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WTJ66 (2004): 49-70



I. Introduction Theological reflection upon an eternal, intratrinitarian covenant between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has been an integral part of covenant theology from its early days. True, there have been differences of opinion about how sharply this pact, often called the covenant (or council) of redemption, can be distinguished from the covenant of grace which was "made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed" (Westminster Larger Cate chism Q/A 31).1 Nevertheless, the consensus among Reformed theologians of the past is that such an intratrinitarian, eternal covenant does exist and is evi denced in Scripture, regardless of how closely these individual theologians con nect it to the promised and historically ratified covenant of grace.2

S. M. Baugh is Associate Professor of New Testament at Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, Calif 1 In a well-known statement, Charles Hodge finds different positions in this regard in the West minster standards; see Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (1872; repr., 3 vols.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981), 2:357-58. See also, e.g., Thomas Boston: "The covenant of redemption and the covenant of grace, are not two distinct covenants, but one and the same covenant. I know that many divines do express themselves otherwise in this matter" (A View of the Covenant of Grace From the Sacred Records [1734; repr., Lewes, England: Focus Christian Ministries, 1990], 24). Compare Robert L. Dabney: "I hold that this subject cannot be treated intelligibly without distinguishing the covenant existing from eternity between the Father and Son,fromthat Gospel promise of salvation on terms of true faith offered to sinners through Christ" (Syllabus and Notes of the Course of Systematic and Polemic Theology [2d ed.; St. Louis: Presbyterian Publishing, 1878; repr. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1985], 432). For a lucid discussion relating to Jonathan Edwards's mediating position, see Carl W. Bogue, Jonathan Edwards and the Covenant of Grace (Cherry Hill, N.J.: Mack, 1975), 95-113. John von Rohr (The Covenant of Grace in Puritan Thought [AARStR, 45; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986], 43-46) presents the idea of a covenant of redemption distinguishable from the covenant of grace as the Puritan consensus without seeming to be aware of the nuances represented among those divines. For a more recent presentation of the covenant of redemption, see Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theol ogy (4th ed.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939 and 1941), 265-71. 2 E.g., C. Olevianus, Z. Ursinus, J. Owen, J. Cocceius, D. Dicksen, and J. Durham (authors of The Sum of Saving Knowledge often attached to the Westminster standards [see Head II]), H. Witsius, F. Turretin, C. Hodge, H. Bavinck, L. Berkhof. Some form of the pactum salutis has been traced as far back as J. Oecolampadius in 1523; see Peter Lillback, "The Binding of God: Calvin's Role in the Development of Covenant Theology" (Ph.D. diss., Westminster Theological Seminary, 1985), 144-45. For an overview see Geerhardus Vos, "The Doctrine of the Covenant in Reformed The ology," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: TL Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos (ed. R. Gaffin, Jr.; Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 234-67, esp. pp. 245-53.




Many passages of Scripture were typically adduced and discussed by Reformed theologians to verify the existence of this covenant of redemption, or pactum salutis, incluing Isa 49:6-8; Luke 22:29; John 10:18; 17:4; Titus 1:2; and 1 Pet 1:20.3 Yet the pactum salutis has fallen into disfavor among more recent Reformed theologians and writers.4 For example, Robert Letham rather abruptly charges that the doctrine has "strong elements of subordinationism" and "[tjritheistic tendencies" and gives it no place in his treatment of the work of Christ.5 Likewise, in his popular presentation on covenants in the Bible, O. Palmer Robertson rejects the "mteitrinitarian" [sic] covenant because it does not conform to his understanding of the word covenant.6 In a more sustained discussion of the pactum salutis, Herman Hoeksema examines the biblical texts where it is commonly grounded and judges them all to be pointing not to an eternal, mtratrinitarian arrangement, but to the historical covenant of grace between the triune God and the incarnate covenant mediator.7 Interestingly, Hoeksema does not thereby reject the pactum salutis but arrives at it by deduction from the doctrine of the triune character of God: Now the Scriptures teach very clearly that God is in Himself a covenant God. He is a covenant God, not, in the first place, because of any relation wherein He stands to the creature. The creature can participate in and taste His life according to the measure of the creature; but it cannot enrich that life. Thus it is also with the covenant. It is eternally of God. It is eternally perfect in Him. He is the covenant God in Himself. And He is the God of the covenant, not according to a decree or according to an agreement or pact, but according to His very divine Nature and Essence. For God is indeed One in Essence, but He is not lonely in Himself. If nothing else could be said than that God is One, He would not and could not be the living God, Who is in Himself the ever-blessed One. A God that is lonely does not know Himself and love Himself, does not live and is not blessed, is a cold and dead abstraction. But God is One in Being and Three in Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And as the Triune God, He is the living God, Who lives the infinitely covenant life in Himself.8
See further the list given by Dabney, Systematic Theology, 432; see Francis Turretin, Institutes of Eknctic Theology (ed. James T. Dennison, Jr.; trans. George Musgrave Giger; 3 vols.; Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1994), 2:177-78. 4 In an influential excursus, Karl Barth rejected several key elements of classical covenant theology, including the notion of "ein innertrinitarischen Geschehen . . . einen Pakt zwischen Gott dem Vater und Gott dem Sohn" which he traces back only to Cocceius; see Barth, Kirchliche Dogmatik4/l (Zurich: Evangelischer, 1953), 57-70, esp. pp. 66-70; ET, Church Dogmatics 4/1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1956), 54-66, esp. pp. 63-66. Unfortunately, Geoffrey Bromiley in his otherwise admirable translation of Barth chose the inappropriate term "wfertxinitarian" to render Barth's "innertrinitarisch" and "innergttlich." (The term "mtertrinitarian" of course, denotes something among various trinities.) See esp. G. G. Berkouwer's interaction with Barth and others on the pactum salutis in his Divine Election (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1960), 164-71. 5 Robert Letham, TL Work of Christ (Contours of Christian Theology; ed. G. Bray; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 52-53. 6 O. Palmer Robertson, TL Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980), 54. 7 Herman Hoeksema, Reformed Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 1966), 285-336. 8 Ibid., 319.



