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‘The Speech of the Dead’: Identifying the No Longer and Now Living ‘I’ of Galatians 2.20

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 December 2019

Jonathan A. Linebaugh*
University of Cambridge, Faculty of Divinity, CambridgeCB3 9BS, UK. Email:


Paul's strange confession in Gal 2.19–20 poses a question: is the ‘I’ who was crucified with Christ and no longer lives the same self as the ‘I’ who now lives and in whom Christ lives? To ask this question is to be drawn into conversation with the reception history of Galatians and also to be invited to locate the Pauline ‘I’ in and across the movements from death to life. This article suggests, in dialogue especially with Martin Luther, that for Paul the movement from the state of creation to the state of sin is a movement from life to death; the movement from sin to salvation, conversely, is a movement from death to life. Within or across these ruptures, salvation is as radical as death and resurrection. In this sense, the no longer and now living selves are not identical: the ‘I’ is in another as a gift. And yet, the ‘I’ who lives by grace is also the ‘I’ who was, is and will be loved by the ‘Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.’

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2019

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1 Augustine, Cont. 29.

2 Luther's Works (American edition, 82 vols.; Philadelphia: Fortress/St. Louis: Concordia, 1955–), 26.159 (hereafter, LW); A. Schweitzer, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle (trans. W. Montgomery; New York: Seabury, 1931) 3. Cf. Eastman, S., Paul and the Person: Reframing Paul's Anthropology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017) 1Google Scholar, who refers to the ‘puzzle of Pauline anthropology’.

3 Sanders, E. P., Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977) 502, 549Google Scholar.

4 Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism, 522–3. The quotation is from Riches, J., Galatians through the Centuries (Oxford: Blackwell, 2013) 137Google Scholar.

5 Riches, Galatians, 137.

6 Vanhoozer, K. J., ‘From “Blessed in Christ” to “Being in Christ”: The State of the Union and the Place of Participation in New Testament Exegesis and Systematic Theology Today’, In Christ in Paul: Explorations in Paul's Theology of Union and Participation (ed. Thate, M. J., Vanhoozer, K. J. and Campbell, C. R.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018) 333Google Scholar, at 6–7.

7 Vanhoozer, ‘From “Blessed in Christ” to “Being in Christ”’, 11.

8 M. Allen, ‘“It Is No Longer I Who Live”: Christ's Faith and Christian Faith’, JRT (2013) 3–26, at 5. See also Macaskill, G., Union with Christ in the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) 34CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Hays, R., The Faith of Jesus Christ: The Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1–4:11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002 2) xxxiiGoogle Scholar; cf. Hays, R., ‘What Is “Real Participation in Christ”? A Dialogue with E.P. Sanders on Pauline Soteriology’, Redefining First Century Jewish and Christian Identities: Essays in Honor of Ed Parish Sanders (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008) 336–51Google Scholar.

10 Gorman, M., Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul's Narrative Soteriology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009) 4Google Scholar.

11 Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament, 27.

12 Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament, 27, 74–5. For an account of Pauline soteriology that engages with patristic theologies of theosis in both depth and detail, see Blackwell, B. C., Christosis: Engaging Paul's Soteriology with his Patristic Interpreters (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016)Google Scholar.

13 Macaskill, Union with Christ in the New Testament, 220–1. For a dogmatic account that resonates with Macaskill's, see M. Allen, who refers to ‘personal union’ as ‘the stuff of covenant and communion’ (Allen, M., Sanctification (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2017) 225Google Scholar). Another recent study that explores conceptual resources with which to understand and translate Paul's participatory account of human personhood is found in Eastman, Paul and the Person. Eastman, however, does not engage the theological tradition so much as bring Paul into conversation with contemporary research in developmental psychology and philosophy of mind. For interaction with Eastman, see Linebaugh, J. A., ‘Participation and the Person in Pauline Theology’, JSNT 40 (2018) 516523Google Scholar.

14 Bayer, O., Martin Luther's Theology: A Contemporary Interpretation (trans. Trapp, T. H.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008) 154Google Scholar.

15 Kelsey, D., Eccentric Existence: A Theological Anthropology (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2009) 10, 897Google Scholar.

16 LW 34.148; D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe (ed. J. F. K. Knaake et al., 57 vols.; Weimar: Böhlau, 1883–) 39I:176.7–13 (hereafter, WA).

