Skip to main content

Book Review: Galatians

Martinus de Boer's commentary on Galatians came out too late for me to utilize it when I blogged through Galatians previously. Now that it's out, I figured I'd give reviewing it a whirl. As usual, for general comments on format, see the discussion of the NTL series in my commentary series overview post. This particular volume in the New Testament Library is one of the more detailed in the series. It checks in at a little over 400 pages, making it among the most detailed work since Martyn's commentary in 1997 (the other candidate being Schreiner), and like Martyn's is also written from an apocalyptic perspective.

de Boer begins with a brief introduction (especially considering the overall size of the commentary) canvassing all of the typical introductory matters. For those interested, he opts for a fairly early date and a northern Galatian hypothesis.

The commentary proper is very detailed. de Boer assesses how each sentence fits into the larger Pauline argument and also drills in on each phrase addressing lexical and syntactical issues. Sprinkled throughout the commentary are several excurses on topics like 'Works of the Law' or 'Allegorical Interpretation.' These were several pages long and dealt with the issues at hand in a more comprehensive matter than one would typically get in the commentary proper, integrating Galatians as a whole into his argument and situating the argument in Galatians in Paul's own broader context (including both other Pauline writings and other second temple Jewish writings).

As I mentioned previously, de Beor writes from an apocalyptic perspective. He understands every noun form of pistis to refer to Jesus own faith(fulness) and stresses the Law/faith antinomy in a manner very similar to Martyn. Salvation is liberation from slavery, and concepts like 'sin' and 'the flesh' are personified. At this point, one probably wonders how de Boer differs from Martyn, because everything I've described is very similar to Martyn's commentary. Additionally, would someone who already owns Martyn's work want to buy de Boers?

I personally prefer de Boer's commentary and here's why. First, while both are excellent at attempting to flesh out the background of the text and providing a robust portrait of the teachers, I found Martyn to be a bit overboard at times. de Boer is a bit more chastened. Second, I found Martyn's commentary to be a bit overkill. While there is a ton of good information in it, it did drag at times. de Boer's commentary is plenty thorough without belaboring points. Third, de Boer's apocalyptic theology isn't identical to Martyn's (or Douglas Campbell's or Michael Gorman's or ...). That too makes it worth checking out. For example, I gained fresh eyes for Galatians 2:15-16 by reading de Boer's innovative suggestion that the the works of the law and faith antithesis did not originate with Paul, but that it's quoted material (I'm ultimately not convinced but it is defensible exegetically). Finally, from an interpretive standpoint, de Boer is the first commentator I've come across, besides Fee, (granted I haven't spent much time with Witherington's or Matera's commentaries) that seems to fully grasp the centrality of the Holy Spirit in Paul's argument. That's a correction in studies of Galatians that is badly needed.

Overall I think that de Boer's commentary is excellent and is the best detailed work in recent years. It would pair particularly well with Dunn's commentary providing well argued and interesting counter proposals to his version of the NPP. 5 stars out of 5.


Popular posts from this blog

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Aquinas and Conclusion

When we reach Aquinas we come to the pinnacle of orthodoxy when it comes to the Trinity and Christology. Christology was important to Aquinas and he dedicated the first fifty-nine questions of Tertia Pars of his Summa Theologiae[1] to the topic. In many ways it is refreshing because he does not treat solely the more philosophical questions of who Jesus was that preoccupied theologians from the third century on. He also spent extended time on Jesus earthly ministry, death, resurrection, ascension, and glorification which was a major innovation.[2] Of course every possible topic of Trinitarian and ontological speculation is also probed. For the sake of space we will only hit some highlights.

Aquinas is clearly in step with the tradition that can be traced from Nicea, through Augustine and the Lombard, to the heart of the Middle Ages. One thing to briefly note is that even in his densest argumentation, Aquinas was not trying to prove elements of his theology via rational argument as that…

Exploring the Christian Way of Life - The Identity of Jesus - Church History (Pre-Reformation) - Irenaeus

Starting from Irenaeus, Christology, in some respects, moves on. A big part of this would have been due to the “gnostic” controversies. It became increasingly important to clarify the relationship between Father and Son and to minimize their distinctiveness, while still maintaining Jesus’ full humanity. From this point on, clashes over heresy about the nature of Christ and discussions related to Trinitarian theology dominate Christological discussion to the point that the original emphasis on Jesus’ Messianic identity fades to the background.[1] Maintaining the affirmation that Jesus was both human and divine was critical for Irenaeus and those after him because they saw that as the necessary grounds of salvation.[2]

Of particular interest to Irenaeus was the baptism of Jesus. What happened when he received the Spirit?[3] It was not the means by which the Word entered Jesus. He was not merely human before that point.[4] Rather it was a divinization of the human nature of Jesus, a nat…

End of Summer Review/Update

The school year is now upon us and I'll definitely not be posting the next two months. This summer didn't quite go to plan so I didn't get to do the blogging I was hoping to do. Specifically I was planning on blogging through 2 Thessalonians, but that didn't happen. It may happen late in the fall, but we will see. I may instead decide to pick up a different Pauline letter (perhaps 2 Corinthians). This is my last year of school  and by the fall of next year I should be back on a more regular blogging schedule.

A lack of blogging was not from a lack of productivity (although I'm sure my Pokemon Go playing did cut into my reading time a little bit). I've had a interesting summer learning about Medieval Christianity and specifically focusing on Peter Lombard and Thomas Aqunias. They'll both be featured in my next paper in Exploring the Christian Way which I hope to publish here in late January of 2017. 90% of the reading and 80% of the writing is done for that …