What makes Hoeksema's viewpoint interesting to me is twofold. First, I found his examination and interpretation of the Scripture passages that have been commonly adduced to substantiate the pactum salutis to be correct in many cases. Statements like "I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people" (Isa 49:8; RSV) do not directly identify a covenant between the Father, the pre-incarnate Son, and the Holy Spirit, but are really directed to Christ in his incarnate existence as covenant mediator. Whether the divine commitment itself to give the incarnate Son as a covenant for the people may refer by necessary inference to an intratrinitarian counsel or compact is another question, but surely the word "covenant" in Isa 49:8 and in other passages refers to the new covenant, that is, to the covenant of grace in its historical fulfillment in the person and work of Christ. Second, Hoeksemafindsthe idea of the pactum salutis in the trinitarian personhood of God rather than in his unity. The thesis of this article, however, is that Paul clearly relies upon an intratrinitarian pactum precisely because of the divine unity. I find this interesting, because, although I agree with many of Hoeksema's exegetical conclusions concerning the pactum salutis, I do not share his theological rationale. It is a remarkable twist at least. Given these considerations, then, is there any Scriptural warrant for holding to some form of a pactum salutis in the classic Reformed sense? There are two passages of Scripture which have not traditionally been connected with this doctrine that present interesting possibilities. Thefirstis one which deserves its own full treatment elsewhere: the oath of Ps 110:4 appointing the pre-incarnate Son to his high priesthood. This passage is especially significant given that an oath identifies covenant phenomenon in the Bible and that the book of Hebrews identifies the appointment and exercise of this priesthood as constituting the new covenant. The other text possibly supporting the pactum salutis is Gal 3:20, a classic bcus Pauli diffillimus. This is the text we will explore. As mentioned, Gal 3:20 itself has not previously been invoked as evidence for the intratrinitarian arrangement, although previous covenant theologians have so used the "Seed" promise in Gal 3:16 and 19.9 A less compelling argument was sometimes advanced that the "previous ratification" of Gal 3:17 refers to this intratrinitarian pact lying back of the historical covenants.101 hope to show that the pactum salutis is the capstone for Paul's argument in Gal 3:15-22, specifically in v. 20. When this is accepted, several of this passage's most confusing elements come into clearer focus. Hence, Gal 3:20 can be seen as biblical warrant for an mtratrinitarian pactum as described in classic covenant theology through careful exegesis and good and necessary inference.
For example, die passage from Preston cited by Vos, "Doctrine of the Covenant," 250. For example, Cloppenburg as quoted by Vos in "Doctrine of the Covenant," 251, and Herman Witsius, The Economy of the Covenants Between God and Man Comprehending a Complete Body of Divinity (1803; repr., Escondido, Calif.: den Dulk Christian Foundation, 1990), 166-67 (first published as Oeconomia Foederum Da cum hominibus in 1677).
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II. Galatians 3:15-22 Today Current opinions on Gal 3:15-22, and on w. 19-20 in particular, are united only in that these verses are "among the most difficult in Paul."11 Daniel Wallace illustrated this in an essay entided "Galatians 3:19-20: A Crux Interpretern for Paul's View of the Law" in the Westminster Theological Journalwhen he spent the bulk of his space on v. 19 and admits at the end: "Indeed, I have yet to arrive at a fully satisfactory view of v. 20."12 The real difficulty of Gal 3:20 is not in understanding its grammar or its meaning in isolationthat is quite clear. Rather, the snarl comes in seeing how this verse contributes to Paul's argument or has anything whatsoever to do with the context. All of this illustrates why Gal 3:20 has generated a number of different interpretations by NT scholars who sometimes say tongue-in-cheek that there are 430 different interpretations of this one verse alone.13 Despite the radical diversity of opinions on the meaning of Gal 3:20, there are a few common points of interpretation today which may actually contribute to the passage's obscurity. One prominent point is that w. 19-20 are seen as part of an overall argument by Paul to show that the Mosaic Law is "inferior" to the promise, or evenflawed.For example: Because w. 19b-20 occurs in the midst of an argument that the law is inferior to faith, and in particular after the statement that the law was provisional, it seems that these remarks are intended to disparage the law. In general the reference to the involvement of angels and a mediator in the giving of the law must tell against the law by distancing it from God. V 20 seems designed to explain why the presence of a mediator, at least, is a point against the law, but it does so in a strikingly inscrutable way.14 I will make the case that Paul's point is not to demonstrate the law's mferiorty, nor to "disparage" it because it was given by mediation angelic or human. It is this line of reasoning that contributes to making w. 19-20 "strikingly inscrutable." Rather, Paul is simply asserting the Mosaic law's inability to mediate the
. Wright, "The Seed and the Mediator: Galatians 3.15-20," in TL Climax of the Covenant: Christ and the Law in Pauline TTieobgy (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 157. 12 Daniel Wallace, "Galatians 3:19-20: A Crux Interpretum for Paul's View of the Law," WTJ 52 (1990): 225-45, quotation from p. 229. 13 Deriving the numberfromthe 430 years in Gal 3:17, of course. See Richard Longenecker, Galatians (WBC 41; Dallas: Word Books, 1990), 141. For reviews of current opinions see Terranee D. Callan, Jr., "The Law and the Mediator: Gal 3:19b-20" (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 1976), 1-30; Wallace, "Galatians 3:19-20," 225-29; and Harald Riesenfeld, "The Misinterpreted Media tor in Gal 3:19-20," in TL New Testament Age: Essays in Honor of Bo Reiche (ed. William G. Weinrich; Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1984), 2:405-12. 14 Callan, "The Law and the Mediator," 2. See Riesenfeld: "In Gal 3:19-20 Paul intends to depreciate the Law and to limit its importance the Law is imperfect, whereas the promise is per fect" ("Misinterpreted Mediator," 409); and Wallace: "The law, therefore, is inferior to the promise (and, hence, to faith-righteousness) because of its temporary duration, its negative soteriological function, and its indirect relation to God" ("Galatians 3:19-20," 243). Wright does not follow this line of interpretation, but acknowledges that it is the predominant view ("The Seed and the Mediator," 159).



promises of God's covenant. These promises are based upon an eternal, intratrinitarian covenant which cannot be mediated. In other words, Paul addresses the Mosaic law's true purpose and denies the function and purpose implied by his opponents who insist on "law-keeping" (pya , Gal 3:10) to please God. This difference of overall perspective is subtle, but important for clarifying the passage. Secondly, there is a tendency in today's interpretation to read v. 20 only in connection with the previous verse rather than running it directly back through v. 15 and ahead to v. 22. Not all interpreters do this, of course, but the tendency 15 is there, and it does not help the interpretation of the difficult v. 20. Finally, many of today's interpreters do not take the trinitarian implications presented in this passage seriously enough. . Wright calls it a "theological balancing act" to see that "God acts in fact on both sides of the covenant, or 16 that Paul is here making an implicit claim for the divinity of Christ." It is nice that he notices this possibilityfew others do, or they fail to say so if they 17 dobut his rejection of the idea is, perhaps, prematurely off-handed. That being said, the various interpretations of Gal 3:20 popular today can be seen as variations on two different positions. The first sees Paul as disparaging the law by charging it as being revealed by way of mediation, whereas God spoke his covenant directly to Abraham without going through a mediator. This view claims that mediation somehow makes revelation inferior for Paul or his contemporaries. The second popular interpretation is guided by a social analy sis of Paul. It says that Paul invokes the oneness of God in order to support his contention that the Church consists of one people of God, both Jew and Gen tile together, not two separate groups. On this view, Paul's main problem with the law is not a juridical issue but a social one: the law created a separation between Jew and Gentile by erecting practices like circumcision, cleanness, and
15 For instance, Wallace suggests that any interpretation of v. 20 is closely dependent upon the interpretation of v. 19: "[M]ost of the 300 or so interpretations of this verse can be tossed once a particular view of v. 19 is adoptedhence, v. 19 does function as a sort of 'quality control* over v. 20" ("Galatians 3:19-20," 243). See Heinrich Schlier {DerBrief an die Galater [Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962], 151) who emphasizes the connection between w. 19-20 with the following w. 2129. Wright's essay ("The Seed and the Mediator") is a conspicuous attempt tofitv. 20 into a reading of w. 15-16. 16 Wright, "The Seed and the Mediator," 159. Wright cites Herman Ridderbos in this connection (VieEpistleof Paul to tL Churches of Galatia N1CNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953], 138-40), who writes of Gal 3:20: "God was at work alone: for He is not only the author of the promise; He fulfills it also" whereas "man is the subject of fulfillment" of the law (p. 140). And further: "That New Testament concept [of diawke] points to a salvation whose benefits are guaranteed by God and as a matter of fact are actually given, because in Christ and through Him the conditions of the covenant are fulfilled" (Ridderbos, TL Epistle of Paul, 131 n. 2). 17 Even if Wright's own interpretation is not a "theological balancing act," it may be said to rely upon some linguistic "sleight of hand." His interpretation depends upon taking in v. 16 as referring both to Jesus of Nazareth and to the unified people of God at the same time. He calls the second of these "different levels of meaning" (p. 166) the "corporate overtones" (p. 166 n. 39) or the "incorporative" meaning of "Christ" (p. 170 n. 54). Wright's suggestion has serious linguistic prob lems vis--vis James Barr's "illegitimate totality transfer" not to mention the theological pitfalls.



