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“O, Foolish Galatians”: Imagining Pauline Community in Late Antiquity

  • Todd S. Berzon


This essay analyzes how late antique commentators on Paul's epistle to the Galatians used the issue of theological disobedience to elaborate the precise meaning of Christian kinship and community in their own times. Paul's anger and frustration at the Galatians, in particular, provided a convenient rhetorical platform for theorizing the nature of and impediments to Christian community in late antiquity. While most Pauline exegetes of the fourth and fifth centuries read the Galatians’ disobedience as a conscious choice born of ignorance, misunderstanding, and weak-mindedness, Jerome located the source of this indiscipline in the Galatians’ ethnic or national disposition. For him, the Galatians were an ethno-theological object—a template upon which he could propose a correlation between Christian error or heresy, on the one hand, and ethnic disposition, on the other. The differences and factions that Paul described in his letters were reimagined in late antiquity as both exemplars of Christian heresy and as heresies of ethnological origin. Ultimately, however, the process of transforming Paul into a heresiologist served only to emphasize the complexity of interpretive maneuvers deployed to define the terms of Christian community vis-à-vis other types of social, political, and ethnic affiliation.



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1 Oscar Wilde, De Profundis and Other Prison Writings, ed. Colm Tóbin (New York: Penguin, 2013), 46.

2 The same point is stressed by Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.2.1 and Jerome, Comm. Gal. Praef., who contrast Galatians with Corinthians and Romans respectively in order to emphasize the intensity of Paul's anger in the latter. On Paul's anger, see Nils A. Dahl, “Paul's Letter to the Galatians: Epistolary Genre, Contest, and Structure,” in The Galatians Debate, ed. Mark D. Nanos (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2002), 117–142; James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Galatians (New York: Cambridge University, 1993), 21; D. Francois Tolmie, Persuading the Galatians: A Text-Centred Rhetorical Analysis of a Pauline Letter (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005), 38–39. Cf. Lauri Thurén, “Was Paul Angry? Derhetorizing Galatians,” in The Rhetorical Interpretation of Scripture: Essays from the 1996 Malibu Conference, ed. Stanley E. Porter and Dennis L. Stamps (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1999), 302–320; and Van Voorst, Robert E., “Why Is There No Thanksgiving Period in Galatians? An Assessment of an Exegetical Commonplace,” Journal of Biblical Literature 129, no. 1 (2010): 153172 .

3 Mark D. Nanos, The Irony of Galatians: Paul's Letter in First-Century Context (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2002), 32.

4 Stanley K. Stowers, Letter Writing in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986), 22.

5 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. 1.1 (Patrologia graeca [hereafter PG] 61:612). Translations from Chrysostom are my own.

6 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. 1.1 (PG 61:612). Emphasis added.

7 See Gal. 1.6–10. Magnified by the famous words of Irenaeus in Adversus Haereses 1.10.2: “The Church, as we have proclaimed, disseminated, indeed, throughout the entire world, diligently guards this preaching and this faith which she has received as if one house. And she likewise believes these things as if she had but one soul and one and the same heart, and she proclaims, teaches, and transmits them harmoniously, as if she possessed a single mouth. For, even though the languages throughout the world are dissimilar, nevertheless the resoluteness of tradition is one and the same. And the churches which have been founded in Germany do not believe or transmit anything else; neither do those founded in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world” (Adelin Rousseau and Louis Doutreleau, eds., Irénée de Lyon: Contre les hérésies, Livre I, Tome II, Sources Chrétiennes [Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1979] 264:158–160; Dominic Unger, trans. St. Irenaeus: Against the Heresies Book I [Mahwah, N.J. Paulist, 1992], 49). Jerome stresses this, too, in his Comm. Gal. II.3.15–18, 3.27–38, 4.1–2, 4.7.

8 Jacobs, Andrew S., “A Jew's Jew: Paul and the Early Christian Problem of Jewish Origins,” Journal of Religion 86, no. 2 (April 2006): 262263 . On Paul in late antiquity, see also, Martin, Thomas F., “ Vox Pauli: Augustine and the Claims to Speak for Paul, An Exploration of Rhetoric at the Service of Exegesis,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 8, no. 2 (Summer 2000): 238245 ; and Margaret M. Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2002).

9 On the dating of Ambrosiaster's commentaries on the Pauline epistles—as well as a discussion of the various redactions of these works—see the very helpful work of Hunter, David G. and Cooper, Stephen, “Ambrosiaster redactor sui: The Commentaries on the Pauline Epistles (Excluding Romans),” Revue d’études augustiniennes et patristiques 56, no. 1 (2010): 6991 .

10 See Eric Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Notes (New York: Oxford University, 2003), 5–6.

11 On the date and form of Chrysostom's work on Galatians, J.N.D. Kelly (Golden Mouth: The Story of John Chrysostom [Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 1995]) notes, “It was probably in the same year [393], or perhaps in 394 that he prepared a course on Galatians, but what has come down is a verse-by-verse commentary. In several passages, however, John appears to be addressing an audience before him, and the conjecture of most critics is that what was originally a set of homilies has been rearranged, probably but not necessarily by himself, as a single, unbroken exposition” (91).

