Galatians Proposal

18 06 2009

For anyone interested, here’s a proposal that David Peterson and I have sketched out for our planned commentary on Galatians. Keen to hear your feedback, suggestions, and publishing offers!

Posted by Con Campbell

Galatians: from exegesis to sermon

  • A new type of commentary is proposed, particularly designed to help students and pastors with intermediate Greek skills or above move from exegesis to preaching.
  • The proposed co-authors are currently colleagues in the New Testament Department at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia.   Constantine Campbell has published three books on verbal aspect in Biblical Greek, and is keen to apply his knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax to a piece of sustained exegesis.  David Peterson has published several books in the area of Biblical Theology, and has recently finished the Pillar New Testament Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles.  He also wrote Christ and his People in the Book of Isaiah (Leicester: IVP, 2003), dealing with hermeneutical issues associated with preaching Christ from the OT.  Both authors regularly seek to preach from the Greek New Testament.
  • Many seminary graduates are reasonably competent to translate the NT into English, but find it difficult to know how to use commentaries on the Greek text with profit.  These commentaries are often too technical and full of information that is not immediately relevant to the task of exposition and preaching.  Students and pastors can find it hard to discern ‘the wood’ from ‘the trees’.
  • Guidance is rarely given in commentaries about how to expound the biblical text and preach it to a contemporary audience.  Where guidance is given, it is often based on a theological or pastoral theme running through the passage, rather than on the structure and flow of the argument in each paragraph.
  • In particular, students and pastors sometimes fail to see how a knowledge of Greek grammar and syntax can help them discern the structure and meaning of a passage and move on to exposition and application.
  • Books on preaching mostly do not begin at this level of analysis.  But W. C. Kaiser Jr., Towards an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981) offered a helpful way forward, proposing the need for contextual, syntactical, verbal, theological, and then homiletical analysis of a text.
  • To some extent, we would follow Kaiser’s model in the interpretation of Galatians.  The aim would be to fill a significant gap in the literature by applying these different, but related levels of analysis to an important Pauline letter.
  • M. Silva, Explorations in Exegetical Method: Galatians as a test case (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996; 2nd ed. 2001), provided many valuable insights and examples to aid the student of Galatians, without a running commentary or consistent attempt to show how to preach from this text.
  • The Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series provides structural diagrams of the English text and has context and structure sections, while also offering guidelines for application. A key difference that the proposed commentary will offer is analysis of the Greek structure and syntax, and how these things contribute to the exposition of each passage. Another important distinction is the goal of providing guidance for the preaching of each passage, and not only application.

Distinctive character and contribution

  1. The proposed commentary will major on showing how the grammar and syntax of the Greek text expose the argument and structure of the letter.  Galatians will be exegeted both as a model for approaching other NT letters, and also because of its distinctive importance in the Canon of Scripture.
  2. The introduction to the commentary will deal with the usual issues in a summary way, but will major on discussing the best way to use Greek for exegesis and homiletic analysis.
  3. As distinctive matters of grammar and syntax emerge in the exposition, footnotes will direct readers to technical sources where they may explore such issues more fully and learn more about the way Greek is used by Paul.
  4. Theological matters will be discussed as they emerge from the exegesis.  When controversial issues are discussed, such as ‘works of the law’, a summary and evaluation of current debates will be provided in a separate paragraph.  The aim at this point will not be to analyse such issues exhaustively.
  5. An introductory section on context will seek to show the place of each exegetical unit and its thought in the argument of the letter as a whole.  The aim will be to make the flow of Paul’s argument clear at all times.
  6. A concluding section to each expository unit will consider the implications of the exegesis and theological analysis for preaching.  In particular, a structure for preaching will be argued from the structure of the Greek text and themes for homiletic development will be suggested.
  7. The commentary will thus show preachers how to move from Greek exegesis to sermon construction.  It will not be exhaustive in dealing with textual, grammatical, syntactical or theological issues, but will equip the reader to explore any of these areas more fully, using other commentaries and resources.

