I recently got a copy of Thomas Schreiner’s commentary on Galatians in the newly developing Zondervan Exegetical Commentary set and he start out the commentary with a quote from Martin Luther and then writes the following:
Here is the Martin Luther Quote:
Therefore, God accepts only the forsaken, cures only the sick, gives sight only to the blind, restores life only to the dead, sanctifies only the sinners, gives wisdom only to the unwise fools. In short, He has mercy only on those who are wretched, and gives grace only to those who are not in grace. Therefore, no proud saint, no wise or just person, can become God’s material, and God’s purpose cannot be fulfilled in him. He remains in his own work and makes a factitious, pretended, false, and painted saint of himself, that is, a hypocrite.
then Schreiner goes on….
Amazingly, Gordon Fee writes from quite a different perspective, saying that his goal is to help people read Galatians “as if the Reformation never happened.” (cited from his Galatians commentary in the Pentecostal Commentary set). On the one hand, Fee’s goal is laudable. He wants to read the text on its own terms. On the other hand, it is remarkably naive and ahistorical, for he pretends that he can read Galatians as a neutral observer of the text apart from the history of the church. I am not suggesting that we mist read Galatians in defense of the Reformation, no am I denying that the Reformation may be askew in some of its emphasis. But it must be acknowledged that none of us can read Galatians as if the Reformation never occurred. Such a reading is five hundred years too late. Nor can we read Galatians as if the twentieth century never happened or apart from the works of Ignatius, Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and the like. We can consider whether Reformation emphasis were wrong (I will argue that they were not), but what we cannot do is read Galatians as if we were the first readers (21).
As I ponder this more I wonder because how are some who may not be well read on the Reformation know what happend? and what of the supposed lay person who may not have access to those kinds of resources? Why can’t a person just come to the Bible as it is and glean from it, its message (and for Galatians, the message of freedom in Christ; freedom from feeling as if we have to somehow earn or work for our salvation)?
To really understand this ever and always pertinent letter, must we read it as the reformers did, or in conversation with the church fathers?
What say you?
Just how important is reception history in the reading and study if the Bible?