Phenomenological Explication of Concrete Religious Phenomena in Connection with the Letters of Paul

Chapter One

Phenomenological Interpretation of the Letters to the Galatians

§14. Introduction

In the following, we do not intend to give a dogmatic or theological-exegetical interpretation, nor a historical study or a religious meditation, but only guidance for phenomenological understanding. Characteristic of the phenomenological- religious understanding is gaining an advance understanding for an original way of access. One must work the religious-historical method into it, and indeed in such a way that one examines it critically. The theological method falls out of the framework of our study. Only with phenomenological understanding, a new way for theology is opened up. The formal indication renounces the last understanding that can only be given in genuine religious experience; it intends only to open an access to the New Testament.

Initially, we will interpret the letter of Paul to the Galatians. The letter to the Galatians was significant for the young Luther; along with the letter to the Romans, it became a dogmatic fundament. Luther and Paul are, religiously speaking, the most radical opposites. There is a commentary by Luther on the letter to the Galatians.1 Yet we must free ourselves from Luther’s standpoint. Luther sees Paul from out of Augustine. Despite this, there are real connections of Protestantism with Paul.

The letter to the Galatians contains a historical report from Paul himself about the story of his conversion. It is the original document for his religious development and, historically, reports the passionate excitation of Paul himself. Correlatively, only the story of the apostles is to be invoked. To begin with, it suffices to seek a general understanding of the letter to the Galatians in order to penetrate therewith into the grounding phenomena of primordial Christian life.

1. In epistolam Pauli ad Galatas commentarius (1519) in D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 2 volumes, Weimar, 1884, pp. 436–618.