In the inaugural publication of the Commentaries for Christian Formation (Eerdmans), Prof N.T. Wright denies that Galatians is primarily about, as many today assume, the relationship of faith and works regarding who is going to heaven. Instead, he says, Paul envisioned Jewish and gentile believers uniting around their common kinship in Christ.
And that unity will serve as a witness to the world looking on.
Supporting his commentary with first-century historical contexts and meanings, Wright intends his work (and the coming titles in the CCF series) to address the task of Christian formation—enabling readers to apply the truths of Paul’s letter to the Galatians to their own personal and ecclesial lives. Wright’s extensive introduction sets the historical and theological stage for Galatians.
A consummate teacher, he references numerous events in the history of Christian thought, showing how medieval ideas influenced the Reformation’s understanding of Galatians, which in turn influence today’s readers—somewhat erroneously, he argues. His history of ideas leads into his understanding of Galatians’ main idea, that Paul is reminding the believers in Galatia they are now members of one new family through the cross and resurrection.
Wright communicates in a readable, conversational style but happily addresses technical aspects of Greek grammar and controversial interpretations of key passages. Each chapter ends with a conclusion in which he summarizes practical lessons to be drawn from the discussion of the text.
In the end, he wants Christians to recognize that Galatians’ call to unity remains today’s challenge:
“Christian formation requires more than surface changes. It involves the constant recognition and exploration of the fact that with the death and resurrection of Israel’s Messiah the world is a different place, and that Jesus’s followers have a responsibility, in the power of the Spirit, to make that difference a reality in human lives and society.”
N. T. Wright remains high on the list of theologian “crushes” as one of the most highly respected biblical scholars in the world today. The prolific British theologian continues to serve as research professor emeritus of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews and senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford. He is the author of over eighty(!) books, including Simply Christian, Surprised by Hope, and The New Testament in Its World.
Sometimes I write for other publications. This review, authored by me, first appeared in Bible Study Magazine, Vol 13. No 6. Reprinted with permission.