food regulations, which served to keep Israel separate from the other nations. Galatians 3:20, on this interpretation, is merely saying that the Christian church, in contrast, is one united people of God just as God is one.18 In contrast, the interpretation offered here will make the case that Paul's analogy between a human last will and the divine covenant indicates that the overarching point of Gal 3:15-22 is the law's inability to mediate the promise. Paul makes the point in w. 15-18 by way of analogy and in w. 19-20 by calling on God's essential unity. In a nutshell, when Paul says, "Now a mediator is not [mediator] for one party, whereas God is one," he is arguing that the law, represented by its mediator, Moses, cannot mediate the promise made to Abraham and to his seed, because the promisor, God the Father, and the promisee, God the Son who would come as Messianic Seed, are one in the divine Being. The Father made his promissory oath to the covenant Head in whom all his promises are refracted (2 Cor 1:19-20). And until that One should come into the world, no third party could intervene, because the first two parties to this transactionthe pactum salutisare actually one in inseparable divinity. Let us now put the case. III. The Testamentary Analogy: Galatians 3:15 Historically, diathke m Gal 3:15 has been taken three different ways: (1) as referring to a human last will and testament (e.g., Ridderbos, Bruce); (2) as referring to a human covenant (e.g., Calvin, Lightfoot); and (3) as referring to an irrevocable living grant in Jewish practice (E. Bammel).19 Part of the difficulty arises because diathke may refer to any of these legal instruments. As is often discussed, it refers most often in Greco-Roman law to a testamentary disposition, whereas in the LXX it is the most common rendering of Hebrew berth, "covenant" (e.g., ZDJVT2.106-34). Paul invokes a human "last will and testament" (diathke) in v. 15 in order to illustrate the inviolability of the divine covenant {diathke) and its promises to Abraham and to his seed (w. 16-19). Paul explicitly shows that he is using an analogy with the phrases and ... , " give a human example... no one annuls even a man's will" (Gal 3:15; RSV).20 In essence, Paul's use of this testamentary analogy is not much different from his use in Gal 4:1 -5 of the position of a son and heir in a Greco-Roman household, who was indistinguishable during his minority from his slaves, "even though he is lord over all," to illustrate the position of Israel under the law.
The basic interpretive options proposedfromMarcion to the present are surveyed in Gallan, "The Law and the Mediator," 5-26; see John J. Hughes, "Hebrews DC 15ff. and Galatians 15ff.: A Study in Covenant Practice and Procedure," MvT2l (1979): 27-96. 19 E. Bammel, "Gottes (Gal. iii.15-17) und das jdische Rechtsdenken," NTS 6 (195960): 313-19. Some scholars, like Timothy George (Galatians [NAC; Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994], 244-46) see diatheki'm Gal 3:15 as a word play on both testament and covenant. 20 For other examples of the phrase, and analogous , in Paul see: Rom 3:5; 6:19; 1 Cor 3:3; 9:8; 15:32; and Gal 1:11. The meaning is slighdy different in most of these places, but analogous.



Paul's use of diathke as a last will to illustrate the divine diathke ("covenant") is particularly appropriate not only because the word diathkmay refer to either one, but also because both are legal instruments for communication of an inheritance. Note especially that the covenant ceremony of Gen 15:7-21 with Abram was to secure his heir (Heb. yoresh) from among his own "seed" rather than Eliezar of Damascus (Gen 15:2-6). For Paul's testamentary analogy to work, however, we must understand how it is that "no one annuls even a man's will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified" (Gal 3:15; RSV). 21 A debate was sparked a century ago on this score, because it was well known that Greco-Roman law did allow a testator to revoke or add a codicil to his last will and testament.22 For example, one of the leading participants in the debate was William Ramsay, who says: It is here plainly stated that when the Will has been properly executed with all legal formalities, no person can make it ineffective or add any further clause or conditions. It is not a correct explanation to say that "no person" means "no other," for the argument is that a subsequent document executed by the same person does not invalidate the former. We are confronted with a legal idea that the duly executed Will cannot be revoked by a subsequent act of the testator.23
21 The three verbal forms found in Gal 3:15b, ("ratify," "validate"; see and in v. 17), ("annul"), and ("add to"; or better, "add a codicil to a will" BDAG) are appropriate terms for testamentary dispositions and other legal instruments (see esp. TDNT 3.1098-1100 and 8.158-59). Bruce's comment (Galatians, 170) that a will is validated () only on the testator's death runs counter to an adjective form related to found in the stock phrase in papyri willsfromEgypt: , "this will is valid" (see 3.1098 for reference to a few examples) and from explicit clauses where the testator declares his ability "to emend, to alter, and to revoke this will" ( [ ] ) [POxy. 491]the idea of is expressed by elsewhere [POxy. 490]. ( is probably derivedfromthis adjective form; Greek omicron contract verbs frequently originate as causitives for a noun or adjective: "cause to become ," "vali date"; see BDAG who derive from , "supreme power.") For a general discussion of the various kinds and character of testamentary dispositions, the standard work is still: Raphael Taubenschlag, TLLawofGrm-RomanE^tmtLLightoftLPapyri332B. C-640A.D. (2d ed.; War saw, 1955), 190-209. 22 See Gerhard Thr, "Diatheke," Der Neue Pauly: Enzyklopdie der Antike (Stuttgart and Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 1997), 3:530, who writes: "Der Erblasser konnte, auch ohne bes. Testamentarischen Vorbehalt, seine d[iatheke] bis zu seinem Tode ndern oder aufheben Die nderung oder Aufhebung der d. geschah durch eine sptere d.} die aber die Aufhebung der frheren ausdrcklich aussprechen musste, anderenfalls galten beide d. nebeneinander." Explicit testamentary provisos and revocations of wills are common in the Greco-Roman willsfromEgypt in the papyri. POxy. 107, for instance, is of particular interest. Wills in Egypt were deposited in the office of public records (), so that a testator who wished to revoke a will had to request its return from that office. POxy. 107 is a receipt made out by the testator for the return of his will from the clerk of public records where he acknowledges: ... , "I received my will back from you for [its] revocation" See S. R. Llewelyn, New Documents Illustrating Early Chris tianity 6(Sydney: Macquarie University, 1992), 41-47. BGU1.326 is a Greek translation of a Roman will on a wooden tablet covered with wax (tabulae ceratae) which includes a codicil; the Latin codicilli is transliterated here into Greek (); see P. W. Pestman, TL New Papyrological Primer (2d ed.; Leiden, New York, and Cologne: E. J. Brill, 1994), 199-205, which includes a nice photograph of the tablet. 23 William M. Ramsay, A Historical Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians (1900; repr., Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 351.



Ramsay's explanation is that earlier Greek law preserved under the Seleucids in Syria did not allow a testator to revoke or radically alter a registered will. Ramsay said that we can presume that this was the form of law still in force in the Galatian region in the eastern provinces to which Paul was writing. While Ramsay's position was certainly an ingenious solution to a perceived exegetical and historical problem, it makes Paul's use of testamentary law more technical than I believe is necessary. There is no reason to think that Paul was an expert in subde points of Greco-Roman law or that he was leading a tech nical discussion in Greco-Roman law in this passage. It would have been a remarkable feat for him to do so, because provincial law was quite fluid in the mid-first century due to prevailing local customs and direct and indirect inroads of Roman practices. Even legal experts of the time did not get everything right or conform precisely to correct testamentary procedures.24 And Paul's main interest in Gal 3:15 was merely to illustrate the greater issue of the divine administration of redemption with an allusion to legal practice as understood by any non- lawyer in antiquity (or today). In the end, the debate on the kind of testamentary law alluded to in Gal 3:15 deflects us from understanding Gal 3:15-22 properly and from the main point of Paul's analogy. I believe that it is better to see Paul's "no person" or "no one" () pre vented from changing or altering a will in the analogy as referring to the Mosaic law as in principle a kind of third party in the matter. This will be explained below, but the evidence for this view must be looked at briefly. The extant last wills found in the Egyptian papyri often include explicit notice that "no one" is to "transgress" the will's provisions. The following extract illustrating this point and some other features of ancient wills important for Gal 3:15-22 is from a copy of the will of a certain Acusilaus from A.D. 156: So long as I survive I am to have power over my property, to make whatever disposi tion I choose and to alter and revoke the present will, and whatever disposition I make shall be valid Anything that I append to the officially returned copy of the will, whether cancelling or supplementing or making bequests to other persons or with any other purpose, shall also be valid as if contained in the actual will; beyond this no one shall have any power at all to infringe it, and the party who infringes it shall forfeit to the party who abides by it the damages and a penalty of 2 silver talents and to the Treasury the like sum, the above provisions remaining none the less valid. This will is valid. (POxy. 494)25
24 A sufficient example for both points can be found in the younger Pliny, a Roman advocate before becoming Trajan's special governor of Bithynia, who failed out of ignorance to follow spe cial Egyptian regulations regarding acquisition of Roman citizenship for a freedman physician (Ep. 10.5-6,10-11), and who showed willingness to bend testamentary rules when acting as executor (Ep. 4.10 [where Pliny as executor has to consult "legal experts" on a certain point but acts contrary to their unanimous opinion]; and Ep. 5.7 ["This is null and void from the legal point of view, but clearly valid if one looks to the intention of the deceased"; L!L]). For the continuing validity of local laws in the provinces of the Roman Empire even after the constitute Antoniniana (A.D. 212) see Wolfgang Kunkel, An Introduction to Roman Ugal and Constitutional History (2d ed.; Oxford: Clarendon, 1973), 77-80. 25 ' v , ' .... '



