Osborne, Grant R. Galatians: Verse by Verse. Osborne New Testament Commentaries; Bellingham, Wash.: Lexham Press, 2017. 243 pp.; Pb. $19.99 Link to Lexham Press
As for all the volumes in this series, Osborne targets a general readership rather than a scholarly audience. As he says in his preface, the commentaries in the series should be used for devotional Scripture reading. Since the commentaries are based on the NIV translation a reader can use this commentary as a supplement to their daily Bible reading. A second related goal is for these commentaries to be used in Church Bible studies, perhaps in a small group or Sunday school context. But pastors and teachers will be find the commentaries useful as they prepare sermons on the text of the Bible. Osborne says he wants “to help pastors faithfully exposit the text in a sermon.” Osborne attempts to balance a deep reading of the text with a practical application for the Bible student.
In the seventeen-page introduction Osborne argues for an early date for the book of Galatians, before the Jerusalem conference in Acts 15 (the “southern Galatia hypothesis). Galatians is therefore Paul’s earlier letter, dated to about A.D. 48. The opponents in Galatia are Jewish Christians demanding Gentile converts follow the Mosaic Law, starting with circumcision. He associates these Judaizers with the Pharisees mentioned in Acts 15. Osborne does not see a so-called second front in Galatians, the Libertines (Gal 5:13-6:10). Paul warns against a possible misuse of his teaching rather than any real practice among the Galatian churches. Osborne briefly addresses the New Perspective on Paul, specifically the view that the “works of the Law” refer only to boundary markers (circumcision, Sabbath and food taboos). Osborne agrees with Sanders that Judaism was not a totally legalistic region devoid of grace, but he thinks Galatians is evidence for some legalistic aspects in first-century Judaism.
The introduction offers a detailed outline as well as a three-page summary of the theology of Galatians. For Paul, the death and resurrection of Jesus inaugurated the new covenant. Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the old covenant “rendering them obsolete as a means of salvation” (17). Galatians therefore emphasized justification by faith and freedom in Christ. The Christian life is a life obedience led by the Holy Spirit.
The body of the commentary consists of a series of short chapters with subsections working through each verse of the unit. Osborne makes occasional only use of the Greek text, and all Greek appears in transliteration. His focus is in the NIV translation so readers without specialized training will be able to read this commentary with understanding. Footnotes are minimal and there is almost no interaction with contemporary scholarship. Although this might frustrate academics, Osborne’s writing friendly style makes the commentary useful for a small group Bible study.
As with all the volumes in this series, Osborne’s Galatians commentary is available in print or in the Logos library. The electronic utilizes all of the features of the Logos Library and is available on the desktop and iOS versions of the software. For example, users can float over cross-references to read the text; footnotes function similarly. Clicking a reference will take you to that Scripture in your preferred translation; clicking references to other commentaries will open them if they are unlocked in your library. The electronic version is tagged with real page numbers so the commentary can be cited in the same way as the real book.
Conclusion. Osborne certainly achieves his goal to write a readable commentary of use in a Bible study as well as a helpful aid for pastors preparing sermons. As such, there is no need for Osborne to interact with the massive literature generated by the book of Galatians. He includes sixteen commentaries in his bibliography, including technical, exegetical works such as Martyn and Longenecker, but also several expositional and devotional commentaries. The short chapters could be used as the basis for a Bible Study, although this purpose could have been enhanced by adding a series of discussion questions for each chapter.
NB: Thanks to Lexham Press for kindly providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not influence my thoughts regarding the work.