Method of approaching each exegetical unit

  1. The Greek text of each passage under review will first be presented in a sentence flow diagram, using the text of The United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (Fourth Revised Edition, 1993).
  2. An English translation will then be provided in a sentence flow diagram matching the way the Greek has been presented.
  3. Textual notes will then follow.  The aim will be to examine significant textual variants and to guide readers in the process of evaluation by regular reference to the judgments of B. M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: A Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (Fourth Revised Edition) (2nd ed.; Stuttgart/New York: United Bible Societies, 1994).
  4. The context of the passage will then be discussed, giving particular attention to its significance in the flow of the argument.
  5. The structure of the passage in Greek will then be examined, providing an analysis of the syntax and showing how this is an aid to exegesis.  This step is often lacking in commentaries on the Greek text, leaving many readers confused about the relative importance of various grammatical and syntactical matters.  It will be shown how this step anticipates and prepares for the homiletic structure suggested at the conclusion of each exegetical section.
  6. The exegesis and meaning of the passage will then be explored, drawing on the insights gained from the preceding sections and from close attention to the details of the text.  Interaction with the insights of other scholars will be particularly obvious at this stage in the interpretive process.  As noted above, areas of great debate with regard to theological meaning and significance may be summarised in a separate paragraph, with an indicative bibliography.
  7. Finally a structure for preaching will be offered, together with guidance about the way the main emphases of the passage may be preached.  A series of expository sermons on Galatians will be suggested, unfolding and applying the apostle’s argument to contemporary church situations.



10 responses

18 06 2009
Di L


I love the sounds of this I want one for every book in the NT!!! GREAT IDEA!


18 06 2009
Pete H

Firstly, I think it is a good idea.

I am often spending more time wrestling with idioms and cultural significance so that sort of thing would help (i.e. in Galatians what does the pedagoge do 3:24, etc.).

While it is good to have stuff for preachers, I don’t want people to get lazy, so it cannot be too much, enough for the guys to life their game.


18 06 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks Di & Pete. Some good thoughts there.

18 06 2009
Di L

Good point Pete on not getting lazy but I do think it would help a lot both in our understanding & preparation and in the presentation of a sermon.


18 06 2009
The Gazman

Hey Con,
Under your ‘distinctive character and contribution’ heading, you seem to just be doing what we were taught to do at College. Many of us still work hard on this, especially as we put together sermon series outlines. In fact under your ‘method’, apart from steps 2 & 3, this is what I find that I do in my preparation.
What I find that is lacking amongst the graduates of our fine training institution is the next step – of turning the thorough exegetical work done into a sermon that is both faithful and connects to our people. Many sermons I hear are introduced well, theologically and exegetically sound, but fail to land any significant punches, they seem to come to an end without much more than a whimper or cleverly rounded thoughts. It’s the pointy end where I reckon we seem to need the most work, and is where many of our students and graduates seem to struggle. Or is it just me?
Your project sounds like fun – I look forward to keeping up with where you’re at 🙂

18 06 2009
Con Campbell

I think you’re right, Gary. On the assumption that not all preachers in the world have studied at Moore College, we want to model our brand of exegesis; and for students/graduates of Moore we want to model it done well.

I think the ‘next step’ is exactly the issue: turning this work into a sermon. Some preachers can do this intuitively, but not everyone. And the ‘pointy end’ has to come from this process somehow, in my opinion.

18 06 2009
The Gazman

Quite right.
I do want to encourage you to keep going with where you’re heading (hope my last post didn’t come across as negative), and then ask what we can do to address the successive issue of where the rubber hits the road…gee I’m full of cliches…i. e. how can we do better in terms of preacher development in our systems? I guess this isn’t the place to start that discussion apart from the issue of the necessary grounding in understanding the text. Love your work. And happy birthday 😉

18 06 2009
Mike Bird

Sounds great mate.

18 06 2009

This sounds like a great project, the kind of thing that I have been preparing resources for. The examples in the discourse grammar are screen shots of a resource I developed that provides a block diagram of the Greek text, annotating significant literary, rhetorical or syntactic features. The part that is yet missing is the commentary that synthesizes the parts into a whole. Many stumble at this stage, and this seems to be the greatest need. I was disappointed in the Zondervan commentary that they chose to follow an English text, with little attention to grammatical issues. It fills a need I suppose, but leaves another one unaddressed.

18 06 2009
Con Campbell

Thanks Mike; and thanks Steve–I look forward to using the tools you’re developing to help us in this task.

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