12 Pamphilus, Apology for Origen 31, 109–111, 113. There are four fragments of Origen's commentary in the Mount Athos manuscript Laura 184 (B. 64). They can be found in E. F. von der Goltz, Eine textkritische Arbeit des zehnten bezw. sechsten Jahrhunderts herausgegeben nach einem Kodex des Athosklosters Lawra (Leipzig: Hinrichs, 1899), 72–74.

13 Origen loomed large in late antiquity as both a theologian and exegete. As Jerome famously put it in Epist. 84, he praised “the commentator, not the theologian” (Isidor Hilberg, ed., Sancti Eusebii Hieronymi Epistulae Pars II, 71–120, Corpus scriptorum ecclesiasticorum latinorum 55.2 [hereafter CSEL], 2nd ed. [Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1996], 122). On Origen in late antiquity, see Elizabeth A. Clark, The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 1992). On Origen's influence over the exegesis of Paul, see, for example, Schatkin, Margaret A., “The Influence of Origen upon St. Jerome's Commentary on Galatians,” Vigiliae Christianae 24, no. 1 (1970): 4958 ; Bammel, Caroline P., “Augustine, Origen and the Exegesis of St. Paul,” Augustinianum 32, no. 2 (1992): 341368 ; and Sophia Lunn Rockliffe, “Prologue Topics and Translation Problems in Latin Commentaries on Paul,” in Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle in Late Antiquity, ed. Josef Lössl and John W. Watt (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2001), 33–47. I have been unable to find any evidence that Chrysostom consulted let alone knew Origen's Commentary on Galatians.

14 Jerome, Comm. Gal. Praef. (Giacomo Raspanti, ed., Commentarius in epistulam Pauli apostoli ad Galatas, Corpus Christianorum Series Latina (hereafter CCSL) 77A [Turnhout: Brepols, 2006], 6). Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians, 38 notes (following C.H. Turner, “Greek Patristic Commentaries on the Pauline Epistles,” in A Dictionary of the Bible, ed. James Hastings [Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1904], 484–532) that “if, as seems highly probable, Jerome's debt to Origen for his Commentary on Galatians is comparable to that for his Commentary on Ephesians,” which survives, then it follows that a fairly large amount of Jerome's Commentary on Galatians was explicitly taken from Origen. See, then, R. Heine, The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (New York: Oxford University, 2002) and Layton, Richard A., “Recovering Origen's Pauline Exegesis: Exegesis and Eschatology in the Commentary on Ephesians ,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 8, no. 3 (Fall 2000): 373411 .

15 The literary-theological context of Jerome's commentary has been dutifully investigated by Raspanti, Giacomo in his “ Adgrediar opus intemptatum: l’Ad Galatas di Gerolamo e gli sviluppi del commentario biblico latino,” Adamantius 10 (2004): 194216 and his “The Significance of Jerome's Commentary on Galatians in his Exegetical Production,” in Jerome of Stridon: His Life, Writings and Legacy, eds. Andrew Cain and Josef Lössl (Burlington, Vt.: Ashgate, 2009), 163–171.

16 An episcopal court had found Jerome guilty of violating the code of ethics for clergy (he had been accused of being a sexual and financial predator). It remains unclear whether his punishment included expulsion from Rome. Perhaps by turning his learned hand to the apostle Paul and by taking hold of the meager Latin tradition dedicated to interpreting the apostle's work Jerome was trying to restore his severely sullied reputation. On the circumstances surrounding his eviction from Rome, see Andrew Cain, The Letters of Jerome: Asceticism, Biblical Exegesis, and the Construction of Christian Authority in Late Antiquity (New York: Oxford University, 2009), 99–128. For more on Jerome as orthodox watchdog, see Rebenich, Stefan, “Asceticism, Orthodoxy and Patronage: Jerome in Constantinople,” Studia Patristica 33 (1997): 358377 ; David G. Hunter, Marriage, Celibacy, and Heresy in Ancient Christianity: The Jovinianist Controversy (New York: Oxford University, 2007); and Benoît-Jeanjean, Saint Jérôme et l'hérésie (Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes, 1999).

17 Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians, 5–59 and Stephen Andrew Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians: Introduction, Translation, and Notes (New York: Oxford University, 2005), 5–15, 182–246. See also the groundbreaking analysis of Cipriani, Nello, “Agostino lettore dei Commentari paolini di Mario Vittorino,” Augustinianum 38, no. 1 (1998): 413428 .

18 On Jerome's negative view of Victorinus's commentary (and the place of his Commentary in the Latin West and beyond), see his Gal. Comm. Praef. and the analysis of Andrew Cain, “Jerome's Pauline Commentaries between East and West: Tradition and Innovation in the Commentary on Galatians,” in Lössl and Watt, Interpreting the Bible and Aristotle, 91–110.

19 See, for instance, Irenaeus, Adv. haer. I.10; II.26–28; III.2, 7, 12, 13, 18; Justin Marytr, Dial. 35; Clement of Alexandria, Paed. I.5–6 and Strom. III.12, VI.15, VII.15–17; Tertullian, Praescr. 5–6; 23–5; 32–3; and John Chrysostom, Homilies on First Corinthians, 3, 27.

20 There is, quite obviously, a real difference between Paul's own conceptions of those “in Christ” and those of his later interpreters, who are working with different categories of Judaism and Christianity than Paul possessed. The late antique commentaries, quite easily, blur any such distinction; they read back into Paul their own notions of Judaism, Christianity, orthodoxy, and heresy.

