In my opinion as one who embraces both Yeshua as Messiah as well as the Torah of Moshe as a practical guidebook for everyday living, I believe historically, the book of Galatians has challenged Christian commentators due largely to the technical discussions of biblical topics ranging from circumcision, to the Torah, to freedom in Christ. Sha'ul (a.k.a. Paul or Saul) uses quite a number of technical phrases and words in this letter and these terms, when removed from their original 1st century Judaic context, will have the tendency to form the impetus for many and varied Christian interpretations that end up teaching concepts nearly quite the opposite of their original purpose. I am not so bold as to imagine as one author that I have uncovered total truth on the matter. Rather, what I am attempting to do is challenge us as students of God’s Word to take a very scientific approach, if you will, to understanding how Paul’s original readers would have interacted with this letter, and exactly what course of action the author Paul was expecting them to take as a result of reading and implementing his letter. This means putting aside our preconceived Jewish and Christian biases and letting Galatians—indeed the entire Word of God—speak for itself. We all see through glasses tainted by bias, and I am no different. But how different would the text become if we could borrow the glasses of the Apostle Paul for a few weeks while we poured through his letter concept by concept? By God’s grace, this study is going to attempt to do just that.
This study is going to be a bit different in its approach to the letter of Galatians. I am not going to simply conduct a verse-by-verse exposition of every pasuk (verse) that Paul wrote. Instead, the first ten lessons will treat the context of the letter of Galatians as a whole topical study, examining concepts found in the letter one by one first—viz, circumcision, works of the Law, under the Law, etc. Once we have laid the contextual foundation for the social setting of this letter, I believe we will be in a better position to exegete individual verses (tough passages) one by one, which we will actually do in the second, more lengthy excursus portion of this commentary (see the Table of Contents for more details).
It is my hope that this contextual study along with its limited excursus of selected tough passages from the book of Galatians will help to unravel the letter for both Christians and Jews. To be sure, without a proper background to the book we will forever misread Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. For this particular portion of the contextual study, allow me to start in B'resheet (Genesis) with Avraham and circumcision. We will put "bookends" on the study by concluding with Avraham and circumcision as well in Section Ten (The Promise: Trust and Obey). If we begin to peel back the mysteries surrounding this simple biblical command, and the way the 1st century Judaisms interacted with it, we stand a better chance at understanding Sha'ul and his enigmatic instructions.