Reviews of

Sharing in the Son’s Inheritance

In Bloomsbury, Esau McCaulley, Galatians, Messianism, Paul, Trey Moss on January 22, 2021 at 3:00 pm
Sharing in the Son's Inheritance: Davidic Messianism and Paul's Worldwide  Interpretation of the Abrahamic Land Promise in Galatians: 608 (The Library  of New Testament Studies): McCaulley, Rev. Dr. Esau:  9780567685926: Books

2021.1.4 | Esau McCaulley. Sharing in the Son’s Inheritance: Davidic Messianism and Paul’s Worldwide Interpretation of the Abrahamic Land Promise in Galatians. LNTS 608. London: T&T Clark, 2019. ISBN 9780567700292. 

Review by Trey Moss, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

 In Sharing in the Son’s Inheritance Esau McCaulley explores the connection between Paul’s messianic theology in the context of Jewish messianism and the Abrahamic land promises in Galatians. While the Abrahamic narrative looms large in Galatians (e.g., Gal 3:6–9, 14–18, 26–29; 4:21, 25–31), Pauline scholarship has often identified the Spirit as a replacement for the land in the argument of Galatians (p. 1, n. 2). Furthermore, according to McCaulley, scholarship on Galatians has not emphasized Davidic messianism in Paul’s theology (pp. 1–2). In contrast, McCaulley argues, “rather than abandoning the Abrahamic land promise, Paul expands it to encompass the whole earth because he believes that Jesus as the seed of Abraham and David (Gal 3:16), is entitled to the peoples and territories of the earth as his inheritance and kingdom (Ps 2:7–8)” (p. 2). By neglecting Paul’s theology of a Davidic Messiah, scholars have missed how Paul connects the land promises to the worldwide kingdom of the Davidic Messiah in Galatians (pp. 5–46). 

McCaulley seeks to remedy this neglect by demonstrating that, like other texts in early Judaism (i.e., 4Q161, 4Q174, 4Q262, 1QSb, Pss. Sol. 17, 2 Baruch, 4 Erza, and 1 Maccabees), Paul connects the final land promises to a royal figure who brings restoration from the curse (Chapters 2–3). Land promises, as defined by McCaulley, are the texts in the Hebrew Bible that describe God promising the land of Canaan to Israel as an inheritance (e.g., Gen 12:1–3; 15:1–21; Exod 13:11; Isa 11:11–16; Ezek 37:11–14; p. 3). In his investigation of Second Temple literature, McCaulley clarifies that not all references to the land promise are an allusion to the Abrahamic promises. Rather, McCaulley argues Second Temple authors connect royal figures to the land promises by the royal figure’s agency to realize these promises for Israel (p. 4). Paul’s focus on the Abrahamic land promises stands out in comparison to these Second Temple texts. McCaulley argues Paul’s focus on Abraham is “because [Paul] sees in God’s promise that he would bless the nations through Abraham, a promise that God will allow Gentiles to share in the inheritance promised to Abraham’s seed” (p. 4). Thus, Paul’s worldwide kingdom of the Messiah is interpreted through God’s promise of blessing to the Gentiles through Abraham.

McCaulley examines Second Temple texts mentioned above in their historical context and explore how each text presents the realization of the land promises by a royal messianic figure. In each text McCaulley asks if there are any references or allusions to the Abrahamic promises. Though McCaulley’s argument is not based on the allusions he presents, they offer broader support to each of his points (p. 48). The evidence presented here indicates that if Paul contends Jesus is the Messiah and so the agent of realizing the worldwide land promises, then Paul’s argument would be consistent with the claims other Second Temple authors make about royal messianic figures (p. 98). In distinction to these other Second Temple authors, Paul claims that the Messiah owns the inheritance (e.g., Gal 3:16, 26–29) and understands the Messianic initiation of the worldwide kingdom to indicate the gathering of the Gentiles into the inheritance of the Messiah and not their destruction (p. 98).

McCaulley argues in chapters four and five a “central feature of the argument of Galatians” is the Gentiles sharing in Jesus the Messiah’s worldwide kingdom (p. 98). In chapter four, McCaulley argues Paul presents Jesus’s death in Gal 3:1–14 as the solution to the curse of the law and as the event that inaugurates the land inheritance (p. 101). Jesus’s death for the curse of the law in the context of the Abrahamic Blessing, according to McCaulley, explains why Paul connects justification, the blessing, and the Spirit in Galatians 3:1–14 to his discussion on the inheritance 3:15–4:7. In his analysis of 3:1–14, McCaulley argues that Paul presents the Spirit as the inauguration of the inheritance and Jesus’s death as the end of the covenant curses, which restores the inheritance to Israel (e.g., Gal 3:1, 2–5, 14).