21 On the interpretation history of Galatians (both in and beyond late antiquity), see John Riches, Galatians through the Centuries (Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2008), which highlights the interpretations of various thinkers (including Chrysostom, Theodore, Calvin, Luther, Perkins, etc.) for each section of the epistle; Alexander Souter, The Earliest Christian Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul (Oxford: Clarendon, 1927); and M.F. Wiles, The Divine Apostle: The Interpretations of St. Paul's Epistles in the Early Church (New York: Cambridge University, 1967).

22 These were questions that Paul himself had raised. See, for instance, William Arnal, “Doxa, Heresy, and Self-Construction: The Pauline Ekklēsiai and the Boundaries of Urban Identities,” in Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity, ed. Eduard Iricinschi and Holger Zellentin (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2007), 50–101.

23 See Stowers, Stanley, “The Concept of ‘Community’ and the History of Early Christianity,” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 23, no. 3–4 (2011): 238256 . See also, Jeremy DuQuesnay Adams, The Populus of Augustine and Jerome: A Study in the Patristic Sense of Community (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University, 1971), which, it should be noted, takes a decidedly philological perspective on the question.

24 On religious communities and truth-languages (sacred scripts), see Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1983), 11–19. On the imagining of groups, see Rogers Brubaker, Ethnicity without Groups (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2004), 7–27.

25 Gal. 3.28. For a discussion of this verse in Paul's immediate context, see the very different readings of Caroline Johnson Hodge, If Sons, then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul (New York: Oxford University, 2007), 126–131 and Daniel Boyarin, A Radical Jew: Paul and the Politics of Identity (Berkeley: University of California, 1994), 4–12 and 180–200.

26 See, for instance, Éric Rebillard, Christians and Their Many Identities In Late Antiquity, North Africa, 200–450 CE (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 2012); Jeremy Schott, Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2008); Denise Buell, Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity (New York: Columbia University, 2005); and Judith M. Lieu, Christianity Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World (New York: Oxford University, 2006).

27 Johnson Hodge, If Sons, then Heirs, 126.

28 For a fuller discussion of Victorinus's life, education, and writings, see Pierre Hadot, Marius Victorinus: Rechercches sur sa vie et ses oeuvres (Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes, 1971) and Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians, 16–40. According to Augustine's Confessions (Book 8), Victorinus, who had been a teacher of rhetoric, converted to Christianity quite late in life (likely between 355–357).

29 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.Praef. (Franco Gori, ed., Marii Victorini opera Pars II: Opera exegetica, CSEL 83.2, [Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1996], 95). Translations of Victorinus are from Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians. For Victorinus's analysis of the structure of Galatians, see Cooper, , “ Narratio and Exhortatio in Galatians According to Marius Victorinus Rhetor,” Zeitschrift für die neutestamentlische Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 91, no. 1–2 (January 2000): 107135 .

30 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.Praef. (CSEL 83.2:95).

31 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.3.1. Victorinus repeats the point at Ad. Gal. I.3.3: “therefore you are so stupid, he says, so lacking understanding in your adding works for your justification” (CSEL 83.2:127).

32 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.3.1 (CSEL 83.2:125).

33 Mark D. Nanos, The Irony of Galatians, writes that “calling someone or their thoughts or actions foolish (ἀνόητος) indicates that one has behaved unwisely, without properly perceiving the situation . . . This does not mean that they do not ‘know,’ but that they do not understand the implications of what they ‘should’ know, indicated by their inappropriate behavior” (46fn51). The Patristic writers, by contrast, charge the Galatians with ignorance in both senses: for their failure to know and for their failure to understand the implications of their error.

34 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.3.1 (CSEL 83.2:126).

35 Ibid.

36 Ibid.

37 Ibid.

38 On the essentialized characterizations of the heretics by the heresiologists (and contemporary scholars), see David Brakke, The Gnostics: Myth, Ritual, and Diversity in Early Christianity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2010), 5–18 and Karen L. King, What is Gnosticism? (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 2003), 12−19, 32–38, 164–169, 191–217.

39 On the enigmatic figure of Ambrosiaster and his corpus, see Hunter, David G., “2008 NAPS Presidential Address: The Significance of Ambrosiaster,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 17, no. 1 (Spring 2009): 126 . For Ambrosiaster's polemical interests, see Cumont, Franz, “La polémique de l'Ambrosiaster contre les païens,” Revue d'histoire et de littérature religieuses 8 (1903): 417440 .

40 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.1.1 (H.J. Vogels, ed., Ambrosiastri qui dicitur Commentarius in Epistulas Paulinas, Pars III: In Epistulas ad Galatas, ad Efesios, ad Filippenses, ad Colosenses, ad Thesalonicenses, ad Timotheum, ad Titum, ad Filemonem, CSEL 81.3 [Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1969], 30)

41 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.1.1 (CSEL 81.3:30).

42 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.2.3 (CSEL 81.3:31).

43 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.2.1 (CSEL 81.3:30–31).

44 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.3.1 (CSEL 83.2:126).

45 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.2.2 (CSEL 81.3:31).

