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Biblical Studies Galatians
by
Mark D. Nanos

Introduction

Galatians is central to Christian theology and to Christian conceptualizations of Judaism. Paul aggressively combats the notion that non-Jews who turn from idols to the worship of Israel’s God as the one God of all humankind should or even may undertake to become proselyte Jews. Instead, they must remain members from the other nations who live righteously but do so as non-Jewish Christ followers. In this effort to persuade and dissuade, Paul enlists ironic rebuke, narratives of prior experiences, theological lessons from Abraham (the forefather of the faithful), allegory, threats, and admonitions to faithfulness. The autobiographical narratives found here are fundamental to constructions of Paul and Christian origins. Central to Reformation theology, Galatians is now also central to new challenges being mounted to traditional ways of interpreting Paul, such as in the New Perspective on Paul (as well as for critics of the New Perspective). And similarly, Galatians plays a key role in feminist, empire-critical, Jewish-Christian relations, and postcolonial criticism.

General Overviews

Naturally, there are introductions and surveys of Galatians in any study Bible, and in encyclopedias and dictionaries pertaining to the Bible or New Testament. Those selected here cover a broad range of approaches and views, from the Roman Catholic scholarship of Brown 1997, to the Protestant evangelical scholarship of Hansen 1993. Briggs 1994 expresses a feminist perspective. Aune 2003 emphasizes the range of rhetorical matters that are now so central to current research on this letter. Meeks and Fitzgerald 2007 provides a brief but scholarly treatment, such as one finds in study Bibles, while Ehrman 2008 offers a slightly expanded and generally theologically oriented discussion. Longenecker 2003 discusses the current issues in debate, which Nanos 2010 expands on in a format that allows for more comprehensive discussion and bibliography.

  • Aune, David Edward. “Galatians, Paul’s Letter to the.” In The Westminster Dictionary of New Testament and Early Christian Literature and Rhetoric. By David Edward Aune, 191–194. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2003.

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    Developments in rhetorical and epistolary analyses are introduced, along with synopsis of current rhetorical outlines of the letter, and bibliography.

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  • Briggs, Sheila. “Galatians.” In Searching the Scriptures. Vol. 2, A Feminist Commentary. Edited by Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, 218–236. New York: Crossroad, 1994.

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    A feminist approach following the traditional binary gospel-versus-law and faith-versus-works reading of Paul. Although attentive to New Perspective respect for Judaism, it centers around 3:28 as dissolution of difference for those freed from Torah.

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  • Brown, Raymond E. “Galatians.” In An Introduction to the New Testament. By Raymond E. Brown, 467–482. Anchor Bible Reference Library. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

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    An overview from an important Roman Catholic historical-critical interpreter.

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  • Ehrman, Bart D. “Galatians.” The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. 4th ed. By Bart D. Ehrman, 339–348. New York: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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    Overview of the letter following traditional binary categories of faith versus law.

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  • Hansen, G. W. “Galatians, Letter to the.” In Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, 323–334. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993.

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    Introductory survey by the author of both a monograph and commentary on Galatians from an evangelical Protestant perspective.

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  • Longenecker, Bruce. “Galatians.” In The Cambridge Companion to St. Paul. Edited by James D. G. Dunn, 64–73. Cambridge Companions to Religion. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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    Within a discussion of contemporary debates, the author emphasizes Paul calling his audience to a cruciform lifestyle, largely within traditional categories, yet with an emphasis on motives that enhances sociological dimensions.

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  • Meeks, Wayne A., and John T. Fitzgerald. “The Letter to the Galatians.” In The Writings of St. Paul: Annotated Texts, Reception and Criticism. 2d ed. Edited by Wayne A. Meeks and John T. Fitzgerald, 10–20. New York: W.W. Norton, 2007.

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    Brief introduction to prevailing views of the context and purpose of the letter, followed by annotations to the NRSV text.

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  • Nanos, Mark D. “Galatians.” In The Blackwell Companion to the New Testament. Edited by David E. Aune, 455–474. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010.

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    Introduction to major issues and various approaches to the situational context, message, rhetorical and epistolary analysis, and the various outlines proposed in current research, with extensive bibliography.

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Bibliographies

Virtually every entry will have extensive bibliographic material, but Wagner 1983 offers the only source devoted to this topic for Galatians.

Essay Collections

Several of these collections are specifically about Galatians, including Bachmann’s 1999 German essays now translated into English, in Bachmann 2008; Nanos 2002 is devoted to contemporary debates on historical context and rhetorical interpretation of Galatians by more than twenty different authors, and Tolmie 2007 has results of a conference supporting continued development of rhetorical approaches by seven authors. Most of the volumes include major essays on Galatians. All of these collections are designed for the specialist or serious student. Bassler 1991 is an edited collection from the Pauline Theology Consultation of the Society of Biblical Literature in the late 1980s, which includes three essays on theology and gospel in Galatians. Jervis and Richardson 1994 covers the topic of Paul’s gospel with five essays on Galatians, and the essays in Martyn 1997 on Paul’s theology are either about Galatians or generally relevant to his interpretation of this letter. Naturally, almost any collection of essays on Paul is likely to have discussions of Galatians if not also studies specifically about this letter.

  • Bachmann, Michael. Anti-Judaism in Galatians? Exegetical Studies on a Polemical Letter and on Paul’s Theology. Translated by Robert L. Brawley. Cambridge, UK, and Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008.

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    Originally published in 1999 in German, this collection, deeply in dialogue with the New Perspective, advances new views on several topics, including covenantal nomism, works of the law, the mediator in Gal 3:20, the allegory in 4:21–5:1, and the “Israel of God” issue.

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  • Bassler, Jouette M. Pauline Theology. Vol. 1, Thessalonians, Philippians, Galatians, Philemon. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.

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    The results of papers and discussions in the Pauline Theology Consultation of the Society of Biblical Literature in the late 1980s, the Galatians section includes theologically oriented essays by James Dunn (“The Theology of Galatians”), Beverly Gaventa (“The Singularity of the Gospel: A Reading of Galatians”), and J. Louis Martyn (“Events in Galatia: Modified Covenantal Nomism versus God’s Invasion of the Cosmos in the Singular Gospel: A Response to J. D. G. Dunn and B. R. Gaventa”).

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  • Jervis, L. Ann, and Peter Richardson. Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians, and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 108. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

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    Essays on Galatians include Terrence E. Donaldson, “‘The Gospel That I Proclaim among the Gentiles (Gal. 2.2): Universalistic or Israel-Centered?”; G. Walter Hansen, “A Paradigm of the Apocalypse: The Gospel in the Light of Epistolary Analysis”; Frank W. Hughes, “The Gospel and its Rhetoric in Galatians”; N. T. Wright, “Gospel and Theology in Galatians”; Robert Jewett, “Gospel and Commensality: Social and Theological Implications of Galatians 2.14”.

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  • Martyn, J. Louis. Theological Issues in the Letters of Paul. Nashville: Abingdon, 1997.

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    A number of essays in this collection pertain to Galatians, and relevant portions of several of them are included in comment sections of Martyn’s commentary.

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  • Nanos, Mark D., ed. The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002.

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    Written to serve as a textbook, this book includes an extensive introduction and twenty-three essays by nearly as many authors. Focuses on major topics and trends in research, often engaging with the arguments of the other essays in the same collection. Sections deal with rhetorical and epistolary genre, autobiographical narratives, and the Galatian situation. Includes a glossary of rhetorical and other relevant terms used in the essays.

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  • Tolmie, D. F., ed. Exploring New Rhetorical Approaches to Galatians. Papers presented at an international conference, Bloemfontein, South Africa, 12–14 March 2006. Acta Theologica Supplementum 9. Bloemfontein, South Africa: University of the Free State, 2007.

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    Essays by D. Tolmie, J. Vos, D. Mitternacht, M. Hietanen, S. Tsang, P. Verster, and G. Swart that discuss various methodological proposals for reading Galatians, primarily under the category of rhetoric. Several of these enlist innovative methodologies. Not widely available.

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Commentaries

There are many commentaries on Galatians, which is such a central epistle in Protestant theology. Surprisingly, many series are in need of updated versions that consider research in recent decades, some of which challenges long-held assumptions about the audiences, those whom Paul opposes and their message, rhetorical and epistolary assumptions for 1st-century versus 16th-century and subsequent readers, along with many other methodological issues that offer new perspectives on the message of the letter. Although there are many commentaries, in general, the same arguments—especially theological conclusions—are repeated in most of them.