17 M. de Boer, Galatians (Louisville, KY: WJK, 2011) 159–61 (quotations at 159).

18 Gaventa, B., ‘The Singularity of the Gospel Revisited’, Galatians and Christian Theology: Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics in Paul's Letter (ed. Elliott, M. et al. ; Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014) 187–99Google Scholar, at 193.

19 De Boer, Galatians, 159–61.

20 Ebeling, G., The Truth of the Gospel: An Exposition of Galatians (trans. Green, D.; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985) 143Google Scholar.

21 Wilder, T., The Alcestiad in The Collected Short Plays of Thornton Wilder, vol. ii (ed. Wilder, A.T.; New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1998) 224Google Scholar.

22 De Boer, Galatians, 161.

23 LW 26.177.

24 Cf. Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel, 142: Paul ‘describes Adamic life as death’.

25 Augustine on Psalm 119. Cf. Kelsey's designation of ‘sin as living death’, Eccentric Existence, 864.

26 D. Bonhoeffer, Creation and Fall (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004 [1937]) 90–1.

27 For representative uses of these terms to describe Gal 2.19–20, see Martyn, J. L., Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1997) 278Google Scholar; de Boer, Galatians, 160; Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel, 144 (though Ebeling is arguing against rather than for a ‘figurative’ interpretation).

28 Aquinas, Thomas, Commentary on Saint Paul's Epistle to the Galatians by St. Thomas Aquinas (trans. Larcher, F. R.; Albany: Magi, 1966) 63Google Scholar.

29 Thomas Aquinas, Galatians, 62.

30 Summa Theologica iaiiae q. 113.

31 Thomas Aquinas, Galatians, 53–5, 205–6.

32 Oberman, H., ‘Iustitia Christi and iustitia Dei: Luther and Scholastic Doctrines of Justification’, The Dawn of the Reformation: Essays in Late Medieval and Early Reformation Thought (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986) 104–25Google Scholar, at 120.

33 Hampson, D., Christian Contradictions: The Structures of Lutheran and Catholic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001) 83CrossRefGoogle Scholar; see also 2–3, 56–96.

34 LW 26.129–30, cf. 126–8.

35 LW 26.166–7.

36 Oberman, ‘Iustitia Christi and Iustitia Dei’, 19, 20, 25.

37 LW 26.170.

38 Eastman, Paul and the Person, 153.

39 Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel, 137.

40 WA 40/ii.354 3. For ‘relational ontology’ in Luther, see W. Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1967) and G. Ebeling, Dogmatik des christlichen Glaubens (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1979). For the application of this category to Paul, see E. Rehfeld, Relationale Ontologie bei Paulus: Die ontische Wirksamkeit der Christusbezogenheit im Denken des Heidenapostels (WUNT ii/326; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck). Though in dialogue with different fields and voices, Eastman's Paul and the Person also argues for a thoroughly relational account of Pauline anthropology.

41 LW 36.42. For God as giver in both creation and redemption, see Luther's exposition of the three articles of the creed in his Confession concerning Christ's Supper (LW 37.66; WA 26, 505, 38–506, 7).

42 Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel, 138–40.

43 Eastman, Paul and the Person, 160.

44 McFarland, I. A., ‘The Upward Call: The Category of Vocation and the Oddness of Human Nature’, The Christian Doctrine of Humanity: Explorations in Constructive Dogmatics (ed. Crisp, O. D. and Sanders, F.; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2018) 217–36Google Scholar, at 231, 235.

45 See Bayer, O., ‘The Ethics of Gift’, LQ 24 (2010) 447–68Google Scholar, at 452; cf. Linebaugh, God, Grace, and Righteousness in Wisdom of Solomon and Paul's Letter to the Romans: Texts in Conversation (NovTSup 152; Leiden: Brill, 2013) 152–4 and E. Käsemann, An die Römer (HNT 8a; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1973) 116–17.

