Carl P. Cosaert’s book, which serves as a companion piece to the fourth quarter 2011 Adult Bible Study Guide, is divided into 14 chapters in which he attempts to address various theological issues as they arise in Galatians. He begins in chapter 1 by articulating how Paul, a previous persecutor of believers in Christ, became a believer in Christ Jesus. The author shows how the book of Acts contains a legitimate source for facts in regard to Paul’s life and journeys. The author suggests that Galatians is probably the earliest document of our New Testament, though he recognizes that many scholars believe 1 Thessalonians is the earliest New Testament document.
In many places throughout the book, Cosaert attempts to explain various Greek terms and how they should be understood. For example, the term grace comes from a Hebrew verb that has “the idea of someone bending down to help someone who has fallen . . . and typically that of a superior to an inferior.” Thus grace “is the act of extending favor or kindness to one who does not deserve it and who could never earn it” (23).
One of the key concepts for understanding Galatians consists of understanding the expression “faith in Jesus Christ” or its equivalent. The expression in Galatians 2:16 is literally “faith of Jesus” and should probably be understood to mean the “faithfulness of Jesus,” that is, Jesus’ life-death-resurrection (42, 43). The author recognizes that several Bible versions translate the expression “faith of Christ” as “faith in Christ.” But he also notes that the fifth century Peshitta conveys the meaning “faith of Jesus.” Hence, the author believes the phrase is better understood to mean the faithfulness of Jesus. He then goes on to talk about the meaning of faith and how Abraham expressed faith and what that meant. He relates all this to the theologically important truth of righteousness by faith and being clothed with Christ’s righteousness (84).
Other important theological issues addressed and explained in the book are the meaning of circumcision, adoption, the Law as our Paidaggos, works of Law, the old and new covenants, what freedom in Christ means, how works of the flesh and life in the Spirit are in conflict, who Paul is referring to in the expression the “Israel of God,” what Paul means by the expression the “new creation,” and how the “unchangeable promise” given by God was fulfilled in the person of Jesus the Messiah. He ends the book by emphasizing the centrality of the Cross.
I found the book to be very helpful in coming to grips with some very thorny theological issues. I would certainly recommend it to anyone who desires to understand Paul’s letter to the Galatians. However, a book of this size can only touch upon the issues.
—Reviewed by Rollin Shoemaker, DMin, STM, a pastor with the Southern New England Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, United States.