The phrase specifying that "no one" () has the power to "transgress" () the stipulations of the will is a common feature of Greco-Roman 26 wills. Other examples from Oxyrhynchus sometimes specify in this clause that no one may tamper with the will , "for setting it aside" (e.g., POxy. 492, 9; 493, 9) which may connect with in Gal 3:15.1 am not suggesting that Paul is referring specifically to these formulaic clausesas I said, he is not being so technicalbut this bertretungsverbot clause communicates a commonly understood, universal feature of last wills: no one but the testator could alter or revoke his will, which was a matter involving his patria or domestica potestas.27 We should, then, regard the "no one" of Gal 3:15 as referring to someone other than the testator in Paul's analogy. It should be noted that this interpretation is not unanimously accepted as illustrated by this comment from S. R. Llewelyn: Another suggested solution is that Paul's use of (Gal. 3.15) referred not to the testator himself but to all those others who did not have the legal capacity to annul the will. The problem with this suggestion is that the illustration remains problematic, for surely its point is to show that the law does not annul the promise. However, both the law and the promise are the dispositions of the same God. The law is not a subsequent attempt (even though mediated through angels) by a second person to annul the promise made by God.28 As I hope to show, the problem Llewelyn sees for taking as someone other than the testator is precisely the point for which Paul is using the testa mentary illustration. Paul is presenting the law here as a sort of foreign prin ciple to the promissory arrangement, and, hence, as not having legal grounding to annul, alter, or to add different provisions to the terms of the original dispo sition. Paul is calling up a human analogy only for that one point; he is not giving an allegory where each element in the story corresponds to reality point for point. This sort of thing occurs elsewhere in Paul, for instance, in Rom 7:1-4 where Paul uses marriage and the death of a marriage partner to illustrate the
' [] , [, ] , . Text and translation from Hunt and Edgar, Select Papyri(LL; Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press and William Heinemann, 1932), 1:244-49, no. 84. 26 This clause was specifically aimed at one of the heirs who might try to alter the will in his favor. See esp. G. Klamp, "Das Testament der Taharpaesis: Eroflhungsprotokoll eines griechischen Testaments," %PE 2 (1968): 81-150 (particularly pp. 125-27) for discussion of mese clauses (bertretungsverhot und Strqfklausel) where he says: "In allen Testamenten aus Oxyrhynchos folgt auf die Erbverfiigungen ein hnliches bertretungsverbot" (p. 125). 27 Two fundamental areas of patria potestas in the Roman world were rights over the persons and property of iefamilia; see Gerhard Dulckeit, Fritz Schwarz, and Wolfgang Waldstein, RmiscL Rechtsgeschichte (9th ed.; Munich: C. H. Beck, 1995), 51-53, 64-65 for fundamental elements of Roman tus privatum ana pater potestas in this connection. 28 Llewelyn, New Documents 6, 46.



death of the believer to the law, or further on in Rom 7:7-9 where sin is hypostasized into a kind of bandit waiting in ambush for the unsuspecting Paul in order to put him to death. In these cases and in Gal 3:15like parables in the Gospelsthe analogy of the illustration does not give a comprehensive expla nation of all elements of the reality illustrated. IV The "Seed": Galatians 3:16 Moving from Gal 3:15 to 3:16 seems to move from the kettle into the fire. Doesn't Paul ignore the original intent in the Abrahamic "seed" promise to the collective seed by limiting it to the one Seed, Christ? "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, And to seeds,5 as referring to many, but rather to one, And to your seed,' that is, Christ" (NASB).29 There are, as to be expected, many explanations for Paul's procedure and intent here. It is possible tofindprecedent in Jewish exegesis for taking the "seed" promise in Genesis to refer to a single "seed," Isaac, as well as to the plural descendants of Israel.30 While the aposde may have compressed his interpretation a little bit, there are other indicators in Gal 3 and 4 which show why he regards the "seed" promises as Christocentric. The first and main foundation of Paul's argument is that the promises to Abraham were originally given with an orientation to their fulfillment in Christ, who came in fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant (Luke 1:72-73) as the child of promise (Luke 1:54-55). Paul says as much when he points out in Gal 3:8 that the promise was originally announced to Abraham as a "pre-preaching of the gospel" () with a future orientation to the "fullness of times" when God would send his own Son (Gal 4:4).31 By adding the here to , a verb that Paul uses so often for his own announcement of the message of Christ (e.g., Gal 1:8), he shows the continuity of the promise to Abraham with his own gospel as well as the fact that it was originally given as a proleptic announcement oriented toward the future fulfillment in Christ. Like wise, the land promise itself was only a token that Abraham was to be heir of the world (Rom 4:13), so that the "land of promise" (Heb 11:9) should really be viewed as a token of the world to come (Heb 11:8-10,13-16; see 2:5; Rev 21 -22, esp. 21:3, 7). This orientation to future fulfillment in the original revelation to Abraham undergirds Paul's interpretation of the "seed" promises as having their center in the Messianic Seed.
For the promises see Gen 12:7; 13:15; 15:18; 17:7-8; 18:18; 22:17-18; and 24:7. David Daube's point (TL New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism [London: Athlone, 1956], 438-44) that the phrase "to your seed" is found only in the land promise in Genesis, not in the promise of blessing to the nations, does not allow that Paul is systematizing the promises into their true eschatological orientation much as he does with the phrase "covenants of promise" in Eph 2:12. Note the plural "promises" in Gal 3:18. 30 Daube, New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism, 440. 31 See also Rom 4:23-24; 1 Cor 10:11 for the same orientation.



A second foundation for Paul's interpretation of the "seed" promise in Gal 3:16 is a federal (i.e., covenantal) principle. In older scholarship, there was dis 32 cussion of the notion of "corporate solidarity" between Christ and his people. Albert Schweitzer took this solidarity in a mystical way, but it is nothing other than a covenant solidarity between the federal surety, mediator, or head with his people which is so fundamental to covenant theology (Rom 5:12-21 ; Heb 7:22; etc.). This idea may be illustrated in modern law by a statutory agent's repre senting a corporation, upon whom, among other things, process may be served.33 Furthermore, note how the focus passes from Christ as one of the seed of Abraham in v. 16 to v. 19 where he is the main holder of the promise. This is expressed in the perfect tense form of in the phrase & , "until the seed should come for whom the promise was reserved." The perfect tense focuses upon the pending status and validity of the promise rather than on its historical issuance as would the aorist (cp. ai in v. 16).34 In other words, once the promise was given, the Seed to whom it was primarily given possessed it until he came. This is another clear indication that Christ is for Paul the center of all of God's promises, who, in the eternal counsel of God was foreknown to be the Seed to come (e.g., 1 Pet 1:20). Finally, Paul has good precedent for taking "seed" to have both a collective and a singular, eschatological referent. This interplay is found in thefirstprom ise regarding a "seed" (Heb. zero?) in Gen 3:15: "I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed [collective] and her seed [collective]; he [singular] shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his [singular] heel" (RSV). See also Gen 4:25 where Eve states that God has "appointed for me another seed" [Seth; Heb. zero?] in place of Abel. A similar interplay between the collec tive and singular referent to "seed" is found in the Davidic covenantal promise at 2 Sam 7:12.35
H. Wheeler Robinson popularized this notion in his Corporate Personality in Ancient Israel (1935; repr., Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980). A form of this idea is still prominent in . T. Wright's ideas. See also this comment on Gal 3:16 by Richard Longenecker: "The apostle is not just forcing a generic singular into a specific mold [in Gal 3:16].... Rather, he is invoking a corporate solidarity under standing of the promise to Abraham and the true representative of his people, and the Messiah's elect ones, as sharers in his experiences and his benefits, are seen as the legitimate inheritors of God's promises." Longenecker, Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 124. 33 My thanks to Mr. Richard Ball, Attorney at Law, for this illustration. For OT and LXX refer ences to the concept of surety and acting as a pledge see Gen 43:9; 44:32; Prov 6:1,3; 17:18; 19:28; 22:26; 28:17; Sir 8:13; 29:14, 19; and Tobit 6:13. 34 BDAG renders the phrase: "the offspring for whom the promise was intended" (q.v., ). . L. McKaywho has done extensive work on the perfect aspect in both classical and NT-era Greekrenders this phrase: "until the seed should come, for whom the promise stands," A New Syntax of the Verb in NT Greek (NewYork: Peter Lang, 1994), 151, and see 31-34 for general treatment of the perfect. The verb appears elsewhere in the NT in the perfect tense only in Rom 4:21 and Heb 12:26 where the same nuance is communicated; see the aorist of at Titus 1:2; Heb 6:13; 11:11. There are no LXX instances of the perfect for this verb. 35 For the linguistic issues see Jack Collins, "A Syntactical Note (Genesis 3:15): Is the Woman's Seed Singular or Plural?" TynBul 48 (1997): 139-48; see Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Tlieology (Grand



