I am working with six primary commentaries as I study each week in the book of Galatians. Here are my thoughts about the usefulness of each of these commentaries. I have ranked them by category – with the best being listed first. I hope these help you as you study and teach from this wonderful book. You can scroll over the links to each commentary for pricing information from Amazon.
Technical Commentaries (interact with the Greek text):
1- The best technical commentary that I have used is FF Bruce’s volume on Galatians in The New International Greek Testament series. His book is scholarly yet approachable. He packs deep insights into short phrases and doesn’t linger on a point that he has made. He doesn’t go into great detail in the area of pastoral application, but his insights on the Greek terms and the construction of the verses are the best.
2- The other technical commentary that I have enjoyed is Dr. Thomas Schreiner’s new volume in the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series. Schreiner is an excellent scholar whose writing is more accessible that Bruce but also longer and more wordy. The added benefits of this series are his helpful outlines at the beginning of each chapter and his practical application sections at the end of each chapter.
1- My favorite non-technical commentary is another work by John Stott in the Bible Speaks Today series. Stott has proven himself to me over and over again in his lucid exposition of the biblical text. He gets the main point right almost every time, and he articulates the point in a way that is memorable and insightful. Stott is a wordsmith and uses just enough words to communicate his points. No fluff here.
2- My second favorite non-technical commentary is Philip Ryken’s commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary set. I used Ryken’s excellent work on the Ten Commandments during our series earlier this year on that same topic, and his book on Galatians is even better. Ryken’s chapters are as clear as Stott’s (though not as creative) and even more pastoral (more illustrations). Ryken is obviously well-read and quotes from variously historical writers as well as modern cultural influences.
3- What would a series be on Galatians without reference to Martin Luther’s famous commentary? I have read long sections of Luther’s commentary along the way. I greatly benefited from his introduction to the book where he laid out the great themes of justification by faith and the purity of the gospel with compelling imagery. But his verse by verse commentary is not as helpful or clear. He repeats himself often and never gives an outline of Paul’s flow of thought. The lack of structure to the commentary make Luther’s nuggets hard to find.
4- My least favorite commentary, though still helpful, has been Josh Moody’s book called No Other Gospel. Moody’s book is a collection of his sermons from a series he preached, and they read like sermons. The chapters are very short, and they don’t help the reader put together the argument of the book very well. While Stott and Ryken constantly remind you where you are in Galatians so as to help you interpret in context, Moody launches immediately into a sermon illustration at the beginning of each chapter. What works well for the spoken word is distracting in the written word.
Well, that’s my review. If you only get one and you don’t know Greek, get Stott’s book. Helpful, easy to read, and exegetically accurate. But most importantly, read the book of Galatians – over and over again. God is speaking to me so powerfully through this study as he has to believers throughout the ages. I pray you would find the same joy I am finding as I explore the depths of our freedom in Jesus Christ.