Peace and Mercy Upon the Israel of God:
G. K. Beale
The Old Testament Background of Galatians 6,16b 1
Discussions of the Old Testament background of "new creation" in Gal 6,15 and
its relation to v. 16 have heretofore been general and have not targeted any particular OT
passage. This essay sets out to demonstrate that the phrase "peace and mercy"
has its most probable background in the Old Testament promise of Israel"s restoration
in Isaiah 54. In the light of this background the mention of the "marks" of
Jesus on Paul"s body in v. 17 makes excellent sense.
I. Peace and Mercy in Galatians 6,16b and New Creation in Isaiah 54 and
other OT texts
Verse 16b explains the blessing upon those
who line up their lives according to the elemental, ethical rule of the new creation:
"peace and mercy be upon them and (or "even") upon the Israel of God".
Though the dominant notion of this "peace and mercy" pertains to God"s
blessing upon people, it probably has overtones of the effect of that blessing: the
ethical demeanor of striving for unity among those who live in the new creation. This is a
positive way of saying that they are not people who have become "boastful ones, ones
challenging one another, envying one another" (5,26).
This last expression of v. 16 has undergone
explosive debate. Some understand "the Israel of God" to be a further definition
of the preceding "them", so that the entire Galatian church, Jewish and Gentile
believers together, are referred to as true Israel. Grammatically, this view is certainly
possible, since the kai/ can be rendered as
appositional or explicative: "even", "that is", or "namely"2, with the resulting
translation: "peace and mercy be upon them, that is, upon the Israel of God" (so
RSV, New Living Translation, JB, Moffat [?])3.
Others understand the preceding "them" to refer to Gentile Christians and
"the Israel of God" to allude to Jewish Christians: "peace and mercy be
upon them, and upon the Israel of God"4.
Those who have identified "the Israel
of God" with the entire Galatian church (Jewish and Gentile believers) have usually
done so because of the epistle"s main theme of unity between believers of different
ethnic groups, and especially because of the notion that the nationalistic traits
distinguishing the people of God in the old age no longer hold true for the people of God
in the new age5. Since
the dominant message is one of doing away with national distinctions among God"s
people (3,7-8.26-29; 4,26-31; 5,2-12), it would seem unlikely that Paul would conclude the
epistle by referring to those in the church according to their ethnic distinctives. This
idea is especially unlikely since 6,11-18, as the conclusion of the epistle, is intended
by Paul to summarize its major themes6.
It has been argued, however, that, since the common meaning for kai/ is "and" and since the word
"Israel" elsewhere in the NT always refers to the ethnic nation, the burden of
proof rests on one to show that kai/ is appositional and refers to both Gentile and Jewish Christians7. In response, C.A. Ray
has applied to Gal 6,16 the linguistic rule for kai/ formulated by K. Titrud: though kai/ occurs many times in the NT with various meanings (approx. 9,000), instead of assuming that the most common meaning applies (which is "generally connective"),
one should opt for that meaning "which contributes the least new information to the
total context" (a principle sometimes referred to as "the rule of maximal
redundancy"). In particular, Titrud maintained that, in view of the rule of maximal
redundancy, if apposition is a viable option for kai/,
then it should be seriously considered8.
This means that the overall context of Galatians must be considered in identifying "Israel". To identify
"Israel" with only the ethnic nation would be introducing a new idea into the
letter: whereas Paul has throughout underscored unity among redeemed Jews and Gentiles, it
would seem, not only a new thought, but an odd notion to underscore at the end a blessing
on Gentile and Jew separately9.
Ultimately, immediate context must decide the meaning of the use of any word.
Some have proposed that the wording
"peace and mercy be upon them and upon the Israel of God" is derived from an
early Jewish benediction preserved in later Jewish tradition in the nineteenth benediction
of the Shemoneh "Esreh or one of the variant forms of that benediction:
"Bring peace, goodness, and blessing, grace and favor and mercy over us and
over all Israel, your people"10.
The reference to "Peace be upon Israel" in the LXX of Pss 124,5 and 127,6 has
also been proposed11.
Likewise, close to Gal 6,16 is Ezra 3,11: "it is good that his mercy is upon Israel
These are possible backgrounds, but it would be hard to demonstrate the probability that the language in question in the Shemoneh "Esreh existed in an earlier form as far back as the first
century, since the Palestinian recension, which approximates the wording of the prayer
around AD 70-100, omits about half of the wording of the later Babylonian recension"s
nineteenth benediction, including the crucial word "mercy"13! The Psalm references
lack not only a reference to "mercy" but also do not have a double reference to
the recipients, which the Shemoneh "Esreh, at least, has. If the Shemoneh "Esreh
were in mind, then the kai/ in Gal 6,16 would most
naturally be understood as appositional (contra to Richardson"s
There may exist a better background than any
of these preceding proposals which has closer similarities in both wording and contextual
idea: a hitherto unnoticed OT background in Isaiah 54 appears to have more probability of
standing behind the phrase "peace and mercy" than any other background
previously proposed. If this is so, it would confirm the idea that the "Israel of
God" is a reference to the entire church and not only the Jewish Christian segment of
it (though the other proposed references would also have similar ramifications). The
phrase "peace upon them and mercy" in Gal 6,16 is likely a further development
of the use of Isa 54,1 in Gal 4,27. In Isa 54,10 God says to Israel "But my lovingkindness
(dsx) will not be removed from you,
and my covenant of peace (Mwl#$) will not be shaken". The LXX renders the Hebrew dsx by e!leoj ("mercy") and Mwl#$ by ei)rh/nh, ("peace"). The only other times in which the two
Hebrew words occur in such close connection (e.g., within an eight-word range)14 are Jer 16,5 and Ps
84,10, the former referring to God"s removing of "lovingkindness" and
"peace" when the nation goes into captivity, and the latter alluding to the
return of these two aspects of divine favor when God restores the nation from exile: "Lovingkindness and truth have met together, and righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps 84,10).
Outside of Isa 54,10 e!leoj ("mercy") and ei)rh/nh, ("peace") occur in close combination (within a
seven-word range) in the LXX only in Ps 84,11 (= MT 85,11)15 and Tobit 7,12 (the latter occurring in only one
version of the LXX in an insignificant context which refers to a personal wish of blessing
bestowed on one person to another)16.
