Preteristic Reformed Theological influence in Adventism on Galatians 3:16-19

This week's lesson brings the author from a liberal College Walla Walla using preteristic commentaries like W. Hendriksen 1968 as his sources directly in opposition to George Butler 1886 book on Galatians, directly opposed to some statements of Ellen White on Galatians in Acts of the Apostles and Selected Message Book 1 as well as directly opposed to B. E. Seaton's Sabbath School Quarterly of 1964. Some points are also against the SDABC in this weeks lesson.

The author C. D. Cosaert will be relieved that hte preteristic "experiment" is not the first one tried in Adventism and that M. Cody, professor of Healdsburg in 1884 published a number of articles trying to intoduce the moral law as the main law of Galatians. It caused Butler to write his book. Then in 1900 Cody was asked to write the SS on Galatians and he insisted just like Cosaert that it is the moral law.

It is not that Adventism is blessed with variety in views. It is that there are liberals and conservatives in the church and that the liberals want to enter Adventism with a Troyan horse of Liberalism.

You will find Cody and Cosaert together and Butler and Seaton in the opposite sides on Galatians 3:16-19.

My own take is that Seaton and Butler is more correct although all of them had deficits. One statement from the SDABC on the application of the Seed maximally rather than minimally was supporting my own view in order to apply the promise up to Joseph so that the chronology of the Masoretic Text is preserverd and that there is no necessity to adjust the LXX or Septuagint to align with a short chronology of Abraham.

15Ἀδελφοί, κατ ἄνθρωπον λγω· ὅμως ἀνθρώπου κεκυρωμνην διαθήκην οὐδεὶς ἀθετεῖ ἢ ἐπιδιατσσεται.

16τῷ δ Ἀβραμ ἐρρθησαν αἱ ἐπαγγελίαι καὶ τῷ σπρματι αὐτοῦ. οὐ λγει· καὶ τοῖς σπρμασιν, ὡς ἐπὶ πολλῶν ἀλλ’ ὡς ἐφ’ ἑνός·

καὶ τῷ σπρματί σου*, ὅς ἐστιν Χριστός.

But to Abraham were spoken the promises and to his seed. It did not say: “to the seedlings [plural]” so-that upon many, but so-that upon one. “And to his Seed. That is Christ.”


The promises were not spoken to Abraham alone, because it says “and to his seed”. The action of God was only spoken one time and that is from Father to Son and Christ appeared to Abraham in Genesis in order to repeat the promise. Although Christ is the Conveyor of the promise, He was to become the Seed of Abraham in the bloodline as well.

The way these promises worked that was given by God, the blessing of the promises was passed on from father to son and the last patriarch that we know in Genesis to whom the blessing was repeated, is Joseph at his death. Scholars, especially preterists have made errors here. They concluded that it is Abraham. What is the problem? You sit with Abraham then 1448+430 = 1878 BCE. The Exodus is in 1450 but it took 2 years to Sinai so the Law was given in 1448 BCE. You sit with Joseph nearly 200 years later and if that is the case, the pharaoh after the death of Joseph who knew him not, could not have brought an oppression on Israel for 400 years since it will carry the 400 years beyond 1450 BCE into the time of Ramses II and that is what the Septuagint chronologers did. They changed the text in the Greek to fit their theory. 430 is the death year of Joseph and 28 years later Pharaoh Sesostris III did not know Joseph any longer. That was in 1850 so that 400 years of oppression runs to 1450 BCE. In his Sabbath School Lesson on Galatians 2017 page 76 C. P. Cosaert states that “Many have understood this text [Galatians 3:16-19] to mean that the law given at Mount Sinai was temporary. It entered 430 years after Abraham and then ended when Christ came.” It is the Reformed Theologians position of taking the Septuagint chronology for the Exodus and Ramses II date as their key date and changed the literal form of the consonantal text of the Word of God in Hebrew to fit their late Greek view. Red card. Paul did not say that the counting starts when it was given to Abraham but later to his seed since the Patriarchal passage of the promise last recorded is the date for the counting starting point. That coincides with all chronology of the Old Testament without any textual changes. Paul understood it to be Christ but this singular word used as plural also included the other patriarch reception of the promise and ultimately Christ who would be from the same bloodline. Paul is thus right about Christ although he did not specify all involved. The Reformed position that Cosaert explains here is not Adventist at all. The Galatians Sabbath School Quarterly in 1900 page 16 indicates that the promise was made with Abraham and his seed: “Remember that to Abraham and his seed were the promises made, and that the covenant was confirmed by God with an oath.” In the 1964 Sabbath School Quarterly by B. E. Seaton on page 23 it is stated that the promise was not exclusively only to Christ: “In here declaring that Christ was, in a special sense, the 'seed' promised to Abraham, Paul does not exclude either Abraham's lineal descendants through Isaac (see Gal. 4:23) or his spiritual descendants through Christ (see ch. 3:29). Accordingly, the promise met its supreme, but not exclusive, fulfillment in Christ."—S.D.A. Bible Commentary, on Gal. 3:16.” This is the correct Adventist position. Treating it only as Abraham and Christ is thus not in place here.