So then, Paul's interpretation of the "seed" promises as referring ultimately to Christ as the fundamental Promisee of the Abrahamic covenant is a use of federal representation in principle, but he looks at it in reverse. If it is only through federal union with Christ by faith that we can become the "seed" of Abraham in order to receive the true inheritance of eternal lifeas Paul clearly says in Gal 3:7, 29, and elsewherethen one can truly say that promises given to the collective "seed" belong fundamentally to the representative Seed through whom all promises are "yes" and "amen" (2 Cor 1:20). This principle of representative union is intertwined throughout our chapter of Galatians, particularly in Christ's taking upon himself the curse of the law by federal imputation (Gal 3:13). Paul knows that the singular word "seed" () can have a collective (plural) reference, since he uses it with that sense in Gal 3:29 for the true "seed" of Abraham who become by faith "heirs according to prom ise." He is not running roughshod over the Genesis revelation, but interpreting its genuine Christological orientation. V Abraharnic Covenant Is Inviolable: Galatians 3:17-18 With the statement, "Now I say this" ( ), Paul shows that he is concluding his testamentary analogy with its bearing on the divine covenant with Abraham.36 He indicates that the theological issue is rooted in redemptive history here by mentioning the 430-year interval and by saying that God had "previously ratified" () the Abrahamic covenant by the time that the law "came into being" ().37 The term () is not the normal term for "cutting" a covenant in the LXX (i.e., inaugurating it; Heb. karat); rather is regularly used, as, for instance, the LXX of Gen 15:18 for the "cutting" of the Abrahamic covenant.38 Paul uses the term "(previously) ratify" here in order to establish a link with the "last will and testament" anal ogy in v. 15 and to show further that this is what he had in mind with his anal ogy, even though in 3:17 refers to the covenantal arrangement. This latter point is clear also from the mention of the 430-year span from Abraham to the giving of the Mosaic law. What God established with Abraham was a covenant, which resembles a last will in that this covenant was an instrument for conveying the inheritance, but the covenant is also a broader instrument than a testament since it includes the notion of an oath-bound obligation which God
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), 54-55, who notes that although the referent to "seed" in Gen 3:15 is col lective, "Still, indirecdy the possibility is hinted at that in striking the fatal blow the seed of the woman will be concentrated in one person" (p. 54). On Jesus as the consummate seed of David see especially John 7:42; Rom 1:3; and 2 Tim 2:8. 36 See Longenecker, Galatians, 132. 37 The 430 years is usually seen as the interval from Abraham's call to enter Canaan to the Exo dus under Moses; e.g., Josephus, Ant. 2.318; see Bruce, Galatians, 173 or Longenecker, Galatians, 133 for discussion. 38 The word is found in the LXX only at Gen 23:20; Lev 25:30; and Dan 6:10 but not for inaugurating or "cutting" a covenant. For the phrase see Gen 21:27, 32; 26:28, 31:44; Exod 24:8; Deut 4:23; Josh 7:11; 1 Kgs 11:1; Ps 49:5; Isa 55:3; Jer 38:31; Hos 2:20; et al.; for the NT see Luke 22:29; Acts 3:23; Heb 8:10; and 10:16.



imposed upon himself "to demonstrate to the heirs of the promise the inviola bility of his counsel" (Heb 6:17) as well as the personal bond to be God to Abra 39 ham and to his seed (Gen 17:7-8, etc.). VI. The Law as Personal Obligation At this point, we must deal with a key point for understanding this passage. When Paul writes that the law ( ) could not nullify the previously instituted, divine covenant with Abraham, he avoids referring to the Mosaic law as a "cove nant," which it most clearly was.40 With this deft stroke, Paul shows that he is not thinking of the whole Mosaic revelation, which elsewhere he acknowledges also conveys the promissory element.41 Rather, Paul has strained out these other ele ments in order to focus upon what the Mosaic covenant particularly added to the stream of redemptive revelation: the imposition of personal obligation and a curse-sanction for transgression of its stipulations. This was an element not previ ously instituted except in the pre-lapsarian covenantal stipulation and sanction: "[F]or in the day that you eat of it you shall die" (Gen 2:17). Elsewhere, Paul indicates this development of the law covenant in the phrase "from Adam until Moses" (Rom 5:14). Paul says "from Adam until Moses" rather than, "from Adam until now" as could be expected, because the Mosaic law instituted a curse on anything less than perfect, personal obedience to its stipulations.42 Hence, though "death reigned" from Adam until the Mosaic "ministry of death" and "ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor 3:7, 9), death did not operate on the basis of personal "transgression" of a sanctioned command ment as it did for Adamwhich is the meaning of the phrase "even over those
39 See the flow of the argument in Heb 7:20-22 for the connection between oath and covenant; see Meredith G. Kline, By Oath Consigned (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), 13-25. OT scholars speak of the formula for the covenant bond ("I will be your God, and you will be my people") as fundamental to biblical revelation; e.g., Otto Kaiser, "The Law as Center of the Hebrew Bible," in "Sha*arei Tahnon": Studies in the Bible, Qumran, and the Ancient Near East Presented to Shemaryahu Tahnon Michael A. Fishbane and Emanuel ; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1992), 93-103, who writes: " [T]he covenantal formula is anything but an empty predicate. It is in fact the chief thread through the labyrinth of the Bible." Older covenant theologians like Francis Turretin spoke of thefirmula fcederis in the same way; see Turretin, Institutes, 2:179-80 and 232. 40 Exod 19:5; 24:8; et al. "There is no "}3 apart from the Law" (as cited in TDNT 2.128, which cites M. Ex., 12,6). Furthermore, there were covenants implied in each individual command ment in the Law (ibid., p. 129). 41 Implicit in Eph 2:12 and Rom 9:4 in particular. Kline notes: " [T]he Deuteronomic Covenant, considered within its broader historical framework and even in terms of its own total contents, con tains the element of divine promise. In fact, embedded among Deuteronomy's prophetic prospects is a divine oath guaranteeing the promise (Deut. 32:40ff.). Thus, there is grace along with law, the Deuteronomic renewal of the Sinaitic Covenant being similar to the latter in this respect, as we should naturally expect. Nevertheless, when we have in view the particular verbal and ritual process of ratification that transpired on a certain day in the plains of Moab and by which the Deuteronomic Covenant was constituted a covenant, then we must say that this covenant was based on Israel's oath of allegiance [i.e., Exod 19:8; 24:7] rather than on a bilateral oath" (By Oath Consigned, 19). 42 See especially Meredith G. Kline, "Gospel until the Law: Rom 5:13-14 and the Old Cove nant," JETS 34 (1991): 433-46. For the personal and perfect obligation of the Adamic covenant see Westminster Confession of Faith 7.2 which cites Gen 2:17 and Gal 3:10 in support.