Outside of these passages, the combination does not occur elsewhere (in an eight-word
range) until the use in Galatians and in subsequent early Christian literature of the
early church fathers17.
This evidence shows that the combination of "mercy and peace" was not a
typical part of formulaic benedictions in early Judaism nor a part of typical conclusions
in early Hellenistic epistolary literature.
The occurrence in the LXX of Ps 84,11 is a
literal rendering of the Hebrew given above, yet the combination of e!leoj and ei)rh/nhalso occurs only two verses earlier in vv. 8-9 in almost the same close proximity: "Show us your mercy (e!leoj) and give to us your salvation. Hear what the Lord
God will speak through me: he will speak peace (ei)rh/nh) upon his people and upon his saints, and upon
those who turn their heart toward him". Interestingly, the promised condition of the
peace and mercy of restoration is also referred to as an "enlivening" ("you
will turn and you will enliven [zww/seij] us," v. 7). Furthermore, the attributes surrounding "mercy" and "peace" in Ps 84,11 ("faithfulness" and "righteousness") are
portrayed in the directly following verses as fruits of God"s eschatological creative
work in combination with other fertility imagery: "Faithfulness springs from the
earth ... and our land will yield its produce" (vv. 12-13).
The Psalm has some significant affinities
with the Galatians context: (1) "mercy" and "peace" are pronounced
"upon" Israel (cf. ei)rh/nhn e)pi_ to_n lao/n in Ps 84,9 and ei)rh/nh e)p' au)tou/j in Gal 6,16); (2) the notion of new "life" is associated with the
salvific state of God"s people (cf. Ps 84,7 [above] and Gal 5,25); (3) the
pronouncement of "peace" in Ps 84,9 is made to three groups; however, these are,
in fact, different ways of referring to one group, Israel ("peace upon [e)pi/] his people and upon [e)pi/] his saints and upon [e)pi/] the ones who turn their heart to
him"); likewise in Gal 6,16 peace is pronounced on multiple groups (with two e)pi/ clauses), and, if this is any reflection of the
Psalm, the two groups there are probably the same; (4) in both contexts "peace"
is listed among other attributes which are part of eschatological fertility imagery (cf.
It is possible that the uses in Jeremiah
and, especially Psalm 84, together with the use in Isaiah 54 are alluded to collectively
in Gal 6,16, since they all refer to the peace and mercy Israel would experience in the
promised restoration (though Jeremiah says it negatively), and Paul has clearly had the
fulfillment of Israel"s promised restoration in mind with the explicit Isa 54,1
quotation in Galatians 4. Since these are the only three times where the combined uses
appear in the Hebrew OT and since they all have the same reference (the divine blessing of
peace and mercy upon Israel in the coming restoration), it is understandable that they may
have become a collective influence (especially the Greek uses in the LXX) on Paul.
If any one of these combined uses of
"peace" and "mercy" are uppermost in mind in Gal, 6,16, it would have
to be Isa 54,10 for the following reasons: (1) Isa 54,1 has already been referred to in
Gal 4,27; thus, Paul already had the Isaiah 54 context explicitly in mind18; (2) sustoixe/w directly precedes the reference
to Isaiah 54 in Gal 4,25-27, and stoixe/w likewise
directly precedes "peace and mercy" in Gal 6,15-16 (and the two words overlap
semantically); (3) the "peace" and "mercy" of Isa 54,10 is seen in vv.
11-12 to have its concrete expression in the coming conditions of new creation at the time
of Israel"s restoration: "I will set your stones in antinomy, and your
foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and
your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones" (this is consistent
with Isaiah 54 in that God is the one who is "making" Israel again [54,5] and
who "has created" her in order that she be restored [54,16]19). In fact, Isa 54,9
compares the coming state of restoration to the conditions directly following Noah"s
flood, which is associated with new creation motifs in Genesis20 and which some sectors of Jewish tradition termed
a new creation21.
Then Isa 54,10a portrays the cosmic dissolution which must precede the coming new
creation: "the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake". All of this
material in Isaiah 54 is part of a larger pattern of new creation prophecies in Isaiah
4066 which refers to the restoration of Israel as a new creation22.
II. Qumran, Jubilees and Revelation 21
In this connection, Qumran also uses a
phrase strikingly close to Isa 54,10 to introduce a discussion about the coming new
creation, a phrase which is based on the new creation prophecies of Isa 43,19 and 48,6-7: cf.
"eternal mercy [dsx]
unto all [brief lacuna] for peace [Mwl#$]"
(1QH 13,5 [=5,11])23
with "[by bringing to an end the] former [things] and by creating things that are
new, by setting aside the former covenants and by [set]ting up that which shall remain for
ever" (1QH 13,11-12 [following the Dupont-Sommer editon in lines 11-12]; the
discussion of new creation actually begins in 13,8)24. In addition, this example is the only place in
Qumran where the two words occur in such close connection as two separate qualities to be
bestowed upon saints25!
Noticeably, the DSS passage has in common with Isaiah 54 and Gal 6,15-16 (cf. 4,24-27) the
mention of a "covenant" (cf. 1QH 13,12), and both Galatians and 1QH have in mind
the annulment of the old covenant and the establishment of a new covenant26.
The combination of "peace" and
"mercy" also occurs in Jubilees 22,9 (extant Latin), where Abraham invokes
God"s blessing on himself and his posterity: "may your mercy [misericordia]
and your peace [pax]27
be upon your servant and upon the seed of his sons so that they may become an elect people
for you and an inheritance from all the nations of the earth from henceforth and for all
the days of the generations of the earth forever" (Charlesworth edition). This may be
significant in comparison to the above uses in Qumran, Isaiah 54, and Galatians 6, since
God is being addressed only in his role as creator who "created the heavens and the
earth" (22,6), and the objects of God"s blessing especially are Abraham"s
believing (elect) "seed", who will dwell in a state of blessing on the earth
forever (on which see further 22,24!). In particular, Jubilees 22, 1 QH 13,5, Isaiah 54,
and Galatians 6 all have in common notions of: (1) new creation; (2) a new covenant (cf.