17τοῦτο δ λγω· διαθήκην προκεκυρωμνην ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ ὁ μετ τετρακόσια καὶ τρικοντα ἔτη γεγονὼς νόμος οὐκ ἀκυροῖ εἰς τὸ καταργῆσαι τὴν ἐπαγγελίαν.

But this is what I say: a covenant that was before established upon God, the [article used] having taken place/having come law, does not annul in order to render void/inoperative/idle the promise.  

How can a covenant be established “upon God”? No human can establish a covenant upon God. This process was before Abraham, thus around 2165 BCE when Abraham left Haran at the age of 75 (Genesis 12:4). Back to the question: how do you establish a covenant upon God? The Trinity established it before the creation of the world with the eternal covenant between the Trinity, should there be any sin one day; that Christ will function as Christ; the Holy Spirit as serviceable in that capacity and the Father will function as “father”. The law, ceremonial and moral, are not against the Grace decision in the eternal covenant between the Trinity before the Creation of the World (see Ephesians 1:4). George Butler summarized it in his Galatians Commentary of 1886 page 42 as follows: “And this promise, properly confirmed by God, cannot be set aside by a law given four hundred and thirty years after. The promise has the precedence in time and importance. And this promise of the ‘seed,’ Christ, is the foundation of our hope of the future inheritance. Our hope of that does not originate with this law made four hundred and thirty years later. How foolish, then, that the Galatians should ignore the promise, and go back to that law for their hope of salvation thus virtually setting aside Christ, the real foundation of' their hopes for future good.“ He continued: “This verse is a great central illuminator in the apostle's argument. He here gives us the design of that law of which he was speaking, the time when given, the point to which it extended, the agencies by which it was brought into existence, and the reasons why it was given. If these conditions reasonably, naturally apply to the moral law, then our friends who hold that view concerning the law in Galatians should have the benefit of the evidence....“ [starting a dialectical debate whether it is moral or ceremonial law here]”. Butler said it is the moral law because: (1) in the preceding part of the letter Paul was talking about ceremonial things (2) Abraham kept the laws of God = moral law (Genesis 26:5) but this cannot be the same, so it is the ceremonial laws, Butler says. (3) This law was added because some other law was violated. Ceremonial laws were added because moral law was violated, Butler concluded (page 43). (4) It is the remedial system temporary in place. (5) “Until” limits the time duration of the remedial system (Butler 1886 page 44). “Did the moral law extend no farther than the full development of the Messiah? No Seventh-day Adventist will admit that. But this was precisely the case with the other law.” “It is absurd to suggest that this law added to itself” (Butler 1886 page 44). C. P. Cosaert in his Sabbath School Quarterly 2017 page 49 of the Teacher’s Edition that “While both the ceremonial and moral law were ‘added’ at Sinai because of transgressions, we will see by considering the following question that Paul appears to have the moral law primarily in mind.“ We need to be careful of Cosaert since he openly admits that he is citing many of his ideas from the preterist Reformed thinker W. Hendriksen 1968 (see page 49 bottom). The 1900 Sabbath School Quarterly on Galatians by M. E. Cody of Healdsburg College, also stressed the moral law like Cosaert. “How long would the law have this duty to perform,—to testify against sinners and to stand as a witness to their faithlessness and disloyalty? ‘Until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.’ The seed ‘to whom the promise was made’ is not yet come. Remember that Abraham is the father of all them that believe, so that the seed will not be fully come until all who will believe shall have conic to the possession of the inheritance. Then will the promise be fulfilled. There will then

be no more need of a law to remind men of their sins, for the law will be in the heart of each one, so that there will be no sin. The name of Christ the King will be ‘THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.’” For those who do not know, George Butler in his commentary of 1886 complained about a series of articles that appeared in 1884 in church journals and magazines by professors from Healdsburg claiming that the Law in Galatians is the moral law and that the majority of pastors were upset about this. “But the writer acknowledges considerable surprise that during the last year or two the subject has been made quite prominent in the instructions given to those at Healdsburg College preparing to labor in the cause; also in the lessons passing through the Instructor, designed for our Sabbath-schools all over the land, and innumerous argumentative articles in the Signs of the Times, our pioneer missionary paper, thus throwing these views largely before the reading public not acquainted with our faith. Thus, strong and repeated efforts have been made to sustain the view that the moral law is the subject of the apostle's discourse in the most prominent texts under discussion in the letter to the Galatians.” (Butler 1886 page 4).

