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series: Paideia: Commentaries on the New Testament

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In this volume, respected New Testament scholar Peter Oakes offers a translation and reading of Galatians as presenting a gospel of unity in diversity in Christ. He shows that Paul treats the Galatians' possible abandonment of his gospel as putting at stake their fidelity to Christ. As with other volumes in the Paideia series, this volume is conversant with contemporary scholarship, draws on ancient backgrounds, and attends to the theological nature of the text. Students, pastors, and other readers will appreciate the historical, literary, and theological insight offered in this practical commentary.

About the Series
Paideia commentaries explore how New Testament texts form Christian readers by
• attending to the ancient narrative and rhetorical strategies the text employs
• showing how the text shapes theological convictions and moral habits
• commenting on the final, canonical form of each New Testament book
• focusing on the cultural, literary, and theological settings of the text
• making judicious use of maps, photos, and sidebars in a reader-friendly format

Editorial Board
†Paul J. Achtemeier (emeritus, Union Theological Seminary in Virginia), Loveday Alexander (University of Sheffield), C. Clifton Black (Princeton Theological Seminary), Susan R. Garrett (Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary), Francis J. Moloney, SDB (Salesian Province of Australia)


"This excellent commentary sets Paul's letter effectively within its historical context, finely illuminates the text while well illustrating and contributing to the range of discussion on the letter within contemporary scholarship, and stimulatingly concludes each section by posing issues that should provide fruitful agendas for discussion groups."

James D. G. Dunn, Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"Peter Oakes has delivered the goods in his much-anticipated Galatians commentary. Despite the many difficult passages in Galatians, Oakes provides a judicious and magisterial treatment of the text. His study of Galatians is informed by archaeological, sociological, and historical data usually ignored by most scholars. He also does not shy away from mapping the theological implications of the text. Oakes's commentary is a great reminder that the Brits still do some of the best work in biblical exegesis."

Michael F. Bird, lecturer in theology, Ridley College, Melbourne, Australia

"Drawing on his extensive knowledge of Paul's social world, Peter Oakes here offers a fresh reading of Galatians that is historically secure, exegetically precise, and theologically relevant. Oakes masterfully filters the best of current scholarship in an accessible form, adding many original insights of his own. Students and scholars alike will relish this engaging exposition of Paul's most radical letter."

John M. G. Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University

"In Galatians Peter Oakes combines a deep grasp of the ancient social context, a close familiarity with the exegetical issues, and an insightful identification of contemporary theological questions that are impacted and provoked by this potent Pauline letter. He couples this with a succinct style and an elegant delivery to produce an ideal vade mecum on this text."

Philip Esler, Portland Chair in New Testament Studies, University of Gloucestershire

"In this eminently readable and erudite commentary, Peter Oakes guides the reader through the text and argument of Paul's Letter to the Galatians with careful exegesis and theological sensitivity. His considerable knowledge of ancient Greco-Roman culture and the latest scholarship is everywhere on display. He has produced a volume from which not only students and pastors but also professional scholars and teachers will benefit."

Martinus C. de Boer, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

The Author

  1. Peter Oakes

    Peter Oakes

    Peter Oakes (DPhil, University of Oxford) is professor of New Testament at the University of Manchester, England. He is the author of Reading Romans in Pompeii: Paul's Letter at Ground Level and Philippians: From People to Letter, and has...

    Continue reading about Peter Oakes


Named the Best Commentary of 2015, Crux Sola blog

"This is not a full critical commentary (I, for one, would be happy to read a full critical commentary on Galatians by Oakes), but for a midsize commentary aimed at theology students it punches above its weight. . . . The first thirty-three pages are an accessible but impressively thorough critical introduction to the letter, and the balance of the book comprises evenly distributed, section-by-section commentary on the text of Galatians. . . . No reader will agree with every one of Oakes's interpretive decisions, but he is consistently canny, open-minded, and charitable in his arguments, and he seems, on balance, rather less invested in a totalizing theological scheme than some other commentators on Galatians have been, which yields certain benefits in a commentary."

Matthew V. Novenson,

Review of Biblical Literature

"Although the Paideia series is aimed at students such as upper-division undergraduates, this commentary on Galatians far exceeds this primary target group. Oakes's firsthand knowledge of the sociological and archeological context of early Christianity will inform professional scholars as well as students. So does his treatment of cultural and literary conventions of the first century CE. . . . A fine balance is sought between a reader-centered literary approach and a variety of contextual elements. Interpreting Galatians, as most Pauline scholars know, is a hazardous undertaking. Oakes's excellent commentary renders sociological, archeological, and cultural data fruitful for the interpretation of Paul's letter."

Bart J. Koet and Jaap F. van der Meij,

Review of Biblical Literature

"A fine commentary on Paul's fiery letter to the Galatians. One of the many strengths of this treatment is the way it draws upon Oakes' rich knowledge of the historical and social background to the letter. . . . There is much to commend in this commentary. The introduction is rich and informative, the exegesis is sure-footed and clear, and the writing style is crisp and lucid. This is another outstanding contribution to the Paideia series, which is establishing a reputation for 'punching above its weight.' This excellent commentary will be consulted with rich reward alongside some of the lengthier treatments of the fascinating letter to the Galatians."