46 BSLK 510.33–511.8.

47 Bayer, ‘The Ethics of Gift’, 452.

48 WA 1 183.39–184.7; cf. Käsemann, Römer, 117: ‘daß Gott immer nur dort schafft, wo irdisch nichts vorhanden ist’.

49 LW 31.41; WA 1.354–35: Amor dei non invenit, sed creat suum diligibile.

50 LW 34.113, 156.

51 According to Bayer's reconstruction, Luther's reformation breakthrough is tied up with a development in his understanding of language: rather than a word functioning only as a sign (signum) that refers to a reality (res) Luther came to see that God's words (verba Dei) are God's work (opera Dei), that divine speech establishes rather than merely refers to reality. The signum thus is the doing of the res and therefore, in the tradition of Ps 33.9 – ‘God spoke and it was done’ – Luther describes the divine address as a verbum efficax (LW 5.140; cf. O. Bayer, Promissio: Geschichte der reformatischen Wende in Luthers Theologie (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 19892)).

52 Consider this line from a Lutheran hymn: ‘Thy strong word bespeaks us righteous.’ Cf. Wilckens, U., Der Brief an die Römer (3 vols.; EKKNT; Neukirchen: Benziger, 1978–82) i.188 n. 39Google Scholar: ‘die Sünde aller [ist] also der Ort, an dem die Gottesgerechtigkeit wirksam wird’.

53 Linebaugh, J. A., ‘The Grammar of the Gospel: Justification as a Theological Criterion in the Reformation and Galatians’, SJT 71 (2018) 287307CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

54 LW 8.39.

55 Tanner, K., Christ the Key (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010) 64–5Google Scholar.

56 LW 36.67.

57 Cf. Barclay, J. M. G., Paul and the Gift (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015) 386Google Scholar: Paul's ‘language of “death” and “life” … marks a radical disjunction’.

58 Martyn, J. L., Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1997) 221Google Scholar.

59 Eastman, Paul and the Person, 174; cf. Chester, S., ‘Apocalyptic Union: Martin Luther's Account of Faith in Christ’, In Christ in Paul: Explorations in Paul's Theology of Union and Participation (ed. Thate, M. J., Vanhoozer, K. J. and Campbell, C. R.; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018) 375–98Google Scholar, at 378: for ‘Luther’, Gal 2.19–20 describes ‘not … the gradual healing of the self but … its death’. See also Hampson, Christian Contradictions, 101: ‘there is no linear progress from being a sinner to being justified’.

60 Tanner, Christ the Key, 65.

61 LW 26.170.

62 LW 26.166.

63 LW 26.387; WA 7.69, 12–13.

64 Joest, Ontologie der Person bei Luther, 234, 249. Cf. McFarland, ‘The Upward Call’, 224: ‘the determining factor’, when identifying who a person is, ‘is not anything intrinsic to and thus located within the individual, but extrinsic: constituted entirely by God's address’.

65 Paul also locates life ‘in the flesh’, a phrase that Luther interprets as follows: ‘I do live in the flesh, yet not on the basis of the flesh or according to the flesh’ (LW 26.172). As Eastman argues, this localising of life ‘in the flesh’ also indicates that the person is always embodied and socially embedded (Paul and the Person, 156–60). The other crucial question raised here, but not considered in this article, is the relationship between the I in grace and the I in glory (i.e. between the person redeemed and in Christ and the person resurrected and with Christ). Both Romans 8 and 1 Corinthians 15 point to a material continuity, but the latter's language of ‘spiritual body’ catches something of the dialectic explored here: it is the body that is raised, but precisely that body is new. The Easter narratives capture this as well: the body of the risen Christ is different, but that it is the body of Jesus is evident as the tomb is empty and the wounds remains. Allen suggests that one way to express this double ‘nature of the new’ is to say that we are dealing not with ‘transubstantiation’ but with ‘transfiguration’ (Sanctification, 225).

66 See M. Allen, Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013) 104.

67 De Boer, Galatians, 157.

68 Joest, Ontologie, 261–2.

69 LW 26.170. Joest introduces the term ‘exzentrisch’ (Ontologie, 233–353). For variations, see e.g. ecstatic (Oberman), a-centric (Allen) and eccentric (Kelsey).

70 WA 56.159; LW 25.136.

71 Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 379, 386.

72 Eastman, Paul and the Person, 152; Ebeling, Lutherstudien, 156–7. Cf. Slenckza, N., ‘Luther's Anthropology’, Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther's Theology (ed. Kolb, R., Dingel, I. and Batka, L.; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015) 212–31Google Scholar and Saarinen, R., ‘Martin Luther and Relational Thinking’, Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017) 119Google Scholar.

