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Galatians

Schreiner gives a readable and understandable interpretation of the text and makes cogent arguments for his particular views.

Rollin Shoemaker, DMin, STM, is a retired pastor living in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

This commentary is number 9 in the Zondervan Exegetical Com­mentary on the New Testament series. This series of New Testa­ment (NT) commentaries is directed toward students and pastors who have studied NT Greek and want some grammatical and exegetical help with the Greek text. Each sec­tion is structured as follows: literary context, main idea (key thrust of the passage), translation with a graphical layout, structure (flow of thought), detailed exegetical outline, explanation of the text, and an application section (where the theological mes­sage of the passage is summarized).

Schreiner makes the follow­ing excellent observation in regard to interpretation of a Pauline text: “[I]nterpretation . . . reflects one’s understanding of the whole of Pauline theology and the relationship between the old covenant and the new. . . . [W]e as interpreters do not simply explain the text in light of the particular paragraph and letter before us. All of us come to the text with a theological worldview that shapes our under­standing of the text. Having such a map is not necessarily a disadvantage.

Indeed, we all come to the text with pre­conceptions. . . . [I]f we are conscious of our biases, we can test our worldview via the biblical text and reshape our theology” (210). Furthermore, he states, “[W]e must also avoid wrenching texts out of context” (261). Schreiner believes “that Martin Luther and John Calvin were substantially right in their interpretation of the letter and that their pastoral application of the letter still stands today” (13).

Schreiner agrees with Luther and argues for the interpretation of the expression pisteo-s Ie-sou Cristou, in Galatians 2:16, as “faith in Jesus Christ,” not the “faithfulness of Jesus Christ,” and interprets all of Galatians from that perspective, especially the two debatable passages of Galatians 2:16 and 3:10–14. Schreiner also attempts to establish the view that the issue about eating in Galatians 2:11– 14 was not only that Peter was eating with Gentiles but that he was eating unclean foods as well. Furthermore the substitutionary atonement of Christ comes to center stage, accord­ing to Schreiner, in Galatians 3:13 by becoming a curse for us (216, 221, 271). Schreiner moreover believes that besides food laws and circumcision, tithing and Sabbath are also tied to the Mosaic covenant and are no longer binding (250, 399). At the end of the book, he expounds on some of the themes in Galatians: God, Christ, truth of the gospel, justification by faith, centrality of the Cross, the gift of the Spirit, already–not yet eschatology, the law and the covenant, oneness of Jews and Gentiles, freedom in Christ to obey, and the danger of apostasy (387–401).

Schreiner gives a readable and understandable interpretation of the text and makes cogent arguments for his particular views. I do not always find his arguments, claims, and observations convincing. Two examples are (1) that the Sabbath is nonbinding, and (2) in 5:13–15 where Schreiner clarifies what Paul means by freedom from the law: “Paul argues that the Mosaic covenant and the law as a whole have passed away,” and “[t]he law is both abol­ished and fulfilled in Christ” (337; see also 396, 399). In my view, Schreiner misunderstands what Paul means in Galatians 5:13 (you are called to be free); Galatians 4:5 (to redeem those under law); Romans 6:14 (you are no longer under law but under grace); and Galatians 5:14 (the entire law is fulfilled in loving your neighbor as yourself). Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 2:14–4:6 that one is free from the “ministry of death,” the Old Covenant, when one is under the “ministry of the Spirit,” the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:7, NKJV; v. 8, NKJV). The Old and New Covenants have the same content—the law, the Ten Commandments—but are ministered differently: one by death (indicted by the Old Testament sacrifices), the other by the Spirit (prophesied in Jer. 31:31–34; Isa. 32:15; 44:3; 59:21; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26, 27; 37:14; 39:29; Joel 2:28–32). Nonetheless Schreiner will benefit some because he helps one solidify one’s own positions when interacting with his expositions.

—Reviewed by Rollin Shoemaker, DMin, STM, is a retired pastor living in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.


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Rollin Shoemaker, DMin, STM, is a retired pastor living in Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.

April 2012

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