Classical Commentaries

This list represents the English translations available on ancient interpreters of Galatians. Among the Church Fathers, Chrysostom (St. Chrysostom 1976), Augustine (Plumer 2003), and Marius Victorinus (Cooper 2005) are considered, along with excerpts from many others in Edwards 1999, followed by Aquinas of the 13th century (Larcher 1966), and the famous Reformers Luther (Graebner 1979) and Calvin (Pringle 1955).

  • Aquinas, Thomas. Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Translated by F. R. Larcher. Aquinas Scripture Series 1. Albany, NY: Magi, 1966.

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    Aquinas (d. 1274) explicates the theme of grace spiritually perfecting the natural life of the Christian, with an approach to soul and body more Aristotelian than that of previous Church Fathers who labored under the influence of Platonism.

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  • Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians. Translated by William Pringle. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955.

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    Devotional in character, yet organized exegetically, allowing one to access this Reformer’s interpretation and usage of Galatians in the context of his concerns about and antipathy toward the Catholic church. Includes the Latin text for Galatians from which Calvin worked.

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  • St. Chrysostom. “Homilies on Galatians.” In St. Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, 1st ser., 13. Edited by Philip Schaff. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1976.

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    This translation was first published in 1889. Chrysostom (d. 407) represents the Antiochene school of historical exegesis, an approach markedly different from the allegorical orientation of the Alexandrian school. Trained as a rhetorician, after many years as an ascetic, Chrysostom sought to create a culture based on Christian Scripture to replace that based on Greco-Roman cultural works such as Homer, or Judaism.

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  • Cooper, Stephen Andrew. Marius Victorinus’ Commentary on Galatians: Introduction, Translation, and Notes. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

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    The first English translation of this mid-4th-century Latin commentary by a professor of rhetoric undertaking a continuous exposition of the text, preceding those by Augustine and Ambrosiaster; includes an extensive introduction and annotation.

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  • Edwards, Mark J., ed. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 8. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1999.

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    Designed to follow the text of Galatians with English translations for relevant, brief quotations from a variety of ancient interpreters such as Jerome, Origen, Augustine, Chrysostom, Ambrosiaster, Theodoret, Marius Victorinus, Theodore of Mopsuestia, among others. See pp. 1–105.

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  • Luther, Martin. A Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. 3d ed. Translated by Theodore Graebner. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1979.

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    A translation of Luther’s 1535 commentary to the letter that Luther esteemed to be “my epistle.” He considered himself betrothed to this letter, and it was central to the exposition of his law-free Gospel of justification by faith alone, delivered in polemical language shaped by his contemporary battles. Reprinted from an 1891 edition; word choices often seem dated for today’s reader.

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  • Plumer, Eric Antone. Augustine’s Commentary on Galatians: Introduction, Text, Translation, and Notes. Oxford Early Christian Studies. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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    The first English translation of this work written before Augustine was a bishop; includes an extensive introduction (pp. 3–21), annotation, and the original Latin text on facing pages.

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Historical-Critical Emphasis

Contemporary commentaries all undertake historical-critical analysis, but these represent the most sustained in-depth approaches. Lightfoot 1981 is the oldest representative, alongside earlier editions of Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament, for the German reader, which has been updated extensively in subsequent editions, the latest being Schlier 1971. Ramsay 1997 developed his commentary at least in part in reaction to and in conversation with Lightfoot’s argument for the so-called South Galatian theory. All three of these remain relevant. Burton 1921 provides the most extensive example of a philological approach, upon which Bruce 1982 builds as well. Longenecker 1990 is notable for integrating rhetorical insights emerging from Betz’s rhetorical approach to the historical-critical enterprise (see Betz 1979, cited under Rhetorical or Epistolary Emphasis). Matera 1992 represents a Catholic contribution that traces prevailing views and new developments in the 1980s, and Dunn 1993 is a major representative of New Perspective sensibilities in relatively early stages of development.

  • Bruce, F. F.The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982.

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    Critical commentary deeply informed by classical studies. Even handed, yet with an evangelical orientation.

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  • Burton, Ernest De Witt. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians. International Critical Commentary 48. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1921.

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    Unsurpassed for philological and historical-critical research, although dated in terms of many currently disputed issues.

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  • Dunn, James D. G. The Epistle to the Galatians. Black’s New Testament Commentaries. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1993.

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    The New Perspective historical-critical commentary; Dunn eschews analysis from the rhetorical theory approaches and, for the most part, also avoids epistolary approaches.

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  • Lightfoot, J. B. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians: A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations. Lynn, MA: Hendrickson, 1981.

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    Represents a reprinting of Lightfoot’s 1865 classic philological work, with its historical-critical investigation of Paul’s language in his context as the rule rather than ecclesiastical traditions, yet his conservative Protestant perspective and degradation of Judaism in his own context, as well as opposition to Tübingen interpretive developments, are equally evident.

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  • Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians. Word Biblical Commentary 41. Dallas: Word Books, 1990.

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    Evangelical commentary that reflects the emergence of rhetorical-critical approaches to Galatians, as well as new developments in epistolary analysis. It offers extensive interaction with the scholarly literature and primary Greco-Roman and Jewish sources.

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  • Matera, Frank J. Galatians. Edited by Daniel J. Harrington. Sacra Pagina 9. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1992.

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    A Catholic series with historical–critical approach to the epistle, which seeks to appeal to the religious interests of its target readers. Matera offers a translation and discusses the prevailing interpretations for each passage. His views are representative of the New Perspective on some issues

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  • Ramsay, William M. Historical Commentary on Galatians. Edited by Mark Wilson. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1997.

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    This volume reprints the editorial revisions of Ramsay’s 1899 work, which challenged the consensus view that Paul wrote this epistle to so-called North Galatia. He extensively discusses archeology and the Roman imperial context. The commentary follows the order of the epistle, but discusses it thematically in chapters rather than verse by verse. Followed by an extensive section on “historical backgrounds” (pp. 197–340)

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  • Schlier, Heinrich. Der Brief an Die Galater. 7th ed. Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1971.

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    This German critical exegetical commentary is an update of Meyer’s Commentary on the New Testament following F. Sieffert’s editions from 1880 to 1899.

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Rhetorical or Epistolary Emphasis

H. D. Betz launched the contemporary emphasis on rhetorical analysis of Paul’s letters (Betz 1979), treating Galatians as forensic in his Hermeneia Commentary, a series designed for the specialist. G. W. Hansen, a student of R. Longenecker’s while writing his own commentary on Galatians, synthesized the approaches of Betz and Longenecker in Hansen 1994, but with more attention also to epistolary analysis introduced by N. Dahl (at the same time that Betz was developing his rhetorical approach). Witherington 1998 developed a sustained socio-rhetorical approach with an emphasis on deliberative rather than forensic rhetoric. Each of these commentaries also undertakes historical-critical analysis; Hansen and Witherington are both written from Protestant evangelical viewpoints and are very accessible.

  • Betz, Hans Dieter. Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia, Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979.

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    Responsible for initiating the contemporary rhetorical analysis approach to Paul’s letters. Betz categorizes Galatians as forensic and demonstrates how the traditional interpretation of Paul can be sustained thereby. This in-depth commentary is important also for historical-critical and theological research.

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  • Hansen, G. Walter. Galatians. IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994.

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    An accessible, evangelical approach combining rhetorical and epistolary analysis with New Perspective insights; oriented to theological application for its readership.

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  • Witherington, Ben. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998.

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    An evangelical approach based on the notion that Paul delivers the letter in the deliberative rhetorical genre. In addition to historical-critical insights, it also discusses personal theological application for its target audience at the end of each exegetical section.

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Theological Emphasis

The commentaries in Ridderbos 1953 in this conservative, Reformed Protestant series designed for ministers are replaced by Fung 1988, written by a student of F. F. Bruce, although one finds Ridderbos 1953 still cited regularly. Bring 1961 offers the viewpoint of a Swedish series for clergy, and Tarazi 1994 provides a Greek Orthodox approach for ministers; neither study is that different from the Reformed commentaries on most points, although they occasionally have contrasting emphases. Martyn 1997 ventures beyond the well-worn lines of interpretation, although the traditional binary view of Christian theology versus (and superior to) Judaism by way of Paul’s voice continues to be fundamental to the interpretation.

  • Bring, Ragnar. Commentary on Galatians. Translated by Eric Herbert Wahlstrom. Philadelphia: Muhlenberg, 1961.