"renew his covenant" in Jub 22,15 and 22,30; Isa 54,10; Gal 4,24), and (3) a
promise of blessing on believing (elect) Israel. In addition, like Jubilees, the Isaiah
and Galatians texts also are developing earlier references to the promises about the
Abrahamic "seed" (cf. Isa 51,1-3 and 54,1-3; Gal 3,6-18.29). The notion of new
creation in Jubilees 22 may well be a reflection on the similar Isaianic concept28. In the light of these observations, Jub 22,9 may be an echo of Isa 54,10, or it may have been part of the same orbit of unique ideas, which formed part of the background for Galatians 6.
It has become clear that the
"peace" and "mercy" of Isa 54,10b stands in the middle of a depiction
of the future new creation. That Isa 54,11-12 describes conditions of a new creation is
apparent further from the fact that these verses are alluded to in Rev 21,18-19.21 to
describe the bejewelled "foundation stones of the city wall", part of the
portrayal there of the "new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21,1)29. Indeed, Revelation
21 and Galatians 4,25-31/6,15-16 have the following significant themes in common:
(1) The image of end-time Jerusalem as a
woman who is associated with heaven;
(2) the precious stones of the city in
Isaiah 54 are portrayed as part of an immovable fortress (in contrast to Israel formerly
being "storm-tossed") and primarily used as a metaphor for the permanent peace
which the people inhabiting the latter-day Jerusalem will experience, since 54,11-12 is
introduced in 54,10b by the idea of "peace" and concluded with it in 54,13
("the peace of your sons will be great"). This theme is found in both Gal 6,16
and Revelation 21: in line with Isa 54,11-12, the precious stones, together with the
foundation, wall, and gates of the city in Revelation 21 are best seen to symbolize the
permanent safety and peace30
of God"s people together with God"s glorious presence (e.g.,
(3) Both Galatians and Revelation 21 focus
on the Gentiles" being included in the redemption experienced by eschatological
Israel (note the "nations" streaming into the city of Revelation 21 [cf. vv.
24.26])31. This idea
may even have roots in the Greek version of Isa 54,3 itself32, especially since Isa 54,1 develops reference to
the Abrahamic promise in Isa 51,2, which in that context is used as a reason for
God"s restoring of Israel, i.e., Israel"s restoration will be part of the
fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise: "Look to Abraham our father, and to Sarah who
gave birth to you in pain; when he was one I called him, Then I blessed him and multiplied
him"33. The LXX
of Isaiah 54 makes such intimations explicit: "For it is the Lord who is making you;
the Lord of hosts is his name; and the one redeeming you, he himself is the God of Israel,
and he will be called so by the whole earth" (Isa 54,5); "behold
proselytes will come to you through me, and they will sojourn with you, and they will run
to you for refuge" (Isa 54,15)34.
Even according to the LXX interpretative translation, however, the believing Gentiles
enjoy eschatological blessings only as they confess and identify with the "God of Israel"
and only as they identify with his people Israel by converting and becoming "proselytes" to
the faith of Israel. From the Septuagintal translator"s perspective, the Gentiles
cannot enjoy these blessings separately from Israel but only by becoming a part of
national, theocratic Israel. Paul also likely does not see that Gentiles can enjoy
end-time blessings separately from Jews because the only way that either can participate
in such blessing is by identifying with Christ, the true Israel, the true "seed of
Abraham" (Gal 3,16.29). Gentiles no longer need to move to geographical Israel and
find "refuge" there in order to convert to the faith of that theocratic nation
and they no longer need to adopt the national signs of Israel (e.g., circumcision) to be
considered true Israelites. Rather, now, in the new redemptive-historical epoch launched
by Christ"s death and resurrection, Gentiles merely need to move spiritually to
Christ, find "refuge" in him, and convert to faith in him in order to become
In view of the associations of new creation
which have been "ringing around" Isa 54,10 and the way Revelation 21 understands
Isaiah 54 as a new creation text, it should not be surprising that Paul would find it
natural to allude to Isaiah"s "peace and mercy" in Gal 6,16 as a part of
the "new creation" which he has just explicitly mentioned in v. 15.
A further affinity between Isaiah 54 and Gal
4,24-27/6,16 lies in the fact that both explicitly mention the covenantal nature of
the salvific restoration (cf. Isa 54,10, "covenant of your peace," and Gal
4,24.27, "these [women] are two covenants [v. 24]... the Jerusalem above is free; she
is our mother"). That Paul would have a new creation context from Isaiah in mind in
Gal 6,15-16 is not unexpected, since he clearly refers to the new creation prophecies of
Isa 43,19 and Isa 65,17 in 2 Cor 5,17, where he also refers to kainh/ kti/sij: "if anyone is in Christ, then there is
a new creation; the old things have passed away, behold new things have come
about". Likewise, the similar expression of Christ as "the beginning of the
[new] creation of God" (h( a/rxh_ th=j kti/sewj
tou= qeou=) in Rev 3,14 is also heavily indebted to the same Isaiah 43 and
Isa 54,10 was a prophecy about the
"peace" and "mercy" Israel would have in the coming new order
after their restoration36.
If Paul has this verse in mind in Gal 6,16, then he sees all believers in the
Galatian church who experience "peace" and "mercy" to be composing
end-time Israel in partial fulfillment of Isa 54,11. Such an Old Testament background
makes it unlikely that he sees two separate ethnic groups (respectively Christian Gentile
and Jew) as having "peace and mercy" pronounced upon them; at the least, in view
of the OT and Galatians" context, the burden of proof is on one to demonstrate that
"the Israel of God" is a reference only to ethnic Jewish Christians.
This line of argumentation confirms further
that the sense of Gal 6,16b is that of "peace and mercy be upon them, that is,
upon the Israel of God" or some such similar rendering which equates the
"them" with the "Israel of God"37. Redeemed Gentiles now form true Israel,
"Abraham"s seed" (Gal 3,29) together with Jewish Christians because they
are identified with and represented by the individual "seed of Abraham," Christ,
who sums up Israel in himself (Gal 3,16)38.
Consequently, Paul did not consider it "twisting" the prophetic meaning of
Isaiah 54 to apply it to Gentile believers, since they are now viewed as true Israelites
and their return to God is part of the fulfillment of the restoration and new creation
promise made to Israel. Even in the LXX interpretative paraphrase of Isaiah 54
noted above, the salvation of Gentiles could not occur separately from that of Jews but
was to happen as Gentiles were to become identified with Israel"s God and Israel herself. Paul understands that this Isaiah prophecy began fulfillment in Christ:
Gentiles and Jews participate in the blessings promised to Israel in the eschaton by
identifying with Jesus, the true Israel and true seed of Abraham.
