One of the most influential volumes on Galatians, Richard Longenecker offers a fresh translation of Galatians and gives the reader a thorough discussion of such matters as authorship, date, and textual problems, while also addressing the problems Paul faced within his Galatian churches. Longenecker reviews the message of Paul’s opponents and the impact of Paul’s thought on Christianity.
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“My own understanding of Paul at this point is that Paul directs his attack not just against legalism, which the Old Testament prophets and a number of rabbis of Judaism denounced as well, but against even the Mosaic religious system, for he saw all of that as preparatory for and superseded by the relationship of being ‘in Christ.’” (Pages 85–86)
“In fact, ‘grace’ and ‘peace’ seem to be Paul’s (and the NT’s) shorthand way of epitomizing the essence of the gospel, with particular reference to its cause and its effect.” (Page 7)
“Paul presents in encapsulated form the essence of his own theology vis-à-vis Jewish nomism: (1) the law’s purpose was to work itself out of a job and point us beyond itself to a fuller relationship with God; (2) Christ’s death on the cross and our spiritual identification with his death effects freedom from the jurisdiction of the Mosaic law; and (3) the Christian’s focus is to be on Christ, who lives within us and to whom we look for direction in life. In effect, while Jews and Christians deny the validity of a legalistic use of the law, Jews hold to a nomistic or Torah-centered lifestyle in expressing their faith and Christians are to be Christ-centered in expressing theirs.” (Page 91)
“For, Paul insists, to go back to the law (as a Christian) after having been done with the law (for both acceptance before God and living a life pleasing to him) is what really makes one a lawbreaker—which, of course, sounds paradoxical, but is what happens if one rejects legalism but still espouses nomism.” (Page 90)
“Specifically, Tertullian insisted that Galatians must be understood to teach that the Christian renunciation of the law stems from the Creator’s own will and came about through the work of the Creator’s Christ.” (Page xliv)
Richard N. Longenecker is a prominent New Testament scholar and Professor Emeritus of New Testament at Wycliffe College, Toronto. He was formerly Distinguished Professor of New Testament at McMaster Divinity College, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.