Jens Schröter, Galatians 1.6-7, and the Greek Scholars

Since they are included in a collection of essays that is especially associated with historiography and New Testament scholarship, Jens Schröter’s two chapters on Galatians in From Jesus to the New Testament could easily be missed. To my mind, however, they both merit the attention of Pauline scholars. In particular, since Galatians 1:6-7 is such a striking and important verse, I am hopeful that Schröter’s interpretation of this key text in chapter 7 will gain a hearing in the commentary literature and beyond (cf. Joel Willitts appreciation of its significance). And since part of Schröter’s argument involves a reassessment of the semantic relationship of ἕτερος and ἄλλος, I would be delighted to see this part of the essay subjected to critical evaluation by the group of scholars who are most qualified to assess it—namely, those scholars who have established themselves as leading authorities in Greek lexicography or, more broadly, in the application of linguistic insights to the New Testament. In other words, I hope that this post will provoke one or several of them to respond to Schröter in the Blogosphere or in the context of a conference paper or journal article.

Before turning to two key quotes from Schröter’s essay, however, let me first pause for a moment and encourage all my readers to check out and follow the recently established “Zürich New Testament blog,” which will undoubtedly be a great resource for everyone interested in engaging with ‘German’ New Testament scholarship! Indeed, I am hoping against hope that Zürich might prove to be the first fruits of a full harvest of New Testament blogs associated with leading universities in the German-language sphere. We’ll see.

Returning to Schröter, I will provide two key quotations (only in English this time). The first  will showcase his understanding of the semantic relationship of ἕτερος and ἄλλος (this is the part of the essay where I think the Greek scholars among us are especially well qualified to weigh in). The second quotation represents Schröter’s paraphrase and interpretation of Gal 1.6-7 on the basis of his understanding of the overall argument of these verses (evaluating this material thus requires more – but not less! – than an evaluation of his interpretation of ἕτερος and ἄλλος).

I. ἕτερος and ἄλλος (Is he right, Greek scholars?!)

From Jesus to the New Testament (pp. 133-153, esp. 137-146): (141) However, the exchangeability of ἕτερος and ἄλλος, even if it occurs in Paul himself, does not yet prove that the meaning-specific characteristics of the terms were lost, thus that one is to start not merely from a referential but also from a lexical synonymity. … (142) With regard to the sentence in question, one should start from the syntactical observation that ἕτερος is negated through ἄλλος. This speaks against assuming a synonymous relation or de facto replacing ἄλλος through εὐαγγέλιον in the interpretation. … (143) Ramsay emphasized the fact that while both terms can take on the meaning “different,” this does not answer the question of which of the two expresses the higher degree of difference when they are placed in syntactical opposition to each other. … (144) Zahn thus observes very precisely the semantic difference between ἕτερος and ἄλλος when he distinguishes between an additional gospel and the question of its difference in kind. … As far as I can see, among recent interpretations a correct semantic description of the findings is found—besides the already mentioned statement of Brigitte Kahl on the relative sentence in 1.7—only with François Vouga. He writes, “unlike Gal 1.19, but as in 2 Cor 11.4, ἕτερος and ἄλλος are precisely distinguished: the alternative message (alter), to which the Galatians turn cannot be gospel because there cannot be a different (alius) gospel at all.” … (145) the interpretations of Ramsay and Zahn as well as the statements of Kahl and Vouga lead to the right interpretation, which also allows the point of the Pauline argument to appear somewhat different. First, it is rightly emphasized in these interpretations that with ἕτερος, when it stands in opposition to ἄλλος, it is not a greater degree in difference that is expressed but an enumerative sense; secondly, it is pointed out that ὅ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο can hardly be interpreted as a negation of the existence of the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον. Thus Paul’s concern in Galatians 1.6 is not to dispute the existence of a second form of the εὐαγγέλιον. Rather, he grants that there is such an additional form of the proclamation of the εὐαγγέλιον (a ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον) alongside his own. This is not, of course, to be understood in the sense of a concession to his rivals! Instead, it follows from verse 7 that it is only through the distortion of the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ that the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον becomes an ἄλλο εὐαγγέλιον, the following of which represents a turning from God.

II. Schröter’s paraphrase and Interpretation of Gal 1.6-7

(146) A paraphrase of the analyzed sentence thus reads: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to another gospel. This would not at all stand in contradiction to the one that I proclaimed to you if certain people would not confuse you and distort the gospel of Christ.” As the result of this section the following can thus be maintained: the argument of Paul in Galatians 1.6-7 is that his opponents wrongly claim that there is another (ἕτερον, alter) legitimate form of the gospel that is materially different (ἄλλο, alius) from his own. With this he does not fundamentally deny that there is another form of gospel proclamation altogether. It is decisive, however, that this other gospel (ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον) stands on the same basis as his own. Thus the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον may not be an ἄλλο εὐαγγέλιον because it would then no longer be εὐαγγέλιον. The contestation of this unity of the gospel makes the alternative form of its proclamation a distortion of the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ and thus misleads the Galatians to turn away from God. Thus, Paul is concerned to emphasize the unity of the one gospel in two forms. What this unity consists in will be investigated in the next section.

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2 thoughts on “Jens Schröter, Galatians 1.6-7, and the Greek Scholars

  1. Thanks for pointing people to our blog, Wayne. And the question you raise is also very interesting. Unfortunately, I am not familiar with the relevant issues and I do not even have Schröter here right now. But does he offer examples of cases where both words are “placed in syntactical opposition to each other”? Generally, I would be skeptical regarding the distinctiveness of the two terms since they are used so often together to refer to “the one and the other.” Also, taking a very (!) quick look at the TLG corpus – they seem to be used often in the very same context usually simply for stylistic reasons (to avoid repetition): See, for example, Philo, Somn. 2.136. But the syntagmatic relationship in Gal 1:6-7 is, indeed, special. In my quick search I did not see any examples where one thing is characterized as being ἕτερος but at the same time as not being ἄλλος. What I find interesting, however, is that in Philo, De specialibus legibus 1.197 and Strabo, Geographica 1.3.3 the aspect of “difference in kind” – if it is there at all in the two pairs that are contrasted – it is to be found in the ἕτερος-part! So against this very (!) fragmentary background, I would still think that Paul’s point rather seems to be that the gospel his opponents proclaim is “different” from his own – while, as a further critique, it, in fact, can actually not be called “gospel” at all because there is no such thing as yet “another” gospel anyway. (But again: that’s just my impression without going into any details …)

  2. Thanks Christoph! According to my reading of Schröter, your way of specifying the relationship between the two terms with a view to Gal 1:6-7 reflects the majority view, which is represented, among others, by Lightfoot and Haacker. Schröter does include examples in his essay though he does not provide an exhaustive presentation of what might be the relevant texts. I don’t know what he would say about the texts you have named. But I think that it is precisely this sort of work that would need to be undertaken to test his hypothesis in a rigorous manner.

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