Despite Cody (1900) and Cosaert’s (2017) position of the Moral law in these verses, B. A. Seaton in 1964 in the Sabbath School Quarterly page 23 presented just like Butler’s elaborated evidence that it is not exclusively the moral law: “It was recorded in ‘the book of the law,’ Deuteronomy. Verse 10; cf. Deut. 27:26. It was the norm of conduct that distinguished Jew from Gentile. Gal. 2:14. It specified certain ‘works’ as requisite to justification (verses 15, 16), such as circumcision (Gal. 2:3; 5:2, 3; 6:12), ritual purity (Gal. 2: 11-14), and the observance of appointed "days, and months, and times, and years" (Gal. 4:10). It required compliance with these prescribed ‘works’ (Gal. 3:12; cf. Lev. 18:5), and inflicted a ‘curse’ for noncompliance (Gal. 3:10). This ‘curse’ identifies the ‘law’ of Galatians as the Deuteronomic law. Verses 10-13.” Seaton put the principle use of law in Galatians as follows: “The message of the epistle will be more readily understood if it is here realized that in the context of the book of Galatians, when Paul speaks of "the law" he is referring to "law" in its wider, peculiarly Jewish sense, the Torah—that moral, civil, and religious code developed from the Mosaic system, which minutely governed the life of the careful Jew.” (Seaton 1964 page 18). Seaton supplied us with the background of the discussion surrounding the law in Galatians with our pioneers as follows: “There has been considerable discussion throughout the decades as to the identity of the ‘law’ in Galatians. In the book The Acts of the Apostles, pages 383-388, Mrs. White discusses the background of the Galatian epistle. She identifies the basic problem in the Galatian churches as being the influence of certain Jewish teachers who ‘urged upon the Gentile converts the observance of the ceremonial law.’—Page 383. ‘Christ, the true foundation of the faith, was virtually renounced for the obsolete ceremonies of Judaism.’—Page 385. ‘Their [the false teachers'] religion was made up of a round of ceremonies, through the performance of which they expected to gain the favor of God.’—Page 386. These teachers, also known as Judaizers, were urging that Gentile converts, in addition to accepting Jesus Christ, should adopt various practices of Judaism, including that of circumcision.”

Seaton cited Ellen White more on page 3 in 1964: “The great central truth of the Epistle to the Galatians, then, is that a sinner cannot earn justification by compliance with any legal requirements, be they ceremonial or moral. ‘I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? I answer: Both the ceremonial and the moral code of Ten Commandments.’”— Ellen White Selected Messages, Book 1, p. 233.

In Galatians 5-6 Ellen White indicated that Paul is speaking especially about the moral law: “the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking especially of the moral law.”—Ellen White Selected Messages Book 1, p. 234


18εἰ γρ ἐκ νόμου ἡ κληρονομία, οὐκτι ἐξ ἐπαγγελίας· τῷ δ Ἀβραμ δι’ ἐπαγγελίας κεχρισται ὁ θεός.

For if out of [no article] law is the inheritance, [it is] no longer out of the promise. But through Abraham God freely give the promise.

The ceremonial law functioned as tool and instrument to bring the faithful believer back to the moral law and its keeping. Breaking the moral law set in motion the process of the ceremonial law to rectify it, provided there is a relationship with God and faith. The inheritance issue was discussed in the Eternal Covenant meeting between members of the Trinity before the Creation of the world so that the promise of homeostasis regained there, through the Messiah and Christ events typified by the ceremonies, could not replace Christ, Christ still had to come since it was secondary, type not reality. The promise of the Messiah was given to Adam too in Genesis 3:15 but to Abraham it was strongly said that he was to be the bloodline for this good news. In Galatians day in 48 CE, the Jews bypassed Christ the Antitype by 15 years and they still continue their offerings and ceremonies clinging to the type. Utter foolishness. Paul argument is that the promise came from the Trinity before anything or anybody, and Christ gave it to Abraham, and existing in full already in Abraham’s day successfully, then keeping a ceremonial law since 1448 BCE is not going to alter the promise or inheritance. It was supposed to be a sandbox experience for His children of what is going to happen in the salvation process in the heavenly sanctuary. God gave this promise to Abraham freely. He did not do a couple of ceremonies so that God can reward him for it. Ceremonies as a means for salvation without faith was thus the big problem and we know it was the problem since they missed Christ on the cross in 31 CE.


19Τί οὖν ὁ νόμος; τῶν παραβσεων χριν προσετθη, ἄχρις οὗ ἔλθῃ τὸ σπρμα ᾧ ἐπήγγελται, διαταγεὶς δι’ ἀγγλων ἐν χειρὶ μεσίτου.