Beckett: Review – Martin Luther’s Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians

Author: Martin Luther
Translator: Theodore Graebner
Publisher: None (order from
Rating: 5/5 stars


When one picks up this commentary, the reader should keep in mind that it does not read like our commentaries today (such as A. Andrew Das’ Concordia Commentary on Galatians). Our commentaries today are filled with vast exegetical knowledge and a plethora of footnotes/endnotes. Luther here is not concerned with exegesis, though he certainly has great exegetical mentions. Rather, he is concerned with pastoral care, which directly relates to his pastoral concern for sparking the Reformation in the first place (Luther’s 95 Theses on the erroneous nature of indulgences was from a pastoral concern for the believer’s conscience).

Luther is also concerned with how Galatians relates to the culture surrounding his historical context. This means you will read things that have nothing to do with our contemporary context. For example, he makes mention of the pope, the papacy, the sectarians, and others. Thus, when you read this commentary, you must read it with an understanding and familiarity of Luther’s historical context. You must place yourself into Luther’s context—into whatever little, damp room he might’ve written this from. A familiarity with Luther’s personal history would also aid in understanding his commentary.

Luther’s pastoral mindset in his commentary matches St. Paul’s own pastoral concern for the Galatians whom he previously pastored, due to the rise of the false apostles among them. This is the way we all should read Galatians, I believe. That is, to fathom what Paul is trying to accomplish in this letter to the Galatians (Dr. Voelz would call this the illocutionary force of the text), we need to understand it from Paul’s pastoral—and especially apostolic—concern for the brethren.

Luther captures this pastoral concern not only in how he paraphrases Paul, but also in his own pastoral concern for the German people and all Christians. As such, I would strongly urge all Lutheran pastors to read through Luther’s commentary on the epistle to the Galatians. Aside from our exegetical readings in our modern commentaries, Luther’s commentary is an easy reading directly relating to our pastoral concerns for the brethren who are led astray by false teachers after receiving the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. This would also be a great commentary for any layperson to read, especially considering most of our commentaries today require knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, exegesis, and systematics, which not every layperson possesses.

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