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    This commentary by a systematic theologian first appeared in a Swedish expository series accessible to lay readers as well as clergy. Although following many of the traditional binary lines of faith versus law, Bring offers some new insights and sensibilities to the discussion, emphasizing how faith enables the Christian to practice works of righteousness.

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  • Fung, Ronald Y. K. The Epistle to the Galatians. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1988.

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    Conservative series of commentaries, in this case representing a Chinese evangelical theologian setting out a defense and exposition of justification by faith. The series seeks to provide ministers a vehicle “which, while conversant with modern critical assaults, draws from the Scripture the ancient faith.” This volume replaces Ridderbos 1953 in the series.

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  • Martyn, J. Louis. Galatians: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Anchor Bible 33A. New York: Doubleday, 1997.

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    The historical-critical analysis is shaped by the Barthian theological viewpoint that Paul is not engaged in religious activity such as is attributed to the practice of Judaism. There are many extended studies of various topics (“comments”) and more imaginative reconstructions of the situation Paul addressed than are usually offered in commentaries.

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  • Ridderbos, Herman. The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia. New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1953.

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    Conservative series of commentaries, in this case representing a Reform theologian. Though replaced by Fung 1988, it continues to be cited.

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  • Tarazi, Paul Nadim. Galatians: A Commentary. Orthodox Biblical Studies. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary, 1994.

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    This historical-critical commentary by a Greek Orthodox scholar heavily emphasizes analysis of the Greek words throughout; nevertheless, it often reads like a traditional evangelical Protestant treatment, set out in the binary terms of faith versus law.

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Other Perspectives and Emphases

These commentaries engage in new methodologies or express sensibilities that go against the grain. Bligh 1969 develops a chiastic structure for interpreting the entire letter, while O’Neill 1972 purges a good deal of the text as interpolations. Esler 1998 employs social scientific and Mediterranean cultural studies, Perkins 2001 incorporates insights from the latest commentaries in an eclectic approach, and Riches 2008 traces the history of interpretation on major passages and themes. Nevertheless, in spite of several new methods employed, or different emphases, the prevailing conclusions in each of these works about Paul’s theology remain largely unchanged. The same cannot be said for Le Cornu and Shulam 2005, which offers a Messianic Jewish perspective in dialogue with the latest scholarship but also introduces many Jewish materials to the discussion and advances some new ideas alongside traditional ones.

  • Bligh, John. Galatians: A Discussion of St. Paul’s Epistle. Householder Commentaries 1. London: St. Paul, 1969.

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    A Catholic exegete’s dialogical approach based on a chiastic structural analysis. Bligh includes his own translation (Bligh 1966, cited under Grammatical, Linguistic, and other Technical Approaches), which is fully discussed in a companion volume engaging the philological and grammatical issues.

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  • Esler, Philip Francis. Galatians. New Testament Readings. London and New York: Routledge, 1998.

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    This commentary is organized thematically rather than according to consecutive verses and chapters. Esler introduces new approaches from Mediterranean cultural perspectives, as well as social identity and other social science theories, to the exegesis of Galatians. He challenges traditional readings on many points, although the theological conclusions are often quite traditional.

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  • Le Cornu, Hilary, and Joseph Shulam. A Commentary on the Jewish Roots of Galatians. Jerusalem: Academon, 2005.

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    Representing a Messianic Jewish perspective, this is a historical-critical treatment of the letter informed by the latest commentaries and challenges to the prevailing views. A wealth of Jewish sources and parallels not commonly found in research on Galatians are brought to bear. Not well known or widely distributed but should not be overlooked.

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  • O’Neill, J. C. The Recovery of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. London: SPCK, 1972.

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    Approaches Galatians as authentic but highly glossed and interpolated by those who tried to understand it from early on in the manuscript tradition. To distill the original text, O’Neill applies the logic of J. Munck’s thesis that there were different missions connected with the Jews and the Gentiles, which resulted in different relationships to the Torah.

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  • Perkins, Pheme. Abraham’s Divided Children: Galatians and the Politics of Faith. The New Testament in Context. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 2001.

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    This eclectic approach is written as a narrative within a series that emphasizes 1st-century sociohistorical dynamics. Perkins surveys the commentaries as well as alternative interpretations, although often without offering an opinion. Overall the perspectives are traditional and binary, although there are some original discussions.

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  • Riches, John Kenneth. Galatians through the Centuries. Blackwell Bible Commentaries. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

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    This series focuses on reception history: how texts and major themes have been interpreted by a variety of techniques and used in different ways. Fills a gap in the discussion of the theological trends predating contemporary scholarship; written from traditional Protestant perspectives.

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Commentaries for General Readers

For the most part, the selections found here could have been included under historical-critical or theological categories but are more accessible to readers with little to no knowledge of Greek or of Galatian scholarship. They address ministers and lay readers alike. Cousar 1982 is by a well-known preacher in Protestant circles who has written similar commentaries on other Pauline letters. Wright 2002 is by an Anglican bishop with a wide following among Evangelicals, well known for his scholarly contributions and as a major voice of the New Perspective. Hansen 1994 brings to bear developments in epistolary and rhetorical scholarship, and Williams 1997 advocates the subjective reading of Paul’s language of justification by the “faith of” rather than “faith in” Christ. McKnight 1995 was written by a student of Dunn, yet the approach is traditional, especially when the discussion focuses—as it often does within the scope of the series—on direct application of Paul’s language to the evangelical readers it serves. Jervis 1999 is written for students and general readers, and for nonspecialists it offers the most concise entry point to many discussions developing in the 1990s.

  • Cousar, Charles B. Galatians. Interpretation Series. Atlanta: John Knox, 1982.

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    This series represents a mainline Protestant perspective designed to help those teaching and preaching address contemporary concerns in their churches. The comments deal with sections of interest rather than every individual verse. The binary of grace versus human achievement is central to the message developed throughout.

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  • Hansen, G. Walter. Galatians. IVP New Testament Commentary Series. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994.

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    An accessible, evangelical approach combining rhetorical and epistolary analysis with New Perspective insights; oriented to theological application for its readership.

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  • Jervis, L. Ann. Galatians. New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1999.

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    In this series, developed for students and general readers and based on the NIV, the prevailing viewpoints are discussed in the introduction and commentary sections; includes minimal annotation that is nevertheless informed by New Perspective and other developments at the end of the 1990s; there is also a select bibliography for further reading.

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  • McKnight, Scot. Galatians: From Biblical Text—to Contemporary Life. NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995.

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    Written for modern-day conservative evangelical audiences, which makes for some strained analogies when discussing topics such as circumcision or legalism. It is informed by the New Perspective, yet uses traditional terminology and is based on a traditional binary approach.

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  • Williams, Sam K. Galatians. Abington New Testament Commentaries. Nashville: Abingdon, 1997.

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    Synthesizes many methods and insights from cultural as well as theological studies. New Perspective sensibilities are expressed alongside traditional ones by a leading advocate for the subjective genitive reading “faith of Christ”; designed for accessibility.

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  • Wright, Tom N. Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians. London: SPCK, 2002.

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    Anglican bishop and New Testament scholar N. T. Wright, a leading voice of the New Perspective approach to Paul, expresses his exegetical expertise through homiletical prose developed for a broad Christian readership in a series covering every book of the New Testament.

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Manuscript Analysis

Although any discussion of New Testament or Pauline textual analysis will have material relevant to Galatians, Swanson 1999 is the only recent volume in English specific to Galatians.

  • Swanson, Reuben J., ed. New Testament Greek Manuscripts: Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines against Codex Vaticanus: Galatians. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1999.

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    This horizontal format provides a user-friendly guide to variants and different spellings among manuscripts on a line-by-line basis. Essential for exegetes.