In summary, the probability of an Isaiah 54
background for Gal 6,16 is validated by the following criteria for recognizing allusions39: (1) the source text
(the Greek or Hebrew OT) must be available to the writer; (2) there is close resemblance
of wording; (3) there are references in the immediate context to the same OT context from
which the purported allusion derives. In this respect, the following echoes from the
context of Isaiah 54 are found elsewhere in Galatians: Isa 53,1 in Gal 3,2; Isa 64,10 in
Gal 3,10; Isa 44,1-3 and 54,21 in Gal 4,4-6; Isa 54,1 and 66,6-11 in Gal 4,25-26; the
Spirit"s fruits of Isa 32,15-18 (as well as Isa 27,6; 37,31-32; 45,8; 51,3; 58,11;
cf. 55,10-13 with 56,3; 60,21; 65,8.17-22) in Gal 5,22-25. In addition, Paul alludes to
Isaiah 43 and 65 in his other well-known reference to the "new creation" in 2
Cor 5,17, contexts which are not far from Isaiah 54 in location and pertain to the same
theme of Israel"s restoration pictured as a new cosmos. John alludes to the same
texts for the same idea of new creation in Rev 3,14, and specifically alludes repeatedly
to Isaiah 54 in his depiction of the new creation in Revelation 21. (4) The alleged OT
allusion is suitable in that it fits into Paul"s argument. Isaiah 4066 contains
the same major themes which Paul develops in Galatians: the Abrahamic covenant,
Abraham"s seed, the inheritance40,
the return of a sinful people to God, and the new creation. (5) There is plausibility that
Paul could have intended such an allusion and that the audience could have understood it.
Jobes has argued that it is plausible that Paul taught the Galatians from the Greek of
Isaiah and that his citation of Isaiah 54 in Galatians 4 is intended to remind the
audience of that prior teaching41.
If so, the same could be said about the proposed allusion to "peace and mercy" in Gal 6,16, but since it is
an allusion and not an explicit citation as in Gal 4,27, it is more difficult to know if
the readers would have understood it as such on a first reading or hearing42.
In proposing a Targumic background linked to
the Isaiah 54 quotation in Galatians 4, M. McNamara says that it is unlikely Paul"s
readers would have understood the reference there. He concludes, however, that this fact
would not weaken the force of his proposal "since, at times, particularly in moments
of heightened tension, Paul seems to have written from the abundance of his own mind
rather than from what his readers would be expected to know"43. Longenecker adds that the Hagar-Sarah story may
have been referred to by Paul as a polemic against the Judaizer"s understanding of
the story with which the readers may have been familiar44. If so, his quotation of Isaiah 54 in Galatians 4
may have been sparked off because that OT verse and context had also been part of the
Judaizer"s hermeneutical arsenal.
The cumulative effect of considering all
five of the above criteria for validating allusions suggests the plausibility that the
allusion to Isa 54,10 in Gal 6,16 may not have been understood by the Galatians on a first
or second reading but that, at least, it may well have been in Paul"s mind.
III. Peace Benedictions
Paul"s closing benedictions of peace
elsewhere outside of Galatians follow a fairly standard form: "the God of peace be
(or will be) with you (Rom 15,33; 2 Cor 13,11b; Phil 4,9b). 2 Thess 3,16 varies only
slightly from this pattern, and Rom 16,20a and 1 Thess 5,23 vary even a bit more45. The benediction of
Gal 6,16 differs the most; its uniqueness among all the others can be observed by the following
differences: (1) it has no introductory clause "and the God of peace"; (2) ei)rh/nh, ("peace") is expressed
by the nominative instead of the genitive; (3) e!leoj
("mercy") is added to "peace"; (4) the divine source (God) of the
peace is omitted; (5) the identification of the recipients is also different: instead of
the usual "with you", Gal 6,16 reads "as many as line up with this
rule" and "upon them ... and upon the Israel of God"; (6) finally, it is a
conditional benediction, whereas the others are in the indicative46.
What explains these differences between
Galatians and the other benedictions? Weima contends that the differences in 1
Thessalo-nians and Galatians are due to Paul"s attempt to summarize the major themes
of those two epistles, and that the other benedictions likely also betray the same purpose47. This explanation is
plausible, especially in Galatians, as we have seen above. Such an intention is further
evident from noticing that stoixe/w is
a development of 4,25 and 5,25. Sustoixe/w in 4,25 occurs as an introduction to the longest formal Old Testament quotation
found in the epistle - from Isaiah 54, which we have just contended above is also being
alluded to in the benediction; stoixe/w in
5,25 appears in one of the most highly charged new-creation texts anywhere else in the
letter outside of 6,15-16. Also, "Israel" occurs here only in the epistle and
may well be a development of the "Jerusalem above" in 4,26, where it is the only
reference to "Jerusalem" in a positive redemptive sense in the entire letter
(the other occurrences are neutral geographical references [1,17-18; 2,1] or have negative
spiritual overtones [4,25]). Such a positive reference to Jerusalem in Gal 4,26 may have
helped pave the way for the unique positive reference to "Israel" in 6,16.
The combination of e!leojand ei)rh/nh occurs only four other places in the NT, each time as part of the introduction
to letters and each time as part of a threefold salutation: xa/rij e!leoj ei)rh/nh (1 Tim 1,1; 2 Tim 1,1; 2 Jn 3; Jude 2; though Jude has e!leoj u(mi=n kai_ ei)rh/nh kai_ a)ga/ph). Not only is Gal
6,16 not part of a threefold series of words, but also ei)rh/nh precedes e!leoj, and the phrase e)p' au)tou_j is
placed between the two words, a structure which is without analogy in the above four
introductions. Another difference is that these others are standardized introductions,
whereas Gal 6,16 is part of an epistolary conclusion which does not appear to be formulaic
wording. There appears, at first glance, to be no particular OT allusion in these other
passages. Whatever the bearing of these epistolary introductions is on Gal 6,17, it is
clear that the Galatians" wording preceded all the others and is an earlier
composition. If there is any relationship, then we could possibly conceive of the
introductions having become standardized formulae based on that of Gal 6,16 together with
Isaiah 54 and Psalm 84 and, possibly, other similar early Jewish combinations of
"peace and mercy" (on which see above: e.g., Tobit 7, etc.).