46 Ambrosiaster's point about circumcision is clearer when juxtaposed with the value Paul assigns to marriage and sex. The permission to marry—an obviously carnal act—was a Pauline compromise (1 Cor. 6.7). Paul recognized the reality of corporeal existence (even as he proclaimed abstention from sex as the ideal) and conceded that carnal conventions could be sanctioned insofar as they actually facilitated self-control (and thus dedication and closeness to God). Circumcision, by contrast, entailed not only a painful physical alteration (a bodily transformation), but it did not, as Paul's interpreters insisted, enable individuals to adhere to a pious way of life. It did just the opposite, in fact.

47 Pelagius, In Galatas 3.1 also fixates on the style of Paul's language: “‘O insensati Galatae: Non est contrarium salvatoris verbo, quo fratrem fatuum vocari prohibuit: non enim [hic] dicitur sine causa” in Alexander Souter, Pelagius's Expositions of Thirteen Epistles of St. Paul (New York: Cambridge University, 1922–1931), 2:317. Pelagius, Souter argues, very likely used Ambrosiaster's commentary and Rufinus's translation of Origen (The Earliest Latin Commentaries, 226–229). The most thorough analysis of Pelagius and Paul remains Theodore DeBruyn, Pelagius's Commentary on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans (New York: Oxford University, 1993).

48 Augustine, Epist. 28.3 (Alois Goldbacher, ed., Augustinus, Epistulae Pars I, 1–30, CSEL 34.1 [Vienna: Tempsky, 1895], 107). I have used the translation by Roland J. Teske, Letters 1–99 in The Works of St. Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century, Part II, ed. John E. Rotelle (Hyde Park, N.Y.: New City, 1995), 1:91–94. Over Jerome's suggestion that Paul's castigation of Peter in Gal. 2.11 was an act of duplicity. On the contentious debate between Jerome and Augustine, see Ralph Hennings, Der Briefwechsel zwischen Augustinus und Hieronymus und ihr Streit um den Kanon des Alten Testaments und die Auslegung von Gal. 2, 11–14 (Leiden: Brill, 1994) and Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians, 31–33, 44–53, 91–95. The consequences of suggesting that scripture contains lies (i.e. falsehoods) would be to call into question the truth of the entire biblical canon. As Augustine explains: “It is, of course, one question whether good men ought to lie at some time, and it is another question whether a writer of the holy scriptures ought to lie. In fact, it is not another question; it is no question at all! For, if a useful lie has once been admitted into so lofty a peak of authority, no section of those books will remain that will not, as soon as anyone finds it either difficult in terms of conduct or incredible in terms of faith, be attributed by the same most deadly rule to the plan and purpose of a lying author” (Epist. 28.3; CSEL 34.1:108).

49 Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians, 92.

50 On Augustine and his principles for scriptural interpretation, see Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians, 90–104; Bruno Delaroche, Saint Augustine lecteur et interprète de saint Paul dans “De peccatorum meritis et remissione” (Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes, 1996); Brian Stock, Augustine the Reader: Meditation, Self-Knowledge, and the Interpretation of Scripture (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap, 1996); Isabelle Bochet, “Le Firmament de l’Écriture”: L'herméneutique augustinienne (Paris: Institut d’Études Augustiniennes, 2004); and Frederick Van Fleteren and Joseph C. Schnaubelt, eds., Augustine: Biblical Exegete (New York: Peter Lang, 2001).

51 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 18.1 (CSEL 84:75).

52 Ibid.

53 See Heath, Malcolm, “John Chrysostom, Rhetoric and Galatians,” Biblical Interpretation 12, no. 4 (2004): 369400 .

54 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. III.3.1 (PG 61:647).

55 Ibid.

56 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. I.1.1–3 (PG 61:611).

57 Ibid.

58 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. III.3.1 (PG 61:647).

59 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. I.1.1–3 (PG 61:614).

60 On the relationship between Jews and heretics in late antiquity, see Averil Cameron, “Jews and Heretics—A Category Error?” in Becker and Reed, The Ways That Never Parted, 345–360 and Christine Shepardson, Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem's Hymns in Fourth-Century Syria (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University, 2008).

61 While Chrysostom refers to both Jews and Judaizing throughout his Hom. Gal., he is clear that Paul's letter concerns gentiles who were being pressured by Jews to embrace Jewish practices. For gentiles to behave as Jews, however, was what Chrysostom calls the “Judaizing error” (Ἰουδαῖκἠ πλἀνη [PG 61:629]). On the language of Judaizing, see, for instance, Chrysostom, Jud. 1.1.5, 1.4.4, 1.4.8 and Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.6.12. On the history of Antioch, Jews, and Christians, see Isabella Sandwell, Religious Identity in Late Antiquity: Greeks, Jews and Christians in Antioch (New York: Cambridge University, 2007), 3–59.

62 Chrysostom, Jud. I.VI.3 (PG 48:852). The classic study remains Robert Louis Wilken, Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late Fourth Century (Berkeley: University of California, 1983). See now Christine Shepardson, Controlling Contested Places: Late Antique Antioch and the Spatial Politics of Religious Controversy (Berkeley: University of California, 2014), 93–116; and Dayna Kalleres, City of Demons: Violence, Ritual, and Christian Power in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California, 2015), 25–112. For a look at the rhetorical contradictions in Chrysostom's Sermons against the Jews, see Todd S. Berzon, “The Double Bind of Christianity's Judaism: Language, Law, and the Incoherence of Late Antique Discourse,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 23, no. 3 (Fall 2015): 445–480.

63 Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 233fn147.