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Sociohistorical Approaches

These studies focus on contextual elements found in the argumentative genres Paul uses when evaluated in light of Greek, Roman, and Jewish social dynamics likely to be affecting the situation in Galatia. Commentaries and approaches to Galatians with other foci must also always investigate (usually in their introductions), or presuppose these influences on the Galatian situation. Often the discussions revolve around the identification of those whose influence in Galatia Paul opposes (regularly referred to as “Paul’s Opponents”). The most recent monographs and essays are listed, but earlier approaches are generally discussed therein. Howard 1990 marks the beginning of new studies in this area in view of the New Perspective, followed by Mitternacht 1999 for the German reader, and Nanos 2002b; both texts seek to construct the historical situation and Paul’s message within it from emerging developments in epistolary as well as rhetorical and other criticisms. Scott 1995 offers a unique approach to the standoff over whether Paul’s audience was in so-called North or South Galatia, a topic that is summarized in all commentaries and most other works, but that is not the focus of most current debates (see especially Lightfoot 1981 [pp. 18–25], and Ramsay 1997 [pp. 197–240] [both cited under Historical-Critical Emphasis] for the basic outlines of the opposing positions). Elliott 2003 also offers a unique investigation focusing on the Anatolian religious context of the audience. Hardin 2008 and Kahl 2009 represent a burgeoning development in Pauline studies in which Paul’s language is more deeply investigated in terms of the Roman context of the author and audience. The many relevant essays for this topic in Nanos 2002a are listed.

  • Elliott, Susan M. Cutting Too Close for Comfort: Paul’s Letter to the Galatians in Its Anatolian Cultic Context. Library of New Testament Studies 248. London and New York: T & T Clark, 2003.

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    Highlighting the Galatians addressed as Celts/Gauls, Elliott focuses on the Anatolian religious culture and its norms rather than a Jewish context per se, especially the cult of the Mother Goddess and the mutilation it involved, bringing a new perspective to topics that arise in the letter like slavery and circumcision, and thus why Paul opposed them as threatening to return them to their pre-Christian condition

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  • Hardin, Justin K. Galatians and the Imperial Cult: A Critical Analysis of the First-Century Social Context of Paul’s Letter. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2008.

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    The social context of the tensions Paul addresses is approached in terms of the Jewish communities’ integration of imperial cult and thus their concern to bring these new Gentile Christ-believing churches, which resist such integration, into conformity with prevailing norms.

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  • Howard, George. Paul: Crisis in Galatia: A Study in Early Christian Theology. 2d ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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    Revised from the original 1979 edition, and often focuses on theology in keeping with prevailing norms of the time. Howard grapples with how the situation in Galatia should be constructed to make sense of Paul’s arguments, which are specifically targeted to address the inclusion of Gentiles, and not to explain how Christ-believing Jews were to behave.

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  • Kahl, Brigitte. Galatians Re-Imagined: Readings with the Eyes of the Vanquished. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009.

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    Focused on the Roman imperial context of the letter, Kahl suggests a reinterpretation of Paul’s justification theology before the background of visual representations of vanquished Galatians/Gauls. The Galatian conflict arises not primarily from Jewish antagonists who insist on strict Torah obedience, but rather from a clash with Roman law that does not tolerate withdrawal from Roman religion by non-Jews. It is Paul, rather than his “opponents,” who argues from a strictly Jewish monotheistic position critical of Roman idolatry.

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  • Mitternacht, Dieter. Forum Für Sprachlose: Eine kommunikationspsychologische und epistolär-rhetorische Untersuchung des Galaterbriefs. Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series 30. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1999.

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    Several methodologies are combined in a theory of communication designed to assess the situation of Paul’s audience as well as those whom Paul opposes and who are otherwise left “speechless” in the traditional analyses. Galatians is a “letter of petition” to imitate Christ, which Paul believes is compromised by an effort to avoid persecution, not by observing the Torah per se.

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  • Nanos, Mark D., ed. The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002b.

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    Essays in the “The Galatian Situation(s)” section include Harvey, “The Opposition to Paul”; Jewett, “The Agitators and the Galatian Congregation”; Martyn, “A Law-Observant Mission to Gentiles: The Background of Galatians”; Walter, “Paul and the Opponents of the Christ-Gospel in Galatia”; Barclay, “Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test Case”; Lategan, “The Argumentative Situation of Galatians”; Nanos, “The Inter- and Intra-Jewish Political Context of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians”; Mitternacht, “Foolish Galatians?—A Recipient-Oriented Assessment of Paul’s Letter.”

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  • Nanos, Mark D. The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002b.

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    Based on epistolary analysis as ironic rebuke, among other methodologies, this argument challenges the foundations for the traditional as well as prevailing constructions of the Galatian situation, which are set out comprehensively. It offers a new construction based on the Christ followers Paul addresses functioning as subgroups experiencing marginalization within the larger Jewish communities—arising because they are themselves minority groups within the larger Greco-Roman communities.

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  • Scott, James M. Paul and the Nations: The Old Testament and Jewish Background of Paul’s Mission to the Nations with Special Reference to the Destination of Galatians. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 84. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1995.

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    A new approach to the discussion of the provenance of the letter’s recipients, which revolves around the question whether the Galatians were in the Northern ethnic territory of the Celtic tribes or the southern part of the Roman province, which includes the cities such as Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. Scott proposes they are in the south, based on the theory that Paul worked from the Jewish notion of the Table of the Nations (Genesis 10) to fashion his itineraries and for the identification of his recipients as Galatians.

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Socio-Scientific and Feminist Methodological Approaches

In recent years, several interpreters have employed new methodologies or approached the letter from new perspectives. These include Asano 2005, which uses socio-anthropological studies and comparisons with a modern Japanese religious community, and Malina and Pilch 2006 defines itself in terms of a Mediterranean-based socio-scientific analysis. Feminist approaches are represented by Kahl in a general introduction for German readers (Kahl 1999a), an essay centered on 3:28 and the topic of difference within equality (Kahl 1999b), and also an essay on the allegory of chapter 4 (Kahl 2004); Other feminist perspectives are in Wiley 2005 and Lopez 2008, which also employ postcolonial studies as well as offering other new ways of conceptualizing Paul’s world and message.

  • Asano, Atsuhiro. Community-Identity Construction in Galatians: Exegetical, Social-Anthropological, and Socio-Historical Studies. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 285. London and New York: T & T Clark, 2005.

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    Socio-anthropological theories of identity are applied to a reading of Galatians in combination with the study of an emerging religious community in modern Japan. Analyzes the way Paul seeks to construct religious identity for his audience independent of Jewish ethnic standing, a relatively traditional theological posture.

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  • Kahl, Brigitte. “Der Brief an die Gemeinden in Galatien.” In Kompendium Feministische Bibelauslegung. Edited by Luise Schottroff and Marie-Theres Wacker, 603–611. Gütersloh, Germany: Chr. Kaiser, 1999a.

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    An introduction working through the main sections of Galatians from a feminist perspective, with special attention to the problem of difference within Paul’s concept of equality.

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  • Kahl, Brigitte. “Gender Trouble in Galatia? Paul and the Rethinking of Difference.” In Is There a Future for Feminist Theology? Edited by Deborah F. Sawyer and Diane M. Collier, 57–73. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999b.

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    Kahl not only challenges the androcentric traditional readings of Paul but also shows how a feminist reading of Paul can be promising in new ways that recognize Paul as respecting difference as well as equality.

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  • Kahl, Brigitte. “Hagar between Genesis and Galatians: The Stony Road to Freedom.” In From Prophecy to Testament: The Function of the Old Testament in the New. Edited by Craig A. Evans, 219–232. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2004.

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    Challenging the traditional readings of the allegory in 4 Galatians, Kahl argues that the slavery at issue is to Roman colonialism, from which the audience is called to free themselves by service to one another in ways that transgress both Roman and Jewish law.

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  • Lopez, Davina C. Apostle to the Conquered: Reimagining Paul’s Mission. Paul in Critical Contexts. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2008.

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    A gender-critical approach emphasizing Paul’s opposition to Roman domination; Lopez compares Paul’s language to Roman representations of the conquered and finds him identifying with the subjected.

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  • Malina, Bruce J., and John J. Pilch. “Galatians.” In Social-Science Commentary on the Letters of Paul. By Bruce J. Malina and John J. Pilch, 177–218. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006.

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    Appealing to socio-scientific models in a commentary style of running notes with introductions, the conclusions are consistent overall with traditional views, with Paul opposing proponents of Judaism among his communities.

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  • Meeks, Wayne A. “The Image of the Androgyne: Some Uses of a Symbol in Earliest Christianity.” History of Religions 13 (1974): 165–208.

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    Seminal discussion of Paul’s views on male and female states and standing as expressed in the baptismal formula of Galatians 3:28 and elsewhere within the context of Greco-Roman society, the pastoral epistles, and other early Christian trajectories.

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  • Wiley, Tatha. Paul and the Gentile Women: Reframing Galatians. New York: Continuum, 2005.

