Jerome MURPHY-O’CONNOR. Keys to Galatians: Collected Essays. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier-Liturgical Press, 2012. pp. 210. $24.95. ISBN: 9780814680704. Reviewed by Eric W. HENDRY, Plano, TX 75026.
Over the last five decades, Murphy-O’Connor (École Biblique et Archéologique Française), has produced a wide range of exegetical studies on the various epistles of Paul, including a number of explorations on neglected topics within the greater body of Pauline scholarship. Michael Glazier recently agreed to re-issue ten of his most significant articles on Galatians, originally published between 1982 and 2012 in Revue Biblique, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft, Bibliotheca ephemeridum theologicarum lovaniensium, Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplements, and Catholic Biblical Quarterly.
The most noteworthy feature of this collection is the author’s newly written Postscripts, which are attached to each of the previous articles, allowing him the liberty and flexibility to interact with scholars who have critiqued his exegesis and interpretations since their original publication; Murphy-O’Connor interfaces with Betz, Burton, Dunn, Jewett, Légasse, Lémonon, Longenecker, Lüdemann, Martyn, Matera, Ramsay, Sanders, Stendahl, and Witherington. (NB: one notable contemporary voice missing from these discussions, however, is that of N.T. Wright). Murphy-O’Connor also presents non-biblical authors and historians (e.g.: Strabo, Philo, Livy, Josephus, Cassius Dio, and Eusebius of Caesarea), in order to help his readers to better situate various elements of Galatians within its historic Greco-Roman cultural context. As can be anticipated, Murphy-O’Connor portrays Paul as a radical antinomian who appears to address his letter to churches in Galatia, but intentionally directs his major arguments to the Judaizers sent out from Antioch-on-the-Orontes. The author is convincing in describing Paul’s innate confidence in his own rhetorical training, and particular use of the consessio to throw off the intruders and simultaneously put them in their place.
While this collection is not a comprehensive study of Galatians, Murphy-O’Connor has selected many salient and interesting articles from his past. After dating the epistle, “Missions in Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia before the Jerusalem Conference,” the author primarily concerns himself with questions on the biblical texts that he sees as either neglected or inadequately addressed by Pauline scholars to date: Paul’s hidden time in Arabia (1:17); potential reasoning behind the dual names for Jerusalem (1:17-18; 4:25-26); Paul’s concerns about the inadequacy of his missionary strategy prior to the Council of Jerusalem (2:2); the seemingly contradictory decision of James on Jewish nationalism and church policy (2:9); how Paul understood the relevance of the Law (2:15-16a); whether a testator-will may be irrevocable in its nature (3:15); the lack of consensus on the geographical recipients of Galatians (4:13-14); Paul’s unique reference to the unwritten “law of Christ” (6:2); and the developing trajectory of Paul’s Christology from the Thessalonians to the Galatians. Rounding out these ten articles and Postscripts, Murphy-O’Connor includes several helpful indices and an extensive bibliography for further individual study.
I see this text as beneficial to graduate courses on Galatians, as well as the development of Pauline thought (in general) and Early Pauline forms of Christology. This collection happens to be a particularly strong example of the exegetical work generated by one of the preeminent Catholic biblical scholars of our day. I highly recommend it.