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A Conversation with Nijay Gupta
Every Voice: What led you to start researching the book of Galatians?
Nijay Gupta: Truth be told, my colleague Scot McKnight asked me to write this commentary. But it was an easy “yes,” because I have long been fascinated by Galatians. I love Gal 2:19-20, especially the reference to the Son of God “who loved me and gave himself for me.” I was eager to dive deeper into what’s known as Paul’s most passionate letter.
EV: What are some of the primary themes that stand out to you from the book of Galatians?
NG: Family, love, belonging. These really stand out to me. Many people think Galatians is about a theology of justification by faith. That’s true, but justification, in my view, is part of a larger reality of being incorporated into the family of God by faith in Christ, the Son of God. Freedom is also a key theme, but the way Paul thinks about freedom, it is not absolute freedom to do whatever we want; it is actually freedom from sin to become who we were meant to be, servants of God who love God and love neighbor.
EV: Who’s your target audience, and what’s distinctive about your commentary?
NG: I wrote this commentary with pastors in mind, and also “regular Christians” who want to dive deeper into Scripture. That means I tried to break down Christian jargon and use lots of metaphors and illustrations to feed the imagination. Distinctive? I think I bring a desire to bridge New Perspective on Paul interest in Jew-Gentile relationships and Old Perspective on Paul interest in the human-divine relationship. Add to that my Wesleyan leanings with a focus on formation, and a bit of the Lutheran in me who emphasizes cross (or cruciform) theology. How’s that for eclectic!
EV: Did you have any “aha” moments while writing the commentary?
NG: Definitely, lots of ’em! I won’t spoil them, but the biggest one is around the differences between ancient adoption and modern adoption. The Son opens up his unique place in God’s family to make space for any and all who have faith in the Son of God. That leads to massive benefits and privileges—and equality—for believers. It’s an incredible concept, and gift for us.
EV: What was the most challenging part of writing it?
NG: Two things come to mind: first, the series expects contributors to think about application of Scripture in the “Live the Story” sections of the book, and sometimes it was challenging—a good challenge!—to process that. Second, I tried really hard to keep the big picture in mind, how each section of Galatians is related. Given how complex and rich this letter is, that is harder than I expected, but it is a good exercise, and I hope I did a decent job of it.
EV: If Galatians was made into a movie based on your commentary, what actors/actresses would play the lead roles?
NG: Ha! There’s really only one concrete named character, Paul – I really like Riz Ahmed (from Rogue One, “the pilot”).
EV: Why should people consider preaching and teaching from the book of Galatians?
NG: Galatians has rightly gained the reputation of launching the Reformation—Luther’s favorite text. The late and great Prof. James D.G. Dunn once said this (and he was right): “There is more nuclear power in these few pages than in the polemical cannons and mortars of theological treatises, twenty, fifty, or one hundred times larger.”
About the Author
Nijay Gupta (PhD, University of Durham) is Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary.