G.K. Beale, «Peace and Mercy Upon the Israel of God. The Old Testament Background of Galatians 6,16b», Vol. 80 (1999) 204-223
This essay has contended that Pauls reference to "new creation" and the pronouncement of "peace and mercy" on the readers in Gal 6,15-16 is best understood against the background of Isa 54,10 and the surrounding context of similar new creation themes elsewhere in Isa 3266, which are echoed also earlier in Galatians, especially in 5,22-26. The analysis confirms those prior studies which have concluded that "the Israel of God" refers to all Christians in Galatia, whether Jewish or Christian. Lastly, the demonstration of an Isaianic background for the concept of new creation in Gal 6,15-16 falls in line with Pauls other reference to "new creation" in 2 Cor 5,17 and Johns allusion to new creation in Rev 3,14, where Isa 43 and 6566 stand behind both passages. Isa 54,10 was likely not the sole influence on Gal 6,16, but such texts as Psalm 84 (LXX), the Qumran Hymn Scroll (1QH 13,5), and Jub 22,9 may have formed a collective impression on Paul, with the Isaiah text most in focus; alternatively, the texts in Qumran and Jubilees may be mere examples of a similar use of Isaiah 54 on a parallel trajectory with that of Pauls in Galatians 6.
Discussions of the Old Testament background of "new creation" in Gal 6,15 and its relation to v. 16 have heretofore been general and have not targeted any particular OT passage. This essay sets out to demonstrate that the phrase "peace and mercy" has its most probable background in the Old Testament promise of Israels restoration in Isaiah 54. In the light of this background the mention of the "marks" of Jesus on Pauls body in v. 17 makes excellent sense.
I. Peace and Mercy in Galatians 6,16b and New Creation in Isaiah 54 and other OT texts
Verse 16b explains the blessing upon those who line up their lives according to the elemental, ethical rule of the new creation: "peace and mercy be upon them and (or "even") upon the Israel of God". Though the dominant notion of this "peace and mercy" pertains to Gods blessing upon people, it probably has overtones of the effect of that blessing: the ethical demeanor of striving for unity among those who live in the new creation. This is a positive way of saying that they are not people who have become "boastful ones, ones challenging one another, envying one another" (5,26).
This last expression of v. 16 has undergone explosive debate. Some understand "the Israel of God" to be a further definition of the preceding "them", so that the entire Galatian church, Jewish and Gentile believers together, are referred to as true Israel. Grammatically, this view is certainly possible, since the kai/ can be rendered as appositional or explicative: "even", "that is", or "namely"2, with the resulting translation: "peace and mercy be upon them, that is, upon the Israel of God" (so RSV, New Living