The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians has served as a basis for some intense discussion among scholars and even laymen throughout the centuries since it was penned. Covering important theological topics such as justification, the gospel, law, and grace, it is quite important to have a proper understanding of such topics and how they should be applied to the Christian life. A collection of essays from the St Andrews Galatians and Christian Theology Conference hosted in 2012, Galatians, and Christian Theology: Justification, the Gospel, and Ethics in Paul’s Letter is a collection of plenary discussions provided at that conference.
This is not a book one can read through quickly. Each essay is very scholarly and explores each subject with a great deal of information. I would submit that unless one is familiar with the body of scholarship surrounding the various topics addressed in these essays, the material can be quite overwhelming. With that said, those who take the time to read this book will find they will have a much deeper understanding of the current conversation surrounding this important Pauline epistle.
The book is divided into three parts with a total of twenty-three essays. While the conference itself was not specifically divided along the three themes of justification, gospel, and ethics, the conversation and engagement between those who presented at the conference seemed to naturally fall along those lines and thus the essays in this book are aligned along those themes to try and capture that flow of thought.
It is evident that Martin Luther’s commentary and thoughts on Galatians continue to highly impact the overall discussion. Luther’s writings form the discussion of at least three of the essays in this book and rightfully so. I also appreciated the essay on the discussion of Galatians in the early church as it provides a valuable snapshot of how the early church leaders approached and applied the theology of Paul’s letter. Many times tracing the flow of thought in church history can be quite valuable in assessing how various doctrines have been understood and applied and the issue of how to best understand and approach the theological statements in Paul’s letter to the Galatians is no different in that regard.
I also appreciated the discussion by Volker Rabens in his essay on the indicative and imperative model of ethics in Galatians. This is a highly important concept to grasp and I found the provision of criticisms of this model followed by well thought out and biblically astute responses to those criticisms to be a valuable way of outlining the importance of understanding the indicative and imperative model as revealed in Galatians. As noted by Rabens, “As believers let the Spirit draw them into transforming and empowering relationships with God and the community of faith and then live according to the values set forth in Paul’s gospel, the depth of their relationship to God and others will increase.”
As noted earlier, this is a collection of essays that will challenge the reader into a deeper understanding of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. While not an easy read, it is nevertheless well worth the time and effort. There is much information to come back to for further study and the footnotes in each essay provide even more food for thought. I recommend this book for anyone interested in digging deeper into Galatians and understanding both the historical and current scholarly commentary surrounding Galatians. The reader may not agree (or understand for that matter) all that is discussed in this collection of essays; however, I found the discussion to be informative and important.
This book is available for purchase from Baker Academic by clicking here.
I received this book for free from Baker Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”