73 LW 34.139. As Bayer points out, because this is a definition, Luther's Latin – Hominem iustificari fide – is better rendered, ‘the human being is human in being justified by faith’ (Martin Luther's Theology, 155 n. 3); cf. Slenckza, ‘Luther's Anthropology’.

74 Cf. Bayer, Martin Luther's Theology, 156: ‘As created being, human existence is justified-through-faith existence. As justified-through-faith existence, it is created existence.’

75 LW 26.129–30.

76 For Luther, the phrases extra se, coram deo and in Christo are ways of referring to these relationships.

77 LW 26.280–4; Freedom of the Christian, 287. Cf. Eastman, who argues that Paul's language of ‘union discloses a relational notion of the person’ (Paul and the Person, 153), and Vanhoozer, who plays with the resonance between union, communion and communication (‘From “Blessed in Christ” to “Being in Christ’”’, 27–8).

78 See Bayer who, with reference to Galatians 2.19–20, speaks of ‘a gift from someone else, by whose life I live’ (Martin Luther's Theology, 235). Bonhoeffer offers another definition of death in these terms: being dead is ‘having to live’. Being alive, then, is having life – death is life as demand; life is life as gift (Creation and Fall).

79 LW 26.168: ‘by [faith] you are so cemented to Christ that he and you are one person, which … declares: “I am as Christ”, and Christ, in turn, says, “I am as that sinner”’.

80 Hampson also asks about the place of love in Luther's theology. If Christ and the Christian are, in Luther's words, ‘so cemented’ that he and they ‘are as one person’, does not the otherness of the I and Christ collapse? But love, Hampson contends, is ‘bi-polar’; it demands two rather than one and so, by definition, disappears if the ‘distance’ and distinction between persons is lost (Christian Contradictions, 29–39, 246). For Luther, however, oneness with Christ does not, as Bayer puts it, ‘denote an identity without distinction’ (Martin Luther's Theology, 229 n. 31). To be ‘as one person’ with Christ, Luther writes, is to be in a relation ‘more intimate than a husband and wife’ (LW 26.168). Personal union, in other words, is a relational notion; it names a communion of persons even as it anchors one (the creature) in the other (Christ). Cf. Elert, W., The Structure of Lutheranism (trans. Hansen, W. A.; St. Louis: Concordia, 1962) 176Google Scholar and Ebeling, The Truth of the Gospel, 149.

81 Hampson, Christian Contradictions, 237–41; see also Hampson, D., ‘Luther on the Self: A Feminist Critique’, Word and World 8 (1988) 334–42Google Scholar.

82 For two recent engagements with Catholic reflection on nature and grace and what Protestant theology might learn from and contribute to that conversation, see Allen, Sanctification, 212–25 and McFarland, ‘The Upward Call’.

83 Webster, J., ‘Eschatology, Ontology, and Human Action’, TJT 7 (1991) 418Google Scholar, at 5. In one sense, this article is an attempt to engage Webster's question about the anthropological and ontological entailments of Paul's language in places such as Gal 2.20 and 2 Cor 5.17 (4–5). What Webster calls for is a ‘metaphysics of the solus Christus’ (10).

84 Eastman, Paul and the Person, 174.

85 Barclay, Paul and the Gift, 412–14. McFarland also asks about the ‘discontinuity between human existence as created and redeemed’ and argues that while ‘there is nothing in our natures … that serves as the pivot point … that guarantees that the beings we are now … subsist across that divide’, we can nevertheless say that ‘our natures are not destroyed or left behind’ because it is ‘we, body and soul, who live with God in glory’ even though ‘we do not do so because of the qualities of our souls or bodies’ (‘The Upward Call’, 236).

86 That the person is anchor by a word of address entails that humans are, as McFarland points out, ‘the sort of creatures that can respond when called’ – that they are spoken to precisely as the kind of creatures who are both receptive and response-able (‘The Upward Call’, 224; cf. Bayer, Freedom in Response).

87 LW 26.177–8.

88 Percy, W., Love in the Ruins (New York: Picador, 1971) 68Google Scholar.

89 See Bayer, who refers to the ‘dative of gifted-existence’ (Bayer, O., ‘The Being of Christ in Faith’, Lutheran Quarterly 10 (1996) 135–50, at 142)Google Scholar.