If you’re a Latter-day Saint, please read this and consider posting a comment. There are a few questions for you and I’d like to get as many responses as possible. Thanks.
I’m starting a personal in-depth study of the book of Galatians and I have a few observations to make and questions to ask.
I’ve noticed that many Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals employ Galatians 1:6-9 when preaching against or defending themselves from each other. Even if you don’t recognize the zip code, you’re probably familiar with the passage:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
It’s clear to me from our mutual use of this passage against each other that Latter-day Saints and Evangelicals preach different and incompatible gospels—either one of us or the other is correct, or we are both wrong, but we cannot both be right. When considering a passage like this, whether we are LDS or Evangelical, it’s natural for us to assume we’re the ones with the true gospel and they’re the ones with the false gospel. But how many of us simply jump to that conclusion without reading through the rest of the epistle to see if Paul further expounds upon the gospel he advocates? This is the aim of my present study. I want to get to the bottom of this, not to prove my own beliefs, but to better understand the gospel Paul is really trying to preach here.
I’ve read the book of Galatians a couple of times in the last week or two and I’m starting to hit the limits of what I can draw from the text myself, so I’ve decided to consult reputable commentaries and study resources from Evangelical and Latter-day Saint sources.
These are the Evangelical commentaries and study resources that have been recommended to me or are within easy reach:
- Galatians (Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series) by R. Alan Cole
- A Navpress Bible Study on the Book of Galatians (Lifechange Series)
- Galatians (Reformed Expository Commentary Series) by Philip Graham Ryken
- Galatians (Crossway Classic Commentary Series) by Martin Luther, edited by Alister McGrath and J. I. Packer
- Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture Series) edited by Mark J. Edwards
- Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume by Matthew Henry
I already own Matthew Henry’s complete commentary and recently purchased the Tyndale commentary and the NavPress study guide. I’ve put in a special order at Christian Gift and Bible for the reformed expository commentary and Luther’s commentary, so I should have those by the end of the week. The ancient Christian commentary looks really good, so I may end up ordering it later.
Latter-day Saint resources
Here are the LDS commentaries and study resources that I’ve found:
- Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, Vol. II: Acts–Philippians by Bruce R. McConkie
- Verse by Verse: Acts Through Revelation by D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner
- The New Testament Made Easier Part 2: Acts Through Revelation (Gospel Studies Series) by David J. Ridges
- The New Testament for Latter-day Saint Families edited by Thomas Valletta, Robert Barrett, and Bruce L. Andreason
- Scripture Study for Latter-Day Saint Families: The New Testament by Dennis H. Leavitt
I stumbled across a copy of the McConkie commentary at my parents’ house, which was lucky because apparently they don’t own volumes 1 or 3. I may end up ordering my own copy of all three volumes from Amazon, but for now the second volume is all I need. I haven’t purchased any of the others on this list yet, for reasons I will explain below.
The Seminary Student Study Guides and Institute Student Manuals have also been recommended to me, but I was warned to look for the older editions. Apparently, the older editions are more like a verse by verse commentary than the current editions, but are harder to find since they’re out of print.
Observations and questions
My first observation is simply to point out the sheer volume of commentaries and study resources published by Christian sources and the contrasting lack of LDS resources. A quick search for “galatians commentary” on Amazon turns up hundred of publications from various Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant publishers, but the list of LDS resources I’ve given above seems to be the whole of what is available. Another interesting note is that the LDS resources are all study aids for the entire New Testament or large sections of it. An LDS study guide or commentary on the book of Galatians by itself doesn’t seem to exist.1
Surely Latter-day Saints study the Bible, so what am I missing here? Do Latter-day Saints not rely on commentaries and other Bible study resources to the same degree that Evangelicals do? Is this simply a result of the population difference between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints? Is there some other explanation?2
I mentioned above that I hadn’t yet purchased any of the LDS resources on my list. My chief reason for this is simply not knowing which are reputable and which aren’t, and feeling ill-equipped to make that judgment myself. So, the most important question I have for any Latter-day Saints who have read this (thanks for sticking around this long, by the way) is simply: which of the above resources have you used in your own scripture study? Can you approve or disapprove of any of the above publications? Can you recommend additional resources that aren’t on my list? Okay, that was three questions, but you get the idea. I am grateful in advance for any observations and answers you’re willing to share.
- The only books of scripture I can find specific LDS study resources for are Isaiah and Revelation. See for example: Isaiah Made Easier in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Understanding Isaiah, and Understanding the Book of Revelation. [↩]
- I’m nearly certain this has nothing to do with Latter-day Saints’ preference for their own scriptures over and above the Bible (if there even is such a preference, which is certainly debatable), for there also appears to be a shortage of resources for studying the Book of Mormon and other LDS volumes of scripture. For instance, you cannot find a commentary of the book of 3 Nephi by itself, though this is arguably the most important book in the Book of Mormon. [↩]