Doug Moo’s Galatians Commentary – Review P3 (Gupta)

We are now into Galatians ch. 2. Here are my review notes.


Moo sees the Jerusalem meeting narrated in Galatians as probably pertaining to Acts 11:27-30, rather than Acts 15 (p. 118). When it comes to Paul’s ambivalent language about the Jerusalem “Pillars” (esp signalled by dokeo), Moo thinks that the 2:2 reference is neutral, but there is more a hint of irony in vv. 6 and 9 (p. 120, 124, 132).


Why did Peter withdraw? Moo thinks it was born out of a “tacitly wise accommodation to the concerns of stricter Jewish Christians” (p. 143). So, where was the disagreement between Peter and Paul? “Peter perhaps thought that the Jerusalem agreement simply did not cover the kind of situation he encountered in Antioch” (143). But Paul saw Peter’s actions to be, not a breach of the terms of the Jerusalem meeting itself, but rather a negation of “an essential truth of the gospel” (Moo, 144). Moo explains that “the difference is not fundamentally over theology, but over the implications for a specific form of conduct that arises from theology” (146). I see what Moo is saying, but I am not sure Paul would see “theology” in that more limited way.

Did James send these extra men, and why? Moo thinks it possible James sent them, esp in light of the “socio-political situation” and persecution from (non-Christian) Jews against “this new messianic movement” (148).


As you might expect, Moo engages with the New Perspective and defends a more classic Reformational reading of works vs. faith. While he admits that the Reformers did not put enough emphasis on the law (Torah) part of “works of the law,” Moo urges that there remains a fundamental Pauline critique of works as “human-oriented accomplishment” (p. 159). Moo here points to the quotation from Ps 143:2 (LXX 142:2) where Paul uses sarx to refer to the person under judgment. This shows, according to Moo, that the human is frail and weak and, thus, not able to fulfill the law.

I simply do not see this general works/faith dynamic in Galatians for three reasons: (1) Paul’s concept of pistis (faith) can be very active (as in the fruit of the Spirit), (2) the main issues of works  that are specifically brought up in Galatians focus on circumcision, food, and Sabbath -none of these are actually hard to do (except dieting, but that’s not quite what Paul is saying!) or a serious grounds for boasting in accomplishment (*note, though, there is a difference between boasting in achievement and boasting in status; Paul regularly condemned boasting in status). The third issue is this: Moo makes it seem like “works of the law” are objectively bad, but the points in Galatians are that (a) they simply do not make one right before God and (b) their time has come to end. If (b) is right, God has no objective problem with works of the law, his problem is that they are insufficient for use by those who haven’t recognized the radically complete work of Christ. Moo makes it seem like “works” themselves are the problem, but the thrust of Galatians seems to be that the Law works are from God (as a part of holy Torah), but they no longer retain the same usefulness vis-a-vis the covenant, and they were always intended to serve a limited purpose.

Moo delays further detailed discussion until he gets to 3:10-12, so I will say more then as well.

Conclusion: Nothing much surprised me here because Moo had laid much of this out in the introduction. Much of his commentary discussion was fair, sensible, and often insightful.

We will get into some meaty issues in chs. 3-4, no doubt!


2 thoughts on “Doug Moo’s Galatians Commentary – Review P3 (Gupta)

  1. Dr. Gupta,

    I may have misunderstood your critique (“the main issues of works that are specifically brought up in Galatians focus on circumcision, food, and Sabbath -none of these are actually hard to do”), but I think that you have misunderstood Moo’s argument.

    Moo doesn’t deny that the issues in the Galatian controversy are “circumcision, food, and Sabbath” or that they are not hard to do. Moo views 2:15-21 through the lens of 5:3. While “circumcision, food, and Sabbath” are not difficult, keeping the rest of the law of Moses is impossible given the human condition. Lest someone argue that the Law prescribes the Levitical sacrifices, Moo argues that Paul believes that those sacrifices have been done away with now that the New Covenant has come. Thus, he argues that Paul believes that there is no way to forgive sin for those who wish to be justified by the Law of Moses. Thus, the Law of Moses is reduced to pure command and prohibition, an impossible standard to keep given the human condition.

    Have I misunderstood your critique of Moo?

    Also, you said, “Moo makes it seem like “works of the law” are objectively bad.”

    I read his commentary several months ago, but I did not get that impression. It seemed to me that he was saying that Paul thought the “works of the law” were bad if one tried to keep them in order to be justified. If I recall correctly, he specifically denies Bultmann’s and Fuller’s views of the works of the Law.

    1. Thanks, Ryan. The difference between our views of what Moo says may have to do with the fact that I am reading through it chapter by chapter and Moo seems to say he has reserved a major discussion until ch 3 (and as you say, perhaps also ch. 5). So, I am dealing with his defense in ch. 2, which I don’t think is very strong. But I am eager to see what else he has to say in chs. 3-6 and if he makes stronger arguments there, I am happy to point them out and analyze them. But I will add one more thing – I felt like the things I said above about Moo’s arguments fit his overall frame of argumentation even as I saw his discussion of faith (and works) in the Beale FS.

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