Especially striking is the observation that
not once does the combination "mercy and peace" appear in either the
introductions or conclusions of Hellenistic epistolary literature of the earlier or
contemporary period with the NT (e.g., in the body of extant papyrus letters [cf. the Hunt
and Edgar volume of Select Papyri I in the Loeb edition]). This combination is
unique to the OT, a very few early Jewish texts, and the NT48. This fact enhances the possibility that
Galatians is dependent on the earlier OT uses (especially Isaiah 54) and that the
subsequent uses in epistolary introductions in the NT after Galatians are also based on
the OT, early Jewish, and Galatians" usage.
IV. Galatians 6,17 with relationship to the preceding context
Since "peace" should reign in the
new creation (v. 16b), Paul asks that "no one [apparently no so-called brother] cause
trouble for me". He explicitly says this because (ga_r) he bears on his "body the brand-marks of Christ". Those
who belong to the old age insist on "making a good showing in the flesh" by
being identified with the mark of "circumcision" in which they "boast"
(v. 13). Since Paul, on the other hand, wants to "boast" only "in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ" through which he has been "crucified to the world" and since circumcision
means nothing anymore (v. 15), Paul wants to be identified with the only mark of the new
creation that there is, which is Messiah Jesus himself. Therefore, Paul"s statement
in v. 17 that he "bears on his body the brand-marks of Jesus" is another way of
saying that he does not want to be identified by the badge of the old creation
(circumcision) but wants to be identified with the only sign of the new creation: with
Jesus, and his suffering at the cross49.
* * *
This essay has contended that Paul"s
reference to "new creation" and the pronouncement of "peace and mercy"
on the readers in Gal 6,15-16 is best understood against the background of Isa 54,10 and
the surrounding context of similar new creation themes elsewhere in Isaiah 3266,
which are echoed also earlier in Galatians, especially in 5,22-26. The analysis confirms
those prior studies which have concluded that "the Israel of God" refers to all
Christians in Galatia, whether Jewish or Christian. Lastly, the demonstration of an
Isaianic background for the concept of new creation in Gal 6,15-16 falls in line with
Paul"s other reference to "new creation" in 2 Cor 5,17 and John"s
allusion to new creation in Rev 3,14, where Isaiah 43 and 6566 stand behind both
passages50. Isa 54,10
was likely not the sole influence on Gal 6,16, but such texts as Psalm 84 (LXX), the
Qumran Hymn Scroll (1QH 13,5), and Jub 22,9 may have formed a collective impression on
Paul, with the Isaiah text most in focus; alternatively, the texts in Qumran and Jubilees
may be mere examples of a similar use of Isaiah 54 on a parallel trajectory with that of
Paul"s in Galatians 6.
This essay has contended that Paul"s reference to "new creation" and the
pronouncement of "peace and mercy" on the readers in Gal 6,15-16 is best
understood against the background of Isa 54,10 and the surrounding context of similar new
creation themes elsewhere in Isa 3266, which are echoed also earlier in Galatians,
especially in 5,22-26. The analysis confirms those prior studies which have concluded that
"the Israel of God" refers to all Christians in Galatia, whether Jewish or
Christian. Lastly, the demonstration of an Isaianic background for the concept of new
creation in Gal 6,15-16 falls in line with Paul"s other reference to "new
creation" in 2 Cor 5,17 and John"s allusion to new creation in Rev 3,14, where
Isa 43 and 6566 stand behind both passages. Isa 54,10 was likely not the sole
influence on Gal 6,16, but such texts as Psalm 84 (LXX), the Qumran Hymn Scroll (1QH
13,5), and Jub 22,9 may have formed a collective impression on Paul, with the Isaiah text
most in focus; alternatively, the texts in Qumran and Jubilees may be mere examples of a
similar use of Isaiah 54 on a parallel trajectory with that of Paul"s in Galatians 6.
1 I am grateful to my
colleagues Moisés Silva and Royce Gruenler, as well as my students Jeffrey Herron and
Kathy Stumcke, for their reading of this manuscript and for helpful suggestions.
2 Cf. BAGD, 393, who sees the
last two options as examples of an explicative use.
3 RSV: "Peace and
mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God"; the New Living
Translation: "May God"s mercy and peace be upon all those who live by this
principle. They are the new people of God" (a footnote equates "new people of
God" with "the Israel of God"); JB: "Peace and mercy to all who
follow this rule, who form the Israel of God".
4 The following translations
conform to this basic rendering and appear to favor this alternative: NASB, NRSV,
KJV, NKJV, NEB, Douay. The NIV and Moffat do not clearly favor
either alternative. P. RICHARDSON, Israel in the Apostolic Church (Cambridge 1969)
85, who favors this view offers the following rendering: "May God give peace to all
who will walk according to this criterion, and mercy also to his faithful people".
This is ambiguous, however, so that both groups could still be understood to be identical.
5 E.g., see M. SILVA, Explorations
in Exegetical Method: Galatians as a Test Case (Grand Rapids 1996) 184.
6 That 6,11-17 sums up the
major themes of the epistle has been argued most trenchantly by J.A.D. WEIMA, "Gal
6,11-18: a Hermeneutical Key to the Galatian Letter", Calvin Theological Journal
28 (1993) 90-107, and likewise id., "The Pauline Letter Closings: Analysis and
Hermeneutical Significance", Bulletin for Biblical Research 5 (1995) 177-198.
Because of the summarizing nature of 6,11-18, Weima also identifies "the Israel of
God" with the entire church of Galatia, both Christian Jew and Gentiles; so also C.A.
RAY, "The Identity of the "Israel of God"", The Theological
Educator 50  105-114, makes the same identification). H.D. BETZ, Galatians
(Hermeneia; Philadelphia 1979) 321, says "The whole argument in the letter leads up
to the rule in v 15". See also F.J. MATERA, "The Culmination of Paul"s
Argument to the Galatians: Gal 5,16,17", JSNT 32 (1988) 79-91, who
argues that the last two chapters of Galatians summarize the earlier themes of the epistle
and are the culmination of Paul"s overall argument.
