SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.34 suppl.19Identity-formation and alterity in John Chrysostom's In Epistulam ad Galatas commentariusThe linguistic, conceptual, and pragmatic challenges of communicating Galatians 3:1-14 in Chewa author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  

Services on Demand



Related links

  • On index processCited by Google
  • On index processSimilars in Google


Acta Theologica

On-line version ISSN 2309-9089
Print version ISSN 1015-8758

Acta theol. vol.34  suppl.19 Bloemfontein  2014


The reception of Galatians 2:20 in the Patristic period and in the Reformation1



A. van de Beek

Faculty of Theology, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. E-mail address:




This article explores the reception of Galatians 2:20 in the Patristic period, and in the Reformation by Luther and Calvin. As it turns out, the interpretation of the verse does not fit into popular notions of their theological traditions. Authors from traditions as different as the Alexandrians and the Antiochians, or Eastern and Western, do not interpret this verse as expected, when taking into account the theological framework in which later generations placed the communities wherein the former exegetes lived. This is especially striking when comparing Luther and Calvin. The result is an exhortation for further research in reception history. It might well fundamentally challenge frameworks of historical research.

Keywords: : Patristic period, Gal. 2:20, Reception History

Trefwoorde: Patristieke periode, Gal. 2:20, Wirkungsgeschichte




"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 is a typical Pauline verse in which the author expresses the absolute new identity of a Christian. Tracing the reception of such a verse in church history reveals the basic theological positions of later theologians. In this article, I will first investigate how the text is interpreted in the Patristic period, and subsequently compare this with the commentaries of Luther and Calvin.

It is remarkable that early Christian theologians do not refer very often to such a challenging text. There is thus a paucity of references - except, of course, commentaries on Galatians.



2.1 Origen

Origen, the first early Christian author who refers to the verse, gives the most comprehensive interpretation. There are two references to this text in his works: one in his Commentary on John and one in his On the principles. I begin with the commentary on John.

Origen discusses the difference between Christ who is with us and Christ who is in us. Christ promised to be with us until the consummation of the world. After the consummation, God will be all in all. Until the consummation, there is an outside presence; afterwards, there will be an internal indwelling of God. However, Paul states of himself that Christ, who is God's own presence, lives in him. That seems an anachronism: Paul still lives in this world and not in the world to come.

We might say more properly that the Savior was not in His disciples but with them, so long as they had not arrived in their minds at the consummation of the age (loannem X, 8).

This poses no problem for Origen: when we die to the world by becoming a Christian, this is the consummation of the world. We live as new beings, because we participate in the new creation through baptism. Thus, according to Origen, Paul's expression must be understood as realised eschatology. If Christ lives in us, we are within an eschatological reality. Christ was with us until his death on the cross. He is in us since Pentecost. Therefore, He lives in us (Gal. 2:20) and speaks in us (2 Cor. 13:3).

If Christ's presence in us is not visible in glory, it is because Christ is in us within the conditions of the world, and it is within that condition that Christ suffered and died. This is how the Christians show that Christ lives in them. The suffering church visibly expresses that Christ lives in them:

He who is with His disciples who are sent out to teach all the nations, until the consummation, may be He who emptied Himself and took the form of a servant, and yet afterwards may be another in point of state; afterwards He may be such as He was before He emptied Himself (loannem X, 8).

Origen is well aware that his solution is not a common Christian opinion. The majority of Christians view the consummation of the world as an event in the future. However, according to Origen, this is of no concern, because, in eschatology, time is not interesting. It is not about time, but about the quality of reality - and in Christ that is as perfect as eternal life can ever be. This is not visible in the present condition.

In saying this we are keeping for our part also to the ordinary interpretation which makes the time always the time down to the consummation of the age, and are not asking more than is attainable to human nature as it is here (loannem X, 8).

In the fourth book of On the principles, Origen elaborates on this qualitative interpretation of Christ in us. He raises the question: Where is Christ present? The answer is simple: in Paul, for Paul says: "Christ lives in me". How can Paul claim that he is the place where Christ should be located? No matter how important Paul may ever be, he is not the centre of Christian faith and of the new creation. Paul can only speak in this way by acknowledging that Christ is also in both Peter and John - and in all the saints; and, surely, even more so in the archangels.

