument followable.) —– One more note: Pierson and Nabor refer to “Bishop Paul” in order to identify the author of various interpolations into an originally thoroughly Jewish document as belonging to the later “episcopal age” of the church.

This epistle consists of two parts: one historical (1:1–2:14) and the other dogmatic and paraenetic (2:14–6:18). The transition from the former part to the latter is made through verse 2:14, the first part of which is historical and the latter part dogmatic. More will be said about this below.

The fact that the part we have called historical is beset by such grave difficulties should not seem surprising to us; for the things recounted in it reveal a varied origin and are mixed and confused in remarkable ways. We believe we will be able to show that these accounts are not to be attributed to a single writer, as they contain diverse and plainly contradictory statements about himself. We will compile in one place what we have observed about this matter.

He denies that there are two Gospels (1:9) and writes that the Gospel he opposes is not different from his own.

I wonder that ye are so quickly removed from Him who did call you in the grace of Christ to another good news; that is not another, except there be certain who are troubling you, and wishing to pervert the good news of the Christ; but even if we or a messenger out of heaven may proclaim good news to you different from what we did proclaim to you — anathema let him be! as we have said before, and now say again, If any one to you may proclaim good news different from what ye did receive — anathema let him be!

He solemnly curses others (1:8); then, as those who give advice and exhortation in a kindly manner often do, he repeats what he had once said, although saying it once was entirely sufficient.

He does not wish to please other men (1:10), but his disciples will judge whether he has achieved this in his ministry (2:2: μήπως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω).

10 for now men do I persuade, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if yet men I did please — Christ’s servant I should not be. . . .

22 and I went up by revelation, and did submit to them the good news that I preach among the nations, and privately to those esteemed, lest in vain I might run or did run (μήπως εἰς κενὸν τρέχω)

He was set apart from his mother’s womb and called by God’s grace (1:15) and until manhood advanced in Judaism and persecuted and attacked the Church of God.

He speaks of Jesus as if he were an image or leaven that had long been hidden in the heart (1:16: εν εμοι) and likewise speaks of Jesus as if he were a mortal man, whose brother he even knew (1:19). Continue reading “What Others have Written About Galatians – Pierson and Naber”