"The Israel of God": The Narrative Rhetoric of Paul's Letter to the Galatians Open Access

Adams, Richard Manly (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5m60qs062?locale=en


This study applies literary and rhetorical analysis to Paul's letter to the Galatians, reading the argument through the eyes of the letter's implied reader. Positioned between prevailing rhetorical and narrative approaches to the letter, the study argues that Galatians functions as a rhetorical construction of the community's narrative self-identity, an identity Paul labels at the end of the letter as the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), a community defined by the presence and outward manifestation of the Spirit. Competing against alternate interpretations of the meaning of the Galatians' experience with the Spirit, Paul's argument is best understood as an emplotment of this experience within an unfolding narrative of the Israel of God, a narrative that began with the promises to Abraham, continued under a period of enslavement under sin for which the law was introduced as a temporary solution, and turned to freedom with the appearance of Christ, the seed of Abraham. Paul identifies the Galatians, unified through baptism, as this seed of Abraham, evidence of the end of the law's efficacy. This reconstructed narrative identity functions as Paul's answer to the rhetorical situation that prompts the letter. Using the narrative function explored by Paul Ricoeur, set within the apostle's Greco-Roman rhetorical milieu identified through elementary rhetorical exercises, formal rhetorical handbooks, and speeches made by Paul's rough contemporaries, this study identifies the construction of narrative identity through emplotment of the past as Paul's manner of deliberative rhetoric. After establishing a reading methodology from modern (ch. 2) and ancient (ch. 3) sources, the study consists in three exegetical chapters, tracing how Paul's construction of past events forms an argument about the Galatians' future belief and behavior.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Narrative and Rhetoric in Galatians

Time and Narrative in Galatians

"The Israel of God"

Narrative Rhetoric in Galatians

Narrative (and) Rhetoric in Galatians Scholarship

"Narrative" in Galatians

"Rhetoric" in Galatians

The Narrative of this Study

Chapter 2 Defining Narrative Rhetoric: An Analytical Approach

Reading with Aristotle Between Rhetoric and Poetics

Galatians within Paul Ricoeur's Mimetic Spiral

Ricoeur's Narrative Function and Aristotle's Poetics

Ricoeur and the Paradox of ΜUΘΟΣ and ΜΙΜΗΣΙΣ

Ricoeur's Three Stages of Mimesis

Reading the Narrative Rhetoric of Galatians

Defining Terms

A "Method" for Reading Narrative Rhetoric


Chapter 3 Defining Narrative Rhetoric: A Practical Approach

Narrative Rhetoric in the Ancient Rhetorical Handbooks, Part 1

A Demonstration of the Handbooks' Limitations: Dio Chrysostom's First Kingship Oration

Narrative Rhetoric in the Progymnasmata

An Introduction to the Progymnasmata

The Pedagogical Strategy of the Progymnasmata

Aelius Theon on Narrative

The Criterion for Construction: Audience in the Progymnasmata

Narrative Rhetoric in the Ancient Rhetorical Handbooks, Part 2

Narrative Rhetoric in Ancient Analytic Discourse

Narrative Rhetoric in Ancient Literary Criticism

Narrative Rhetoric in Ancient Historiography

"I myself would not tell all the achievements of the Savior": Reading Narrative Rhetoric in the Sacred Tales of Aelius Aristides

"Now I have not told this long story idly": Reading Narrative Rhetoric in the Orations of Dio Chrysostom


Chapter 4 The Narrative Rhetoric of Paul's Past

The Introduction of Narrative Rhetoric into Galatians

The Nature of The Gospel (1:10-12)

Paul's Narrative of Reversal (1:13-24)

The Galatians' Reading of Paul's Narrative

Paul's Defense of the Truth of the Gospel (2:1-10)

Mimetic and Thematic Response in Jerusalem

The Contrasting Example of Cephas (2:11-14)

O You Foolish Galatians! Paul's Argument "In Front of Everyone" (2:14b-21 and 3:1)


Chapter 5 Constructing Israel's Story

Narrative Rhetoric in Galatians 3-4

A Jewish Emplotment of Gentiles

Paul's Appeal to Narrative Identity at 4:12

The Beginning of Israel's Story: God's Promises to Abraham

The Law and Narrative

The End of the Law's Efficacy I: The Redemption of Christ

The End of the Law's Efficacy II: The Galatians as the Seed of Abraham

A Legal Explanation of The Galatians' Role in the Narrative of Israel (4:1-7)

Paul's "Legal" Critique of the Law

Constructing Narrative Through Sarah and Hagar


Chapter 6 The Law of Christ and the Israel of God: Exhortation as Emplotment

The Problem of the Indicative and the Imperative in Galatians 5-6

A Historical Integration of Paul's Exhortation

A Christological Integration of Paul's Exhortation

Paul's Narrative Moral Reasoning in Galatians 5-6

The Galatians and Circumcision (5:1-6)

Paul's Illustration of Faith Energized By Love

The Law of Christ

The Israel of God: The Narrative Rhetoric of Paul's Argument to the Galatians

A Select Bibliography of Modern Sources

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