Seeing, then, He was in Paul, who will doubt that He was in a similar manner in Peter and in John, and in each one of the saints; and not only in those who are upon the earth, but in those also who are in heaven? For it is absurd to say that Christ was in Peter and in Paul, but not in Michael the archangel, nor in Gabriel (De Principiis IV, 29).2

By adding the last phrase, Origen shifts from his strong paradox of realised eschatology in his Commentary on John to a more philosophical approach: God is everywhere.

From this it is distinctly shown that the divinity of the Son of God was not shut up in some place; otherwise it would have been in it only, and not in another. But since, in conformity with the majesty of its incorporeal nature, it is confined to no place; so, again, it cannot be understood to be wanting in any (De Principiis IV, 29).

In this passage, the focus differs from that of the Commentary on John. In the latter, the resurrected Christ, as the new being, dwells in his Church and its members; here, however, it is about his divinity that is omnipresent. It is no longer fully present in us as members of his identity, but the divine presence is in all that is. His presence is only different in extent: more in the archangels than in those who are still turned to the flesh.

Although He is in different individuals as we have said - as Peter, or Paul or Michael, or Gabriel - He is not in a similar way in all beings whatever. For He is more fully and clearly - and, so to speak, more openly - in archangels than in other holy men. And this is evident from the statement, that when all who are saints have arrived at the summit of perfection, they are said to be made like, or equal to, the angels, agreeably to the declaration in the Gospels. Whence it is clear that Christ is in each individual in as great a degree as the amount of his deserts allows (De Principiis IV, 29).

A friction in Origen's interpretations is fundamental for the later understanding of Galatians 2:20. On the one hand, he fully accepts the new being of Christians in their participation in the eschatological life of Christ. On the other, it is still open and partial, in the expectation of the fulfilment. Furthermore, there is a tension between Christ as head of his Church and his indwelling in the believers, on the one hand, and his divine omnipresence in the entire creation, on the other.3

Origen's interpretation displays the tensions that occur in later commentaries: the relation of already and not yet; what is the effect of Christ's indwelling; the relation of grace and works, and the place where Christ is to be located in the spatial metaphors.

2.2 Where is Christ in relation to the Christian?

We will first turn to the last topic: Where is the presence of Christ? Origen locates Christ both in me as a Christian (Commentary on John) and in the entire cosmos as far as it is divine (On the principles).

Augustine follows the track of Origen's Commentary on John: it is about Christ's indwelling in the believer. Augustine accepts Christ's presence in us unconditionally, without any hesitation. Christ is in me and, consequently, I must be judged according to his identity (Ad Galatas 17). If people will submit me to the law, they also submit Christ, who is Lord of the law, to the law.

Who dares to impose the law on Christ who lives in Paul? For nobody dares to say that Christ does not live rightly, so that a law on him should be imposed (Ad Galatas 17).

If one were to do so, it would be absurd. As a result of Christ's indwelling in me, I am free from the law. I am above the law.

There is a difference in cultural context between Augustine and Origen. While Origen speaks of Christ's indwelling from an ontological point of view, Augustine places the issue in a juridical framework. This is the difference between Greek philosophy and Roman law. But abstracted from this context, the basic agreement is clear: the Christian's identity is fully defined by Christ.

When Augustine claims that Christians are above the law, he does not mean that Christians should not live in righteousness. On the contrary, because Christ lives in them, their works are his works, the works of love. They are dead to sin.

He calls the dead, and on this account all the more the living: for your life, says he, is hid with Christ in God. Of such dead the speech is: But I live, now not I, but there lives in me Christ (On continence 13, 29).

Is it so to be believed, that they, who were already dead, and their life hidden with Christ in God, were still committing fornication, were still living in unclean habits and works, were still slaves to passions of evil lust and covetousness? (On continence 13, 29).

John Chrysostom also follows this track. He stresses "Christ's presence in me" in a moving section of his sermon on Galatians 2:20. He reverses Origen's argument of On the principles. Origen moves from the one to all, Chrysostom moves from the universe to the singular Christian. How can Paul say that Christ is in me? Is not Christ in the entire cosmos and in all the saints? Does not the plural always have priority over the singular in the church? Certainly it has. The grace of Christ is comprehensive. This grace, however, is so concrete that it is focused on the individual person. Christ, with his total grace, is really in me:

[Paul] shows that each of us ought to render as much thanks to Christ as though Christ had come for him alone. For God would not withhold this gift even from one person. He has the same love for every individual as for the whole world (Edwards 1999:33).