7 E.g., S.L. JOHNSON,
"Paul and the "Israel of God": a Case Study", Essays in Honour of
J. D. Pentecost (eds. S.D. TOUSSAINT C.H. DYER (Chicago 1986) 181-196. For
others following a position similar to Johnson"s, see his own discussion and that of
R.N. LONGENECKER, Galatians (WBC; Dallas 1990) 274. Johnson (188) even agrees with
Ellicott"s contention that it is unlikely that Paul ever employs kai/
in "so marked an explicative sense". A number of grammars, however, acknowledge
the explicative or epexegetical sense of kai/
an explicit category of usage in the NT and Paul: e.g., BAGD even prefix their entry of
the "explicative" kai/ (expressed as "and so,
that is, namely") with "often" (393, including the subcategory of
"ascensive" ["even"]), citing Rom 1,5; 1 Cor 3,5, and 15,38 as among
the Pauline examples (cf. also ibid. 392, I.d). Intriguingly, M. ZERWICK, Biblical
Greek (Rome 1963) 154, cites apposition ("that is") as an explicit category
for kai/, and then cites Gal 6,16 as the lone Pauline example
(though followed by a question mark). Likewise, N. TURNER, Syntax. Vol. 3 of A
Grammar of New Testament Greek, by J. H. MOULTON (Edinburgh 1963) 334-335 (citing,
among other examples, Rom 1,5 and 8,17); F. BLASS A. DEBRUNNER R.W. FUNK, A
Greek Grammar of the New Testament (Chicago 1961) 229 (citing, e.g., 1 Cor 12,15;
15,38); A. BUTTMANN, A Grammar of the New Testament Greek (Andover 1873) 401
(citing 1 Cor 3,5; 15,38). Cf. also Rom 5,14. Approximately eighty times in the NT kai/ has the appositional meaning in the construction of article
+ substantive + kai/ + substantive, which is known
as the Granville Sharp Rule (see D.B. WALLACE, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics
[Grand Rapids 1996] 270-277). Even among the first descriptions of usage in LIDDELL-SCOTT
(857) is the following: "to add a limiting or defining expression". H.W. SMYTH, Greek
Grammar (Cambridge, MA 1920) 650 (sect. 2869) says, "copulative kai/ often has an intensive or heightening force," and
"often = namely," etc.
8 See K. TITRUD, "The
Function of kai in the Greek New Testament and an Application to 2 Peter", Linguistics
and New Testament Interpretation. Essays on Discourse Analysis (ed. D.A. BLACK)
(Nashville 1992) 240, 248, 255, who also shows throughout the essay numerous examples of
the appositional kai/ in the NT.
9 So RAY, "Identity of the
"the Israel of God"", 106 ff., whose conceptual analysis is good, though it
may not be precisely accurate to refer to this particular case as an example of "the
rule of maximal redundancy" in the light of the way the phrase was originally
formulated in linguistic discussion (on which see M. SILVA, Biblical Words and Their
Meaning [Grand Rapids 1983] 153-156); nevertheless, the principle of "the rule of
maximal redundancy" appears to be generally applicable to Gal 6,16. See MATERA, Galatians
233, for a full range of the various possible identifications of "the Israel of
10 So, e.g., BETZ, Galatians
321-322; RICHARDSON, Israel in the Apostolic Church, 79, who especially thinks that
the order of "peace" and then "mercy," which is unique to Gal 6,16 and
the Shemoneh "Esreh, makes the latter a plausible source of dependence or
"unconscious allusion". His conclusion that Paul interprets the Jewish
benediction ironically, so that "the Israel of God" refers to ethnic Jews to be
converted in the future is speculation, since such a notion has not been explicitly
referred to anywhere else in Galatians. If Weima, along with others, is correct, that the
Pauline conclusions, especially in Galatians 6, summarize the themes of the epistle (on
which see above), then Richardson"s futuristic notion should have been addressed
explicitly earlier in the epistle.
11 E.g., MATERA, Galatians
226; J.G.D. DUNN, The Epistle to the Galatians (Black"s NTC; Peabody 1993)
344, also cites the parallels of 11QPsa 23,11 ("Peace be upon Israel"?), Psalms
of Solomon 9,19 and 11,9 ("The mercy of the Lord be upon Israel [or the house of
Israel]") and 17,51 ("May the Lord hasten his mercy upon Israel").
12 So RICHARDSON, Israel in
the Apostolic Church, 78, who also compares other similar OT texts such as Ezek 39,25;
Amos 5,15, etc., as well as similar repeated expressions in the Psalms of Solomon.
13 For debate about the
prayer"s antiquity, see RICHARDSON, Israel in the Apostolic Church, 79, n. 1,
and see especially E. SCHÜRER, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Christ,
II, (eds. G. VERMES F. MILLAR M. BLACK) (Edinburgh 1979) 455-463, who also
has a convenient list of quotations of the Babylonian and Palestinian benedictions, along
with relevant bibliography on the nature and date of the prayer. In particular, Schürer
contends that the core of the nineteen parts of the prayer goes back before the first
century A.D., and that it reached its final form around 70-100 A.D., though even that
cannot be reconstructed in detail.
14 Indeed, there are no other
examples of the combination even within a twenty-five word range.
15 After writing the rough
draft of this article, I found that DUNN, Galatians, 344, merely lists Isa 54,10
and Ps 85,11 among a number of other texts which he believes would have highlighted the Jewish
tone of the benediction in the ears of the Jewish Christian audience.
16 The Tobit reference could
be an echo of Isa 54,10 since Isa 54,11-12 is alluded to in 13,16-17. The combination also
occurs within a wider twenty-five word range in Odes of Sol 9,78-79; Sirach 50,22-24; Isa
45,7-8, all in contexts of a promise of restoration from exile; other combinations within
the same range occur in insignificant contexts of personal blessing in 1 Sam 20,7-8.13-14,
and 1 Kgs 2,6-7. The Syriac of 2 Baruch 78,2 reads "to the brethren carried into
captivity: "Mercy and peace"". PHILO, On Dreams, II.149, has the
combination within a close word-range: "supplicate God that He ... charge His saving mercy
to remain with us to the end, for it is a grievous thing that when we have tasted peace
in its purity we should be hindered from taking our fill of it" (following the Loeb
17 The searches noted in this
paragraph and the preceding one were made on the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae Data Bank
computer concordance. Two other occurrences outside the LXX appear also to be found in the
Hebrew of Qumran and the Latin of Jubilees, on which see below.
