The current work slightly revises Rodrigo Morales’s doctoral dissertation at Duke University under the supervision of Richard Hays. Morales seeks to explain the significance of receiving the Spirit in Galatians, and in particular tries to discern the connection between the blessing of Abraham (Gal 3:14) and the reception of the Spirit. Morales conducts his study in light of Jewish teachings on the gift of the Spirit, arguing that the coming of the Spirit accords with the restoration of Israel.
Morales sets the scene by investigating texts that describe the outpouring of the Spirit in both the OT and Second Temple Judaism. In most instances Paul does not allude to these texts, according to Morales. Instead Paul draws on a wide tradition which would almost certainly shape his conception of the gift of the Spirit. Morales argues that both the OT (Isa 11:1–16; 32:15–20; 42:1–9; 43:14–44:8; 48:16; 57:14–21; 59:15b–21; 61:1–11; 63:7–64–12; Ezek 11:14–21; 18:30–32; 36:16–38; 37:1–14; 39:21–21; Joel 2:18–3:5) and Second Temple (Jubilees, The Treatise on the Two Spirits, The Words of the Luminaries, 4Q521, Psalms of Solomon, The Similitudes of Enoch, The Testament of Judah, The Testament of Levi) texts on the dispensing of the Spirit are associated with the new exodus and the restoration of Israel. These texts on the Spirit exhibit some diversity, but they typically point to an eschatological future and the coming of the new creation and a time when God’s people will be enabled to obey him. Scholars may quibble here and there over Morales’s exegesis, but I would argue that he makes his case clearly and convincingly from both the OT and Second Temple literature.
The book then turns to Paul and Galatians. He begins by saying like Cosgrove and Lull that the entire letter “hangs” on the reception of the Spirit. The Spirit signals the restoration of God’s promises, but these promises are interpreted in light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The coming of the Spirit does not mean submission to the Torah and circumcision but freedom from the law. Morales examines the text of Gal 3:1–14 in some detail, providing many helpful exegetical insights along the way. He is clearly conversant with the literature on these verses and presents his own case clearly. He interprets the curse of the law in Gal 3:10 along the same lines as N. T. Wright and James Scott, with the backdrop for the interpretation of the text stemming from Deut 27–30 and the curse of exile. But Morales departs from Wright and Scott in seeing the curse as death rather than exile (which improves their reading).
The first person pronouns in Galatians (3:10–4:7) are the subject of significant controversy. Morales contends that they invariably refer to the Jews. Gentiles are included in Israel’s restoration (but not in the first person plural pronouns), for they too receive the Spirit. The author makes a good case for the notion that the gift of the Spirit in Gal 3:14 is tied to the blessing of the Spirit promised in Isa 44:3 and follows James Scott in seeing the heir in Gal 4:1–7 as Israel under the law. Morales draws upon John Barclay in seeing chs. 5–6 as integral to the remainder of Galatians. The church was fractured by communal friction, and the Spirit-flesh polarity picks up the emphasis on the Spirit from the first part of the letter. The Spirit-flesh opposition should be interpreted in terms of redemptive history rather than anthropologically. The eschatological character of Paul’s argument is evident in 5:5–6. In terms of the fulfillment of the law in 5:14, Morales follows Hays in seeing a primary reference to the fulfillment of the law by Christ. The works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit (5:19–23; cf. also 6:8) are also eschatological, denoting life in the old age and the new era respectively.
Morales has contributed a fine study that is replete with insights and careful exegesis, demonstrating the eschatological character of the whole of Galatians. The focus on the Spirit ties together nicely Gal 1–4 with 5–6. Furthermore, he rightly hearkens back to the OT in unearthing Paul’s eschatological vision. This is not to say that everything Morales says is convincing, though space forbids the kind of detailed interaction that is needed. Redemptive-history is the rage (rightly in most respects), but Morales falls into the either-or of pitting redemptive-history over against anthropology in discussing the Spirit-flesh distinction. The argument that the first person plural pronouns in 3:10–4:7 refer only to Jews is quite strained, especially in 4:6. Such sudden shifts in the argument are too clever by half. So too, reading the curse of the law in terms of the exile, though it is not foreign to Paul’s thought per se, does not account well for what Paul is doing specifically in Gal 3:10–14, for he addresses Gentiles individually, warning them about the consequences of living under the Torah.
Morales rightly sees from the OT that when the Spirit comes the law will be kept, and he also correctly emphasizes that believers are not under the law according to Paul. But somewhat surprisingly he does not clearly explain the tension in Pauline thought, with the result that the empowering work of the Spirit for a new obedience is slighted. Perhaps he does not unpack the work of the Spirit clearly since he focuses on Christ’s fulfillment of the law in 5:14. In any case, Morales’s own study provides the ammunition for seeing both continuity and discontinuity in terms of the Spirit and the law. With the arrival of the new creation there is both abolition and fulfillment of the law. Finally, the cross and justification are not the subject of Morales’s study, but he wrongly and too quickly says that the Spirit is the central issue of the letter, ignoring the programmatic nature of Gal 2:15–21, where justification and the cross come to the forefront.
This review should not end on a negative note. We can be grateful to Morales for tracing the connections between the promise of the Spirit in the OT and Second Temple literature and Paul and for emphasizing the redemptive-historical character of Pauline theology.