At the other extreme of the spectrum, we find Theodoret of Cyrus who stresses the transfer from our own life to a new life for Christ. "I put off the previous life and passed into another life; I live for Him whose life I put on" (MPG 82:476). Wherever transfer language is dominant, Christ and the believer are thought of in different positions. The basic notion is two persons between whom a transfer occurs. In Augustine's interpretation, in particular, there is a full identity of Christ and the Christian. The most profound unity is expressed in "Christ lives in me". If, however, the focus is on a transfer of grace, merits, and virtues and not on a transfer of identity, this lacuna indicates a way of thinking that differs from Paul's argument. Chrysostom argues (MPG 61:648), "He did not say: 'I live for Christ,' but, which was far greater, he said: 'Christ lives in me'". Theodoret of Cyrus also mentions "living for Christ". Our own identity keeps intact, but its focus has changed. It no longer lives for itself, but for Christ. This fits into the moral approach of Christian faith, as is the case in much of the Antiochian theology. It approaches the second interpretation of Origen in On the principles. Nevertheless, it is not the same. Origen speaks about a graduation of Christ's living in us: more in the saint than in the people of the world. However, it is God's indwelling, while for Theodoret it is a human activity of a Christian.

His co-Antiochian, Theodore of Mopsuestia, takes on an intermediate position. On the one hand, he approaches Augustine's position by stressing the identity of a Christian with Christ, although he reverses the positions of Christ and the Christian. For Augustine, it is Christ in me, as it is in Paul's text, while Theodore speaks about our being in Christ. That is also Pauline language, but not in Galatians 2:20, which Theodore interprets. Consequently, Theodore misses the point of the text: it is not about Christ who is our life, but about a gradual growing into Christ in conformity with Him, beginning in baptism and perfected in the consummation. This is also Pauline theology, but at the moment Theodore does not grasp its ultimate apex, his "Christ lives in me"; it is part of a different framework. Theodore cannot consider the identity in Christ, but in terms of "quasi", that is: "as if I hold that I already live in that life" ("quasi iam in illam vitam me aestimo vivere" [Swete 1880:34]; notice the accusative: even the direction is "quasi").

It is interesting to note that, in the dynamics of Christian faith, classic distinctions - such as between East and West, Antiochians and Alexandrians - fade. The Eastern John Chrysostom comes to a personal presence of Christ such as is hardly found in any Western theology, and he shares his interpretation of the verse in this respect with the Western Augustine and the Alexandrian Origen in contrast with his co-Antiochian Theodoret, while the Antiochian Theodore takes his own track with other Pauline texts in mind.

2.3 Already - not yet

Origen opts for a realised eschatology in his Commentary on John, but simultaneously relativises it with his qualitative interpretation in On the principles. This tension is evident in other authors. Ambrose stresses the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In the Eucharist, it is

not I who was once grass, as all flesh is grass, but Christ who lives in me. That is, there lives that living bread which comes from heaven, there lives wisdom, there lives righteousness, there lives the resurrection (De Paradiso 76).

Ambrosiaster argues along the same line (Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas, MPL 17:218).

However, Theodore focuses on the future life that we shall receive in the consummation of this world, "when the common resurrection of all in the consummation of the world will finish current time" (Swete 1880:34), although we live this in anticipation through faith and hope. The perspective is on the future life, however. It is not my present life, it is after death about which the apostle speaks as if it has already happened (Swete 1880:34). Or, as Theodorete (MPG 82:475) states: "I portray beforehand immortal life in this mortal life, and I see it through faith". Consequently, Theodore mentions that "[a]s for the future things that will be, we have a strong hope" (Swete 1880:35). It is only in faith that we can express that in this new life Christ is in us.

2.4 The effect of Christ living in me

As for the consequences of Christ living in me, there are two opinions. On the one hand, some authors focus on eternal life that we receive from Christ. His life of resurrection is in me and so I have eternal life indeed, as Ambrosiaster states: "By his protection the person is snatched from death" (MPL 17:218; Edwards 1999:33). On the other hand, other authors stress moral renewal. This can even become a condition for Christ's presence in us. Jerome (MPL 26:415) writes:

Christ, wisdom, courage, insight, peace, joy and other virtues live in him. Who does not have a firm hold on these cannot say: Christ lives in me ... being in the flesh is not the same as living in the flesh (MPL 26:415).