18 The Targum adds to the MT
by identifying the barren woman of Isa 54,1 twice as "Jerusalem," and then the
next time it adds "Jerusalem" is in 54,10, where the name also identifies the
"you" who is promised "peace" and "mercy". Could this have
been a subtle influence upon Paul in alluding to Isa 54,10 in further development of the
Isa 54,1 quotation in Galatians 4,27, which is introduced in 4,26 by the phrase "the
Jerusalem above is free"?
19 Cf. poie/w
and kti/zw respectively. These references in Isaiah 54
anticipate Isa 65,17 which refers to "a new heaven and a new earth," which is
elaborated upon in 65,18 with "I am making Jerusalem a rejoicing".
20 For various aspects of the
Noah narrative (Genesis 69) as recapitulations of the Adam narrative, see, e.g. W.A.
GAGE, The Gospel of Genesis. Studies in Protology and Eschatology (Winona Lake
21 E.g., PHILO, Life of
Moses II, 65, uses the word paliggenesi/a ("regeneration,
rebirth") in referring to the renewal of the earth after the cataclysmic flood;
likewise Jub 5,12 (immediately after the Noahic deluge, God "made for all his works a
new and righteous nature so that they might not sin in their nature forever") and 1
En 106,13 ("The Lord will surely make new things upon the earth").
22 On which see G.K. BEALE,
"The Old Testament Background of Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5-7 and Its Bearing
on the Literary Problem of 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1", New Testament Studies 35 (1989)
550-581; id., "The Old Testament Background of Rev 3.14", New Testament
Studies 42 (1996) 133-152.
23 The full phrase in Hebrew
reads, Mwl#$l [ ] lwkl Mlw( ydsxw.
This phrase is rendered differently by various DSS editions: "and eternal mercy to
all [who walk] in peace" (M. WISE M. ABEGG E. COOK, The Dead Sea
Scrolls [San Francisco 1996] 87); "and everlasting favor for all [the periods] of
peace" (F. GARCÍA MARTÍNEZ, The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated [Leiden 1992]
319); "and eternal grace unto all the peace-[makers]" (A. DUPONT-SOMMER, The
Essene Writings from Qumran [Oxford 1961] 242). It is difficult to know what to supply
in the lacuna: in addition to the above, other options could be such words as
"[leading] to peace," "[making] for peace," etc.
24 Pirke de Rabbi Eli(ezer XIX cites Isa 54,10 at the end of a discussion on
God"s creation of the world (which repeatedly cites Gen 1 and Isa 48,13) in
order to underscore that without God"s "mercy and lovingkindness we [Israel] are
unable to exist, because the world rests upon Thy mercy and lovingkindness, as it is said
... [quotation of Isa 54,10 follows]".
25 As far as I have found, the
only other place in DSS where the two words occur together is in 1QS 2,4, where the
following blessing is pronounced upon Qumran saints: "May he lift up his merciful
[wydsx] countenance toward you for eternal peace [Mwl#$l]". Here, only "peace" is pronounced on
people, not "mercy," the latter of which is described as an attribute possessed
by God and not by the people. Furthermore, the context of 1QS 2 has nothing to do with new
26 Similar to Gal
5,226,16, 1QH 13 also has a contrast between "the spirit of flesh"
(associated with the ungodly qualities of "ignominious shame,"
"perverseness," and "ungodliness") and "the Spirit which you have
put in me" (associated with "truth" and "righteousness;" cf. 1QH
13,13-19). Furthermore, both 1QH 13,5 and Isa 54,8 have the phrase "everlasting
mercy" (Mwlo( dsx), a similarity which shows
further affinities between the two, though the phrase often occurs elsewhere, especially
in the Psalms (e.g., 26 times in Psalm 136 alone).
27 I am grateful to my
research student Jeffrey Herron for pointing out the combination of these two words in
this passage. The Vulgate also renders ei)rh/nh and e!leoj of Gal 6,16 respectively as pax and misericordia,
and has the same two words in its translation of Isa 54,10b. It is difficult to be certain
what precise words stood in the original Hebrew Vorlage and the subsequent Greek
translation of the Jubilees" text.
28 In Jub 22,13 Abraham prays
that his seed would have the same new creation blessings "with which he [God] blessed
Noah and Adam", so that the comparison of the blessing on Noah with the blessing on
restored Israel in Isa 54,9 also is a striking similarity. Further, that the
"seed" is to be blessed "for all the days of the generations of the earth
forever" likely includes the blessings of the eternal, new creation, which develops
the notion in earlier chapters: e.g., Jub 1,29 reads, "the new creation when the
heaven and earth and all of their creatures shall be renewed ... and all of the lights
will be renewed for ... blessing all of the elect of Israel ... from that day and unto
all the days of the earth"; similarly, in Jub 19,25 the seed of Abraham and Jacob
will be blessed so that "they will serve to establish heaven and to strengthen the
earth and to renew all of the lights which are above the firmament". Jub 1,29 is
likely an allusion to Isa 65,17 and 66,22 (so cf. the margin of Charlesworth"s
edition) and Jub 19,25 echoes the earlier use (the "new creation" of Jub 4,26 is
also likely an echo of Isa 43,18-19 or Isaiah 65 and 66). Other texts from Isaiah hover in
the nearby context of Jub 22,9: cf. 21,25, "may he bless your seed ... for eternal
generations with all righteous blessing ... so that you might be a blessing in all the
earth", which appears to derive from Isa 65,16 (where also there is a multiple
"blessing" by God focused on Israel "in the earth" of the
eschatological age, the only passage in the OT where such a complex of words and ideas
occurs); cf. Jub 22,16, probably based on Isa 52,11 (so cf. the margin of the Charlesworth
edition). Intriguingly, in Isa 19,24-25 there is a threefold blessing pronounced on
Israel, as well as redeemed Egypt and Assyria, in the end-time period of salvation, and
all three are said to be "a blessing in the midst of the earth". Both Isa 65,16
and Isa 19,24-25 are plausibly developments of the repeated Abrahamic promise in which
dual blessings are pronounced on Abraham"s seed and the nations (Gen 12,2-3; 17,16;
22,17; 27,33; 48,20; cf. also 1 Chr 17,27 for a triple blessing on David"s seed,
which is also a development of the Abrahamic promise).