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    Drawing on the New Perspective, Wiley’s reading of Galatians is based on the proposal that the dispute over male circumcision was actually about the issue of gender difference among the Gentiles. The author argues that Paul maintained a higher degree of social equality than the Torah permitted.

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Rhetorical Approaches

The modern interest in rhetorical analysis as a focus for Pauline as well as New Testament studies emerged in the wake of Betz’s Hermeneia Commentary on Galatians (Betz 1979, cited under Rhetorical or Epistolary Emphasis), and subsequently Galatians has remained a central area for developments within and debates about this methodology.

Multiple Genre Analysis

Interpreters have taken various views of the enterprise, from Berchman’s employment of each of the genres in functional terms to analyze a rhetorical unit (Berchman 1987), to Classen 1993, which challenges Betz’s formal genre approach (see Betz 1979, cited under Rhetorical or Epistolary Emphasis). Classen widens the scope of analysis to include any functional aspects that might help interpret or frame Paul’s message as well as noting how earlier interpreters’ engagement in such analysis had been largely overlooked by Betz and others. This perspective is further supported by the arguments in Fairweather 1994a, Fairweather 1994b, Anderson 1996, and Kern 1998. In a full-scale monograph on Galatians, Kern articulates the many failings of the formal approaches, which are also made plain in Anderson’s treatment of Galatians as well as other Pauline letters.

  • Anderson, R. Dean, Jr. “The Letter to the Galatians 1–5.12.” In Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Paul. By R. Dean Anderson Jr., 111–167. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology 18. Kampen, The Netherlands: Pharos, 1996.

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    Investigates Galatians in terms of his broader treatment of Paul and rhetorical theory, classical as well as contemporary. Shows how employing the formal terms of classical rhetorical systems alone, while useful, is insufficient to the functional task of interpreting Paul’s argument (better, “teaching”), as well as unlikely to be appropriate for describing Paul’s knowledge of or intentional effort to use the sort of formal classical theory that a speaker of his time would use.

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  • Berchman, Robert M. “Galatians (1:1–5): Paul and Greco-Roman Rhetoric.” In Judaic and Christian Interpretation of Texts: Context and Contexts. Edited by Jacob Neusner and Ernest S. Frerichs, 1–15. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1987.

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    A form-critical analysis of 1:1–5 highlights functional characteristics of each of the genres, from which Berchman offers suggestions about each situation addressed. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 60–72.

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  • Classen, C. J. “St. Paul’s Epistles and Ancient Greek and Roman Rhetoric.” In Rhetoric and the New Testament: Essays from the 1992 Heidelberg Conference. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Thomas H. Olbricht, 265–291. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1993.

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    Classen critiques the formal genre approaches, traces antecedents to Betz’s proposal, emphasizes epistolary elements, and supports the use of functional approaches, which follows the example set by Melanchthon. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp., 95–113

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  • Fairweather, Janet. “The Epistle to the Galatians and Classical Rhetoric: Parts 1 & 2.” Tyndale Bulletin 45.1 (1994a): 1–38.

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    In this first of two essays, the author first evaluates the rhetorical criticism of Galatians by Chrysostom in comparison with that of Betz; and second, she examines the question of Paul’s rhetorical sophistication.

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  • Fairweather, Janet. “The Epistle to the Galatians and Classical Rhetoric: Part 3.” Tyndale Bulletin 45.2 (1994b): 213–243.

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    In the part section of this essay, Fairweather evaluates the letter of Galatians itself. She concludes that Paul’s approach was rhetorically informed yet different from that of sophists.

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  • Kern, Philip H. Rhetoric and Galatians: Assessing an Approach to Paul’s Epistle. Society for New Testament Studies 101. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

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    Challenges the entire enterprise of evaluating Galatians in terms of formal rhetorical genre categories, showing problems with each of the major positions held.

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Forensic Genre Analysis

Betz introduced the methodology he was employing while writing his commentary (see Betz 1979, cited under Rhetorical or Epistolary Emphasis). in Betz 1975, first delivered as a paper at the Society of Biblical Literature in the early 1970s. Brinsmead 1982 was an early advocate seeking to elaborate on Betz’s insights. Martin 1995 sought to deepen the analysis in terms of stasis theory within the forensic genre to explore a new construction of the situation in Galatia. Kremendahl 2000 offers the German reader examples from apologetic letters, shoring up an often criticized shortcoming in Betz’s work.

Deliberative Genre Analysis

Classical rhetorical specialist George Kennedy immediately took issue with Betz’s classification as forensic and set in motion an alternative preference for the deliberative category, which is highlighted in Hall 1987 and Smit 1989, as well as several commentaries discussed above.

  • Hall, Robert G. “The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians: A Reconsideration.” Journal of Biblical Literature 2 (1987): 277–288.

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    Drawing on the work of George Kennedy and in response to that of Betz, Hall proposes that the letter is deliberative, characterized by exhortation and dissuasion to affect the choices Paul’s audience will make between two antithetical propositions. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 29–38.

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  • Smit, Joop. “The Letter of Paul to the Galatians: A Deliberative Speech.” New Testament Studies 35 (1989): 1–26.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0028688500024474Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenging Betz’s choice of “forensic” as the appropriate classification for Galatians point for point, Smit argues that formal equivalence as deliberative rhetoric is warranted, that exhortation has no place in forensic but rather in deliberative speech, and that 5:13–6:10 was probably not included in the original letter based on these analytical terms. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 39–59.

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Epideictic Genre Analysis

The third category for formal classification did not find immediate support, but eventually it acquired proponents. This support was aided in part by the arguable failure of formal classical categories to account for the evidence and a growing awareness of the features of epistolary rhetoric one should expect of a letter, including functional similarities to epideictic. Following early arguments for classification as forensic and then deliberative, Hester 1991 and Hester 2002 argue for epideictic for the autobiographical material. Pitta 1992 stresses the epideictic aspects of Paul’s disposition throughout the letter for the Italian reader, and Sullivan and Anible 2000 argues for the epideictic function of Paul’s effort to create a new communal identity in the face of established competing options.

  • Hester, James D. “Epideictic Rhetoric and Persona in Galatians 1 and 2.” In The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation. Edited by Mark D. Nanos, 181–196. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002.

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    Combines insights from epistolary as well as rhetorical theory with the introduction of symbolic convergence theory and focusing on the autobiographical material of chapters 1 and 2. Hester characterizes Galatians as epideictic in style, a letter of blame in the sense of reproach that calls for a response commensurate with the gratitude that the audience should have toward Paul.

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  • Hester, James D. “Placing the Blame: The Presence of Epideictic in Galatians 1 and 2.” In Persuasive Artistry: Studies in New Testament Rhetoric in Honor of George A. Kennedy. Edited by Duane F. Watson, 281–307. Sheffield, UK: JSOT Press, 1991.

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    Hester explains his change from a formal forensic categorization to epideictic on the basis of the statis of quality that he finds underlying this narrative section and the letter overall.

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  • Pitta, Antonio. Disposizione E Messagio Della Lettera Ai Galati: Analisi Retorico-Letteraria. Analecta Biblica 131. Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 1992.

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    Concludes that formal rhetorical or epistolary classifications are inadequate to account for the diversity of the letter’s configuration. Finds that the disposition of the letter is closest to epideictic, for Paul seeks to return his audience to his gospel and thus avoid apostasy.

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  • Sullivan, Dale L., and Christian Anible. “The Epideictic Dimension of Galatians as Formative Rhetoric: The Inscription of Early Christian Community.” Rhetorica 18.2 (2000): 117–145.

    DOI: 10.1525/rh.2000.18.2.117Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Based on modern epideictic theory, Galatians is evaluated in terms of emerging Christian community formation, which also includes the call for dissociation from competing but already established authorities.

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Epistolary Emphasis

Although Betz’s focus on rhetorical genre analysis seized the field at roughly the same time that Betz was presenting his ideas in the early 1970s, Dahl 2002 was also introducing the promise offered by formal classical as well as functional epistolary analysis, although it was not published and thus available widely until much later. Walter Hansen became aware of Dahl’s paper through his teacher, Richard Longenecker, and made several arguments based on this approach, including Hansen 1994. Botha 1992 brings attention to the oral aspect of communication even as it pertained to written letters, which had to be read and performed for largely illiterate audiences.

  • Botha, Pieter J. J. “Letter Writing and Oral Communication in Antiquity: Suggested Implications for the Interpretation of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.” Scriptura 42 (1992): 17–34.

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    Issues such as limited literacy, scribal culture, and the oral performance of written letters are the focus of this discussion of how the letter is used to establish authority.