The two approaches do not exclude each other. New life in peace and love and the hope of eternal life can go hand in hand. Nevertheless, the different interpretations show different interests.

2.5 Works and grace

As soon as it is about moral renewal (and, even more so, about the conditional presence of Christ), we enter the domain where Paul himself positions the text: the relation of law and Christ. Eusebius of Emesa puts it simply: in Christ, we are above the law and live shining and clear (Buytaert 1949:147). I have already mentioned Augustine who states that Christ is not submitted to the law, and neither are we, because Christ is in us. The law has no jurisdiction over us.

Some authors only stress the freedom of grace wherein we live by Christ. Others pay more attention to the new life that is also implied in Christ's indwelling. We receive not only his formal identity, but also the dynamics of his life: freedom, service, righteousness.

This life is, according to Augustine, contested life. It is the struggle of our spirit which cleaves to the Spirit of God, who dwells in us, with the flesh. It is a struggle of our spirit concerning its own inclinations, which are the inclinations of Christ who lives in us, and the debility of the flesh. If we contest these impulses of the flesh, we may trust in Christ.

Thus when any reprobate impulse arises according to my old human nature, to which I who serve the law of God with my mind do not consent, I may now say this: 'Now I am not the one doing that'. By way of consequence Augustine can say: "For where I am not I, I am more happily I" (On Continence 13, 29; Edwards 1999:32).

Opposing the old and the new can result in a division of real life in a part that is in Christ and new, and a part that is still the old life. With Origen, this is softened by his dialectics of fullness and realisation. Other authors are less subtle. Jerome, though borrowing a great deal from Origen (see Schatkin 1970), loosens the moral renewal from the latter's realised eschatology with his emphasis on the condition of exposing virtues by confessing Christ's indwelling in us. In this instance, moral renewal becomes the test for being a Christian and thus for the answer to the question: Is Christ in you? Though this question is always on the horizon of Christian life, it is different when it is getting to its core. Then a new law is on the horizon and soon it will shine over the whole Christian life. Paul's remark should be applied in this instance once again: "Then Christ died for nothing" or in the words of John of Damascus (MPG 95:792): "If I turn back to the law I insult grace (υβρίζω τήν χάριν), as if grace would not be able to make me alive." Or Ambrosiaster (MPL 17:218): "He who persists in his faith is not ungrateful to Christ, because he knows he has no benefit unless his."

It is interesting to note that none of the later Church Fathers pick up Origen's idea from On the principles concerning a divine indwelling in all beings. In fact, the text does not fully cover such a notion. Paul focuses on the new being based in Christ and not on being in general. Even so, this does not mean that it is not about ontology. Origen's own interpretation, in his Commentary on John as well as Augustine's interpretations are ontological. However, they are not about the ontology of the present world, but about the ontology of Christ and the new being in Him. While Origen bears this clearly in mind in his interpretation of the Gospels, he sometimes loses sight of it in his systematic work On the principles - a loss that even Rufin could not repair in his translation, probably because he himself tried to combine Christian faith and world view.

2.6 Conclusion

In Galatians, Paul focuses on the freedom that is given in Christ. I am of the opinion that this is best expressed by those authors who stress the real presence of Christ, located in the believer as a member of the community of Christians, receiving a life of freedom, not merely in hope, but here and now. We find this in various degrees in works by Chrysostomos, Augustine, Eusebius of Emesa, Ambrose, and Origen. The hard line Antiochians such as Theodorus and Theodoretus cannot cope with this high understanding of the text. They keep to simple visible reality: we live in hope; we are transferred by baptism to Christ, but we will only receive its fruits post mortem; until then, the "quasi" predominates. This approaches Jerome's notion that virtues are the condition of being a Christian. Ignace (Ad Philadelphenses 6, 1; MPG 5:830) would label this a "Judaizing interpretation" - and Paul might agree with him. It may be that the focus on ethics in large parts of the early church is the main cause that the verse did not get a strong reception in non-exegetical writings, and it is remarkable that the references outside the commentaries are all of theologians who stress the real presence. It is also remarkable that the Antiochian crown witness of the literal interpretation in this case opts for a metaphorical reading. This indicates that they do not cling to a literal reading of the texts, but instead to a visible reality of Christ as the Lord who is glorious in heaven and crucified on earth - as Origen expressed it in his Commentary on John.



