Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Recommended Commentaries: Galatians

During my study on Galatians I consulted many different volumes. Perhaps those considering preaching or studying their way through this book will find the following annotated bibliography helpful.


Scot McKnight, Galatians, (NIV Application Commentary)
I found myself questioning many of McKnight's applications, and sometimes wondered if he is simply using Galatians as a bully pulpit to discuss important (??) issues within Evangelicalism.

James D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, (Black's New Testament Commentary)
A commentary which was the first to take into account the "new perspective on Paul", which is one of the great theological "storm-centers" in the Evangelical community. Dunn is a superb scholar, but the reader must take caution with his new perspective leanings. Perhaps due to the stimulating insights offered, this quickly became one of my favorite commentaries on Galatians (though one in which I rarely found material that I felt I could preach). Also worth consulting is Dunn's work on the law as expressed in Mark & Galatians.

F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians, (New International Greek Testament Commentary)
As with most everything written by Bruce, this commentary is simply gold! It offers the climax of a life's scholarship on the book of Galatians, and since it is one of Bruce's last writings (1982 , he died in 1990) it offers us his most mature thought on this letter. Knowledge of Greek necessary to fully interact with this work.

J. Louis Martyn, Galatians, (Anchor Bible Commentary)
I found many of Martyn's views to be idiosyncratic. However, there are a few features that make this volume worthy of purchase. He has many (over 50, I think) Comment Sections that give explanation on key issues within the letter. Also, his framing of Galatians as a drama offers great preaching possibilities. This 600+ page volume offers a wealth of philological and hermeneutical detail. Excellent, and highly recommended. Also recommend you consult Martyn's work Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul (T&T Clark, 1997).

Frank J. Matera, Galatians, (Sacra Pagina)
Waiting to be annotated.

Charles B. Cousar, Galatians, (Interpretation)
Waiting to be annotated. Cousar also wrote another volume which covers Galatians, though I have not read it.

Ronald Y.K. Fung, The Epistle to the Galatians (New International on the New Testament)
A conservative scholar who offers a traditional perspective on this letter. Fung is a master at phrasing things in a manner useful to the pastor. One will find much material that will preach.

Dieter Luhrmann, Galatians (Continental Commentary)
Waiting to be annotated.

Timothy George, Galatians (New American Commentary)
Waiting to be annotated.

Mark J. Edwards (ed), New Testament VIII: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)
As with the entire series, simply excellent. I prefer to interact with the full, original works--but this volume does extract some helpful quotes and often points me to the original sources. I rarely quote from the church fathers in my sermons, but they inform my thinking and shape my understanding.

R. N. Longenecker, Galatians (Word Biblical Commentary)
Longenecker provides a valuable analysis of the structure of the letter and, as typical in the Word series, a detailed look at the letter's component parts. It is one of the best all around commentaries in English by an Evangelical. It has a lengthy introduction on the city of Galatia and argues for an early dating of the letter (A.D. 48-49). Longenecker concludes that the opponents in the letter were Judaizers from the Jerusalem church. A valuable, trustworthy guide to the Galatian letter.

John Calvin, Calvin's Commentaries, Volume XXI: Galatians-Philemon
Calvin's reputation as an expositor is not nearly as appreciated as it should be. Unequaled among the Reformers regarding his ability to handle God's Word, Calvin proved himself to be a master with the biblical text. He has a marked ability to understand the theological undergirding of the text and almost always captures the essence of the passage in his discussions. I never study a passage without consulting Calvin.

James Montgomery Boice, "Galatians" in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Volume 10
A brilliant conservative and reformed commentary on Scripture. While not deep in its analysis (by design of the series), this is a helpful and solid exposition of the letter to the Galatians. As with the entire series, highly recommended.

Special note: I did not have access to a few commentaries that would probably have been beneficial.

First, Lightfoot's commentary is a classic in the field. I used this briefly while in seminary and found it to excel many of the modern commentaries. Sadly, chronological snobbery is pervasive and this work is difficult to find due to low demand. For those who have proficiency in Greek, it is simply inexcusable not to use this commentary. Look for this at used-book sellers.

Second, Hans Betz' commentary has become the standard Greek exegetical work in Galatian studies. His work with rhetorical analysis was a trend-setter for modern scholarly treatment of this letter. While no evangelical, Betz comes to many solid conclusions. For those who wish to deeply interact with the letter, this commentary is a must-have.

The reader should be aware of a few commentaries currently in production (I am not aware of publication dates). In the coming years, look for the following:

1. Moises Silva in the Baker Exegetical Commentary series.
2. Donald Carson in the Pillar New Testament Commentary series.


Moises Silva, Interpreting Galatians: Explorations in Exegetical Method, 2nd Edition

This is more of a primer for advanced exegesis than an analysis of Galatians. However, since it uses Galatians as a base to discuss hermeneutics it is therefore helpful and will aid the Greek-speaking pastor towards a better handling of God's word.

James D.G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Galatians (New Testament Theology)
An excellent introduction to the discussion of Galatians. It is superb in its attention both to detail and themes within the letter. Of course, he present the theology of Galatians in light of the new perspective of Paul, of which Dunn is a leading champion. Unlike some other volumes in this series, there is no suggestion as how to utilize Galatians for the church today. However, Dunn does capture the "raw", passionate teaching of Galatians, making this volume especially helpful.

Richard B. Hayes, The Faith of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1-4:11 (Scholar's Press, 1983)
A fascinating treatment which argues that pistis Christou means "the faith of Christ" rather than "faith in Christ". This book should not be ignored. It greatly challenged my thinking, but (for the moment) I am not convinced. In time I plan on studying this issue more fully. Note: This work may be out of print.

H. Hubner, Law in Paul's Thought (T&T Clark, 1984)
Hubner sees a radical shift in Paul's theology of the law between Galatians and Romans. I fundamentally disagree with Hubner's assessment, but it is profound and informative.

Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians.
I include this work here because of its limited value. Though hailed as a landmark work of the Reformation era, in actuality Luther's commentary on Galatians is of very limited value. In almost every text he see some anti-papal Pauline ideology and is therefore guilty of reading his own theology situation back into the biblical text. This volume has good insights regarding the doctrine of justification by faith alone, and therefore deserves to be read by every protestant pastor. However, if one is looking to understand Galatians, this is not the book to consult.

John B. Pohill, Paul & His Letters (B&H, 1999)

Pohill provides a classic summary and introduction to Galatians. His discussion on the theology of Galatians is perhaps shorter than I would have liked, but he provides a good discussion regarding the introductory issues surrounding the letter (date, place, outline, background, etc).

I. Howard Marshall, New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel (IVP, 2004)
This work contains perhaps one of the best summaries of the theology of Galatians.

Mark Nanos, Irony in Galatians: Paul's Letter in First-Century Context (Fortress, 2002).

Among other things, Nanos argues that the opponents in Galatians are Jews, not Jewish Christians (which is the generally held view). This is currently a matter of debate within Galatian studies. Nanos seems to have a knack for challenging traditional interpretations of the New Testament.

1 comment:

  1. Hello from a fellow Michigander (well a native Michigander, anyhow. I now live in Ohio).

    Nice summary. I think you are selling Luther short, but very helpful otherwise.

    I wonder what your assessment might be of any early works by the Fathers or any works from the 17-19th centuries. I'm compiling a list of useful free Galatians study resources (and a few other things) in Google books here:

    Nice blog site!