Recovering Paul’s Mother Tongue: Language and Theology in Galatians

Susan G. Eastman

Paul's letter to the Galatians begins with a proclamation of deliverance from the present evil age and comes to a climax with the ringing cry "new creation!" The letter moves from the Galatian believers' new identity in Christ to the implications of that identity for their life together.

Eastman here argues that Galatians 4:12-5:1 plays a key role in this movement: it displays the power of God's act in Christ, apart from the law, not only to generate the Galatians' new life in Christ but also to perfect it. Paul communicates to his converts the motivation and power necessary to move them from their ambivalence about his gospel to a faith that "stands fast" in its allegiance to Christ alone. Eastman argues that the medium and the message are inseparable. Paul's discourse or "mother tongue"—packed with maternal images, vulnerable yet authoritative, and marked by personal suffering—demonstrates the content of the good news.