After our investigations in early Christian theology, it is interesting to explore the reception of the verse by the Reformers. We should expect Galatians 2:20 to be in the centre of their attention, as they stress the " solo Christo". There is hardly any verse in the Bible that expresses this more clearly. While they also keep to "ad fontes", we must compare their interpretation with that of the Church Fathers. This can shed light on the way in which reception works and how reception history develops.

3.1 Luther

We should expect that the phrase "Christ lives in me" would make Luther lyrical. It fits neatly in his theology of sola gratia and solo Christo. We should expect an interpretation in line with Chrysostom, Eusebius of Emesa and Augustine.

It is, however, totally different. In his commentary on Galatians (1519), Luther stresses the new life of a Christian in terms of his moral activities. Christ in us makes our lives free from the old sins. The key for Luther's interpretation is Galatians 5:24, as seen through the lens of 1 Peter 4:2. Christ is more like a cleaning service that enters our home rather than one who fully takes over our identity. It is because of Christ's indwelling that a Christian attacks and crucifies lust. Though we are in the flesh, we do not live in the flesh - according to Luther, echoing Jerome - for we live in the faith. Although we do not do the works of the law, we do works of faith.

Luther is more in line with Jerome than with Augustine and Chrysostom. In his references to the Church Fathers, Jerome is by far his favourite, even remarkably more than Augustine, and usually in a positive sense. The moral interpretation rather than the liberating freedom in Christ prevails. It is noteworthy that, in this early work, Luther obviously focuses more on the evil that he encounters in the church than on the burden of sin that presses him. It is about renewal and purity rather than about works and grace. It might be interesting to interpret the beginnings of the Reformation from this commentary (1519) instead of from On the freedom of a Christian, published one year later - or rather - to use the Galatians commentary (and the 95 statements) - as an eye opener for understanding On the freedom and not interpreting the earlier work from the perspective of a sola gratia understanding of On the freedom.

Luther's version of 1535 clearly changes the picture. Jerome is quoted less and usually in a negative sense. The verse has evidently become more important for Luther: the two pages in the 1519-edition are extended to fifteen pages in the 1535-edition. Luther (1535:166) now stresses Christ's presence in us.

That is, 'not in my own person or substance'. Here Paul clearly shows that he is alive; and he states what Christian righteousness is, namely that righteousness by which Christ lives in us, and not the righteousness that is in our own person. Therefore when it is necessary to discuss Christian righteousness, the person must be completely rejected.

In this instance, Luther (1535:167-168) becomes lyrical:

I must be so closely attached that He lives in me and I in Him. What a marvellous way of speaking! Because He lives in me, whatever grace, righteousness, life, peace, and salvation there is in me is all Christ's; nevertheless, it is mine as well, by the cementing and attachment through faith, by which we become as one body in the Spirit.

Luther sketches the unity of Christ in abundant metaphors. When Christ enters the house of our life, he cleans it up and throws away anything that is not according to his grace and righteousness. As a wall is white by the white colour, so our lives are white by Him.

Christ is my 'form', which adorns my faith as color or light adorns a wall. (This fact has to be expounded in this crude way, for there is no spiritual way for us to grasp the idea that Christ clings and dwells in us as closely and intimately as light or whiteness clings to a wall.) 'Christ,' he says, 'is fixed and cemented to me and abides in me. The life that I now live, He lives in me. Indeed, Christ Himself is the life that I now live. In this way, therefore, Christ and I are one (Luther 1535:167).

We live in the flesh, indeed, but it is my flesh wherein He dwells. It is my own tongue which speaks, but I speak his word. It is my ears, but they hear his word. It is my eyes but they see the world not according to the flesh but in the compassion of the Saviour.

Luther's speaking about Christ as our true identity is not a U-turn from his former discourse on sanctification, but rather its basis. He provides his ideas on the new life of a Christian with a solid foundation. However, the conclusion is Christian life, as in the 1519-edition. Finally, Luther's interpretation of 1535 ends in the works that Christians do. They are not works of the law, but works done through faith.