Paul Foster,

Expository Times

"The Paideia commentaries are designed to help students engage with biblical texts, and Oakes scores very highly, notably in his introduction, but also in his lucid and judicious commentary. . . . Oakes's expert knowledge of historical and literary background is very evident, and his material is attractively presented with useful tables and even some pictures."

David Wenham,

Journal for the Study of the New Testament

"Rarely does a commentary make positive contributions to academic conversations while at the same time keeping an eye towards pastors and students. Oakes accomplishes both in 200 pages. Peter Oakes has written a concise, but very insightful, commentary on Galatians. . . . His use of Greco-Roman primary texts and material remains throughout his commentary [is] noteworthy. . . . Oakes has given us a fine work of exegesis that would be beneficial to pastors and students alike. This volume is highly recommended."

Esau McCaulley,

Religious Studies Review

"Oakes employs expertise in Roman archaeology, sensitivity to the subtleties of ancient rhetoric, and active conversation with some of the most important research on Galatians to produce a significant contribution. . . . Oakes's commentary provides a helpful resource to its readers. . . . The commentary is a profitable addition to the exegete's toolbox."

Russell Morton,

Bulletin for Biblical Research

"For a relatively brief commentary . . . Oakes's volume is packed full of excellent exegetical treatment but remains remarkably clear and cogent. His particular expertise in the social milieu of the Pauline churches is put to good use and is a unique strength of this commentary. Contemporary scholarship is considered in a lively, conversational way, but not belabored. In addition, Oakes has a fine sensibility for how Galatians relates to contemporary Christian life. In sum, this is the best short commentary on Galatians available today. It will be useful to college and seminary students, parish pastors, and scholars alike. I plan to use it as a required text in my next course on Galatians."

Robert E. Van Voorst,


"A helpful and concise commentary for students of the NT. . . . Oakes provides a commentary that maintains a good balance of integrating Greek and historical backgrounds into his contextual interpretation. The length makes it useable for a course, and his (typically) non-technical explanations will still benefit those with little or no Greek training."

David A. Croteau,

Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"This is an exceptionally fine commentary on Galatians intended, in the manner of the Paideia series, for graduate students, pastors, and biblically literate laity. Peter Oakes . . . writes with both clarity and confident scholarship. . . . This is one of Paul's most theologically dense and richly autobiographical letters, and this commentary is a lucid guide to both these dimensions."

Donald Senior, CP,

The Bible Today

"This small to medium sized commentary is aimed 'squarely at students.'. . . Yet the commentary achieves a fair amount of scholarly interaction, making it useful for any kind of student of the NT. . . . This is a very helpful commentary for its size, introducing most relevant and up-to-date scholarly positions on Galatians while also incorporating useful information about ancient Mediterranean culture. . . . But far from being a purely academic commentary, it has a strong focus on the unity of believers in Christ and provides intimate theological reflection on applying a cruciform Christian ethic."

Philip la G. du Toit,


"This volume provides a reader-centered, clear, and comprehensive look at Paul's Letter to the Galatians. While this study is designed for seminarians, graduate students, and upper-division undergraduates who are neither fully cognizant of historical-critical issues nor proficient in Koine Greek, advanced scholars will also find it an enjoyable analysis that puts ancient and contemporary scholars into productive dialogue. . . . This is a significant new commentary that should be included in every library supporting a biblical studies program. It would make a splendid text for an undergraduate or seminary course devoted to an English exegesis of Galatians."

Regina Boisclair,


"Despite its modest length, it is one of the finest commentaries on Galatians, and I already have plans to use it as a textbook next year. I can't say enough how well Oakes models exegetical method and good use of archaeology and social history."

Nijay Gupta,

Crux Sola blog

"This Galatians commentary is concise, well-informed, accessible, and obviously filled with an immense amount of research and thought--not only thought about Galatians' theology, but also about methodology. Oakes uses knowledge from various disciplines, such as archaeology, sociology, linguistics, and historical background to enlighten our reading of Galatians. . . . [The text] reads smoothly and focuses on the text itself, with helpful aids for those who want to see some of the relevant primary evidence for themselves. . . . This commentary may be best for students who need accessible introductions to various takes on Paul's theology while using a resource that is similar to being taught in the classroom."

Todd Scacewater,

Exegetical Tools Quarterly

"Impressively well written, organized, and presented, Professor Peter Oakes's Galatians is an extraordinary and highly informative contribution to New Testament Studies in general, and the analysis of the Apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians in particular. Very highly recommended for community, seminary, and academic library New Testament Studies collections."

Willis M. Buhle,

Midwest Book Review

"This study by Peter Oakes is exceptionally well written, informed, and informative, making it very highly recommended for church, seminary, and academic library Christian Studies and New Testament Studies reference collections."

Wisconsin Bookwatch

Praise for the Paideia series

"The Paideia commentary series has established itself as a solid series of concise works that focus on the final form of the biblical text, highlighting narrative flow, rhetorical devices and structure, and commenting particularly on relevant historical background and theological significance."

Craig L. Blomberg,

Denver Journal

"[I] continue to be impressed by the contributors' skill in combining academic rigor with accessibility. . . . The [series] authors . . . combine historical and linguistic analysis with theological reflection, which makes these commentaries useful for those interested in bridging the gap between the ancient world and contemporary Christianity (seminarians, clergy). . . . Frequent inserts with asides [offer] additional explanations or attempts to relate ancient texts to contemporary issues."

Michael Gilmour,

Catholic Biblical Quarterly