Betz and Bruce on Galatians -- By: Moisés Silva

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 045:2 (Fall 1983)
Article: Betz and Bruce on Galatians
Author: Moisés Silva

Betz and Bruce on Galatians*

Moisés Silva

Paul’s short letter to the churches in Galatia has had remarkable influence throughout the history of the Christian church—one need only think of Luther in this regard. The fascination that this epistle continues to hold may be gauged from the large number and great variety of popular expositions that seem to appear without interruption.1 Moreover, the amount of research that modern scholarship has devoted to these six chapters seems completely out of proportion to the size of the epistle.

The interpretation of the Greek text of Galatians during the past century has been dominated by the imposing presence of two commentaries. One of these, authored by J. B. Lightfoot, was first published in 1865. Strikingly lucid, this work was characterized by a deceptive economy of language (only 236 pp.) that concealed the author’s massive erudition. The other commentary was anything but succinct: Ernest DeWitt Burton’s 600-page work, published in 1921, became a showpiece

* Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia (Hermeneia; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979. xxx, 352. $27.95). F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982. xx, 305. $15.95). This article is a revision of a lecture delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, under the auspices of the Student Association.

for the International Critical Commentary series. Burton’s detailed grammatical explanations and his extensive lexical notes discouraged even the most ambitious from attempting a commentary on the Greek text of Galatians for over half a century.

But now, within three years, two major works have appeared: one by Hans Dieter Betz, who teaches at the University of Chicago Divinity School, and the other by F. F. Bruce, who only a few years ago retired from the Rylands Chair at the University of Manchester. We are today exceedingly fortunate to be able to enjoy these works on the Greek text of Galatians, not only because they are both up-to-date and highly competent, but because, in spite of some inevitable overlap, they deal with the material from very different perspectives. Indeed, it would be difficult to think of two prominent figures in contemporary biblical scholarship more different from each other than Bruce and Betz are. These two commentaries are, in effect, a study in contrasts.

To be sure, much of the difference is to be attributed to the nature and purpose of the series for which these commentaries were ...

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