Having been made righteous, we must do them; but it is not the other way around: that when we are righteous, we become righteous by doing them. The tree produces fruit; the fruit does not produce the tree (1535:169).

The basis is justification, but the aim is sanctification: it is about the fruits. And these fruits are visible in our lives. First, he attests that it is not his own work: for anything we do from ourselves is according to the law and makes us guilty. But, gradually, the discourse turns increasingly to our own activities.

Nevertheless, there is the greatest possible difference. I do indeed live in the flesh, but I do not live on the basis of my own self. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God. What you now hear me speak proceeds from another source than what you heard me speak before. Before his conversion Paul spoke with the same voice and tongue. But his voice and his tongue were blasphemous then; therefore he could not speak anything but blasphemies and abominations against God. After his conversion his flesh, tongue, and voice were the same as they had been before, nothing at all was changed. But now the voice and tongue did not speak blasphemies. Now it spoke spiritual words of thanksgiving and praise for God, which come from faith and from the Holy Spirit (Luther 1535:171).

The words have a different source, but they remain Paul's and Luther's own words. His works are his own works. "We must do them" (italics added). The focus is on the renewed human being, who enacts the acts of Christ.

There is a continuous ambiguity in Luther's discourse. On the one hand, Christ is the basis of everything. On the other, Luther focuses on the identity of the Christian. He thinks in duality: Christ and I, both. I do the works of Christ, but I do them by faith. It is the work of the spiritual man. This is shown by the word he uses: Christ is the "form" of our acting (Luther 1535:167); He is cemented and attached to us (Luther 1535:167). Theodore of Mopsuestia speaks of "as if", Luther uses "quasi": "by which we become as one body" (1535:168, italics added; fidem per quam efficimur quasi unum corpus in spiritu [WA 40,1:284, 25-6]).

We must read Luther's text carefully. He applies the Pauline phrase to both justification and sanctification. If it is about justification, Christ is our full identity: "When it is necessary to discuss Christian righteousness, the person must be completely rejected" (1535:166). In sanctification, however, he tends to consider the activity of Christians, who are inspired by Christ, adorned with his form and colour.

3.2 Calvin

Luther's position is even more remarkable if we compare him to Calvin. According to Calvin, we can interpret the presence of Christ either as regeneration or as justification. He mentions that he will not reject the legitimacy of others (a phrase he often uses when he disagrees with Luther), who opt for both interpretations. "If it is thought better to apply it to both, I will cheerfully adopt that view" (p. 57). Calvin himself prefers the latter interpretation, i.e., justification (p. 57). An exclusive interpretation as sanctification is not an option for him. The basis for the understanding of the text is justification - and, of course, Calvin would agree with Augustine - this is always accompanied by sanctification, but that is not what this text is all about.

Christ living in us means that we are righteous before God and thus receive eternal life. Eternal life in Christ is important for human beings who are afraid of death and, therefore, also are concerned about dying in Christ's crucifixion. To man, the word "Death" is always unpleasant. Having said that, he adds that we are "crucified with Christ" and "that this makes us alive" (p. 56).

Our death unto ourselves - I do not live unto myself - is aimed for participation in Christ. We notice Calvin's own reluctance in his obviously subconscious shift from "Christ living in us" to "we live in Christ".

It is a remarkable sentiment, that believers live out of themselves, that is, they live in Christ; which can only be accomplished by holding real and actual communication with Him (p. 57).

He is suddenly confronted with the empty place of his own identity and that concerns him. As it was for Augustine, the answer is the unconditional and powerful acceptance of the total identity of Christ and the believer. However, as unpleasant as the word "Death" is for Calvin, as it is for any human being, the outcome is eternal life. In this instance, he shares the opinions of Ambrose and Ambrosiaster: Christ's life is eternal life and it is this that we receive by Christ's indwelling in us.

The life, therefore, which we attain by faith is not visible to the bodily eye, but is inwardly perceived in the conscience by the power of the Spirit; so that the bodily life does not prevent us from enjoying, by faith, a heavenly life (p. 57).

Like Origen, he conceives this in the paradox of dying in the world under the cross and living our real life in heaven in Christ. Calvin refers to Ephesians 1:20, 2:19 and Philippians 3:20 (p. 57). He continues:

Paul's writings are full of similar assertions, that, while we live in the world, we at the same time live in heaven; not only because our Head is there, but because, in virtue of union, we enjoy a life in common with him (John 14:23; p. 57).