64 See Mitchell, , The Heavenly Trumpet 49–54, 99–105, 151–159, 166, 262–263, 395, as well as her “The Archetypal Image: John Chrysostom's Portraits of Paul,” Journal of Religion 75, no. 1 (January 1995): 1543 ; Jaclyn L. Maxwell, Christianization and Communication in Late Antiquity: John Chrysostom and His Congregation in Antioch (New York: Oxford University, 2006), 88–116, 137; and Isabella Sandwell, “John Chrysostom's Audiences and His Accusations of Religious Laxity” in Religious Diversity in Late Antiquity, ed. David M. Gwynn and Susanne Bangert (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 523–542.

65 Heath, “John Chrysostom, Rhetoric and Galatians,” 395. On the relationship between discipline and community, see Jennifer V. Ebbeler, Disciplining Christians: Correction and Community in Augustine's Letters (New York: Oxford University, 2012).

66 An ironic observation given Tertullian's famous observation in his Adversus Marcionem 3.5 that Paul had become, over the course of the second century, “the apostle of the heretics” (apostolus haereticorum [CSEL 47:382]). On Paul and the discourse of heresy, see Robert M. Royalty Jr., The Origin of Heresy: A History of Discourse in Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity (New York: Routledge, 2012), 64–88.

67 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas Arg. 1 (CSEL 81.3:3).

68 On the dating of Jerome's Commentaries on the Pauline epistles see Nautin, Pierre, “La date des commentaries de Jérôme sur les épîtres pauliniennes,” Revue d'histoire ecclésiastique 74, no. 1 (January 1979): 512 . Raspanti, “The Significance of Jerome's Commentary on Galatians in his Exegetical Production” fixes the date at 386, the years immediately after he had settled in Bethlehem. On Jerome's exegesis more generally see Andrew Cain, The Letters of Jerome and the excellent study of Megan Hale Williams, The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2006), 102–109 on the commentary as genre (both in terms of form and content).

69 Jerome, Comm. Gal. Praef. (CCSL 77A:7). I have generally followed the translation of Thomas B. Scheck, St. Jerome's Commentaries on Galatians, Titus, and Philemon (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 2010). I have noted where I have made modifications or offered my own translation.

70 For more on Jerome's sources, see A. Souter, The Earliest Latin Commentaries on the Epistles of St. Paul, 110–125; Cain, Andrew, “Tertullian, Cyprian, and Lactantius in Jerome's Commentary on Galatians ,” Revue d’études augustiniennes et patristiques 55 no. 1 (2009): 2351 and Cain, St. Jerome: Commentary on Galatians (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of American, 2010), 19–34.

71 Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.3.1a (CCSL 77A:65; my translation): Dupliciter hic locus intellegi potest vel ideo insensatos Galatas appellatos a maioribus ad minora veninetes quia coeperint spiritu et carne consummentur vel ob id quod unaquaeque provincial suas habeat proprietates. Jerome's Commentary is also different from the other surviving patristic because, as Cain, St. Jerome: Commentary on Galatians, notes it “presents alternative interpretations of given passages rather than the author's alone . . . By the same token, though, Jerome is often not shy about steering the reader in the direction of the interpretation he personally finds most convincing” (34–35).

72 On the disposition of the Galatians, see Book 38 of Livy's History of Rome (Evan T. Sage, ed. and trans., History of Rome, vol. XI, Loeb Classical Library (hereafter LCL) 313 [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1936] and Lucian's Alexander the False Prophet (A.M. Harmon, ed. and trans., Lucian, vol. IV, LCL 162 [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1925]). Livy observed that the Gauls, having migrated to Asia Minor (and established themselves in Galatia), were “now degenerate, of mixed stock and really Gallogrecians” (LCL 313:58–59). As Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 2004) suggests, “after their migration to Asia Minor, [the Gauls] would have deteriorated to the level of other Asiatics” (90). In becoming Galatians, the Gauls were now soft, feeble, and servile. In Lucian's text, Galatia is included among those regions preyed upon by Alexander on account of the fact that the residents of Galatia are known for being easily manipulated and credulous (Alex. 8−9; 18; 30).

73 Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.3.1a (CCSL 77A:66).

74 Ibid. For detailed discussions of Greco-Roman antecedents to Christian prejudicial descriptions, see Edith Hall, Inventing the Barbarian: Greek Self-Definition through Tragedy (New York: Oxford University, 1989; Christopher Tuplin, “Greek Racism? Observations on the Character and Limits of Greek Ethnic Prejudice,” in Ancient Greeks West and East, ed. Gocha R. Tsetskhladze (Leiden: Brill, 1999), 47–75; A.N. Sherwin-White, Racial Prejudice in Imperial Rome (New York: Cambridge University, 1967); J.E. Coleman, “Ancient Greek Ethnocentrism,” in Greeks and Barbarians, ed. J.E. Coleman and C.A. Walz, 175–220; Yves Albert Dauge, Le Barbare: Recherches sur la conception romaine de la barbarie et de la civilisation (Brussels: Latomus, 1981); and Benjamin Isaac, The Invention of Racism.

75 Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.3.1a (CCSL 77A:63): arbitror et Apostolum Galatas regionis suae proprietate pulsasse.

76 Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.3.1a (CCSL 77A:66; translation modified).

