Where Galatians 3:6 fits: A Validation Problem

In the exegesis class I teach at DTS a major skill we teach is validation, otherwise known as problem solving, and referred to by one of my colleagues simply as PSV (you know who you are, Dr. Fantin!). When doing exegetial work, we regularly and frequently come across problems in the text which usually have more than one good answer. Validation seeks not simply to pick a good answer but to prove it (validate it) with data from the text as support. It’s not a matter of simply citing commentaries but rather of finding the best views, surveying the evidence for and against them, and then making an informed decision. Here’s an example of validation regarding Galatians 3:6:

3:6 Just as Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (NET Bible)

The exegetical question about this verse is where it fits in the text.[1] The conjunction καθώς (“just as”) at the beginning of v. 6 does not naturally or simply connect either to what precedes or what follows. Verse 5 makes a logical, final statement both in terms of structure and content, then v. 7 begins with a natural use of the conjunction ἄρα (“thus, so”). So the wording of v. 6 and how it fits here is an open question. There are a number of arguments to support placing v. 6 with the following material (so NA28, contra UBS5). Concerning the function and meaning of καθώς, BDAG places this occurrence of the conjunction under the very first category of meaning: “of comparison, just as, w. οὕτως foll.” A clarification is supplied, however: “The accompanying clause is somet. to be supplied fr. the context.”[2] If this assessment is accurate, the implied sentence would be inferred from what follows as an intermediate step in the logic: “Just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness, [so also us.] Therefore you know that those who are [justified] by faith, these are the sons of Abraham.” A strongargument for taking v. 6 with what follows is content: The topic shifts in chapter 3 at this point from the Galatians’ errors to the faith of Abraham, which is central to the entirety of the discussion which follows. This citation would thus serve to illustrate the problem which Paul highlights in vv. 1–5 and then transition to the major topic for this part of his argument. In this construal καθώς would retain its relatively normal function of comparison: Paul here compares Abraham’s faith in God, which leads to justification, to the same reality for himself and other believers. Against this connection of v. 6 to what follows would be a literary, rhetorical argument from v. 7. Longenecker states, “Also to be observed is the fact that the disclosure formula of 3:7 (γινώσκετε ἄρα ὅτι, ‘you know, then, that’), which draws a conclusion from the quotation of Gen 15:6 in 3:6, provides a transition to the extended argument from Scripture in 3:6–4:10.»”[3] Since the disclosure formula makes a strong beginning, v. 6 has to bring the preceding material to an end, so to speak. Similarly, the conjunction ἄρα very often indicates a new discourse segment which draws a conclusion from the preceding material; its normal use is not to draw a conclusion from a dependent clause, although it can be used in that fashion on occasion (e.g., Gal 2:21). Also against taking v. 6 with what follows are numerous places where Paul logically concludes an argument with a καθώς clause, frequently with a scripture citation (as in Rom 1:17; 2:24; 3:4, 10; 4:17; 8:36; 9:13; 9:29, 33; 10:15; 11:8, 26; 15:3, 9, 21; 1 Cor 1:31; 10:7; 2 Cor 6:16; 8:15; 9:9), although these are mitigated somewhat because almost all use the verb γέγραπται as well. A decision here is not easy, but I am swayed by the similar content in v. 6 and what follows: Abraham’s faith and its result is highlighted through the citation in v. 6, and analogously faith and its benefits for all are highlighted in the argument which follows. On that basis I favor the arrangement of the NA28 text which has v. 6 joined to the material which follows.

  1. UBS5 divides the first two sections of this chapter between vv. 6 and 7 (so also ESV); NA28 divides the first two sections of this chapter between vv. 5 and 6 (so also NET, NIV).  ↩

  2. BDAG 493.  ↩

  3. Longenecker, Galatians, 11.  ↩