In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Galatians

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Essay Collections
  • Manuscript Analysis
  • Sociohistorical Approaches
  • Socio-Scientific and Feminist Methodological Approaches
  • Grammatical, Linguistic, and Other Technical Approaches
  • Overviews of Paul

Biblical Studies Galatians
Mark D. Nanos
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 April 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0042


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 Christ followers who represent non-Jews (non-Israelites). 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 the Paul within the Judaism 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.

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

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

    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 on 3:28 as dissolution of difference for those freed from Torah.

  • 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.

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

  • Ehrman, Bart D. “Galatians.” In 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.

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

  • 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.

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

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

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL0521781558

    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.

  • 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.

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

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

    DOI: 10.1002/9781444318937

    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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