Galatians: A Handbook on the Greek Text

galatians-handbook-desilvaThe Baylor Handbook on the Greek New Testament series “offers an accessible and
comprehensive, though not exhaustive, treatment of the Greek New Testament” (p. ix) in which a growing number of volumes is now available. David deSilva, Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek at Ashland Theological Seminary, has provided this volume covering Paul’s epistle to the Galatians.

This Galatians handbook is helpfully concise all around. The preliminary pages offer a helpful Series Introduction as well as an Introduction to this particular volume. The Series Introduction orients the reader to the purpose and goals of the BHGNT as well as remind the reader that each volume is not intended to be a commentary in itself but a reference work intended to feed commentaries, biblical interpretation, and textual studies. It also prepares the reader for how the BHGNT has handled certain disputed dimensions of verbs such as aspect and the synthetic labels that surround it, and deponency. DeSilva’s own volume Introduction covers basic information about the epistle in terms of its being a literary artifact. The title of the letter is discussed (and deSilva mercifully avoids another all-out review of Paul’s intended audience), as is the authorship (did Paul write the whole letter himself or leverage an amanuensis?) and the occasion that prompted the letter. He then discusses the structure of the letter through the lens of the epistolary genre but also proceeds to discuss the rhetorical structure Paul uses to develop his argument.

Following the short pair of introductions, the handbook proper begins. The full text of Galatians is broken up into twenty-two sections (broken out as determined by deSilva), each helpfully listed in the Table of Contents. The structure for each section is consistent, beginning with the author’s own English translation of the text, followed by a very brief summary of the section, after which the verse-by-verse and word-by-word analysis of the Greek text is undertaken.

Often times, the analysis is confined to a brief conjugation or declension, such as with παρέλαβον in verse 1:12 (p. 14): “Aor act ind 1st sg παραλαμβάνω.” Other times it is even more brief, as with the prepositional phrase διά νόμου in 2:21, for which deSilva offers only the synthetic category, “Means” (p. 50). As mentioned above, this conciseness is a strength. DeSilva could fill such entries with more text, but it would diminish this handbook as a reference work. Minimal doesn’t mean insufficient; deSilva provides the necessary information for the reader to understand the word and how it relates to the words around it, such as with με in 4:12: “Accusative direct object of ἠδικήσατε” (p. 87).

Where he feels it necessary, deSilva spends more time on a given word or phrase, such as with the long-debated Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ in 2:16. Here he helpfully summarizes the debate over whether this is objective or subjective genitive, providing references for further study. For any disputed word or phrase, he will offer his own conclusion which is ultimately reflected in his translation. Since ultimately the grammatical analysis influences theology, some readers may object to his conclusions, should his conclusions clash with the readers’ own beliefs. There is no way around this, though, as part of what deSilva offers is a translation. He is relatively thorough in providing the tools and references for readers to formulate their own conclusions, and in that lifts himself above reproach.

Since this is a handbook on the Greek text, and since the Greek text often varies from manuscript to manuscript, deSilva has peppered his analysis with brief text-critical discussions, such as concerning the debated variation in 4:25 regarding Hagar, Sinai, and a mountain in Arabia. The text-critical analysis is not, of course, as thorough as it could be (or probably needs to be in some cases), but it is helpful nonetheless and again points readers to other resources. DeSilva appears to use the NA27/UBS4 critical edition in his text-critical analysis.

I have not seen any other volumes from the BHGNT series to compare deSilva’s against, but what he does offer in Galatians is, as a reference work, extremely helpful to students of the Greek New Testament and biblical scholars alike.


David A. deSilva. Galatians: A Handbook on the Greek Text. Baylor Handbook on the
Greek New Testament. Waco: Baylor, 2014. Pb. xxvii + 167 pp. $29.95. ISBN:
9781602583177.

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