who did not sin in the likeness of the transgression of Adam" (Rom 5:14 again). Paul uses "transgression" in key places with a meaning distinguishable from "sin" in that transgression is the violation of a published and sanctioned law code which imposes an obligation for obedience on the subjects: "All that the Lord has spoken we will do" (Exod 19:8; 24:7; emphasis added).43 This is his abbreviated point in v. 19 explaining that the law was "for the sake of transgres sions" (). "Sin is not reckoned when there is no law" (Rom 5:13), but once the law was instituted, sin was reckoned as a transgression (, Rom 5:20) as under the Adamic covenant. A law covenant in a post-lapsarian world can wreck nothing but havoc upon those who are "by nature children of wrath" (Eph 2:3; see Rom 7:5-24)hence, in such a situation no law can give life, otherwise righteousness would arise from the law which requires personal fulfillment (Gal 3:21). The law's fundamental purpose, then, must not be the basis for reception of the eternal inheritance. In contrast to this personal obligation of the law stands the promise, which is appropriated by faith in the substitutionary covenant mediator (or guarantor Heb 7:22) in whom all the promises are fulfilled. It is for this reason that Paul contrasts faith and law as two mutually exclusive options for receiving the inher itance (Gal 3:17-1 ).44 If God had given the law as the basis of inheritance, it would annul the promise, for one either inherits based on personal perfor mance and completion of the holy andrighteousdemands of the law (i.e., the in Gal 3:10, 12 and 5:3) or in the substitution of the mediator's perfor mance freely granted on the believer's behalf constituting an alien righteous ness from God to which the old covenant revelation itself"the Law and the Prophets"testifies (e.g., Rom 3:21-24). But thisrighteousnesscomes to us freely "apart from the law" (Rom 3:21) because it is notrighteousnessthat we have personally performed (Phil 3:9; Titus 3:5). This interpretation for Paul's use of the law is confirmed in a clear passage later in Galatians. Paul makes plain in Gal 5:2-5 that if a man does accept cir cumcision with a view to guaranteeing the inheritance of the promise, this act would sever him from Christ (v. 4) who would no longer profit () him at all (v. 2). Why not? Because he has thereby abandoned his "hope of righteous ness" that is based on faith ( ) (v. 5), and he is relying on a different
See esp. Gal 3:4-5; Rom 10:3-5. This is the fundamental distinction in covenant theology between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace expressed clearly by Herman Witsius: "In the covenant of works there was no mediator: in that of grace, there is the mediator Christ Jesus In the covenant of works, the con dition of perfect obedience was required, to be performed by man himself, who had consented to it. In that of grace, the same condition is proposed, as to be, or as already performed, by a mediator. And this substitution of the person, consists the principal and essential difference of the covenants" (Economy of iL Covenants, 1:49). The Westminster Standards stress personal obligation as the essence of the covenant of works with Adam: "The first covenant made with man was a covenant of works, wherein life was promised to Adam; and in him to his posterity, upon condition of perfect and per sonal obedience" (WCF 7.2).
44 43



principiai basis for justification, namely, through law ( ) (v. 4). What makes this basis impossible for the one attempting to be justified through the law (; v. 4) is that he has now been put under personal obligationhe is the debtor ()to fulfill all the law's demands for personal and per 45 fect obedience (v. 3). Paul expresses this clearly: "Now I testify again to every one who intends to be circumcised that he is obligated to fulfill the law completely" ( ). The aorist con veys a "consummative" or "resultative" nuance in this context denoting that the one who has the burden to do the law must completely fulfill all of its requirements.46 Another way to say this in Greek would be with the infinitive ("to fulfill"), which, interestingly, is found as a variant for in Gal 5:3 in a few manuscripts. Paul's use of in Gal 5:3 is obviously influ enced by the epexegetical in the LXX for Deut 27:26 which he had quoted (with minor additions) in Gal 3:10, but he accepts the LXX interpreta tion and carries it forward by stressing that it is the whole law ( ) which must be completed. This is crucial background to the extraordinary cap stone of Paul's argument in Gal 3:20. VII. Until the Seed Comes: Galatians 3:19 If the foregoing analysis of the character of the Mosaic law covenant is cor rect, it naturally raises the question in the reader's mind: "Why then the law?" Paul anticipates this question (Gal 3:19a) and answers with a truncated, "It was added for the sake of transgressions" (3:19b). We should not puzzle too long over the precise significance of the preposition rendered "for the sake of" (), for Paul's answer is hurried. It contains a certain amount of ambiguity, which must characterize quick, general answers to complex questions.47 Like wise, his other answers given in the next few verses about the law "locking us up" and "guarding us" like a child's slave-guardian () (Gal 3:22-25),
in Gal 5:4 is conative; see BDF 319 and many modern versions. On the "consummative," "effective," or "resultative" idea for the aorist see Buist Fanning, Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990), 263-65 (and pp. 394-95 for infini tives); see Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1920), 1926. Verbs that denote a process of some sort may have this consummative nuance. The verb has a number of meanings, but here "to do the law" expressed with a present infinitive would be to engage in actions (i.e., ) in fulfillment of the law's stipulations: "to practice the law" (so John 7:19); see $ (1 Chron 22:12; LXX). An equivalent phrase would be "to practice righteousness" ( ; e.&, Matt 6:1 ; 1 John 3:7,10; see Gen 18:9; 24:49; 2 Kgs 8:15; and Ezek 18:5 in the LXX) in contrast with the "practice" of sin ( ; e.g., 1 John 3:4,6). Hence we could expect a present infinitive here if no con summative idea were intended (e.$, , Josh 22:5; LXX).
46 47 The use of the preposition with its object preceding accounts for the variant reading of in a few manuscripts (including P 46 ) in place of . Remove the punctuation and question mark in modern editions and you see what a scribe saw atfirstglance: (!), or, more precisely: given ancient writing conventions. 45




are somewhat elliptical and will need explication from other sources. But the one point of contact between v. 19 and those statements is that the particular form of law given by Moses was looking forward to the time of fulfillment in the 49 Seed, until the faith in that Seed should be revealed (3:19c and 23). Once again Paul's Christocentric orientation dominates his analysis of redemptive history. In the last phrase of v. 19, Paul echoes other biblical and extra-biblical voices which point to the angelic authentication of the Mosaic law, for it was "com manded by angels through the hand of a mediator."50 This mediation is fre quently interpreted by commentators as Paul expressing his "deprecation" of the law "as not given directly by God."51 Furthermore, the mediation of Moses, clearly expressed in the phrase "by the hand of a mediator" in v. 19 is interpreted to the same effect at the law's expense.52 This interpretation, how ever, misses Paul's point and deflects us from the line of thought that leads natu rally to v. 20. Let me explain by turning at last to our target verse. VIII. God Is One: Galatians 3:20 As a statement in isolation, Gal 3:20 poses no exceptional problems. A couple of points of grammar call for brief notice, but beyond these the verse is easy enough to understand by itself. First, the article with the phrase can be read in three ways. It could possibly be pronominal as used in narrative, particularly with conjunctive : "Now he is not a mediator of one (party)." While this is grammatically pos sible, the sense and flow of the sentence and of the same construction in the following clause do not support it. The second and third options are those nor mally discussed and decided between: the article is either anaphoric, referring back to Moses as mediator in v. 19d ("Now, this mediator, Moses, is not of one"). Or the article is generic, which is used with a noun employed as a specific example illustrating a group or class of referents: "Now, a mediator is not of one."53 My opinion is that the noun here is generic, though the result of this
48 For a thorough treatment of ancient material on , see Norman H. Young, "Paidagogos: The Social Setting of a Pauline Metaphor," NovT29 (1987): 150-76. 49 This is similar to other biblical statements about OT events and institutions which have an eschatological orientation; e.g., Moses was appointed a servant in the household of God "as testi mony to the things which would be revealed in the future" (Heb 3:5). 50 See most notably Acts 7:38,53 and Heb 2:2. See Longenecker (Galatians, 139-40) for discussion and extra-biblical references. The notion of the law covenant being "commanded" (Heb. tswah) is frequent in the OT; e.g., "all these words [the covenant stipulations] which the LORD had commanded them" (Exod 19:7; see v. 5). 51 See Riesenfeld, "The Misinterpreted Mediator," 409; Burton, ICC, 189; Longenecker, Gala tians, 140; and Schlier, Galater, 158. 52 Paul's phrase in Gal 3:19d is which clearly echoes the OT expression that God promulgated the law "by the hand of Moses"; e.g., . . . (Lev 26:46; LXX). Although appears as a simple dative of means in some places (e.g., Gal 6:11), it does not appear with instrumental elsewhere in the NT as in the Gal 3:19 phrase, which represents the Hebrew idiom, 1^3; "by" (KBL). 53 See BDF 251-52 for the three uses of the Greek article. Wright ("Seed and Mediator," 169) curiously says that the generic use of the article is not normally used with singular nouns, but with