77 See the second half of Isaac's, The Invention of Racism, 255–500, where he describes in enormous detail ancient techniques and tropes of stereotyping Jews, Germans, Persians, Egyptians, Phoenicians, and Syrians.

78 Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.3.1a (CCSL 77A:66).

79 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:82).

80 Jerome's ethnological reading is strengthened by the fact that Galatians is the only Pauline epistle to refer to assemblies in the plural: ecclesiis Galatiae (Comm. Gal. I.1.2 [CCSL 77A:13]).

81 Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.1.2 (CCSL 77A:13). Chrysostom makes the same observation about Gal. 1.2. The problem with the Galatians was not, he bemoans at Hom. Gal. I.1.2, confined to “two cities only,” but rather that it was the “whole Galatian people” who had caught up in this retrogression (PG 61:616). And it is this fact that explains Paul's deliberately harsh rhetoric.

82 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.15–18 (CCSL 77A:96).

83 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:78).

84 Anthony D. Smith, The Ethnic Origins of Nations, (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell, 1987), 32. On ancient conceptions of ethnicity, see the pioneering work of Jonathan M. Hall, Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity (New York: Cambridge University, 1997), esp. 1–51 and his Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2002), 3–29.

85 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:80).

86 Ibid.

87 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II Praef. (CCSL 77A:82).

88 To make his point about Paul's emphasis on the tension between life in Christ and life in a nation (or in the provinces), Jerome briefly outlines the apostle's dispositional portrait of the Roman people, the Corinthians, and the Macedonians. These short descriptions contain more ethnographic material than any of Jerome's other commentaries on Paul. Indeed, Jerome produced only four commentaries on Paul's work (or letters he believed to be written by Paul): Galatians, Ephesians, Titus, and Philemon. There are touches of ethnological analysis in all four, though nothing approaches the detail or depth of his analysis of the Galatians as a gens. Jerome's preface to his Commentary on Ephesians contains a brief ethnological discussion, which may have come from Origen's own commentary. On this point, see Ronald E. Heine, The Commentaries of Origen and Jerome on St. Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians (New York: Oxford University, 2002), 32–35, 76–78. While here is scant mention of nations in Jerome's Commentary on Philemon, he does employ brief ethnological remarks in his Commentary on Titus, specifically 1.12: “One of themselves, a prophet of their own said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beats, lazy bellies.’” In this instance, however, Jerome focuses on the possible source of the quotation rather than provide a detailed discussion of the Cretans as a nation or peoples.

89 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:82; translation modified).

90 To the extent that Paul notes regional distinctiveness at all it is usually to do one of two things: either (1) to underscore ontological similarity for those who are in Christ or (2) to pit predictable regional rivals against one another for the sake of making money (charitable giving). On the former point, see Stanley K. Stowers, “What is ‘Pauline Participation in Christ’?” in Redefining First-Century Jewish and Christian Identities: Essays in Honor of Ed Parish Sanders, ed. Fabian E. Udoh, et al. (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 2008), 352−371. On the latter, see David J. Downs, The Offering of the Gentiles: Paul's Collection for Jerusalem in Its Chronological, Cultural, and Cultic Contexts (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2008), esp. 30–72.

91 Tertullian, Apol. 18.4 (T.R. Glover, ed. and trans., Tertullian: Apology; De Spectaculis, LCL 250 [Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1931], 90–91).

92 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:80; translation modified).

93 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:82–83).

94 For example, Jerome, Comm. Gal. I.1.2, 1.1.6–7, 1.2.16b, 1.3.1a, 1.3.5; II.3.10; III.5.19–21.

95 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:82).

96 Paul's role as heresiologist par excellence—insofar as he defined what heresy was—is further evidenced by Origen's commentary, which construes 1 Cor. 11.19 and Gal. 5.19–21 as heresiological clarion calls. See Pamphilus, Apol. 31.

97 Buell, Why This New Race, 5. From this analytical perspective, the Galatians would have substituted one ethnic identity (Galatianness) for another (Christianness).

98 Victorinus, Ad Gal. II.3.28 (CSEL 83.2:136). See below, n. 126.

99 I disagree with Buell's characterization that Christian universality was necessarily a form or expression of ethnic affiliation. To use words such as ethnos and genos is, by her own admission, to embrace the available lexicon for articulating groupism. Buell's analysis elides group affiliation and ethno-racial reasoning, whereby the former is by definition the latter. But not all claims of kinship are ethnic; group affiliation is not, by definition, ethnic or racial.

100 Pauline Nigh Hogan's “No Longer Male and Female”: Interpreting Galatians 3:28 in Early Christianity (New York: T&T Clark, 2008) focuses on the verse as it relates to conceptualizations of gender in the pre-Augustinian period. Her survey does not include references to Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, Chrysostom, or Augustine.

101 Buell, Why This New Race, 5. “Instead,” she argues that “a consideration of the particular social, political, and historical conditions of Galatia can illuminate the significance of early Christian uses of certain rhetorical strategies of ethno-racial self-definition—the same strategies used in Alexandria, Carthage, or Rome might resonate quite differently” (5). This, however, need not be mutually exclusive with Jerome's particular exegetical interests.

102 Buell, Why This New Race, 5. See Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:78–80).

103 Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.5.12 (CCSL 77A:168).

104 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.28 (CCSL 77A:102).

105 Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.5.16 (CCSL 77A:178), quoting Sallust, Bell. Cat. 1.2.

