Thursday, 25 October 2012

Galatians 3.28

Galatians 3.28 
There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, for you are all one person in Jesus Christ’.

According to the Bishop of Chelmsford, Stephen Cottrell - no retiring scholar he, concerned to give a accurate and balanced account of the context and meaning of St Paul's words - this is "one of those bits of scripture through which we interpret a lot of other bits. And I believe that that full humanity, which is ours in Jesus Christ, will be better revealed - much better for the world, much better for us - when men and women serve equally as bishops, priests and deacons within the Church of Jesus Christ."

It's wearying and vexatious to the spirit to have to repeat this yet again, but these verses have relevance to Paul's argument that in contrast to the old covenant's rite of circumcision, baptism incorporates the one who receives it , whether male or female, Jew or Gentile, free man or slave, into the paschal mystery of Christ and accordingly into the Body of Christ, the Church. Baptism is available to all without exception.
What it does not mean (and actually in the context of the Pauline epistles simply cannot mean) is the abolition of all natural distinctions between male and female - in modern parlance the interchangeability of the sexes - but that those distinctions do not exclude any one from salvation. St Paul has everything to say here about baptism, but absolutely nothing which can be applied to the matter of holy order, one way or the other, much as we might wish he had. 
Unfortunately for many in the Church today, wish is father to the thought - if that's not too patriarchal a comment. Perhaps I mean to say, as regards taking verses from Holy Scripture completely and deliberately out of context to win votes in General Synod, 'necessity is the mother of invention.'
In happier days, if a theology undergraduate had written that Galatians 3.28 was "one of those bits of scripture through which we interpret a lot of other bits," he would have been told to go away and try harder, and not only stylistically - but now? 



  1. I think 'bits' is a technical term used in hermeneutics ...

    1. Bishop Cottrell certainly seems to have the bit between his teeth.

    2. But history will show whether he is a bit player in this drama or more important ...

  2. "it would look terrible in the eyes of the world"
    It's simply unbelievable that a bishop of the Church could ever come up with such an argument with respect to a theological issue.

    "If the Bible were a range of mountains I wonder what the mountain peak would be"
    I wonder how can any Christian, especially a bishop, wonder what the peak of the Bible is, as “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain.”


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