Calvin's references to other texts in the New Testament remarkably differ from those of Luther in his 1519-lectures. By quoting the above verses, Calvin stresses the unity with the heavenly Christ. Luther focuses on regeneration, citing Galatians 5:24 and 1 Peter 4:2 as the core of his argument.

Unlike Luther, Calvin does not explicitly mention Church Fathers, but it is clear that he moves in line with John Chrysostom and Ambrose, and even more so with Augustine. He often used and likely read these authors' works; he might even have had them on his mind even though he does not quote them. This will hardly be the case with Origen, Theodore and Theodoret, although he might have read Jerome's commentary, since Jerome was an authority not only during the Middle Ages, but also for the Reformers. It is certain that Calvin opts for justification and an Augustinian interpretation because of his thorough exegesis of Scripture: the context of Galatians 2:20 urges him to understand Paul as the herald of grace over against the works of the law.



It is evident that fixed prejudices on theological points of view are challenged by the reception of the text. Whereas Luther stresses regeneration, Calvin opts for justification by Christ alone. According to common opinion, it should be the other way around. This does not differ from the interpretations in the Patristic period which do not fit into would-be frameworks and assigned traditions. The dynamics and reality of history are different from the patterns that used by later generations in order to create a manageable order. It is surprising that an investigation of the sources turns out not to be as it "should" be. In my opinion, research in the reception history of Scripture will challenge many prejudices. The Bible itself challenges theological thought and its reception will portray a more dynamic history of theology than the stated oppositions of traditional conflicts.



Ambrose. De Paradiso. MPL 14:145-182.         [ Links ]

Ambrosiaster. Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas. MPL 17:209-230.         [ Links ]

Augustine. Expositio Epistolae Ad Galatas. MPL 35:2105-2148.         [ Links ]

Augustine. De continentia. MPL 40:349-372.         [ Links ]

Buytaert, E.M. 1949. L'héritage littéraire d'Eusèbe d'Émèse: Étude critique et historique, textes. Louvain: Bureaux du Muséon.         [ Links ]

Calvin, J. Commentaries on Galatians and Ephesians. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Grand Rapids, MI.: Calvin College.         [ Links ] [Online.] Available at: [2012, 14 August].

Edwards, M.J. 1999. Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture 8: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Downers Grove, IL.: InterVarsity Press.         [ Links ]

Ignace. Ad Philadelphenses. MPG 5:697-708.         [ Links ]

Jerome. Commentaria in Epistolam ad Galatas, MPL 26:367-536.         [ Links ]

Joannes Chrysostomos. Homiliae in Galatas. MPG 61:611-682.         [ Links ]

Joannes Damascenus. Commentarii in epistolas Pauli. MPG 95:441-1033.         [ Links ]

Luther, M. 1519. Lectures on Galatians 1519. Luther's Works 27. Ed. J. Pelikan & W.A. Hansen, 1964. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.         [ Links ]

Luther, M. 1535. Lectures on Galatians 1535, Chapters 1-4. Luther's Works 26. Ed. J. Pelikan & W.A. Hansen, 1963. Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.         [ Links ]

Origenes. De principiis. MPG 11:111-414.         [ Links ]

Origenes. Commentarius in Evangelium secundum Ioannem. MPG 14:21-832.         [ Links ]

Schatkin, M.A. 1970. The influence of Origen upon St. Jerome's Commentary on Galatians' Vigiliae Christianae 24:49-58.         [ Links ]

Swete, H.B. 1880. Theodori Episcopi Mopsuesteni. Epistolas B. Pauli Commentarii 1. Introduction Galatians-Colossians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.         [ Links ]

Theodore of Mopsuestia. Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas. See Swete 1880.         [ Links ]

Theodorete of Cyrus. Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas. MPG 82:459-504.         [ Links ]



1 I thank Prof. Dr. R.B. ter Haar Romeny for his help in finding literature.
2 Although this section only appears in the translation of Rufin, it is unlikely that the thought it contains is not from Origen, because Rufin would rather adapt it to common opinion in the church than vice versa.
3 The Heidelberg Catechism, answ. 48, overlooks these tensions by simply answering the question about Christ's presence that He promised with a reference to his divinity. It overlooks both the difference between church and the entire creation and the difference of "in us" and "with us".

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License