If my imminently due third child cooperates and lets me head down to the University of St. Andrews on Wednesday, I’ll be presenting a short paper at the much-anticipated conference on Scripture and theology. These conferences take place every three years, with past events focusing on John’s gospel (2003), Hebrews (2006), and Genesis (2009) and resulting in some very fine published volumes.
This year’s conference focuses on Galatians, with keynote addresses from Richard Hayes, N.T. Wright, and Oliver O’Donovan.
Here is the abstract for my short paper:
‘The Fullness of Time’:
Time, Eternity, and Divine Intent in the Epistle to the Galatians
The objective of this paper is to explore the theological dimensions of Paul’s use of time in Galatians, particularly with respect to the theme of God’s covenant relation to creatures. Paul’s seemingly innocuous phrase in Gal. 4:4, ‘the fullness of time’, suggests a temporal aspect to God’s covenant intentions. I will begin by briefly surveying the place of time in the epistle, including the chronological unfolding of God’s covenant (e.g. ‘430 years later’, 3:17) as well as the apostle’s pastoral call to the Galatians to live in the recollection of their own history (3:1-3). Second, in this context and in dialogue with Karl Barth, I will offer an account of the relation of time and eternity in order to provide a theological context for God’s enactment of His intention for creatures viz. the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Paul indicates that this enactment involves key temporal moments: the promise to Abraham (3:8), the giving of the law (3:17), the birth of Jesus (4:4-5), and finally the adoption of men and women in their baptism (3:25-27). But is the divine intent that is evident in the history of the covenant itself temporal? I will suggest, third and finally, that the doctrine of God requires that such a covenant has an eternal dimension, as well. If this is the case, the ‘fullness of time’ suggested by Paul is seen to be all the more profound: it is not simply a predetermined date for the birth of God’s Son, but the historical actualization of God’s relationship with creatures that He elected before time began – not a moment in covenant history but the moment. The ‘fullness of time’, in this sense, is the very fullness of creation itself. This is the astonishing scope of the covenant to which the Galatians are summoned as heirs.