106 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.27–8 (CCSL 77A:102). Cum autem quis semel Christum fuerit indutus et missus in flammam Spiritus Sancti ardore canduerit, non intellegitur aurum sit an argentum: quamdiu calor massam possidet, unus igneus color est, omnis diversitas generis, condicionis et corporum aufertur istiusmodi vestimento.

107 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.27–8 (CCSL 77A:103).

108 Chrysostom Hom. Gal. 3.3.27 (PG 61:656).

109 It is precisely the blurring of the two that Jerome identifies in his reading of 6.15: “Although the world is one in its substance, it becomes one or another thing depending on one's perspective . . . What counts is a new creation, into which our lowly body is being transformed into the glorious body of Christ” (CCSL 77A:224).

110 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.29 (CCSL 77A:103).

111 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.4.7 (CCSL 77A:113).

112 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.29 (CCSL 77A:103). Although Jerome proclaims that Christian faith obviates all manner of human distinction, cultivates a new self, produces a new reality, he also insists in his reading of 6.15 that even though humans “will be transformed from our lowly body into the glorious body of the Lord Jesus Christ . . . this is not to say that its substance changes; it is just different in glory” (CCSL 77A:223–224).

113 To recognize the value of Buell's argument is not necessarily to accept her claim that scholars have too readily accepted the notion that Christianity was a transcendent movement, i.e., a religion that had nothing to do with ethnicity or race. It is indisputable that Christians did, in fact, use the language and discourse of ethno-racial reasoning. This does not mean, however, that they did not simultaneously proclaim that Christianity was incompatible with the language of ethnicity. The strength of Buell's argument does not preclude the existence of a discourse or discourses that categorically reject the association between ethnic affiliation and Christian existence.

114 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.3.27–8 (CCSL 77A:102).

115 Dissension itself was, as Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.5.19–21 (CCSL 77A:188) explains, the mark of existence in the flesh: “‘Dissensions’ are ‘works of the flesh,’ when someone who is by no means perfect says with the same understanding and the same intention: ‘I am of Paul, I am of Apollos, I am of Cephas, and I am of Christ.’ Moreover, this same ‘dissension’ is found in homes, namely between husband and wife, father and son, brother and brother, fellow slave and fellow slave, soldier and army buddy, craftsman and members of the same craft.”

116 The point is further amplified at Comm. Gal. 4.3, where Jerome draws an ontological connection between superstitio and objects of veneration. The latter are not divine beings, but, in his telling, creatures.

117 Jerome, Comm. Gal. II.Praef. (CCSL 77A:78; my translation).

118 Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.5.19–21 (CCSL 77A:188–189).

119 Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.5.19–21 (CCSL 77A:189).

120 It was the threat to both communal and cosmological order (the disruption of both pacata atque quieta and pax deorum) that, as G.E.M. de Ste. Croix observed over half a century ago, informs the rhetoric (and perhaps even practice) of the Christian persecutions. See his, “Why were the Early Christians Persecuted?,” Past & Present 26, no. 1 (November 1963): 6–38.

121 Victorinus, Ad Gal. I.3.1 (CSEL 83.2:127).

122 Arnal, “Doxa, Heresy, and Self-Construction,” 91.

123 See Cooper, Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians, 299fn19 and 2fn6 for an explanation of his translation of reliquas personas as “outstanding forms of external identity.”

124 Victorinus, Ad Gal. II.3.28 (CSEL 83.2:137).

125 Boyarin, A Radical Jew, 106.

126 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. 6.15–16 (PG 61:679).

127 Buell, Why This New Race, 3.

128 Chrysostom, Hom. Gal. 6.15–16 (PG 61:679).

129 Victorinus, Ad Gal. II.6.15 (CSEL 83.2:171–172). The Mystery is the totally of the Christ event: his birth, appearance, ministry, death, and resurrection. See Victorinus, Ad Gal. II.4.3–4.

130 Gal 3.26 at Exp. Gal. 27.3 (CSEL 84:92).

131 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 27.3 (CSEL 84:92).

132 Ambrosiaster, Comm. in ep. ad Galatas 3.28 (CSEL 81.3:42).

133 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 28.1 (CSEL 84:92).

134 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 28.3–4 (CSEL 84:93). Translation from Plumer, Augustine's Commentary on Galatians, 173–175. Nam nunc quamvis primitias habentes spiritus, qui vita est, propter iustitiam fidei, tamen quia adhuc mortuum est corpus propter peccatum, differentia ista vel gentium vel conditionis vel sexus iam quidem ablata est ab unitate fidei, sed manet in conversatione mortali eiusque ordinem in huius vitae itinere servandum esse et apostoli praecipiunt, qui etiam regulas saluberrimas tradunt, quemadmodum secum vivant pro differentia gentis Iudaei et Graeci et pro differentia conditionis domini et servi et pro differentia sexus viri et uxores, vel si qua talia cetera occurrunt, et ipse prior dominus, qui ait: “Reddite Caesari, quae Caesaris sunt, et deo, quae dei sunt.” Alia sunt enim, quae servamus in unitate fidei sine ulla distantia et alia in ordine vitae huius tamquam in via, ne nomen dei et doctrina blasphemetur.