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  • Dahl, Nils. “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: Epistolary Genre, Content, and Structure.” In The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation. Edited by Mark D. Nanos, 117–142. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002.

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    Analysis based on ancient epistolary theory from handbooks combined with examples from letters, Dahl categorizes Galatians as ironic rebuke, a style he observes to be even more common among extant papyri letters than those of thanksgiving. This essay includes several parts (but not all of) Dahl’s initial 1973 paper delivered at the Society of Biblical Literature.

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  • Hansen, G. Walter. “A Paradigm of the Apocalypse: The Gospel in the Light of Epistolary Analysis.” In Gospel in Paul: Studies on Corinthians, Galatians and Romans for Richard N. Longenecker. Edited by L. Ann Jervis and P. Richardson, 194–221. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1994.

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    Drawing on the epistolary insights of Dahl, combined with the commentary of Richard Longenecker, Hansen proposes that 4:12 is the turning point of Galatians: this is where Paul moves from rebuke that is characterized by forensic rhetoric to request that is characterized by deliberative rhetoric, calling for faithfulness as exemplified in Abraham and now Paul––based on participation in the gospel at the dawning of the apocalypse. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 143–154.

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Polemic, Hyperbole, and Defamiliarization

These studies emphasize additional aspects of Paul’s argumentation, from defamiliarization stylistics (Cronjé 1986), to pragmatics of alienation and re-identification (Du Toit 1992) or dissociation (Vorster 1992), to hyperbolic polemic (Cosby 2002). Dunn 1993 is less methodologically oriented, focusing instead on how Paul’s polemic reflects the norms of Greco-Roman and Jewish rhetoric of his time, and thus less anti-Judaism than often supposed, but rather the kind of rhetoric to be expected between and among rival subgroups.

  • Cosby, Michael R. “Galatians: Red-Hot Rhetoric.” In Rhetorical Argumentation in Biblical Texts: Essays from the Lund 2000 Conference. Edited by Anders Eriksson, Thomas H. Olbricht and Walter G. Übelacker, 296–309. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity, 2002.

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    Argues that Paul is so upset when writing the letter to defend himself from accusations that the hyperbolic polemic reflects more heat than the kind of sophisticated, carefully organized argumentative information assumed to be communicated by current rhetorical as well as theological approaches.

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  • Cronjé, J. Van W. “Defamiliarization in the Letter to the Galatians.” In A South African Perspective on the New Testament. Edited by J. H. Petzer and P. J. Hartin, 214–227. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986.

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    A stylistic examination of features within the letter that are designed to surprise the reader to gain their heightened attention to the message conveyed.

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  • Du Toit, A. B. “Alienation and Re-Identification as Pragmatic Strategies in Galatians.” Neotestamentica 26.2 (1992): 279–295.

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    Rhetorical criticism combined with speech act analysis and reception criticism applied to argue that Paul sought to estrange his audience from his opponents and to reidentify with Paul.

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  • Dunn, James D. G. “Echoes of Intra-Jewish Polemic in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.” Journal of Biblical Literature 112.3 (1993): 459–477.

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    Demonstrates how many of Paul’s polemical arguments can be understood to represent the kinds of arguments that took place among Jews.

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  • Vorster, J. N. “Dissociation in the Letter to the Galatians.” Neotestamentica 26.2 (1992): 297–310.

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    Challenging the usual approaches based on antithesis between Paul and Judaism, this approach from dissociation and pragmatic argument shows how Paul works instead toward modification where there is an inconsistency.

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Grammatical, Linguistic, and Other Technical Approaches

A number of works focus on relatively technical aspects of translation and interpretation. Bligh 1966 offers a mix of chiastic theory and grammatical analysis; Holmstrand 1997 analyzes the structure of each section and the transitions between them. Tolmie 2005 examines in detail each argumentative element, while Hietanen 2007 finds fault with many of Paul’s arguments in dialogical terms. Arichea and Nida 1993 discusses grammatical issues for translation of Galatians into other languages, and Silva 1996 uses Galatians as the base text for teaching grammatical exegetical method.

  • Arichea, Daniel C., and Eugene Albert Nida, eds. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. UBS Handbook Series. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993.

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    Conservative evangelical guide with notes for those seeking to translate Galatians in various languages.

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  • Bligh, John. Galatians in Greek: A Structural Analysis of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, with Notes on the Greek. Detroit, MI: University of Detroit Press, 1966.

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    A highly specialized approach to Galatians that mixes chiastic theory and detailed grammatical analysis with the more common elements of critical method. Useful for translation projects; see Bligh 1969 (cited under Other Perspectives and Emphases) for associated commentary.

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  • Hietanen, Mika. Paul’s Argumentation in Galatians: A Pragma-Dialectical Analysis of Galatians 3:1–5:12. Library of New Testament Studies 344. London: T & T Clark, 2007.

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    Using modern theory, this approach shows how Paul’s argumentation breaks the rules of dialogical argumentation, in which all parties remain open to the arguments of the other in search of a resolution. Paul seeks only to persuade others that his point of view is the correct one.

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  • Holmstrand, Jonas. Markers and Meaning in Paul: An Analysis of 1 Thessalonians, Philippians and Galatians. Translated by Martin Taylor Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series 28. Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1997.

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    Pages 145–216 provide a grammatical analysis of the structural and transitional elements in and among the various sections of Galatians, undertaken sequentially.

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  • Silva, Moisés. Explorations in Exegetical Method: Galatians as a Test Case. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1996.

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    A conservative evangelical guide for students learning exegesis using Galatians as example; the conclusions are traditional. Useful discussions of Greek grammar and methodological matters.

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  • Tolmie, D. F. Persuading the Galatians: A Text-Centred Rhetorical Analysis of a Pauline Letter. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.190. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005.

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    Offering a six-part pattern to Paul’s arguments as they unfold in a text-centered analysis, Tolmie examines many different types of argumentative strategies; the analysis and results maintain traditional interpretations.

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Thematic Approaches

There are many investigations of Galatians that focus on different themes or specialized perspectives. This selection aims to introduce a variety of notable approaches that cover the major sections of the letter, from which relevant bibliographies can be found for each of these emphases. They are subdivided by their format as either monographs or essays.

Monographs

Ciampa 1998 attends especially to Paul’s use of Scripture in the initial two chapters, and Davis 2002 tackles the argument in the first half of chapter 3, with its special language incorporating curses and death with a sociohistorical emphasis, finding parallels in Greco-Roman curse tablets. Hays 2002 and Longenecker 1998 focus on the theology of the letter, which is naturally the topic of Dunn 1993. Barclay 1988 and Wilson 2007 investigate the letter with special attention to the later chapters and the ethical instructions that emerge. Niang 2009 focuses on the topic of marginality and analogies proposed between the situation of Paul’s audience and the contemporary Diola people of Senegal.

  • Barclay, John M. G. Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul’s Ethics in Galatians. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988.

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    Exegesis of the letter is undertaken with special attention to the ethical dimensions that arise in chapters 5 and 6, in conversation with the New Perspective and discussions of the sociohistorical context of the audience.

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  • Ciampa, Roy E. The Presence and Function of Scripture in Galatians 1 and 2. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.102. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 1998.

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    Seeks to discover the many ways in which Paul draws upon Scripture in his letter—not simply in explicit citations—and how these texts function in Paul’s arguments.

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  • Davis, Basil S. Christ as Devotio: The Argument of Galatians 3:1–14. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2002.

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    Davis seeks to explain what it is about Christ’s death that affects salvation. Investigates Paul’s claim that redemption is a result of Christ’s having become cursed, uniquely comparing curse tablets to the curse of the Mosaic Law.

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  • Dunn, James D. G. The Theology of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. New Testament Theology. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

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    A key figure in the New Perspective undertakes a theological analysis of Galatians within a series dedicated to that approach.

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  • Hays, Richard B. The Faith of Jesus Christ: An Investigation of the Narrative Substructure of Galatians 3:1–4:11. 2d ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002.

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    An important contribution to the interpretation of Paul’s language about the faithfulness of Christ and the implications for his theology, originally published in 1983. Revised edition includes new discussions, including a dialogue with James Dunn, who disagrees with Hays on some key matters.

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  • Longenecker, Bruce W. The Triumph of Abraham’s God: The Transformation of Identity in Galatians. Nashville: Abingdon, 1998.

