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Echoes of the Exodus Narrative in the Context and Background of Galatians 5:18


William N. Wilder

In Galatians 5:18 Paul declares that «if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.» In this study William N. Wilder departs from conventional interpretations by arguing that the language of Galatians 5:18 represents Paul’s new exodus understanding of the Christian experience. According to Wilder, Paul consistently uses the phrase «under the law» to refer to a bondage he understood as particular to the Jews, with strong connotations of a specifically Egypt-like slavery attached to this phrase in Galatians. Wilder also argues that the typological association of the Spirit and the exodus cloud, found elsewhere in Paul in a comparison of 1 Corinthians 10:1-4 and 1 Corinthians 12:13, is likewise assumed in the phrase «led by the Spirit» and may be traced back to the Old Testament prophetic literature and Psalms (Hag 2:4-5; Isa 63:11-14; Neh 9:19-20; Ps 143:10). The author gives special attention to the influence of Psalm 143 on Paul’s theology, contending that it provides an Old Testament source both for the new exodus assumptions in Galatians 5:18 and for the apocalyptic flesh-Spirit antithesis that dominates the larger context of that verse.