135 Brown, Peter, “St. Augustine's Attitude to Religious Coercion,” Journal of Roman Studies 54, no. 1–2 (1964): 107 .

136 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 63.4–8 (CSEL 84:139–140).

137 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 63.5 (CSEL 84:139).

138 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 63.7 (CSEL 84:139).

139 Ibid.

140 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 28.1–83; 63.1–11.

141 Augustine, Exp. Gal. 48.5–6 (CSEL 84:124). Jerome, Comm. Gal. III.6.15 who advises Christians that “we should believe that we are now already what we will become” (CCSL 77A:224).

142 The names Marcion, Origen, Valentinus, Arius, Priscillian, Nestorius, Pelagius, and Donatus gesture at only some of the many theological controversies of late antiquity, while political rivalries between the emperors and the brief reign of Julian the Apostate signal the ever-shifting ground of political stability. See, for example, R.P.C. Hanson, The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian Controversy 318–381 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988); Christopher Haas, Alexandria in Late Antiquity: Topography and Social Conflict (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University, 1997); Clark, The Origenist Controversy; Susan Wessel, Cyril of Alexandria and the Nestorian Controversy: The Making of a Saint and of a Heretic (New York: Oxford University, 2004); and Shepardson, Controlling Contested Places.

143 Schott, Christianity, Empire, and the Making of Religion, 38.

144 Cf. Paula Fredriksen, “Historical Integrity, Interpretive Freedom: The Philosopher's Paul and the Problem of Anachronism,” in St. Paul among the Philosophers, ed. John D. Caputo and Linda Martin Alcoff (Bloomington: Indiana University, 2009), 61–73.

145 Pelagius, In Galatas 3.29 (Souter 2:323).

146 On the relationship between Christianity and the landscape of late antiquity (specifically Christianity and empire), see Averil Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley: University of California, 1991); Andrew S. Jacobs, Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University, 2004); Elizabeth DePalma Digeser, The Making of a Christian Empire: Lactantius and Rome (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 2012); Jaś Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph (New York: Oxford University, 1998); and Ramsay R. MacMullen, Christianizing the Roman Empire (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University, 1986).

147 Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2004), 1–33, 202–225 and Judith Lieu, Neither Jew Nor Greek? Constructing Early Christianity (New York: T & T Clark, 2002).

148 Stowers, “The Concept of ‘Community,’” 242. Stowers's point here is that Paul's discussion of community was a strategy of group-formation; it was not a social reality but a rhetorical evocation. As Stowers insists of the Corinthians in Christ, “There never was a social body, a congregation, a community, on the one hand, nor were there defilements of a social purity, rifts and defections from such a nonexistent social miracle of harmony and unity of mind, on the other hand, except in Paul's imagination and rhetoric” (244).

149 See the pioneering work of Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, ed. Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Kroedel, trans. Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971). More recent approaches, include King, Karen L., “Factions, Variety, Diversity, Multiplicity: Representing Early Christian Difference for the 21st Century,” Method & Theory in the Study of Religion 23, no. 3–4 (2011): 216237 ; Karen L. King, “Which Early Christianity?” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, ed. Susan Ashbrook Harvey and David G. Hunter (New York: Oxford University, 2008), 66–84; Robert M. Royalty, Jr., The Origins of Heresy; and Todd S. Berzon, Classifying Christians: Ethnography, Heresiology, and the Limits of Knowledge in Late Antiquity (Berkeley: University of California, 2016).

150 As Tertullian famously wrote of the Roman persecution of Christians: “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed (semen est sanguis Christianorum)” (LCL 250: 226–227). On baptism as rebirth, see John 3.3–5; Rom. 6.3–5; Col. 2.12; Tit. 3.5. On the history of the relationship between the two ideas, see Thomas M. Finn, From Death to Rebirth: Ritual and Conversion in Antiquity (Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist, 1997), 25–29, 137–238; A.J.M Wedderburn, Baptism and Resurrection: Studies in Pauline Theology against Its Graeco-Roman Background (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1987); And Everett Ferguson, Baptism in the Early Church (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2009), 28–42, 307–308, 326–329, 426–434, 468–470, 790–799, 839–848.

151 See Seth R. Schwartz, Imperialism and Jewish Society (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 2001), 179 as well as his revised remarks in How Many Judaisms Were There?Journal of Ancient Judaism 2, no. 2 (2011): 208238 ; Daniel Boyarin, “Semantic Differences; or ‘Judaism’/'Christianity,’ in Becker and Reed, The Ways That Never Parted, 65–85; and now Jason BeDuhn, “Mani and the Crystallization of the Concept of ‘Religion’ in Third Century Iran,” in Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings: Studies on the Chester Beatty Kephalaia Codex, ed. Iain Gardner, Jason BeDuhn, Paul Dilley (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 247–275. Cf. Brent Nongbri, Before Religion (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University, 2013).

An earlier version of this essay was delivered at the 2015 SBL Annual Meeting in Atlanta. My thanks to Caroline Johnson Hodge and Emma Wasserman for allowing to me present the paper in the Pauline Epistles session. I must also thank Stephen Cooper for sharing with me a copy of his forthcoming translation of Ambrosiaster's Commentary on Galatians. Heidi Wendt not only offered invaluable suggestions as this essay took shape, but she also read the finished version with remarkable perspicacity. Finally, I must express my appreciation to the anonymous reviewer for Church History whose feedback was inordinately valuable.

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