Best Commentaries on Paul, with Nijay Gupta: Galatians

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Like Romans, Galatians has been at the center of theological debate concerning Paul’s theology. At the heart of the issue is Paul’s view of the Law. Thankfully, several excellent commentaries are available, a few written in the last year or two.


Technical

David deSilva (NICNT). This commentary offers one of the most up-to-date discussion of the key exegetical issues that scholars discuss in the study of Galatians. He is a fair-minded and well-balanced scholar. deSilva also wrote the Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament for Galatians; here is my review of his BHGNT.

Craig S. Keener (Baker). Keener’s historical, cultural, and theological knowledge is encyclopaedic and his views meticulously researched. Like deSilva, Keener is always fair and balanced. This Baker commentary is an expansion of a previous commentary on Galatians he wrote recently. 

Thomas Schreiner (ZECNT). This commentary series examines the Greek text closely; Schreiner affirms and defends a more traditional approach to Paul and the Law.

J. Louis Martyn (AYB). Lou Martyn is a legend in New Testament studies, especially known for promoting an “apocalyptic Paul” reading of Galatians. This large commentary is provocative, sometimes quirky and idiosyncratic, but also astonishing and refreshing. He famously defends the “faithfulness of Jesus Christ” reading of pistis christou.

Own It: Keener


Semi-Technical

James D. G. Dunn (BNTC). This is an important commentary because it was the first thorough working out of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) in a Galatians commentary. But it offers much, much more. Dunn is also thoughtful about how the text leads to growth and health in the Christian life today, which he addresses often with light touches.

Douglas J. Moo (BECNT). Moo offers a traditional Reformation (Lutheran) reading of Galatians that focuses on faith vs. doing, and justification/righteousness as a status of “in the right” with God. I reviewed his commentary here in four parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Martinus C. de Boer (NTL). This sizable commentary by Martin deBoer is similar to that of Martyn in perspective (apocalyptic Paul). De Boer is one of the most widely read and respected European Pauline scholars today. See my review of his commentary.

Richard B. Hays (NIB). In my discussion of 1 Corinthians commentaries (see earlier post here), I mentioned that Hays has only written two commentaries; this is the other one, and it is another goldmine. It is exegetically careful, theologically rich, and thoughtful about the relevance of Paul’s messages for today. Hays is sometimes included in the “New Perspective on Paul,” but he also has “apocalyptic” dimensions to his approach to Paul. 

Own it: Hays


Non-Technical

Peter Oakes (Paideia). Oakes offers one of the most readable and insightful Galatians commentaries ever written, and he is widely respected as expert ancient historian. See my review.

L. Ann Jervis (NIBC). There are few gems in the Hendrickson/Baker “NIBC” series, and Jervis’ is one of them. She treats participation in Christ as a more central theme to Galatians than justification by faith. 

Scot McKnight (NIVAC). McKnight has a strong sense of the history of interpretation of Paul, and Galatians in particular. He is also sensitive to issues facing the Church and the Christian life today.

Own It: Oakes


Hidden Gem

Be sure to check out John K. Riches’ Galatians through the Centuries, which examines the reception of Galatians over the years, passage by passage.

By now, you might get a sense that I deeply respect Gordon Fee. He wrote a short, but theologically engaging commentary on Galatians (Pentecostal Commentary), which leans towards the NPP with added emphasis on the Spirit’s empowering presence in this epistle. See my reviews: Part 1 and Part 2.


See the rest of the Best Commentaries series at this link.

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Nijay Gupta
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7 comments
  • Do any of these address text-critical issues more than just regurgitating Metzger?

    • Not really, but my list primarily geared towards pastors and ministry students. TC issues at a more advanced level are happening in monographs, I believe.

  • Good list. I’d add little Keener (NCBC) to your list—I’m going to use it with a class this autumn. It’s readable, engaging, and accessible for non-Greek-readers.

  • The best I have come across is Ben Witherington III’s GRACE IN GALATIA, Eerdmans. Very technical but highly informative, and a gem for learning background information about the Roman empire. its society and culture.

  • Thanks Nijay. I’m surprised Richard Longenecker’s Galatians commentary didn’t make the cut as it comments directly on the Greek text and textual variants. Other notable omissions are A. Andrew Das (Concordia Commentary – hands down the best in the series) and Bridget Kahl, Galatians Reimagined.

Written by Nijay Gupta
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