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    Working from a theological emphasis on divine triumph in Christ within the present evil age (and thus the power to overcome competing forces), this study emphasizes how this eschatologically shaped identity is to transform existence for Christian readers.

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  • Niang, Aliou Cissé. Faith and Freedom in Galatia and Senegal: The Apostle Paul, Colonists and Sending Gods, Biblical Interpretation Series 97. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2009.

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    A postcolonialist interpretation of Paul’s message about freedom to the Galatians, attentive to their degraded standing within the Roman world and undertaken in conversation with parallels to the experiences of the Diola people of Senegal under France.

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  • Wilson, Todd A. The Curse of the Law and the Crisis in Galatia: Reassessing the Purpose of Galatians. Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 2.225. Tübingen, Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2007.

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    Aims to solve the paradox that arises from Paul seeming to speak against the Torah in the early part of the letter, yet continuing to appeal to the function of the Torah positively in the letter’s later ethical exhortations.

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Essays

Baasland 1984 focuses on the social pressure Paul and his audiences were concerned with, which is also central to Lee’s discussion of the implications of Paul’s arguments for how his addressees should understand their shared identification although continuing to maintain different ethnicities (Lee 2007). Keesmaat 1997 explores Paul’s use of Scripture with a theological emphasis. Stanley 1990 also explores Paul’s use of Scripture in terms of the enigmatic curse language of 3:10–14. Martin 1996 takes up 4:10, White 2003 discusses 4:11–20, and Mattei 2006 the allegory of 4:21–5:1. Muddiman 1994 discusses the overall themes and strategies Paul employs in a clever essay that offers several criticisms of prevailing assessments.

  • Baasland, Ernst. “Persecution: A Neglected Feature in the Letter to the Galatians.” Studia Theologica 38 (1984): 135–150.

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    Although persecution is not a neglected feature of many current approaches to Galatians, this is a useful article for highlighting this aspect of the letter.

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  • Keesmaat, Sylvia C. “Paul and His Story: Exodus and Tradition in Galatians.” In Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals. Edited by Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders, 300–333. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

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    A good summary of the information in Keesmaat’s book on this topic, Paul and His Story: (Re)Interpreting the Exodus Tradition (Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1999). The focus is on Paul’s use of Scripture.

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  • Lee, Jae Won. “Justification of Difference in Galatians.” In Character Ethics and the New Testament. Edited by Robert Brawley, 191–208. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007.

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    Challenges the traditional claim that Paul sought to eliminate difference between Jews and Gentiles as well as other binaries, arguing instead that differences remained but that their implications had changed.

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  • Martin, Troy. “Pagan and Judeo-Christian Time-Keeping Schemes in Gal. 4:10 and Col. 2:16.” New Testament Studies 42 (1996): 120–132.

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    The traditional view holds that Paul is critical of the observance of the Jewish calendar by his addressees in Galatia; Martin argues instead that the calendar being challenged is a pagan one.

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  • Mattei, Steven Di. “Paul’s Allegory of the Two Covenants (Gal 4.21–31) in Light of First-Century Hellenistic Rhetoric and Jewish Hermeneutics.” New Testament Studies 52 (2006): 102–122.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0028688506000063Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Helpful discussion of allegory, and offers a good bibliography of the many works focused on this topic in Galatians.

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  • Muddiman, John. “The Anatomy of Galatians.” In Crossing the Boundaries: Essays in Biblical Interpretation in Honour of Michael Goulder. Edited by Stanley E. Porter, Paul Joyce, and David E. Orton, 257–270. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1994.

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    A creative assessment of the major themes and organization of Galatians, including several insights that challenge prevailing views.

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  • Stanley, Christopher D. “‘Under a Curse’: A Fresh Reading of Galatians 3.10–14.” New Testament Studies 36 (1990): 481–511.

    DOI: 10.1017/S002868850001969XSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    One of many essays addressing this topic, which is relevant not only to Galatians but to Paul’s relationship to the Torah and Judaism. This essay discusses the various possible ways to interpret Paul’s enigmatic language and offers several insights worth considering for subsequent investigations.

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  • White, L. Michael. “Rhetoric and Reality in Galatians: Framing the Social Demands of Friendship.” In Early Christianity and Classical Culture: Comparative Studies in Honor of Abraham J. Malherbe. Edited by John T. Fitzgerald, Thomas H. Olbricht, and L. Michael White, 307–346. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2003.

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    Examines how the friendship topos of 4:11–20, wherein Paul expresses displeasure for failure to respond appropriately to him as friend and patron; frames elements of the argumentation strategy throughout the letter.

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Overviews of Paul

Virtually all broad treatments of Paul deal at length with the material in Galatians. Noted here are a few of the works by authors who do not have commentaries or monographs on Galatians to list under the other categories in this bibliography but whose arguments offer substantial material for current research on Galatians. Sanders followed up his influential Paul and Palestinian Judaism—which, along with W. D. Davies’s and Krister Stendahl’s work, is foundational for the so-called New Perspective on Paul—with a more detailed examination of Paul’s relationship with Jewish matters in Sanders 1985. Dunn, a significant voice of the New Perspective whose works on Galatians are noted above (see Bassler 1991, cited under Essay Collections; Dunn 1993, cited under Historical-Critical Emphasis; and Dunn 1993, cited under Polemic, Hyperbole, and Defamiliarization), interacts vigorously with Sanders 1985. Lloyd Gaston was an early proponent of this new perspective on Judaism, and his new views on Paul (Gaston 1987) remain important and influential (although not representative of the majority of interpreters of Paul). Gager 2000 continues Gaston’s basic approach but in a much clearer and more accessible style, now carried even further by Johnson-Hodge 2007. A student of Stanley Stowers, Johnson-Hodge also offers an entry into Stowers’s work on Paul. Donaldson 1997 offers an approach that can basically be classified within the New Perspective but with some different foci and with various, more traditional conclusions.Boers 1994 offers yet another approach, largely based on a different methodology. Hays 1989 works around Paul’s use of Scripture to make another contribution within the stream of New Perspective studies, while Westerholm 2004 represents those who challenge the New Perspective and stand for the more traditional views of Judaism and Paul.

  • Boers, Hendrikus. The Justification of the Gentiles: Paul’s Letters to the Galatians and Romans. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994.

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    An innovative application of text-linguistic, semiotic method to the text with the aim of determining the macro-structure of Paul’s arguments, and thus his meaning overall. The aim is to avoid distraction by the surface indications of various and sometimes contradictory arguments along the way—arguments on which many traditional interpretations have been based.

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  • Donaldson, Terence L. Paul and the Gentiles: Remapping the Apostle’s Convictional World. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997.

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    Seeks to fill a void created by the challenge of the New Perspective to the traditional categories for evaluating Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. Discusses the origins, structure of, and problems associated with his convictions about the Gentiles.

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  • Gager, John G. Reinventing Paul. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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    Probably the clearest presentation of the kind of new thinking about Paul in his 1st-century context that is now possible after the New Perspective, while grappling with post-Shoah sensibilities. Gager discusses not only what it means to see Paul’s language specifically addressed to Gentiles (and not Jews or the universal everybody) but also to note just how many of Paul’s positive comments about the Torah and Judaism are generally underplayed.

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  • Gaston, Lloyd. Paul and the Torah. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987.

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    Detailed exegesis and discussion of many significant passages in the Galatians and elsewhere regarding the Paul and Torah debates. Gaston is highly sensitive to traditional disparagements of Jews and Judaism. The Gentile social context of Paul’s comments is central to his exegesis.

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  • Hays, Richard B. Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989.

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    A comprehensive analysis of how Paul uses Scripture in the arguments of Galatians and his other letters, with many interesting intertextual and interpretive insights.

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  • Johnson Hodge, Caroline. If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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    A sophisticated analysis of kinship and ethnicity is applied to a reading of Galatians and Romans. Follows the trail blazed by Gaston, Gager, and Stowers regarding the specificity of Paul’s language concerning the way Gentiles are included among God’s people without becoming Jews or Judeans.

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  • Sanders, E. P. Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985.

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    The investigation of Paul’s letters after his Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) had made its groundbreaking impact, which shows the promise as well as problems that still occupy much of the current debate about Paul and Judaism/Torah.

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  • Westerholm, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and his Critics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004.

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    A response to the New Perspective approaches and their offshoots that argues for the more traditional, Protestant approach to Paul’s language in Galatians and his other letters.