McCaulley argues Paul’s presentation of the reception of the Spirit in Gal 3:2–5 follows the pattern of prophetic texts where the Spirit indicates a return to the land (pp. 106–8). McCaulley argues Gal 3:6–9 connects the Abrahamic promise to the worldwide kingdom of the Messiah by asserting in Gal 3:6–9 Paul might understand the Abrahamic promises along the lines of LXX Ps 71:7, “which predicts that the Gentile participation in the worldwide kingdom of the Son of David will fulfill the Abrahamic promise to bless the nations” (p. 108). Paul goes beyond what LXX Ps 71:7 describes, however, in that Gentiles are not relegated to secondary status but are full heirs (p. 114). McCaulley argues Gal 3:10–13 refers to Jewish Christians whom Jesus redeemed from the covenant curses due to the corporate disobedience of Israel as outlined in Deut. 27–29 (p. 117). To support the corporate reading, McCaulley points to Ezek 20, CD 3:1–20, and Neh 9:29–37, which combine Deut 27–29 and Lev 18:5 together to account for the covenant failure of the entire nation. Here McCaulley gives a critique against readings of Gal 3:10–12 that posit Paul is merely contrasting divine and human agency in salvation because they obscure the covenantal framing of Paul’s quotations and Israel’s history (pp. 123–24). In response, the covenant curses against the nation might indicate both the covenantal framing of Israel’s history and the inability of human agency to secure the blessings of the covenant outside of God’s intervention (e.g., Gal 3:13–14).

McCaulley argues Paul in Gal 3:13, draws upon the Isaianic servant texts (Isa 52–54), in which the servant’s death ends the covenant curses of slavery and exile and shares the inheritance with others (pp. 130–34). Concluding with Gal 3:14, McCaulley argues, as in Gal 3:2–5, Paul does not consider the giving of the Spirit to replace the land promises, but as evidence that the Messiah’s death has inaugurated the inheritance. Here McCaulley supports the connection between the inheritance and the Spirit via an allusion to LXX Genesis 28:4, in which the Gentiles are brought into Abraham’s family and will inherit the land (Gen 28:5). The Spirit then is a sign that the Gentiles are now a part of Abraham’s seed and have begun their participation in the inheritance (pp. 141, 143).
In chapter five, McCaulley explores Gal 3:15–19, 26–29; 4:1–7; 5:21 to show how the Messiah’s worldwide kingdom is ignored in scholarship. McCaulley does not argue the Messiah’s worldwide kingdom takes prominence above Paul’s argument for faith against law obedience. He instead argues that Paul’s argument for faith over law obedience reveals Paul believes the Messiah will have a worldwide kingdom (p. 145). Paul connects the promise to Abraham’s singular seed in Gal 3:15–19 to the Davidic seed of 2 Sam 7:12–14. If this is Paul’s reading, then the Davidic seed’s inheritance includes the world (cf. Ps. 2:7–8). In Galatians 3:18–19, McCaulley argues Paul relied on Gen 49:10 to support the Messianic inheritance of the singular seed (p. 157). McCaulley then considers how the Galatians are to share in the Son’s inheritance in Gal 3:26–28 and 4:1–7 (pp. 160–87). These passages explicate the nature of the inheritance as being provided solely through faith in Jesus the Messiah which will include the entire earth. McCaulley argues Paul’s use of the baptismal formula in Gal 3:26–28 occurs in the context of Paul’s discussion of inheritance because the law is no longer the determining factor for who inherits (pp. 167–70). Galatians 5:21 points to a reality beyond the reception of the Spirit, which the Galatians are in danger of not inheriting if they continue in the works of the flesh (p. 188).

In summary, McCaulley points to the connection between the Messiah and the worldwide inheritance of the kingdom as an explanation for Paul’s use of the inheritance theme in Galatians (p. 191). The connection between the Messiah and the worldwide kingdom in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple texts suggests scholars who spiritualize the promise and inheritance as the Spirit miss this connection. The Spirit is the evidence the Galatians will inherit the Messiah’s kingdom. Readers of McCaulley’s monograph may not be convinced by all the allusions he uses to explain the connections in Paul’s thought, but the overarching argument—that the Spirit does not equal the fullness of the inheritance in Galatians—is persuasive.

Trey Moss
Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

trey.e.moss [at]


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