preference is not substantially different from choosing the article as anaphoric. In any interpretation of the article, the referent of "mediator" in v. 20 is still Moses. Paul refers to a self-evident principle that a mediator is not employed when there is only one party in the transaction. Since God is one, there was no mediation of the promise to this Seed-to-come (v. 19), who was the founda tional heir (v. 16 and discussion above). As we will see, this general principle is invoked to show that Moses was not mediating the promise when he mediated the law. Secondly, there is an ellipsis of the predicate noun to which the genitive is connected in the predication: , "Now, a mediator is not (mediator) of one (party)." This is perfecdy understandable since would have been expressed twice as both subject and predicate; normal Greek style prefers ellipsis rather than this sort of redundancy. The same ellipsis with a genitive and a copulative sentence is found elsewhere.54 Paul's assertion of the unity of God, of course, originates in the shema of Deut 6:4, which was the banner of the monotheistic Jew in a polytheistic world.55 For Paul to invoke the shema in support of his theology was the most natural thing in the world for him. In this verse, as he does elsewhere, Paul brilliandy employs the shema to ground Christianity on this central tenet of the OT faith and revelation. Christianity is the consummate expression of the one way of redemption by faith alone under all administrations of the covenant of grace.56 And in this case in Gal 3:20, it is the tri-unity of God which undergirds Paul's teaching on redemption. And so, the genius of Paul's point in v. 20 can now be apprehended and inte grated into the flow of his argument. The law was indeed issued by divine authority through angelic and Mosaic mediation. However, the promised inheritance was not being mediated anew by the imposition of this lawcovenant at Sinai. If it had been, this would constitute a breach and annulment of the prior promissory arrangement granted to Abraham and to his seed, for law and promise are incompatible principles of inheritance. Not even a human disposition of inheritance can be altered in this way by some outside party. And Moses, as mediator, has to be viewed as a kind of third party to the disposition between the Father and the Seed-to-come.
plural nouns, and cites Nigel Turner (MHT 3.180-81) in support. Turner says just the opposite, however: "The principle of the generic art. is to select a normal or representative individual" and allows that a generic article may be used with some plural nouns like or . The same is true for classical grammar: "In the singular the generic article makes a single object the repre sentative of the entire class; in the plural it denotes all the objects belonging to a class" (Smyth, Greek Grammar, 1123). 54 2 Cor 2:3: , "My joy is (the joy) of all of you." We should also note that the common conjunction is merely connective in itsfirstuse, and explanatory in its second use: , , so we can paraphrase: "Now, a mediator is not mediator of one party, whereas God is one." 55 The Nash Papyrus from the second century B.C. contains the ten commandments and the beginning of the shema, and is seen as evidence for recitation of the shema at an early period; see "Shema," Encjud 14.1370-74 and "Nash Papyrus," Encjud 12.833; see William E Albright, "A Bib lical Fragment from the Maccabaean Age: The Nash Papyrus," JBL 56 (1937): 145-76 for dating. 56 Other places are Rom 3:29-30 and 1 Tim 2:4-7; see Eph 4:5-6.



And now Paul's clinching argument of v. 20: The law of Moses did not mediate the promised inheritance because the promise to Abraham ultimately originates in a divine promissory agreement between the Father and the Son who was to come (v. 19). No one can mediate between these two parties to the covenantal agreement, for they are both members of the one, triune God. They are not, in fact, two separate parties, but represent the one God originating and effecting our redemption. This is Paul's clinching demonstration that the Mosaic law and the principle of personal law-keeping (pyoc ) was never intended to become a new foundation for receiving the inheritance of eternal life: it could not be so, for to be such would be to divide the Godhead through some sort of impossible mediation. Moses was not mediating the promise to us, for he would have had to mediate the promise to the Son also, but no such mediation is possible within the unity of the divine counsel. That eternal, intratrinitarian arrangement can not be nullified, abrogated, or even mediated by human agency because it was made between the members of the Triune God, and God is one. To interpose the Mosaic Law between the One who promised and the One who received the promise would be tantamount to denying the unity of God. To invoke the shema in support of his hyper-Jewish opponents was a brilliant stroke. That this is the correct interpretation is further corroborated by the direction of thought in the verses that follow. If Moses did not and could not mediate the promise, the question naturally arises whether we should view the issuing of the law by Mosaic and angelic mediation as somehow interfering with the promises of God in redemptive history (v. 21). But Paul flady denies this false implication ( ). The law was given for reasons other than in order to substitute for faith in the inheritance of the promise. As mentioned above: it was added in redemptive history for transgressions (v. 19); for locking up all under sin (v. 22); and for placing the people of God under a guardianship proper for minors (i.e., ), even though to all appearances the minor heirs were no different from slaves (4:1-3), until Christ should purchase "those who are under the law" from this bondage to the Mosaic law's condemnation (3:13; 4:5). One could even say that the Mosaic law was necessary as the covenantal administration of a works principle for the Second Adam to fulfill, for it was therighteousnessof the law which Christ fulfilled (Matt 3:15; 5:17-29; Rom 3:21-22, 31; 5:12-21; 8:4; etc.) and it was the specific curse of the Mosaic law which he took upon himself in the stead of the seed of Abraham (3:13; see John 8:46;2Cor 5:21; 1 Pet3:18) as guarantor and mediator of the new covenant (esp. Heb 7:22; 8:6; 9:14-15). IX. Blind Alleys There follow on the heels of this interpretation of Gal 3:20 two potential misunderstandings or improper implications beyond the one which Paul him self already noticed.57 First, by denying mediation of the promise on the intratrinitarian level in v. 20, Paul is not denying mediation of the new covenant by Christ, who is the mediator of all of God's promises (e.g., 2 Cor 1:20). Christ
As discussed above, Gal 3:21 heads off an improper conclusionfromPaul's assertion in v. 20: the Mosaic law was not a mistake or a disruption of the promises in the history of redemption.