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Paul’s Autobiography

A special feature of Galatians is the inclusion of more firsthand information about Paul than he provides elsewhere, albeit shaped by his communication aims for the Galatian audience. This material is thus uniquely important not only for interpreting Galatians and Paul but also in constructions of the origins of Christianity, not least his relationship with the Jerusalem apostles, which is the topic of these narratives. A selection of discussions from different perspectives and with different emphases provides a sample of the monographs and essays that focus on this topic.

Monographs

Munck 1959 is a challenge to the prevailing approaches to the topic of Paul’s relationship to the Jerusalem apostles. Munck presents his argument in terms of a sharp antithesis to the influential theories of F. C. Baur and argues instead that Paul’s polemic arises because of developments initiated by Gentiles. Holmberg 1978 proposes a position between these extremes, while Lüdemann 1989 represents the continuation of Baur’s thesis with some new turns in the argument, which is also the case with Taylor 1992—with special attention to the role of Antioch in Paul’s ministry. Lyons 1985 challenges the methodologies employed to gather the information for these constructions, and Zetterholm 2003, from a student of Holmberg, tries to pull together the evidence for a fresh assessment not only of the inter-Christian tensions—a common feature of all these works—but to understand how this transitioned into an anti-Jewish movement in the years that followed. Cummins 2001 is a more theological treatment of the material, with special attention to the model of the Maccabean martyrs informing Paul’s self-understanding.

  • Cummins, S. A. Paul and the Crucified Christ in Antioch: Maccabean Martyrdom and Galatians 1 and 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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    Posits a binary of Christ or Torah to determine the people of God at the center of Paul’s concerns at Antioch, reconfiguring the Maccabean martyr model in Christological terms to define Paul’s ministry.

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  • Holmberg, Bengt. Paul and Power: The Structure of Authority in the Primitive Church as Reflected in the Pauline Epistles. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978.

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    Emphasizing sociological analysis within historical-critical method, posits that after Paul’s break with the church in Antioch he remained more dependent upon the authority of the Jerusalem apostles for the legitimacy of his own gospel. But there was still a sharp divide between them over issues related to Gentile inclusion in their respective churches.

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  • Lüdemann, Gerd. Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity. Translated by M. Eugene Boring. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.

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    This detailed discussion of the F. C. Baur dialectical approach to Paul versus the Jerusalem apostles offers a good introduction to that commonplace interpretive paradigm by an interpreter seeking to perpetuate its influence in the face of recent challenges.

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  • Lyons, George. Pauline Autobiography: Toward a New Understanding Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 73. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985.

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    Focused on the literary nature of the autobiographical narratives in Galatians 1 and 2; challenges the prevailing views of Lyons’s time, including the assumption that Paul was engaged in an apology and the way that mirror reading was (and is) often conducted and historical information extracted.

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  • Munck, Johannes. Paul and the Salvation of Mankind. Translated by Frank Clarke. Richmond, VA: John Knox, 1959.

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    Challenges the F. C. Baur approach to Paul built around sharp tension with the Jerusalem apostles and so-called Jewish Christianity; stresses the Gentile nature of the controversies, including in Galatia.

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  • Taylor, Nicholas. Paul, Antioch, and Jerusalem: A Study in Relationships and Authority in Earliest Christianity. Journal for the Study of the New Testament Supplement Series 66. Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992.

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    Paul’s confrontation of Peter is understood to lead to a break for Paul from the Antioch church, which had been his community affiliation; thus, Paul would seek to legitimate his authority independent not only of Jerusalem but also of Antioch.

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  • Zetterholm, Magnus. The Formation of Christianity in Antioch: A Social-Scientific Approach to the Separation between Judaism and Christianity. London and New York: Routledge, 2003.

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    Employs sociological and ideological criticism combined with traditional historical-critical methodologies and a comprehensive discussion of the Jewish communities in Antioch. The separation that first becomes apparent at Antioch is observed to be between Jewish factions within the Jesus movement about the place of Gentiles, but the claims for legitimacy within the movement soon became the basis for the struggle for independence from Judaism.

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Essays

Dunn’s discussion of the Antioch Incident (Dunn 1990) arguably marks a turning point in discussions previously undertaken almost entirely from theological bases and generally negative viewpoints about Judaism, including the value of Jewish dietary practices for Christians, as well as the addition of significant sociohistorical considerations including the more respectful views of the New Perspective on Judaism. Fredriksen 1991 adds to this development but does not always share Dunn’s rather traditional views. Esler 1995 adds more focus on social-scientific and Mediterranean studies, although still expresses traditional views of Judaism and Paul. Sanders 1990 points out weaknesses in Dunn’s and Esler’s viewpoints (based on earlier publications) and pushes the discourse further. Nanos 2005 reconfigures the details and dynamics of the Jerusalem meeting information that is so critical to all of the discussions of Antioch, as well as offering a reading of Antioch in Nanos 2002 that not only builds on Sanders’s views but also challenges them. Critical contributions from more rhetorical perspectives are provided by Koptak 1990 and Vos 1994.

  • Dunn, James D. G. “The Incident at Antioch (Gal. 2:11–18).” In Jesus, Paul and the Law: Studies in Mark and Galatians. Edited by James D. G. Dunn, 129–182. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1990.

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    A comprehensive discussion of the state of the issues in the late 1980s by a leading advocate of the emerging New Perspective. All subsequent research engages with in detail. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 199–234.

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  • Esler, Philip F. “Making and Breaking an Agreement Mediterranean Style: A New Reading of Galatians 2:1–14.” Biblical Interpretation 3.3 (1995): 285–314.

    DOI: 10.1163/156851595X00159Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Evaluates Paul’s polemical language in terms of Mediterranean cultural studies, arguing that the agreement made in Jerusalem was reneged on by James in Antioch. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 261–281.

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  • Fredriksen, Paula. “Judaism, the Circumcision of Gentiles, and Apocalyptic Hope: Another Look at Galatians 1 and 2.” Journal of Theological Studies 42.2 (1991): 532–564.

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    An extensive discussion of the Jewish and Greco-Roman context of the concerns of Paul and his audience; important to understanding the dynamics independent of later Christian theological claims. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 235–260.

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  • Koptak, Paul E. “Rhetorical Identification in Paul’s Autobiographical Narrative: Galatians 1.13–2.14.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 40 (1990): 97–115.

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    The application of Kenneth Burke’s rhetorical-literary theory of identification to the way Paul tells his own story to draw out parallels for his audience that are relevant to their choosing correctly in their present situation. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 157–168

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  • Nanos, Mark D. “Intruding ‘Spies’ and ‘Pseudo-Brethren’: The Jewish Intra-Group Politics of Paul’s Jerusalem Meeting (Gal 2:1–10).” In Paul and His Opponents. Edited by Stanley E. Porter, 59–97. Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 2005.

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    The language Paul uses in 2:1–10 is evaluated in politico-religious terms that might be expected to arise regarding inspections into the legitimacy of a Judean subgroup in Jerusalem whose policies regarding non-Jewish adherents is suspicious.

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  • Nanos, Mark D. “What Was at Stake in Peter’s ‘Eating with Gentiles’ at Antioch?” In The Galatians Debate: Contemporary Issues in Rhetorical and Historical Interpretation. Edited by Mark D. Nanos, 282–318. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002.

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    Following an evaluation of the ideological issues in prevailing interpretations of the “eating with Gentiles” incident, argues that the issue is social identification for non-Jews in the context of proselyte conversion, not Jewish dietary norms, which Paul’s argument implies were still being practiced.

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  • Sanders, E. P. “Jewish Association with Gentiles and Galatians 2:11–14.” In The Conversation Continues: Studies in Paul and John in Honor of J. Louis Martyn. Edited by Robert T. Fortna and Beverly R. Gaventa, 170–188. Nashville: Abingdon, 1990.

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    A response to the essays by Dunn and Esler, among others, which argues that the common conceptions of Jewish dietary norms for eating with non-Jews have been mistaken, opening up new alternatives for the interpretations of this passage.

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  • Vos, Johan S. “Paul’s Argumentation in Galatians 1–2.” Harvard Theological Review 87.1 (1994): 1–16.

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    Instead of suggesting that Paul faces many charges, Vos argues that Paul responds to pressure specifically to undertake circumcision or observance of the Torah. He enlists rhetorical theory, preferring Melanchthon’s category of “didactic” to describe Paul’s defense and instructions. Also available in Nanos 2002 (cited under Essay Collections), pp. 169–180.

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LAST MODIFIED: 09/13/2010

DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195393361-0042

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