A Book Review
I’m quickly growing to love the Evangelical Biblical Theology Commentary (EBTC) series from Lexham Press. The recently published Galatians volume by Matthew S. Harmon is a solid commentary on all counts. As with the other volumes I’ve used in the series, Harmon’s work is evangelical and conservative. He makes good use of sources and clearly explains the text while addressing significant points of grammar, syntax, discourse analysis, textual criticism, and lexical semantics. But the big reason to pick up the EBTC volume of Galatians is for its concentration on biblical theology. The commentary is appended with 100 pages of rich and detailed material on “Biblical and Theological Themes.” For Galatians, these themes include:
- Salvation History and/or Apocalypticism
- The Servant of the Lord
- The Law
- Justification and Righteousness
- Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Galatians
Most of these sections are further subdivided into more specific areas of discussion (e.g., a discussion on “works of the law” under the theme of The Law). It would be nice if every commentator formed a theological digest as the fruit of their exegetical effort. Harmon elaborates on key themes in line with his exegesis. Anyone studying the book of Galatians would be well served by reading the author’s treatment of these key themes.
The introduction is fairly short and standard. It covers authorship, background, structure, and outline. The author offers the best evidence for the North and South Galatian theories and works from the position of a South Galatian view. The exposition is detailed and follows the scheme of text, context, structure, exposition, and bridge. As with other volumes in this series, the bridge offers a synthesis and application for each section of the text.
The exposition carefully explains Paul’s material as he defends his authority and responds to his opponents by teaching the message of the gospel. The insights in the exposition are rewarding. Even his treatment of Paul’s well-known list of the fruit of the Spirit was helpful to my own understanding of the concluding words to 5:23: “the law is not against such things.” The commentary reads:
Once the Mosaic law is removed as the structure that determines how God’s people relate to him and others, one might worry that believers are left to do whatever they want. But as Paul has already stated in 5:13–14, what the law was intended to produce but could not because of human sinfulness comes to fulfillment in the fruit that the Spirit produces in and through the believer (329–330).
I’ve heard this text explained in a variety of ways. (Why would anyone think God’s law would be against any of the Spirit’s fruits in this list?) So I really appreciate Harmon’s take.
I’m slowly collecting volumes of this series as I’m able, and there are some key distinctives. Each is incredibly accessible and written at the semi-technical level. Titles in this series use the CSB, which is a solid translation and a fresh way to read the Bible if you’ve never read it before. And they place a premium on the theological themes of the book and how they fit into the overall narrative of Scripture. Harmon’s Galatians commentary is another winner in this series.
Special thanks to Lexham Press for a free review copy of this book. This did not affect my thoughts in any way, so far as I know.