plays precisely this mediatorial role in the development of Paul's argument in Gal 3 when the promises given to Abraham were seen as fundamentally given to Christ as covenant mediator (w. 16,19), so that it is only in union with Christ by faith that these promises are conveyed to anyone, whether Jew or Gentile (w. 28-29; see Rom 4:9-25). The incarnate Son of God is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5), butand this is the point of Gal 3:20the pactum salutis has no such mediation. It is precisely this lack of and impossibility of mediation of the divine disposition which Paul invokes in order to show the eternal, unalterable foundation of the new covenant in the eternal, unalterable counsel of God (see Heb 6:13-18).58 Although we know precious few details about the secret counsel of God of which we are speaking here (see Deut 29:29), we can say that it exists and that the historical new covenant "assumes" and "is founded upon" the pactum salutis.59 The second potential implication could lead to profound theological prob lems. To say that Christ as the Seed-to-come receives the promises could make it appear that the incarnate Son received his inheritance by grace through faith in the same way that the other heirs do. After all, the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed, and the foundational Seed is Christ (v. 16) who holds the promise () until he comes into the world (v. 19). The full answer to this question could be the subject of another article; however, Gal 3:21-22 pro vide sufficient material to head off this error.60 First, we must recognize that Paul does not overtly speak on the issue of the basis of Christ's reception of the promises in this passage. In v. 20, he merely asserts that the intratrinitarian covenant was not mediated. And he does clearly assert that the promises of God regarding the inheritance were given to Christ as promises. What could possibly be at work here is the Pauline notion of Christ as our elder brother and therefore thefirstbornSon who shares his inheritance with us as co-heirs of resurrection and eternal life (e.g., Rom 8:17 and Titus 3:67). Christ must inherit in order for us to inherit. Yet the basis of the inheritance for us is promissory; therefore, it cannot be based on our law-keeping and per sonal obedience, but rather on faith in Christ and a resulting vital union with him through the Spirit (w. 9, 11, 14, 18; Rom 4:14; etc.). But we can assert that the basis for reception of the promised inheritance for Christ can be different from its basis for us because of what Paul says in w. 2 lb22. The reason why we cannot inherit on the basis of personal law-keeping is
58 See also the force of the argument in Heb 7:20-22 that because an oath undergirds the high priesthood of Christ, this makes him guarantor of a new covenant. 59 The language here is that of Hermann Witsius: Prior conventio Dei cum mediatore est: posterior Dei cum electis. Haec illam supponili, et in illamdatur, quoted by Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:359. 60 A more fundamental objection to this error is to point out that our faith in Christ is specifically an appropriation of him as our federal head, our substitute. We have already seen this in Gal 3:13-14 when Christ took upon himself the law's curse on our behalf as our federal representative to guarantee that we might receive the promised inheritance in him. If Christ is supposed to exercise "faith" in this fashion, who is the covenant mediator in whom he could have believed? Who acted in his stead? For "faith" and "believing" in the sense in which Paul uses it here and elsewhere, is precisely this robust reception of the gift of God granted by the substitution of the covenant mediator.



thatapart from Christwe are wholly sold under slavery to sin and the curse of the law (w. 13, 22a; Rom 3:9-19; etc.). Indeed, the introduction of the Mosaic law into redemptive history served to turn the key on the prison doors so that no other portal remains open for our inheriting the blessing except through "the faith which was going to be revealed" (in the advent of Christ) (w. 22-23; see Rom 7:5-25). In other words, what makes inheritance by law impossible for us is the fact that "there is no onerighteous,no not even one!" (Rom 3:10). But this is not true of Jesus Christ, therighteousone, who knew no sin (2 Cor 5:21 ; Heb 4:15; 1 John 2:2; etc.). So, for us, the hypothetical situation, "For if a law could be issued which had the ability to make alive (), then truly righteousness would have been based on law" (v. 2 lb), must ever remain hypothetical after the fall of Adam.61 For the verb here refers to the regeneration of the believer that connects him to Christ's resurrection and ultimately results in his resurrection at the Parousia (Eph 1:18-21; 1 Cor 15:22-23; etc.). No law has the power to make alive; it can only condemn. But for the Second Adam, this situation did not apply, because he did not need to "be made alive" in the same sense. Christ was not "born again," because he was not dead in trespasses to begin with.62 This means that the contra-factual condition in v. 2 lb thatrighteousnesscannot come by way of law for us is factual for Christ. Indeed, the Son of God was born under the law at his incarnation for precisely this purpose (Gal 4:4): to bring in arighteousnessfrom God to be imputed to us so that God would be just and at the same time the justifier of the guilty (e.g., Rom 5:12-21). In the end, this is just the answer to this issue already presented in classical covenant theology, which holds that the pactum salutis was a covenant of works for the Second Adam, because the Son came with the obligation to personally and perfectly fulfill the "task" () specified in the intratrinitarian compact which became the historical basis for his claim on the stipulated reward and inheritance (John 17:4-5).63 This provides the theological basis for the imputation of the
61 The variant readings for NA27's reading: fjvincluding the dropping out of in D* and a few other MSSdo not affect the meaning The conditional particle (or ) is not absolutely necessary for a contra-factual condition; see Smyth 2313-20 for examples in clas sical Greek; Boyer, "Second Class Conditions in New Testament Greek," GTJ 3 (1982): 82 n. 6 for NT examples; see Michael Winger, "Unreal Conditions in the Letters of Paul" JBL 105 (1986): 110-12 (which addresses Gal 2:21 and 3:21 in particular). 62 Christ Jesus was "made alive" in resurrection, but only after he had borne our sins in his body on the tree; it was not for his own sin or through an inherited guilt as for us. 63 Expressed admirably by Louis Berkhof: "Though the covenant of redemption is the eternal basis of the covenant of grace, and as far as sinners are concerned, also its eternal prototype, it was for Christ a covenant of works rather than a covenant of grace. For Him the law of the original covenant applied, namely, that eternal life could only be obtained by meeting the demands of the law. As the last Adam Christ obtains eternal life for sinners in reward for faithful obedience, and not at all as an unmerited gift of grace. And what He has done as the Representative and Surety of all His people, they are no more in duty bound to do. The work has been done, the reward is merited, and believers are made partakers of the fruits of Christ's accomplished work through grace" (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 268).



active obedience of Christ to believers that is so essential to the Protestant doctrine of justification. X. Summary and Conclusion The interpretation of Gal 3:20 offered here flows particularly out of an analysis of v. 15 running through v. 22.1 view v. 15 as Paul invoking an analogy from testamentary practices of the day, which prohibited any party who was not the testator from emending or annulling a last will and testament. This would have been understood across the broad spectrum of ancient legal situations in antiquityas indeed it is so understood todaywithout any special legal training or involving a legal practice restricted to some particular region. What makes understanding v. 15 correctly so important is that it clarifies the purpose of Paul's analogy. It shows us that the law, represented by Moses its mediator, is incompatible with the promissory Abrahamic covenant when put to the wrong use. In v. 17, Paul applies this analogy to this effect by saying the law could not annul the inheritance by changing the principiai basis of inheritance from a gracious grant "from faith" to a basis of personal law-keeping. The new covenant represents direct continuity with the Abrahamic covenant on this score, and Paul emphasizes this point by declaring us heirs alongside Abraham repeatedly in this chapter (w. 6-9, 14, and 29). In covenant theology, this continuity and development is expressed when we confess that Christ represents the substance of the one covenant of grace inaugurated immediately after the fall and yet administered in different ways in the course of redemptive history.64 However, Paul moves briefly but most profoundly behind the historical development of the covenant of grace into the eternal realm in w. 19-20. What started him in this direction was when he mentioned that the terminus ad quern of the Mosaic administration of lawwhich served in part as a "ministry of condemnation" for transgressions (v. 19; 2 Cor 3:9)was the arrival of the Seed to whom the promises given to Abraham were ultimately oriented. The clear assumption here is that the Seed existed before he came, for the promises were spoken to him when Abraham heard them. This, incidentally, is why Paul has to comment that the Son of God was "born of a woman" when he did finally come in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4), for the Son did not come in his divine glory, but in servile guise as a true man (Phil 2:6- 8). This was not a ^hywphany^ but a genuine incarnation. So then, once Paul has reflected on the Son's pre-incarnate existence in Gal 3:19, it was quite natural for him to clinch his argument about the impossibility of changing the basis of inheritance from grace, faith, and promise to that of personal obligation and law-keeping by invoking the intratrinitarian life of God as the foundation of the covenant with Abraham. He was already dwelling on the eternal existence of the Son as Seed-to-come. When Paul does clinch his argument, he does so in the most profound way, a way which has puzzled interpreters who were unable or unwilling to follow Paul into the heavens. The mediation of the law through angels by the hand of Moses
E.g., Westminster Confession of Faith, 7.5-6.



was not an "eternal ordinance ordained and written in the heavenly tablets"65 and thereby representing an intractable principle of inheritance of God's promises overthrowing faith in Christ. Rather, the promises of God to a fallen world are rooted in his sovereign, intratrinitarian counsel, traditionally called the pactum salutis, which Moses did not and could not mediate, for God is one.

This phrase refers to the law of circumcision in Jubilees 15:25-26 (2nd cent. B.C.).

^ s
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