29 On which see G.K. BEALE, Revelation
(NIGTC; Grand Rapids Carlisle 1998) ad loc.
30 Some traditions held that
the light reflected by the gems in Isa 54,11-12 was figurative for peace (Pesiqta de Rab
Kahana, Piska 18,6; Pesik. Rab., Piska 32,3/4).
31 Tob 13,16-18 specifically
speaks of rebuilding the walls, towers, gates and streets, a description which is similar
to the mention of foundations, battlements, gates and wall in Isa 54,11-12. Tobit is
probably developing Isaiah 54 in the light of the broader Isaiah context: e.g., note Tob
13,10 (11) (AB), "that his tabernacle may be built" (= Isa 56,5.7; 60,7.13) and
Tob 13,11 (Alex.), "many nations will come from far ... with gifts in their hands
(= Isa 49,23; 60,3.5.9-11.16-17). Both Tobit and Rev 21,18-21 have this common imagery and
themes, including the ideas of the nations bearing gifts (21,24.26, based on the
same Isaiah texts) and the future rebuilding of the tabernacle (21,3.22). In addition,
both refer to "Jerusalem, the holy city" (Tob 13,9 ; Rev 21,2, 10; note
further the phrase li/qw| e)nti/mw| which occurs with xrusi/w| kaqarw|= in Tob 13,16 (17) (AB) and essentially the same
phrases occur in Rev 21,18-19.21, as well as the common elements of walls and streets).
32 "Your seed will
possess [LXX has "inherit"] the nations" (cf. Amos 9,12 where the prophecy
that Israel will "possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations" is understood
by Acts 15,15-18 as fulfilled in the salvation of the Gentiles (though the textual
problems in the Amos text are complex).
33 In this light, the
"seed" in Isa 54,3 is probably an allusion to the "seed" of the
34 Here God"s promise in
the MT to protect Israel from Gentile enemies and to give them victory over the enemies is
apparently interpreted by the LXX as God"s causing Gentiles to seek refuge in Israel
and her faith! This interpretation is strikingly similar to the one of Amos 9,11-12 by the
LXX and Acts 15,15-18 (mentioned directly above).
35 On the 2 Cor 5,17 and Rev
3,14 texts see BEALE, "Old Testament Background of Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians
5-7", and id., " Old Testament Background of Rev 3,14".
36 The reference to "all
Israel like antimony" at the beginning of the Qumran pesher of Isa 54,11
underscores what is clear throughout Isaiah 54 but not said explicitly in v. 10 or v. 11:
that this was a prophecy for Israel, with the implication, therefore, that it was
not a prophecy for the redeemed nations except as they identify with Israel,
convert to Israel"s faith, and take refuge under the umbrella of Israel and
37 The three appositional
groups (equaling believing Israel) in Ps 84,9 upon which the peace is pronounced would
further confirm this identification. The solution of R.Y.K. FUNG, The Epistle to the
Galatians (NICNT; Grand Rapids 1988) 311, also fits with the view developed here:
that, as far as I understand him, the first group ("them") refers to Jewish and
Gentile Christians in the Galatian church and the following "Israel of God"
alludes to the church at large, also composed of Gentiles and Jews, who are the new
38 See BEALE, Book of
Revelation, ad loc at Rev 7,9, for the possible ways Gentiles could be
understood to be part of the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise from Genesis.
39 These criteria are taken
partly from R.B. HAYS, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven 1989)
29-32, and G.K. BEALE, The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the
Revelation of St. John (Lanham 1985) 43, 306-312.
40 K. JOBES, "Jerualem,
our Mother: Metalepsis and Intertextuality in Galatians 4.21-31", WTJ 55
(1993) 319, mentions the first of these three themes in her discussion of Isaiah 54 in
Galatians 3, as well as noting most of the parallels from Isaiah in Galatians in # (3)
41 Ibid., 319.
42 For further discussion of
the issues involved in answering this question with respect to allusions, see G.K. BEALE, John"s
Use of the Old Testament in Revelation (JSNTSS 163; Sheffield 1999) 62-75.
43 MCNAMARA, ""to de
(Hagar) Sina oros estin en tê Arabia" (Gal 4,25): Paul and Petra", Milltown
Studies 2 (1978) 24-41.
44 LONGENECKER, Galatians,
45 Romans 16,20 places, after
the clause "the God of peace", the phrase "will trample Satan under your
feet quickly", and 1 Thess 5,23, after the same clause, puts the even more amplified
phrase "sanctify you entirely, and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved
complete, blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ".
46 For these differences see
WEIMA, "The Pauline Letter Closings", 194-195. With respect to the sixth point,
though the future active indicative stoixh/sousin is used in
Gal 6,16, it is still part of a sentence which has a conditional sense, since the
distinction between the future indicative without a!n and the
aorist subjunctive with a!n was sometimes obliterated (so F.
BLASS, A. DEBRUNNER, and R.W. FUNK, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament, 192;
interestingly, P46 changed the future to an aorist subjunctive).
47 WEIMA, "The Pauline
48 Even subsequently, the
combination is found only in later patristic literature of the second and third century.
49 This point is different
from that made by many commentators, who usually appeal to the use of sti/gma
as a brand or tatoo mark on slaves to show who their owner was (e.g., see LONGENECKER, Galatians,
299-300). If overtones of such a meaning are in mind, they have been shaped by the idea of
identification with the new creation discussed here. DUNN, Galatians, 347, comes
close to my own conclusion, but he does not relate his view of v. 17 to the old and new
creation: "Paul ... sets in contrast an identity defined in terms of circumcision and
one focused in the cross of Christ". Likewise, D. GUTHRIE, Galatians (NCC;
Camden, NJ 1969) 163; F.F. BRUCE, Commentary on Galatians (NIGTC; Grand Rapids
1982) 275-276 (also citing 2 Cor 4,11 in support), and T. GEORGE, Galatians (NAC;
Nashville 1994) 442; FUNG, Galatians, 314.
50 As argued by BEALE,
"The Old Testament Background of Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5-7", and id.,
"The Old Testament Background of Rev 3,14".