I’m working on my paper for the St. Andrews Galatians conference in which I’ll include a small section hoping to clarify that Luther’s Galatians commentary is more concerned with theological interpretation than historical description. It is much more like Barth’s Romans commentary than a pure biblical studies commentary focused merely on historical-critical exegesis.
Barth certainly appears to see it that way. He regarded the historical-critical work in the text as necessary but only preliminary to “the understanding of the Epistle.” He explains what he means with reference to Luther’s and Calvin’s work.
“By genuine understanding and interpretation I mean that creative energy which Luther exercised with intuitive certainty in his exegesis” (p. 7).
Barth notes “how energetically Calvin, having first established what stands in the text, sets himself to re-think the whole material and to wrestle with it, till the walls which separate the sixteenth century from the first become transparent! Paul speaks, and the man of the sixteenth century hears. The conversation between the original record and the reader moves round the subject-matter, until a distinction between yesterday and to-day becomes impossible” (p. 7).
At any rate, I’m trying to set Luther’s “exegesis” in a more favorable light for my biblical studies friends.
Passages like the following, however, don’t make my task any easier. But they do make reading the Galatians commentary exciting!
[T]herefore the Anabaptists themselves are all bastards, and their parents were all adulterers, and whoremongers; and yet they do inherit their parents’ lands and goods, although they grant themselves to be bastards, and unlawful heirs. Who seeth not here, in the Anabaptists, men not possessed with devils, but even devils themselves possessed with worse devils?