Christ, the Fullness of Time. The Rhetorical Function of Gal 4:3-5 and the Significance of Pleroma in the Letter to the Galatians

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts major in Theological Studies



First Advisor

Sr. Bernardita Dianzon, FSP, STD, PhD


This study of Gal 4:3-5 uses a specific method of rhetorical analysis called “biblical literary tradition.” Introduced by Roland Meynet, this method essentially differs from the composition or dispositio (ordering of arguments) of the treatise of Greco-Roman rhetoric. In such biblical rhetoric, Meynet maintains that the Letter to the Galatians is a well-composed text whose textual arrangement follows a certain form of symmetry—concentric in structure. Exposed to a rival and “perverted” gospel preached by a Jewish-Christian law- observant missionary group, Paul persuades the Gentile-Christian community of Galatia not to be deceived by them and so go back to their pre-Christian condition— enslaved by the “elements of the world” (Gal 4: 3). With this persuasive intent, Paul maps out the situation-at-hand and presents a moral matrix at the center of the concentric structure of the Letter to the Galatians (Gal 4:1-11). The argument is specifically enhanced by the use of an analogy between spiritual slavery and divine sonship in Gal 4:1-7. In the analogy (Gal 4:1-7), Paul maps out the situation-at-hand by describing the transformation that transpires with baptism by using a broadly available understanding of “adoption” and “spirit.” Moreover, the moral matrix is demonstrated by the use of chiasmus in Gal 4:3-5. In the chiasmus, the researcher gives a special attention to the significance of the term plērōma. From this, the study argues that the chiasmus exhibits a rhetorical movement from plērōma to kenosis, that is, from “fullness” to “self-emptying”—a theme that is consistent with the other parts of the composition of the letter. Thus, enlivened by the Spirit received from baptism and v after the pattern of Christ who “gave himself up” on the Cross, a cruciform self-giving character would be the mark of Gentile Christian communities. Paul reached his objective to undermine his opponents’ views by associating their teaching with spiritual slavery, and his gospel with divine sonship.

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